Have you been wanting to create something with your sea glass (or possibly a cabochon or rock)?
Well here is a tutorial for a super cute, sea life inspired sea glass pendant. I have used a piece of smooth green sea glass to create this adorable fish.
For this tutorial I have provided written descriptions, images, and animations, to help demonstrate the key processes.
The basic wire weave technique used in this tutorial is a little tricky to show, especially when working with silver on silver. This is why I made sure to include brightly coloured images and animations.
I have also included a troubleshooting and tips section (step 12) to help you master this project.
I hope you enjoy the tutorial!
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Chain nose pliers
- Flat nose pliers
- Round nose pliers
- Nylon pliers
- Flush cutters
- Flat needle file
- Triangular shaped piece of sea glass, with smooth edges (please avoid pieces with sharp edges)
- Frame = 0.7mm (21ga) or 0.8mm (20ga) round sterling silver wire in soft or half hard (medium).
- Scales = 0.3mm (28ga) or 0.4mm (26ga) round sterling silver wire in half hard (medium).
You can use whatever wire you'd like, this is just a suggestion. If you're not comfortable with silver, you could use copper wire.
Step 2: Measure the Piece of Sea Glass
To determine the length of the 0.7mm (21ga) or 0.8mm (20ga) wire that is needed for the frame:
- Roll the edge of the sea glass along a ruler,
- You can also wrap a piece of paper or string around the piece of sea glass, cut it or mark it, then measure against a ruler,
- Times that length by 3
- For example, my piece was 7cm around so 7 x 3 = 21cm
I like to allow more wire than not enough.
Step 3: Create the Fish Frame
- Gently bend the frame wire approximately in half, leave a little extra on the top to allow for the loop,
- Place you piece of sea glass in the wire, so the bent part is at the tip of the sea glass,
- Whilst holding the frame wire and piece of sea glass, gently bend the wire around the piece of sea glass,
- I run my fingers over the wire, around the piece, a number of times,
- Now that you have a rough frame, pick where you'd like the loop to go,
- I picked the middle but you can do a loop closer to the tail to balance the weight of the sea glass,
- Read below to see how to create the loop,
- When the loop is done, you might need to use flat nose pliers to straighten the wire, so it can be wrapped around the piece of sea glass again,
- Make sure the ends of the wires are over lapping,
- The wire at the top of the sea glass should be facing down, the wire at the bottom should be facing up.
Note: The wire will probably bounce back a little, that is okay.
- To create the loop use round nose pliers (you can also use a pen or pencil if you don't have round nose pliers),
- The size of the loop will be determined by where you place the wire in the pliers (or the thickness of the pen/pencil),
- Keep in mind that you will need to attach a bail, jump ring, or thread a chain through the loop,
- Lift the top frame wire over the pliers gently, bend around the pliers towards the tip of the frame,
- If you are using a pen/pencil, wrap the wire around it,
- Make sure the loop is at the top, not facing inwards.
- Remove the pliers,
- Slide the bottom tip of the pliers between the bent wire,
- Then bend the wire around the pliers, back to the original direction.
Step 4: Join the Wire Together
To secure the frame, use a short piece of 0.3mm (28 gauge) wire (I used a 10cm/4in piece):
- Wrap the the 0.3mm piece of wire around one of the frame wires 2-3 times,
- Wrap the 0.3mm wire around both frame wires 2-3 times,
- Wrap the 0.3mm wire around the other frame wire 2-3 times,
- Now cut off the extra 0.3mm wire, try to make sure that it isn't sticking out,
- If you can still feel the end of the wire, try using chain nose pliers to push the wire down and/or use a flat needle file to remove the sharp edge,
- To keep the wires from moving, bend the tail wires so the are at a right angle to join.
Step 5: Starting the Scales
- Attach the 0.3 (28ga) wire to the frame with 2-3 wraps,
- Do this at the pointy end (tip),
- Make sure that the wire wraps over the frame (as seen in the images),
- Wrap the wire over to the other side of the frame once, creating a loop,
- Flip over the frame and repeat the above process,
- Slip your piece of sea glass in, to see if it fits.
Step 6: Basic Weave Technique
Here are the steps to create the basic weave used in this tutorial:
- Place the wire over the frame or the above scale, in the desired loop shape/size,
- Hold down this new loop with you fingers,
- Thread the wire over the frame/through the above loop, whilst your fingers are holding the shape just created,
- When all the wire is above the frame/through the above scale, remove your fingers and thread the wire under the above scale AND through the loop that has just been created,
- Make sure to maintain the loop shape by pulling the wire through the created loop towards the previous loop/frame
- For example, if you are working left to right, you wire will be pulled towards the left,
- When the loop is the size and shape desired, hold the loop again with your fingers and pull the wire to the opposite side,
- This will create a tiny loop around the around the above scale.
A good demonstration of this technique can be found on this tutorial by CSLdesigns.
When working with a long piece of wire I like to tuck the piece between the bench and my body. This keeps it from getting all tangled. This can be used to keep the end of the wire away from the wire you are pulling through the loop or to secure the mid section of the wire whilst initialing threading the end of your wire through a loop.
I also like to place the wire gently between my forefinger and middle finger when pulling the wire through a hole. Let the wire gently slide through your fingers. This help prevent kinks and detangle the wire as you work.
Check out the troubleshooting & advice section (step 12) for more help.
Step 7: Create a New Row of Scales
Without the piece of sea glass in place:
- After you have created the two loops at the tip (for both sides of the sea glass piece), use the wire weave technique from step 6 to create the scales,
- Loop around the frame the same way you would the scales,
- When you have done one side, flip the piece over and continue with the weave technique,
- When you get to the bail loop, thread your wire through the loop and then attach the wire to the frame as usual,
- Once you have a few rows done, place the piece of sea glass in between the to scale sides.
With the piece of sea glass in place (last two images):
You will use the weave technique as before but you will have to slightly adjust what you do. Instead of threading all the wire through the above scale, you will have to:
- From the top, thread the wire between the above loop and the piece of sea glass, slightly (an inch or 2),
- Pull the end of the wire which is sticking out from under the above scale through the loop you just created
- Pull the wire towards the previously created loop,
- For example, if you are working left to right, then pull the wire left,
- This will make the wire look like a circle,
- When the loop is the size/shape you want, pull the wire in the opposite direction, creating a tiny loop around the above scale.
Be patient, this is a fiddly project and if you work too fast kinks may form in the wire. Which will weaken it and may lead to the wire breaking. If that happens, check out step 12.
You will notice, that with every new row, you will increase the number of scales by 1.
- So for instance, if the previous row had 4 scales, the next row will have 5 scales.
The larger the scales the less wire you will use and the quicker you will complete the piece. That being said, it is ideal to have at least 4 or 5 rows, to provide stability
AVOIDlooping the two sided of scales together, you need to be able to place the sea glass between the sides.
Step 8: How to Maintain the Same Number of Scales As the Previous Row
As I mentioned in the previous step, you will add 1 extra scale for every new row (previous row has 4, new will have 5).
A problem with this is that the scales will get smaller and smaller. They won't all look relative the same size. This will also use up more wire.
To maintain the same number of scales as the previous row you can do one of two things:
- Skip the first loop and continue with the wire weave technique from the second loop, or,
- Skip the last loop and attach the 0.3mm (28ga) wire straight to the frame.
Which method you decide to use is dependent on what you think will look best.
Step 9: How to Decrease the Number of Scales
Decreasing the number of Scales is a similar process to maintaining the same number of scales in a row.
Instead of skipping either the first or last loop in the above row, you skip both.
You will now have 1 scale less than the previous row.
Step 10: Finish the Scales
You've got to the last row you need to create and want to finish off the piece. The wire needs to be secured to the frame so it doesn't unravel and the scales don't move.
- Using the same weave technique, loop the first above scale as normal (or if you need to reduce the number of scales, skip the first above scale and loop the second above scale as normal).
- With the middle above scales, loop the wire in between the wire you'll use to create the tail and then under the frame
- Use the weave technique to attach the wire to the next above scale.
- When you have got to the edge of the frame, loop around the frame and then flip over and repeat the above steps on the other side.
- Finish off the scales by wrapping the wire around the frame 2-3 times and cut off the excess wire.
- Make sure there are no sharp edges sticking out
- Use chain nose pliers to push the end towards the sea glass or use a flat needle file to remove the sharp edge.
Step 11: Create the Tail
The size of the tail will depend on how much of the wire is left at the ends. If you'd like a small tale then you'll need to remove more wire than if you'd like a large tail.
The following are the steps I take to create the tail:
- Measure how much wire is left at the ends,
- I had about 8cm (3in),
- Cut off the excess wire,
- I cut off about 2cm (approx. 1in),
- If you are concerned that you'll take too much off, you can skip this step,
- Used round nose pliers to curl the end of the wire,
- You might have a little straight part at the start of the loop - I like to cut this off,
- Reform the loop at the end of the wire with round nose pliers,
- With Flat nose pliers I hold the loop and gently start to curl the wire around,
- Move the pliers along the piece of wire, this will make it easier to create the spiral,
- You can use your fingers to push spiral closer to the piece of sea glass,
- Repeat with the other end of wire.
Step 12: Troubleshooting & Advice
This can be a challenging technique to master. I highly advise practising with scrap wire or copper wire, to get a feel of how the wire moves and how easy it can be for long lengths of thin wire to get tangled. I would just used a straight piece of wire and create loops on that, then you can move on to a bent piece, similar to the tip of the fish.
The wire keeps getting tangled and creating kinks!
It happens to the best of us, it is one of the frustrating parts of working with wire, especially thin wire. The best way to prevent kinks is to work slowly. As soon as you see a bend in your wire, straighten it out with your finger or nylon pliers.
If the wire is all tangled and hard to manage then slowly run the wire through nylon pliers in short intervals. I find if you run the nylon pliers the whole way along the wire, it can make the tangle worse (similar to curling ribbon).
Having a really hard time creating similar looking loops?
I know the feeling, my first few attempts at the technique looked HORRIBLE! What you can do at the start is thread a pen/pencil/end of a small paint brush through the loop as it is forming. This can only be done when the piece of sea glass isn't in the frame.
What I do is:
- Thread the wire through the above scale,
- Thread the wire under the above scale, through the loop you have just created,
- Slip a pen/pencil/end of a small paint brush through the loop just created,
- If you are working left to right, then have the wire above the object in a right to left direction,
- If you are working right to left, then have the wire above the object in a left to right direction,
- Gentle pull the wire, which will make the loop tighten around the object,
- Once the loop is firmly around the object, lift the wire up, over the object,
- Pull the wire in the opposite direction to create a tiny loop around the scale above.
This process is shown in image 2.
My loops are misshapen!
When working with a thin wire like 0.3mm (28ga) wire it is easy to bend the piece out of shape. To restore the loop shape there is a couple of methods.
- If the piece of sea glass isn't in the frame, you can gently push the tip of a pencil, pen, or the end of a small paint brush through the loop,
- If the piece of sea glass is in the frame, then you need to be more careful. You can gently pull the wire down with a finger nail or use the end of a small paint brush to pull/push the wire. I would avoid using a pen/pencil/round nose pliers.
Did the wire break whilst creating the scales?
Don't worry, I have steps to get you back on track. Check out the GIF above.
- Determine if you have enough wire to reach the frame,
- If you do, continue to the frame,
- If not, gently unwrap the row, back to the frame,
- Wrap the wire around the frame 2 times,
- Reattach the broken wire to the frame by wrapping it around the frame 2 times,
- Continue to create the scales with the wire weave technique.
Totally mastered the technique and want to make the process quicker?
What I do is, before you have completely thread the wire all through the top scale, I will thread the wire under the scale and through the loop created. By gently and slowly pulling the wire (and straightening any kinks) towards the previously created scale, until the loop is the size/shape I want. Then gently pull the wire to the opposite side, creating a loop around the above scale.
- If you are working left to right, then have the wire above the object in a right to left direction,
- If you are working right to left, then have the wire above the object in a left to right direction.
Still having trouble?
Check out this tutorial by CSLdesigns. The tutorial demonstrates the technique used in this tutorial very well.
The project didn't work out?
Don't feel disheartened, it happens to us all and is part of the learning process. Cut the wire off the piece of sea glass and try again! If you had used sterling silver, maybe try again with copper as it is cheaper than sterling silver.