Using a Jig to Reproduce a Specific Design

One of the most effective ways to reproduce a wire jewelry design that was originally created using free-hand techniques is to construct a wooden jig for that specific design. The jig provides the means to re-create each bend of the wire and choreograph the proper bending sequence. Employing a jig will greatly assist in achieving  a successful reproduction.

How do I design and use a  jig for my jewelry…a very simple, yet invaluable tool for replicating a specific design?     

The Jig

The first thing that needs to be done is to carefully study the jewelry object and fully analyze the bends and their proper sequencing. This will determine where to place the dowels and nails that will be used to bend the wire. The jig that is illustrated in the photos is one that I made years ago, and I have used it innumerable times to reproduce the earrings that it was designed for.

After I created the original pair of earrings using a free-hand technique, I positioned one of the earrings on a piece of wood and outlined where I would need to insert the wooden dowel and finish nails that would be used to form the earrings. Making the jig required drilling a hole into the wood that is the same diameter of the dowel, then inserting and gluing the dowel in place.

The first step in forming the actual earrings using the jig is to bend two 6″ lengths of 20 gauge wire in half, and form a loop at the bend. The loop is formed using round nose pliers, and is made large enough to fit snugly onto the nail.

Two 6″ lengths of 20 gauge wire bent in half with a loop at the bend

Next I insert a pre-made coil onto both lengths of the bent wire, and push the coil to the bottom of the loop, then turn one leg on each of the bent wires to create a spiral. The wooden jig is marked to establish the exact position for the spiral.

Inserting a pre-made coil







With spirals formed, I position each earring loop onto the nail, and use the wooden dowel to locate the exact spot to bend the wire for making the bottom curve of the earrings.

Positioning each earring loop onto the nail and using the wooden dowel to find where to bend the wire.






The wire is bent around the wooden dowel to form the bottom curve…

…and a second smaller spiral is created at the end of this wire.







To create the wire units that hang from the earrings, I loop handmade eye pins onto a small diameter nail that has been hammered into the jig specifically for the purpose of creating these wire units, and trim the eye pins to a specific length that is indicated by the jig.

Looping handmade eye pins


Six finished wire units made from handmade eye pins.
Each one is exactly the same length.

The Finished Earrings

Using a jig has enabled me to make many reproductions of my original design.

Sometime during the fall I will post a video on jig construction, and also a step-by-step demonstration detailing how to construct this pair of earrings.

Watch for new videos on my You Tube Realisticart Channel!

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      More videos you might like:

 Greek Link Earrings
 Earrings Based on Spiral & Figure 8
 Egyptian Link Earrings
 Silver Earrings with Spiral and Coil
 Silver Spiral Earrings with Blue Beads
 Simple Wire Hoop Earrings


This entry was posted in Basic wire construction, Best Practices, Findings, Link necklaces, Rice Paper Jewelry, Tools and supplies, Wire earrings, Wire jewelry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Using a Jig to Reproduce a Specific Design

  1. Eileen says:

    Using Jigs
    Thank you Ross. It never occurred to me that I could make my own jig with a piece of wood and some nails. Though I usually can’t knock a nail in straight, it won’t matter as each piece I make will be the same.

    • Ross Barbera says:

      Hi Eileen,

      Ha! That’s right! A jig is a jig whether the nail is straight or slightly off – as long as it’s in there tightly! That’s the great part about making a jig – it is totally customizable. Thanks for commenting!


  2. Eileen says:

    Hi Mary
    There are a couple of good tips there thank you. There is one thing you may have missed – most of us are students, beginners. Many of us don’t have a work bench or a vice, etc and we are just starting out along this path. Myself, I work from a tray on my lap – now I have maybe a dozen pair of pliers though I started out with the basic cheap set of three tools.
    Reading your post I wonder how few of the videos you have seen, as you mention work hardening which Ross has already shown us; pendants with a hole instead of eye-pin, this is where he began. And, yes, the obvious is obvious regarding the rice paper earrings, it is taught in a way that keeps it simple for beginners (and ensures they get it right – lol). As any teacher will tell you, care must be taken as an instruction to a student often comes out very different to what was actually said.
    I didn’t know you could get 21ga wire as all I see in the UK is 20ga ,22ga and so on. Is E6000 the glue used for fixing knots when making a necklace? If it is I’ve got it – thanks.
    Best Wishes from Scotland

    • Connie Jones says:

      Eileen, I do a LOT of my work sitting with a lap tray. I have the kind with folding legs that I can angle in the chair. That way the tray does not rest on my legs. I do much of my small forging and work hardening on that tray, too. I have stacked two thick mousepads and turn the little two-horned anvil on its sides. Surfaces are large enough for earrings, pendants, components. Very easy to manipulate the chasing or other hammers. I even found that this is quieter than my steel block on thick
      This setup lets me put Ross’ videos on You Tube through my x-Box and work from that chair. Happy girl, me!

  3. Hi Mr. Barbera
    I love your watercolor videos… I am a jeweler wishing she could paint better. I have made a pile of watercolor pendants with these changes:
    – added a layer of copper in the center of the paper layers – this is still flexible but adds a little heft to the pendant.
    – added a silver lined hole for a sterling bail with a coordinated gemstone in the top
    (like a grommet)
    – in some cases, I added gemstone beads with the same grommet technique, but on the bottom, so they dangle
    – Finally, I dipped them in epoxy resin to protect from water.

    In return, and as a jeweler I would like to share some tips and tricks for your jewelry.

    – When making the coils that you make on the stick with the nail, try winding the tool up with the wire under tension. Clamp the other end of the wire in a vise…You will get a more even coil.
    – When making the rice paper earrings, try using a glue called E6000. This is a glue intended to bond metal. It dries but remains flexible. This keeps the glue from popping off if the wires bend after construction.
    – When making the rice paper earrings, make mirror images. Else you get two left feet! Earrings should draw the eye to the wearer’s face. So say you put the watercolor design at 8 o’clock on one and 4 o’clock on the other. Those should be worn with the face in the center and the designs on the outer side… drawing the eye to the face.
    – on the egyptian spiral, try filing down the end to a point before coiling for a more sophisticated look…. the point being on the inside of the spiral.
    – I am sure you have figured out that the rice paper earrings can be made with the coil and all, in one fell swoop. You would start the wire going up on the left of the small loop, bend it up and around (creating the loop that dangles), bring it down on the right side to the large loop or shape, around and back up the left, then coil the end around the “stem” portion top down to the start of the shape (where the rice paper will end up. I hope that makes sense!
    – The french hooks that you are using open up at the bottom by twisting the loop apart. Generally we make earwires out of 21 ga. half-hard wire.
    – Work hardening. Your wire will harden after working it – this is why your coils spring back when you try to straighten them. You can use this property to strengthen your shapes by tapping them gently with your goldsmith’s hammer and flattening them slightly. To harden the wire without changing its shape, clamp one end in a vise and twist till the sacrificial end snaps.

    I think that is it for now! That Egyptian link has been said to be the best design ever devised for jewelry.
    I do not mean to presume, just hoping to simplify some of your steps. Thank you again for your videos – you are an excellent teacher!


    • Ross Barbera says:

      Hi Mary,
      Your work is beautiful!

      The techniques that you see me use in the videos have been evolving since the 1980s as the result of a very specific type of course that I teach, and the projects have gone through many phases. For example the watercolor paper pendants evolved from similar ideas that I do with my art majors who work in silver or copper and enamels. The jump off to paper originally did incorporate copper, but I soon moved away from this approach. The stick with the nail that I use to make the coils does provide a way to clamp the wire, but your suggestions indicate that I need to discuss the use of the tools in more depth, and also the anatomy of the jewelry pieces themselves. Thanks for your constructive feedback!

      I’ve also made every effort to eliminate toxic materials in my college studio teaching, and therefore never use anything with known health hazard potential. E6000 and epoxy resins fall into this category. I myself needed to switch from oil based paints to acrylics during the 1980s because of over exposure to turpentine and other solvents. It’s the accumulative effect that gets you. I do miss oil paint, but have learned to love acrylics

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