Crimps are small metal beads that can be flattened to fix clasps onto the end of jewellery or to fix beads in place on a floating necklace or bracelet. They are one of the basic findings that are regularly used in jewellery-making and are therefore an essential part of the toolbox. They are really easy to use and all you need is either a pair of needle-nose pliers or crimping pliers.
There are 2 main types of crimps: Beads or Tubes. From my own experience, I find that there's not much difference between the two types apart from a slight difference in appearance. Crimp tubes offer a more symmetrical square finish when flattened and crimp beads are more rectangular once flattened.
To work with them, you need either a pair of needle-nose pliers or a pair of crimping pliers. Again, which type of tool you use is down to personal preference. Crimping pliers is a tool which folds the crimp in half before flattening it down; this makes the crimp less noticeable on finished jewellery. For myself, I simply use a pair of needle-nose pliers because crimps are available in different sizes and I prefer using a smaller crimps anyway (usually 2mm crimp beads) so I don't find this method produces particularly bulky results - I'm also a bit lazy and find the needle-nose pliers more convenient to use!
I will go through both methods though as they each have their own merits. I'd love to know which method is more popular too so please leave a comment below if you have a preference. (Or if there's another way to use crimps that I haven't mentioned here!)
Making a Necklace or Bracelet
I’m going to demonstrate this using the needle-nose pliers first. If you want, you can skip this bit and read about the crimping pliers further down the page.
When beading, there are usually two main types of thread that are used: Tiger wire or Nylon (unless you’re bead-weaving, in which case, Nymo is the preferred thread because it is more supple). I am going to use tiger wire just so it can show up better in the photographs but you can use crimps when you are working with either threads. Again, it is down to personal preference which thread you use but tiger wire is generally the stronger thread as it has a wire core which makes it more suitable for heavier jewellery or sharper beads such as semi-precious stones.
To start, always cut more thread than you need so you have something to work with. I always add at least another 10cm on top of whatever length jewellery I'm making.
Once you have cut the thread that you are using down to size, the first thing you need to do is add on the crimp bead or tube...
...before threading on your clasp…
…before looping the end of your thread (about 3 cm) back through the crimp.
You then use your pliers to take hold of the crimp and position it so that the loop that is formed is not too large but still has enough space for the clasp to swing from.
Once you are happy with where your crimp is, flatten the crimp with your pliers. This will fix the end of your jewellery down. You can give it a tug and it shouldn’t move – if it does, then you haven’t flattened the crimp enough. If that happens, just reposition the crimp and give it another squeeze with the pliers.
This part is important – don’t cut the excess thread off yet! Always thread the excess thread through at least 3 or 4 beads as you add beads to your jewellery. This will hide the end of your thread within the beads. (I will explain why you do this later)
Now you can build on your necklace or bracelet. Once you’ve added on all your beads, you basically repeat the same thing again - add on your crimp and the other end of your clasp...
...and loop the thread back through the crimp and through 3 or 4 of the beads again. If there is a large gap between the beads, you will need to work on tightening the thread until there is only about a 5mm gap available – you need a small gap so that you can bend the necklace or bracelet, otherwise the thread will snap when you try to wear it.
Once you’re happy with it, you can fix it down by flattening again with the needle-nose pliers. At this point, you can cut off any excess thread...and there you have a completed bracelet!
Now, I mentioned a few times already to thread the end of your stringing material back through 3 or 4 beads to cover up the end. The reason for this is because the end of the thread can be quite stiff (especially with nylon and tiger wire) and if you do not hide that sharp end within the beads, it will be really uncomfortable for the wearer. This is a really common mistake – I have bought ready-made necklaces in the past which I have ended up re-stringing because the end of the thread kept scratching the back of my neck which quickly became really, really sore!
Also, if you do this and you make the mistake of not fixing the crimp down securely enough, your jewellery will come apart very easily and it will be too short for you to easily fix.
To summarize, don’t cut the thread right up against the crimp!
If you are making jewellery where there are no beads for you to thread the nylon or tiger wire back into (for example, floating necklaces), then you should use calottes to finish.
Using Crimping Pliers
Crimping Pliers are designed specifically to finish crimps. They can be used for either crimp beads or crimp tubes. It is not one size fits all though and you do need to find out which size crimps are required for the pliers that you buy. The one being used here is specifically for 2mm to 3mm crimps.
As you can see from the image above, crimping pliers have two gaps. The ‘n’ shaped gap (which we refer to as ‘Station 1’) is used first to make an indentation on the crimp and the second, oval gap (Station 2) is used to fold down the crimp.
So, to use the crimping pliers:
1) Firstly, make sure the crimp is in the right position on your necklace or bracelet, then place station 1 of your crimpling pliers over the crimp and press down firmly to create an indentation on the crimp – make sure you don’t press too hard though otherwise the crimp will break and crumble when you fold it .
2) Once you’ve made the indentation, move the crimp onto station 2 and press down slowly and firmly – This will fold the crimp and fix it in place. (You can press down more firmly at this point because if you don’t, the finish won’t be very secure)
And that’s it. If you feel that it’s not firmly fixed in place, it is probably because you have not pressed down hard enough or the crimps are too small for the pliers. If that is the case, either squeeze on the crimp again with the needle-nose pliers or try using slightly larger crimps.
Here’s an idea of what the end product should look like -
Crimps are a really useful finding to have ready in your toolbox. I usually keep a range of sizes handy for when I’m working with thicker or thinner nylon or tiger wire. And you don’t have to use them just to finish off beaded jewellery - I like to use the small crimps (1mm) for making floating necklaces.
Well, that's everything you need to know about crimps. Thanks for reading.