Thanks to all folk who offered advice and opinions in this thread.
By way of an update, I decided to use Argentium sterling, as it has
the advantages of both fine and sterling silver.
I used 0.7mm Argentium round wire and used a 9mm mandrel to make the
coils. I was supposed to use a 7mm mandrel, but the 9mm was the
nearest I had, and as I had decided to cut the links with my semi-
flush cutters rather than a saw (as I find sawing narrow gauge coils
very difficult as they distort so easily), the links had one flush
cut end and one with a V protrusion. So I had to then cut one end of
each link flush, meaning that they were slightly smaller than 9mm
anyway. It was still far quicker than sawing them all, and the
wastage was minute.
The links fused really beautifully. I used a small charcoal block,
and doing nine rings at a time, I flush-cut the second end of each
link, closed the ends by hand rather than with pliers (to avoid
marring them) and gave them some spring by pushing the ends past
each other on both sides before making them flush, so that they
pushed together as they fused rather than pulled apart. Then they
were fluxed with My-T-Flux (to avoid premature hardening) and fused.
It didn’t take long to do all 250 or so links.
Being quite a narrow gauge or wire, they were extremely easy to
shape. I stretched them with my needle nose pliers, then used them
to make each link into a “U” shape for weaving. The book said to bend
them slightly in the middle, and then make them into a “U” after the
link is added to the chain, but I found that tricky, so I made them
all into a “U” shape first, just leaving the ends of the “U” open
enough to pass through the last link in the chain. Then the gap was
easy to close with my pliers, jut pulling them shut. That was after
doing it as per the book and attempting to weave a double
loop-in-loop chain (see next paragraph).
I was planning to make a double loop-in-loop chain, but I found that
the wire was far too hard to do that. After I started weaving the
double chain, I noticed that I should have annealed all the links
after shaping them, but I hadn’t done so. So I resorted to making a
single loop-in-loop instead (which my daughter actually prefers). I
could have gone back and annealed the links, but decided as it was
my first loop-in-loop chain, I’d stick to the more simple single
version. As it happens, using the 9mm mandrel rather than the 7mm,
meant that I didn’t really have enough links to make the double
chain to the required length anyway, but I have quite a few left
over, after deciding to make the single chain. I’ll probably make her
a bracelet to match, or get some more wire and make some more chain.
I did notice when weaving the chain, that pushing the plier jaw
through the last link, to round out the ends, was giving me some
very painful blisters, and so I had to stop and carry on the next
day. I was wondering how I was going to get through it all with my
fingers intact, and then I remembered my roll of green finger tape!
An absolute life saver!!! I donned the tape and the rest of the chain
grew really quickly.
I fashioned ends by wrapping some more Argentium wire around one jaw
of my needle nose pliers, to give tight, tapered coiled ends. I
fluxed and heated them both up to red heat to fuse the tapered coils
into two solid pieces, then fused an Argentium hook into the end of
each. These hooks will attach to the loop on the top of the pocket
watch. I fashioned a doubled loop of Argentium wire to go through
the two chain end loops, which I then fused into the coiled ends I’d
made. The whole thing was then pickled (after annealing the chain
carefully) and the links trued up, using my needle nose pliers held
in my vice.
The chain will be tumbled later today, to give it its final
"polishing" (burnishing). I did notice that the pliers in the vice
trick (as prescribed by Jean Stark in her book), not only trued the
links, but also burnished the insides of them, which was an added
bonus, as the steel shot in the tumbler won’t reach the insides.
I’m really pleased with the chain, and it is surprisingly strong
(not yielding when being tugged, like shop bought ones often do),
even though it looks very lightweight and open. I’m hoping to post
pictures on my blog shortly. I’ll definitely be using Argentium
sterling for chains in the future - just hope my daughter isn’t one
of those whose skin turns it instantly black!