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Smithcraft for ImbolcClick Here to View Full Size


Imbolc is the season when we honor Brigid, goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. If you’re interested in metalsmithing, you can begin with wirework. It doesn’t require heat, and you can get started for as little as $30.


Below you will find instructions for making a braided necklace or bracelet, and for attaching a clasp and a beaded pendant.


Tools and materials


  • Click Here to View Full SizePliers. You can find a basic set of jewelers pliers at a craft store or through an online retailer. Shown below are square-nosed pliers, wire cutters, and round-nosed pliers.

  • 20-gauge wire in two colors. Finer gauge wire is easier to bend, but more fragile. Heavier wire holds its shape better but is more difficult to bend. The type of silver, gold, and copper wire found in craft stores is best for beginners. After you have gained some skill, you can try working with heavier and stiffer wires, like steel.
  • Beads. You will need several beads to practice with. If you have worked with stones, you will have favorites, or stones that are powerful for you. Choose stone beads carefully. Cutting, polishing, and drilling a hole can change a stone’s energy. Hold it in your hands for a moment and make sure it feels right. Look through the hole and notice how it changes your vision. Your stone bead’s energy will exchange and interact with yours when you wear it against your skin in the form of jewelry.

Procedures


  • We will begin with a simple clasp. It’s great for getting the feel of your wire, and you can make several for practice before going on to something more complicated.
  • Next we will thread wire through a bead and finish the ends in two different styles.
  • When you’re ready to continue, you can learn to braid a bracelet or necklace, and attach your clasp and bead.

Bending wire into a simple clasp


The first thing to learn is a skill you will use again and again: bending the end of a wire into a small loop. You use your round-nose pliers for this. The important thing to remember is that you will usually hold the pliers still and bend the wire around them.

Caution! Always cover the wire with your free hand when snipping to keep small pieces from flying across the room.


1. Cut a piece of wire about 2.5 inches long.


Caution! Always cover the wire with your free hand when snipping to keep small pieces from flying across the room.


2. Grasp the tip of the wire with the tips of your round-nose pliers.


3. Squeeze the pliers tightly, and fold the wire around one of the round tips until the end of the wire is touching the length.


4. To center the loop, pinch the base of the loop and bend the wire a few degrees in the opposite direction.


Making a larger loop


Use your flat nose pliers to hold the end of the wire in place while bending the length around another object with your fingers.

1. Pinch the small loop flat inside your square nose pliers.

2. Wrap the length of wire around a rod-shaped object the size of the loop you want. A pen works well.




3. Finish the hook with another small loop. You can orient it in either direction. Snip off the excess.


4. Make a few of these for practice before you go on. Hammering the loops flat will help them keep their shape. You will need a steel anvil (the metal square in these photographs) and a jeweler’s hammer or another hammer with a smooth head. The third clasp shown below is hammered.


Attaching a bead to wire


1. Cut a piece of wire a couple of inches long. Form a small loop at one end and insert the other end through the bead.


2. Make another small loop at the other end and snip off the excess.


Bending a spiral


The spiral is an ancient form found in nature and in the artwork of many cultures. It is said to be a contemplative symbol representing change, the journey of life, and energy forms that coil and unwind.

1. Cut a piece of wire about 4 inches long.

2. Make a tiny loop at one end.


3. Grasp the loop flat inside your square-nosed pliers, squeeze hard, and bend the length around the loop to start the spiral.




4. Little by little, stop and turn the loop inside your pliers, and continue to bend the length around in a spiral shape.


Good-looking spirals take practice. You may make four or five of them before you get a spiral you are happy with.

5. With enough length left to string a bead, stop and roll the wire a few degrees in the other direction, to align the center of the spiral with the length.


6. String your bead and finish as before. Your bead is ready to attach to your braid.


Braiding with four strands


This braid produces a round, rope-like structure. It may take some patience and persistence to learn, but after a few tries you will catch on to the reach-under, pull-through-and-up, and cross-over rhythm.

Tip: If you would be more comfortable making a three-strand braid, you can use the instructions below, “Finishing the braid,” for both ends. Allow extra wire for starting the braid, so you can tie or clamp it to something.

You will need about 36 inches of wire in each of two colors for a necklace. Less for a bracelet.

1. Loop the two strands of wire around something stationary, like a sturdy hook. Make sure you will be able to unloop it after braiding. You might like to label the strands with small pieces of tape.

2. Begin with the two middle strands. Cross B over C.

3. Reach between B and D, grasp A and cross it behind the two center strands.

4. Bring A forward and cross it in front of B. This is the basic maneuver you will repeat.

5. Reach between C and A, grasp D, and cross it behind A and B.

6. Cross D over A.

7. Reach between D and B, grasp C, and cross it behind A and D.

8. Cross C over D.

9. Reach between A and C, grasp B and cross it behind C and D.

10. Cross B over C.

11. Reach between B and D, grasp A, and cross it behind C and B.

12. Cross A over C.

Continue with the braid until you are satsfied with its length, or until you have approximately two inches of free wire remaining.

Finishing the braid


You will want a small loop at the end of your braid to which you can attach the clasp. But what to do with the other three strands?

Tip: You can use this technique to finish a three-strand braid.

1. Cut a few inches of wire and wind it tightly around a narrow, rod-shaped object, like a mandrel (shown), an awl, or an ice pick. Set it aside.


2. Choose a strand at the end of your braid for your end loop. Cut the other three. Use your round-nosed pliers to bend and tuck in the ends you cut.


3. Remove the coil from the rod, and thread your loop wire through the center. Wind the coil one or two more times around the end of the braid.


4. Snip the excess. Bend and tuck in the ends with your round-nosed pliers.

5. Form a small-to-mid-sized loop with the loose strand.


6. To attach your clasp, open one of the loops by twisting it sideways just enough to get the other loop through. Twist it back to shut.


7. Carefully shape your braid into a circle and hook the clasp the the loop at the other end.




You can now attach your bead by twisting the loop to open it, slipping it through a wire along the braid, and shutting it again. And your bracelet or necklace is ready to wear!

—Jewelry design and instructions by Luna Silverleaf



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