The long tale of learning to make friends with 14 gauge fine silver wire

Last night I became encouraged by additional success with fusing fine silver  jump rings.

I attached one to a PMC3 oval to use as a clasp. Rather than fuse the jump ring in place, after firing the PMC clasp, I tried cutting a small wedge out of the leather hard PMC oval,  placed the jump ring on, and then moistened the wedge’s edges and slid  it back into place. This is a technique from Kate McKinnon’s book  Structural Metal Clay that I wanted to try.

So far so good, but I needed a hook for the other half of this clasp, and this is where the 14 gauge wire felt less than friendly. In trying to make a simple wire-wrapped loop with thicker wire, my pliers felt foreign. I tried to correct  the curves I didn’t like, and the hook looked worse! I can make these wrapped loops in my sleep with 20 gauge wire, but I remember how frustrating it was to learn at first. What is easy now, I had to do many times, before it became that way. So I kept trying, making what looked like super-sized French ear wires, until I thought to try fusing the end loop instead of wrapping it.

The humble progression:

And the as-yet-unfired PMC clasp:

I went to bed last night thinking that Mr. 14 gauge and I were great friends. This morning I made 11 hooks to fuse, and 11 figure-8 loops to match them. I had fusing confidence as I lit my torch after lunch. It turned out that the hook with the perfect little fused loop on the end was a nice piece of beginner’s luck.

Another humble progression:

Undaunted, I knew I could drill out the spots where the wire had melted to completely fill in the smaller loop. And my work-hardened friend was once again pliant after being annealed by the heat from the fusing process. With some shaping and hammering I ended up with a few new clasps I will be happy to use. I imagine I will learn to be more comfortable in using this heavier gauge wire, and  alreay I’m not in such a rush to order the 16 gauge I thought I was missing.

After fusing my way through these clasps, I tried a few more jump rings to have on hand. I’m happy to say they are getting a little easier each time.

It has been a while since I’ve spent this much time with my torch. I keep it in my basement work room, where I also do my soldering and keep my drill press for drilling rocks. Today I picked up some fired copper clay pieces that had been sitting on this workbench since early last fall. Abandoned earring components. Maybe I though they were too thin? Maybe the rest of that kiln batch had not sintered properly? I couldn’t really remember how I had planned to use them. Perhaps they just seemed too plain. I decided to take them upstairs to my studio to see what would happen if I hammered them. Would they harden, crumble, or crack?  Well, they hardened quite nicely. And as I set them down on my bench, next to the rest of my work from today, darned if they didn’t become another idea for a clasp!


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2 responses to “The long tale of learning to make friends with 14 gauge fine silver wire

  1. holly

    SO impressive! even if i had a whole day, i don’t think i’d get all THAT done! now that you’re a fusing expert, i’ll run my problems by you!


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