Half hard, Dead soft, what??? Wire help for Sterling and Gold Filled!

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Original Post

I need some wire help!

My line is undergoing a massive renovation, and almost everything will be wire-wrapped in some way, shape or form.

Only problem is, I've never really worked with sterling and gold-filled wire before.

Soooo...can somebody explain to me what the heck half hard, dead soft, etc. means?

What would be best for wire-wrapping...I want thick circles and loops and swirls (that's my design style) and i want to make my own connectors. I've done this before, but not with good wire, and I don't want to waste money on the wrong wire.

Any suggestions from you wonderful wire workers?


Posted at 11:40am May 21, 2010 EDT


You will only really get the feel by buying some and trying it. And sterling feels different from gold filled. Dead soft will provide smooth curves, bu requires other processes to make it harder after shaped or it will be in danger of collapse. Half hard is used for a stronger hold and ear wires but its hard to get graceful curves, almost impossible actually. I suggest buying some of each in 20 and 22g in small quantities from and etsy seller since they usually have smaller amounts and just try it. Yes you'll ruin stuff but you can send silver scrap to a refinery. Copper is also a good practice wire. Thick swirls and such sounds like you need 18 and 16 g too. Again, no way to get around it but to buy some and practice.

Posted at 11:59am May 21, 2010 EDT

dead soft is well, soft. It will bend easily and hold its shape.

half hard is springy(er). ;-) It will want to 'snap back' a bit. Its good for jumprings, connections, earwires, etc.

Posted at 12:02pm May 21, 2010 EDT

1mADwoman says

IF you really want to just practice, I personally bought craft wire from Jo-Ann's and Michaels just to get the feel for. They do feel totally different than SS or GF, though, so be prepared for that. Sterling is softer and a bit easier to work with.

Dead-soft - easiest to work with, but it's not as strong as the other two.

Half-Hard - medium strength, as Wire said, this is good for your earwires and such.

Full-hard - this is the toughest to work with, especially in the gold-filled. Use it for frames and use the softer wires around it.

If you buy the hald-hard or dead-soft, and you have a tumbler, you can work harden the pieces for better durability in the barrel. Just toss them in for a couple of hours with some water and original formula Dawn liquid soap.

Posted at 12:04pm May 21, 2010 EDT

waterwaif says

Joann's and other similar craft stores sell 16g and 20g in silvertone and brass and copper wire. Pick up some of those for cheap and see how the thickness feels to you. For your own connectors you will probably want thicker wire than you use for the wrapping, but everyone's preferences are different.

Once you've tried the 16g and the 20g cheap wire, you'll be able to tell if you want to work with thicker or thinner wire. If the 20g isn't quite thin enough for you, then you'll know you prefer 22g. If the 20g is too thin, then 18g would probably make you happy.

Posted at 12:06pm May 21, 2010 EDT

I should clarify - DS will hold its shape for you while you work with it - but it will still be relatively soft depending on what you've done with it - which means it can be pulled out of shape easily. Hardening it will prevent that. either tumbling or tapping with a rubber or rawhide mallet etc.


Posted at 12:17pm May 21, 2010 EDT

I use 20guage half hard SS for my wire-wrapped pendants and I include swirls...it works well for me.

Posted at 12:19pm May 21, 2010 EDT


Posted at 12:32pm May 21, 2010 EDT

Marking ;-)

Posted at 12:36pm May 21, 2010 EDT

Half-hard is normally best when you are trying to make items like ear hooks and clasps, things that need to handle some weight. However, I have to say that I use almost all dead-soft now because my hands just hurt too much if I use half-hard any more.

You can harden the dead-soft some by pulling it through nylon-jawed pliers, pressing it with the pliers, and also by hammering is some with a rawhide hammer. I don't make too much jewelry that is heavy or uses large beads, so I don't have to do much to the dead-soft to make it work for my needs.

I recommend buying 1 lb roll of copper or red brass wire, and using that as practice wire. It is closer to the feel of sterling and gold-filled than craft wire will be, and heck, I use both now for many of my jewelry designs any way. I bought a 1 lb roll of both copper and brass, 21-gauge dead-soft, from www.riogrande.com a few months ago, and I think they were something like $10 each.

For a large part of my jewelry pieces, I like to use 21-gauge dead-soft. It fits through most beads (not pearls though normally) and is heavy enough for the type of jewelry I make.

Posted at 12:46pm May 21, 2010 EDT