Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How To Make A Jewelry Jig- Example Earwire Jig

Jigs are very easy to make, if you have wood, a saw and a drill. Jigs make duplicating a wire design very easy. I prefer the home made variety jig since the pegs are stationery and do not wobble when bending the wire.

Materials needed:
4"x4"x2"thick piece wood
1/8 x 1" brad nails
1/4" diameter wooden dowel
20 gauge practice wire
1/4" drill bit
wooden or rubber mallet
anvil or pounding block
graph paper
file or burr cup
round nose pliers
flush cutters
sharpie pen

To begin, find a piece of scrap lumber at least 4"x4"x2" thick. A thinner piece of lumber can be used, but the 2" thickness gives more weight and stability to the jig. This size should be large enough to make several jigs on the same wood block.

Draw the design on graph paper with a soft pencil.
Mark with dots the places to put brads or dowels(for large curves) for bending.
Turn the paper over on the wood block and draw over the design. This will make a light tracing. Another method to duplicate the design (if you have a prototype) is to trace around the piece on the wood block.

We are going to make an earwire jig as an example.
To place the dowel, drill with a 1/4" bit 1/2" into the wood block. Set a drill press to this depth or mark this depth with tape on the drill bit. Cut the dowel piece 1 1/4 -1 1/2 inch in length. Sand or shave off the edges slightly on one end. Insert the shaved end of the dowel into the hole and use the mallet to wedge it tightly into the wood block.

Mark a cross on the top of the dowel to divide it into four equal parts. (Some designs might use a cross marked on the wood block.) At the 3 o'clock position 3/16" away from the dowel, mark a dot (position 1). At the 6 o'clock position 7/16" away from the dowel, mark a dot (position 2). 5/16" below the last dot and in a parallel line adjacent to Position 2, mark with a dot (position 3). Position 3 gives a slight bend in the end of the ear wire. The tops of the brad nails should be filed or ground to make removing articles form the jig easy. Drive the brad nails in 1/4" at each position. For other designs, smaller dowels can be used with matching diameter drill bits.

To conserve expensive wire when making an earwire or any prototype, mark 20 gauge practice wire with sharpie in 1 inch increments. With round nose pliers make a loop large enough to fit the brad at position 1. Put loop over brad at position 1 with the loop opening toward the dowel, bend around dowel, then bend between dowel and brad at position 2, then bend to position 3. Cut the wire at position 3. Remove earwire or prototype from jig.

To flatten the earwire or prototype, place on an anvil or pounding block, hitting it several times with a rubber mallet. This hardens the metal making it brittle. Never pound where wires cross since the wires might break. Smooth the ends of the earwires with a file or burr cup.

Determine from the sharpie marks the length of wire used. Mark a line the length plus about 1/4" on the wood block. This will facilitate measuring wire for future projects.

Jigs can be made to make earwires with beads, a variety of shapes or longer tails. With imagination the possibilities for duplicating jewelry designs pieces made by bending wire are endless.
Although the finished jig looks rough, it works very well.

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