From The Bead Scoop Vol. I Issue 2, Sept 2007
Q. How do I choose the right beading wire?
A. Beading wire, sometimes generally called “tigertail”, is a flexible wire that consists of several strands of stainless steel wire coated in an acrylic sheath. Great developments in this “tigertail” have occurred over the past ten or twenty years, and it has become an indispensable part of beading. You can find this type of wire under several brand names: Cablestrand, Soft Flex, Beadalon, Griffin, and more. All of these combine the strength of wire with the flexibility of thread.
There are four things to consider when choosing the right beading wire for your project: diameter, test strength, number of strands, and price.
Diameter: Just like any beading cord or thread, the diameter is an important consideration that relates primarily to the size of the bead holes. Diameter is indicated in inches, for instance “Fine” might be .014″ or .015″. “Heavy” might be more like .024″ diameter. Wire between .014″ and .019″ is the most versatile.
Test Strength: Typically, the thicker the wire the stronger it is. “Fine” wire will usually have about a 10lb. test strength which is plenty strong for most jewelry applications. “Extra Fine” (.010″ or smaller) might have a 5lb. test strength and could be too light for some projects. Test strengths between 10 and 20lbs. are the most common.
Number of strands: This is an important element. Most beading wires indicate how many strands of stainless steel wire make up the product. More strands means more flexibility or “softness”. Have you experienced that surprise when you take your necklace out of a small box and it is all kinked up? A beading wire with a low number of strands is more likely to do this. So, you can have two products with a similar diameter and similar test strength, but a completely different feel because of the strand count.
Price: Number of strands leads directly to price. When more strands of stainless steel are fit into a given diameter of cording, the price is going to go up. So take economy into consideration as well. Weight the options of price vs. flexibility as they apply to your project.
Our most popular beading wire is Soft Flex, “Fine” or .014″ diameter, with 10lb. test and 21 strands. A close second is the Soft Flex “Medium” (.019″) with 49 strands.