I’ve been hand making 4-ring puzzle rings (PRs) for over 50 years. I
use a very crude jig made of nails in a lump of wood: here’s a photo
In addition to the usual ring mandrel, hide-mallet and soldering
equipment, I also use a pair of small round nosed pliers, small flat
nosed smooth pliers, a pair of circlip pliers (the type that open
when you squeeze the handles), and a small hammer.
A finished PR has two rings with V bends, and two with Z bends. One
of the Z rings has a definite dent in the top; this is the DZ ring.
The other one is smooth; its called the SZ ring. I have annotated the
photo with yellow lines to show how the lengths of wire are initially
bent around the nails.
I start with 4 lengths of wire, one of which is slightly longer
(about 1mm) than the other 3; this becomes one of the V rings - the
one that fits “above” the other V ring. When you examine an assembled
ring you will notice that the 2 Z-rings cross each other twice: once
in the actual pattern part, and once near the shanks where they
uncross. The SZ ring is on top of the DZ ring. If you orient the ring
so that the uncross is nearest to you, the shank of the SZ is on the
right of the DZ and the longest V is on the right.
I use the jig to first bend the two V rings which are put aside with
the longest on the right. I then bend the Z rings and place them on
the jig as shown, with the SZ on the right. The two staples hold the
straight shanks and allow me to adjust cross over to my liking
(possibly using round nosed pliers to help). When they look right I
give the pattern a sharp tap with the hide-mallet to create the start
of the dents.
I then remove the Z-rings from the jig and use binding wire to hold
the straight shanks of the cross-over together while the V-rings are
threaded through the loops made by the Z-rings (make sure the longer
V-ring is on the right). I then bind the other shanks of the Z-rings
At this point, all four rings still have straight shanks, but the
V-rings are correctly threaded though the figure-8 loops of the
Z-rings, and the Z-ring shanks are bound together. I can then roughly
bend the shanks of the V-rings into shape before doing the same with
the Z-rings. After removing the binding wire I then solder each ring.
With all 4 rings soldered I can then proceed with the final shaping.
I assemble the ring as best I can (its rather a mess at this stage)
and, using my fingers, bend the V-ring shanks to get them roughly
next to the Z-ring shanks before putting the entire ring on the
mandrel. I can then carefully mallet the shanks round, gradually
working towards the larger end of the mandrel. Its important not to
mallet the pattern at this stage - just ignore the fact that it looks
a complete mess. When all 4 rings are round I use the round nosed
pliers to adjust the pattern to my liking before giving it a whack
with the mallet. Sometimes it looks good at this stage, mostly it
still looks a mess, so I refine the pattern further and use the
mandrel to stretch the pattern a bit (keeping the ring assembled)
before whacking again.
The circlip pliers are used to force parts of the pattern apart when
required. Sometimes its necessary to adjust a ring (or rings)
individually. I do this by holding the shank in a small vice, with
just the pattern part free, then tweaking the pattern with pliers.
After tweaking like this, I assemble the ring again, place it on the
mandrel with the shanks together (but not necessarily all the same
size), and the pattern aligned as best I can before whacking again.
Eventually I get a nice pattern and can then proceed with the usual
Here’s ring made by the above process http://tinyurl.com/37t5jlm
Regards, Gary Wooding