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Free Bead Lesson

Finishing In 14K and Wire

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Using Crimping Pliers To Attach A 14K Clasp

Okay, now we're back to our faceted citrine and 14k necklace!

Cut The French Wire

The first photograph gives you an idea of how much French wire you will need in comparison to the size of a crimp. This is about twice what you would normally use to cover silk, by the way. The second photograph shows an arrow pointing to the correct width of French Wire. The wider French wire below it will bunch up and look awful with the narrow beading wire we're using.

The bottom right photo shows the basic assemblage for attaching the 14k clasp. The arrows show where the French Wire is on the beading wire. The French Wire is almost the same width as the beading wire. That's the way it should be. Stringing the small size French Wire on the beading wire is a little like threading a needle, and takes about the same amount of patience. Once the interior of the delicate French Wire is filled snugly with the flexible wire, it is very durable.

Crimp The 14K Clasp Onto The Beading Wire

Pull the beading wire end until the French Wire pulls around to make a perfect, small loop. If it's too loose, the French wire will slide back and forth on the wire. If it's too tight, it will kink and loops will pop out to counter the strain. It's not tough to get the tension right, however.

You crimp the clasp in the same way as you do the sterling clasp, but you skip the rounding step. 14k will never break at the crimp seam, but if you try to round it, it is flexible enough that it will open up again rather than fold over. The finished crimp is strong and will last through anything. The 14k retains it's polish well through the crimping process, too.

Here's the finished crimp showing the channel side and then the rounded side. This finish is more pleasing with the French Wire than if the crimp were rounded back into a tube shape. These photos are gargantuan compared to the very small things we're actually working with, so it's not as easy to tell, but the two ends of the French wire running into the two channels of the crimp almost look like one assembly when done correctly. It's much more attractive than if the two ends of the French Wire appears to be squeezed back into a tube-shaped crimp. finished loop

String The First Bead

Cut the end of the wire as close to the bottom of the bead as possible. Don't string the wire back through more than one bead; it doesn't make the clasp assemblage any stronger and it leaves a longer tail to potentially slip out from between two beads.
string first bead

Stabilize Your 14K Spacer Beads

Working with 14k beads is a little different than working with base metal or sterling. All 14k beads can dent if banged around aggressively, although they're really pretty tough. To keep 14k beads affordable, they will be lighter, than other beads, which means that the walls will be thinner and the edges will be sharper. They can cut silk if they're not well balanced on the strand. And they can be cut by wire if they're not balanced. An unbalanced bead is one that falls so that the wire is not running through the center of the hole anymore, but rubbing against the top of the bead hole. This is more of a danger with larger beads than smaller. Take steps to balance your 14k beads and you won't have to worry about it. Just a few 14k spacer beads really brighten a design. And they add a nice element that can be carried to a matching pair of earrings, as well.

The 3mm 14k round bright bead is a reliable and affordable standby as a spacer and works with lots of different bead types and sizes. This is because they are small enough that they are actually cupped by the drill holes in the bead. This is visible in the photo. Because they are light, they are also less likely to get in a position that could damage them. For tiny gem beads, 2mm round bright 14k beads will work in the same way. bead spacers
There are lots of different ways to stabilize heavier 14k beads, depending on the materials you're using and what they offer you for design potential. Here a large corrugated 14k bead is stabilized between two 3mm 14k beads. bead spacers
Another excellent choice is a rondel bead, either smooth or corrugated. The rondel spacer cups the bead on either side, a good way to to achieve stabilization. Corrugated beads are a little tougher than bright beads, too, because the more metal is worked, such as making the accordian pleats in this corrugated bead, the stiffer and harder it gets. rondel
But we're going to use these pretty little Bali 14K rondels. They're very stable on the strand because their hole is so small there's really no way for them to get out of balance enough so they'd start to rub. rondel spacers

Get The Slack Out!

Finishing the strand is the most critical part of this whole operation. Of course, you string back through the last bead in the same way you strung through the first bead.

The most common problem with wire stringing is too much slack in the wire. If you're stringing a tiny gem bead, like the coral, then it may be hard to get the wire back through the bead, but it will be easier to take the slack out of the necklace because that tight little bead will hold the whole assemblage in place for you while you crimp.
get slack out

With the faceted citrine beads, the hole is relatively large, which makes it easier to string the wire through, but it's going to be harder to make sure you have the right amount of slack out of the wire, since it will slip around a lot.

To do take the slack out, you have to use gravity. That is, you have to hold the entire strand off the table and see how much slack there is left. Then put it back on the table, adjust it, then hold it up again. Repeat this process until you're satisfied that it's correct, and then make sure when you return the work to the table to crimp it that you don't end up adding slack again. This might sound simple but it can be very frustrating. To encourage you, and maybe save you at least one wasted work session, I will illustrate why it is important.

This photograph is the end of the entire strand of beads. It's lying on the table and I've pushed the beads back as far as they will go. The slack shows up between the first bead and the second, where the wire exits, as shown by the arrow. get slack out
In this photograph, what I've done is pick the strand up from the table and held it in place so that the end bead hasn't moved. I'm holding it up far enough so that all the beads are off the table, and this reveals how much actual slack there is in the strand. Had I clasped that strand before using gravity on it, the clasp would go right where my lovely fingers are in the photo. All of that wire would be visible! The whole thing would be ruined! AIEEE! adjust slack

Every time you adjust the tension in the necklace so that it's tighter, you need to remember to do it gently, so that that the French Wire is not overly disturbed.

Once you trim the end of the wire, you will immediately have more slack in the necklace. Don't panic, you do need to have some slack so that it will remain supple, so you do need to see, on close deliberate inspection, a tiny bit of wire between two beads when you move them apart. You don't want "the lie" of the necklaces to be stiff. Necklaces are worn resting on the shoulders, hopefully never hung from a doorknob or anything like that, and in that natural state no one will ever notice the wire. And it will not stretch out the way knotted silk inevitably will. (Not that I don't love to knot. I'm just sayin'.)

Eventually you'll get so that you can actually adjust the tension while holding the strand above the table. That is a little like throwing pizza dough, though, and at first you'll probably have enough of a challenge keeping the everything from coming loose and all the beads from falling onto the table.

Tip For Stringing Very Long Bead Strands On Wire

Very long bead strands are harder to get the slack out of because it's harder to hold all the beads off the table. To counteract this, depending on the beads you're using, you can sometimes slip a knot down the bead wire as you work with a bead awl, so that the when you get to the end of the strand all the beads are already snug except for the last few inches. Any multi-strand bead wire knots very well. Just make sure the knots are not visible, and that you actually get them snug against the bead, because if you have to undo the knot because it's in the wrong place, you'll find your bead wire is unalterably twisty, and you'll have to remove the clasp and start all over again.

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