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
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
or, as you create the first few features of the sculpture, hide the
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
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
you want some information on even more wires, look
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
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.