Wire work is a way of connecting individual beads or group or beads using wire bent into shape.
If you are interested in wire work, definitely invest in good tools. I recommend buying them in a bead store, rather than a hardware store, to make sure you get tools with the right size and construction for bead work. Make sure you get pliers with box joints rather than screw joints. They will be more durable and work more accurately.
Another way of making jewelry with beads is linking them together with wire. This technique is called wire work. Wire work greatly increases the options you have for creating interesting beaded jewelry. In fact, jewelry can be created entirely with wire.
You only need a few tools to get started with this technique and they are highly portable. All you'll basically need is a small wire cutter, a needle-nosed pliers, and flat-nosed pliers.
Kate Drew-Wilkinson, the author of the Complete Guide to Wire Work for Bead Jewelry, also recommends a bent or curved chain nose pliers, which I must confess I don't have in my beading toolbox. But after reading her description of the tool's uses (attaching hooks to earrings, closing crimp beads, etc.), I think I'll add it!
The findings you'll need to do wire work include the head pin, the eye pin, and the jump ring. You'll also need to familiarize yourself with various earring findings (for both pierced and unpierced styles), and clasps.
We're going to do an extremely simple wire-and-bead project called the Wire Bead Star. This can be a Christmas ornament or simply something pretty to hang anywhere you want a celestial reminder.
Project: Wire Bead Star
Age: 7 and up
Materials needed: 20-gauge wire, round-nosed pliers, flat-nosed side cutters, beads of your choice (rocailles, tri-cuts, and crystal beads work well)
Cut a 12-inch length of 20-gauge wire. Make a small loop at one end with a pair of pliers.
Each side of the star will have seven beads. To create the first side, put on seven beads and push close to the loop on the end.
Bend the wire at a sharp angle and thread the next seven beads on the wire. Bend sharply. Repeat the process until you have a five- or six-pointed star.
Close the other end of the wire with a loop. Lay one loop over the other and align the two loops. Make a hook out of wire or use a pre-made one, inserting the bottom of the hook through the two wire loops of the star. Close the loop.
Hang the star. You can make your own hook out of wire, use an ornament hook, or hang it with thread.
In addition to Kate Drew-Wilkinson's book, I also recommend The Best Little Beading Book. This is a comprehensive guide to beading and has some good projects using a variety of wire work techniques, plus peyote, stringing, and anything else you might want to try.