by Sandra Lupo, Metalsmith, Jewelry Designer and Instructor,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

Take the guesswork out of your wireworking and metalworking projects as well as save money and time by setting some measuring rules right from the start of your design project. To achieve your best design and implementation:
  • Minimize waste when cutting. The phrase "measure twice cut once" applies here.
  • Use quality measuring tools so your work will be precise
You'll be a happier jewelry maker when your results are what you set out to create, whether it is consistently similar, graduated or accidentally-on-purpose components.

Measuring Devices

Save valuable time and effort by selecting the best quality you can in linear rulers, metal gauges and digital calipers. Sligind Gauge H20-2029TL

Sturdy metal gauges give a more exact read on the size of wire, thickness of sheet and the millimeters of beads and cabochons. Take the time to learn how to read a ruler, sliding or wire gauge and how they relate to the materials you are measuring. Wire Gauge H20-3892TL

To measure professionally, go with a digital caliper--it does it all for you. This compact device is battery-operated and so easy to use for measurements and conversions. I'm hooked on mine! Digital Caliper H20-1958TL

Cutting Tools

There are three main cutters used in metalworking: flush-cutters, end-cutters and shears.
Lindstrom EX Series Flush-Cutter Pliers H20-4027TL Lindstrom Flush-Cutter Pliers H20-3151TL OHM Diagonal Flush-Cutter Pliers H20-3187TL

Flush-cutters are widely used for wireworking projects. This type of cutter will provide a flush or blunt cut exactly where you've made your mark and with little pinch to the wire. You want flush ends as this eliminates burs or diagonal points which might scratch or catch clothing, and for a better fit when wire ends meet. A good example of this would be the wire ends of a jumpring. Here, in order for a jumpring to close properly, the ends need to be flush so they meet well and provide the best join possible without soldering.

The cutting rule for flush-cutters is to place the back of the cutter (the flush side) against the measured piece to be cut. The back side of the blade cuts the flush end on the working wire end with the portion that falls away having the pinched or pointed end. You may still need to use a jeweler's file to file down the cut wire ends, but starting with a flush cut will help expedite the filing process as there will be little work needed.

OHM Ergonomic End-Cutters H20-3191TL Locking Metal Shears H20-3445TL Heavy-Duty Metal Shears H20-3446TL

End-cutters and shears are used in wire and sheet metalwork projects and offer clean cuts in tight areas. In the case of metal sheet, precise cuts along measured and marked lines limit waste and help expedite the fabrication process.

Measuring Resources

When creating a design from one of the many instructions found on the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads website or in one of the jewelry-making books available, there are measurements that need to be followed to replicate the design accurately. Sometimes the measurements need to be converted to work with the tool you are using for measuring your materials. To help with measuring conversions, view the below charts: Jewelry-making books, magazines and other published literature offer a basics section and conversions from standard to metric. These basics sections also offer invaluable measuring, cutting and forming tips. A highlight would be to measure the first piece (of wire) and cut the rest of the pieces to that first piece to ensure exactly sized components. Another great tip is to cut and form wire segments in assembly-line fashion for speed and accuracy in completing the project.

In the end, accurate measuring will pay off in terms of time and energy spent, and materials and money saved. This project " Flight of the Monarch," will show how to create graduated pairs of wire butterfly components.

Accurate Measuring in Jewelry-Making