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Jewelry Making Basic Techniques

By Edited Jun 20, 2015 4 12

bracelet made with loops

Making your own jewelry is a great way to express yourself and to save money or possibly earn money. Basics you should know include attaching clasps to jewelry, and different ways to start and finish a bracelet or necklace. Unless your project stretches to slip on, these techniques and tips will be the mainstay of all your creations. Because not all methods and materials are ideal for every project, knowing the basics will allow you to tackle almost any jewelry project.

Simple Crimp

crimp beads and tubes (34971)

A simple crimp is a tiny metal tube or bead used to secure cord or wire to the clasp. Crimp beads or tubes come in various sizes to accommodate different thickness in cord and wire and are designed to hold one or more strands of either. To use a crimp bead, slip the cord into the bead, then through the end of a clasp, and back through the bead. The cord is pulled taught with the bead against the loop in the clasp and the bead is then crimped. The tail of the cord is either trimmed off or in some cases, threaded into the work that follows.

The easiest type of crimp is achieved by flattening the crimp bead once with flat nose pliers. Although it is an option, this method often produces squared metal edges on the bead, which can be very sharp and scratch the skin. These sharp edges may also cut into lightweight cord and cause it to fray and break with wear.

Double Crimp

double crimp tool

The double crimp creates a smoother, more rounded finish but requires the right tool to complete. Double crimp pliers use two styles of notches to bend the crimp into a curved shape. It's a different method of crimping but the cord is secured in the same way as the simple crimp. The bottom notch of the crimping pliers is the first position for the double crimp method. Here the bead is crimped into a "u" shape. The bead is moved into the top notch then rotated 90 degrees. This notch will close the "U" shape, creating a more rounded shape.

How To Use A Double Crimper

1) Set the bead into bottom notch of pliers.

2) Squeeze together handles. The bead is transformed into a "u" shape.

3) Set the bead in the top notch, rotated 90 degrees.

4) Squeeze together handles. The bead folds in on itself creating a finished, rounded shape.

steps for using a crimp tool

Crimp Ends

crimp ends

A crimp end is an open piece of metal that has three flat sides and a loop on one end. Cord or wire is set down on the crimp and the two flat sides are brought down one after the other and flattened. Crimp ends are ideal for projects strung on heavy materials like ribbon or suede cord. The crimp end holds and conceals the raw edges of your stringing material. The loop allows you to attach a clasp or jump ring that will connect to your clasp.


clamshell and knot

Clamshells are also knows as bead tips. They get their names because they open like a clamshell with two matching cups. A hook on one edge is attaches to a clasp. The clamshell also has a small hole in the fold of the shell, between the two cups. Beading cord is knotted then slipped into the hole so that the knot lies inside the cups, which are then pressed together. It's a good idea to seal the knot with a dot of glue to prevent it from possibly faying over time.

The knot at the start of the strand is always easy to make. But the one at the end of the strand can be a little trickier. When all the beads are on the strand, you pass the cord into the clamshell. At this point, you want to eliminate extra spacing between the clamshell and the beads, and at the same time, tie a knot inside the shell. Some recommendations for this feat of magic are to use a pin to slide the knot into position inside the shell, or use pointy nose pliers to help create the knot.

knot tying tool

But a knot-tying tool is the ideal answer for this job. Instructions for using the tool are on the package. It's simple, effective, and works every time.

Stringing Materials

The materials you use for your project are mostly a matter of choice, but at times the type of project will determine the best choice. For instance using sturdy wire to string pearls would result in a necklace that doesn't move with you. You also should consider that certain cords would be too big to thread through the hole in some beads. Wire, cord, and beading thread are offered in different weights. Consider your necklace or bracelet parts before selecting your stringing materials.

Griffin nylon cord is a sturdy material that comes with a permanent needle attached. Instead of trying to pass the frayed edge of cord through the small hole of a bead, the needle guides the cord without effort. When using this type of cord, all the work is moved to the end of the cord without the needle. When the stringing is complete and the cord is cut, the needle will still be attached to a length of cord, ready for your next job.

When combining cord with clamshells, using thicker cord, like number 6, will insure that the knots won't slip through the hole in the clamshell.

Woven Projects

Beading needles are designed to be long, flexible and the perfect tool for woven bracelets and necklaces. The length makes it convenient to push through several beads in one motion. Combined with beading thread, very tiny beads can be woven with this needle to create interesting designs. With woven projects, the needle often has to pass through a bead more than once, making it necessary to use thin thread and needles. Some beading needles have a whole in the center to hold thread. With others the whole is on one end, the same as traditional sewing needles.

Jump Rings

jump rings

Jump rings are circles of metal that have a split in them. Open a jump ring by holding one end and pushing the opposite end away, using pliers. Pulling at the two sides of a ring will alter its perfect circular shape. Close a jump ring the same way you opened it, only you will be pulling one end toward you to align both ends.

Making Wire Loops/Eyes

Both nail head pins and spooled wire can be used to create loops/eyes to link jewelry sections together.

1) Cut jewelry wire to measure about 3". When using nail head pins, remove the head with wire cutters.

2) Grasp the wire .75" from one end. Bend the wire into a 45-degree angle.

loops step 2

3) With round nose pliers, grasp the wire firmly at the angle. With your free hand, wrap the wire's short end over the top of the pliers so it extends straight out.

loops step 3

4) Remove the pliers and reposition them so they are seated in the curve you just created. With your free hand, bend the wire's short end so it's pointing straight down.

loopsw step 4

5) There should now be a tail that extends down past the 45-degree angle. With the wire cutters, clip the tail off slightly above the point of the angle. Slip a ring, clasp or other jewelry part onto the loop/eye now, before you close the gap in the next step.

loops 6

6) With flat edge pliers, firmly grasp only the circle you've created. Do not include the bend of the 45-degree angle. Pull the straight wire toward the circle, closing the gap. This changes the 45-degree angle, closes the opening in the circle, and creates a perfectly round loop/eye at the end of the wire.

loops 7

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Dec 13, 2010 1:43pm
Very detailed information, and fabulous photos that clearly show the basic steps in jewelry making. Anyone who wants to learn will find this article invaluable!
Dec 13, 2010 1:43pm
What a great winter project this would be or way for someone to earn extra money - wonderfully detailed instructions that anyone could follow. I'll guess now that this will get featured:)
Dec 14, 2010 5:18pm
One can only hope!!! Thanks for the comment.
Dec 14, 2010 1:48am
excellent jewelry making techniques here, very thorough, well explained crafts, thank you.
Dec 16, 2010 7:03pm
I've always wondered what all those "notches" in jewelry making tools did. Some of my friends make their own jewelry, maybe I'll drop some knowledge on them and see if they're impressed. Great article!
Dec 30, 2010 7:10pm
Thanks - this is all encompassing- one of my daughters makes jewelry - she'll love this article.
Dec 31, 2010 5:59pm
I appreciate your comment. Hope the info helps your daughter.
Dec 31, 2010 7:42am
Thanks for the very detailed great instructions on making jewelry. Excellent article.
Dec 31, 2010 5:59pm
Thank you. Happy New Year!
Dec 31, 2010 9:01pm
Happy New Year to you also.
Jun 26, 2011 4:08pm
One of my Grand-daughters just asked me last week if I knew how to make jewelry, never did try it. Thanks to you and the great direction and basic tips we should make some awesome pieces.
Jun 26, 2011 4:19pm
Thanks! Hope you enjoy the time together!
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