Clay, Application to Refinement

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There is an alternative to using piano or music wire and that is to use old bicycle spokes. These may be available from bicycle stores where they re-spoke wheels, or you can gets them from swap meets. The advantage of using the spokes is that they are an ideal length and they are slightly softer than music wire. This will reducing the amount of breakages when bending to shape.


Large wire loops for wire tools.

When we get to the largest wires, the thickness should be approx. 0.100", 7/64" or 2 1/2mm in diameter.

This allows for more pressure to be exerted onto the clay surface without the worry of snapping the tool.


Now that we have a selection of various shaped wires, we should categorize them in regards to wire thickness, handle length and ferrule diameter in preparation for making the tools.





     Wire Diameter


    Handle Length



  Ferrule Diameter



 0.100"- 7/64"- 2.5mm


   6" x 3/4" Diameter


    7/16" Diameter


 0.080"- 5/64"- 2.0mm


 51/2" x 5/8" Diameter


     3/8" Diameter


 0.060"- 1/16"- 1.5mm

 0.040"- 3/64"- 1.0mm

  5" x 9/16" Diameter

    5/16" Diameter


For this exercise we will make a 3/4" version of the top left illustration.


The material list is :-  

Oak, pine etc; 8"-10" long x 3/4" square to turn the handle.

Music wire or old bicycle spokes 0.080" x 12" long.

Brass tube to make the ferrule, 3/8" diameter x 12" long.



Wood lathe demonstrates the turning of a  wire tool handle.

Lets start by marking the center on each end of the wood stock, this is achieved by scribing lines across the diagonals. At the center spot drill a 1/8" or 3.0mm hole to accept the live center and the spur center. Tap the wood stock onto the spur center and slide the tailstock up, lock down and secure the wood with the live center. Adjust the tool rest to the center line of wood stock and then we're good to go.


With everything in position we are now ready to start. Put on your safety glasses and turn the overall diameter first (5/8") using a roughing- out gouge. Check the diameter for size with outside calipers.


With the main cylinder turned, mark the center and step off 2 3/4"each side of the center line to give an overall length of 5 1/2". At these marks the cylinder has to be turned down to the ferrule diameter (3/8"). Slowly turn the stock down, checking regularly for size.


Make the length of the turned wood for the ferrule longer than required. This allows for parting.


Smooth the shape from the center to the ferrule shoulder using a skew chisel. Finalize the handle with 400 grit sandpaper.


The turned handle of the wire tool nearing completion.

After sanding remove the turned piece from the lathe. Bandsaw or hand saw the excess wood from the handle in preparation for attaching  the ferrules.


Take the brass tube and push it onto the handle in a turning motion (this will cut away any excess material) until it beds out at the shoulder. With the tube in place, mark a length of 3/8" to represent the ferrule. Place the brass tube in the vise and cut to length with a hacksaw. Repeat the procedure for the opposite end of the handle. Clean up any saw marks with a file and de-burr.


We are now ready to to form the wire shapes. Wire3


The completed wire tool handle with brass ferrules at ends.







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