Arte Es Vida

Using Mandrels In Your Wirework by arteesvida
December 10, 2006, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Art Of Jewelry Design, Wire Work

A mandrel is defined as a rod or bar around which a material, in our case wire, can be shaped.  Mandrel’s do not have to be made out of a specific material, or even be a specific shape and size.  Knitting needles make great “traditional” sized mandrels, but I have also used a whole host of objects as makeshift mandrels, including toothpicks and popsicle sticks.  So long as the mandrel is of uniform size and sturdy enough to hold your wire, it fits the bill.

If you are new to wire work, mandrels are a fabulous play tool.   Their potential use is enormous…for zero monetary commitment, unlike jigs, wire winders, and the other tools on the market.

One of the most basic mandrel applications is making your own jump rings.  By wrapping over a standard sized mandrel, then snipping off each individual circle.  Although I typically buy pre-made jump rings for general use, I have a hard time finding jump rings made in copper or art wire colors. So if I am working with wire outside of basic silver and gold colors, I often make my own jump rings (as well as my own clasps) so I can match my current project.  For making your own jump rings, you need to use a heavier gauge wire (the lower the gauge number the heavier/thicker the wire)…16 gauge wire is standard, 14 gauge for bigger jump rings or for use on heavier projects.  Should you use a thinner wire, such as 18 gauge, you may find it necessary to double up the jump rings so they hold without losing their shape from the weight of the jewelry piece.

Mandrel’s are not limited to making findings, wrapped wire has many uses for jewelry making as well.  With different sizes and shapes, the design possibilities are endless, especially when you add beads and charms into the mix!  Over the next few months, I will be featuring some different wire work projects that call for mandrel wrapping techniques; the first one I will be putting up is an easy but fabulous self-linking copper wire bracelet, so keep an eye out for it!

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