How long to tumble
by lucia tremont
Stacy, How long would I tumble ear wires to work harden them? Is there a general rule of thumb for time to tumble to work harden jewelry pieces?
Tumbling will slightly work-harden the earwires, especially since they are thin. Tumbling really only work-hardens the outside of the metal/wire and doesn't affect the cores of the thicker gauges much. It does a nice job of cleaning and polishing with very little effort however!
To ensure a nice hard earwire, try using 1/2-hard or full-hard wire to create them. It's already shiny and.....hard. Yes, hardened wire is more difficult to work with, but in the thinner gauges used for earwires you should have no difficulties. I generally tumble findings overnight or about 5-6 hours. Just check yours every couple of hours or so until the findings are how you like them.
If you are working with copper, hitting the wire with a rawhide or plastic mallet while it's on your bench block or pulling the straight wire through plastic-jaw pliers a few times will work-harden it. You can also harden the findings after they're finished using the plastic mallet method. Then tumble to further harden and polish them up nicely.
I think hand-made earwires add a special element to your artisan jewelry and worth the extra effort!