About Wire

Frequently Asked Questions
Answers provided by wire artist, Angela Hook

Angela Hook bending wire

What kind of wire do you use?
Personally, I love to try all kinds! Different guages and different metals always offer new challenges. My favorite is copper, though. Bare copper electrical ground wire is readily available at any hardware store. It is beautiful, easy to work with and relatively affordable.

What tools do you use?
For the majority of projects, I use linesman pliers to cut the wire and sometimes help with sharp/straight bends, as well as a pair of interior snap-ring pliers. These are automotive grade, but I find that most round-nosed pliers are designed for small wire and cannot withstand the wear and tear I put them through. Other than that, your fingers are your most valuable tool.

wire spoolHow did you learn to bend wire?
Although I have an artistic background, having gone to Art College, I really just picked up a piece of wire that was laying around one day. The line, the texture, and the possibilities intrigued me… Once I started, I just couldn’t stop! So (like many of you will be) I am self-taught.

Do you have to heat the wire to get it so smooth?
Actually, no. The wire that I work with is soft enough that it does not require heat. Although, the friction from my fingers/gloves working with the wire does warm up the material slightly, the best way to maintain a smooth curve is to work slowly and loosely. If you are tight and heavy with your hands or tools, the wire will get overworked. When this happens, the wire hardens and may even become so brittle that it breaks.

Every time I try to make something with wire, it just doesn’t seem to take a good, smooth shape. Is there such a thing as overworking your wire?
Yes, absolutely! When you overwork any wire, something called ‘work hardening’ occurs. This makes the wire very tough to bend. The best way to avoid this is to keep your hands or tools light, and well away from the point you are trying to bend. If you make a mistake, it is sometimes easier to start again than try to straighten and rebend the wire. Practice working loosely.

An interesting thing to try is bending a piece of wire back and forth enough times to snap it. This is like blowing a balloon up until it pops… it will give you a good idea of how far you can go before you’re in danger of breaking the wire.

What size/gauge of copper wire do you use for your free-form horse sculptures?
I am generally working with 12-14 gauge for the sculptures. I use stranded bare copper ground wire from a hardware store. I have found two different sizes… both come with 7 strands twisted together, and I just unravel them to get the individual pieces. I need about 12 feet in length for a medium horse.

Can you please explain the observation that a copper wire will bend smoothly around a finger, whereas a mild-steel wire will kink and deform to a polygonal shape?
Thank you for your question. I know exactly what you mean… I have used wire that just kinks like that! I am not really an expert on the composition of various metals, but I would guess that copper wire is flexible because it is pure copper.

Steel can be made from a number of metals, including iron, nickel, etc. and I would think the [molecular] structure of such an alloy would be less homogeneous in nature, so it would have weak spots more likely to kink.

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Do you have QUESTIONS about wire as an artistic medium? Email Angela

 

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Here are some links to other great Wire Art sites!

Wire Sculpture International – A directory of wire sculptors compiled by wire sculptor Elizabeth Berrien

Wire Magic – A wonderful resource site for all things wire!

Art Metal Village – Social networking for the metal arts

JD Wire Art – Enjoy the work of Jonathan Daniel

Creativity Portal – Creativity coaches, artists, crafters, writers, and business professionals sharing their knowledge and expertise to inspire creative expression in everyone.

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