Polymer Clay Tutorial | How to Make Handmade Ear Wires [VIDEO]

Handmade EarwiresVid #145: “It’s really nice not to have to depend on what the stores sell.” ~Rose-M

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re working on a lovely pair of polymer clay earrings, only to find that you don’t have the right ear wires to finish them? Maybe your supplies ran out. Maybe the wires you have on hand are in the wrong metal. Or maybe you just feel that the designs of the store bought ones are just going to be too darn boring for your cool looking beads.

Well now you can make them yourself, quickly and easily, using the wire of your choice. And you can create custom designs that will really give your jewelry a unique one-of-kind look, exclusive to you!

On Friday Feb 26th in the Polymer Clay Video Library (Vol-021-4), you will learn everything necessary to get started creating beautiful custom ear wires / ear hooks in several different styles.

I love the look of “special” earwires. Handmade ones show that you really care about the design of your jewelry; they also make earrings much more interesting! This can also be a money-saver (depending on what you normally use.) This will be a great video!

Would love to learn how to make the wires for earrings. Another way to make the earrings all mine. I have always before bought earring wires, so yes please put this on your list of to do items. I will have to find a good place to purchase some copper colored anodized Niobium wire. Thanks again Cindy for another great idea. ~Peggy-B

I began making earrings last summer and right away got into simple wire projects, so I’m torn about using video time to make earwires. Selfishly I feel, been there, done that – they’re easy to learn on your own. But the unselfish part of me thinks you should if others want to see it because it is so easy and everyone should be able to make them if they wish. It’s really nice not to have to depend on what the stores sell. ~Rose-M

I’m with Rose. Ear wires are easy to do, but you may have a special twist that I don’t use. I love the look of your copper findings. ~Freda-K

Yes! I would love to learn to make my own earwires. ~Sherry-L

Please do show us all how you make ear wires, and please include some variations for the more advanced. ~Martha-R

Three comments.. YES.. YES.. YES. Thanks for bumping it up too. That is the earwire shape that I absolutely love. You rock. ~Sam-M

Yipee!! I can’t wait to learn the earwire techniques!! And the rest too, but mainly the earwires… *big grin* ~Lisa-W

Well today you all get to see the sneak peek of the Handmade Ear Wires video. Then, coming up on Friday Feb 26th, the full tutorial will be posted in the Polymer Clay Members Library as Vol-021-4.

Supplies & Tools: Video-021-4: Handmade Earwires:

  • 20 gauge Half Hard Wire. You could use anywhere from 18ga-21ga in Copper, Silver, Gold, Niobium, Enamel Coated Copper, etc.
  • Flush Cutters. Try and use jewelry grade tools and not the ones from the garage.
  • Round Nose Pliers.
  • Chain Nose or Flat Nose Pliers.
  • Metal File, Metal Nail File or Burr Cup. For filing the ends that go into the ear and make them safe to wear.
  • Ruler.

The full version of the Vid-021-4 Handmade Ear Wires Video will be posted in the Polymer Clay Members Library on Friday Feb 26, 2010. But if you would like to see a sneak peek intro clip right now, scroll down the page a bit to the video player below.

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Click Video Play Button

Here’s That “Link Below” Referred To at End of the Video
>> Polymer Clay Tutorials <<

The full version of the “Handmade Earwires” preview video shown above, is now available for purchase at the Polymer Clay Library in the Vol-021 Back Issue Package.

Customer Feedback About Membership Value:

I’ve only been making beads out of clay for a couple of months, but I feel your polymer clay videos are just great for someone breaking into the craft. Some of the topics I had already gleaned from the Internet from various sources but it REALLY helps to have a high quality video to SHOW you up close and personal about the topics you discuss. I definitely feel the series is a bargain and would recommend it. After subscribing to your weekly videos, I have made beads from many of the tutorials. I look forward to the new video that comes out each week. I’m just beginning to experiment with mixing colors, so I believe the recipe cards will come in really handy in the future as well. Keep up the fantastic work! ~June-W

The following topics are included in this week’s “Handmade Earwires” video tutorial:

  • See examples of several different Ear Wire / Ear Hook designs.
  • Discussion of the types of wire and tools needed for making your earwires.
  • Learn a simple trick for getting the same sized loops on your wires every time!
  • Tips on how to cut, file and shape your ear wires.
  • Find out just how easy it really is to get that designer look by custom making your earring findings!
  • Learn the importance of proper sanding and finishing to make earring that are not only beautiful , but safe to wear!

The full version of the “Handmade Earwires” preview video shown above, is now available for purchase at the Polymer Clay Library in the Vol-021 Back Issue Package.

  1. Lisa Whitham, 23 February, 2010

    Oh goodie, goodie… Another week when Friday just can’t come soon enough!

    ~Lisa :)

  2. Anna Sabina, 23 February, 2010

    I asked in the hardware store abut half hard wire and they had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe this is known by a different name in the US. Any suggestions?

  3. Cindy Lietz, 23 February, 2010

    Thanks everyone for the great comments! Also special thanks goes out to each of you who responded to Anna who was having trouble with soft wire. I guess the upside to finding wire at the hardware store is price, and the downside is not knowing whether it is soft or half hard until you use it.

    @Anna Sabina: Working with the wire will harden it up a bit. So if it is really soft, tap it with a rubber or rawhide mallet, or straighten over and over with a polishing cloth, piece of denim or a pair of nylon jawed pliers. This should help quite a bit. You can always put little kinks in the wire like I did with the purple enamel coated wire pendant. (Look in the interchangeable pendant video to see what I mean.) This will give more strength to the shape if the wire is just too soft.

    @Phaedrakat: Thanks so much for all your help! Yes, that Niobium is the un-anodized color. It looks similar to oxidized silver. Really beautiful on it’s own but the anodized colors are even more amazing! When I bought this piece of wire at the bead show, this was his last piece. All the anodized had sold out the first day. Next show he is at I’m going early!

  4. Ken H, 23 February, 2010

    No Anna, I think they just didn’t know what you were asking for. I may be wrong but I think most of the wire from a Hardware store is half hard. Remember just because the person works in a hardware store doesn’t necessarly mean they know about what they’re selling, I keep forgetting this when I go to the craft store and the employee doesn’t know what I’m asking about.

  5. Phaedrakat, 23 February, 2010

    @Ken H: So true what you said about the sales people! I’ve done the same thing at the craft store — it can be soooo frustrating!

    @Cindy: I think this is going to be a fun video. I’m self-taught on all of my wire-working, so I’m anxious to see how someone else does it! I use handmade earwires in my jewelry, and family members bug me all the time for more. Maybe your video will show me ways to make them faster or easier than what I’m already doing. In the video preview, did you say that the wire on the GITD jellyroll cane earring is Niobium? If so, is this what it looks like in its “un-anodized” (uncolored) state?

  6. Lisa Whitham, 23 February, 2010

    @ Anna S. – Half-hard is a jewelers term… And Cindy says most of the copper wire at the hardware store is half hard. What type of wire – copper, silver, or gold ? Someone here (for the life of me I can’t remember who right now) gave me a heads up on a good online source for wire and other jewelry related items. It’s called Jatayu. Here is the link: jatayu.com/Default.htm — I got 22 & 20 gauge half hard copper wire, a jewelers saw, and blades from them. The service is great, and I think the prices are reasonable.
    Hope this helps some…

    Clay On,
    ~Lisa :)

  7. DawnB, 23 February, 2010

    Yea! Can’t wait.

  8. Anna Sabina, 23 February, 2010

    I got some 20 gauge cooper wire from the hardware from the hardware store and tried to use it to make Cindy’s the pendent where you can swap oui the beads. The wire is soft and does not maintain it’s shape. Huhmmm.

  9. Phaedrakat, 23 February, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: Copper is naturally a lot softer than the other metals. It might be the “exception” to the rule regarding half-hard at the hardware store. I had to buy copper wire at a bead store to get half-hard (this was a couple years ago.) I haven’t had much luck with hardware-store copper in the right gauges, but what I have found is dead-soft. I think you’ll probably have to order it to get half-hard. Or you can work-harden it, like Lisa said. (Takes a lot of more tapping when dealing w/really soft wire like copper, though.) Re: the pendant, try tapping the wire while it’s still wrapped around the circular shape – that will strengthen its shape. And yes, here in the US, it is very common for sales people not to know details like that about the products. If it doesn’t say it on the label, they would have no way of knowing.

  10. Lisa Whitham, 23 February, 2010

    Anna S. – Did you try gently tapping the wire with a hammer? Sometimes that hardens up the wire… I couldn’t find 20 or 22 gauge at the hardware/home improvement stores around here, that’s why I got it online.

    ~Lisa :)

  11. Cara L, 23 February, 2010

    I love that you include findings in your tutorials- after all the tutorials are about polymer clay jewelery and the findings are an important element in jewelery making. Your tutorials and teaching style allow us to become self-sufficient in both style and technique and many are using your findings tutorials – as is evident in the bead contest photos. Many thanks

  12. DawnB, 23 February, 2010

    Okay, I now have my flush cutters and am waiting anxiously. LOL Who knew that Home Depot had at least three different places for snippers!

  13. Claycass, 23 February, 2010

    Sorry if I missed this point above. I say that if you are making jewelry for others – we need to be careful in using metals that others may have allergies to.

    I like using sterling silver. I also find that polymer clay beads make lite weight earrings. I have cried over a few that I have losted. Therefore, I also recommend buying the little rubber stoppers to keep from losing your beautiful creations.
    Happy creating everyone.

  14. Peggy Barnes, 23 February, 2010

    I am so happy I feel like sending comments again. Can’t wait till Friday. The more I learn about wire the more I love it. My husband came across a good deal on wire. He was with my daughter and saw some shiny copper wire twisted together 15 pieces solid copper wire in 36″ lengths lightly twisted together on the side of the highway. No traffic so he made our daughter back up and pull over so he could get out and pick it up. Out in the middle of no where. Now I feel sorry for who ever lost it but my husband sure did have one of those you know what grins on his face when he brought it in and showed it to me. Looks like it is 18 gauge maybe. Now that is what I call a bargain. Am I bad for not making him take it back and putting it on the the side of the road where he found it?

    Lisa thanks for letting all of us know about the web site for wire. I am going to check it out. I need to find a good source for sterling silver and niobium wire. My youngest has sensitive ears so I need a good wire if I want to make any earrings for her. I know at stores they have earring wires marked hypoallergenic is this what the wire is also called?? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thank you in advance for Friday Cindy, I know it will be great.
    Uuuuugggggs, Peggy

  15. Lisa Whitham, 24 February, 2010

    @Peggy – It was one of the Sues’ here at our clay community that turned me on to Jatayu. (No last name, so I’m not sure which one.) I don’t know where you would find hypo-allergenic wire. I looked at Fire Mountian Gems but didn’t find any. They might have the hypo-allergenic ear wires though. Maybe Cindy or someone else might know of a good online souce?

    ~Lisa :)

  16. Sue F, 24 February, 2010

    @Lisa Whitham: It was me, the Kato Kid. Cindy later made a general request that we add our surnames or initials to help distinguish those of us with common first names, which I’ve done, but since we don’t have accounts as such my old posts are still attributed to plain “Sue”.

  17. Sue F, 24 February, 2010

    @Peggy Barnes: Jatayu would be my first preference for any of the wire they carry (which includes sterling silver wire), even all the way from Australia. They don’t have niobium wire at present, however. But Fire Mountain Gems — which I also buy from, just not stuff I can get from Jatayu — does. Try this link:


    Fire Mountain Gems have other niobium items too. Just do a general search there for niobium (or drop the “&Constraint=60” from the above link).

  18. Phaedrakat, 24 February, 2010

    @Peggy B: Free wire is the best price of all! If you had taken it back to the side of the road, you would have had an upset husband, which is never good. Also, chances are, the person who lost it would not have known where to look. Someone else, much less fabulous than you, would have come along and taken it. I feel like it ended up in good hands!

    @Sue F: As long as you’ve been using the same email address all this time, there’s a way to distinguish your old “Sue” posts from the others. Adding a Gravatar! Use the same email, and it will add your photo, even on the old posts. If you’re camera-shy (like me,) you can use a bead, pet, flower, etc. to have yet another way to distinguish yourself (and your posts)from the rest of the lovely “Sue’s” around here!

    @Cindy L.: Oooh, I’m definitely getting some Niobium wire. I saw a DIY Jewelry Making show on TV once (or maybe it was Carol Duvall?) where they anodized Niobium sheet. It was so cool how electricity changed the color. They cut earring shapes in the metal and suspended them in water; then they “shocked” them into color. Each voltage setting = a different color. Amazing! I didn’t realize that the natural color of the wire was so nice, though. That makes it a must-have (that, and the fact that just about anyone can wear it!

    @Claycass: Good point about using good metals. I use gold-filled, sterling (or purchased hypo-allergenic,) earwires in earrings I’m selling or giving as a gift to someone w/allergies. Sometimes I’ll be asked to create for a certain person. I find out what they like & if they’re sensitive before making decisions about my jewelry designs. I’m lucky that I can put almost anything in my ears (and I have — espec. in the 80’s!) My sisters are the same way. I use all kinds of materials for us — that’s the “fun” jewelry. Claycass, I too have felt the pain of losing one of my creations. It’s very upsetting! (I feel bad even if I no longer own the jewelry (it’s still a piece of me that disappeared without a trace!) So, I give rubber stoppers with my earwires, as well.

  19. Sue F, 25 February, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: Yes, good point, that would certainly work. But while I’m not camera-shy I dislike avatars (and posting signatures) and refuse to use them on any of the bulletin boards and blogs that I participate in (although the avatars here are nice and sensible, unlike some of the other virtual places I hang out at). I even turn avatar and signature display off everywhere that offers that kind of individual user preference. (So maybe I’ll come to be distinguished here as “the Sue with the sideways G”. “G” for “grumpy”, of course! ;D)

  20. Phaedrakat, 25 February, 2010

    Oh, well. I figured, …but it was worth a try! No problem, if it happens again & someone needs help, you can just do what you did here again. The Kato Kid claims responsibility!~ A new name for you, the Kato recipe queen — The Kato Kid, Kween Kreator of Kewl Kolor Koncoctions…?

  21. Sue F, 25 February, 2010

    Certainly was! I’m just weird. ;)

  22. Phaedrakat, 25 February, 2010

    I’m also a bit weird. I’ve always been a bit proud of it, too!

  23. Cheryl Hodges, 25 February, 2010

    Thanks for the wire site though i wish I could just go to a store and buy it. The shipping adds to the cost.

    Can people who are allergic wear niobium wire?

  24. Phaedrakat, 25 February, 2010

    @Cheryl: I know what you mean, I hate paying that extra bit for postage! But yes, Niobium is one of the best metals for people with allergies. Some others are Gold (of course–18K & up,) fine silver, and titanium. People with mild allergies can wear gold-filled, sterling, surgical steel, etc. Sometimes craft wire can work — the coating on this copper wire can protect sensitive ears. It all depends on how bad the allergies are, I guess. (I feel lucky not to have them!)

  25. Stephanie Bargelski, 26 February, 2010

    Hi Cindy, I can’t get my video to start this week. it says on the screen that it is buffering?? Please help, I don’t want to miss a week!
    Thanks Cindy!
    Auburn Washington

  26. pamagela, 26 February, 2010

    grazie infinite dall’Italia ottimo lavoro un abbraccio di cuore

    GOOGLE TRANSLATION: “Thank you so much good work from Italy an embrace of heart.”

  27. Beverle, 26 February, 2010

    Good Morning Cindy:
    I have two questions. First – do you know why I can’t get today’s video to play? I tested and the others still work but today’s just goes black and says “buffering video” in upper left-hand corner. Second – can I access my membership from my computer at work? We have super high speed there and I would love to watch the videos on my lunch hour.

  28. Phaedrakat, 26 February, 2010

    Not working for me either! I’m in the US on DSL (not AOL) (Cindy’s sleeping right now, most likely…) It’s the middle of the night for her.

  29. cristina oliveira, 26 February, 2010

    Hello Cindy
    I can´t get the video to start, what´s wrong? Please help. Regards cristina

  30. Ritzs, 26 February, 2010

    Cindy the vidio is not working I am panicking my Friday morning thing is not happening oohhhh what will i do please help Ritzs

  31. Brenda, 26 February, 2010

    Thanks Cindy, Another great Tut! I found a catalog and started making my own earwires from it this past week. But, Your tips to use a perm marker is great. I kept wondering how in the world did they get so round, Just the simplest things.

  32. Elizabeth S., 26 February, 2010

    No video for me this morning, either. Like Beverle my video screen goes black with the comment “buffering video” in the corner. Will we survive this delay in getting our Friday morning video fix?

  33. Rose, 26 February, 2010

    thank goodness it’s not my computer again this week. I just got done cleaning out the cache & still couldn’t bring it up. I’m getting the same thing as the others.

  34. Ella Moore, 26 February, 2010

    can’t get the video to work today. I see others are having the same problem

  35. Carolyn K, 26 February, 2010

    It’s hard to believe how addicting these videos can be. The panic set in when I couldn’t receive it. Hope to see it soon.

  36. Rose, 26 February, 2010

    I just downloaded Firefox & am now able to watch the video. I had been using internet explorer. If you’re interested, it was easy – just google Firefox.

  37. Claycass, 26 February, 2010

    I reloaded the page several times before it worked for me.

  38. Cindy Lietz, 26 February, 2010

    Not exactly sure what happened there but it seems to be working now in both Internet Explorer and Fire Fox. Please could a few of you IE people report back here to let me know if the video is showing for you now. Thanks.

  39. Claycass, 26 February, 2010

    I have Explorer – its working for me.
    My problem with ear wires is that my hair has grown longer and I have to use rubber stoppers on the end of the wires to keep from losing my earrings.

  40. Elizabeth S., 26 February, 2010

    Yea!! I’ve got my video!!

  41. Ritzs, 26 February, 2010

    mine is working now too. thank you cindy and very nice to

  42. Cindy Lietz, 26 February, 2010

    Sorry for that little glitch guys. You can thank for Doug for the fix. He always seems to know how to solve these minor technical annoyances so that you guys can get on with your claying. Because after all, that’s what life is all about LOL. Happy (Polymer Clay) Friday everyone (…Saturday down under in the Land of Oz).

  43. Stephanie Bargelski, 26 February, 2010

    Thanks Cindy! I can now have my Friday fix.. LOVED the ear wire video.
    Auburn Washington

  44. carolyn, 26 February, 2010

    Be VERY careful when using enamel coated wire for earrings. Actually the companies that make it, do not recommend it. Or at least they did not when I investigated this a few years ago. If that coating gets ‘broken’ or slightly cracked, as often happens when using pliers or when wrapping the wire around other objects, it could flake off and some could be left in the ear. Not a good thing. I’ve done tons of stuff (almost literally) with color coated copper wire, but never earwires, just to be on the safe side. Tiny cracks might not even be visible to the naked eye, but could cause problems. Just a safety check here from ultra conservative Carolyn.

  45. carolyn, 26 February, 2010

    Just a follow up … colored wire can be used for other components of the earrings, it’s just not recommended for the part that actually goes through the ear.

  46. Phaedrakat, 26 February, 2010

    @carolyn: At the moment, I’m not selling to anyone I don’t already “know.” I’ll make sure to warn them about this possibility, just in case. Let them make an informed decision whether to wear earwires made from colored wire. I don’t think it will change how popular these are, though. They’re such fun, cute earrings that most of my customers will wear them anyway! I’m guessing that the chance of leaving metal bits behind in ears is greater in new piercings, instead of (very) old, healed ones.

  47. Cindy Lietz, 26 February, 2010

    @carolyn: Thanks for your concern Carolyn. This is something I had not heard of before. In fact the only reason I used enamel coated wire was because the company I bought the wire from said it was perfect for earwires since it had a barrier between the metal and the ear. He even sells packages of enamel coated ear wires, so I assumed this was common practice. I don’t know if the wire he carries is a higher quality or not, but I haven’t had any problems with it.

    I guess the best thing to do is to skip using it, if you have any concerns with it. Niobium is probably the best wire to use since it is completely hypo-allergenic and comes in many colors.

    Thanks for sharing your concerns with us Carolyn. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

  48. carolyn, 26 February, 2010

    @Cindy Lietz from Faux Opals: Thanks for this update, Cindy. Maybe now that the colored wires have become much more in use, some of the chemistry might have changed – or no problems have been reported. I was one of the front runners … I hadn’t ever seen colored jump rings until I started making them – and wire wrapping with colored wire, well that was unheard of and a hot item at craft shows. Am I dating myself?! Apparently this change has been a good one. I’m so glad you had checked it out with your company. Maybe I should have messaged you directly on this rather than blogging it. Just wanted to share my concern. I should have known that you would have checked on it before using it for earwires in a tutorial. Sorry if I caused needless concern. My brain is a bit fried with this pneumonia!

  49. Phaedrakat, 26 February, 2010

    @carolyn: Oh,no! You have pneumonia! And here I was, crying about my cold. Yeah, boo-hoo for me… :-( I’m sorry you’re sick, Carolyn. I hope you get better fast!

    About being a front runner with colored wire usage: sure, you might have dated yourself a little. But, you earned some respect in the process… ‘Ms. Colored Wire Pioneer! Leading the way for the rest of us…!’

  50. Corinne L, 27 February, 2010

    Thank you Cindy for this earwire tutoria !!!! Such a useful one!!!

  51. Phaedrakat, 27 February, 2010

    I can’t believe it, but I neglected to thank you, Cindy, for this great tutorial! It really makes me want to get my hands on “new” wire (my old stash is so played out,) like that gorgeous Niobium you showed with your PsycheJelly earrings. You made it look really simple, and gave some gorgeous examples. Thanks so much!

  52. Linda K., 09 March, 2010

    I made a terrible mess when I tried to reproduce a wire-wrapped clay heart the other day. It took me three tries before I got it right (I wrote it down this time, LOL). Anyway, I had almost 9 feet of what I thought was ruined pink wire. I hated to throw it away, but there was no way I could straighten out most of it. So I decided to experiment on the wire.

    I hammered it to make a head pin with a paddle-shaped ending and was delighted to find that the pink color didn’t appear to flake off, maybe because pink blends with the color of copper. However, when I tried it with red and black wire, the color did flake off where it was hammered. Then it struck me that I could use the bent wire to make random-shaped dangles for earrings, just don’t hammer the ends. So don’t throw out your wire mistakes!

    @ Carolyn & Cindy: I decided to make earwires from the pink wire and see how it worked out for me. I was thinking about Carolyn’s warning about earwires made from colored wire, so I dipped the tip of the earwire into some triple antibiotic ointment first. As I put the wires into my earholes, the ointment coated and protected the skin, but didn’t damage the wires.

    I’ve used this trick a zillion times with earwires and posts that are extra thick because it helps the wire to slide right in. I’ve also used it when my earholes have gotten inflamed.

    @Phaedracat: I think you’re right about the flaking color only being a problem with newly pierced ears.

  53. carolyn, 09 March, 2010

    @Linda K.: Linda, What a fantastic tip on dipping the earwires in antibiotic ointment. I never thought of that, even when my ear lobes were sore. All I ever did was dip in alcohol. Now I’ll know a better way. Thank you so much! Isn’t it wonderful how we can all learn from one another on this great blog of Cindy’s!!!!!

  54. Phaedrakat, 11 March, 2010

    @Linda K.: What a smart trick! I seldom have problems with earrings, but I will definitely be passing this on to “sensitive-earred” people I know. Gal’s got some brains, don’tcha?

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