Introduction: Hammered Wire Tree Necklace
I love to use nature, and especially trees, in my jewelry creations. Here are instructions for making a wire wrapped tree on a hand forged frame. One you learn the techniques, you can can apply them to bracelets, earrings and even rings.
Step 2: What You Need
You can use any kind of nontoxic metal wire, though I prefer to buy jewelry grade wire online. Wire Jewelry and Rio Grande are excellent sources. If you're just beginning I recommend copper or bronze. They're inexpensive and look great with polish or patina. To get started buy at least 2 feet of 16 gauge dead soft round wire and 10 feet of 24 gauge dead soft round wire.
Beads (optional for this project):
1-2 strands of natural peridot, malachite, jade or other gemstone chips. They should be 2mm-5mm on a strand and are usually labeled small or mini. Amethyst chips are optional and would be used for blossoms on the end of branches.
Tools are very important. I used cheap jewelry pliers (~$10) for a while, but once I was sure I would stay with wire wrapping, I got good ones (~$50). It made a huge difference, especially in how tired my hands would get. If you do this, hang on to your cheap tools - there's always a use for pliers you won't worry about. The basic tools you will need for this project are:
Flat nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Chain nose pliers - optional
Small round mandrel, bail pliers or pen
Medium round mandrel, a pill bottle works well
Patina - optional
Sealer - optional
Step 3: Cut Your Wire
Cut 10 pieces of 24 gauge wire - 10 inches each. (This gives you a lot of extra wire for the first project - in the future you can cut these pieces 6 - 8 inches.
Cut 1 piece of the 16 gauge wire - 9 inches.
Step 4: Shape the Wire
Form the 16 g wire into a shape for your tree base. Here, I'm wrapping the wire around a pill bottle. You can use an object as a mandrel or make a freehand shape, using pliers, like I did for the heart base.
Note: Your base can be any size, but for the first project, make the diameter 1.5 - 2 inches.
Step 5: Start the Bail
Your base will need at least one loop big enough for a chain or neck cord. Make this loop by firmly grabbing the end of the wire with round nosed pliers and turn using your wrist. Make sure the loop meets the straight part of the wire.
Step 6: The Base Design
I added a second loop as part of my design. I also wound my (first) bail loop around an extra time for security and I liked the look. This is also useful if your wire is too long for the shape you have in mind.
Step 7: Flatten
I love hammering heavy wire and I love the rustic look of hammer marks. The trick is to hammer lightly in an area and then turn over the wire to hammer the other side. Do the same thing to another section and keep going. Your wire shape will warp a lot, but each time you flip the wire and hammer the other side, it will flatten out again. Hammer gently in this manner until you like the look of your base.
Note: With wire this heavy, you don't have to hammer if you don't want to. Hammering is for aesthetics only.
Step 8: Bail
With flat nosed pliers, turn your bail 90 degrees. Your base is starting to look like a pendant now.
Step 9: Get Creative
Here are a few variations I made for my bases. There's a lot of room for creativity.
Step 10: To Color or Not to Color
I added a black chemical patina (M24) to some of my bases. I then buffed the high points. These are not sealed at this point.
Step 11: Start the Tree
Bend each 24g wire in half, but don't make a crease or sharp bend. Accuracy is not needed.
Hook the bent wire onto the base. Then twist each pair of wires 15mm-20mm from the edge of the base. Use your fingers or the flat nose pliers for this.
Step 12: Keep Twisting
Proceed until you have twisted all the cut wires.
Step 13: Make a Trunk
Move all the twisted wires into one spot at the bottom of the pendant.
Grab all the 24g wires about 3/4 inch past the edge. Twist them together using flat nose pliers. Keep twisting until you have a trunk you like.
Step 14: Branching Out
The twisted trunk wires will have started to separate into groups as you twisted. Use these groups to guide you into deciding how your branches will go. Aim for 2 or 3 main branches off the trunk of at least 3 wires each. Bulky wire groups may separate out more. You can give these a couple of twists too.
Don't twist the branches as hard as the trunk - they could snap!
Step 15: Add Leaves or Leave Branches Bare
Spread out the wire ends just enough to see what you've got to work with.
Add the gemstone chips to one branch end just past the base edge. Cut the wire to about 8mm beyond the last bead and either:
Loop the ends around the base wire
(you will still need to spiral the tips of the wires so they're not sharp)
Follow the instructions for making a spiral. (See next step)
Note: Sorry about the photos, but the beading is the same for this project and my other tree instructable. Also, you don't have to add beads.
Step 16: Finishing the Ends With Spirals
For the tree branch ends you will make smaller spirals than those shown above, but you make them the same way. Start by cutting the single 24g branch end to about 8-15mm. The longer the wire, the larger the spiral.
You make the spiral by using your round nose pliers to make a tiny round loop at the end of a wire. Then wind the loop into a tight spiral using flat nosed pliers. To do this hold the wire in one hand and rotate the pliers in the other hand a quarter turn at a time. Make the spiral tight against the chip beads or base wire.
Step 17: Making Sturdy Jewelry
Add more beads, finish off more branches.
As you add beads and finish the wire ends you'll need to be aware of how the branches are attached to the wire base. To make sure your tree is secure, use some or all of the following techniques on about 1/4 of the wires:
If a wire is long, you can wrap it around the back and secure it to a back bail or root wire (where it won't show).
If a wire is short you can secure the end to another branch.
You can run an end wire through the small loop of another spiral.
You can wrap the extra wire around the base wire and tuck in or spiral the ends.
Keep adding beads and securing some of the wires to other wires or the base. Let your guide be your artistic sense and your fingers tell you what feels too loose. You might have many more branch wires than you want for foliage so just cut off what you don't need. Remember to finish the ends by tucking them away or making spirals.
Note: Foliage is optional.
Step 19: Finishing
When you're done, make sure to tuck any loose ends out of the way. Under a branch is good.
Feel the pendant with your fingers for rough spots and then rub the front and back on a piece of fabric. If you find any sharp spots or wires that catch; file, trim or tuck in the problem wires until everything is perfectly smooth. Now you can seal your pendant if you want. When any finishes you’ve added are dry, your pendant is ready for a cord or chain.
Step 20: Variations
Use your creativity and imagination too add trees to other openwork wire projects. Bracelets, earrings and rings are all possibilities. The styles and shapes are endless!