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Spiral & scroll neckpiece

Brush up on essential metalsmithing skills to make a dramatic statement with heavy-gauge copper wire.

One of the class assignments during my time at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore required the use of wire, soldering, forging, filing, and finishing, so I decided to put my familiarity with wire to good use. I created this necklace, which is simple in design, but ended up putting my soldering skills to the test! This spiraled copper necklace requires multiple solder joins and precise alignment, so I recommend that you have an understanding of the soldering process before embarking on this project. 

SUPPLIES

  • Copper wire:
    • 10-gauge (2.6 mm), 11 in. (27.9 cm)
    • 12-gauge (2.1 mm), 2 yd. (1.8 m)
    • 16-gauge (1.3 mm), 1 ft. (30.5 cm)
    • 18-gauge (1.0 mm), 1 ft. (30.5 cm)
  • Heavy-duty wire cutters (optional)
  • Pliers: ring-forming (10, 6, and 4 mm jaws); 14-gauge (1.6 mm) hole-punch (optional)
  • Salon board
  • Coffee or paint can
  • Tube-cutting jig
  • Jeweler’s saw with 4/0 sawblade (and lubricant)
  • T pins (optional)
  • Neck mandrel
  • #52 (0.064-in./1.61 mm) drill bit (optional)
  • Razor flush cutters

TOOLBOXES

INSTRUCTIONS
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 1
Photo 1

Anneal the wire. Use heavy-duty wire cutters (I use memory-wire cutters) to cut 2 yds. (1.8 m) of 12-gauge (2.1 mm) copper wire and 11 in. (27.9 cm) of 10-gauge (2.6 mm) copper wire. Bundle each gauge of wire into a loose coil, place them on a charcoal block, and coat them in flux. Use a bushy flame to heat each bundle [PHOTO 1]. Keep the flame moving until the wires glow red. Remove the flame, use tweezers to quench the bundles in water and place them in warm pickle until they’re clean.

NOTE: If the wire becomes work-hardened while you form the scrolls and spirals, anneal the components as necessary.

Taper the wires. Cut the following lengths from the annealed 12-gauge (2.1 mm) wire: 

  • one 9 in. (22.9 cm) 
  • two 7 1⁄2 in. (19.1 cm)
  • four 6 1⁄2 in. (16.5 cm)
  • two 4 1⁄2 in. (11.4 cm) 
  • two 3 1⁄2 in. (89 mm) 
 
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 2
Photo 2
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 3
Photo 3

Use a flat hand file to taper both ends of each piece of wire to a point [PHOTO 2]. Use the file to round the ends of the wires so that they are not too sharp. Refine each wire with a salon board followed by a green scouring pad. 

Make the symmetrical scrolls. Mark the centerpoint of the 9-in. (22.9 cm) wire with a fine-tip permanent marker. Use roundnose pliers to grip the tip of the wire. Hold the tail of the wire in your non-dominant hand, and turn your dominant hand away from your body to form the initial curve. Grip the wire across the curve with flatnose pliers, and continue forming a spiral until you reach the center mark. Repeat to spiral the other end of the wire in the opposite direction until you reach the center mark [PHOTO 3]. 

Repeat to make symmetrical scrolls with the four 6 1⁄2-in. (16.5 cm) wires.

Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 4
Photo 4
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 5
Photo 5

Make the asymmetrical scrolls. Form two 7 1⁄2-in. (19.1 cm) and two 4 1⁄2-in. (11.4 cm) wires into asymmetrical scrolls. Mark the 7 1⁄2-in. (19.1 cm) wires 2 1⁄2 in. (64 mm) from one end, and mark the two 4 1⁄2-in. (11.4 cm) wires 1 1⁄2 in. (38 mm) from one end. Spiral both ends of each wire up to the mark [PHOTO 4].

Make the single spirals. Form the two 3 1⁄2-in. (89 mm) wires into a single spiral. Use flatnose or half-round pliers to nudge the end of the wire down against the spiral [PHOTO 5].

Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 6
Photo 6
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 7
Photo 7

Forge the scrolls and spirals. Place a scroll on a steel bench block, and use a planishing hammer to flatten its curved edges slightly, leaving the center round [PHOTO 6]. 

Repeat to forge each component.

NOTE: Don’t flatten the wire too much, or the edge of the wire will become too thin, and you’ll risk having a weak solder join.

Form the collar. Use your hands or an appropriate-sized coffee or paint can to form the 11-in. (27.9 cm), 10-gauge (2.6 mm) wire into a gentle C shape that matches the size of your neck [PHOTO 7].
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 8
Photo 8
Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 9
Photo 9

Place the wire on the bench block and use the planishing hammer to forge it until it’s evenly flat and approximately 1⁄8  in. (3 mm) thick [PHOTO 8]. Use the flat file to file the wire ends until they’re true. Use your hands to adjust the fit of the collar to your desired size.

Make the bails. Use a tube-cutting jig and a lubricated 4/0 saw blade in a saw frame to cut two 1⁄8-in. (3 mm) pieces of 1⁄8-in. (3 mm) outside diameter (OD) copper tubing [PHOTO 9]. Use a round needle file to remove burrs from the inside of the tubing, and the flat file to remove burrs from the outside. Set the tubes aside.

Spiral Scroll Neckpiece 10
Photo 10
Note: This wire has been colored with a marker for illustrative purposes. The color will burn off when the metal is heated.

Lay out the necklace. Make sure the collar, scrolls, and spirals lie flat. If necessary, place them one-at-a-time between two steel bench blocks, and strike the top bench block with a rawhide or plastic mallet to flatten them.

Lay out the collar, scrolls, and spirals as pictured [PHOTO 10], and make sure they touch each other. Use the marker to mark the scrolls and spirals where they will be soldered to the collar and to each other. Use flatnose pliers to adjust the scrolls and spirals as necessary until they touch and fit together snugly.  

For complete project instructions, click here to download & print this PDF 

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