7 Chain Maille Jewelry-Making Tips: Jump Rings, Springback, Tools, and More
Whenever I try to do a jewelry-making technique that’s difficult for me, such as chain maille, I always read as many tips as I can about it before I begin. With those little nuggets of expert information, I feel like I’m starting out at least a little bit ahead of the game. So here are seven of my favorite chain maille jewelry-making tips.
- When making chain-maille jewelry with flat-nose pliers, chain maille artist and host of two chain maille jewelry-making videos Scott David Plumlee opts for square-tip pliers with a shorter jaw. The shorter jaw allows you to work with less pressure from your hands but still achieve more pressure at the tip. It’s all about leverage, you know! This will cut down on hand fatigue.
- Be prepared with extra supplies. Author of two best-selling chain maille jewelry-making books, Karen Karon says, “Always be sure to have more jump rings than you need in case a jump ring gets bent out of shape or dropped and lost-it happens! I like to have at least one extra inch worth of jump rings in my supply stash.”
- When making your own jump rings, you can use a variety of items for mandrels to wrap the wire on. Scott uses metal knitting needles, which come in a variety of sizes (you can mark them with tape on the ends). For larger jump rings, he uses a length of gas pipe with a hole drilled in the end to hold the wire’s tail.
- Buy all of your jump rings from a single source. “When you are ready, I recommend that you purchase as many jump rings as you need to finish a project from one source,” Karen says. “Making substitutions can be tricky as subtle variations in jump rings from a different manufacturer could create a noticeable line of demarcation in your finished piece of chain maille.” Along with gauge, metal type, ID, and OD, include manufacturer information on storage containers. Then you’ll know where to order more to match when your stash gets low.
- Be sure to buy only saw-cut jump rings, because they have flush-cut edges for perfect closures. If you make your own jump rings, saw them apart instead of using wire cutters, unless you’re mindful to use flush cutters properly every time.
- When tumbling jump rings, instead of using steel shot, Scott uses what he calls a “silver flower,” which is simply three 10-gauge silver hoops soldered closed and connected, with the usual water and soap. Imagine trying to pick your jump rings out of steel shot! Another option is to slide your jump ring coil onto a length of heavier gauge craft wire, saw the rings apart but leave them on the wire, and twist the ends of the wire closed to keep them all together while tumbling. (Thanks to JMD member karo4751 for that tip!)
- When you make your own jump rings, one mandrel won’t necessarily produce the same size jump rings in different metals. When the coiled wire is released, it loosens in what is known as springback. The tension in the metal, determined by the type of metal it is, determines how much springback the metal has. Stiffer metals have more spring, which will produce jump rings with an ID slightly larger than the mandrel. This is important to keep in mind if you intend to mix metals in a project or if you want to make jump rings with an exact ID.
Get more expert instruction, tips, and chain maille jewelry-making projects from Karen, Scott, and others in two books, two video workshops, and an eBook–along with all of the materials to make sterling silver Elfweave Loop earrings (above)–all in our Ultimate Chain Maille Collection. But hurry, only 50 are available and they’ll go fast!