I find myself drawn to heavy wire and forging. I think part of it is growing up on a farm around heavy equipment and welding. I love heavy old steel and strong metals. I made my first wire piece in 14 gauge and have moved further and further up the scale since then. If you are a new wire worker you will find that your hands will get stronger as you work on the heavier wire and it will get easier. I use very sturdy tools because the “princess” wire working tools I had have all been ruined. My favorite forging tools are my 150 pound anvil and my 10 pound hammer. Some of my favorite hammers on my workbench come from local antique stores for as little as $4.
Forging is a process of working metal to a finished shape by hammering. Annealing requires that you heat the metal to a dull red and quench when the redness disappears. This has to be done as you move the metal into shape as it becomes “work hardened” and brittle.
To make a forged piece, you need a good hammer and a good surface or resist. The more dense your resist or surface you work on, the easier the forging is. My large anvil makes it really easy to forge even 6 gauge wire which would be very difficult on a small bench block. For this heavy gauge wire you will need a pretty hot torch such as MAPP gas from the hardware store.
First make your crystal stamen by using a 2 inch piece of 20 gauge bronze wire with a bead drawn on the end. A small metal washer will keep the crystal from falling off and a few mixed metal washers on top will add interest and give it a finished look. I used a variety of mixed crystals and washers to keep it from being to “matchy” and to give it detail. Your eye will always like it when you give subtle detail to your work. Make a wrapped loop at the end of the wire making each crystal a slightly different length and all pretty close to half an inch.
Cut a foot of 12 gauge wire (in this project I’m using bronze) hammer out the end to thin it and then anneal and quench. This will soften the end enough that with a sturdy pair of pliers you can make a wrapped end. Make a loop and before wrapping add the stamen. It will be hard to do this but it will keep your crystals from falling off in the future. Thread the Flourish Petal cap on and then a larger metal washer just to give it a more finished look at the top. With a very heavy hammer flatten the length of the 12 gauge with lots of random blows to keep it looking handmade and forged. If you want to use a texture hammer on it (this one has a polka dot and slash hammer markings) it’s easier if you flatten the whole wire, anneal and then add your markings. You could even use very small die punches and write something on the wire if desired.
Anneal again and polish up and clean to before forming. I use a mini texturing wheel on my flex shaft. Sandpaper or steel wool work well also.
Use a mandrel or sharpie marker to wrap the wire around, it has a cubby shape and works well for this project. I like to make one of the loops a bit bigger so it doesn’t look too uniform. I also like my “flower” end asymmetrical but if that bugs you you can make it more even and central.
Slide onto the leather neck ring (in this case I used one strand of 4mm and three strands of 2mmVintage Look Leather). Use a pair of chain nose pliers to futz with each wrap and the end to make it flow naturally. Tighten the raw end a bit to help keep it in place on the leather.
To make ends for the leather cut a 3” piece and a 1” piece of 14 gauge wire and flatten and texture the same as the pendant. File and smooth ends. Bend the one inch piece in half and place over the end of the leather. (I usually color the ends of the leather with a little bit of brown acrylic paint on a toothbrush so they blend in better) Hold in place by wrapping with a bit of waxed linen thread.
Wrap the 3 inch piece around a smooth pen to start the shape. Place over the end loop and then using a chain nose pliers start squeezing and molding the wrap. Turn the raw end into the cording at the bottom to catch the leather. Keep working it with your pliers until its all smooth and lying nicely. On one side place a purchased or handmade hook before you finish the end.
To mellow out the piece and make it somewhat vintage looking I use three colors of Gilder's Paste Gilder’s paste and randomly brush them on the leather and the metal parts. I’ve found that I prefer this to other methods of patina because I have so much control. It never fades and has wax glow finish. Let the paste dry for about ten minutes and then start polishing up the wax and removing some of the thickness. 0000 steel wool can be used to highlight some of the areas and a fine sandpaper or polishing wheel can bring up the metal on the flower cap. This piece has Rust, German silver and Patina on it. To keep the patina stable use a soft rag and apply Renaissance Wax to all the metal areas and polish the whole piece with a soft cloth and it’s ready to wear.
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