I have a novice question about sterling earring posts. I am getting tired of
buying them and need to know advantages/disadvantages of making them myself
out of wire. Assuming that is the way to go, what gauge wire? Hard or
half-hard? Any nifty tricks of the trade I need to know?
Yes you can make your own. It is generally more cost effective to buy them,
but making them is not a problem.
1) draw your wire down to the size you want. Maybe .9 mm.
2) Anneal the wire carefully (no hot spots). Robert Kaylor anneals wire
coiled up in a tin can, playing the flame on from the outside to avoid
3) Clamp one end of the wire carefully into a vise, grip the other end with
draw tongs or vise grips or toothed pliers and pull gnelt;y and hard,
stretching the wire-you will see it visibly stretch. This will straighten
4) Get a piece of brass hobby tubing about 3" (7cm) long, cut one end to a
45 degree angle or so, anneal it, about one inch (2.5) cm below the flat
end of the tube make an indentation with a center punch and then drill a
one mm hole at the bottom of the dent. This will serve as a funnel to feed
the wire into the hole (and the tube). Then gently squash the tube near the
dent and hole at 90 degrees thus making the tube into an oval at that
point. The dent with the hole in it is a one of the ends of the oval, on
the short curve of the oval. You adjust the squish on the tube until when
the wire is fed in and then snipped off flush with the tube the piece that
is cut off is the correct length for your earring posts.
5) Then stick the angled end of the tube into a hole you make in the top of
a film can. Now when you feed wire into the hole in the dent it slides in
until it hits the far side of the tube, is snipped off flush with the outer
side of the tube at the dent and it falls naturally down the tube into the
You can then clamp the film can in place gently in a vise and cut the right
lengths of earring posts as fast as you can feed the wire into the hole and
snip. You will find that because we made a funneling dent leading to the
hole into the tube that when you snip the wire you are feeding in will
automatically slide into the tube and stop again ready to be snipped. The
wires gather in the film can.
6) Now flatten the ends of the wires (give them a right angled end). Use a
Zipee(R) belt sander (my favorite) or a sanding or separating disc on your
flex shaft which you push the wires onto (hint-use a tool to hold them-they
can get really hot) or as I might do sand them flat on the cardboard disc
sander described at the tips from the jewelers bench section at
Ganoksin.com. This is a quick job to do the whole pile.
7) You will need a #30 flex shaft handpiece or an equivalent Jacobs Chuck
type handpiece for the next step. The wire is chucked into the flex shaft
with about 4mm or a quarter inch showing. (see the 'Small tools' article in
the tips section for how to make a chuck key for prouction use of the #30
8) Press the foot pedal and rotate the wire in the handpiece at medium
speed. You then make the indentation for the ear nut on the wire by
pressing onto the wire gently with a side cutter (gently-you can easily
cut off the wire instead of making a groove), or round nosed pliers, or a
pair of side cutters you have altered the jaws on with a separating disc or
a diamond burr, so that there is a small hole in the cutters. This hole
lets you clamp the cutters onto the ear wire, make the correct depth groove
quickly and without skill requirements and be sure of not cutting off the
end of the wire instead of grooving it. Picture: ---o---
Although I prefer to put the groove in before soldering the ear post on
some people solder the ear wires onto the piece and then put the groove in
by hand with side cutters, clamping gently and swinging them around the
post to make the groove at the end. Of course if you cut off a bit of wire
at that point you are in a bad spot. Make sure you don't make the groove
too deep into the wire and so weaken it and cause it to break-it is a
pretty shallow groove.
9) Once the groove is made in the correct place on the ear wire hole then
hold a 220 grit (medium) emery stick against the end of the wire as it
spins, moving it constantly so as to quickly round off the end of the wire.
A cup burr held onto the rotating wire end will also round it off. You may
then hold a piece of leather or felt with polishing compound against the
wire end to give it a hint of polish as a finishing touch.
Some people will use a triangular file to make the groove instead of snips,
try which works best for you.
10) When you are going to solder the earring post on use the earring post
tweezers (see 'Small Tools' article) to rapidly clamp the earring post.
Clamp it near the notched end. While clamped in the tweezers rub the far
flat end on an emery stick to clean it for soldering (good solder joins
require recently bared metal), then dip the bared end into flux. Have your
solder chips lightly pre-flused on the brick. Gently heat the fluxed post
end until the flux on it goes glassy, then touch it to a pre-fluxed chip.
The solder chip will stick to the hot wire end. (Do not point the flame at
the other solder chips-we need them pre-fluxed but unheated in order to
most easily stick them onto the wire end in the way just described). Lift
the wire away from the soldering surface and gently heat the end until the
solder melts onto it. Then heat the fluxed object itself. I usually take a
small round burr and just touch the back of the earring where I want the
post both to bare the metal for a better join and to increase slightly the
contact surfaces of the join to improve strength.
As the earring gets hotter watch the flame where it leaves the metal If it
turns orange as it leaves the metal you are around 800-900 degrees F and
can bring the earring post into the flame area. If your metal is glowwing
red you missed the orange flame and it is defintiely time to bring your
wire into the heat. Do not point the flame at the earring post at all (you
might melt it) but keep it on the earring. When you think the earring is
hot enough place the earring post (bracing the heel of your hand nearby so
as to steady it while it solders in place). Let the heat from the earring
itself rise up and draw the premelted solder on the post down thus joining
it to the earring.
7)Make sure it is vertical. Remove the heat. Quench the earring in water.
Immediately test the join with a pair of pliers. Now is the time to find
out you should do the join again, not later. To test it take your flat
nosed pliers, grip the top (notched) third of the earring with the pliers
on at a 45 degree angle (this gives a good broad area of grip on it so you
don't dent or scar the wire post). Twist the post 360 degrees around (yes
thats right) and back again the same amount. If the post didn't fall off
the join was good. If it did fall off now is the time to solder it again.
This also hardens the post in its bottom two thirds (because the post was
annealed during soldering it is dead soft-therefore it doesn't matter how
hard or soft your wire post was before you soldered it on).
There, done. If you are moving quickly and you have everything set up to go
you can make good earring posts very rapidly and perhaps even competetively
with some comercially produced sources. I mostly do this for gold posts
now if I need some and I don't have comercial ones around. There was I time
when I did it for silver posts too, not really economical but it worked.
Box 1624, Ste M
Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7