Metalsmith: Straighten A Crooked Balled Rivet

Balling up the end of a wire for rivets, findings or decorative elements is one of the first things a metalsmith learns. It’s a fun and rewarding activity, though there’s a bit of a knack to it. The wire needs to be in the hottest part of the flame. You can’t dwell too long or stop too early. You can’t stop part way through and then resume without lowering the odds of success. Always hold the wire straight down so that gravity can help.

In spite of our best efforts, sometimes there’s a problem.

  • The ball doesn’t form or only forms a little = too short a time in the flame, too short a wire, holding pliers too close to where ball should form, too large a wire gauge to heat ratio.
  • The ball isn’t round = probably too long in the flame.
  • The ball falls off = waaaaaaay too long in the flame.
  • The ball is pitted = using the wrong part of the flame, or an inferior alloy such as brass.
  • The ball is on the side of the wire = either too short in the flame or not holding wire straight down.

That last one can be frustrating, but it’s easy to fix (mostly).

That’s it! Now, go back through all your old balled wires and see if you can fix any of them.

January 27, 2017
Crooked balled rivet fixes
Crooked balled rivet fixes