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How to Make Jewelry Head Pins and Ear Wires

Updated on February 22, 2017
Gayle Dowell profile image

Gayle Dowell is a jewelry and watercolor artist. She currently teaches art to a homeschool co-op highschool class.

Making Jewelry Head Pins and Ear Wires
Making Jewelry Head Pins and Ear Wires

Make Your Own Jewelry Headpins and Ear Wires

Some of the first jewelry findings I learned to make myself was balled headpins and ear wires. It is a very easy process and I will explain everything you need to know here to get you started in making your own.

With a few basic tools, you too will be making your own jewelry findings as well, and saving time and money by not having to purchase them from stores or on-line. Making your own findings gives your designs a unique look of craftmanship.

All photos by Gayle Dowell

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Metal Type, Wire Gauge and Length

I prefer to make ear wires out of sterling silver, although I have started also making them from copper wire. Whether using copper or sterling, the following process will be the same.

First of all, use 20 gauge wire. I find that it gives the best strength, retains its shape, and is still thin enough to accommodate all ears.

Cut this wire to six inch lengths. I do several at a time. One six inch length will give me one pair of earrings.

Using Flux to Make Balled Ear Wires
Using Flux to Make Balled Ear Wires

Flux Both Ends of Wire

I use Battern's self-pickling flux for hard soldering. I dip both ends of all my cut wire into the flux. Flux keeps the base metal in the wire from oxidizing. Oxidation inhibits the metal from flowing and adhering to itself, or in the case of making balled ear wires, inhibits the wire from balling.

Butane Torch

There are several great torches on the market at a relatively low price. For convenience, I suggest purchasing one that comes with an ignition.

Bernzomatic 2880116 Butane Micro Torch
Bernzomatic 2880116 Butane Micro Torch

This Benzomatic is the torch that I use. It is great for small soldering jobs like wire and small jewelry items. It is easy to use, low in price, yet powerful enough for most small soldering jobs. I've had mine for several years and use it all the time.

 
Using a Torch to Make Jewelry Head Pins
Using a Torch to Make Jewelry Head Pins

Melt the Ends of Wire With a Torch

I then use a butane kitchen torch to melt BOTH ends of all the wire lengths to create melted balls of metal. Be sure to use soldering tweezers to hold the wire. Metal conducts heat and fingers on hot metal hurts!

For best results, be sure the tweezers are gripping the middle of each six inch wire. The tweezers will act as a heat sink, pulling the heat away from your wire tip if it is too close to the flame and will keep your wire from balling.


Using Argentium sterling silver wire makes nice round ball ends without dimples. Just be sure not to quench wire in water while it is still red hot as it may cause the metal to crack or warp.

Be sure to hold the wire ends at the tip of the inner blue flame coming from the torch. That area will be the hottest part of the flame. See photo at right.

Copper wire will take longer to ball. If you find that your wire will not ball, hold the wire more horizontally in the flame until it starts to ball up, then continue heating as you bring the wire back vertical.

All About Torch Safety

Watch the following video to learn all about using a micro torch safely!

Shaping Balled Wire into Earrings

If making head pins, cut these six inch pieces in two. This will give two three inch head pins that will be long enough for most any jewelry project.

If making earrings, fold the wire in two, being careful that you keep the balled ends together and at the same length as you fold the wire.

Then shape the folded wire around looping jewelry pliers as shown here. I usually bend the wire slightly off center and closer to the balled ends as I like to leave the ear wires long in the back.

Looping Jewelry Pliers

Multi-size Wire Looping Pliers
Multi-size Wire Looping Pliers

These are by far the most used of my pliers. I like that they have six steps in sizes. A must have tool if making a lot of loops of varying sizse such as ear wires.

 

Using a small step on my looping pliers, I form smaller loops near the balled ends to create a hook for wire wrapped beads or metal clay earrings. I make sure that I shape the balled ends together to ensure uniformity in my ear wire shapes.

Making Jewelry Ear wires and balled headpins
Making Jewelry Ear wires and balled headpins

After the ear wires are shaped, I cut the folded end of the wire using cutting nipper pliers. This now gives me two uniformly shaped ear wires.

End Cutting Nipper Pliers

Having a durable set of wire cutters is essential in jewelry making. I have several different wire cutting devices that I use for different types of wire. For most applications, I grab a pair of end cutting nipper pliers. This type of cutter gives me a nice straight cut and I can easily cut close to my designs.

BUY ON AMAZON: GearWrench 82003 4-Inch Mini End Cutting Nipper Pliers

Making Jewelry Ear wires and balled headpins
Making Jewelry Ear wires and balled headpins

Finishing the Ear Wires

Using a cup bur, I then round off the cut end to take off any sharp edges.

Cup Bur or Wire Rounder

I use a cup bur or wire rounder on all of my wire ends no matter if they are ear wires or not. I like knowing that the wire ends will not poke or scratch the wearer as they wear my jewelry. Be sure and use either bee's wax or a lubricant for cutting tools. Lubricating will help keep the cup bur from excessive wear.

BUY ON AMAZON: Beadalon Wire Rounder

I hammer the rounded parts of the ear wires with a plastic hammer to strengthen the wires so that they keep their shape.

Making Jewelry Ear wires and balled headpins
Making Jewelry Ear wires and balled headpins

Polishing the Ear Wires

The final step is cleaning and polishing. I take some fine 1000 grit sandpaper to take off any fire scale. I then use a tumbler with mixed steel shot and liquid burnishing compound to polish the ear wires.

I leave them in the tumbler for a few hours. I tend to make my ear wires in batches of 10 pair or more to save on polishing compound.

Lortone 3A Tumbler

I use my Lortone tumbler at least three times a week. I use mixed shot for polishing everything. I always rinse my steel shot after each use and spread it out on a towel to dry thoroughly before I store it.

Lortone 3A Single Barrel Tumbler
Lortone 3A Single Barrel Tumbler

I've had mine for three years now and it still works like new. I've never had a problem with it and it is so easy to use.

 

Adding the Design to the Ear Wires

To add my designs to my ear wires, I bend the loop of the ear wire off to the side like I would a jump ring, slide my design through the backside of the ear wire and close the loop.

Opening the Loop of the Ear Wire

Opening and closing the loop of the ear wire is much like opening and closing a jump ring. Here I added a video that shows the proper way to open and close a jump ring.

Marquise Ear Wires

Marquise ear wires are made about the same way, but with these shown, I don't ball the ends, I just loop them. I shape them around a bottle of Elmer's glue, hammered them at the bends, used a cup bur to file the ends, and polished them in the tumbler.

Are you a Jewelry Maker?

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    • Gayle Dowell profile image
      Author

      Gayle Dowell 3 years ago from Kansas

      @sranbarger: Thank you for letting me know that it was easy to follow. I never know how clear I am in my instructions. I know what I want to say but sometimes it doesn't always come out the way I arrange it in my mind. :)

    • profile image

      sranbarger 3 years ago

      This was the best tutorial ever. I could follow all of it and there are no missing steps

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I enjoyed learning your technique and appreciate the work that goes into creating beautiful jewelry.

    • lisln profile image

      LorLinda 4 years ago from Denver Colorado

      This seems like it would be difficult but I guess once you get the hang of it that wouldn't be the case. You really provide clear detailed instructions that is very good for the reader thank you for this lens

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent step-by-step guide on how to make your own jewelry head pins and ear wires. Blessings!

    • profile image

      DecoratingMom411 4 years ago

      I would love making jewelries as Christmas gift!

    • profile image

      Bubbajuju 4 years ago

      Making glass beads was the farthest I ever delved into jewelry making. Oh yeah, I used to make cool rings out of brass and silver wire. This is a very informative lens. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I do not make jewelry but my daughter worked her magic on it for many years. You did an excellent step by step job of explaining the process of making your own pins.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 4 years ago

      I do make jewelry and have even sold some, but I have never tried to make my own wires. Great tutorial.