Cable Chain making question: (Source for steel oval spindles?)

Hello everyone.

I want to make cable chain and the steps I have trouble with are marking or finding oval or close to oval shaped spindles for when you wrap your annealed wire uniformly. I have found brass round stock and I run it through the rolling mill to flatten it out into a nearly oval shape but even when hard brass is used, it’s never tough enough to stay straight like a steel spindle would.

How do jewelers make good cable chain without a steel spindle or do they have machine shops make them for them? I was only turning 2 or 2.5mm thick but dead soft wire and by the time I only turned about 3 inches of the wire onto the brass spindles, the spindles were warped and then the links were not uniform due to the bends of the spindle.

Thanks for any advice. I thought of maybe trying to make my own cold cast steel spindle by using a special epoxy that has steel in it. I could shape it into the size and shape I want but I don’t know if that would truly be strong enough.

Is the wire too heavy to shape round links into ovals using 2 identical transfer punches?

I brazed two round rods together to give the required width mandrel, yeah you can’t use a drill to drive it but it it works.


Thank you everyone for the replies. Thomas has the best idea I ever heard of for this and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it. It’s easy to find all kinds of sizes of steel round bar and by simply brazing or welding two identical ones together, it will make a close enough shape to an oval spindle to do this.

Thanks, Thomas! (And everyone else too)

I always use wood. I prefer to saw my links with a saw blade. I buy bamboo knitting needles online from Amazon. Cheap and they are precisely gauged. For ovals I tape two together.
I also flip my saw blades so that the teeth are facing up. That way as you saw, the links are pushed together rather than pulled apart and bent. A trick I learned from Seng Au an amazing metalsmith who learned to make chains in the refugee camps of SE Asia after the war.


Jo…If I hear you right, I do the same thing. I leave the coil on the mandrel and feed the saw blade through the gap between the two pieces that make up the mandrel. This limits the size of the coil that I can work at any one time. I can then pull the mandrel and coil together through the saw slowly releasing each coil piece. I have different mandrels made up, some with both pieces the same diameter, others not depending on the shape of the piece that I want…Rob


Rob- Are you sawing into the sides of the ovals or on the ends of the ovals?


I am not making chain, I am making jump rings and bails…Rob

I think everyone makes a chain from time to time. I usually don’t unless the chain itself is the art. I make pendants and I sell quite a few at shows. I display them on silk rat tail and if the buyer wants a chain I suggest the plainest, strongest, chain they feel will look good or compliment the pendant.

We all seem to have the same construction methods it would seem.

I have some pretty damaged hands and working small like most chains require is very hard for me. So I make very few. When I make oval links which I am using more as jump rings I cut them in the middle. The chains I do make are pretty heavy really. I use the wooden dowel technique as well. Three round dowels tied together form triangular links, One large and one smaller tied together form egg shaped links. I look at dowels as disposable and I leave the dowels wrapped when I saw.

I did learn today to push the saw rather than draw it through the coil. That alone made today’s time on the forum worth spending.

Don Meixner


This discussion has gotten a bit away from chain making and more towards jump ring making, but they are related. Following are pictures of some of my mandrels. they aren’t pretty, but they work. They are equal or unequal size copper wire soldered lengthwise. The notch is to hold the end of the wire to start the wrap. I usually leave the coil on the mandrel and slip the saw blade through the groove between the wires. I then can move the coil and the mandrel over the blade in such a way that, as Jo suggests, you push the coil being cut into the coil preventing it from trying to pull the coil apart as it is cut. Depending on how you coordinate it, you may want to turn the blade around. Again, I don’t make chains, so I am usually working with small coils. Making jump rings and bails is not my favorite task, so I make a lot when I do it and keep them in a stacked set of small plastic cups. It is not a good day when I run out. I have looked at the various jump ring making tools, but I guess that I have other tools that I want more than jump ring making tools. As a compromise, I sometimes cut larger diameter coils with a thin slitting saw blade on my flex shaft…Rob


Hi Rick, my favourite for oval rings is to use two pieces of soldered “blue pivot steel” or “drill blanks”.
Remember to allow for the thickness of the saw blade by using a larger diameter where you are going to cut through. Solder a central pivot onto one end which is pointed and another at the other end. (larger) to go int an electric drill. The pointed end goes into a piece of timber. Hold the end of the wire out very firmly with draw tongs.


Interesting idea to use the wood bamboo needles. I wouldn’t have thought they would be strong enough to wrap tight coils of solid wire but I guess it depends on the gauge. Probably because you are more skilled than me the slight movement/bending of the wood is not a problem but for a part timer like me, I thought the best results in a tight wrap of coils would be by minimizing any other movement. The wood is probably easier to get the links off?