One of the most fundamental jewelry making skills one needs to learn is how to crimp beading wire. This skill is used virtually anytime you want to make a beaded bracelet or a beaded necklace. If you are new to jewelry making and need to learn how, I have good news: It’s easy. Once you have mastered this skill, a whole variety of different design possibilities will open up for you. If you have an hour of time to practice and the will to learn, we will have you doing basic beading in no time at all.
Before we start: Gather your tools
Grab a bead mat or bead board to work on. You will need a foot or so of beading wire, two crimp beads, a clasp of some kind, a cutting tool of some kind (such as a nipper tool) and something to crimp with (I prefer to use chain nose pliers). Even though a typical bracelet is about 7 inches in length, it is good to start with a longer piece of wire to make your life easier when finishing the piece (you’ll see when you try to do it). As you practice and become a more experienced beader, you can get away with using smaller pieces to prevent wasting wire. Speaking of not wasting wire- it isn’t a bad idea to practice with some inexpensive wire first, before you start using the nicer, more costly stuff.
The first thing we are going to do is attach one end of the clasp to the wire.
1. Place a crimp bead on your beading wire as shown in Figure A.
2. String the wire through the clasp, loop around and go back through the crimp bead going from top to bottom as shown in Figure B.
3. Leaving around a 1/2 inch tail of wire, use your chain nose pliers to tightly flatten the crimp bead as shown in Figure C.
String your beads
Now it is time to start actually stringing on your beads. Some people find it helpful to lay out their design before hand; you can do this on a bead mat or a bead board. Sometimes, for example if you are doing a simple pattern (ie. red bead, silver bead, black bead, repeat) or just stringing beads in a random order (like if you are using a seed bead multi mix), there is no real need to plan ahead and you can just jump right in stringing.
4. Begin adding beads to your wire as shown in Figure D. Be sure that the first few go over the wire tail you left in step 3 so that it is hidden. Note: be sure that the diameter of your wire is appropriate for the beads you are using. If the beads have very small holes, be careful, because the wire must be able to fit through the hole of the first few beads twice. Continue stringing until you have about 7 inches worth of beads.
Attach the other part of the clasp
Next we will attach the other end of your clasp to the other end of your bracelet or necklace. In my opinion, this is the trickiest step that requires the most practice. If you are using a toggle, one end will be a circle and the other end will be a bar. If you are using an “S” clasp or a lobster/trigger clasp, one end will be the clasp and the other end will be a closed jump ring. I am demonstrating with a hook and eye clasp. In the first step we attached the hook, now we are attaching the eye.
6. String the wire through your clasp, just like you did in step 1 (See Figure E). Also like in step 1, loop the wire over and string it through the crimp bead going from top to bottom.
7. Here is where it is helpful to have some extra wire. You need to string the end of this wire back through the first few beads just like you did on the other side. Give yourself some slack so that you can do so.
8. Now, use the tail end of the wire to pull carefully, tightening the bracelet. You want a nice loop at the end of the crimp bead going through the clasp, that matches the other side. You don’t want gaps between beads that show wire, but you also must not pull too tightly. If you pull your bracelet too tight, it will break (trust me, my first five or so did just that). While you are doing this, you must also watch to make sure that the tail end of the wire on the other side doesn’t come out of the first few beads.
9. Once you have your bracelet pulled snugly enough so that there are not large gaps between the beads, but not too tightly so as to result in the bracelet having no “give,” go ahead and flatten the crimp bead as you did in step 3. See Figure F for what the second end of your bracelet will look like. After you have flattened the second crimp bead, you can then use your cutting tool to trim your excess wire and you’re done!
Practice Makes Perfect!
Practice getting the right amount of tension in your bracelets and necklaces. It is okay if you see tiny bits of wire on either end of the piece, especially if you use gold or silver colored wire that complements your design. It is always better to err on the side of the bracelet being too slack- resulting in a little wire showing- than too tight- resulting in the bracelet breaking.
Now it’s time to make some jewelry!
It is a common preference of many designers to start and end their bracelets with smaller, plainer beads than those that make up the rest of their design. This is thought to both look better and make it easier to take the bracelet on and off. This is particularly true if you chose a toggle as your clasp.
You don’t have to limit yourself to designs that are just straight strung beads on beading wire. Even without advanced knowledge of bead weaving/stitching or wire working, you can still incorporate chain (or another medium like leather) into a design. For example, string a few inches worth of beads onto wire and crimp them to the ending links of some lengths of chain. Voila, you have a pretty, mixed media necklace like Karla’s Geotic Necklace shown on the right.
Need some inspiration? All of the projects below can be done with only the basic bead stringing technique described above. Feel like you would understand better if you saw a demonstration? Let Karla show you how in our Basic Beading Instructional Video .