9 Great Chain-Maille Tips from Expert Scott David Plumlee

Dear Chain Maille,

I've tried (and tried), but I just can't do it anymore. Our relationship isn't going to work. I have so much admiration and respect for you, but I don't have enough patience for this relationship right now. It's not you, it's me. I think you're beautiful. Everyone else loves you! So I'm going to set you free and give you to them–these nine great chain-maille tips, at least, taken from Scott David Plumlee's chain-maille DVDs.

We'll always be friends.



1. When making chain-maille jewelry with flat-nose pliers, Scott 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.

2. Opt for "14/20" gold-filled wire over gold-plated wire for chain maille. It's called 14/20 because 1/20th of its thickness is 14kt gold. This is quite a bit thicker than the thickness of gold on gold-plated wire, and with all the moving around and metal-against-metal rubbing in chain maille, the thinner gold on gold-plated wire can wear off.


3. Scott uses a Frisbee for project storage. When he's working on a project, he can keep this tools, findings, wire, etc. all in one convenient little tray–and it's fun!


4. Rather than trying to keep up with one measuring tape on your jewelry bench or work table, why not get a cloth one and cut it into multiple pieces to keep with each project. Scott uses four-inch lengths; you could go six, ten, or even twenty inches, depending on the size and kind of jewelry you usually make.


5. For quick identification of separate jeweler's files while working, Scott has color-coded the handles of his files with electrical tape handles. He uses yellow tape for the file reserved for gold, white tape for the file reserved for sterling or fine silver, and red tape for the file he uses with base metals, copper, or bronze.


6. 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.


7. Digital calipers are perfect for measuring the exact diameter of knitting needles in millimeters or inches. They can measure knitting needles exactly to the hundredths of a millimeter; that depth of precision and exactness is very important for chain making.

8. Always straighten your wire after you cut a length off the spool. Hold one end of your wire with your nondominant hand and hold the other end of the wire in a cloth or bandana in your other hand and pull the cloth firmly over the wire, straight toward you, a few times to straighten the wire. This will also make the wire a little more malleable or "springy" as well as smooth out any little bumps in it.


9. 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 connected together, with the usual water and soap. Imagine trying to pick your jump rings out of steel shot! When he has stones in his work, he tumbles it in dry, uncooked white rice.


For other chain-maille tips, how-to projects, and more information from chain-maille expert Scott David Plumlee, take advantage of the sale going on now in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop and grab both of Scott's chain-maille DVDs, Make Chain Maille Jewelry! Single, Double, and Byzantine Chains (in DVD, instant download, or HD download) and Make Chain Maille Jewelry Volume 2: Flower, Dubious and Inca Puño Chains (available in DVD, via instant download, and in HD download). Plus get free U.S. shipping through November 29, 2011!

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