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Tumbling french ear wires


#1

I’ve been making my own french ear wires and then trying to work
harden them by whacking them with a rawhide mallet. However,
contrary to report, the rawhide hammer does sometimes leave marks on
the wire, and I’m not confident that its work-hardening these things
all that much. I’m using 22g dead soft Argentium wire that I
semi-work-harden by pulling it through my fingers a few times before
bending it into ear wire shapes. This doesn’t work as well as it
might with traditional sterling since the Argentium doesn’t work
harden nearly as easily.

In Judy Hoch’s Ganoksin article on tumble finishing at

she says : Bend French wires after all processes?avoids tangling.

I’m not sure what this means - is this telling me to tumble the
STRAIGHT WIRE before I make the ear wires at all? Or just bend the
loop in the end (thus giving me something to string them together by
so I don’t have to fish individual 1.75" long bits of 22g wire out
of all that steel shot), but not the hook end?

I hadn’t been tumbling my earwires because I was concerned about
them getting bent up in the steel shot, but I need some way to work
harden them that won’t leave marks, is effective, and doesn’t require
heating (as I have no kiln or oven).

If tumbling to work harden is out of the question, then maybe a
rubber mallet would work better than the rawhide one? Hopefully
without mashing the poor things flat.

Thanks.
Sojourner


#2

Sojourner:

Why don’t you just stick the ear wires in the oven @ ~600 for a
while? I just made a clasp this evening for a necklace & when I was
sticking it in the tumbler I thought to myself, ‘now why didn’t I
make this out of Argentium Sterling Silver.’

Marya
Columbus OH


#3

Hello Zen Sojourner,

You are smart to make your findings from A.925 wire - I hope the
industry will be using A.925 for all findings soon.

When I make French hooks, I polish the straight wire pieces - good
idea to put the loop in first. Then create the bend for the hook,
and I whack the bend with a metal chasing hammer. One could also
use a cylinder of metal, polished on one end, as a stamp to flatten
out the hook… holding it on a slight angle while whacking.

Eventually, I get tired of all the whacking and finger damage and
just order a couple hundred from IJS or Rio. In large quantities,
they are not that expensive and it saves Soooo much time, not to
mention injury. :slight_smile:

Have lots of fun, whatever you do!
Judy in Kansas


#4
    Why don't you just stick the ear wires in the oven @ ~600 for
a while?  I just made a clasp this evening for a necklace & when I
was sticking it in the tumbler I thought to myself, 'now why didn't
I make this out of Argentium Sterling Silver.' 

Hi, Marya, this may come as a shock, but I live in a 7x14 CAMPER and
I don’t have an oven. The camper is so old that the propane bottles
have changed their fittings and the old bottles are not legally
refillable anymore, so I can’t even use the three burners (two of
which used to work when I could still get propane). In the winter I
actually heated cans of soup by putting them between the fins of the
oil-filled radiant heater that I use to heat the camper with (since
the propane heater, which I can’t get propane for anyway, quit
working 6 years ago). In summer I heat cans up on the hot plate of my
Mr. Coffee (which would be used to make tea if I had running water,
LOL!)

But when I do finally get into my house someday hopefully still in
this century, I’ll give it a try. They are Argentium. I would like to
make EVERYTHING in Argentium if I could get it in a wider variety of
wire and pattern wire.

Sojourner


#5

What I mean with “Bend French wires after all processes? avoids
tangling.” is:

Make the earring, attach the french wire. Finish the end with a ball
burr, then tumble to finish. After all the processes, bend the loop
to go thru the ear. I use the end of a fine point sharpie permanent
marker to make the loop nice and round.

The argentium responds well to tumbling, and the steel seems to
harden it very well. I’ve done several “bubble” chains of argentium
and tumble finished them. After the smoothing in clean cut aqua
cones, I ran the steel process just a little over an hour where I
usually run 45 minutes. Final finish was 36 hours in a dry green
buff with pegs. The finish is flawless.

A bit of humor: In my attempt to harden one of the chains, I put it
in my kitchen oven at it’s highest setting. After 45 minutes I
removed it and discovered that it was an icky black color. I guess
you have to clean the oven prior to using it to harden argentium. No
awards for housekeeping.

Judy Hoch, G.G.


#6

Hi Zen,

Don’t know if this will work for you, but I’ve used it successfully
several times.

Harden your wire before you make the ear wires. You’ll have to work
on the process used for forming the ear wire as the hard wire will
need to be ‘over formed’ to retain the shape desired.

The wire can be hardened in a long length, then pieces cut to the
length needed for each ear wire. To develop your process, you could
use copper wire of the same gauge as the A925.

Here’s how I’d harden the wire.

  1. Cut the length of wire to be hardened from the wire supply.

  2. Twist a small loop in one end of the wire.

  3. Clamp the other end in a vise or secure to a nail driven into a
    sturdy support.

  4. Depending on the length of the wire, the twisting may be done
    with an electric drill or by hand.

  5. Place a cup hook or a hook you fashion yourself into the drill
    chuck.

  6. Place the loop in the end of the wire over the hook.

  7. Draw the wire taut; while holding it taut with the drill, run
    the drill until the wire breaks, usually at one of the ends, unless
    there was a nick in it someplace else. If a wire that hard isn’t
    required, stop before the wire breaks. Finding the point where it’s
    hard enough, but not to hard will take a little experimentation.

If the wire length is short, it can be twisted by substituting a
nail or other round object for the drill & twisting it by hand. A
pin vise can also be used, but counting the turns may not be as
easy.

As mentioned above, if a softer wire is needed, twisting it less
will harden it less. The best way to get a relationship between
hardness & the amount of twisting is to measure the length of the
wire & then time (to the second) the length of the twisting or if
you’re twisting by hand, count the number of turns. When doing your
experimentation, keep a good set of notes ( wire length, number or
time of twists). Try a number of twists, all with wires of the same
gauge & length. After using them to make ear wires, note which
produces the ear wire with the desired properties…

Dave


#7
What I mean with "Bend French wires after all processes? avoids
tangling." is: Make the earring, attach the french wire. Finish the
end with a ball burr, then tumble to finish. 

I see. But many of my earrings currently incorporate pearls,
turquoise, and/or little dangly bits. So I’m thinking it would be
just as good to put the loop in the end of the earwire (they’re very
simple ear wires, no beads or coils or anything), string them on a
piece of heavier wire and tumble them that way, then bend the hook
part in, attach my danglies and/or pearls, and close the loop.

If it works for jump rings, I’m hoping it’ll work for earwires.

I’ll give it a try, anyway. (Unless of course a smarter person tells
me not to)

Sojourner
Who has “Tumble finishing” on the short list of things I need to get


#8
.... I'm using 22g dead soft Argentium wire that I semi-work-harden
by pulling it through my fingers a few times before bending it into
ear wire shapes. This doesn't work as well as it might with
traditional sterling since the Argentium doesn't work harden nearly
as easily. 

Hello Zen,

Insofar as “Tumbling french ear wires” I’d say why bother? I make my
French ear wires out of .75 mm Argentium Sterling wire and have no
problem with hardness because I twist the wire to work harden it
before I shape the shepherd’s hook. You get hardened wire with out
deformation.

What I do is start with a piece of wire 6 cm long. I make a Sharpie
mark on the wire 2.5 cm from one end. Chuck the wire into a pinvice
so the 2.5 cm is inside the body of the pinvice. Chuck the other end
of the wire into a second pinvice. Twist one pinvice so you’re
twisting --and work hardening-- 3.5 cm of the wire. Keep twisting
until you can feel wire getting noticeably stiff. I find it takes
something like 12 or 15 1/2 turns of the wire. The other 2.5 cm of
the wire is left soft for wire-wrapping around the jump ring on the
earring.

Take the wire out of the pinvices, attach it to your earring using
the soft 2.5 cm of wire (the wire-wrapping part), then shape your
shepherd’s hook in the twisted section of wire and trim off the
excess. Voila!

I find no need to tumble or anything else for further hardness. You
might want to planish the curve of the shepherd’s hook for
appearances sake but it’s mostly cosmetic.

I suppose the point of all this is that it behoves the jewelry maker
to design their stuff in such a way that they can achieve the product
they’re aiming for. And an important part of design is arranging the
individual steps of the process so that it works when it comes to
actually producing the thing. In other words by work hardening your
wire before you bend up the shepherd’s hook you achieve the ends you
desire without having to beat up your workpiece afterwards.

Admittedly the twisted wire technique isn’t exactly a mass production
method but it does work nicely and you can get pretty fast at it with
a little practice.

Presumably if you are interested in mass production you’ll consider
an getting your hands on an oven to precip harden the wire and
thereby skip the need to work harden via twisting. Of course this
assumes you are using Argentium Sterling which I understand is your
preference.

Speaking of preferences I strongly suggest you get a drawplate if you
don’t already have one. You can usually buy a cheap Indian one for
less than $30. Unless you have a physical disability of some kind it’s
really not that hard to pull most of the stock that you’ll typically
use. I find that Argentium Sterling is particularly nice to work with
when it comes to drawing and forging because it is softer when
annealed (easier to work), more ductile (less annealing) and it
doesn’t firestain (less hassle when you do need to anneal).

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#9

What works for me is to make all the ear wires with 1/2 hard 20
gauge, then string them onto a long piece of silver wire and twist
the long wire shut at the ends, so now all the ear wires are
captured on one long wire, then toss into the magnetic tumbler. Easy
as pie to “fish them out”, all together! :>

Laura
www.LauraGuptillJewelry.com


#10

When tumbling, I find stringing small objects on heavy paper clips
helps keep them from getting lost in the shot. I usually put two
items on each paper clip, one on each end.

Actually, I keep them on the paper clips through most of the
polishing process. It really helps to have an extension to hold a
small piece by when polishing it on the wheel- I have a better
chance of keeping my fingerprints that way.

Janet Kofoed


#11
Presumably if you are interested in mass production you'll consider
an getting your hands on an oven to precip harden the wire and
thereby skip the need to work harden via twisting.  Of course this
assumes you are using Argentium Sterling which I understand is your
preference. 

Actually I think twisting it will work fine for mass production too,
if I give up on the fancy wrap styles (which I never make now
anyway). So between you and Dave Arens, this is the way I’ll go as
far as hardening my wire. I actually did know that twisting work
hardens, but totally blanked on that info when I needed it. Sheesh!
Thanks.

Speaking of preferences I strongly suggest you get a drawplate if
you don't already have one. 

Yeah, I need one - I finally found some at Otto Frei that will take
wire down to 30g or less. I got the 18g to 30g round wire drawplate
(around $60) - the 30g to 36g drawplate runs another $120. That one
will have to wait.

Sojourner