what do you consider to be the minimum diameter of wire for
making unsoldered chain links in copper and sterling? i am guessing
that work hardening the chain after the links have been connected
will allow a smaller gauge.
I don’t know if there’s one answer for your question. The smallest
gauge wire that’s satisfactory to use depends somewhat on the link
size and the chain pattern. Some patterns eg. chain mail, can
tolerated a lot lighter gauge than others eg. curb chain.
There is one way of improving the performance of lighter gauge
links. Harden the wire before wrapping & cutting coils. Links made
from hardened wire resist opening much better than unhardened wire.
Any gauge wire can quickly & easily be hardened. He’s a technique
I’ve used to harden lengths of wire up to 30 ft in length. 1. Uncoil
the length of wire to be hardened. Cut it from the wire supply. 2.
Clamp one end in a vise or form a small loop & place over a nail
driven into a sturdy support. 3. Secure a cup hook (or similar) in the
chuck of an electric drill (a hand drill will work, but unless the
wire is short, turning the drill will get to be a chore) or a
flexshaft. 4. Form a loop in the other end of the wire. 5. Place the
2nd loop over the hook in the drill. 6. Draw the wire taut with the
drill. 7. While keeping the wire taut, start the drill. Keep it
running until the wire breaks (usually at one end or the other). 8.
Gather the hardened wire and wrap into coils.
I’ve used this technique successfully on all types & gauges of wire.
Coils wound of hardened wire will unwrap a few turns when the coil is
cut from the wire supply. As a result the coil will be a larger
diameter than the mandrel it was wound on. However, all coils wound
from the same supply of hardened wire will unwind the same amount and
all coils will be the same diameter.
When hardening wire for a project, it’s best to harden the entire
length in 1 piece. If multiple pieces are used, the degree of
hardening may vary from one length to another. Coils wrapped from
wires of different hardnesses may have different diameters.