Copper Wire Working Tips for Polymer Clay Jewelry Making Projects

Copper Wire Jewelry Findings

You Guys Are Sharing Some Awesome Wireworking Ideas – Keep Them Coming!

From all of the comments and conversation that resulted from the hammered copper findings video, it appears that this topic is a popular one.

Lots of cool tips and tricks surfaced from all of the recent comments. The following bullets are a bit of an overview in case you didn’t have time to follow along… plus a few new ideas too:

  • If you can’t find bare copper wire in the larger gauges (the stuff without the plastic coating), you can strip the wire yourself. There are special wire stripping tools available at any hardware store. Or, here is a link to a photo tutorial on how to strip wire using a utility knife: Quick Bonus Polymer Clay Tutorial (this is a freebie from a cool site called the “Instructables”)
  • Always take any kinks out of the wire before working with it. A beautifully straight piece of wire makes nicer loops and wraps than a kinked one.
  • Sterling Silver, Niobium, or Gold wire can be used instead of the copper wire. Copper is way cheaper though, so practice with it first before working with the more expensive precious metals. Aluminum wire is another inexpensive alternative.
  • You will find that each of the different types of metal wires will have different hardness’s to them. Copper and Silver are about the same. Steel and brass are much harder and stainless steel is so hard that it is even difficult to bend. You’ll need special tools to work with stainless.
  • A bur cup or wire rounder is a nifty tool to use at the ends of your wire to smooth it off. It is important to use a wire rounder or file on the ends of wire for earring hooks. You certainly don’t want to be making jewelry that will irritate or scratch anyone’s ears.
  • To clean or brighten up the surface of your wire, you can run a piece of 00 steal wool over the surface.
  • To make wire stiffer you need to work harden it by hitting it with a hammer. You can also put the metal findings in a rock polisher with some steel shot – little pellets of steel in different shapes, meant for using with tumblers. Steel shot is much too aggressive for polymer clay, though. So for pieces with both metal and polymer clay already combined, try using dry white rice in the tumbler instead.
  • Besides the ammonia trick I showed you in the Hammered Copper Findings Video on how to get a nice rich green patina finish, there is another way that Ken H. came up with. He let the copper soak in a vinegar and salt solution. It takes longer, but is less caustic. Thanks Ken for the eco-friendly green alternative!

If you have any other wireworking tips and tricks to share, we would all love to hear them. That’s what the comments section is for down below…

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Ken H., 01 June, 2009

    Thanks Cindy for the complement but I can’t really fully claim the vinegar idea as my own, I thought I remembered something from my HS Chemistry days, about vinegar, lemon juice being mild acids and thought they might work, did a little research online and found what appeared to be a site for Science Fair experiments, that’s where I got the salt from added to the white vinegar. Just like Jamie though I remember my grandmother talking about using vinegar or lemon juice as a cleaner.

  2. Zarah, 02 June, 2009

    Saw at the video preview about the hammered copper findings, well done! The antiquing surface work looks great, so old :) Like a finding from the stone age :P Any good ideas for a proper hammer? I’ve already got some prepared items to use it on. / byZarah.com

  3. aims, 02 June, 2009

    I love the look of copper jewelry. It has such a richness and goes so well with a different set of colours.

    I’m not a ‘gold’ gal – always focusing on silver – and copper just has such a different look.

    I went out and loaded up on some copper wire to give it a try.

    However – as I wrote you earlier – I’m still in the midst of that sewing project and unfortunately jewelry making HAS to wait. Drats!! I’m so looking forward to it!

    Thanks for all these inspirational blog posts Cindy. I’m enjoying them and learning lots each morning with my coffee – and from the comments too!

  4. Cindy Lietz, 02 June, 2009

    @Ken: I have used salt sprinkled on a cut lemon to polish some copper pots I have, so I always thought it would only clean it. Though I should have realized that with a chemical reaction like that, it is not that surprising that if giving some time, a nice patina would develop! Even if it wasn’t your idea, I am pleased you thought to share it with us!

    @Zarah: You can get a proper Chasing Hammer at lots of different places. They are under ten bucks. Polymer Clay Express sells them as well as a bunch of other people. Just Google it to find some alternate sources.

    @aims: I prefer copper and silver over gold as well. Really like aged bronze and Niobium too! Hurry up and get that sewing done so you can get to your polymer clay! I bet you’re going crazy wanting to get to it!

  5. Cheryl Hodges, 12 June, 2009

    Hi Cindy

    I was just talking to my husband about the copper wire. I want to try making the hammered copper findings. He told me they only have the stranded wire at work that has to be stripped. Can I use stranded wire? What guage? Do I have to use solid wire that is not in strands?

    Thanks
    Cheryl

  6. Cindy Lietz, 17 June, 2009

    Hi Cheryl! If by ‘stranded wire’ you mean, several wires twisted together, than yes. You just have to strip off the plastic coating on the outside and untwist the wires. You can get lots of wire this way. For the projects I used 14 Gauge wire but you can use 12, 14, 16, or 18 gauge if you want with a slightly different look. Smaller wire can be stripped and used for other projects. Basically, any copper wire you can get your hands on is good!

  7. Andrei, 26 August, 2009

    Very nice work, Cindy! I really like the fact that it has an earthy feeling to the jewelry. I’ll take this as an inspiration on my future project. Thanks!

  8. Barbara, 11 May, 2010

    Hi Cindy
    I am trying to patina some copper, I have had it sitting in straight white vinger and salt for a couple of hours. Am I doing someting wrong , it is wire that I striped and is large very hard to work with. The only thing that is happening is the wire is getting brighter, which can be good. but that is not what I want. Any suggestion.

    Dont post much but love reading
    Thanks Barb

  9. Phaedrakat, 11 May, 2010

    @Barbara: Hi Barbara, actually, according to Ken’s research (where the tip originally came from,) you leave your copper in the solution for about 5 minutes, then remove it (but DO NOT rinse.) Lay it on something non-absorbent, but out in the open (like on top of some plastic wrap, or a styrofoam tray, perhaps.) Here’s the original comment by Ken: Using Vinegar to Patina Copper

    Hope it works for you! I’m gonna give it a try myself next week, when I get the rest of my tools back. Good luck!

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