Plus some troubleshooting tips and tricks!
We’ve talked about crimping and crimp beads before, but sometimes people are still unsure about how well their crimp beads are holding or they are unhappy with the finished look of the crimp. Here are some in-depth steps to better crimp beads and covers, along with some troubleshooting tips and tricks.
Crimp beads of all kinds are used to attach a clasp (or any other finding) to flexible beading wire. This wire is made of twisted stainless steel wires coated in an acrylic sheath. (Read more about it in a past article here.) Your stringing wire goes through the crimp bead, through the clasp, and back through the crimp bead. You flatten the crimp bead with pliers or a crimping tool and the crimp bead stays put. This creates a loop where the clasp is safely attached. Crimp bead covers are little open balls that fit over the crimp bead to hide it. They are not necessary for attaching the clasp – they are purely aesthetic.
Here we’re talking about crimp tubes, the little cylinder-shaped crimp beads that work best with a crimping tool. There are a few sizes to choose from but the most common crimp tubes are 2x2mm (length x diameter). When the diameter changes, the tool needs to change as well. If you are using 2×2.5mm crimps, you’ll need a “Jumbo” crimping tool. If you are using 2×1.5mm crimps, you’ll need a “Micro” crimping tool.
TIP #1: Not all crimp beads are created equally! Some crack, some fail, some are too thick or too thin. Find a source that carries good crimp beads and stick with them!
Step One: Hold your crimp tube in the part of the crimping tool called the “crimper”. It’s the crescent-shaped opening closer to the handle. This will create a crease in the crimp tube that will be folded in step two.
TIP #2: Don’t push your crimp bead right up next to the clasp. Some people have the false impression that this will keep the clasp on nice and tight. It actually increases the chance that the wire will break! If the clasp has no room to move about freely, it’s going to rub against the wire, wear down the acrylic and expose the stainless steel core.
Step Two: After the crimp tube is creased, set your crimp in the “rounder” area. This is the oval-shaped opening next to the crimper. The crimp tube should be positioned in such a way that when you squeeze the pliers, the crimp tube folds along that crease into a small, folded crimp.
TIP #3: Look at the crimp tube as it’s being “rounded” so you have a good view of your positioning. You want to be sure to close it evenly.
Step Three: This step isn’t always necessary but it sure helps when you have thinner wire or if you’ve been having trouble with your wire slipping out. I always do it out of habit, myself. Use the very tip of the crimping tool to squeeze the folded crimp one more time. You don’t have to squish it down really hard, just enough to close the entire fold and to feel more secure about the whole process.
Step Four: Slip on your crimp cover. If you want to hide the crimp bead, you can use a crimp bead cover. It ends up looking like a small round bead rather than a piece of jewelry hardware.
Tip #4: If your crimp bead cover isn’t open enough to fit over the closed crimp tube, there’s a chance you might need a larger size cover. But it might just need to be opened up more. I like to do this by slowly reaming it open with a beading awl. Slide the awl into both sides of the ball equally so it opens up evenly.
Step Five: Close the crimp bead cover with your chainnose (needlenose) pliers. It’s very important that you close it with small bits of pressure – all over the ball and from assorted angles. If you just squeeze it as if it were a crimp bead, it won’t keep the ball shape. Go at it slowly!
Tip #5: Some people like to use the “rounder” part of their crimping tool to close the crimp bead cover. It helps keep the round shape of the ball with less chance of over-squishing. Note that a 3mm cover works well with the standard crimping tool and a 4mm cover works better with a Jumbo tool.
That’s it! If you still have trouble with your crimp tubes or if you have a tip you’d like to share, post a comment below to keep the conversation going!