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Beads and Beading 101

by Judy Ellis, Wire-Sculpture.com

Jewelry Tip for July 23, 2014

Beads and Beading 101

For those of you who are beginners, today I thought I’d give you a little introduction into the world of beads and beading. We have a number of great articles on our blog, but this is a great “simple” explanation of beads and beading.

The craft of making things out of beads is called beadwork.

There are many different beadwork techniques and they can be broadly categorized as:

  • Stringing: Bead stringing is the putting of beads on string. It can range from simply sliding a single bead onto any thread-like medium to complex creations that have multiple strands or interwoven levels. ..
  • Embroidery: Bead embroidery uses a needle and thread to stitch beads to a surface of fabric, suede, or leather. Bead embroidery is an embellishment that does not form an essential part of a textile’s structure.
  • Crochet: Bead crochet is a technique that incorporates beads into a crochet fabric. The technique is used to produce decorative effects in women’s fashion accessories.
  • Knitting: Beaded knitting is a type of knitting in which the stitches are decorated with ceramic or glass beads. The techniques are for beads, but knitting sequins (and other perforated objects) can be done analogously.
  • Loom weaving: When bead weaving on a loom, the beads are locked in between the warp threads by the weft threads. The most common bead weaving technique requires two passes of the weft thread.
  • Off-loom weaving: Off-loom beadweaving is the technique of stitching together beads with thread without the use of a loom. Off-loom beadweaving requires only a needle, thread and beads. Seed beads are the most common type of bead used in off-loom beadweaving.

What are Beads?

Beads are small objects of decoration that are usually used in jewelry. In order to be used beads must usually first be pierced so that thread can be passed through them so that they can be joined together on a string.

However beads can also be adhered to surfaces of various items such as wall hangings and sculptures in which case they would not need to be pierced. Beads can also be used to adorn personal items such as handbags and purses. They can also be found in household items such as cushions and table cloths.

What kind of Beads are there?

Beads differ vastly in size from tiny little beads that are too small to handle without precision tools to large beads that are more than a centimeter in diameter.

Please don’t get confused by the term “seed bead”. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the bead is made from seeds, which some beads are. “Seed bead” is a generic term that is often applied to any small bead.


Gemstone Beads Venetian Glass Beads Metal Beads Seed Beads

Beads can be made from all kinds of different material, but some of the most common include:

However beads are also made from many other materials such as:

As you can see you can become very spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding what materials you would like to work with.

Beads have been around a very along time since the first known civilizations. The oldest known examples of jewelry are an approximately 100,000 year old pair of beads made from sea snail shells.


These are four views from different angles of a perforated Nassarius gibbosulus shell found at an archaeological site in Oued Djebbana, Algeria. The shell may be as much as 100,000 years old. The scale bar represents 1 centimeter, or half an inch.

Apart from being used in jewelry and personal adornment beads are also used for religious purposes, good luck talismans and curative agents.

Who Beads?

Hobbyists of all abilities can practice the craft of bead working. The simplest examples of beaded jewelry can be created by a novice beader in virtually no time at all, such as this Quick Bead & Wire Pendant pattern.

CLICK HERE to view the pattern

Experienced beaders may spend weeks of meticulous effort on their beadwork using specialized equipment and tools.

A few additional examples:

Swarovski Skull Beads Silver Plated Round Beads Gold Plated Round Beads Pearls

Getting Started:

Beads are a fun and easy way to start creating, either with wire-wrapping or without! If you’d like to learn more about basic beading techniques, take a look at our Wire Jewelry Books for some great instructional materials to get you started!

We carry a full line of supplies to get you started on your first project! Take a look at our Beading Supplies today!

Bead & Gemstone Containers Bead Tools Beading Boards Beading Wire

Happy Beading!

Do you love this information- why not sign up today for your FREE Jewelry Making Patterns. It’s a great place to start!


More information about Tiny Shells

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Benchtop Drill Press

by Judy Ellis, Wire-Sculpture.com

Tool of the Week for July 21, 2014

This week’s Featured Tool is the Small Benchtop Drill Press

Do you have a drill press? Because if you don’t, you should! One of the most versatile tools on any jeweler’s bench, the drill press can do more things, more quickly, and with more precision than a lot of hand tools can.

But a new tool, especially a drill press, can be intimidating. If you are not familiar with Benchtop Drill Press then this might be a good introduction to it for you. If you are familiar with how a Drill press works, then this hopefully will be a great refresher. Let’s take a look at what the Benchtop Drill Press is and at few accessories that go hand in hand with it.

What is a “Benchtop Drill Press”?

A machine tool in which a rotating cutter, usually a twist drill, is pushed into a workpiece to produce a hole.

Small Benchtop Drill Press

This easy-to-use benchtop drill press is very small, but powerful enough to use for all of your drilling projects.

The drill press gives you better control over the speed of drilling and help you achieve “straighter” holes. You can hold the piece at the desired angle and the press will a controlled drill hole where you want it. Better control means less broken drill bits.

With a platform measuring only 6-3/4″ x 6-3/4″, it is space-saving as well as economical.

Variable speeds up to 8,500 RPM. 1-year warranty.

20 pc. 61-80 Small Gauge Drill Bits in Metal Storage Case

Made of high-speed steel, this handy drill index offers 20 drills in sizes 61-80 (.0390″ -.0135″) for fine jobs.

All drills are handily marked by size, finely ground and heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of 63.

Your small drill will stay conveniently organized in this handy metal index.


Diamond Coated Uniform Shank Drills, Set of 6

Our 6 piece 3/32″ shank Swiss-made twist drills with electroplated diamond particles are the ultimate for drilling stones, pearls, glass or ceramics.

Use with standard handpieces and a small amount of water as lubricant. All drills are medium-fine grit.

If you are looking at the picture from left to right, the sizes are as follows:

  •  1.00mm
  •  1.30mm
  •  1.40mm
  •  1.60mm
  •  1.80mm
  •  2.10mm

To help you get started using Drill Presses- you might want to take a look at our Wire Jewelry Books. We have quite a few that will help guide you through getting started with beading and wire work. Click Here to take a look!

Happy Wrapping!


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Rock Tumbling 101 Revisited

by Judy Ellis, Wire-Sculpture.com

Wire Jewelry Tip for July 18, 2014

Rock Tumbling 101 Revisited

We are always getting great questions from readers, so today I thought I would re-visit an older post from our blog dealing with a question about Rock Tumbling. Hopefully this will help answer questions you might have about Rock Tumbling.


I recently bought some small slabs for wiring at a lapidary show that just need some shine put on them. I have a tumbler that I have never used. What do I put in it? Or do I need to polish them some other way?

-Phylliss in Searcy, Arkansas

Answer: (contributed by Dale Armstrong)

To give a complete answer to your question I would need a bit more information such as:

  1. What style of tumbler do you have, rotary or vibratory?
  2. How large are the slabs? (Big ones should go into a vibratory tumbler; small ones can be done in a rotary)
  3. What are the materials? (Rocks need to be separated by hardness to tumble polish, as softer materials can be quickly ground away or beat up by harder materials)

Once you have determined the above answers, here are some suggest on where to start with your Rock Tumbling :

  1. You will need some grit. Generally silicon carbide, a minimum of 3 grades from coarse to fine, depending on the hardness and material type
  2. A polishing agent: This will depend on the materials you are tumble polishing, usually cerium oxide works well on most materials.
  3. A separating medium (I like plastic pellets) to keep the slabs from sticking together for a nice even finish.

To tumble wet:

  • This is usually done in a Rotary Tumbler.
  • Place the slabs and plastic pellets into the tumbler’s rubber barrel and add enough water to fill it 4/5 of the way.
  • Add the grit (coarse first; the amount depends on the size of the barrel).
  • Tighten the lid and turn it on for the first run.
  • The amount of time required for each run will depend on the hardness of the stones, from a couple of days to weeks.
  • When the first run is complete, empty the barrel (never into a sink, as the slurry can really mess up plumbing systems), and thoroughly rinse and clean the pellets and the stones.
  • Then repeat the runs, using medium grit next, and finally the fine.
  • When you are happy with the results, it is time for the polish.

Be absolutely, positively sure that there is no grit whatsoever left in the barrel or on any of the stones, as one piece could destroy weeks of work! I have barrels just for polish. The polishing run can take less than a day, again depending on the stones. Wash your stones completely, and wrap as desired!

Using a vibratory tumbler:

I prefer to tumble slabs dry, using the same processes as above without adding any water, as I find slabs tumble polish more quickly in a vibratory tumbler, dry. For an easier solution, you could use a spray protectant, like as an acrylic spray such as Krylon, to give your slabs a nice glossy finish; just be careful not to scratch it when wrapping.

We have a number of supplies available for Rock Tumbling. Warning: Polishing your own stones can be addicting!


Do you love this information- why not sign up today for your FREE Jewelry Making Patterns. It’s a great place to start!

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All NEW Venetian Glass Beads

by Judy Ellis, Wire-Sculpture.com

New Product Tip for July 16, 2014

Handmade Venetian Glass Beads

I’m so excited to share with you a gorgeous NEW line of beads we’ve just begun carrying here at Wire-Sculpture. They are absolutely beautiful and I know that you will love them!

Handmade Venetian Glass Beads:

Venetian glass is a type of glass object made in Venice, Italy, primarily on the island of Murano. It is world-renowned for being colorful, elaborate, and skillfully made.

Many of the important characteristics of these objects had been developed by the thirteenth century. Toward the end of that century, the center of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano.

Byzantine craftsmen played an important role in the development of Venetian glass, an art form for which the city is well-known. When Constantinople was sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, some fleeing artisans came to Venice. This happened again when the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453, supplying Venice with still more glassworkers. By the sixteenth century, Venetian artisans had gained even greater control over the color and transparency of their glass, and had mastered a variety of decorative techniques.

Our NEW Venetian Glass Beads:

All of our Venetian Glass Beads are Genuine and handmade in Venice and the Island of Murano. Venetian Glass Beads are among the most recognized and collected beads in the world. Add tremendous value to your handmade work by using quality Italian made beads to any piece of your wire jewelry.



How are they made?


The process of Murano bead-making begins with the production of color canes. The chemical compounds involved in color fabrication are extremely sensitive so they must be mixed with absolute accuracy. Aquamarine is created through the use of copper and cobalt and ruby red is achieved through the use of a gold solution as a coloring agent.

Lampworked, Perle a Lume Venetian beads:

Most Murano beads are made using an air pump burner lampworking or torch and mandrel technique, once the mandrel was made by using an iron rod covered with a release material stuck on the top of the rod, now a copper tube has taken its place.The copper tube helps make many other different shapes.

The lamp-work method is the most time consuming method of glass bead-making. As each bead must be formed individually. Using a torch for heat, Murano glass rods and tubes are heated to a molten state and wrapped around a metal rod until the desired shape is achieved. Several layers of different colored glass as well as gold and silver leaf are used to produce the desired effect. After the bead is slowly cooled, it is removed from the rod which produces a hole for eventual stringing.

Wedding cake beads “Fiorato”(decorated with glass overlays featuring roses, swirls and dots) and Venetian foil beads (with their fusion of color, gold and silver foil) are just two of the kinds of beads made using the lamp-work method.

Using Venetian Glass Beads in your Jewelry:

There are so many ways to incorporate these beautiful beads into your Jewelry. I’ve put two examples below, but I will do another feature with a few more examples in another post. This is just to get your ideas flowing!

Take a look at Patti Bullards all NEW “La-Te-Dah” Jewelry in her latest DVD Series: The Complete Wire & Pliers DVD’s.

“La-Te-Dah” Bracelet
“La-Te-Dah” Pendants

Get your Handmade Venetian Glass Beads today!

Happy Wrapping!

Do you love this information- why not sign up today for your FREE Jewelry Making Patterns. It’s a great place to start!


Read more about Venetian Glass Beads

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Large Disc Cutter

by Judy Ellis, Wire-Sculpture.com

Tool of the Week for July 14, 2014

This week’s Featured Tool is the Sheet Metal Disc Cutter

Whether you’re cutting tin, plated gold, silver or brass, no jewelry-making kit is complete without a full assortment of sheet metal cutters. Check your tool kit today. Are you missing any of these essential metal cutters?

If you are not familiar with Sheet Metal Disc Cutters, then this might be a good introduction to them for you. If you are familiar with how they work, then this hopefully will be a great refresher. Let’s take a look at them.

What is a “Disc Cutter”?

A disc cutter is a specialized, hand held tool used for cutting sheet metal shapes and is generally used with a brass mallet.

Large Disc CutterLarge cutter features five sizes ranging from 1/2″ to 1″. Cut perfect circles every time!

The holes have been drilled, reamed and then honed to make the finest and cleanest cutter available.

The punches are oil-quenched tool steel and drawn for hardness and durability.

The bottom base is case-hardened and ground. Cuts metal up to 14 gauge. Measures 3″ x 2-3/4″. Weighs 2 lbs 12 oz.

Small Disc Cutter, 7 Pieces

This small cutter features seven sizes ranging from 1/8″ to 1/2″. Cut perfect circles every time!

The holes have been drilled, reamed and then honed to make the finest and cleanest cutter available.

The punches are oil-quenched tool steel and drawn for hardness and durability.

The bottom base is case-hardened and ground. Cuts metal up to 14 gauge. Measures 2″ x 2″. Weighs 1 lbs. 10 oz.

Lindstrom Multi-Purpose Shear, 5-3/4 Inches

Lindstrom shear precisely cuts through 16 gauge soft wire and 20 gauge soft sheet.

With ergonomic cushion grip handles this shear is a pleasure compared to others.

The blades are 57-59 Rockwell for long life.

The return spring has the right amount of tension to return the blades to the open position. Length 5-3/4.

To help you get started using sheet metal cutters- you might want to take a look at our Wire Jewelry Books. We have quite a few that will help guide you through your first few sheet metal projects. Click Here to take a look!

Happy Wrapping!


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