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Tool Talk Thursday: How Did You Do That?..High Temp Wire Revisist

Heart Charms by Mary Harding

I have had quite a few email questions asking me to demo how to make and insert the stringing loops that are found in many ceramic pieces.  So today I am going to share a tutorial I put together to answer these questions.

1.  I use High Temp Stamen Wire 24 gauge as seen in the picture above.  It is made by Kemper and available from most ceramic supply stores.  I will include a list of sources at the end of the tutorial. This wire is good for Cone 6 firings and lower.
2. I use looping pliers and a heavy duty wire cutter when working with this wire to make stringing loops.  The heavy duty wire cutters are great for a quick clean cut, but you can use most wire cutters used for jewelry and they will work too.

3. I use the medium width loop mandrel in the looping pliers and grip the wire as shown. 

4.Then I bend it over the looping mandrel until it touches the other wire and snip it off.

5.Before I cut the wire, the loop looks like this.  It needs some straightening as well which you can do with your chain nose or flat nose pliers.

6.  If you do not have looping pliers, you can use a skewer quite successfully to wrap your loops around.

7.  I suggest you cut your loops a bit bigger and longer than you  think you will need them.  That short one in the foreground may not be very useful since it has such a short shank.  I like to bury the shank as deeply as possible in the clay and still maintain a loop shape.  This way I am sure that it is securely in the clay. In addition, it is easier to center the loop when you have that extra length to manipulate.

8.  Now that we have our loops, when do we put them into the clay?  The loops go into wet clay.  It is important that the clay not be too wet and limp when you try to insert  the loop.  I usually cut out several pieces and put them on plaster board to dry a bit before I put in the loop.   The clay should be firm enough to pick up with your fingers without leaving any impression or distorting the surface texture.  On the other end of the scale, you don't want the clay to be leather hard or you will not be able to get the loop in without damaging the clay.  So experiment around the degrees of firmness and see what works for you. 

Picture of heart charm with freshly inserted loop. 
9. You can see that it requires handling the clay and even squeezing it when you put in the loop.  Hence why the clay must dry a bit before doing this.  When you are inserting the loop, it may be necessary to move it around or move it over a bit to make sure it is just where you want it.  This will leave little holes in the clay that will not just disappear during the firing or glazing, esp with low fire or translucent glazes.

10.  I use a nail care stick called an orange stick to clean up around the loop after it is inserted.  These are very inexpensive and are found in the cosmetic/nail section of many larger drugstores.  They work better than a skewer and I think that is because they are made of a tighter grained wood.  Originally they were made from orange trees which has a nice tight, smooth grain.  In any case they are great for smoothing over the little holes left from moving the loop around or any other imperfections caused by disrupting the clay when you put it in.

11.  Now you are ready to let your pieces dry well and then you can sponge then off and clean up the clay that got onto the loops and even smooth out around them some more. 

I hope this Tutorial answered your questions about stringing loops.  If you have any other questions please add them to the comment section below and we will gladly answer them.  If you have any suggestions for making loops, please add them to the comments as well.  We all appreciate you sharing your experience with us.
Posted by MaryHarding
Source List
Beadaholique     (looping pliers)
Objects and Elements (heavy duty wire cutters)
                                          Amazon.com (orange sticks for nails)


  1. using the orange sticks for smoothing in those tight spots is a really good tip..thanks

  2. Mary -- your hearts are a favorite of mine!

    To save your wire cutters, you can grasp the wire with flatnose pliers (grasp it on the side you will use, where it meets the rest of the roll/grasp the whole loop, flat) and work it back and forth until it comes off. (Since the ends are buried, I've never worried about absolutely perfect ends.) My hardware store cutters were dying of high temp & memory wire use, until a wire artist shared this with me.

  3. Thank you for letting me know that the orange stick tip is helpful. Glad you left a comment about it. Hopefully others will try them too.

  4. Vika, thank you for the great tip on how to save the blades of wire cutters. Great idea. And thanks for sharing it with all ofus. Thank you for the kind words about my hearts.

  5. thanks for a great tutorial, can I ask is this wire the same as nichrome, I'm not sure we can get it in the UK, but J have some nichrome

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this - I couldn't find this information anywhere!

    1. I am so pleased that it was useful for you!!!

  7. If you need a lot you can get a really good price from a guy on E-Bay of course I forgot his name. Search on nichrome wire.He has all gauges just about


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