Wire U Talking Like That: Terms to Describe Wire

So choosing a wire is about picking the best balance between strength and workability – as is most appropriate for your project.

Workability – hardness vs softness or “hard to bend” vs “easy to bend.”

We refer to wire that is easy to bend as “soft” or and wire that is hard to bend as “hard.” Sterling silver wire can be annealed – heat-treated – to make it “soft.” The softest grade is referred to as “dead soft” and the hardest to bend is “hard” – nothing mysterious there. There is a medium grade too – called “half hard.” Hard, Half-hard and Dead Soft = 3 grades of bendability.

As you bend and manipulate – work – sterling silver – it gets harder and harder to bend, which is called “work hardening.” You can then stop and soften the wire with heat – if it is a project that you can heat. If you are putting glass beads on it – probably not – as they won’t take the heat. So it might be a better choice to use fine silver wire – as this takes very much longer to work harden. So fine silver (pure silver) is an excellent choice for bead/wire crocheting – assuming you can afford it!

The copper wire has the advantage of being much more affordable! Copper wire is soft – it is all dead soft.

Thickness or “Gauge”

In Canada, as we slowly ooze into using metric – for the last generation or so! – wire is sometimes described in millimetres. Many of the books and all the Americans still use gauge – as do we on our site – simply for convenience and common understanding.

Gauge goes backwards, like seedbeads. Higher number = smaller wire. I think of age in terms of your male child. At 18 he was a strong as an ox, but hard to get him to bend to your wishes. At 30, he’s much more pliable, but now can hardly hold himself up. 😉

Inches Decimal

20 gauge is a good, all purpose size. 18 gauge is definitely noticeably thick, and strong. 22 is light but serviceable, 24 – getting smaller. 28 and 30 are fine, you really have to want a thin wire to use these.

That, of course, is a gross generalization, but will do for a starting point. I’m just a hand to hold and an opinion to reject!

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