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This article was posted in November of 2020

Rim Wire Hanger as 7 page pdf

Rim Wire Hanger

Main photo 

Main: A rim wire hanger.


I spent a significant amount of time in early 2020 working on lattice ornaments and the jigs to make them.  Some of the designs, as shown in Figure #1, look markedly different when hung in different orientations.  I thought it would be nice to let the user choose the orientation their self.  Some of the designs didnít have a reasonable place to drill to glue in a traditional hanger.  I thought that having wire wrapping around a groove turned in the rim of the ornament, then twisted and sharped into a hanger hook would solve both of these problems.  Finding a good way to get the spiral to start right at the rim took several attempts.  I liked the results I got after a few experiments so I thought I would share the process.  This method can be used for any disc-based ornament.

 Figure #1

Figure #1:  This lattice ornament looks different when hung in a different orientation.

A method to wrap the wire around the ornament and twist the wire into spiral is shown.  The wire lays better in the groove and spirals more uniformly if itís straightened (and work hardened) first.  Options for straightening wire are shown.  Ordinary diagonal cutters leave sharp ends and itís better if little Hannah doesnít cut her fingers trying to help decorate the tree, so several methods to overcome this problem are discussed.  Lastly, methods to adapt ordinary tools to wire working are shown.


While turning your ornament make a groove for the wire.  Itís easier to twist the spiral of the hanger if the groove is a full wire diameter deep.  A narrow parting tool works well for turning the groove.  If you want a groove that more closely matches the diameter of the wire, make a short parting tool of some steel the appropriate width.

Cut a piece of wire to make the hanger out of.  The wire needs to be enough to go around the disc, plus twice the length of hook you want, plus some extra for clamping in the vise.  For a 3Ē disc I use about 15Ē.  If you use a different size disc you can measure or calculate the circumference, then add 6Ē, or determine the length by trial and error. 

I usually use 20-gauge brass wire to form ornament hangers.  Use red or green 20-gauge craft wire (usually copper wire covered with colored epoxy) if you prefer holiday colors. 

Straighten the wire.  Then bend it into a loop with the ends meeting and clamp the ends in a vise.  Insert the ornament into the loop so that the wire is in the groove turned for it as in Figure #2.  Pull gently on the disc to keep the wire in place.

Gigure #2 

Figure #2:  Insert the ornament into a loop of wire.

Pinch the wire with your fingers and slide your fingers down the wire to the disc as in Figure #3.

Figure #3 

Figure #3:  Pinch the wire closed around the disc.

Now pinch the wire closed with a pair of pliers close to the rim, leaving room for a turn or two of wire spiral as in Figure #4.  Nylon jawed parallel jaw pliers are the best tool for this.  They will not mark the craft wire, even if slid along it.  See Soft Jawed Pliers for a homemade substitute for nylon jawed pliers.

Figure #4 

Figure #4:  Grab the wire with nylon jawed pliers a short distance from the rim.

Turn the disc two revolutions (remember which way you turn it) or until the gap between the disc and wire is closed, then release the pliers as in Figure #5.

Figure #5 

Figure #5:  After applying a couple of twists to the wire close to the rim.

Now turn the disc while maintaining a gentle pull until the spiral is formed.  Be sure to turn in the same direction.  Figure #6 shows the completed spiral.

Figure #6 

Figure #6:  After completing the spiral.

Remove the wire from the vise.  Wind the end around a convenient rod thatís about 1/2Ē in diameter until the loop is about as far from the rim as you wish, as in Figure #7  I usually use a Sharpie for this, which is a habit I developed well before the current partisan climate.

Figure #7 

Figure #7:  Form a loop around a rod.

Use the same rod to curve the wire below the loop the other way as in Figure #8.  The wire should be in a question mark shape.  Cut off the excess wire of the loop.  Itís best not to leave the wire ends sharp.  See Safety Ends.

Figure #8 

Figure #8:  Form a back curve.

I made a jig to bend the wire into the question mark shape.  It worked well with craft wire, but not as well with brass wire.  I screwed a spline to the back of a scrap wood block so I could secure it quickly in a vise.  I drilled half inch holes and glued dowels in.  See HookBendingJig.pdf for dowel locations.

To use the jig bring the top of the disc ornament against the bottom edge of the jig.  Curve the spiraled wire over the bottom dowel and then around the top dowel as shown in Figure #9.  Then cut excess wire off the loop.

Figure #9 

Figure #9:  Bend the hanger using a jig.

Straightening Wire

Straight off the roll, wire often has bends and kinks as shown if Figure #10.  The easiest way Iíve found to straighten brass wire is to clamp one end in a vise.  Hold the other end with pliers and pull until you feel the brass wire stretch a bit, as in Figure #11.  This will straighten and work harden the wire.

Figure #9 

Figure #10:  Wire right off the roll with curves.

Figure #11 

Figure #11:  Straighten the wire by pulling on it.

I found I could straighten craft wire by pulling on it, but sometimes it broke instead of straightening.  Another method of straightening wire is to use a pair of nylon jawed parallel jaw pliers.  You can easily adapt an ordinary pair of pliers for this task see Soft Jawed Pliers.  Place one end of the wire in a vise, squeeze the parallel jaws firmly, and draw over the wire as in Figure #12.

Figure #12 

Figure #12:  Straightening wire with nylon jawed parallel jaw pliers.

Figure #13 shows the wire after straightening.  Compare with Figure #10.

Figure #13 

Figure #13:  Straightened wire.


Safety ends

Ordinary diagonal cutters leave sharp ends when cutting wire.  Usually the harder the wire the sharper the remains from the cut.  Figure #14 shows a series of spiraled craft wire ends.  From left to right it shows a cut from diagonal cutters, a cut from flush cutters, a cut from diagonal pliers after filing, and a cut from diagonal pliers after sanding. 

Figure #14 

Figure #14:  From left to right a cut from diagonal cutters, a cut from flush cutters, a cut from diagonal pliers after filing, and a cut from diagonal pliers after sanding.

Flush Cutter

You can find flush cutters at a jewelerís supply.  You can also modify an ordinary pair of diagonal cutters to be flush cutters.  They generally leave a safe flat wire end only on the bottom of the cutter.  Do not use on steel wire.


If you donít think youíll make enough hangers to make it worth while to buy or make a special tool, you can use a chisel.  If you intend to shave with the chisel afterwards, youíll have to resharpen it.  Again, do not use on steel wire.

Clamp a scrap piece of wood in a vise with the end grain facing up.  Temporarily tape the hanger down so you donít have to chase it.  Hold a chisel vertically on the wire with the flat back of the chisel towards the hanger and bevel towards the waste.  Tap the chisel with a mallet to cut the wire as shown in Figure #15.  You may wish to experiment on wire scraps to see how hard of a tap is required. 

Figure #15 

Figure #15:  Cut a square wire end with chisel and mallet.


Another method for getting safe square wire ends is to cut the wire with ordinary diagonal pliers and then file or sand the ends smooth.  Particularly with craft wire, youíll need to back up the spiraled wire very close to the end.  Clamp a piece of scrap wood in a vise.  Position the ornament so that the wire end is close to the edge of the scrap wood and perpendicular to it.  Hold the wire in place with one hand (or use a soft jawed clamp) and file the end with the other hand as in Figure #16.  You can use a homemade sanding stick instead of a file.

Figure #16 

Figure #16:  File the cut wire ends straight across.

If you would like both hands to hold the file you can modify a pair of locking pliers to have soft jaws in the same fashion as for nylon jawed parallel pliers replacement.  Clamp the modified locking pliers in a vise leaving the locking arm free to move.  Clamp the ornament hanger in the soft jaws of the locking pliers close to the cut end.  Then use a file or sanding stick to flatten the wire ends as in Figure #17.

Figure #17 

Figure #17:  File the wire ends while holding the hanger in modified locking pliers.


Instead of making the wire ends safe for fingers you can cover them up by turning a tear drop shape with a drilled hole that fits on the end of the spiraled wire.  It also dresses up the hanger.

Start by rip sawing a small turning square, about 1/4Ē on a side.  Bandsawing the square is accurate enough.  Then cut blanks (making extra is prudent) 5/16Ē to 3/8Ē long.  Test various drill bits in scrap wood to find the size that will fit over your spiraled wire.  I used a #51 drill bit.  As the blank is oversize, drilling by hand is accurate enough.  When I tried holding the blank on my workbench, I had trouble seeing if I was centered on the blank because my fingers overlapped and obscured the top.  Avoid this by making a simple jig to hold the blank.  Find a wood scrap about 1/4Ē thick and cut a rectangle that will fit in your vise.  Cut a right-angled notch on one end about the size of your blanks as in Figure #18.  Figure #19 shows the jig with a blank in the notch.

Figure #18 

Figure #18:  Make a jig for drilling the blanks.

Figure #19 

Figure #19:  The jig with a blank in the notch.

Make a starting dimple for the drill with an awl or center punch as in Figure #20.  Use a piece of tape to create a depth indicator on your drill bit.  The drilling depth should be a sixteenth inch or so less than the final length of the teardrop.  Drill to that depth using the starting dimple as in Figure #21.

Figure #20 

Figure #20:  Make a starting dimple in the center of the blank.

Figure #21 

Figure #21:  Drill a hole the diameter of your spiral wire.

Make a mandrel for turning the teardrop.  Brass is a good material for the mandrel as itís sturdy but can be turned gently with ordinary woodturning tools and techniques.  I used 1/8Ē brass rod in a collet chuck.  You could use substitute a drill chuck with a draw bar for the collet chuck.  Chuck a piece of brass rod in your chuck.  Use a center drill to make a centered dimple for a cone tailstock center.  Bring up the tailstock for support.   Turn the lathe on at a moderate speed.  You can use a small skew (1/4Ē) to cut a taper making planing cuts.  If youíre not comfortable with a skew you could try a detail gouge.  Or just file.  The finished mandrel, is shown in Figure #22.  I tried to mimic the shape of the mandrel that worked well for Rainbow Peg Dolls, with a short section at the nose that was the diameter of the drilled hole.

Figusre #22 

Figure #22:  Brass mandrel.

Start the blank onto the mandrel.  Use a piece of scrap wood between your tailstock and the blank to avoid pushing the blank off center and push the blank onto the mandrel as in Figure #23.  Be prepared to split a few pennies worth of blanks until you get a feel for how firmly to advance the tailstock.  Back off the tailstock, remove the wood scrap, and engage the blank with your tailstock as in Figure #24.

 Figure #23

Figure #23:  Push the blank onto the mandrel with the tailstock and a piece of wood.

Figure #24 

Figure #24:  Bring the tailstock up for support.

Now turn the blank to round and down to the diameter you want your teardrop to be as in Figure #25.  I suggest using a 1/4Ē round skew for this.  Itís good practice (and you canít hardly have a scary catch).  You canít hog off wood with such a small mandrel and I find it easier to take light cuts with a small skew.  Use a detail spindle gouge if youíd rather.

Figure #25 

Figure #25:  Turn the blank round.

Turn a nub on the tailstock end as in Figure #26.  Then turn a teardrop shape as in Figure #27.  Next cut off the nub as in Figure #28.

Figure #26 

Figure #26:  Turn a nub on the blank.

Figure #27 

Figure #27:  Turn a teardrop shape.

Figure #28 

Figure #28:  Cut off the nub.

Sand and polish the teardrop as in Figure #29.  With something this small you can probably start sanding with a fine grit than usual.  When sanding the headstock end of the teardrop keep a finger near or on the tailstock end so that you donít eject the teardrop off the mandrel.  If your shop looks anything like mine itíll be hard to find.  Polish the tear drop with friction polish if desired.

Figure #29 

Figure #29:  Sand and polish the teardrop.


Remove the teardrop from the mandrel.  Dry fit the wire in the hole.  You may have to straighten out the last bit of the spiral wire.  Put a drop of CA glue on a piece of tape on your work surface.  Dip the hanger wire end in the CA glue, then press the teardrop on as in Figure #30.

 Figure #30

Figure #30:  The completed teardrop end hanger.


Soft Jaw Pliers

You can simply and reversibly modify an ordinary pair of pliers to substitute for nylon jawed pliers.  They wonít have parallel jaws throughout their whole range, but are parallel enough when holding wire.  Polypropylene is a tough, glue and heat resistant plastic.  You can buy sheets of it locally as flexible cutting mats if you want to take advantage of its glue resistance to make glue up jigs.  3M #77 spray adhesive will hold it onto a substrate although you can remove it if youíre determined.  However, the small amount required to convert a pair of pliers temporarily to soft jaws can easily be harvested from your recycling bin.  Dairy products are often packaged in polypropylene.  Look for the number 5 in the recycling triangle with PP underneath.  Donít assume the lid is made of the same plastic as the cup.

Cut a strip of polypropylene wider than the jaws of your pliers as in Figure #31.  Once youíve cut the strip out of the container (I cut a strip from just under the rim of my one quart yogurt container because that was the thickest part.  Try to find a piece at least 0.02Ē thick.)  Trim the strip so itís only slightly wider than the jaws.  Then fold the strip in half lengthwise as in Figure #32.

Figure #31 

Figure #31:  Cut out a strip of polypropylene.

Figure #32 

Figure #32:  Fold the strip in half.

Cut a piece of masking tape about 1/2Ē wide by 2Ē long.  Center the tape on the inside of the folded polypropylene strip.  Insert the folded strip into the jaws of your pliers and then wrap the tape around a jaw as in Figure #33.  Donít insert the strip so far in that the jaws wonít fully close.  And donít get tape over the portion of the strip overlaying the straight part of the jaws.  Lastly trim the polypropylene so that it only sticks out a little from the end of the jaws as in Figure #34.

Figure #33 

Figure #33: Tape the polypropylene strip to one jaw of the pliers.

Figure #34 

Figure #34:  Trim the polypropylene strip close to the end of the jaws.

You can modify a pair of locking pliers in the same fashion to use to hold wire for filing or sanding.

Flush Cutter

You can modify a pair of ordinary diagonal cutters to cut ends straight across on wire.  Grind the bottom of the cutter jaws until the bottom bevel has been removed.  The cutters will then leave a flat wire end on the side facing the bottom that should not require any additional work to be finger safe.  Do not use on steel wire or it will nick the jaws  Figure #35 and Figure #36 show the modified diagonal cutters from the back and end on respectively.

Figure #35 

Figure #35:  Modified diagonal cutters from the back.

Figure #36 

Figure #36:  Modified diagonal cutters looking from the end.

Sanding Stick

You can make an abrasive file to sand wire ends straight across.  I used 1/4Ē hardboard.  It has to be fairly thin to fit inside the loop of the hanger.  Cut a piece about 7Ē long by 3/4Ē wide.  Cut or sand one end rounded over so sharp corners wonít dig into your hand in use.  Optionally cover one side with blue tape to make changing abrasive easier.  Cut or tear a strip of cloth backed abrasive around 180 grit to fit on the holder.  Spray the back of the abrasive with 3M #77 spray adhesive.  Wait a few minutes and then press the abrasive down on the taped portion of the holder.  The completed abrasive file is shown in Figure #37.

Figure #37 

Figure #37:  An abrasive file.