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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.

Wire Purpose

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?

    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 flexible.

We have a chart of General Wire Uses, which lists gauges and typical uses for each gauge.

Wire Features

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:

    Wire Hardness

    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.

    Wire material

    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 a gauge.

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?

Secondary Considerations

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.

Personal Preference

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:

For example:

    If you like the wire in your project to be understated, select a thinner gauge.

    If you like the bold look of thick wire, select a larger gauge.

Be sure to balance the wire thickness with the other pieces (beads, crystal, chain, other wire parts) when finalizing a 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.

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