Types of Wire
Which wire should I use?
We get this question a lot and I will be honest - there is no set answer! A lot depends on how big the item is, how heavy it will be, what part you are making (a delicate finger or a structural leg could be quite different wires), and in the end it is down to personal preference. Personally I (Sophie) prefer a more solid structure so tend to go for the thicker wires, and use pliers to help bend into shape, all of which requires a lot of grip and hand strength. Other people prefer a softer and easier to bend wire, or don't like to use pliers.
See below for: a list of wires in order of 'bendability'! , a wire gauge conversion chart, general tips about using wire and more info about different type of wires and images of what you can do with them...
Which wires are easier to bend / stiffer?:
|Easy to bend||
|Stiff - use pliers||
Wire Gauge Conversion Chart
Thinner wire on the left, getting thicker towards the right
|Size in mm||0.2||0.4||0.5||0.6||1.0||1.25||1.5||1.6||2.0|
|SWG* (approx. UK equivalent)||36||27||25||23||19||18||17||16||14|
|What we stock (Y=yes) :|
|Cotton Covered Steel||Y||Y|
|Paper covered Steel||Y||Y||Y|
* AWG (American Wire Gauge) is used as a gauge number on most wire products. SWG (Standard Wire Gauge) is the UK version yet nowadays is no longer popular. However, you may be more familiar with this, so we have listed approximate SWG values above for your reference. Please note, the two gauge systems are not completely equivalent to each other: for an online gauge convertor, click here.
You will find your own favourites but here are some general tips :
- Generally speaking, the thicker the wire the stronger and less pliable it is. The thinner the wire the softer and easier to bend it is.
- Pliers are very useful for manipulating wire of any thickness, and proper pliers are necessary for the 1.5mm copper and the 1 & 1.25mm steel. A larger and a smaller jewellery pair both with integral wire cutters will set you up well, but if you are only using pipe cleaners, these can even be cut with old scissors.
- Bare wire has no covering so is slippery when trying to wrap with wool - use beeswax balm or wrap with thin paper covered wire, pipe cleaners or masking tape to help the wool stick
- Covered Wire is very useful as it skips the step above!
- Size of project: Smaller animals up to 15cm are usually fine with the extra strong pipe cleaner. The main wires below for creating larger armature are Aluminium (Pliable), Covered Copper (medium-firm), Covered Steel (very firm)
- Gauge: where possible, we have noted the gauge on the product listing, if you are following instructions from others you may also need to match the type of wire as the same gauge in Aluminium and Steel would feel very different! A higher gauge number means a thinner wire. See our table of gauge and equivalents below
- If you are unsure between two sizes, go for the thinner gauge as it can always be doubled up if not strong enough.
- If you are unsure what to get, we would recommend getting extra strong pipe cleaners, 0.5mm covered Copper wire and 2mm Aluminium. This will give you a good start for most projects, an opportunity to try the different types and you can double up the wires if you need stronger wire. Once you are familiar using these then branch out and try the others.
Types of wire and some of their uses:
|Properties||Good for making:|
|Luxury pipe cleaners||Pliable, stronger than a cheap craft pipe cleaner, the thick chenille fluff covers the wire so you can leave the pipe cleaner showing||pose-able figures such as Mice, dormice, fox, octopus etc|
|Extra strong pipe cleaners||
As above but stiffer, still pliable, cotton fibres help the wool to grip, available in 30cm lengths or a 4 metre coil.
|Wool fairies, small pose-able armatures which will be totally covered by the wool|
Bare gold wire used for Moles glasses and thick aluminium wire doubled up used for Brian the life sized goose. Ginger Ninja the chicken's feet are made from a wire coat hanger, which was really stiff and took me 2 hours to bend into shape!!
|0.5mm black or gold (bare)||Very pliable||Little fingers, Mr Moles glasses, butterfly legs|
|Aluminium (bare)||Very pliable, available in different thicknesses, you get more for your money but you will need to help the wool grip (see Bare Wire - above)||2mm doubled up is strong enough for the feet on a life sized small chicken. This can be covered with wool and then beige florist tape.|
Paper covered wire used here for the twigs on the original May Blossom Wreath Makerss Box, plus our June 2018 Wire armature Dog and Cat Makerss Subscription Box projects using covered wire for the dog armature, and pipe cleaners inside the cats tail.
|Thin paper covered||Very pliable. Beware, the brown version can break if stressed by repeated bending, covered with paper which helps the wool to grip||Wrapping around bare wire to help wool stick, fingers and toes, butterfly body, twigs on blossom buds|
|Cotton covered Copper||Medium pliability, available in a range of gauges - may need pliers for the 1.5 mm and also 1mm depending on strength of hands. Wool grips easily.||We used 0.5mm & 1mm for a dog the size of a piece of A4 paper. Good for pose-able figures.|
|Cotton covered Steel||Very stiff, various gauges - requires pliers and strong hands!||Great for larger sculptures, weight bearing, armature that is going to stay put once bent.|
If you are totally stuck, get in touch! email email@example.com or call 01453 839454