Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Chain mail - to solder or not to solder?

I am wondering what the convention is for chain mail used in items
of jewellery - wether it should be soldered or if its okay to just
close the jump rings tightly and leave it at that. I had assumed
that the only really correct way was to solder every single link.
Having just finished a brass prototype of a chain mail bracelet I am
starting to think my assumption may be too extreme. Whilst I’m sure
soldering all the links would provide an excellent opportunity to
get practice at soldering I also think that no one would be prepared
to pay the extra price on the piece that spending so much time
soldering would demand.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Thanks everyone!
R.R. Jackson

If the links are a strong enough gage of wire (18, 20) it should be
fine to just close the links. I just completed a bracelet using 18
wire, w/ no soldering and no problems.

I don’t solder the links, and the only time I had any links part was
when I dropped a piece and then rolled over it with my desk chair.
I’m using 20 gauge sterling silver wire.

MonaLS

RR,

        I am wondering what the convention is for chain mail used
in items of jewellery - wether it should be soldered or if its okay
to just close the jump rings tightly and leave it at that.  I had
assumed that the only really correct way was to solder every
single link. 

There are advocates on both sides, I think. If the wire is large
enough to make it easy to solder, it’s probably strong enough not to
need it…

I solder all my links, but I’m not motivated by commercial intent,
just my own personal form of insanity. I’ve made a few chains, but
it isn’t my bread and butter and probably never will be.

I think the most important consideration, if you’re not going to
solder, is to make your closures as clean as possible. The joints
can catch in hair and cloth and get pried open, then they’ll catch
even more, and eventually rings start coming loose, so the stronger
the rings are, and the better the closures, the longer it will take
for that to happen.

You can get rings made with solder centers, that can be heated when
closed to make a perfect joint without having to apply more. I think
the lady at this website can tell you more about that:

http://www.spiderchain.com/

You could offer your work with the option of soldering the rings for
a steep price jump, and explain why. If anyone ever pays me enough
to make up for the time I put into my chains, I’ll offer an absolute
guarantee that the links won’t break. If they want me to make one
that isn’t soldered, I’ll give them an equally absolute guarantee
that they will. :slight_smile:

Loren
http://www.golden-knots.com/

   I am wondering what the convention is for chain mail used in
items of jewellery - wether it should be soldered or if its okay to
just close the jump rings tightly and leave it at that. 

What is necessary in order for the piece to look good and withstand
regular wear? This depends on the guage of the wire, the hardness of
the metal used and the intended use of the finished piece. If it
looks good, and is durable enough to withstand regular wear, whether
soldered or not, I would not worry about the pronouncements of the
chain mail police.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com

I’ve been wondering the exact same thing. I’ve seen it done both
ways. The only thing I can pick out among the different chain
styles/instructions I’ve seen is that odd-shaped (eg not round) jump
rings are nearly ALWAYS soldered, and round jump rings are about
split evenly either way.

So, pros and cons? And if you’re using Argentium and you
oven-harden it to “twice the hardness of sterling”, would that help
to swing one towards the “no solder” camp?

Sojourner

I don’t solder the links in my chain mail pieces and I’ve never had
one come apart. As I understand it, the fact that so many rings are
interlinked prevents the movement that would re-open the rings. In
some cases, such as where two components in a bracelet would be
linked by two simple rings I use a split ring instead.

I have a gold bracelet made from two rows of 4-in-2 woven together
which I have been wearing continually for a long time, and it has no
soldered parts at all.

Pat

If you’re planning to use the finished item as a boat anchor, then
soldering every ring/link makes good sense. However, with most chain
maille patterns that I’ve seen, the closure is really in the
technique. Once you get that nice smooth, tight closure down to a
fine art, there isn’t any need to solder, especially in the denser
patterns such as the Byzantine weave. Any particular pattern you have
in mind?

Betty

Hi R.R.

   I am wondering what the convention is for chain mail used in
items of jewellery - whether it should be soldered or if its okay
to just close the jump rings tightly and leave it at that.  I had
assumed that the only really correct way was to solder every single
link. 

I make a lot of chain in many different patterns. Probably 75% of it
soldered.

Whether the links need to be soldered or not depends to a certain
extent on the size & material the links are made of. It also depends
on the pattern of the chain & if the chain will be subjected to
other operations after assembly like, drawing, rolling, filing, etc.
Then there’s always the question of safety, how resistant to opening
do you want the chain to be?

If by chain maille, you mean the pattern usually seen as medieval
armor, the answer is the links probably don’t need to be soldered if
the gauge of the wire used is heavy enough (above 22 ga aprox) & the
chain wide enough (at least 5 or 6 rows).

Even if it is desired to solder the links, soldering chain isn’t
that difficult. For most patterns 1/2 the links can be soldered
before chain assembly is started. Then, again depending on the
pattern, the remaining links can be soldered as they are assembled
into the chain or assembled into shorter subassemblies that are
soldered & then assembled into the complete chain with final
soldering.

For the most part, paste solder is the best to use for soldering
chain. It has the flux mixed in the paste. Paste solder is usually
sold in hypodermic type syringes with changeable needles. Using the
appropriate sized needle, it’s quite easy to apply the correct
amount of solder to the joint. One of the nice things about paste
solder is that it stays where it’s put. Paste solder is available in
sterling silver & all kts of gold in hard, medium, easy & extra easy
from many suppliers.

Applying the solder to the inside of the link & applying the heat
from the outside makes for a neat joint. The heat draws the solder
through the properly closed joint & any excess solder tends to
remain on the inside of the link where it’s less noticeable.

When applying the heat for soldering, a small tip on the torch or a
butane fueled torch work well. If you use too large a flame, you may
find that you melt some of the rings into tiny balls.

If you elect to use solder chips, the way that works easiest for me
is to lay the chip on a fire brick & lay the joint in the link over
the chip.

When soldering the 1st 1/2 the links, lay each in a row on a fire
brick as it’s closed. Lay them close to each other but not touching.
Place the links so that all the joints are at 12 o’clock. When one
row of links has been placed on the fire brick, begin a 2nd row
leaving about 1" between rows. Continue closing links & placing them
on the brick until the surface is covered or all the links are
closed.

After the brick has been covered with links, begin applying the
paste solder. Apply the solder so it contacts both sides of the
joint on the top, inside quadrant of the link. A ball of solder
about the diameter of the wire is sufficient. After solder has been
applied to all the links, Turn the brick around so all the joints
are now at 6 o’clock.

The links are now ready to be soldered. Light the torch & adjust the
flame. Begin at the upper right hand corner (if your right handed).
Apply the flame so that both sides of the joint come up to soldering
temp together. When you see the flash of solder on the outside of
joint, move on to the next link.

After the all the links have been soldered, gather them up on a
copper wire. Twist the ends of the wire together & place the links
in the pickle pot. When they’re pickled, remove from the pickle,
neutralize, rinse & dry. The 1st half of the links are ready for
assembly into the chain.

Dave

You might consider soldering the end links where you have your
clasps and such attached.

Brian

R.R.

As a person who doesn’t make chain mail, but likes it a whole
bunch…

I would say SOLDER THOSE RINGS!

nothing worse than chain mail that becomes unlinked or worse yet, a
link that opens slightly will catch on everything it comes across.

that’s my input! good luck!

-julia potts
julia potts studios

   If the links are a strong enough gage of wire (18, 20) it
should be fine to just close the links. I just completed a bracelet
using 18 wire, w/ no soldering and no problems. 

Yes but if you were shot with an arrow… wouldn’t you want that
extra strength that soldering offers? I know when I was shot with an
arrow it just barely made it through my chain and poked me, next
time I think I’m going step it up to plate mail!

I asked a similar question some time ago. The advice I chose to
follow is that if the weight of the piece won’t be supported on a
single link at any point, solder isn’t absolutely essential. It’s a
good idea to test-wear the design to figure out where the weak
points are, though. Just be sensible about it and it should be
fine.

I strongly suggest upgrading your market product to silver or higher
value. I’m powerfully aware that the jewelry maille weavers
littering every online auction house are in a cut-throat price
slashing competition that’s devalued the skill to under five dollars
an hour after material cost. You need to have something that
-looks- more valuable than the tired base metal designs that have
been copied unto living death.

I have made many chain maille pieces in sterling silver and gold,
bracelets, neck collars and chain. I have drawn my own conclusion
that in Sterling Silver, the labor of soldering the chain maille
does not justify the saleable value of the goods, so I don’t solder
the sterling pieces (usually they are prototypes anyhow).

But in the case of my 14k gold pieces, I solder them all, every ring.
One neck collar took me six hours to solder. But, for the value of
the work of winding and cutting the rings myself as well as linking
them all to create a truly original design of chain maille, I opted
to solder it. The last thing I would want is a customer who complains
about rings that catch or open up, especially on an expensive piece
of jewelry. I never compromise quality.

truth is every link used to be pined together witha metal rivet, try
that a thousand times and other work will look easy!

Ringman

lol hello there I had to reply to the shot with an arrow

I have only made armor not jewelry chain and the point (no pun
intended) is to let you survive nobody said it wouldn’t hurt lol but
yeah get plate and be extra careful in picking a gorget that protects
the sides of you neck when you move if you are using ‘live’ steel
and ammo.

Leather under collar and plate gorget make good bed fellows.

Teri
America’s Only Cameo Artist
www.cameoartist.com

As a person who doesn't make chain mail, but likes it a whole
bunch... I would say SOLDER THOSE RINGS! 

Hear, hear! I’m surprised no one has made a bigger deal of the
aesthetic difference between soldered and un-soldered links.

Years ago I bought my “significant other” a sterling byzantine chain
bracelet for our anniversary. She loved the chain but hated that it
would snag some of her clothes or even her hair on a bad day. I
examined the chain closely and the workmanship in it was fine, it’s
just that the links where twisted closed and left that way. She
eventually stopped wearing it much to our mutual disappointment.

A few years later when our finances had improved somewhat I wandered
into a fairly high-endish artisan jewellery shop in Chicago and saw a
very similar bracelet to the now abandoned one. Just out of curiosity
I took a close look at it and was delighted to see that each and
every link had been fused shut. I looked at the price tag and was
rather less delighted since it was many times higher than what I’d
paid for the other bracelet even though the two were virtually
identical. I knew enough about jewellery by then to know that the
price tag reflected the labours involved not the metal it contained.
Nevertheless I left the shop without the bracelet thinking myself a
frugal shopper and, as it happened, I ended up stopping nearby for
dinner.

Of course I couldn’t get that new bracelet out of my head. I loved
that the maker had taken the time to do the job right but, no, best
not to dwell on it too much. When I finished what turned out to be an
unusually satisfying dinner I went for a stroll in the evening rain
and, of course, found myself standing in front of that same shop and
in a window display was that same bracelet. I stood there in the
evening rain thinking about it for a few more minutes before I walked
into the shop and pulled out my wallet.

That was over a decade ago. Since then my SO and I have parted ways
but I know for a fact she still wears that second bracelet. I’m not
sure why but I’ve always found that particular purchase deeply
satisfying and many times I have silently saluted the efforts of the
maker and their willingness to charge accordingly.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
with snow in the geraniums in The City of Light

I am wondering what the convention is for chain mail used in items
of jewellery - wether it should be soldered or if its okay to just
close the jump rings tightly and leave it at that.  I had assumed
that the only really correct way was to solder every  single
link.

Hi,

Generally the question could go either way dependant upon the
thickness of your metal. I personally would solder anything below a
16 guage/1.3 mil- but I really don’t like open links and their lack
of concrete permance. I like to know that my joints are solid
rather than sending them out there into the world and wondering.
Of course, I also like soldering, it is my favourite part of he
process. Though… I made a chainmail necklace last year that took
about 6-7 hours of soldering and I admit I found the 5th- 6th- hour
of soldering little links a bit tedious. It is just very important
to solder half of the links before hand and only solder joining
links after it has been put together- it saves way more time than
you would think.

    For soldering the links, try paste solder with the flux already
in the paste; makes the job go more quickly. For gold, there is no
choice. Soldered only, you do not want any  thing to catch on a
link and come apart. You can also use a thinner wire when making
the links if they will be soldered, thus saving money on the  cost
of the raw materials.   

Just a though – has anyone tried to use chain wire for making chain
mail? This has a solder core and is used in automatic chain making
machines.

I suspect, though, that it would only be available in reels that
would make up a lot of chain mail.

Bill Bedford

 has anyone tried to use chain wire for making chain mail? This has
a solder core and is used in automatic chain making machines. 

It’s available from Rio, but in limited sizes, only 18g, 20g and
22g.

Sojourner