Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fun With Chain (and No Soldering!)

I love interesting chain, and I especially love it if it's handmade. I really love copper and am frequently disappointed that practically all of the commercial copper chain I see is either copper-plated brass or steel--no solid copper chain! I'm sure there's probably some economic or practical reason for this but it still gives me the frownies. So sometimes I make my own. I love looking at an interesting commercial chain and figuring out a way to make something similar myself--preferably without soldering! Below are three styles of chain I have enjoyed making that require no soldering or even sawing.

The first chain is a simple figure 8, made from heavy-gauge double-ended ball headpins. I haven't actually ever used it for anything, I've been saving it for the "perfect" project. The two lengths at the top are copper and sterling silver, and the ones on the bottom are copper and brass.
The figure 8s are joined by other smaller figure 8s, which are just wire hammered flat before being formed into the 8-shape. For the larger 8s, I just experimented with different gauges of copper wire, making figure 8s of various sizes until I found a size and gauge I liked (these are done with 16 gauge wire, and the smaller connector figure 8s are 18 gauge wire.) I left what I thought would be enough length to form the ball at each end,
unfolded it and measured it, and then cut a bunch of pieces that length.

I balled up the ends in my torch and then created my figure 8s,
And then hammered them.
I could have joined the 8s together with plain jump rings but I decided to do something more interesting and did the smaller figure 8s. You could do beaded links in between, or wrapped links, or whatever you want.

You can also use figure 8s without the balls (*snort* I said BALLS), such as in this bracelet I did a few years ago. Those are just plain figure 8s, doubled up, with a couple of big jump rings around the middles. I did saw these jump rings, but there's no soldering here.

The chain below is based on commercial chain I have seen that I liked. I thought, "I bet I could do that myself!"

For this I just start with 6mm widths of textured copper sheet (I think this is 24 gauge--click HERE for a brief explanation of how this sheet is embossed) and hammered rings squashed into ovals (I just turn them on their sides and tap them with the hammer into an oval shape):

(It doesn't matter to me that the cut section of the ring is ugly, because it's going to be hidden inside the textured sections; but if you wanted to, you could certainly solder them closed and make the invisible parts tidy.) For the chain above, each textured strip is about 28mm total length. I curled the ends with the 3mm barrel on my step jaw pliers. The rings are formed from 14 gauge wire on the 6mm barrel of my step jaw pliers. Here's what the back looks like (I kind of like the back too):
And from the side you can see how it's formed:
It's not perfect, but I like my jewelry like I like my men. Primitive.

The last chain is a simple twisted bar chain. You cut a piece of wire, hammer half of it one way, the other half the other way, and put a hole in either end. Ta-da!
It looked plain so I wrapped the middles with double-ended ball headpins (or "bones," as I heard Shannon German call them once.) The ones below are just plain, obviously. You can link them with plain jump rings, or beaded links, or whatever you want. I especially like using the bar links for sterling chain, because you get a lot of mileage out of it for not a lot of labor or cost (compared to doing fiddly little round or oval links--especially if they're soldered. Ew. Not My Thing.) I think this is 14 gauge wire.

There is some other chain I want to try, some with some simple soldering and another with textured washers. I'll let you know how that goes!

Keirsten
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32 comments :

  1. What a great post Keirsten. I love your work and the metal pieces that you add. Thanks for all the helpful information. The textured chain actually looks better than the commercial ones I've seen.

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  2. Wonderful post. Love those chains. I like to make them myself too esp. after trying some of the links in Cindy Wimmer's new book. Thanks so for some new chain ideas.

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  3. Great post, Keirsten! I love these chain ideas...thanks for sharing them!

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  4. Thanks for sharing these ideas, they all look very cool :D

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  5. Keirsten your chains are awesome! I enjoyed reading how you textured them.

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  6. HOLY MOLY! Woman, you are a marvel. Those chains are dynamite and I could actually make them myself (if I had more time on my hands). You have inspired me to try! Thank you for sharing your brilliance with the world. Enjoy the day. Erin

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  7. These are great! I'll have to try them some time; I always did like hammering on things.

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  8. lovely chains and a great read, thank you
    Jill

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  9. These are all lovely Keirsten. I like how you always add your own 'spin' to the elements. I love making the bone links and how it feels when put together. I'm like you about plated copper - here's where I find raw copper chain: Rio and Monsterslayer have a few styles, and a ton of styles from at Garlan Chain, http://garlanchain.com/ made in the USA. I've also used their raw brass and stainless steel chain. Ask for their catalog.

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  10. Yer awesome lady! just plain awesome!

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  11. WOW! Amazing. And this from someone who rarely uses chain. Now, I want to play with wire! If you have a tutorial, I would buy it!

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  12. Love this post and all your very cool chains! I'd love to try the figure eight links.

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  13. What a great post! I never really thought about making some of the chains out there but who can afford some of them such as the book chain. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  14. Great post and wonderful chains! You inspire me.

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  15. Thank's for showing us how to make these chains, they're wonderful! I like making my own chain and these will be fun to try!

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  16. This is so great. I love all three and thanks for the details and the info. What a great idea. Can't wait to try some myself.

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  17. Keirsten - These chains are great!! As usual, your attention to detail ("primitive" though it may be), graceful beauty, and HANDMADE BY YOU stand out. I've made some similar chains - even with no soldering, they're definitely a lot of work - but, oh, the satisfaction! Weird as it may be, when I've completed them and they're out of the tumbler for the final time, just running those chains through my fingers gives me goose-pimples… (I know many of us "get" that.)

    Also, congratulations on selling those Southwest Hearts! They're all SO beautiful - the limited edition idea seems to be working - those who are buying them are getting a STEAL-of-a-deal on a true piece of art!

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  18. Thanks for such a great post...i am going to guve all your chain suggestions a try. I really loved all of them.

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  19. Excellent post! Thank you very much. I just recently made my own copper chain for the first time and it was a very satisfying thing to do.

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  20. That twisted bar chain is too cool!! I love it! I haven't had a piece of wire in my hands in ages. I just pinned this one so I don't forget it. Thank you!

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  21. AMAZING tutorial - this blog is on fire!

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  22. Wow! awesome tips and amazing results. Really enjoyed this one.

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  23. The chains are gorgeous. One of the things I like best about hand made metal jewelry is that it is "primitive", with every piece being individual and unique. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  24. Wow. Thank you. I have copied and saved this post (along with a link.) This is absolutely wonderful.

    I skimmed the comments: let me add that Monsterslayer is a really good company. They do not always have what I am looking for but when they do their prices are great and they are reliable.

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  25. What were the lengths you used for the 8's & twisted bar chain with headpins ?? Thanks

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  26. Thank you Kierston for the great tutorial. the pics and explanations are fabulous. I have no doubt that I'll be able to create one of these chains when ever I manage to get time to indulge in my jewelry making addiction. Your explanations were clear and concise & easily understood. Thank you so much!!! I am purely a self-taught jewelry maker and thank people like you who share your knowledge so freely. I appreciate you bunches!!!!

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  27. Keiraten, I'm trying a variation of the embossed copper strip links, and I'm totally stuck!!! After you've made the links and the oval jump rings, how do you put it together? I know I must be missing something. ☺️ Thanks!!!

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  28. Great collection and inspiration!

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  29. Not only a great post - so informative and creative - but too funny too!! Thanks for this - you've made my day!

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  30. I don't think I've ever seen this site, where have I been??? I love it. The chains are beautiful. Can they be made for jewelry that we sell on Etsy? I've been wanting to make my jewelry - 100% hand made - (except for Seed Bead jewelry) so have been trying to make my own chains. It is so much more meaningful and fun when we can make our own jewelry without having to use too many store bought findings. Looking forward to looking through this site, real soon.

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