Hello. I am very new to this and have what I think is probably a
very basic question. I have been working with sterling silver and
have been making earrings and such, but have decided that what I
would really like to do is make handmade chains. I’ve seen them
several places and just fallen in love with them. I’ve been
searching Orchid’s archives, but am having trouble finding the info.
My question is this…can high quality chains be made that are not
soldered? If so, at what point do you need to solder a chain? I
have the materials to solder, and have begun to practice but have
quickly realized what an incredibly tedious process this is! My goal
is to eventually be able to sell my jewelry and I want to be beyond
the “craft” market, and I’m stuck as to what direction I proceed.
Also, it seems that everything I’ve read seems to suggest something
different, so I am very confused! I appreciate any
help/advice/comments you can offer, and hope that one day I will be
able to contribute something as well!
can high quality chains be made that are not soldered? If so, at
what point do you need to solder a chain? I have the materials to
solder, and have begun to practice but have quickly realized what
an incredibly tedious process this is
Whether a chain is made of soldered or unsoldered links depends
somewhat on the chain pattern. There are lots of chain patterns that
don’t require soldering.
Whether a chain is defined as ‘high quality’ depends on other
considerations as well as ‘are the links soldered’. One of the
prime considerations when making a hand made chain is the link
closure. On a well made chain the joints will be almost invesible.
The ends of the links will line up flush & they will be tight. It’ll
be almost impossible to see the joints after the chain is polished.
For soldering links in chain, paste solder is my choice. It’s easy
to apply, stays where its put & does a good job. If you use fine
silver or 22 kt gold you can avoid the solder & fuse the links.
There’s also a solder filled wire available for making chain, but
I’ve not used it so can’t comment on it.
Ah ha! Finally a question in my field of expertise.
My question is this...can high quality chains be made that are
Yes, but you need to use sufficiently hard wire and a tight pattern.
Working in sterling silver, half hard is an absolute minimum, spring
hard is preferred. Bracelets need to be sturdier than necklaces,
and necklaces need to be sturdier than earrings. But choke points on
any piece (where it drops to just one ring) are often candidates for
If so, at what point do you need to solder a chain?
If you’re using thin wire and large rings (an open, lace-like
pattern) you should definitely consider soldering. It will depend on
the piece you’re making (high or low wear), the hardness of your
wire, and the overall scale of the piece.
I hope that helped a little. I’m happy to talk about wire and chain
patterns all day long, so don’t hesitate to peep if you’re still
-Spider (delighted to have informed advice to offer)
If the wire is heavy enough and the rings small enough, then
functionally, soldering is not needed. The idiots delight is a chain
that does not use soldered links. However, it can be tedious to get
the ends of the rings to match up neatly. There are tools such as the
jump ringer that make this process easier and quickly. Etruscan type
chains while needing to be soldered, are soldered into rings before
they are put into a chain form. This means that melting a ring, only
affects that one. If you are doing a simple ring into ring chain,
solder half of the rings closed and then insert one unsoldered ring
into two soldered ones and solder it. Next, pick up two threes and
insert a ring and solder it. Continue until the chain is assembled.
There are instructions for chain making in most jewelry making books.
Check them out.
Carol, I make chains, chainmaille, etc. A good book to get is Irene
From Peterson’s “Great Wire Jewelry”. This book is filled with all
sorts of pictures of basic chains to some more complicated ones.
There is a chart in the back of the book that gives measurements for
wire gauge along with a key to the chains in the book for suggested
ring sizes. Word of warning when using this chart though. The wire
gauge’s are off by one size. What is listed for 22-gauge , should
actually be 20-gauge and so on.
Another website for making chains which has excellent instructions
and won’t cost you anything as far as learning materials is a site
put together by this guy called Derakon.
Can high quality chains be made that are not soldered? Definitely
so. I have done both soldered and non-soldered chains, but it depends
upon the wire gauge and size and shape of the rings to determine
whether one should solder or not.
For some inspiration of some beautiful chain creations, check out
the following site: www.silverweaver.com . Spider does wonderful
work and is very creative.
My question is this...can high quality chains be made that are
Hi Carol, This is how I started my journey into the world of
jewelry, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wanted
to make chains, looked for a book and only found one and it was by
Jean Stark and out of print. I searched for her address to contact
her, and found her email address. When I asked her to make a copy of
her book for me at Kinkos and send it to me……she said I
should come and take her class in Hilton Head. She is one of the
greatest teachers I have ever had, quite a lady, super talented, and
loves to give away all she knows. Instead of soldering the loops,
she fuses them. With soldered loops, you are pretty much limited to
round or oval links. With fused links, you can fuse, anneal, twist,
squeeze, and weave them. To do the same thing with a soldered link,
breaks the solder joint. In fact, it will break a fused link if the
proper alloy isnt used. I spent two whole days in one of Jeans
classes teaching the class that my way -wrong alloy- wouldn’t
work……every link broke when I weaved it.
Her book is Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains, here is the description
from Amazon: <<Book Description Since its publication in 1997,
“Classical Chains” has become a classic in it’s own right. Clear
step-by-step instructions will lead you through a total of 38 chain
styles, all derived from the elegant loop-in-loop process. With 350
drawings and 45 photographs, this is clearly the definitive work on
this topic. Ms. Stark brings years of teaching and experimentation to
this popular book. In straightforward language she discusses not only
the making of chains, but clasps and terminals too. The Brynmorgen
edition includes two dozen additions to the original text by the
author. This new deluxe edition features a lay-flat spiral binding
and a hard covera practical binding for a book heralded widely as the
ultimate guide to these versatile chains.>>
You can see many of the chains on my Web site, look under Jean Stark
and Chains. I do need to caution you, once you get started in this
adventure, you will become addicted. If you have any questions,
please feel free to call me at any time.
My question is this...can high quality chains be made that are
not soldered? If so, at what point do you need to solder a chain?
I have the materials to solder, and have begun to practice but have
quickly realized what an incredibly tedious process this is! My
goal is to eventually be able to sell my jewelry and I want to be
beyond the "craft" market, and I'm stuck as to what direction I
proceed. Also, it seems that everything I've read seems to suggest
something different, so I am very confused! I appreciate any
help/advice/comments you can offer, and hope that one day I will
be able to contribute something as well!
Any chain that you expect to hold up under tension should be
soldered, that is my opinion. If the links are really stiff, they
might be okay, or if you do Byzantine chain with jump rings, the
combined strength of all the links will hold it together.
I haven’t really studied the situation, but I can give you my
perspective. It is so easy and cheap to make regular chains with a
machine that there is little or no point in doing it by hand, other
than as an exercise. I made a couple of regular chains just for the
soldering practice, before I tackled some of the more exotic ones
that I’ve done since. I suggest finding (or developing) some
interesting pattern that does not lend itself to mass-production.
The normal buyer can’t tell the difference between a hand-made
ordinary chain and a machine made one.
Some people link odd shapes together, very successfully. I’m not so
good at that, so I tie knots.
Okay, now here’s my question: I made a chain using the solder
filled wire and it wasn’t bad for a first project. Now, I want to
know how to polish it. I have a rock tumbler and I was thinking I
could use it to polish the chain, but what should I use – I mean in
looking through my catalogues I see that there a number of things
used to polish. Thanks for your help.
Linda Gertsch in Saranac Lake, NY
where the snow is almost gone.
1) I don't use solder snippets, instead I use a syringe full of
liquid solder with a hypo needle on the end for precision.
Available from Rio or your local supplier.
I would like to second Andrew’s suggestion for Waszek’s book on Making Silver Chains…it is excellent. I plan to try liquid solder,
but if you only have snippets, follow Waszek’s advice and position
the jumpring (with the snippet in place) over the edge of your
soldering board and heat from underneath. This localizes the heat
to the joint and prevents soldering or unsoldering already completed
links on the chain. Nanct
If you have cleaned up the chain well, you should get a nice shine
with burnishing solution and stainless steel shot in your tumble. I
do not advise spending the money on shot that is not stainless. If
you have scratches and blobs of solder though, all you will have is
shiny scrated and blobbed chain links.
Carol, I agree with the advice to get the book “Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains” by Jean Stark. It is currently available,
fusing fine silver is wonderful. Another great little book is “Great Wire Jewelry: Projects & Techniques (Jewelry Crafts)” by Irene From Petersen. It
is almost entirely unsoldered woven and braided chains that can be
made in sterling silver. You are correct in your observation that
chain making is tedious. Most chain makers do it because we love it,
not because it is a cost effective use of our time. I find it to be
very meditative. If you find yourself getting frustrated, just slow
down and enjoy the process.
Now, I want to know how to polish it. I have a rock tumbler and I
was thinking I could use it to polish the chain, but what should I
use -- I mean in looking through my catalogues I see that there a
number of things used to polish.
A lot of chain makers use assorted shapes of steel shot in a tumbler
to polish chains. The shot, along with a small amount of water & a
little burnishing soap (2-3 drops of low sudsing dishwashing
detergent) will do the trick. Be sure to clean the tumbler out
scrupiously before polishing. There shouldn’t be any grains of the
abrasives used for rock tumbling in the barrel.
A chain that’s been pickled & neutralized in water to which baking
soda has been added, can be put in the tumbler & polished in short
order. The vibratory tumblers can polish a number of chains in
about 1/2 hour. The rotary tumblers take a little longer.
I know that many people prefer to fuse fine silver links. However,
remember that fine silver is more malleable and chain made with it
can stretch. Soldered links can be neatly soldered and be sturdy
enough to fold in half and use in loop in loop chains. Put the link
on round nose pliers and open the pliers to stretch the link into an
oval the same as you would for the fused link. If the seam is not
good, it will pop just as an incompletely fused fine silver one will.
After this, the link should be annealed before folding and threading
through the others.
Carol, chain can definately be made without solder, it just depends
on the type of chain you want to make. I believe much of the chain
mail chain isn’t soldered. You also can knit chain from one
continuous strand. There is a book called “Great Wire Jewelry” by
Irene From Peterson that is informative, or perhaps you could check
out your local library. – Lisa Hawthorne @Lisa_Hawthorne
Carol I make sterling silver chains by fusing the ends of the wire
together. I use “extra spring hard” 0.8 mm sterling wire and make
some quite large links (up to 1" diameter) that will retain their
temper as entire jump ring does not have to be heated as in
soldering. I bend up the ends of the wires at right angles to the
jump ring curve so the two ends are parallel to each other leaving
about 3-4 mm sticking up from the circle of the ring. To do this I
make a coil of wire but pull and extend the coil so I can fit wire
cutters in between each loop. I cut the rings so there is an overlap
of wire. Then I fuse these ends together until a small bead forms. It
makes for a jump ring with a small bead or lump which makes for an
interesting chain with small reflective beads. I then tumble polish
the chains. It’s fast and makes for a sturdy but fine chain. No need
to harden the links afterwards.
I also use a heavier guage (1.25mm) wire as well and make heavier
versions of these chains. They certainly don’t look machine made,
but have a unique look which customers seem to like.