Tumbling Permanently Colored Copper Wire Coiled Components

by Berke
(New York)

I make lampwork beads. I have begun using the beads in wire jewelry. I make links and/or coils of permanently colored copper wire. I can harden some of the links by hammering but I have been told that the coils and even the entire bracelet should be hardened in a tumbler.

Will the coloring (plating) on the wire be nicked or totally removed by the steel shot in the tumbler? If so, is there another way to harden it? Or what will happen if it is not hardened?

How long should tumbling take?


Stacy's Answer:

Hi Berke! I'm sorry to say that I don't work with the colored wire. Artistic Wire® is supposed to be a better quality and the "color" more durable than other colored wire brands.

Any time you subject a plated or coated item to any kind of surface action....filing, sanding, hammering, tumbling, polishing, using tools on, etc. you run the risk of damaging or altering that coating or plating. Coatings usually will not stretch as metal flattens, so excessive hammering or flattening would be out. As to tumbling......the best way to find out is to experiment.

Different tumblers and medias will produce different results and you need to know how your system works. Take some of the colored wire, loop it up and toss it in! What does it look like and feel like for hardness is say after 2 hours, 5, etc. That's usually the best and sometimes the only way to learn what's going to give YOU the best results.

When metal is soft, it is more easily distorted or misshaped. As you hammer, coil, twist, etc. the wire will become "work-hardened". Tumbling slightly hardens the upper layers of the metal and cleans and polishes it. You might try putting the wire between soft layers of paper towel, chamois, etc. on a steel bench block and hit it with a plastic or rawhide mallet to harden without marring the surface. But again, try on a small piece of scrap and see what happens!! If it's all good, then repeat on a finished piece.

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