Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chain Chain Chainmaille

One of the first things I became obsessed with through my rebirthing of creative journey was chainmaille.  I saw a bracelet made by my friend's mom and couldn't believe you can make something so beautiful out of jump rings!  In my usual OCD nature I searched everywhere online about chainmaille.  I learned how to make the Byzantine weave from Beaducation's free online class.  Colin Mahler's instruction was so thorough she gave me a great foundation about how to open and close jump rings.

Then I found Urbanmaille who offers high quality jump rings in Sterling Silver, Argentium Silver, and Copper.  Urbanmaille also offers great tutorials and kits and Aislyn and Gary deliver the highest level of customer service.  One of the key things when making chainmaille is choosing high quality jump rings.  Don't go for cheap jump rings as you will end up with jump rings that won't close tight or have nicks on the rings. 

When I took Tracy Stanley's class at Weekend with Wiremasters in 2010, she raved about Dave Arens' Koil Kutter System.  In my usual self sustaining and tool junkie spirit, I had to get tools to make my own rings. Kevin Potter has since took over the Koil Kutter System and you can purchase it at Potter USA.  I have to admit I was pretty intimidated about using the rotary cutter with my Dremel to cut the jump rings but the blade guard offers total protection and it was much easier than I expected.  This is what the Koil Kutter looks like.  I mounted the coiler on a wooden board so it's nice and stable. My Bead Soup partner, Melissa Muir, posted a great article comparing the Koil Kutter vs. Jump Ringer on her Tool Time Tuesday. If you are deciding on a jump ring maker, this is a must read post.

I chose the Dremel version with the millimeters Koil mandrels.  Dave said the Koil system is easier to work with Dremel rather than the flex shaft.  Luckily I found Desiree's Desired Creations who posted a step by step photos on how to assemble the Koil Kutter on the Dremel.  Once the jump rings were cut, I tumbled them to work harden and polish the rings.  After a couple of hours, the rings come out so shinny.   The cuts were straight and closed nice and tight without gaps.  Success!

 You don't need a lot of tools for chainmaille but having the right pliers is really important especially when you are working with heavier gauges.  I have my trusted Lindstrom pliers which I simply can't live without.  Bent nose in one hand and flat nose in the other. The ring tool is another simple but must have tool to open the hundreds of rings for chainmaille projects.  When working with heavier gauges (16g+)  I dip my plier tips in Tool Magic which coats the tips with a thin rubber cover so you won't mar the rings.  Once I finish the bracelet I tumble it for couple of hours to get rid of any burrs, work harden a little more, and to give it another polish.

Here are some of my favorite weaves.  From left to right, Jens Pind, Byzantine, and Full Persian weaves.  I personally prefer Argentium silver over Sterling silver as it is a lot more tarnish resistant.  Once you have the basics of chainmaille down, CG Maille is the site to go if you want to find out about the 100's of different weaves.  The website hosts tons of tutorials of weave patterns.  Great graphics & photos and it is updated with new weave patterns and tutorials often. Pick up those pliers and open & close, open & close, open & close... So many weaves and so little time!


  1. I still can't imagine doing chainmaille without going completely bonkers -- but I'd almost be tempted just to have an excuse to snap up another fancy tool! This is a fantastic post with so much helpful information. One of these days I will have to get over my fidgety-ness and attempt to learn chainmaille. You are right about how beautiful it is!

    1. I just put on a good show on my iPad and get into a repetitive trance like state. One of these days I will tackle a dragonscale necklace :)

  2. I love the story behind your beautiful creations! I think the drape of chainmaille is so luxurious! These are wonderful!

  3. Wow, I love your posts. So much information. You are the best!