How to make handmade ear wires in bulk

earrings, Technique, Wire / Sunday, October 4th, 2020

My stash of these was getting low, so I had to set aside time to create more. There are several steps to make these, even if they look so simple and easy to make. Everything takes time, and these are certainly no exception.

Yeah I know. I could just buy these from a manufacturer, but I love that I can create them myself. I also like my items to be handmade as much as possible, including the ear wire. It has been some trial and error into figuring out what shape works best, and what gauge as well. I use only 21 gauge in the ear wire, as I find that 18 ga is way to thick for most, and the same for 20 ga. I use half hard sterling silver wire, .935. I will eventually switch to argentium wire I think, but I need to test it out a bit more.

Here are all the steps I need to take in order to make just one pair of ear wire:

1. Cutting into correct length for what I want. I try to be as accurate as possible in my measuring – so I do not need to put anything away. I do not toss the scraps, it is silver after all, but I want to avoid getting a lot of it. I can melt it and create a sheet, but that process is also one that takes a long time.

2. Balling up the ends. I use a tiny blowtorch for that, it’s main use is probably creating a dessert. What is it called.. brulé? Yeah, that:) Here I try to make the ball as large as I need it to be.

3. Pickle the wire. After that harsh meet with the torch, the silver is all ugly and black. That of course has to be removed, so into the pickle it goes. It does not take all that much time for it to be clean again. After pickling I dip it in a bath of baking soda and water – to stop the pickle from working. Then into clean water, and then on a table airdrying.

4. Forming the wire. I have used all sorts of tools, from pencils to mandrels for this part. Nowadays I use a bailforming plier, that way I get uniform shapes.

5. Cutting off the tiny hook. This is an important step, as that hook should not be too long – as it makes it easy to catch onto clothing. It also makes it easier for the ear wire to move out of your ear. That is at least my experience. While a longer hook certainly has a design appeal, I go for functionality here. It is at this point in the process I create pairs, and I cut them to the same size.

6. I also hammer the ear wire slightly with a plastic hammer, to flatten it.

7. Filing the ends. I pick up every ear wire I now have created, and file the ends using a rotary tool. Even though the ear wire will tumble with steel shots later in the process, and thus remove any hard edges, I like to also do this manually. At this point I look like an alien – with magnifying glasses and mask.

Handmade ear wires in between step 6 and 7

8. Tumbling. Before I tumble I tie the pairs together with a thin copper wire, that way I keep the pairs. It is important, as two different ear wires may not be totally aligned. Tieing the pairs together I have a better starting point when I am making them into ear rings proper.

9. Air drying. After the tumble I rinse them under water, and I leave them to air dry before I pack then into a bag for storage.

This whole process usually takes a few days to complete, where I finish some steps of the process whenever I have time.