Start off with some wire, some wire cutters and something finger sized. I’m using a ring mandrel, but a marker pen, screwdriver handle or smarties tube can do the trick. We’re doing down and dirty rings here, so exact size doesn’t matter too much.
For the wire, you can use pretty much anything. Galvanised steel garden wire from BQ is dirt cheap and will do the job, or you can use craft store wire, or even precious metals. I’m using some mixed scraps that I had lying at the bottom of my wire box, not sure what they are.
So, take your wire and wrap it around your mandrel. If you’re using a ring mandrel like mine, you can use tape or a permanent marker to mark the size you want. Make it a bit on the tight side, it’ll get bigger later.
Take your ring off the mandrel and using your snips, cut through both wires where they overlap. To make things a little neater, flip your snips and tidy up the end of the wire that wasn’t flush cut, taking off as little as possible.
TaDa, super simple ring. Looks pretty shitty at the moment, but you can jazz it up. Stick some beads on it, wrap it in thinner wire or pretty thread, solder the ends together. Making a bunch of these and stacking them on one finger can look good for a costume.
We aren’t doing any of that though. Were going to stick the basic ring shape back on the mandrel and gently tap it all around with a hammer. Aim the striking face square onto the side of the ring to cause as little resizing as possible. This will still make it a bit bigger, but will also square it out and make it look more like a proper bit of jewellery rather than a wire loop.
If you don’t have a hammer, don’t despair. With soft craft wire, or steel and a bit of patience, you can do this with a spoon instead. You can keep going if you want a thinner band type ring, or stop with a square. Smoothing it out takes time, but leaving it with a ‘just bashed’ texture looks pretty nifty too.
You may have to reshape your ring a little at this point as bashing it can knock it out of shape. Do it with your fingers if you can, metal pliers might leave marks. You can buy snazzy rubber mouthed pliers to stop this, or just wrap yours with some felt.
Here I’ve reshaped the ends a little too, bending them down into a kind of wishbone shape.
TaDa, you have a slightly more deliberately-made looking ring. Again, you can jazz it up from here or just leave it as is.
I’m liking the shape of this ring, but it’s looking a bit too clean for the apocalypse. It needs a bit of grime.
This is my favourite bit.
For a grubby, been through the wars and salvaged from the scrap heap effect, you’ll need some fire and something to hold your jewellery with while sticking it in said fire. You can use an old set of pliers (the heat may mess up the temper of the metal, so don’t use your best pair) or some old metal tweezers. For the fire you can use a blowtorch, a proper one is great, but one of those little blowtorch lighters will work too. Or, if your kitchen is getting replaced in about 3 weeks, you can use your gas stove top.
Have a bowl of cold water on hand too.
This bit is super easy. Grab your jewellery with you pliers and stick it in a nice hot flame. It’ll get hot pretty quickly. Wait till it’s glowing a nice cherry red colour, then drop it in your cold water. Pluck it out, give it a rub dry and your done. It should be a nice dulled grey colour, with maybe some black bits. They should go grey with a bit more rubbing.
This has a nice side effect when your using steel wire, it hardens the metal, making it much harder to bend. It means your rings won’t bend out of shape as easily as you bent them into it. It’s also the point where you realise those scraps you thought were steel really weren’t… no idea where they came from then.
Want some colour other than grey? Have a play. Heating the metal to different temperatures can cause different colours, but it’s hard to judge the temperature, and with wire being so thin, hard to control how quickly it heats. Instead, you can spritz your jewellery before heating it with different substances to get different effects. The yellow colour in some of my pieces below came from dunking them in sunflower cooking oil before heating (which is more like setting them on fire when they are coated in oil). The blacker ones I dunked in a salt and vinegar bath. I’ve also had lovely blue grey results in the past from spraying things with WD40. It’s very unpredictable what colours you’ll get, but great fun to play around trying out different ideas.
Here’s some already heat treated things next to their ‘ready to be burned’ friends;
And the results from my playing with fire;
I should probably mention this is far from a safe project. Use safety equipment and common sense, and don’t blame me if you loose your eyebrows.