How to Choose the Right Wire Gauge for Your Project
There are many factors to consider when selecting which wire gauge to use in your project. We'd like to offer you the guidelines we use when we select gauges for our projects.
If you are just starting to work with wire, we also have a chart of General Wire Uses, which lists gauges and typical uses for each gauge.
A wire's purpose is the main consideration when selecting a wire. The
purpose dictates the strength the wire needs to be, the flexibility the
wire should be, and the maximum thickness the wire can be.
Consider these main purpose questions as a starting point for deciding
on a thickness:
What are you doing with the wire?
We have a chart of General Wire
Uses, which lists gauges and typical uses for each gauge.
Is the wire being used to hold beads onto a frame, or is the wire
creating the frame? If a wire is creating the framework for a piece, a
thicker gauge should be used. If you're using a wire to wrap beads onto
a frame or other beads, a thinner gauge will work.
If the piece has wire loops, a thicker gauge should be used so that the
loops hold their shape. If the piece has wire wrapped loops, a thinner
gauge can be used.
Does the wire need to fit through a hole?
If you are making ear wires, use 22 or 24 gauge wire: 22g for
sturdier earrings, 24g for lighter, daintier earrings. Both of these
gauges will fit through most piercings without discomfort.
If using beads, will the wire fit through the bead holes?
Does the wire need to be flexible?
Does the wire need to hold its shape, or can it wiggle? If a wire
needs to be flexible, use a slightly thinner gauge. Wire crocheted
pieces, for example, need very flexible wire. Spriraled pieces can be
Wire properties can affect what gauge is needed for a project. The most
obvious property of a wire is its thickness. But consider other wire
properties, too, when selecting a gauge:
A wire's hardness is very important when selecting a gauge. Soft wire
requires thicker gauges to hold shape than half hard or hard wire. If
you need to use a thin gauge, but need it to hold shape, use a hard or
half hard wire.
Typically when selecting a wire material, whether the material is gold,
silver, copper, brass or another metal, color and cost are the deciding
factors. When a metal has been selected, however, how malleable the
metal is influences the gauge. If you need the wire to be flexible, use
a thinner gauge.
Features of Complementary Materials
Unless your project is only wire, you have to consider the properties of
complementary materials when selecting a gauge. Larger gauges aren't
going to fit through seed bead holes (as much as we'd sometimes may want
them to!). So, remember to check your bead hole sizes before selecting
If you're using more than just beads, remember to check them, also. For
example, check the chain link size if you're using chain.
If you are joining several wire parts in your project, consider how they
might move together. Will there be excess wear on a part that would
require a thicker gauge to prevent breakage?
These considertations are typically less important when selecting a wire
gauge, but they should be given a least a cursory thought.
Do you have the correct tools?
When working with very thick or very thin wire, make sure you have tools
that will work. Thick wire means heavy duty wire cutters. Thin wire
means you should have a wire straightener to remove bends and kinks.
Is the cost prohibitive?
If you're designing for a specific market, will the cost of extra
materials be prohibitive. This is typically not a deciding factor when
selecting wire gauges, but one to consider occasionally.
Once you have a range of gauges that will work for your project, the
last, and arguably the most important, consideration when selecting
a wire gauge is personal preference:
If you like the wire in your project to be understated, select a thinner
Be sure to balance the wire thickness with the other pieces (beads,
crystal, chain, other wire parts) when finalizing a gauge.
If you like the bold look of thick wire, select a larger gauge.
If you are just starting to work with wire, and need suggestions or some guidelines, we have a chart of General Wire Uses, which lists gauges and typical uses for each gauge.