The great thing about jewelry how-to books is that even if you don't do a single project, it can still inspire you to try something new or rediscover something you've forgotten. That's how I felt about Steel Wire Jewelry by Brenda Schweder.
A couple of years ago I took a steel wire class with Keith Lo Bue, the artist who wrote the preface to Brenda's book. It was an intense, two-day workshop where he asked us to do things like find an object in the room and recreate a version of it with steel wire. Arghhh! That was very frustrating for me, but some of my classmates made amazing sculptures. We also made chain and I made jump rings with a jeweler's saw for the first time.
Three Things to Know About Steel Wire
Three things about steel wire stand out in my memory:
- It's super cheap! For class, I bought a roll of steel rebar tie wire at the hardware store. (I just looked at the price at Home Depot: $4.34 for 400 feet! Take that, sterling silver!)
- It's super hard! I could barely drag myself to class the second day. I was so exhausted by sawing, hammering, and shaping steel wire that first day. It is quite a workout, especially if you're used to very soft metals like copper or very fine gauged wire (like 24-gauge sterling silver).
- It's super messy! Steel wire is covered with carbon and as you work with it the carbon has to go some place. I absentmindedly wiped my hands on my jeans, scratched my forehead, and pushed my hair out of the way. By the end of the day, I looked like a chimney sweep!
So, back to Brenda's book. There's a cool ring project that features a marble that I'd dearly love to do, but I'm thinking I might try it in copper instead. (If you're looking for some wonderful handmade marbles, check out Moon Marble Co.) The book also has a nice project that uses steel to make a framed pendant out of a pottery shard. And I still have all that steel chain I made in class. I should probably polish it and make it into something I can wear . . . See what I mean? I've barely opened the book and I have a list of possible projects a mile long.
For more ideas of what you can do with steel wire (or sheets of steel), check out the Steel Jewelry & Home Decor treasury I made on Etsy. It was actually a little difficult to find pieces for this treasury. Steel's not widely used for handmade items, so if you're looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, steel could be an option for you.