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Wire and polymer clay bracelet

Combine woven wire and polymer clay to make bold links

With three different paisley-shaped links and four ways to embellish them, this bracelet is loaded with options. You’ll learn how to bend and solder each link, using one, two, or three pieces of brass or silver wire per link. Then you’ll fill the negative space with polymer clay, wire, or both. To give the links extra color and texture, you can apply pigments to create a patina, impress the clay with patterns, and embed bits of wire or other metal pieces into the clay. 

SUPPLIES

  • Brass or sterling silver wire: 
    • 14-gauge (1.6mm), round, dead-soft, 25 in. (63.5cm)
    • 24-gauge (0.5mm), round, dead-soft, 24 in. (61.0cm)
    • 26-gauge (0.4mm), round, dead-soft, 91⁄4 ft. (2.8m)
  • Polymer clay: 
    • Pearl, copper, or other
    • Ecru, translucent, yellow ochre (optional)
  • Brass wire, scraps, and pins
  • Acrylic paint: burnt umber (optional)
  • 8–10 jump rings: 14-gauge (1.6mm), 5mm inside diameter
  • Toggle clasp: brass
  • Wire cutters
  • Sandpaper, wet/dry: 400, 600, 1000 grit
  • Emery file (optional)
  • Steel block
  • Hammer: planishing
  • Mallet: rawhide
  • Pliers: roundnose, chainnose
  • Mandrels: ring, bracelet; PVC pipe or rolling pin (optional)
  • Soldering station: torch, solder (hard), fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, or charcoal block), pickle pot with pickle, flux, copper tongs, pick; hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  • Steel wool (0000)
  • Permanent marker
  • Hand file: #2-cut flat
  • Nonstick work surface
  • Acrylic roller
  • Craft knife or tissue blade
  • 2 wooden dowels
  • Needle tool or toothpick
  • Clay-sculpting tools
  • Vise with protected jaws
  • Oven (dedicated to nonfood use)
  • Paintbrush (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Wire frames

 

PART ONE

For instructions on how to make the one-wire frame, a two-wire frame, and two different three-wire frames, see our PDF. 

Of the three frame styles, the three-wire design is the most versatile, because you can incorporate polymer clay and woven wire in one link.

In the PDF, you'll see ways to experiment with links filled only with polymer clay and links filled with half polymer clay and half woven wire.

Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 1
Photo 1
Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 2
Photo 2
Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 3
Photo 3
Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 4
Photo 4

PART 2: FILLING THE FRAMES

One-wire frame: Polymer clay

Prepare the clay. Condition the pearl-colored polymer clay. To imitate ivory, mix equal amounts of ecru and translucent polymer clay, and then mix in a tiny amount of yellow ochre. 
Use an acrylic roller to roll out a 1⁄8-in. (3mm)-thick slab of clay. Cut the slab into three rectangles that are slightly longer and wider than the one-wire frame. Layer the rectangles to make a stack.

Place the frame on the stack of clay. Use a dowel at each end of the frame to press the frame into the clay, but don’t break through the bottom of the stack [PHOTO 1]. Use a tissue blade or craft knife to remove the excess clay around the frame [PHOTO 2]. Remove the clay in the loops, using a needle tool or toothpick.

Embellish the clay. Insert bits of brass wire, brass pins, or other scraps into the clay. Make indentations in the clay with sculpting tools or needle files. Allow the clay to spread slightly beyond the frame [PHOTO 3]. This helps to prevent the clay from separating from the frame. Set the link aside.

Two-wire frame: Polymer clay and wire wrap

Wrap the frame with wire. Cut 2 ft. (61.0cm) of 24-gauge (0.5mm) brass wire. Avoiding the loops, wrap the wire around the frame, leaving a very slight space between the wraps [PHOTO 4]. Trim the excess wire.

Add clay. Press the frame into a stack of polymer clay. The slight spaces between the wire wraps will grip the clay and hold it in place. Use a needle tool to remove excess clay from the loops. Add embedments and texture to the clay, and set aside the two-wire frame. 

Wire and polymer clay bracelet Figure 2
Figure 2
Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 5
Photo 5
Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 6
Photo 6
Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 7
Photo 7

Three-wire frame: Half polymer clay and half wire weave

Weave the frame. Clamp the lower half of a three-wire frame in a vise. Cut a 39-in. (1m) piece of 26-gauge (0.4mm) brass wire. Leaving a 1-in. (25.5mm) tail, wrap one end of the working wire around the top center wire of the frame. Weave the working wire in a figure 8 pattern, wrapping the center frame wire and one outside frame wire [FIGURE 2]. Stop weaving when you reach the widest point in the frame [PHOTO 5], and then remove the frame from the vise. Flip the frame over, clamp it in the vise, and continue weaving to the end of the frame [PHOTO 6]. Cut the wire, leaving a 1-in. (25.5mm) tail.

Add clay. Place the open half of the frame on a stack of polymer clay [PHOTO 7], and press the frame into the clay. Use a craft knife or tissue blade to remove excess clay from the frame [PHOTO 8], and use a needle tool to remove clay from the loops and woven wire.

Wrap the tails around the frame a few times, and trim the excess wire. Use chainnose pliers to tuck the tails into the weave.

Bake the links. Bake the links according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For finishing ideas, see “Surface Treatments,” above.

Three-wire frame: Completely woven

Weave the top half of the frame. Clamp the lower half of the other three-wire frame in a vise. Cut a 6-ft. (1.8m) piece of 26-gauge (0.4mm) brass wire. Leaving a 1-in. (25.5mm) tail, wrap the working wire around the top center wire of the frame. Use an under-and-over weave to wrap the working wire across all three frame wires. When you reach the frame’s widest point, remove it from the vise.

Weave the bottom half of the frame. Clamp the woven half of the frame in the vise and continue weaving to the end of the frame. Trim and tuck the tails. To see all the options for filling a three-wire frame, see “Half-and-Half,” above.

Assembly

Connect the links with 14-gauge (1.6mm) brass jump rings that have a 5mm inside diameter. Use a jump ring to attach half of the toggle clasp to one end of the bracelet. Repeat on the other end.

Surface treatments

Give baked clay a smooth surface by sanding it with progressively finer grits of sandpaper.

Coat baked and sanded clay with burnt umber acrylic paint to give the clay a weathered patina. Before the paint dries, use a paper towel to remove excess pigment, leaving some paint in the indentations and embedments to emphasize the texture. Rebake the clay at 200°F (93°C) for 10 minutes, and then sand the surface with 1000-grit sandpaper.

Wire and polymer clay bracelet Step 8
Photo 8
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