Steel, Paper, Scissors…

The year…2011. I had no idea when I took a weekend class with Brenda Schweder, I would get so hooked on working with steel wire. We used basic tools and got resourceful with everyday items to form shapes with the humble wire of steel. I loved how you could just play and not worry about wasting expensive wire. Steel wire is readily available, economical and easy to work with (that is, after you get past the cleaning it up part).

Fast forward a couple of years, Brenda creates the Now That’s a Jig (NTaJ) with threaded parts so everything stays put on the grid. It can handle steel wire and works really well for non-ferrous (silver, copper, brass) wires. After the investment of the jig starter kit, you can add all kinds of pegs and shapes to create endless configurations of wire. I’ve had my NTaj for a while and never realized all the potential it had. Now with the help of Brenda’s live Facebook videos, I’m getting the jig out of the box and experimenting with shapes.

Inspiration for my latest project came from a studio visit Brenda did with Maike van Wijk. Maike works with steel wire and attaches pretty papers with hot wax. A long forgotten bottle of Diamond Glaze seemed like a neat way to get a resin-like finish and was a good alternative to using hot wax to attach paper to steel wire. Diamond Glaze also works as an adhesive and can be watered down to make a thin glaze applied with a brush to protect the pretty papers. Why have I not been using this stuff more? It didn’t take more than a couple of tries to get a good result. This is super simple and worth a try for anyone, even a beginner. The worst thing that can happen is if it doesn’t work out you lose a little paper and glaze.

Start with a shape
This is where the Now Thats a Jig comes in handy. Pick a shape, any shape as long as it isn’t too big. After wrapping your wire around the jig shape, make sure your wire piece is nice and flat. A little hammering should take care of that. I’m fond of this tear drop shape at the moment but I’ve tried others with good results.
Tear drop shape for the Now That’s a Jig.
Pick your paper

Making paper choices might just be the hardest part. You can use almost anything. Beware of thin paper, it will get wavy when you add the water-based glaze over it. Small shapes work best with thin, older papers. Scrapbooking papers are nice because they are on heavier stock and can handle the glaze in bigger shapes.

Stick it together and fill it in

I add a little glaze to the outline of the shape as an adhesive. Attach it to the paper of choice and fill it in with more glaze. A little tip, when you squeeze the bottle do it over a gluing mat or some other surface you don’t care about. You’ll notice a little bubble comes out first and you don’t want that floating around on top of your piece. If you get a bubble, use a toothpick or straight pin to move it off the surface. Use just enough glaze to cover the surface; easier to add glaze than to try and remove it.

Now you wait

Ok, maybe THIS is the hardest part. Let it dry. Don’t touch it unless your finger print is an integral part of the design. It’s going to be ready in a few hours. Best to walk away and start another project, walk the dog, do the dishes or catch up on some daytime tv.

Finish it off

Cut the excess paper away from the shape. I like using a small appliqué scissors to cut the paper away from the wire shape. Depending on how you’re going to use your little piece, you can add even more fancy paper to the back to finish it off. Maybe the back of your paper looks good enough, it’s all up to you. After everything is totally dry, add loops to the top for hanging.

I’m fond of making earrings lately so I need to give a shout out to Judy Menting and her inspiration and Facebook live videos for helping me add to my ear wire skills. Her Dancing Tea Cup Alphabet is pretty neat too. She has live videos on Facebook daily if you want to get creative with swirly bits of wire.

Finished pieces with custom ear wires.

Your turn to go be a handufacturer! Try something new, make a mess and have fun. I leave you with the links to my wire wrangling friends that have been so generous with their time and talents…

Where to get your Now That’s a Jig (NTaJ) –
Brenda Schweder Jewelry Facebook –

2 thoughts on “Steel, Paper, Scissors…

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