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  Free Tips & Tutorials
  Design Ideas
  #1 Color of 2011


How to Use a Ring Shank

Bead Solitaire Ring designed by Jan Cal

Does every bead lover keep a separate stash of single beads which are too gorgeous to use, each bead so precious or unique that she can't bear to see it "lost" in a design amongst other, perhaps lesser beads? Here is a way to showcase one of those treasured solo beads, and keep it in sight too! And if you choose Swarovski faceted rounds, you can make a ring to match your every whim.

-sterling silver 60mm flat ring shank (qty: 1)
-22 gauge half hard square sterling silver wire (qty: 3 inches oe less)
-Swarovski faceted round in Siam AB (qty: 1)

-gauge or ruler or caliper
-flat nose pliers
-round nose pliers
-bent nose pliers or chain nose pliers
-flush cutters
-ring mandrel
-rawhide mallet
-pin vise

[note: Using the 60mm flat ring shank and instructions below will result in a ring sized between 7.25 and 7.75 -- to make the ring smaller by a full size, form the bend described in the first section at about 4.25mm down from each tip. For even smaller rings, use the 55mm shank.]

Step 1: Size and shape the ring shank
Place the ring shank at the size desired on the ring mandrel and starting at the center of the shank, shape it into a round, working around toward each end. However, about 5mm short of each end, stop forming the shank to the mandrel. Pick the ring up and hold it between thumb and fingers of your non-dominant hand; with the other hand, use flat nose pliers to make a bend at one end of the shank. The bend should be about 3.35mm down from the tip, or equidistant below the drilled hole as between hole and shank tip. To make a good level right-angle bend, use the square tips of the flat nose pliers to form the bend. Repeat at the other end of the shank. (Note that after the bends are made, the actual length of each bent tip will be about 4mm, which is optimum for an 8mm round). Put the ring back on the mandrel; check again for size, then use the rawhide mallet to work harden the shank a bit at that size mark. Check to be sure the bent shank ends rise off the mandrel at perpendicular 90 degree right angles. If necessary, use the flat nose pliers to correct. Check to see that the 8mm bead slides easily into the gap between the bent shank ends; adjust if necessary by sliding the ring shank up or down the mandrel and hammering it a bit. After every adjustment you make, check: the fit against the size marked on the mandrel; the space for the bead; and that the bent- up ends retain their perpendicular aspect.

Step 2: Position and shape wire
Cut a length of wire 32mm long. Pass wire through shank hole, bead, out the other shank hole and, while holding this arrangement with thumb and fingers of your non-dominant hand, use the other hand to adjust the wire until it is centered by eye ("best guesstimate" is fine). Then, one side at a time, make a bend as close as possible to the shank, bending one wire end toward you, one wire end away from you, so they point in opposite directions. Next, measure the length of each wire end, and if necessary trim the longer one to even them up (for reference, mine measured 10.75mm). Now reposition your fingers to hold the ring so as to also immobilize one of the two wire ends. With your dominant hand, slide open the pin vise, place its jaws as close to the tip of the "free" wire end as you can, and while still keeping a good grip on the wire with the pin vise, slide it closed. (Note: you may have to reposition the pin vise more than once to get a non-slipping grip as close to the wire tip as possible, which is fine -- just do not begin turning the pin vise until you have that grip positioned right).

Step 3: Twirl and spiral the wire
With that grip established, roll the barrel of the pin vise between your fingers and thumb (I used three half turns; do not make more than five half turns -- see "overworking the wire", below). Repeat for the other side. Next, holding ring and bead between non-dominant forefinger and thumb and still keeping one wire end immobile, with the other hand pick up the round nose pliers and, as close to the plier tips as possible, grip the tip of the twisted wire. Use your wrist to turn the pliers over, turning toward yourself, thus forming as tiny a loop at the tip of the wire as you can; it should like a letter P. Switch to flat nose pliers to continue forming the spiral: grip the little loop flat between the jaws of the pliers and slowly turn it into a flat spiral. When you have coiled the spiral up as close to the shank as you can, next tilt the spiral down to lie flat against the bent-up side of the ring shaft. Repeat for the other end of the wire, forming your spiral in the opposite direction, using your wrist to turn the pliers away from yourself this time -- thus one spiral will coil clockwise, the other counterclockwise. Finish the second coil as you did the first, tilting it downward then pressing it firmly against the bent-up side of the ring shaft. Afterwards, with either chain nose or bent nose pliers, you may adjust the form and placement of the spirals until they "match" each other to your satisfaction while also sitting snugly against the shank ends without shifting. However, during these finishing touches take care to avoid overworking the wire. Half-hard wire will become brittle if it is bent too abruptly and/or sharply and/or too often. Work the wire slowly and mindfully. But if the wire does breaks, just start over with a new piece of wire. Since you are working with such a short piece of it, the waste is negligible.

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