Handcrafting Your Own Earwires

You've created a lovely pair of earrings, perfectly color coordinated to go with the outfit you plan on wearing tonight; but you've run out of earwires to finish them, so what do you do? A typical jewelry artist might chastise herself for not stocking up on those oh so important jewelry findings, then make a run to the nearest bead or craft shop. She might very well deconstruct a pair of earrings already in her collection; but more than likely, she would set those fabulous new earrings aside and choose a different pair. You, however, decided long ago; as a jewelry artist you prefer to be creative and artsy and not typical at all. With that commitment in mind, you can follow these simple instructions to make a pair of earwires yourself. 

There are several tools on the market for creating your own earwires at home. As a seasoned jewelry artist, or even a jewelry-making novice, you may have thought about purchasing one of those jigs or other special tools. The good news is, you don't have to invest in any additional equipment to create your own earwires. With a little practice, you can use the tools you already have, improvise a bit; and in no time, you'll be creating earwires like a pro.

Materials-
20 gauge wire- Purchase sterling silver, gold filled, copper or whatever wire you choose. For precious metals select half-hard; it will hold the shape better than soft wire. Copper wire is not usually rated according to hardness, but 20 gauge copper purchased from a jewelry supply catolog, bead shop or even the hardware store is usually hard enough.

If the holes in your lobes are tiny, consider 21 gauge wire if you can find it. 22 gauge wire is also an option; but it's not usually strong enough to create  earwires sturdy enough for most uses.

Tools-
Metal File
Wire Cutters
Round-nosed pliers
Sand Paper 600 grit and 1000 grit
Hammer and metal block
A wooden dowel rod approximately 3/8 inch in diameter (You may substitute an ink pen or any other rounded form you have on hand.

Forming Your Ear-wires-
-Cut two 1 & 3/4 inch lengths of wire per pair of earwires. You can cut them shorter if you want slimmer, shorter earwires.
-Hold your cut pieces upright and together, then file the ends to flatten and remove rough bits of metal.
-To further refine the ends that will go inside your ear, sand the the rough edges starting with 600 grit sandpaper first, then 1000 grit sand paper for maximum smoothness.
-For uniformity of shape, hold your wire pieces together and curve them over your dowel rod at the same time, allowing the smoothest end, the tip that will go into your ear, to extend a bit longer than the other end.
-Using your round nosed pliers, form a loop at the shorter end of each earwire.
-For a more professional look, use your hammer to flatten the curved area just above the loop. 
-To strengthen the hoop, hammer it a bit as well.

Sand and Smooth to finish-
Lay your finished earwire flat on a piece of 1000 grit sandpaper. Press down with your finger and rub the earwire across the sandpaper several times. Flip it over and do the same thing to the other side. This additional sanding will help smooth out tool marks and rough patches on the ear-wire surface, as well as add a hint of shine.

Additional Tips-

-If you don't know where to purchase the right sandpaper, check your local beauty supply outlet for emery files. The thick, foam-core padded files come in several grits from rough to smooth; they can be used just like sandpaper, and the padding makes them easy to work with.
-Remember the smoother the tips of your ear-wires, the better the fit in your ear. Sanding your earwires to the proper smoothness may be a tedious process; but the extra work will mean a more comfortable fit, allowing them to enter your ear without scratching.
-If you have a tumbler or other mass finishing device, use it to perfect your earwires to maximum smoothness and shine. You can create multiple pairs and finish them at once.
-A buffer or rotary tool is another way to finish your ear-wires for a higher shine and smoother fit. 
- For a slightly different look, add a small bead to your earwire, just above the loop.

-Use your hammer with discretion. Hammering just enough will flatten and strengthen your wire. Hammering too forcefully will flatten the wire too much and weaken it

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