About Wires and Cords
There are many types of stringing material to choose from. It’s always a good idea to use the strongest thread possible for a job, but this has to be balanced by the thickness in relation to the size of the bead hole.
Coated copper wire is used for both craft use e.g. making an animal form out of wire and for making jewellery with pliers using shapes and loops. For example you can make your own headpins by cutting the wire and making a circle with round nosed pliers around fishhook ear wires. The wire ranges from very fin e.g. 0.2mm which would be used for fine wire knitting and twisting, through to 0.5mm which is most commonly used for craft and 0.8mm or 1mm which is used to make jewellery pieces as it is thick enough to hold it’s shape when combined with some weight e.g a semi-precious bead as a centre piece. See wire gauges for the different thicknesses and conversion to US gauges.
To buy coated copper/craft wire click here
Craft wire. See coated copper wire
Elastic cord is sold by the spool and comes in various thicknesses strengths and colours. Often used for bracelets, some of today’s elastics are very strong. They tend to be knotted/ glued.
To buy elastic cord click here
Invisible cord (or illusion cord) is a strong nylon product that is almost see through so is good for illusion necklaces.
To buy illusion cord click here
Kevlar is a very strong synthetic thread used in making bulletproof vests. It is heat resistant and less likely to stretch than other cords, but more likely to fray. There have been reports of it disintegrating over time.
Leather cord comes in several thicknesses and is good for modern casual designs and larger beads and pendants. To finish either knot or use some of the cord ends in the finding section. Glue and crimps can also be helpful here.
To buy leather cord click here
Nymo is a waxed nylon thread most commonly available on small bobbins (64-72 yards). It has various sizes from 00-FF. 00 is very fine but can snap, whilst FF is too thick for many beads. B and D are most popular. Nymo is a good choose for bead weaving (on or off loom) or any other beadwork that demands a tough yet fine thread.
To buy nymo thread click here
Nylon thread is less expensive than silk.
Polyester cord won’t shrink from moisture and is less likely to fray than silk.
Rattail, Mousetail and Bugtail are names for 3 thicknesses of satin cord which comes in many colours and knots well. Good for use with large beads and Chinese knotting techniques.
Silamide is a 2-ply twisted nylon thread produced for the hand-tailoring industry. It comes waxed and can be sued in the same way as Nymo.
Silk thread is versatile and comes in many colours and sizes. It is sized from 0 to 16 with 0 being the thinnest. Silk is easily knotted and is the best choice for delicate beads such as freshwater pearls. Because it will stretch, you may wish to pre-stretch.
To buy silk thread click here
Silver / gold wire has similar sizing and application to the coated copper wires but is made fully of precious metals
Softflex is just one trade name for a 49 strand flexible wire. Beadalon 49 and Accuflex are similar alternatives from different companies.
Suede cord tends to be flatter and thicker than leather. It also comes in a manmade form called faux suede which is stronger and more consistent.
To buy suede cord click here
To buy faux suede click here
Tigertail is the colloquial name for flexible stranded wire sold by companies such as Beadalon, Acculon. It’s good for beads with sharp edges that might cut thread and for heavier jewellery designs. It drapes, but not as softly as thread. It is very versatile but cannot be knotted. It comes in sizes from .012 to .024 with .012 being the finest. It is available with different numbers of strands, 3 being the cheapest and 49 the top quality. The extra strands make it more flexible and less likely to kink, as well as providing quite significant strength. It is used with crimps to secure beads and findings.
To buy tigertail click here
Wire gauges (thicknesses)
European wire (coated copper or silver wire) is measured in millimetres whilst the US use gauges. The most commonly used gauges are listed below:
34 gauge wire = 0.16mm ( 0.006”) Good for wire knitting and twisting. Too fine for firm shaping
28 gauge wire = 0.32mm ( 0.013”) Good for wire twisting and knitting
26 gauge wire = 0.40mm ( 0.015”) Good for wire twisting and knitting
24 gauge wire = 0.51mm ( 0.020”) Good for wire crafts and general use.
20 gauge wire = 0.81mm ( 0.032”) Good for making jewellery
18 gauge wire = 1.02mm ( 0.040”) Good for making heavy jewellery as long as the bead holes are big enough.
Wire jigs are often described as Wig Jigs, derived from a popular brand. It’s a board with holes in that you slot in pegs into your chosen design. You then can wind wire around the pegs to form shapes e.g. chain links in a figure of eight. We sell the Thing-a-ma-jig which is a value priced beginners jig. You can however make your own wire jig with a piece of wood and nails. Use wire that is thick enough to retain it’s shape but fine enough to work into a piece of jewellery or firm form e.g. 0.5mm – 0.8mm.
To buy a wire jig click here