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Making Jewelry - Basic Stringing

Have you ever wondered if you could make your own jewelry? The answer is, yes you can. It requires a few basic tools and supplies and a couple of techniques that are relatively easy to learn. If you have the desire to make your own jewelry, you are already half way there.


The basic tools you will need in order to string a necklace, bracelet or anklet are: chain nose pliers (they look like needle nose pliers, but do not have cross hatching on the inner surface of the jaws) and semi-flush cutters (wire cutters). You might also find a crimp bead tool to be valuable, but it is not absolutely necessary. It makes a neater crimp, but is a little trickier to use than chain nose pliers.


The basic supplies you will need are: flexible stringing wire (some people refer to it as cable); crimp beads and clasps (lobster claw, hook and eye, toggle, box, etc.). By far, the easiest way to construct a piece of jewelry is with cable and crimp beads. You do not need needles, threads, glues and bead tips. You do not have to make expert knots.


The fun part in all of this is selecting the beads from which you wish to make your jewelry. Just about any bead can be made into beautiful jewelry. Beads come in a variety of shapes (round, oval, square, triangular, star shaped, etc.), materials (natural stone types, wood, plastic, glass, bone, ceramic, metal, etc.) and all the colors of the rainbow.


Sometimes it is best to lay your beads out first before you start stringing them on the cable. You can purchase a bead board made for this with one or more grooves in it, or you can simply use any material that does not let the beads roll around too freely. Some people prefer to design as they go. They will start with the center front of the necklace (the focal point, usually but not always a special bead) and work to the left and right, stringing beads onto the cable as it pleases them.


Flexible stringing wire or cable comes in many different qualities and prices. Cable is just what it says. It is many small steel wires twisted together and then coated with nylon. The more wires twisted together, the more flexible and less likely to kink will be the cable, and the more expensive. The cheapest cables are only three strands twisted together. I do not recommend that you buy these. They are too stiff to let your necklace have a good drape. Also, they kink the most easily. You can buy cable with seven strands, 19, 21 and 49 strands. For most purposes, seven and 19 strand cables will be sufficient. Cable also comes in different diameters, usually expressed as thousandths of an inch. They vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but are always fairly close to one another. A good average, all-purpose diameter is .014 or .015.


Now you want to know how much cable you will need for your project. A good rule of thumb is to cut a piece of cable (use your wire cutters, cable will ruin regular scissors) six inches longer that the length of your finished jewelry. If you already know what your design will be, you can attach one half of the clasp to one end of the cable and use that as a stop for your beads. Or you may simply put a piece of tape on one end of the cable. If you design as you go from the center out, you may want to purchase some small bead keepers (small springs that can be squeezed open and grab the cable ends securely). They are quick and easy to put on and take off and keep nasty accidents from happening.


Attaching the clasp will require crimp beads and chain nose pliers. Crimp beads, or crimps, come in sterling silver, 14K gold filled, and brass that has been plated with silver, or copper, or been left plain. They also come in a variety of shapes (round and tubular are common) and sizes. The 2mm x 2mm tube is my favorite and works well with the diameter of cable that I mentioned. They are meant to be crushed and basically all you do is take the chain nose pliers and mash them onto the cable.


First, put a crimp on the end of the cable. Then put one half of the clasp on the cable. Go back through the crimp. Push the crimp close to the clasp. Leave enough of a loop so that the clasp moves freely. Do this so that the short end left over is about one inch long. Now, mash the crimp bead. Hold the long part of the cable in one hand and the clasp in the other. Pull on the clasp and make sure that the cable does not slip in the crimp bead. Do not cut off the short one inch tail. This is your insurance. Simply string the first few beads over the short end along with the full length of cable. String all of your beads onto the cable.


A note about cables, they all kink; no matter what anyone might tell you. So handle your cable with a little care and try not to kink it as you work with it. The beads will not hide this; the finished piece will simply have a kink in it. If you store your jewelry by laying it down, be certain to lay it carefully so that it does not kink in storage. Also, if you want to string fresh water pearls, you will need a smaller diameter cable. A diameter of .012 or .013 should suffice.


Attaching the last half of the clasp is a little trickier. You will use the same procedure defined above, but you need to add a couple of steps to be certain you do not have slack and that no cable will show between the beads of the finished piece. Put the crimp on the wire and put on the second half of the clasp. Go back through the crimp bead and about an inch worth of beads. Hold the piece up in the air by the second half of the clasp and let gravity settle all the beads to the bottom. Pull on the cable where it comes out of the inch worth of beads until all the slack has been removed from the piece. Do not pull so hard that it gets tweaked out of shape. Now, mash the crimp bead. Cut off the tail of cable as closely as you can. Ta-daa. You have a finished piece of jewelry.


One more tip, do not use a bead with a big hole next to your crimp bead. The crimp bead might work its way into the hole and then you will develop slack in the piece and cable will show.


With a little determination and not too much cash, you can learn to make your own jewelry. I have found it to be very fulfilling and handy at Christmas and birthdays and the like. Have fun. Be creative.


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