Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Measure Wire

Wire Gauge
Yesterday we explained How to Make an Ear Cuff. In that entry, we included a link to General Tools 20 American Standard Wire Round Gage. One of our readers wrote in and aksed how and why does she need a wire gauge. Fair question.

If you love making jewelry like we do, you likely collected a variety of different size wire from different projects. Some of the wire is no longer in the original package and it may not always be obvious what wire is what size. To identify the gauge of mystery wire we use the Brown and Sharpe wire gauge (also called an American wire gauge). Using a wire gauge, you can measure your mystery wire and determine its gauge.

A little background
The Brown and Sharpe wire gauge (aka the American Standard wire gauge) is a standardized system developed in the United States in about 1857 to measure the diameter of round, solid, nonferrous wire. The cross-sectional area of wire gauge is a very important for determining the electrical current-carrying capacity of wire. In the jewelry industry, the B and S standard is used to measure all shapes of wire and sheet stock. The tool is very easy to use and will take the mystery out of your wire collection.

Step 1
Slide Wire into Slot
Slide the mystery wire into the slot that looks like it is the size of the wire. If that slot is not correct, try again. The wire should fit snug, but you should not need to force the wire for it to fit.
Step 2
Look at the number on the slot. In the photo at left, the mystery wire measures as 18 gauge. Mystery solved! The American Standard Wire Round Gage tool measures wire ranging from 0 to 30 gauge. Although it is counter-intuitive, using the scale on the gauge, "O" is the largest, thickest wire. "30" is the smallest, thinnest wire.
Step 3
Use your tool to select the correct wire for your project. There are no right or wrong sizes of wire to be used in jewelry making. These are typical sizes of wire used in jewelry making projects:

Ear wires: 21 or 20 gauge
Head pins: 22 to 18 gauge
Wire wrapping briolettes: 22-26 gauge, depending on hole size
Wire wrapping pearls: 22-26 gauge, depending on hole size
Wire wrapping lamp work beads: 18-16 gauge, depending on hole size
Pendants: 18 to 20 gauge
Bangles: 14 gauge
Neck rings: 14 gauge
Ring shanks: 10-12 gauge

Tips and Warnings
Always wear eye protection when cutting wire.
A different standard is used to measure wire in the United Kingdom: the Imperial Standard Wire Gauge (aka the British legal standard).
In other parts of the world, the diameter of wire is measured using the metric system in millimeters.

Further Reading
Tutorials by GeltDesigns
Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition
Jewelry Studio: Wire Wrapping
Wirework w/DVD: An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Wire Wrapping
Contemporary Wire Wrapped Jewelry (Jewelry Crafts)
Wire Style: 50 Unique Jewelry Designs
Inspired Wire: Learn to Twist, Jig, Bend, Hammer, and Wrap for the Prettiest Jewelry EverBead on a Wire: Making Handcrafted Wire and Beaded JewelryCreative Wire Jewelry
Creative Wire Jewelry

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