Practicing with Craft Wire & other questions

I got the following email asking:
"I have been looking at your tutorials and just wondered, where you say to use a certain gauge and soft wire, half hard wire etc. are you talking about sterling silver (if i’m doing silver) or just craft wire of the same gauge? Can you buy craft wire in different hardnesses? This is totally unfamiliar grounds to me and if I could practice using cheap wire then that would be preferable. Your work is gorgeous and looks really fantastic, I would love to have a go at the challenge."

Here's the answer to the "Pracicing with Wire" question:

Wire comes in different gauges (thickness) and tempers (hardness).
About gauges: the higher the number gauge, the thinner it is. I use the values between 16ga and 28ga. The thin 28 ga is almost like a thick fiber, it's very pliable.

About tempers: The wire can be pretty hard and springy, or very soft and pliable. The totally hard wire is almost impossible to make jewelry with, because you can't barely bend it at all. So a lot of people use "half-hard" for jewelry. I like using the more pliable soft (also called "dead-soft"), because it's easier to coil and form complex shapes. As you manipulate the wire, it becomes springier and harder, almost like half-hard. So that's why I like to start with the softer wire. Here is a page on tempers: Wire Temper by Soft Flex Company

All this refers to silver and gold filled wire. As for craft wire, it comes in different gauges too, but normally not in different hardnesses with few exceptions. If you practice with cheaper wire, it will feel a teeny bit softer or just different than sterling silver. I do recommend practicing with craft wire if you have never done anything, it will make you feel less guilty and frustrated if you make mistakes (and you will probably make them for sure).

I have a box which I call the "cemetery", which has tons of ugly things that I practiced with craft wire. It reminds me that it takes a long time to learn. Practice any design THREE TIMES before expecting good results!

2006, ArchiveEni Oken