Sunday, January 26, 2014

Practicing Your Wire Work with Craft Wire versus Copper Wire

In a past issue I wrote about Craft Wire, what it is, and briefly how it is made. Today I want to expand on the subject just a little and give you some information that might help you make the decision pertaining to whether or not you want to practice your wire wrapping or weaving with craft wire or natural copper wire.

The first thing to consider is what you are going to practice on. Does your wire need to be soft, like to wrap a ring around a ring mandrel? Or are you making a bracelet that needs to hold its shape when it's done? The reason for this thought process is the consideration of the softness of the wire you want to practice with. Normally, and I am providing this info on my experiences, craft wire is very, very soft. But then that depends on the "brand" of craft wire you are working with. There is always that "but." Ugh...

Personally, I have purchased some craft wires that were abnormally hard, as far as craft wire goes, and that is the Artistic brand. Artistic wire is a little more pricy but I like working with it when it's called for, because it is less likely to distort as I am forming it. That being said, I am not promoting their craft wire product over another. It is just one that I like for that reason for certain processes. The point being made here is that you need to know what you are going to practice doing.

Remember from my other article that craft wire is usually coated (enameled) or bonded with a very thin layer of another metal, like silver or gold. These layers are so thin, they can easily be "worked" or "worn" off, even if they are coated with a clear coat. If you are going to practice and want to use a craft wire, use the copper variety. The only two problems you might run into is cost and pliability for your project.

I know. It sounds like I'm running in circles here. And I do need to stick to the topic: copper vs.
copper craft wire.

Let's look at hardness first. Copper wire is manufactured in rods, most normally in gauge 2, or 5/16 of an inch in size. The rods are then pulled through a series of synthetic diamond dies that reduce the rod in size or gauge. Manufacturers use coolants and synthetic lubricants to keep the copper from overheating and/or to reduce friction as the rod is pulled through.

You've probably heard or read this story of gauging wire before, but I am going to get to a point here.  As the rod is pulled through this series of dies, it is constantly getting harder and more brittle. If you've already worked with copper wire, you know that the more you work with it, the more brittle it gets, brittle to the point it can break. Once you pull rods down through the dies to get to 26 or 28 gauge wire, it is extremely brittle, so it is annealed to soften it back up. For the manufacturer, annealing means running an electrical current through it until it reaches a certain temperature. Then it is immediately cooled.

Why am I telling you this?? Well, the process of adding another metal to coat a copper craft wire is electroplating. Electroplating consists of electrically bonding of one surface to another, but I am not going to go into that entire process. You can look that one up on your own. Do it! It will be good for you!

Anyway, if annealing (adding electrical current to the wire in the manufacturing process) is softening the copper wire, and electroplating is adding electrical current to the copper core, doesn't it make sense that copper core craft wire will be slightly softer than its natural copper counterpart because electrical current has passed through it just one more time? I'm using deductive reasoning here, so if there is a metallurgy expert out there that can refute this, me or comment! I really would like to know.

That is the long form of telling you this: If you are going to use natural copper, sterling (a whole 'nother subject!), or gold wire to weave or wrap a project for sale or personal use, you have to decide what might be better to practice with: craft wire or natural copper wire. I won't be there to help you. You have to decide for yourself. I'm just trying, in a very clumsy way, to give you more information to help you with that decision.

Whew! That was almost painful. Now to the second comparison of copper vs. copper core: COST! And don't most of us have to worry just a little about how much money we spend on our hobby or business? Let's do some calculating.

Craft wire can cost anywhere from $.01 to $.05 a foot. Look at the cost of your spool  and divide it by the number of feet in you spool. That will give you the cost per foot of whatever wire you are considering for practice. Don't forget to add in the cost of your wire acquisition. Are you driving to the location to purchase? Figure in the cost of your gas. If you are ordering your wire online, you will most likely have to pay shipping and/or handling. That needs to be added in, as well, before you divide your cost by the number of feet you have.

Have I made you want to get out of making jewelry yet? Gee, I hope not! need to consider these two things in your decision of what to use to learn or practice your craft. The one thing I won't do is make that decision for you. Personally, I still use craft wire for some projects, and copper wire I buy by the one pound spool for other projects. But when "I" practice a new technique, I use natural copper wire. Look at it this way, if my practice project works out, I can antique it, seal it and wear it myself, Yippe!!

Have fun, everyone! And Stay Wired Up!!!

1 comment:

  1. Anshu GuptaApril 14, 2014 at 2:06 AM

    Great Information about Copper wire,its brittle point & about electroplating.
    Its great to know the significance of copper wire which will certainly be useful.
    Thanks for sharing:)

    Ganpati Wires