How to Make Jewelry with Aluminum Wire: Need Advice Please

by Kymie Owens.

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I am just starting to work with wire. I find that aluminum wire is easy to wrap around jig pegs unlike the copper wire. However I don’t know how to get the aluminum wire hard.

Is there a technique to get it harden?

I have tried hammering it with a chase hammer like I do the copper but it’s still flexible. Is there another type of wire that can be used that is easy to wrap around the pegs like the aluminum but can still be harden when hammered like the copper?

Or is there a way to harden the aluminum wire? Thank you for your tips.

Kymie Owens

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  • Kate says:

    Hmm. To be honest I’ve never tried aluminum, but would have expected hammering to help some. Are you using dead soft, hard, or half-hard wire? What gauge?

  • Jeanne Lyons says:

    I haven’t used aluminum wire except to make the frame for a tree of life pendant which worked pretty well but I moved onto copper. Maybe you need to try a different gauges before you give up on copper, or you may just need more practice to strengthen your hands and fingers. I know that when I began, and I began with copper, I thought my fingers would never be the same. I ultimately found it very easy to work with, even the heavier gauges and it hardens as you work it. Maybe you were overworking the wire and it got too hard for you. I sculpt, twist, braid, wrap and enjoy working with it.
    Once you become comfortable with copper another wire that would work and is only slightly more expensive than copper is silver plated wire. It works like copper because the silver plating has a copper core.
    I’ve used a jig with these wires working with the thinner gauges, (18-22).
    When you’re ready to step it up (think more expensive) silver filled and sterling silver wire (dead soft) are a breeze. Half hard is more difficult and I only use it for something that requires a more sturdy frame like some bracelets.
    I hope you find something that works for you and welcome to the jewelry world.
    Good luck!

  • Drake says:

    Hardening techniques are pretty much the same for all of the metals that we use for jewelry. You can work harden Aluminum as you are working it, and also by tumbling the finished piece with steel shot (I wouldn’t tumble anodized aluminum, because you risk wearing off the color, especially if it’s a thin layer). As someone else mentioned, hammering the aluminum with a metal hammer will give the piece texture as well as work harden it. You can also use a nylon mallet to work-harden it without adding texture to the metal. Some metals can be heat-hardened, which Argentium Sterling does very well. I don’t know if that can be done with Aluminum.

    The thing is, Aluminum is a soft metal. That’s just its nature. You can anneal it to make it softer, you can work-harden it be harder, but Aluminum has a fixed range of hardness and malleability. Aluminum will always be softer than copper or silver at the same level of temper.

    I have no trouble wrapping metals like copper and silver around jig pegs. Are you using a sturdy metal jig, or one of the cheaper plastic jigs? If you are using the plastic ones, that is probably the bigger source of your frustration. The one I use is solid metal, both the peg board and the pegs themselves. I have no trouble wrapping wire around them. I believe that there are also even higher quality jigs out there, where the pegs are actually threaded and screw into the base.

    As another person mentioned, you might want to try using thicker gauge of wire if you are having trouble with the finished piece being too flexible. I tend to use wire in the 18-20 gauge range on my jig. I’m also using it mostly for small components like ear wires and swirly decorative elements and things like that. If you are working a larger piece, larger wire will be more sturdy, but is going to be harder to bend when making the piece.

  • Kymie Owens says:

    I want to thank everyone for their advice. I will keep at it and build up the strength in my fingers and hands as well as try the different guages of wires as suggested until I find one that works. Again thanks for the feedback.

  • Kymie, I use aluminum wire all the time especially 18g to 12g. What I do to hardness is with this little nylon hammer I purschase at Micheals year ago and it does a very good job for me. When I make my 12 gauge spiral earrings the metal tends to not laid down smoothly so I take out my little hammer and pound on it very hard a few time on my steel block. I hope this will help you.

  • leslie hirschberg says:

    I have fun with aluminum making a freeform necklace centerpiece. Just twist an turn it in no special manner, just try to get the ends to be similar because you need to make a hook to accept a cord or ribbon to finish off the necklace. I work hardened and textured it with a hammer, just go easy on the pounding. It is not as forgiving as other metals; it will snap on you if you try to unbend a bend.
    Your freeform centerpiece can be left plain or adorned with beads or wrapped with seaglass or whatever. For earrings, I don’t find it shiny enough for my taste.
    Good luck

  • Glenda says:

    Hi,
    You can try using a thicker aluminum wire. The thicker they are the more they will harden. I use 17 gauge aluminum wire, I buy it at a hardware store so it is harder than aluminum jewelry wire. It also has more of a chrome color, sometimes I hammer it or burnish it for shine.

  • Denise says:

    Hi, I am looking for 20 gague copper color wire that is half hard . I am looking to make ear wires and I really would like the wire to be at least tarnish resistant . Thank you

  • Ellen Hafner says:

    Denise,
    Unkamen Supplies on Etsy.com sells half hard copper wire which is tarnish resistant.

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