Tag Archives: chain making

Chain making mania

I have it.

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And now I can’t stop even though they take ages to make

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And it means my prices will have to go up

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And I’ll never sell anything any more

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But they give so much more depth to the pendants that I don’t think I can turn back now.

Man!

Off to make another one

I’ve got water and protein bars stocked up so if you don’t hear from me for a while I think I’ll be o.k.

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I’m a jump right in person. You?

Of course this doesn’t always go according to plan.

I’m just a little too impatient to read all the books and watch all the YouTube how too’s.

I just like to look at the pictures and wing it.

So I’ve made a few of no go’s over the years, and that’s o.k. as sometimes new ideas come from them.

I tell you this as I just want to remind you that, for most of the time, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I would hate for you to think that I have the best advice out there, even reasonably o.k. advice.

But I just love making stuff and think that if you want to have a go at something you should just do it without thinking you have to be some kind of expert at it who never makes mistakes.

Here’s a mistake.

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19 gauge sterling silver wire using an 8mm mandrel.

Oh yes, it looks all fine and dandy I know, but it’s stiff and lifeless.

The gauge of wire is too thick for the diameter of the ring and the chain can’t move freely.

Now, I know that when you’re using rings to make a chain you need to know the ratio between the wire gauge and the diameter of the ring.

Yep. I know that.

But when I want to make something and I get excited I ain’t got no time to go looking for a chart or read the books, so I eyeball it, make a wish, and have a go.

Don’t try this at home folks.

Actually I wasn’t far off. I think half a millimeter may have done it.

Or maybe one.

(See, I’m doing it again.)

Don’t do it people!

Get a chart.

(I haven’t found a chart yet but I’m looking.)

If you have a chart I want one in millimeters, not fractions. I can’t be doing with all of that 5/16 stuff unless you’ve also got a chart for turning 16th’s into millimeters.

Math is NOT fun for me.

Web surfing is, however, so I’m off to find my chart as soon as I finish up here.

So the chain wasn’t a waste of time really, because I also decided that sterling silver hurt my fingers too much. But using sterling silver wasn’t a waste of time either as I soldered each link perfectly, not always a regular occurrence, so that was pure satisfaction right there.

See.

So next up I made another chain, this time using 20 gauge fine silver with the 8mm mandrel.

Much better, but I’m going to make another today using the 8.5 mandrel.

You should have a go if you haven’t yet.

It’s fun.

And the sense of accomplishment having made your own chain is a wonderful thing.

Warning: I may have mentioned that I still haven’t got ‘the chart’ so you might want to wait until you, or I, find one or I actually make a chain that’s perfect.

Don’t hold your breath on that last part.

So.

Single Loop Chain.

(This is going to be boring for people who already do this, so stop reading now unless you need a nap)

20 gauge fine silver 8mm mandrel

Make your jump rings and fuse them together.

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I use a hard charcoal block for this.

The most important thing to remember when fusing silver is to make sure that you have no gaps in-between the two parts you are fusing together. The join has to be completely touching. If you have any gap at all, however tiny, the ring may fuse, but you can end up with a thin area of the ring which will be weaker than the rest of it.

So preparation is key.

Place the rings on the block with the joins all facing the same way. If you’ve done your job right and the ends are flush against each other it can be really hard to see where the join is so this eliminates that problem.

You want your flame to be a little softer than perhaps you usually use so you can turn down the pressure on your regulator a little to get it to a nice balance that will heat the silver, but isn’t so fierce that it melts it.

Now keep the flame moving around the ring until you see it just start to change, then quickly hover it over the join and take it away immediately the silver flows.

Keep the flame there too long and it will melt into a ball. Then you just continue to melt the ring and add it to your ball collection.

This might grow considerably as you practice.

It’s o.k. ;)

You want to keep the flame moving around the ring as the whole ring should be brought to the same temperature. If you get a gap, or a thin area, where the join is you either had a gap there to begin with or you have heated one side of the ring a little more than the other and the silver has gathered there pulling itself away from the join.

It’s just practice.

You don’t need any solder or flux to fuse these fine silver rings together.

Now you are going to stretch the rings out using a pair of round nose pliers.

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Try to keep the rings at the same place on the pliers each time you stretch one as you want your shape to be as consistent as possible. I use the tips about 2mm down. You can mark the pliers with a sharpie or tape if you need to.

It’s at this point in the game that you’ll discover if your joins are fused properly.

It’s good to find this out now rather than later, so either re-fuse the broken ones or add them to your ball collection.

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Now squeeze the middle together.

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And bend them in the center.

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Use a length of wire, (I’ve used copper here), to anchor one end of the link and push the top ends together.

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Now you can slide another link into the first.

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To do this you may have to squeeze one end of the second link together slightly so that it fits through the hoop in the top of the first link.

sorry about the photo.

sorry about the photo.

Also you can push an awl, or your center punch, through the hoop you wish to thread the next one into to widen it slightly.

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Now you just continue to make the chain until you get to the length you need.

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Once it’s completed, anneal the chain by gently running the flame backward and forward over it until the surface of the silver just changes slightly, and then quench it.

For the next part you’ll need a draw plate.

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I bought mine HERE, but you can find them anywhere, and any kind will do. I just drilled a hole through an old piece of wood before mine arrived.

Once the chain is annealed pull it through the draw plate to even up the links and make it look beautiful.

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You just want to even up everything at this point and not stretch it so be careful which hole you pull it through.

The chain will be crunchy afterward so just loosen it up in your fingers and then voilà!

You are done.

Finish it however you prefer, I like to blacken mine, and then make something extraordinary with it.

Go on. You know you want to.

:)

P.S. Remember Ann Cahoon has a great visual tutorial on chain making – HERE


O.K. So while I’ve been gone…

Nothing what so ever has happened!

It’s just been a weird month that plugged into my hypochondriacal, so I’m going to die now am I, self, which only stopped yesterday afternoon.

Nope it wasn’t big.

Loads of people go through it.

BUT

I didn’t like it and I felt really really sorry for myself and really really annoyed that I was feeling sorry for myself and everything screeched to a stop as I planned for how I was going to react to my biopsy being positive.

Told you.

Hypochondriac.

Actually my doctor said that she had seen hypochondriacs and that I wasn’t one, but I’m pretty good at hiding my secret life of health anxiety so she didn’t know that I had already planned my funeral and given away all of my jewelry tools.

(Penny, you would have hit the jackpot! Especially as my imminent death didn’t stop me from buying more.)

Sooooo,

That’s about it folks.

I made it.

I’m still here.

And now that’s over I’m going to take my jewelry to the next level.

Again.

In other new.

My dad’s here so that has also slowed down my days.

But I did manage to finish a piece for Leslie.

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Blue Opal and Ocean Jasper

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Back

 I’ve also finished a second piece for Leslie to consider, but I don’t like it and can’t concentrate as much as I would like to at the moment on making something better.

And before dad arrived I made a chain.

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My first.

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And I was pretty darn pleased with myself.

I started on a double one, but got the gauge wrong and haven’t been able to start another yet.

If you want to make chains this is a really good dvd.

And they’re really not as fiddly as you think they’re going to be.

Of course I haven’t got on to the triple double o.m.g. one yet so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Throughout my trauma Spud has slept.

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Without a care in the world.

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Just to rub it in.

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But I still love her.

Even though I had to restock on phone charging wires and computer leads.

She doesn’t discriminate. P’s leads are as much in danger as mine.

And she comes onto the bed at all hours of the night when she decides she needs to spend a couple of hours purring next to a human head at decibels exceeding those made by a pneumatic drill.

It’s all good.

And finally, to all of my cyber friends who need a boost.

I have found our new motto…

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May all your s#@* be amazing…


Time for a new link.

I’ve been off my groove, but now i’m back with a new silver link. So, if you’re in the mood for fiddly, have a go at this. Just remember my disclaimer as I’m not available to tend to any injuries incurred …

First up, and this is very important, put your i pod down the inside of your t-shirt and clip it to one of the belt slots on your jeans. This prevents the ear phones from hanging down front where the dremel and torch like to play as that could get tricky and very painful, and you might have to do the drop and roll thing on the studio floor.

Not cool.

Then turn on your murder mystery, but don’t bother with this one (here) as it was a bit long-winded and boring.

Next up.

Make your jump rings.

I use this.

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Which is the old version of this

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It’s expensive. I don’t know if I would buy it again, but it’s really good at making coils. I’ve never got the hang of using the cutting wheel which might have made the cost more worthwhile, but now the coil cutting holding vise thing has been eaten away by rust so giving it another try is a pretty moot point.

Buy this tool at your own peril …

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Pretty bad, yes?

Anyway …

I turned 16 gauge sterling silver wire on the 9.5 mm mandrel to make a coil.

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Which I then taped up with scotch tape (to secure the silver from moving), and used my jewelry saw to cut across the top of the coil to make jump rings.

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I then straightened the rings so that the ends were flush and soldered them together.

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Next time I’m going to just try to fuse the silver together instead of using solder – just to see if I can eliminate the bump.

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I then used a pair of round nose pliers to pull the links into an oval shape.

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I use these cheap pliers. The expensive pliers are good (obviously), but for me these work just as well and I like how they fit in my hand. I have two each of the flat nosed and the round pliers. One for each hand, because that’s how I like to roll, and at that price, you can knock yourself out with as many as you want …

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Next, put the link back on the round nose pliers and squeeze the middle together with another pair of pliers.

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(Excuse my dirty fingernail. Do you think that blows my chance of being a hand model?)

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When you have finished them all take your dremel, or buffer of choice, and brush the centers of the links clean as this is where you will do some more soldering.

You could also put them in the pickle, but I can’t be bothered.

I use a coarse buffer.

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Take some 22 gauge wire and wrap it three times around the middle of the link.

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I bend the wire first to give it a head start otherwise it can get a bit fiddly.

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Once you’ve done them all they are ready for soldering again.

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Put a tiny dab of solder on the back of each new coil so that it will fuse to the link.

(Note: I shaped my links so that the middle meets where I soldered the ring together the first time and there was enough solder there to re-melt and attach the thinner wire to the link. That’s probably because I used way too much solder the first time around. (I’ve been working on that). Shaping it this way also stopped the solder bump from being visible at the ends of the link. Remember – always use your mistakes for good – it’s the most useful superhero power you have).

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When all of your links are soldered and you have made sure that there are no sharp ends, get the jump ring maker out again and this time use 20 gauge wire on a 4 mm mandrel to make smaller jump rings .

Tape the coil together as before.

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Then put it into this handy, weird, plier thing to saw into rings. This makes you remember (again) that the jump ring holding cutting vise thing that came with the jump ring maker is still rusted, but you’re not annoyed about it or anything like that …

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If you don’t have this remarkable contraption, just use a vise or something equally handy.

Next join the links together by soldering two jump rings between them, a little tricky but have some faith, and voilà! you should end up with a complete mess.

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It doesn’t look as bad after pickling, but really? Does everyone’s work look this crusty after they solder?

Here it is pickled.

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I wanted to show you what I made with it, but I sold it before I got a chance.

Once I’d buffed it up it was clean and not crusty, and it was made into a bracelet with other beads and such.

Now I’m just going to have to make another so that you can see the end result.

Happy chain making and, if you can decipher my brilliant step by step instructions, let me know what you make with it.

Note that you probably don’t have to solder any of this chain to make it, however, I haven’t tried making it that way. I use solder because I want my chains to hold up to wear and tear. I also think they’re easier to form, but I could be wrong.

 


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