Mechanisms–Hinges, Hooks, and Other Happy Endings

I’m passionate about craftsmanship, old-school metalsmithing techniques, old-world tools and knowhow. I don’t always practice them, of course. And I’m not trained in all of them, by any means. But I have tremendous respect and admiration for them. So when I see a modern product with an old-school soul, it makes me happy.

That’s how I felt reading my advance copy of The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide: Tools and Essential Techniques by Helen I. Driggs. It not only covers all the basics of metal craft and tools, but it’s a great blend of modern techniques and artisan traditions. I found skills, techniques, and terminology in this book that I wasn’t even familiar with before.

Here’s a great excerpt from The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide about mechanisms and attachments, very hard-working, essential, and often ignored or underappreciated elements of metal jewelry making.


Mechanisms–Hinges, Hooks, and Other Happy Endings

By Helen I. Driggs

Mechanisms and attachments make it possible for jewelry to move and to be worn on clothing or the body. These articulated elements allow jewelry items to move in one or more directions.

Mechanisms can be both functional and decorative, but it is important to create them to withstand the stress of daily wear.

Of all the fabrication processes in jewelry making, it is most important to invest the time and effort to make models and practice pieces of all types of mechanisms. After creating a practice piece, any design flaws or wearability issues can be corrected before creating the final jewelry object.

Mechanisms fall into two general categories: hinges or linkages. Hinges are one of the most beautiful and the most difficult mechanisms to fabricate in jewelry making. They are joints that move in one direction and can have a wide or narrow range of motion. Linkages are joints that can move in two or more directions and typically have a wide range of motion.


Hinges are two-sectioned mechanisms joined by a pin or rod. Interlocking sections of tubing are joined to each of the two parts and the pin is inserted into the tubing. The pin allows the hinge parts to rotate toward and away from each other. The sections of hinge tubing are called knuckles and typically, three or another odd number are required to allow a hinge to work properly. Knuckles are soldered onto the piece so the larger number is on the heavier part.

Ball-and-Socket Linkages

Ball-and-socket linkages allow sections to move with the greatest range of motion. They can be hot- or cold-connected, but the size of the ball or other terminating feature relative to the socket is what determines the movement of the joint.

Slot-and-Tab Linkages

Slot-and-tab linkages allow movement in one or two directions. Tabs can be permanently attached or inserted into shaped slots that allow the jewelry object to be opened and closed by twisting or turning it at the linkage. Gravity secures the closure of the linkage in this style of mechanism.

Hook-and-Loop Linkages

Hook-and-loop linkages are the main connection style for necklaces and chain. Toggles, keyhole catches, and fishhook catches fall into this category; again, gravity keeps them closed.


Learn More from the Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide

Order or instantly download your copy of The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide for more expert instruction from Helen. Lessons are presented in twelve “building blocks” that are then supported by several dozen related “demos” and “applied technique” project tutorials that help you master one technique and/or tool before moving on to the next, building your skill level and your confidence as you go. After that, there are four in-depth projects to help you put it all together in artisan-quality, finished metal jewelry pieces. You won’t be disappointed, whether you’re brand-new to metalsmithing or have a few years of experience notched on your bench pin!

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