Monday, April 22, 2013

Twisting Wire Shanks

 Today I made a ring with a shank made from twisted wire. I've really been into twisted shanks lately, and this one was a new variety I tried- it looks braided, but it's not....

It's actually 2 bundles of twisted wires.

I LOVE the texture, simplicity and graphic quality of these shanks.

And it really dresses up what could be a plain band.

Normally I like to oxidize them in order to bring out the contrast, but even without oxidation they're lovely.

The twist wire on this band was commercial/purchased- one that came stamped with the pattern. It's the same wire as the perimeter of the ring.  I like making my own because I am not limited to a certain size.  And I love a chunky band, so I usually use 16 ga. wire.

This is also a twist wire- but a single wire that was originally square. I also love this look but it can be challenging to twist a chunkier square section of wire. So worth it though!

Want to know how to make a twisted bundled-wire shank? I used 3 strands of 16 ga. wire. 14 ga. would've produced a thicker, larger shank, but I think too big and perhaps a bit hard to work with. 18 is nice but a bit too thin for me. 16 ga. is my fave. 3 strands is much more attractive and produces a more even result than 2 strands, trust me. Don't scrimp. 

First, guesstimate how thick your final band will be- my final band was about 12 gauge, so I used that measure to determine how long a section I needed of wires. Then, I added a minimum of 2 centimeters to the desired finish length- more is better but in the interest of reducing waste of silver, a minimum of 2 extra cm is workable. 

To twist wires, you can use a hand-tool specially formulated for twisting wire, or a drill. But the drill can twist too fast. My solution is this:

It was specificaly designed for wire-twisters, and wasn't too expensive from The secret is that it spins at a very slow speed, so unlike a drill, you can slowly twist and control the tightness of the twist. You enter the 3 ends into the chuck and tighten, then use pliers on the other free end of the wires and hold firmly, then push the trigger to twist!

You can experiment with how tight a twist you like.

The best feature of the wire twister is that you are able to switch the direction of the twist. That's critical to making the above shank. One is twisted one way, one the other way. They were then cut the same length and joined end-to-end. Finally, they are stacked on top of each other and because they're Argentium silver, they were heated and fused together. This process would be a lot harder and messier to do with sterling and solder. A LOT HARDER. 

The result is the look of a braid. It's a good substantial shank, about 1/4 of an ounce of silver. And it creates a look of an expensive band! Once the shank was fused I did hammer it a bit on the mandrel, but that's an aesthetic choice. 

It takes some time, but I love the look and the fact that's it's handmade.


  1. Beautiful, creative shanks that add a special quality to your gorgeous rings! I love twisting wire as well, and found an old-fashioned hand drill at an estate sale that works pretty well. I've never tried switching direction, but look forward to trying that. Sadly, my jewelry studio is in boxes in a Storage Pod until the garage-to-studio conversion is complete at our new home.

  2. Wow, Mary- a garage studio! That sounds amazing! Can't wait to see pics....!

  3. You just inspired me to try argentium again! I bought some 16 ga and the twister thingy... so much fun! I made the mistake of using argentium wire solder last time, so if it fuses like fine silver... wow. No idea! :D

  4. I love the double twist for the band, it really does look like it is a braid! I made a few rings awhile ago with a heavy twisted wire band- wish I could show them to you! I have a low tech way to make my wires twist. I attach one end of my two wires in a bench vise and the other ends in a hand crank drill. I pull lightly on the wires to keep them taut and turn the crank. I get perfectly twisted wire!

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