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Wire

Wire can be very confusing subject for people just starting out in wire working. It comes in an infinite combination of sizes, shapes, hardness and materials.

Sizes

There are many standards used around the world today for sizing wire.

The most common one used in the United States is the American Wire Gauge (AWG), and in Canada and Europe, the Standard Wire Gauge (SWG).

Like knitting needles: the smaller the number, the thicker the wire.

Gauge Size Approximate Diameter
14 1.6 mm
16 1.3 mm
18 1.0 mm
20 0.8 mm
22 0.6 mm
24 0.5 mm
26 0.4 mm

For wire wrapping, 20 gauge wire is a good all round size to start out with.

For chain maille, 18 ga or 16 ga makes nice heavy jump ring that are easy to close properly.

Shapes

Wire comes in a variety of shapes including round, half round, square, triangle and rectangle. Round is the most common and versatile shape.

You can also order patterned wire, which is usually rectangle wire that has a pattern “stamped” or “rolled” on one or both sides.

Hardness

Wire comes in various degrees of hardness: dead soft, half-hard, and hard are the most common.

All wire starts out as dead soft, and as it is pulled through a draw plate the wire becomes harder, because the molecules are becoming rearranged.

A good rule of thumb for beginners is that for 20 ga and smaller wire use half hard, 18 ga and larger wire, use dead soft.

Materials

Wire can be made out of almost any metal, or combinations of metal. Some examples include:

Fine Silver
(99.9% pure silver)

Sterling Silver
(92.5% silver and 7.5% copper)

Karat Gold

Platinum

Copper

German Silver
(Nickel)

Brass

Bronze

Silver or Gold Plate

Gold-Filled
(20% karat gold over a base metal core)

For the most part, fine silver is not used because it is too soft and does not hold it’s shape well, especially in the smaller sizes.

Copper is a good metal to start out with and for practicing techniques. It is relatively cheap, readily available, and similar in consistency to sterling silver.

     


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