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[Oops] Chain Construction


This is one for all you chain making problem solvers. I recently
had student who decided that making a chain was the project for
her, as no one else had done it in our studio. (High School art
studio) She dug out my copy of the Complete Metalsmith and went
with a slight variation of the Etruscan chain. Well, she turned
out to be a whiz at soldering jump rings and connecting them. I
think she completed 6 inches of chain in 2 class periods one day.
Anyway, using a homemade draw plate from the metals shop
downstairs, we pulled that ( now 18" ) sterling chain through the
first hole… went smooth as silk. Then the problem… In annealing
the chain for the next course of drawing, too much heat was
concentrated on a 2" inch area smack in the middle of the total
length and the hard solder flowed. Now , in this wonderfully
flexible, attractive chain is a 2" inch section stiff as a board.
This chain has now sat in my desk for a month due to an overload
of teenage disappointment and frustration. I would like to find a
way to help her out, but I’m no chain expert in any way.

Any thoughts??

In deepest appreciation,

Terry Swift
Corydon Central High School
Corydon, Indiana (Midwest U.S.)

Could your student design a patterned tube that would cover the
offending links while looking like it was an intentional part of
the design and solder it in place over the stiffened part?
Regards, Karen

Since the problem is in the middle, can the problem area be cut
off and the chain capped off on each end in some way to attach
to a pendant? Then the pendant will be in the middle and the
chain on both sides. It should be about the right length.

Terrence, Sorry about the chain/solder flow. Sometimes it
is possible to free up a pin joint by appling some yellow ochre
to the affected area and carefully heating that section while
alos moving it back and forth after the solder has remelted and
is in the process of cooling. This technique may not work in this
case since it is a large section and sounds as if the solder
really wicked up all thru. Don’t think that acid soaking will
work here since silver solders are made up of principally the
same things that sterling is made of. let me know if this helps
Don Wollwage

Cut out this section. Instruct her how to make a pendant and
incorporate this as the focal point. Can be brass, copper, or
sterling silver which she can fabricate. Also she could take
some silver scraps, put them in a crucible, melt them by adding
some borax to the scraps, and when stirred and melted, (iron rod)
slow pore into bucket of water. Will come up with interesting
form which can then be incorporated into chain by drilling holes,
removing stiff piece of silver, and attaching jump rings to new
free formed piece. Hope this gives her some ideas. Ray W.
Society for Midwest Metalsmiths.

what i would do in this situation would be to cut out the hard
section and forge it flat or run it thru a mill and maybe use it
for a pendant or pin and see if you have enough chain left to
make a bracelet or two. fine silver is the only way to go with
etruscan chain.

Terry, This chain problem is perfect opportunity for “creative
re-evaluation” ! Maybe remove the stiff section and replace it
with a really cool pendant ( possibly a stone setting project?)
Comes up too short? add a clasp on the other ends of the chain,
(you can make up a good 2-5 cm. that way) Or how about a double
chain bracelet? don’t let a good chain go to waste!
Go for it !! MTR

Have you and/or your student considered possibly making a
stupendous setting incorporating a really exquisite stone (or 2
or 3) and affixing it to the section of chain that’s ruined?
Or–snipping out that section and connecting the 2 sides, again,
to a knockout centerpiece? Would salvage her chain and still
give her a very wearable, one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. She
could do a reticulated piece, or set a stone–endless
possibilities there–urge her to get the imagination in gear and
I’ll bet she’ll be stunned with what she can create from the
boo-boo! Sharon Holt

Terry, Another possibility would be to cut out the solid 2"
section. Depending on the guage of it, it could be used as is,
or drawn down to a smaller guage, then used as wire to make more
links, larger in diameter than the original chain links. These
links, now made with a “patterened” wire, could be linked to one
another and added to the center of the chain, or distributed
throughout the center section of the chain in between the
original links. Would add nice variety to the chain, while
keeping all the links related.