Aug 042009
 

Having made my own jump rings from silverplated copper wire, I decided to put them together into something that looks a bit more like some jewelery. The result, a 7″ bracelet with a chain made of double links and a box-chain central section.

2x2 chain with Box section

2x2 chain with Box section

The joins in the links are much tighter this time round than my last attempt. Things to work on for the next one are to scratch the links less with the pliers while closing them, and to make the chain of silver rather than plated copper.

I’m quite pleased with the decorative section in the middle though – really tight due to the aspect ratio of the rings.

Aug 022009
 
10m of 0.8mm Silver-plated copper wire

10m of 0.8mm Silver-plated copper wire

I found a shop on St Mary’s Street in the Old Town which sells jewelery making supplies and picked up a 10m length of 0.8m silver plated copper wire for the bargain price of £4.50. At home I looked around for a suitable mandrel and found a short length of metal bar from an old portable TV aerial (who said jewelery-making wasn’t glamorous?) and set about winding the wire round it. Winding will be much easier next time when I get a decent length mandrel and drill a hole in it to hold the wire. In this case, I just did it with my hands. I have a lovely blister on my index finger to prove it. Lesson learned.

Once the wire was wound, I slid the mandrel out and was left with a (not very springy) spring. It wasn’t as uniform as I had hoped for – the diameter was the same all the way along, but there were a few small gaps between each turn. I suspect this won’t make a huge difference, but some rings will be more open than others when I am finished. Hopefully it will not affect the size of each ring too much.

Wire after removing mandrel

Wire after removing mandrel

Before cutting it, I decided to make sure that I didn’t lose the rings all over the floor. Paul had recommended taping the wire before cutting, but I am out of masking tape and Sellotape wasn’t sticking so well. I slid a length of thread through the middle of the wire and tied it in a loop – my thinking was that most of the rings would end up hanging on the thread. This was fairly successful although I found a lot of the rings ended up linked round the blade of the saw – this meant that the thread tended to get a bit tangled. Next time I may try without the thread or tape. I was holding the rings between my fingers anyway, so I don’t think too many will fall.

I put beeswax on the blade of the saw as recommended (for silver anyway – not sure what I was supposed to use with copper) and it seemed to do the job. It cut much more quickly right after applying the wax, so I stopped regularly to apply more.

After being so careful not to drop any of the rings, I was a bit gutted when I stood up and knocked them all over the floor anyway.

Hand-made jump rings

Hand-made jump rings

I now have 110 shiny little circles ready to link together. I suspect I’ll need more to make anything useful (Terri’s Byzantine chain bracelet took 200) but I still have plenty of wire left over to make more.

Jul 102009
 
German style jeweller's saw frame

German style jeweller's saw frame

I think it would be extremely satisfying to turn a length of plain silver wire into a beautiful bracelet, so it’s time to try making my own silver jump rings. I’ve ordered a Jeweller’s saw, blades and (for fashion reasons only) a clip on loupe from TickInTime. Tickintime has been great so far, he quickly answered my question about combined shipping costs and invoiced me about 2 minutes after I asked for a total price. If they arrive safely, he definitely gets my vote as a top EBay seller.

I’ll hopefully be able to find some silver wire in town and will take Daws‘ suggestion of using knitting needles as mandrels. 144 blades should keep me going for a while, but I really have no idea how often these extremely thin blades will break.

Classy looking loupe!

Classy looking loupe!

I didn’t order any files yet, and I suspect there will be burrs on all the cuts which will need to be removed – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Having looked at the price of silver wire online, it looks like I’m not going to save any money by making my own links but I am really looking forward to making everything from basic materials.

I’m off to sit by the letterbox an wait for the postie.

Update: 09:33 11/07/09 Items have been shipped – more great service!

Update: 10:00 13/07/09 Items arrived safely! – thanks Tickintime!

Jul 082009
 
Byzantine Chain in Sterling Silver

Byzantine Chain in Sterling Silver

A schoolfriend of mine who now lives in Australia has recently been posting some extremely impressive photos of silver jewelery he has been making from scratch. He has designed his own workbench with various size mandrels for winding his own silver wire to make links for his chains. He has been experimenting with many different patterns of joining the links to make some beautiful and intricate jewelery. He has inspired me to have a go myself. Rather than winding and cutting my own links, I thought I’d buy a bunch of links to see if I enjoyed chain making.

After spending a few hours online looking for good reviews of link makers, I settled on the DragonFly Company who had lots of positive testimonials and are based in the UK. I ordered a small batch of jump rings – 200 x 2.75mm x 0.8mm in sterling silver (about £12 including postage). While I waited for them to arrive, I bought a clasp and two pairs of jewelers’ pliers from Helios Fountain which also has a huge range of beads, baubles and bling which I might use in future projects.

2 days later, my package from the Dragonfly Company arrived – A DVD box-sized cardboard box containing a tiny ziploc bag of 200 super-shiny silver jump rings which it turns out are hand made to order and then tumble polished before they are sent out. I also received a very cute dragonfly charm as a free gift – nice touch! and all safely wrapped in tissue paper.

I’d been looking online for sites which would explain the different chain patterns and picked up all sorts of tips on the best way to open and close the links. There are hundereds of sites dedicated to chainmaille which show many different patterns of chain. I decided to bite the bullet and go for a reasonably complicated one to start with, a Byzantine chain.

Following the diagrams at Maille Artisans, I struggled to hold the tiny ring with the pliers and dropped the whole thing on numerous occasions but, after spending a bit of time with it and building up some muscle memory, the whole thing got a bit easier and actually became quite relaxing. As the weather was so nice, I popped the tiny chain, the links and the pliers in the cardboard box and headed out to Greyfriars’ to sit in the sun and finish the chain. After a few hours work, it was complete – I’d used all 200 links without wasting any and the chain fit perfectly round my girlfriend’s wrist.

I’m delighted that my first chain was a success, and after tidying up a few dodgy joins it looks pretty professional. I’m now looking for something else to make – possibly a necklace with a couple of different patterns or a chainmaille ring.

I’m also trying to decide whether it is worth the effort of making the jump rings myself, or just continue buying them from a professional who knows what they are doing and makes links with a precision saw and very tight tolerances. I think it would be very satisfying to know that I had made every part of the chain… anyone know how to make silver wire from a lump of silver?

Do you have any suggestions for a nice challenging second chainmaille project? Leave me a comment with your suggestions!

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