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Making heavy guage chain

Thank you in advance for your help - I am new to Orchid and
silversmithing and love both! I am attempting to make 12 ga.
round sterling links - wrapped on 3/8" dowel. My problem is
getting the links back together true so I can solder closed
(probably not necesary as I can tell they will NEVER come open but I
want and need the practice!) . Any suggestions? Are there any
heavy duty “closing” pliers that might help? Perhaps I need to
anneal after every bend? Am I attempting something that only
machine strength will accomplish? Should I saw through the opening
again to insure a perfect fit, then hammer shut with a nylon head
hammer? Any suggestions would truly be appreciated.
JoAnn Dean, Calabasas, CA

Hi JoAnn,

I am attempting to make 12 ga. round sterling links  - wrapped on
3/8" dowel.  My problem is getting the links back together true so
I can solder closed (probably not necesary as I can tell they will
NEVER come open but I want and need the practice!) . 

Part of the answer lies in the strength of your hands. Without
knowing what your ‘grip’ is like any answer is questionable.

I’ve made several chains from 12 ga links, most of them smaller than
yours. I was able to close all the links using the same smooth jawed
pliers I use for all my chain making.

I wind my coils about 3 inches long & cut them with the Koil Kutter
so both ends are square & the gap is very small. To keep the amount
of forming to a minimum, I closed 1/2 the links before starting to
assemble the chain. The other links are only opened enough to permit
inserting the closed links. It’s not difficult to close the links so
the joint is flush & tight. When soldered (using paste solder) the
joint is invisible.

When closing heavy gauge wire, it’s usually not necessary to ‘over
close’ the link to keep it closed.


the answer is not to fight the metal but use it’s characteristics to
your advantage.

the very fact you are trying to work against, memory and the spring
of the wire can be used to your advantage.

form the rings on a smaller mandrel that will leave the wire
approximately the diameter of the finished size rings you need.

you can then finesse the size by putting them on the size mandrel and
performing what ever you intend to do.

ps: a little experimentation will soon give you the smaller mandrel
size that leaves the rings after springing open to the finish size
you want. jack

Hi Jo Ann 12 very doable,we have a few hand made designs of
chain at my work place that I make from scratch.the mandrel is at 6
mm. the amount of strength is a bit much on the rest of the shop ,but
the days that I make the chains ,I feel it for the next day or so.
the trick is to anneal every possible chance you get before and after
making the rings,before you cut them they should be in the soft
stage, do use extra metal ,to make the jumprings,since that will help
you have more metal to grab onto;I use about 6 inches extra ,so I
grab a hold of it with vise grips. I hold the mandrel in a bench
mechanics vise,and twist the wire around that by hand. for the more
daring , I will say you can put the mandrel in a large drill press
with multi speed , but I will stop here about that since it is a bit
risky specially on an email instruction. the thick metal after it has
been cut,it will be on an extreme angle,and the rings will look and
hang crooked,you will have to compensate for this by bending the
rings shut over extending passed the meeting of the 2 sides and than
bringing them back.for this I use 2 large size parallel pliers ,but
be very careful with the silver since it mares very easy at the
annealed stage .I have seen the pliers with plastic inserts witch
will help,I use very many layers of masking tape,about 1/16 thick
taped to the jaws of the pliers.also another trick with silver is
once you have them closed ,if you a perfectly flat soldering pad or
charcoal ,and bring them up to anneal stage ,and usually this stage
will relax the metal onto the flat plain by it’s own weight and make
sit flatter than askew. it’s a bit of hard work but well worth
it.have in mind also that you can go up to 11 Ga. and after you clean
and polish the J-rings they will be at around 12ga.

good luck
Hratch Babikian
P.O. Box 54147
Philadelphia, PA 19105
tele215 465 9351

  Should I saw through the opening again [after soldering shut] to
insure a perfect fit, then hammer shut with a nylon head  hammer? 

joanne - so tell me, is your life going along with such absolute
perfection that you are in need of some really aggravating extra
work? what - you haven’t set your new buffs on fire lately while
adjusting the torch flame? or - maybe you’ve located all 692 stones
that escaped from the polishing wheels? don’t tell me - you have a
pet that thrives & flourishes on eating all work-created bustbunnies
& gets a great high on inhaling all soldering fumes & never leaves
your side while you work? so lacking any problems you wish to import
some gratuitous ones by doing, undoing & redoing - doing, undoing &
redoing - link by link? if this is the case - may i hire you & your
pet? i’ll solder the whole chain for you. work saving tip: find some
really old gum under some table, that has reached the silvery gray
stage, set aside. line up & link on the chain components, solder
those needing it. grab old fossilized gum - chip off small pieces &
work into any gaps left on any links with nylon faced hammer. sand
smooth. polish. stand back & admire, but wear only doing cold
weather. good luck -


   I am attempting to make 12 ga. round sterling links  - wrapped
on 3/8" dowel.  

G’day JoAnne: You don’t need ‘closing pliers’. If you wind your
WELL ANNEALED sterling on a round rod tightly, you can cut down the
spiral with a jeweller’s saw to make the links which will leave the
ends cleanly at a similar angle to each other. You should nest use a
pair of small pliers in each hand, and having the cut at the top of
the ring, grab two sides of it with the pliers, gently force the ends
very slightly towards but past each other, then gently pull and move
the ends sideways towards each other so they meet. The result will
be to have the ends slightly pressing against each other, and the
circle should be in a single plane when you’ve done. Flux the rings
and solder the ends together using solder pieces no larger than 1mm
square. If you wish, you can force the pieces of solder between the
clean cut ends where they will be held by tension. For soldering I
personally prefer to hold the ring(s) with a pair of blunt pointed
self locking tweezers which can be screwed to a little block; I find
it easier than laying them flat on a hearth to do it. (ask if you
want details on this) Make a number of soldered rings then join two
together with a third ring and solder that. Join two of these units
with a seventh ring - and go on from there. Chain making is a bit
like knitting in that you can pick it up, do a bit, then put it down
again until you feel like doing a bit more. Fun? I enjoy it! – Cheers
for now,

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

Hello Jo Ann, Are you using annealed wire to begin with? "Dead soft"
as they say? If not, try that before going to Herculean efforts
;-). I am attempting to make 12 ga.

    round sterling links  - wrapped on 3/8" dowel.  My problem is
getting the links back together true so I can solder closed 

Hope this solves your problem, Judy in Kansas where we had a very
balmy weekend, but could use some rain.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506 (785) 532-2936

12 gage is really not that heavy,try 8 that is tough. I would
anneal it after it is removed from the maderal. With round rings
you can anneal them after they are cut. Get yourself a good pair of
pliers, the better the quality the better your results as the
pressure you use will transfer to the plyers. Also either use flat
nose plyers or chain noise plyers that are cut off. The more
surface area on the plyers the better your grip. Your hands will
get stronger with time, I am petite and have no problems.


John, A tip in partial repayment for all the help you given me over
the years.Get a square of wood that fits your hand saw the end square
then screw in a stainless steel screw whose slot fits the guage of
wire you are using.Then with just a twist of the wrist, while holding
the opposite side with the pliers,you can open and close the ring
with ease. You can find slotted screws that will fit almost all
guages of wire. Bill from Long Island