Friday, 28 February 2014

Evolution of a Truly Original Bracelet and Tutorial

I'm cheating here, because only one link is completely finished but the way I've been moving lately, it's a
good thing to get the tutorial up before we're all too old to hold pliers.
This bracelet will always be a one-of-a-kind because it'll be different every time you make it and each link will be original, just because you're basically doing freehand beading and wiring.  And your selection of beads, stones, crystals or metals will be entirely your own.

So the instructions are very loose and aren't going to give basics.  Or specifics - as I said, freehand.

The framing wire is 16 gauge and I used argentium for this bracelet, because I wanted to fuse the frame.  The metalworking involved in this is really simple (or I wouldn't be able to do it!) but if you want to avoid fire, you can see below how the copper bracelet is put together.

Finding something square to use as a mandrel was probably the hardest thing and cardboard isn't the greatest but this is all I could find.  The size is about 1 1/4" square (3.75 cm) but the size doesn't have to be the same as mine.  The important thing is to make sure all your frames are equal.  They don't have to be square - rectangular is fine, long as they match.

Figure out how many frames you will need to make a bracelet the size you want.  For instance, if you're making a 7" bracelet and your frames are 1/1/4"wide, you'll need 5 frames; your clasp and 4 sets of jump rings should measure 3/4".

Wrap whatever you're using for a mandrel with the 16 gauge wire.  18 gauge will work but won't be as
strong and you should make your frames smaller and more delicate.  After I cut the last loop and removed it from my mandrel, I wrapped it in painters tape to keep it together for sawing.

                                                                                                                                                                   Saw the individual squares if you are going to fuse, or use your flush cutters if you are going to end each square with a loop. (see the copper bracelet below).

Even using a #2 blade, I still needed to use a file to clean up the cuts and remove some tiny burrs.  Then, I
wiggled the squares back and forth like a jump ring in order to get them to spring together as tight as possible and ready for fusing.

If you are fusing, you likely know more than I do.  Argentium is a wonderful metal to fuse because you just have to heat on either side of the join and wait for
the metal to flow and quickly remove the heat.  The wire doesn't usually get fire scale so I just quenched it and cleaned it with some fine steel wool.  My fusing skills are pretty rusty and were never great to begin with, so the squares developed a few lumps and bumps.

It wasn't too difficult to remove the wobbly areas by using a nylon hammer and the same hammer was used
to harden the metal after correcting the shape.  I've got a tiny little anvil that was given to my late husband, a blacksmith, as a joke and it was the perfect size to square up the frames.  The peeling paint didn't hurt a thing.

You won't know how many beads you're going to use unless you're a lot more organized than me but you
should have some idea of your color scheme.  I decided this bracelet was going to be crystal bling, so I set out some of each crystal, metal and Herkimer diamonds, ready to use where desired.  I didn't use the green crystals in my first frame and don't know if they'll fit in my design.  But they might!

I used 21 gauge argentium to do the inner frame
design - you can use a finer gauge but your loops and spirals won't be as strong.  Start your wrap anywhere.

You can use anything small in diameter for doing the loops and coils, even a pair of round nose pliers,
but something like a fine knitting needle is easier to work with. (my fingernails aren't really green - it's the dirt off the charcoal block, steel wool and wire.)

Be playful with your design, putting beads here and there and starting and stopping them with loops and coils.  If you find beads sticking up it's easy to push and shove with your fingers to rearrange your design but be careful not to stretch your loops.  You're just making a design that is pleasing to the eye and you can
use the wire on the frame to create a rustic look or a more formal look.  Again, look at the copper bracelet - the color and the tendrils around the frame make it very casual and rustic.  This is my first frame finished.  Hard to tell from the picture but it is actually square with soft corners.
When you have finished decorating your frames, use your fingers to gently curve them so that they curve around a wrist instead of laying flat. When you do your gentle arc, push the beads and wire back down if they tend to pop up a bit.

This copper bracelet is the first I made of this style and I made it for myself.  Look at the frames and see how I made two connecting loops for each frame.  The

frames are monstrous - 2" x 2" - and I made them freehand so they aren't very square.
But I have huge wrists and a dainty bracelet would look like a pea on a pumpkin, so it suits me.

This is a better view of the connecting loops on the frame and gives you a good idea of the crazy bead mix I used.
Oh yeah, one last tip.  I always make an extra frame to use as a pendant.  They're cool.

Use good strong jump rings to connect the frames and a handmade clasp will look better than a bought one.  Making this should be fairly simple for most people so my instructions are mainly for the design but if I've left out something you need, let me know and I'll try to help.  One of these days I'll get really brave and solder and cut tubing to connect the frames but we'll think about that tomorrow.