A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Make Your Own Coil Crimp Ends

"Woodland Realm" Silk String Bundle from Marsha Neal Studio 
Ribbon and leather cording is all the rage, and many of you are probably contemplating adding it to your jewelry repertoire. Finishing off the ends can be a bit of a head-scratcher when you first start out though, especially if you haven't had time to explore all the products and techniques available for attaching your cording sections to the rest of your piece.

The first piece I ever sold on Etsy had 2mm Greek leather on it, and I faked up some coil ends on it--I had bought some simple, cheapie ones at the craft store and was trying to copy them. The only think I could think to do was wrap the wire around the ends of the leather and make a loop at the end, but it was really frustrating because the leather was kind of floppy.
Ca. March 2005
It was so frustrating in fact, that I didn't use leather in my designs again for a couple years.

Later I discovered commercial crimp ends for sale, and used those on a few pieces.
From Cool Tools PMC supply
They look really nice, and come in different finishes, but in my experience they have a tendency to break. The center section on some styles actually breaks away from the end sections when it's crimped, and this can give way under too much wear, like with a bracelet that gets tugged and twisted a lot when you're trying to put it on or take it off. (I actually had to repair a bracelet where the crimp end broke--I redid it with a different technique.) Could be I squeezed it too much; it's hard to tell how tightly to crimp it. I don't think there are the same issues using these findings with a necklace though, because they don't get the same wear and tear, and I've used them with necklaces without any reported problems so far.

With silver plated pewter crimp ends from Fusion Beads
I still really wanted to use leather in my bracelets, without having to fold it over a ring or something (because that can be kind of bulky, especially with Greek leather), but I needed something sturdy. It eventually occurred to me (probably in the shower) that I should make the coil and loop BEFORE attaching it to the cording, and THEN slide it onto the leather and tighten it, instead of trying to wrap the wire around the cording. (I have no doubt thousands of jewelry makers have been doing this forever, and I could have learned this from one of them, but perversely self-sufficient freak that I am, I had to take two years to figure it out myself.) So I gave it a shot and it worked fine. This is how I eventually ended up making them--these are in a few different sizes:

They look like this when they're attached and tightened up:

I like to use 16 gauge wire, as I prefer a chunky, substantial look (and I'm a little paranoid about things coming apart--I also add some adhesive, like GS Hypo Cement or PlioBond--Hypo Cement is clear so probably a little easier to use, PlioBond is more amber colored), and this gauge seems to work for most of what I do. The 16 gauge is not so heavy that it's hard to work with, and I can get the coils down to about 4mm inner diameter, which is the lower limit for most of what I do. If you wanted to do something with just, say, one strand of 2mm Greek leather, you could go down to 18 gauge and get a smaller coil that would still be sturdy enough. (You can always anneal too, if your hands are worn out and need a little extra help--some days the elbow grease just isn't there!)

For a 5mm (inner diameter) coil, I use the base of my round nose pliers.

Leaving the wire on the spool (you won't cut it until you're totally done), make a coil with three or four courses around. When you actually tighten it up around your cording the whole thing is going to get skinnier and longer and you'll end up with a couple extra courses around. (The longer the finished coil is, the greater the surface area you will have grabbing onto your cording and the more secure it will be.)

When you've got your coil completed, you'll need to bend the free end of the wire up to create the loop. I pull up on the free end a bit to create some space for me to slip my bent nose pliers in there:

Then I slide the tip of my bent nose pliers under there, and bend it straight up.

You can use the pliers as necessary to sharpen the bend a bit. (Again, anneal if you need to--the process of tightening it later will work harden it plenty so it won't open up on you.) Squeeze it together a bit again.

After you have your 90 degree angle, it's time to make your loop. I just pop my round nose pliers under there again, near the base, and just bend the wire right over the top.

Nip it off with your flush cutters just about even with the top rim.

Tuck the end just inside the edge of the coil, and hammer it a bit to strengthen it and give it a finished look. (Hammering is optional, I just like to hammer things.)

You might have to trim your loop a bit after hammering it, because that tends to make it a little longer. Once you have a feel for that you can trim it a little shorter right off the bat, so that hammering it will make it just the right length.

Make sure the loop goes straight over the top, transecting the coil right across the middle. Adjust as necessary with your pliers.

Of course, you can make these any size you like. I just eyeball the cording I'm using and guesstimate what inner diameter I need. It's totally fudge-able because you're going to squeeze it down tight anyway. That said, it's nice to get it as close to the right diameter as possible, because squeezing an oversized coil down is a pain in the butt. You can do it, but it's a lot more work, and of course the more you squeeze it, the tougher the wire gets and once your cording is in there you can't re-anneal.

Next time, we'll talk about actually putting it on your cording.


  1. Great tutorial...thank you for sharing. I avoid leather and silk for this very reason!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have always tried this and totally screwed it up. Can't wait for the next part.

  3. Great Idea Keirsten! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the next part!

  4. Really great directions and especially photos. Should be easier to use than another tut I've been trying to follow! Thanks

  5. I detest the coil crimp ends they sell at craft stores. I've never had any luck with them. I'm going to try my hand at making them while I wait patiently for your "how to put them on cords" post. You make it look so simple!

  6. I've been doing these for a while & your instructions & pictures are beautifully done, great job!

  7. Perfect!
    Good and generous as ever.
    Kiss and good day.

  8. Excellent, thank you for that great tutorial

  9. I've tried to do this before without success....but your instructions have me thinking I'll try it again! I can't wait to see how you crimp it down!

  10. Thanky you for this great tutorial, finally I had to figure it out by you how its easier;))) I am fighting since a long time with this "wire wrapping around leather"-Problem;O))
    It makes my life easier *lol*;)
    lovely greetings

  11. Thank you for the great tutorial - I can't wait to try your method out. Looks great.

  12. Thank you for this tutorial. I am so intimidated with leather and fibers due to finishing them off. I love the look of your jewelry and I love the way you incorporate leather into your work.

  13. Thanks for the tutorial. Do you squeeze the whole coil? Or just the tail end. The coils look pretty round on your finished pieces.
    You really should do an e book on your wire work, you have talent.

  14. I've always liked the way your cord ends look. I admit I've struggled with the same conundrum many times. I'm gonna give this a shot.

  15. Great tutorial! I've done something similar. So much easier than trying to wrap around the silly cord!
    Great photos, too.

  16. I've thought about how to do this for a long time! The second step will be the key, and I'm looking forward to it. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  17. Linda Larsen shows this technique on her blog but your tutorial has a lot more details and photos. I love your idea of making several sizes up ahead of time so that they are ready to go. Wonderful tutorial.

  18. Great tutorial thank you. I have tried making them using knitting needles of various sizes. Works well.

  19. What a great help this will be. Can't wait for part II.

  20. Thanks for sharing this, I'm always looking for ways to enhance my techniques.

  21. Great technique! I always wondered how you made your cord ends. I admire all of your jewelry, but especially your designs with leather, ribbon and cords. I have made my own cord ends, also. I coil my wire right on the leather like you mentioned in your post, but I have a little twist to the technique that makes it easier, I think. I've thought about doing a tutorial on how I make them several times. I contemplated putting it in our book, but alas, it didn't happen, so maybe I will do that tutorial after all. You've given me the motivation to think about it again!

    I also use the crimp cords ends quite a bit, too. In my own experience, I know you do have to be pretty careful how and where you crimp them. I did a little tutorial on A Jewelry Accord last year: http://jewelryaccord.blogspot.com/2011/01/findings-friday-crimp-style-cord-ends.html

    If you crimp down on that solder seam on the side, they will break. Also, I've noticed the cheapy base metal ones are more likely to break, too, so you want to buy the best quality ones you can find.

  22. Oh you saved me some brain burn for sure. Thanks for the tutorial.

  23. I finally have hope! I am starting to make golf score bead bracelets and golf score beads that look more jewelry-like. Typical coil ends are too small for the elastic cords I use. They have to be sturdy for all the pulling. Will try your technique as I've searched all over for large coil ends with loops and none have a 4mm or larger opening.

  24. I just found your tutorial on Pinterest.
    Love the details and pictures you provided.
    Thank you!

  25. Thank you so much Keirsten for the great Tutorial. I found you for the first time through "Beading Gems". Pearl isn't she a jewel:-). Joined your Blog and now on to visit your Etsy shop. I still love learning even at 67yrs. keeps my mind from ageing faster. Best to you!

  26. Hey, I came across your blog through beadinggem.com and I think this tutorial is providing good knowledge and techniques for DIY jewelry. This bracelet looks beautiful.

  27. Fantastic tutorial, thanks! I used my homemade crimp beads in a pair of peacock feather earrings! You can find them on my website :)

  28. Can you tell me where I can see the tutorial for attaching coil to leather or cording?? Thanks, Sue

    1. It's the very next post after this one, dated April 17, 2012,

  29. I am in the midst of a project and don't have the right sized cord ends to finish. So glad I found your tutorial on Pinterest. Thank You!

  30. Glad to know I'm not the only perversely self-sufficient freak out there ;)