Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About SoftFlex

Although the jewelry-making “family tree” has dozens of branches (including soldering, fusing, and PMC, just to name a few), probably the most well-known jewelry-making branch would be the one of stringing beads into necklaces and bracelets. Bead stringing is relatively quick & easy — it’s the designing that can be tricky! — but what really makes it pleasurable is working with the right materials. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours designing and constructing a necklace or bracelet, only to have it break after a few wears due to inferior-quality stringing material. Luckily, there is a product whose quality we have relied not just since we opened Blue Door Beads, but since we started beading over 20 years ago: SoftFlex Beading Wire.

SoftFlex is one of those products that is ubiquitous in the beading industry, and for good reason. Their patented cord, comprised of woven stainless steel wires coated with heavy-duty nylon, is one of the most durable materials a beader can string with. However, there are so many variations that it can be hard for beaders to know which variety is best for each of their jewelry projects. We have always told our customers and students in our Basic Stringing class that the general rule of thumb is to use the thickest SoftFlex cord that can fit all of the beads in their jewelry piece. Although this is true, there are quite a few factors you may want to consider the next time you sit down to string up a beading design.

Fortunately for you — and us! — SoftFlex recently posted a series of incredibly helpful and informative YouTube videos to help beaders feel confident in their SoftFlex decision-making! Posted below are links to their videos; the first few are the ones we felt were the best “crash courses” in basic SoftFlex facts, with some additional design inspiration. The last link is the longest video; it bundles all of the shorter videos together, including a few not linked here, in case you’d like to absorb all of the SoftFlex info all at once!

Crash Courses & Inspiration:

Choosing The Right Diameter Of Soft Flex Beading Wire

Choosing The Right Brand Of Soft Flex Beading Wire

Various Ways To Use Soft Flex Beading Wire

The full-length video (approximately 40 minutes):

Beading Basics With Soft Flex Company

The SoftFlex Company is based in Sonoma, California, and we are proud to support a local business. SoftFlex helps our customers bead happily and boldly — thanks SoftFlex!


Learning to Speak the Language – Part 3: Tools of the Trade

Back in October, we published our second post in our Learn the Language series, and it was all about bead styles and shapes. Then the holiday season hit, and we got quite busy (woo hoo!) so we didn’t get the chance to shower you with great facts and helpful tips about jewelry-making terminology. But fear not — we’re back in the blogging game, and this week we’ll be talking about jewelry-making tools, so get ready to start making a list of cool tools you’ll want to add to your stash!

The Basics for Stringing and Wire Work
The following tools are what we consider to be the absolute essentials when it comes to jewelry-making. They’ll get you where you need to go when it comes to basic stringing projects, as well as creating earrings and wirework necklaces or bracelets — and beyond! Most, if not all, of these tools can be found for under $15, and they are well worth the moderate investment.

Photo courtesy of The Bead Smith.

Chain Nose Pliers
These are a crucial, all-purpose pair of jewelry pliers. It’s best to purchase a pair of chain nose pliers meant for jewelry-making as opposed to those meant for household projects because 1) the jaws are smaller, making them easier to use for fine work and 2) the inside of the jaws are smooth, unlike most pliers one can find in a hardware store. Smooth jaws won’t scrape beads or mar soft wire, such as sterling silver and gold-filled.
Uses: wrapping wire, holding onto small components, tucking wire ends in.

Photo courtesy of The Bead Smith.

Round Nose Pliers
These are what we consider to be our primary “loop-makers,” although you can also use them to hold jewelry pieces in place and keep an already-existing loop round. They are ideal for creating loops on headpins or eyepins, one of the most important steps in making earrings and other wire jewelry.
Uses: creating wire loops, rounding out an existing loop that’s been smushed, holding components

Photo courtesy of The Bead Smith.

Flush Cutters
When beading, you should always have a pair of flush cutters handy for two reasons: one, scissors won’t work for cutting stiff wire, or even beading cord made with flexible wires (such as SoftFlex or Beadalon), and two, any time you cut wire, the part you leave behind should have a blunt (flush) tip, not a sharp tip that can scrape your skin, catch your hair, or snag fabric.
Uses: cutting Craft Wire, sterling wire, gold-filled wire, woven beading wire (SoftFlex, Beadalon, etc.)

Photo courtesy of The Bead Smith.

Crimping Pliers
When it comes to finishing off a project using SoftFlex/Beadalon, nothing beats the strength and security you will achieve by using crimping pliers with your crimp beads! Crimping pliers have a unique set of jaws with two notches, each very crucial to the crimping process. (Simply do a search on Pinterest for “crimping pliers” and numerous how-to videos will pop up.) Crimping just takes a little bit of practice — you’ll be making secure necklaces & bracelets in no time!
Uses: attaching/anchoring crimp beads to Softflex or Beadalon beading cord.

That’s all for this week, but stay tuned for Part 4: Specialty Tools of the Trade!

All photos courtesy of The Bead Smith.

Flex Your Power!

There are heaps of different types of cord in the beading industry: waxed linen, leather, Nymo, and Fireline, just to name a few. However, the cord we return to time and time again for the majority of our beading needs is SoftFlex. We have tried other brands of flexible beading wire, and we have found that, when it comes to flexibility & durability, SoftFlex stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest.

With their wide range of diameters & colors, SoftFlex offers one of the most extensive selections of cord we have ever seen. But how do you know which cord is appropriate for your project? We’re glad you asked! 🙂

This is a great cord for beaders just starting out who aren’t sure if they want to make beading a full-time hobby. We say that because, although Econoflex (like all cord in the SoftFlex family) is comprised of thin, steel wires woven together and coated with nylon, it has the fewest number of metal strands woven together. That means it is the least flexible type of SoftFlex, and so it is prone to kinking more than other styles. However, as its name indicates, it is the least expensive cord SoftFlex makes, and it’s a heck of a lot better than stringing your beads on fishing line or (gasp!) dental floss. (We understand that there are very few options for stringing materials at summer camp, but it’s time for an upgrade, people.)

Regular SoftFlex comes in several diameters:

Photo courtesy of caravanbeads.blogspot.com.

Photo courtesy of caravanbeads.blogspot.com.

Very Fine – .010 inches in diameter (Use 1x1mm crimps to fininsh.)
This diameter is only found in the SoftTouch style of SoftFlex. Being that it is very fine, it cannot withstand a lot of weight before it kinks and, eventually, breaks. The folks at SoftFlex recommend it only be used for sewing, crocheting, knitting, and weaving. Other diameters in the SoftTouch family (see below) are better suited for necklaces and bracelets.

Photo courtesy of Rare Find Jewelry by Cindy Lou on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of Rare Find Jewelry by Cindy Lou on Etsy.

Fine – .014 inches (Use 1.5×1.5mm  or 2x2mm crimps to finish, giving each crimp and extra squish.)
This diameter is designed for softer, less abrasive materials such as fresh water pearls and seed beads. As SoftFlex states, “Diameter .014 offers the softness and flexibility of pearl stringing threads, yet has the strength of stainless steel.” It is best not to use heavy beads with this diameter; as a good rule of thumb, avoid .014 if you are stringing beads that are larger than 8mm.

Photo courtesy of ArtfulHummingbird on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of ArtfulHummingbird on Etsy.

Medium – .019 inches (Use 2×2 crimps to finish.)
This diameter is our favorite! Medium works well with small to medium glass beads, gemstones, crystals, metal beads, and the majority of freshwater pearls and seed beads. We recommend using this diameter when you are designing with a variety of materials.

Photo courtesy of Rocktoplois on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of Rocktopolis on Etsy.

Heavy – .024 inches (Use 2.5×2.5 crimps to finish.)
This diameter is designed for abrasive materials (it has the thickest coating of nylon applied to the woven wires) and “designs that will meet excessive movement such as watch bands, bracelets, belts and purse straps.” It is great for large, heavy beads, such as lampwork glass and large gemstones.

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company.

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company.

SoftFlex Metallics and SoftFlex Colors
These two subcategories of SoftFlex are manufactured in the same way as the other Fine-through-Heavy SoftFlex cords, with one exception: the nylon coating on the outside of the woven wires has had color added. This is a permanent color and will not bleed. It is ideal for woven and floating-style pieces where you want the cord to show, or if you have somewhat translucent beads and you don’t like the idea of having the standard, gray color of regular SoftFlex to show.

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company

The fanciest of the SoftFlex family, this subcategory also comes in SoftFlex’s full range of diameters, but what makes ExtremeFlex so nifty is that the woven wires underneath the nylon coating have been plated with precious metals! These cords are shimmery silver & gold because they have real silver and gold in them. Don’t worry about the plating wearing off: you’d have to scrape through the entire layer of nylon to get to the wires, then scrape the electroplating off of the wires. In other words, it would be darn near impossible. We recommend using ExtremeFlex for the same kind of projects where you’d use the Metallics or Colors. Covering up such lovely (and somewhat pricey) cord would be a waste!

We hope you find this guide helpful, and that you have great success with all of your beading projects. Flex your beading power!