How to learn wire:

To learn to make wire sculpture, the most important thing is to have fun. if you don't like doing it, you will never stick with it. I began sculpting by doodling, bending a wire any way that looked good until it started to looked like something. (such as a horse) Then I would try to finish it. That's fun (at least for me). 

Once you get a sculpture that you are proud of, you might try to make it again, using the first one as inspiration. I often get better rather quickly if I repeat a sculpture. 

Be Very careful that you don't let a pointy wire wave around in the air. I've poked myself in the cheek with a wire about 6 times in my life and it scares the hell out of me, because only luck made it hit my cheek instead of my eye. The first thing to do on a sculpture is to either bend the pointy end into a small circle, or, as you create the first few features of the sculpture, hide the pointy bit. 

After you have made a number of sculptures, you may find something frustrating. I'm not sure what this will be for you. Frustration means that there is a skill that you don't have, but that you need. This is when you get to move wire sculpture up a level. This is the first time you get to quit just making sculptures and learn your first SKILL. Think about how you might solve your problem? How can you develop this skill? maybe you need to practice just this one thing, maybe you need to do research or try new tools. Identifying challenges and then solving them IS wire sculpture. This is where the fun starts, this is where you begin to make yourself into an expert.

I'm not a dedicated believer in forming correct habits by "learning it right the first time" for me, wire is about exploration. There are so many possible way to bend a wire that it will be a long time before anything is a habit. Once you have a habit, any habit, it's a good thing. It means that out of all the possible bends you are starting to have favorites, it makes having so many options less confusing! You can use your habit as it is or retrain it as you wish. 

If you are learning wire, please let me know how it's going, write me an e-mail. I'd love to be able to put your suggestions up here for others to try. Let me know what was fun.

If you would rather not explore the whole range of possibilities of wire and instead learn from my mistakes, here is some advice. (I hope eventually you will  go back and break every one of these rules, there are lots of great ways to use wire that are different than mine)

Supplies:

Wire:

If you want to learn wire sculpture I would suggest going with one of the following four types of wire. The first two work well for my style of wire. the second two will lead you in a new direction. 

Steel wire

If you want a wire that's Easy to buy, get 16 gage galvanized steel wire from your local hardware store. It's what i learned on and it's what i used exclusively for 10 years before I switched to soft aluminum.

Soft aluminum

If you want a wire that's Easy to work with and don't mind waiting a week for it to arrive in the mail. you want soft aluminum it has no spring to it and almost never breaks. it's kinda like a light-weight lead or solder. Go to McMaster.com and search for "soft aluminum wire" you will want it's thickness to be a 12 gauge (12 awg) which is equal to .080 inches. The 9 gauge is good too but you can't buy small amounts of it. Also, the 14 gage is good but it's on the smaller side. If a teacher is looking to give a whole classroom of children wire I would suggest getting the 14 gauge because it will end up being cheaper, and it's easier to bend without tools.

Copper

If you want a wire that Looks Good, and don't mind that you can't make sharp bends. go with Copper, you can buy it at your local hardware store. If you want thicker stuff, you might need to buy electrical wire and cut off the insulation. Copper looks cool, and you can turn it green or blue by treating it with chemicals or just leaving it outside. You can also keep it copper colored by spraying it with a clear coating such as polyurethane. one bad thing about copper (or brass or bronze) is that if the wire is thick, you can't make really sharp turns. the wire will resist.

Telephone wire

It used to be possible to get scrap wire from the repair center of your local phone company. these thick cables were full of a huge number of copper wires covered in bright colored sheaths. the colors are fantastic. plus the wire is free. the phone company can't use a short piece of cable, but you can. If anyone tries this, please let me know how your phone company responded. And please be polite and humble when you go.

ER5356

I use a MIG welding wire which can be purchased from welding shops called ER5356 (Lincoln Super Glaze .0625"). It is shiny and springy, so it gives the best finished product, however it's difficult to work with. The spring in the wire means that after each bend, as you let go with the pliers the bend springs open a bit. Worse than that, if you make a bend and then change your mind and try to unbend the wire, it will often break. So you pretty much need to know ahead of time what bends you want to make and you won't be able to improvise much. In short, this wire is not fun. 

If you want some information on even more wires, look HERE.

Pliers

For my style of wire work, it's important to use pliers with teeth and that have a pointy tip. I rather like the sears pliers. 

When you are starting, you don't need the distraction of getting special pliers, however. For people who have already gotten to like wire sculpture and who know they will be doing it for a long time, I strongly suggest customizing your pliers.

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I start with a pair of Swanstrom Needle nose pliers purchased from Rio Grande jewelry supply. I use a Dremel to cut cross notches in my pliers tips. The notches are cut so that when I close the pliers on the wire the wire fits into a groove on both the top and bottom (the depth of the groove should be about 1/3 of the wire diameter).  them I use an angle grinder or a grinding wheel to grind the tips shorter and pointier until they are about 3/4 of an inch long.  I like the tip of the pliers to be about the same width as my wire. make sure you don't make the tips to thin or they will break. For this reason the tips should be a bit thicker than they are wide. The reason these grooves are good is that they increase your control of the wire, they are also bad because in order to use them properly you need to repeatedly align the wire with the grooves, which slows you down, but the increase in control in great for me. both the grooves and the shorter tips allow you to control the wire with less hand strength, I believe (but am not sure) that this helps prevent RSI injuries.