Sometime last summer (2009), I began going tribal. I was very inspired by the National Geographic show and recorded all the past episodes of Going Tribal to watch several times. One of the details that caught and held my attention were the neck cuffs that were fashioned in rudimentary ways. The cuffs on the different tribes featured on the show had a common denominator in that they held a special charm or talisman that meant something to the wearer. One woman showed her charms to include the finger of her dead husband! Some of the neck cuffs had collections of several "charms", others were simple with one or two hanging in the center.
A light bulb idea! What if a neck cuff could be hammered out to feature a special Art Bead? I'd never made a neck cuff before but I had already hammered out a heavy gauge bangle, how much harder could it be?
I was surprised by a couple of things; 1 - You do not need a steel neck mandrel to curve the wire. Sweet! This saves you at least $60 bucks! And 2 - they are surprisingly comfortable to wear. In fact, they bring to the surface a wild feeling inside that has been smothered by years of proper society upbringing.
What You Need;
Bench block - or other hard surface to hammer the wire against, even wood could work.
Hammer - my favorite hammer to use was found in my grandpa's old tool chest.
Flexible measuring tape - something that measures over 18 inches would be most helpful.
Heavy Gauge Wire - Copper, brass or sterling silver, dead soft, 14 gauge keeps its shape very well after hammering. You will need to make sure the Art Bead will slide over the wire before curving the wire.
Flush cutters - Heavy duty wire cutters to cut through your 14 gauge wire
Chain nose pliers - you will need a good pair of wide, chain nose pliers to firmly grip the wire as you shape it.
Round nose pliers - optional, you do not need a perfect loop formed for your latch
Medium jewelers file - I use a dremel with a sanding drum bit to save time and work but a medium rasp jewelers file is an inexpensive way to smooth the edges of your cut wire.
Sharpie pen - to mark measurements on the wire
Step 1. Begin by measuring your neck where you would like the neck cuff to lie. To create a neck cuff that latches, you will need to cut that measurement plus 3" from your heavy gauge wire. File the cut edges smooth with your jewelers file. Hold the file at an angle as you run its length down the cut edge of the ends.
Step 2. To curve the wire into a rounded, oval neck cuff shape, hold the middle of the wire in your left hand and tap the hammer on the end of the wire over the bench block with a straight up and down motion. Gradually move the hammer up towards the middle of the wire as you gently move the left hand up. The wire will begin to curve in as you hammer.
Step 3. Once you reach the middle of your wire, slide on the Art Bead and switch sides so you are holding the curved side in your left hand now and hammering the straight side against the block. Repeat the same motion as previously so this side of the wire curves in also. You can create a sharper bend in the middle of the neck cuff by pushing in on both sides of the ends.
Step 4. Once the curve is to your liking, measure 1" from one end of the curved wire, mark this measurement with a sharpie pen. Grip this mark with your round nose pliers and bend the end of the wire towards the middle of the neck cuff to form a curve. Press in with the chain nose pliers to complete the loop. This will be the side the latch hooks into.
Step 5. The other side of the neck cuff can be curved in at 1" to form a simple latch. If you grip the latch in your chain nose pliers and turn it slightly to the side, it will easily slide into the curved loop, creating a secure clasp that will stay closed while the piece is being worn. The amazing thing is; you do not even feel the latch at the back of your neck!
My special clay Art Bead was a gift from the talented and most gracious Barbara Wukich, whom I would link you to but she does not sell online. It's special meaning is accented by the rattles inside the fired clay. This unique bead required a necklace that is as rustic and primitive but did not over power it. I choose to hold it in place on the neck cuff with strips of recycled sari silk and bound wire. A simple tassel of more silk, patina-ted chain and organic shaped bits of metal are hung next to the bead to add to it's wild, tribal charm.
The green patina on the brass is created by brushing on Verdigris, a traditional patina solution available here.
Now I just need a place to wear my tribal neck cuff! I hope you are encouraged to hammer out your own neck cuff from these instructions, I think you will be surprised at just how easy it is.
Much Love & Respect,
Much Love & Respect,
This project was originally posted on Art Bead Scene Blog in April 2010