Thursday, November 6, 2008

releasing the wire within

As you know, I'm all about crafting with recycled materials.

But I was a bit naughty with those wire bracelets I made recently...

bracelet knit bracelet

My beads were reclaimed from old and broken jewellery pieces, but... I was working with... gasp... shock... horror... NEW WIRE! But I promise you, it was just an experiment - so that I could 'get a feel' for working with crafting/jewellery wire, and then decide if I wanted to recycle some... or walk away from the wire and move on to something else. Also, I wanted to have a comparison point for when I started using recycled wires. If I knew what I needed for a successful project then I could start looking around at sources, and determine fairly quickly if a particular wire was suitable or not.

You might remember that a while back Mr Goldfish brought home some electrical cable from work, which he thought I might be able to use in my craft. Yes... that man knows the way to my heart! The cable was too short to be useful to them, but I was sure I could use it for something.

solenoid cable

Well, my first task was to strip back the green casing, to release the seven cores of cable inside. I kid you not... that job took me two hours!!! Unlike the telephone cables which just peel back like a banana, this needed to be sliced inch by inch with a sharp knife.

coloured rolls

Here you can see six of those seven cables. That's right... it took me TWO HOURS just to get to this point... but wait, it gets worse!


Releasing the copper wires was even tougher. Same process of slicing away with a craft knife, but working on a much finer cable this time. It took me FOUR MORE HOURS to reclaim the copper wires from inside ONE coloured cable.

knife choice

I tried a couple of different craft knives. The smaller one was actually more effective, but every now and then I would switch to the other one when my wrist was getting sore from holding the same position all the time.

So... just doing some mental gymnastics with the maths here - it would take approximately 30 hours in total to retrieve all of the copper wire from the original cable. Please, please, please... if you have tried this before and know of a better (and faster) technique you simply must share it with me!

One thing I will try next time, is to leave the cable in a sunny window for an hour or so before slicing. Hopefully it will be easier to remove if softened a little first.

copper on bottle

This is the copper! There are seven strands in each coloured cable. Seven coloured cables in total... So I will end up with 49 of these rolls to work with. Oh, and a 2L soft drink bottle was the perfect size and shape to wind the wire on to. That's how I shaped those coloured cables in the earlier photograph, too.


Did I mention it is hard on the hands, too? Lots of little cuts from peeling off the hard plastic coating, and a very sore wrist from slicing so firmly. Oh... and a bit messy, too. I probably could have found a more appropriate spot to work than the middle of the formal lounge room.

Just thinking aloud here... the cable I used is designed to run outdoors, over long distances, sometimes underground... therefore it is supposed to be tough and durable. So it makes sense that it was hard to get in to. Perhaps I need to experiment some more with different types of cables.

Anyway. This one will yield enough wire to make 49 bracelets. So that's a little more than half an hour retrieval time for each bracelet. Maybe it's not so bad when you look at it that way...

So I'm not trying to put anyone off this recycling caper... in fact, I really do encourage it... I'm just sharing my experiences... good, bad and otherwise... so that you know what you might be in for.

I'm off to have a play with this wire now... check back tomorrow to see how I go with it


Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

I have actually bought various length of wire from the hardware stores and opened it up for the wire inside to make garden bling.

Anonymous said...

I just love the bracelet, and also the randomness of the beading. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, Purple you have a lot and I mean ALOT! more patients than I. I can't wait to see the results of all your hard work.

Astaryth said...

What about wire strippers? I used to work in a place that dealt with Fiber Optic cable, and sometimes we would need to release the fiber optics from the cable. These are pretty delicate and encased much like your copper wire. We would strip little bits at a time till the whole piece was free.... It may not work for this wire, but it's worth a try. said...

I'm in awe of your dedication.

Anabelle said...

my hubs is an electrician. is yours?

that's an awful lot of copper wire to use for crafts. If you bring it to a recycling center, you can get up to a 1.5 per pound.

That's just a whole lot of very expensive copper to use on crafts... just a thought!

Anabelle said...

I also noticed that your pictures are cut off on the right hand side. My layout used to be the same way. I found an article on how to fix it... if your interested let me know, and I'll send you the link :)

Treselaine said...

Some advice for making wire stripping easier: put it in the sun so that the plastic casing gets warm, it's easier to strip (not a lot easier, but not AS time consuming). Love your work!

Anonymous said...

I've never thought about turning old electrical cables into jewelry. Thats an amazing idea!

Alicia @ Oh2122 said...

Yippe! Finally! A use for the scads of wire my computer-ly inclined Hubby hoards!

I am so excited!

Beth said...

Wire strippers are good, but if you're not careful you can accidently cut the wire.
Putting the cable in the sun for a while sounds like a great idea.

laughing purple goldfish said...

crafty gardener - thanks so much for the tip... I can definitely see a garden bling project in my future

stra - thanks sweetie :)

jacqui - alas, I only have patience for certain things...

astaryth - at this point anything is worth a try... thanks for the tip!

rachel - awwww.... (blush)

anabelle - mr goldfish is not an electrician, so it's not to often he brings these surprises home for me :( however, there is a cable guy living next door... hmmm... might need to pay him a visit soon :)

as for the picture cutting off... it drives me INSANE!!!! would love to see that article. thanks

treselaine - thanks... will definitely try the sun thing next time... much appreciated

molly - I'm always looking for new ways to craft with recycled materials... yet I'm sure I miss so many possibilities, too

oh2122 - your hubby will think you have lost the plot! oh well... join the club :)

beth - thanks for the warning... would not want to go cutting or even nicking the wire

Sining said...

Oh wow, I'd love to see the creations you'll make with those wires. :D

shilpa said...

I love the bracelets..Wow you have some amazing patience!!! I am trying to teach myself wire jewelery making..and I love your site..Will visit often!

Cats-Rockin-Crochet said...

Dear, dear Purple, there are wire strippers that will make this process much easier. Making a cut notch in one place the another, you will be able to just pull the plastic off, your muscles may grow slightly in the process. LOL. Well done, can you get your hands on welding wire too? The brass type. I have some but it is a thicker guage than the smaller guage you need. More food for thought.

Erica Ortiz said...

Aaaah finally! Somewhere my auto-enthusiasm can be put to good use.

these would be your new best friend for stripping wire:

Wire Strippers

labibliotecaria said...

Wonder if you could melt the plastic (outdoors, of course!) without melting the wire.

laughing purple goldfish said...

iamvirna - stay tuned to this blog... I'll be telling you all about them... I have a number of projects in mind already, and I'm sure more will come my way soon :)

shilpa - please do! and all the best with your own endeavours

cat - I can see you shaking your head as you say that... lol...

erica - thanks for the link... am DEFINITELY looking in to the wire cutters... much appreciated

labibliotecaria - melting sounds messy, but softening is definitely a good plan, thanks

bratarmy29 said...

hi there, i just stumbled across your blog, and can i just say, ouch. who would've known getting wire could be that painful. But as can be seen in your later posts, it was definitely worth it. the bracelets you made are beautiful. i look forward to more great ideas from you

laughing purple goldfish said...

bratarmy - there's a very thin line between great ideas and insanity, I think :)

Kanchan Karai said...

Phew!!! You have lots of patience and willingness. You are a great artist.

Kristy said...

i pondered your problem a bit, and my husband and i came up with a proposed solution for you.

i don't know how much wire strippers cost, but here's a way to fashion something of your own (possibly out of recycled materials, depending what you have around). and ideally, this would save strain on your hands, too.

if you try it, please let me know how it worked out! i've been thinking of giving wire crochet a try, and knowing i can reclaim my own wire would make it even more tempting.

laughing purple goldfish said...

kanchan - thank you so much

kristy - are you an absolute treasure! I showed your diagram to Mr Goldfish, and apparently it is a very similar concept to one he had in mind... he started muttering about the differences... something about only needing a half circle... but he kind of lost me somewhere in there!
anyway... thanks so much for taking the time to put that together, and sharing it... I will definitely blog about it if we head down that path... thanks for being such an involved reader :) much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love your creations. They are gorgeous.

My dad strips alot of cable and leaving it in the sun to soften is a must to make it easier to stip. The other thing he does is anchors one end with a some kind of clamp. Then he pulls the other end until the wire is taut and runs the blade along the length of it. The casing is then easy to pull off. Hope this helps. It's quick and relaxing work;outdoors. And believe it or not, my son loves to do it too.

Hope this helps. I'd love to hear how your other "tool" works.

laughing purple goldfish said...

anonymous - another suggestion... thanks so much... it's been a fabulous insight to hear what techniques other people are using :)

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me about This.

Crystal said...

Thank you so much for this awesome idea. I told my husband after I read this post to save the cord when ever an appliance stops working. I get to have taking the cord apart from our microwave that stopped working. My neighbor's vacuum cleaner became unsafe since spark plugs started flying. I told her don't throw the vacuum cleaner away until I can get the electric cord. My husband says there aren't any copper wire in these cords I told him that there is. I will be using his leatherman tool to get the electric cord off the microwave and vacuum cleaner.

Saumya said...

Hi there, just stumbled upon your blog. I was researching crochet ruffled scarf on youtube and eventually landed here LOL.. Firstly I must say that we have the 'want' to recycle our stuff in common. Kudos for the effort you put in to recycle cables. I have a suggestion for you to help take the plastic covering with much more ease. I use a candle in order to do this. You basically melt about 5-6 inches of the plastic at a time and using an old hand towel immediately clean the melted plastic off. It is much easier when you have to skin so much of the wire. Give it a try. Good luck!

Negi said...

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Purple Amazing