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Ordering metal

I have just recently started silversmithing as a hobby and have
purchased and read books from Tim McCrieght and Alan Revere to get
me started.

I have one question that the books did not address. Is there a list
or chart of some kind somewhere to give me a guideline on what gauge
wire or sheet you should use for different kinds of projects? I.E.
Rings, Bracelets, Earrings, Pendants… I am going to need to
order some sheet and wire soon and have no clue as to what gauge I
really need. I have not had the chance to handle alot of different
gauge’s yet so I dont have a reference point established in my mind!
I am sure that after some time I will get a natural feel for what
gauge to use for each project but I am not at that stage yet! I
hate to order and end up with material that wont do what I need it
to do.

I am going to buy some drawplates sometime in the future but dont
have access to any at this time. Not having them kind of restricts
my flexability.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! This forum is
awesome and I really appreciate being able to access it. I have
learned alot in a short time by following your posts.

Dean D. Welter

Hello Dean, and welcome, Your question:

      Is there a list or chart of some kind somewhere to give me a
guideline on what gauge wire or sheet you should use for different
kinds of projects?  

I have not seen a chart that offers an idea of what gauge sheet or
wire is to be used for different projects, other than lists for
specific projects like you see in Lapidary Journal.

That said, I'll just give you what works for me.  I keep all the

wire gauges on hand from 10 to 28. I use a lot of 20 and 18 gauge,
so I order that in greatest quantity. Sheet gauges most used are 26
and 22, but it’s good to have some 18 (pretty thick) to use for
heavy ring bands and reinforcment. I also use 32 gauge sheet (dead
soft!) for folded or woven work. (30 gauge will work, but is just a
bit harder to manipulate.) Use thinner gauges for larger earrings
to reduce weight.

When you order, remember that the price/oz drops as total quantity

ordered goes up. Solder counts too. Check the nice charts that
Indian Jewelers Supply and Rio Grande have. It’ll pay to buy that
extra oz or so if it’ll get you to a price break. If you’ve got a
silversmithing buddy, see if s/he needs to order anything and
combine the orders to get a better price for you both. Decide
beforehand how you split the shipping/handling costs.

Hope that helps, Judy in Kansas, where we're needing rain - this 85%

humidity doesn’t do much good.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936

I don’t there is a formula. Basically what you make is what you make
however keep in mind comfort and wear. Wide or narrow to fit your
design and comfortable to wear that can withstand being worn the way
you intended it.

Obviously 32 gauge fine silver jump rings for a necklace or bracelet
may look good and feel comfortable. Won’t hold up to the wear and tear
as would the same in Sterling for everyday use. Request a catalog
from someplace like Rio, Hoovers & Strong, David H Fell & Co. They
have that should help you start.

David H. Fell:
Rio Grande:

H&S’s site has been updated since I’ve been there they have tons of

“Life, what a beautiful design”

    I have one question that the books did not address.  Is there
a list or chart of some kind somewhere to give me a guideline on
what gauge wire or sheet you should use for different kinds of

I don’t know of any one definitive book, but from my own experience,
these are the guidelines I generally use:

Bezel wire–30 ga. fine for thumbnail-size stones and under. The
height of the bezel wire should be a little more than the height of
the stone. Over thumbnail-size, I use 28 ga. fine, anything larger
than one square inch I use 26 ga. fine, and for honking big stones
that may be the top of boxes or buckles, I roll out my own from
sheet, but you can get housing strip.

Earwires and posts–18 ga. round sterling for regular sizes, 20 ga.
for little light earrings for little girls.

Jumprings–20 ga. and 24 ga. round sterling.

Decorative elements for tendrils, crescent shapes, outlining,
etc.–20 ga. round and half-round sterling. 20 ga. round is also good
folded in half and twisted for a decorative border.

Backing sheet for bezels–24 ga. sterling up to 3/4" square, 20 ga.
for up to 1-1/2" square, 18 ga. up to 2" square, 16 ga. for anything
larger. I tend to make my bezel plate heavier than most, but I found
it keeps it from warping when soldering and keeps the stones from
popping out when subjected to wearer stress.

Bracelets–cuff type, sheet, minimum 16 ga., 14 ga. or heavier if
etched or inlaid. 14 ga. is also good for tie bars and money clips.

Bracelets–cuff type, wire for a simple two wire split, 14 ga. round
or 12 ga. half-round, up to 6" in length. Longer lengths require
heavier wire.

Rings–wire type, I use 8 ga. half-round wide mostly. It’s heavy
enough for a forged and split shank as well, but comfortable, up to
about a size 12, depending on the stone. I also use 18 ga. and 16 ga.

When ordering for my students, I generally wind up with a lot of 28
and 30 ga. bezel wire (I make them stamp designs on them or file in
scallops for variety) 1/2 oz. each; a good selection of 14-24 ga.
round wire 14 oz. for the lighter gauges, 1/2 oz. for the heavier;
some 12-14 ga. half-round wire, 1/2 oz. each; some 8W half-round
wire, 1/2 oz. each; blanks in 6" strips in 14-16 ga. sheet for
bracelets, 2 pcs. each; sheet in 3" x 3" pieces in 16 ga., 20 ga. and
24 ga. each; and a $20 bag of odd lot stones split amongst the class;
and of course, about 1/2 oz. #70 solder and 1/4 oz. each of #65 and
#56 solder.

They learn to design jewelry within those parameters, generally make
between 2 and 3 dozen projects before the class is over (with some
left over after the class is completed), and use any leftover scraps
from their cutoffs (clean scrap) for tufa casting later. When you
don’t have a lot of variety to begin with, you learn how to design
with your creativity as your source, and in the process, learn you
can do more with creativity than you can with lots of fancy stock.

Hope it helps you to narrow down your purchases.