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Silver rings for chain

Pat , you don’t wind those rings totally by hand, do you? It is much
easier to clamp a hand-operated drill in your vise, chuck in a dowel
or nail or whatever, bend about 1/4 inch of your wire at a right
angle and jam it between the chuck teeth , place your thumb firmly on
the wire, and slowly turn the drill’s winding handle. If you press
down with your thumb as you turn, you create a perfect coil right up
to the length of the dowl. If you need more rings, cut and make
another coil. Easy, easy!

M’lou Brubaker, Jeweler

Does any one have a picture of this setup or at least a step by step
explanation of how to mount a handrill in a vise for turning wire
jump rings for those of us dimentionally impaired? I inherited such
a handrill (50 plus years old) from my dad when he passed away in
November and I’d really like to make use of this drill. Any ideas?

I’m afraid I do. It’s the actual winding of the coils that I find so
relaxing, and I don’t have any problem getting even, tight coils.
The boring bit is cutting them. I don’t seem to be able to get on
with a saw or a dremel-type cutting disc, so I cut each ring by hand
as well. It might have something to do with the fact that my right
thumb is permanently dislocated as a result of osteoarthritis, so I
have very little grip with it, and not much control. Time is not
really a factor, and as my ‘day job’ is mentally very intensive I
really welcome the change of pace and focus.

But the hand drill idea is a good one, and will, I think, be the
answer if my dexterity declines further. Like many people, I’ve had
to find other ways of doing things because of a physical failure -
either that or give up completely, which for me is not an option.


Hi Judy,

How the drill is held in a vise really depends on the size & type of

If it’s an ‘egg beater’ type of drill, it will probably have a crank
& gear on one side of the main shaft with a handle on the side
opposite the crank. The main shaft will probably have a wooden
handle on the top end. These are usually about 12 inches long, from
the top of the handle to the bottom of the chuck.

If it’s a ‘breast drill’, it’ll look similar to the 'egg beater’
drill except that it’ll be about 16 to 24 inches long & made
completely of metal. The top handle will be replaced by a curved
metal ‘breast plate’ about 2-3 inches wide & 6 - 8 inches long.

If it’s an egg beater drill, possibly the handle opposite the crank
can be removed & the drill clamped in the vise using the metal the
handle was mounted on. If the handle was mounted using a screw or
bolt, replace it with one of suitable size & clamp that in the vise.

The same scheme may be used for the ‘breast drill’ if it’s
construction permits.

Without seeing the drill it’s rather difficult to provide any exact


Does any one have a picture of this setup or at least a step by
step explanation of how to mount a handrill in a vise for turning
wire jump rings for those of us dimentionally impaired? 

How about this:


I’ve noticed most jewelry books show cutting coils with a bench pin
and sawframe. They cut from outside in. I used to thread my coil onto
the saw frame, then cut from the inside out. I found it faster and
easier than trying to hold the coil and saw inwards. I am unable to
cut the last 3 rings with this method, and ended up remelting those
and making more wire, but find it much faster. Obviously the last few
rings can be un threaded and cut from the outside in. I use a #2
blade and use a bit of stick lubricant on the blade. Good luck,


Hi! The cutting board is one of the standard plastic ones that I
cut in half with a saw. You need to drill holes the size of your
favourite knitting needles. Try to drill in a line or a small clump
not too close to the edge so the wire can run relatively straight.

The steel plates probably have some specific function and name, but
couldn’t tell you what. I went to the hardware store and asked for a
small steel plate with a hole on each end and he knew exactly what I
wanted. It is about 2.5 by .One piece of leather goes on each steel
plates and are sandwiched together make sure you don’t cover the
holes. The wire is protected by the leather as it goes through the
plates. Drill two holes in one end of the cutting board and connect
the plates loosely to the top of the board with butterfly bolts. I
think I used #8 bolts. You want the wire to be guided, but not so
tight it won’t go through easily.

Clamp the other end of the board to the edge of your bench and feed
a piece of wire through the plates. Insert your needle and clamp the
wire to the needle with a small pair of vice grips. Then hold the
wire in one hand while twirling the vice grips with the other. The
only issue is occasionally you need to provide a small uplift on part
of the turn to keep the wire from overlapping itself, but normally it
wraps just fine.

If you can raid someone’s toolbox for the clamp and vice grip, this
is really cheap!!! I was able to get everything at Canadian Tire.
The smaller the vice grip, the better.

As for cutting, I am still doing that with my saw against the peg on
my bench. I know for about $150 you can get a cutter that attaches to
your Fordham.

Hope this is clear, if not, feel free to e-mail.


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Hi Gang,

I’m a chain maker & make a number of chain makers tools. All the
tools resulted from my own requirements or those of students in
classes I teach.

If you’d like a list of the tools, send an email to:


Does any one have a picture of this setup or at least a step by
step explanation of how to mount a handrill in a vise for turning
wire jump rings for those of us dimentionally impaired? 

No picture Judy, but the explanation should be easy enough to
follow. : There are usually two (2) knobs on most of these hand
drills, one on the gear or crank wheel and the other on the body of
the drill. You can either remove the wooden knob on the body or
flatten it on two sides so that the drill can be mounted
horizontally on your bench vice. This will leave the turning gear
(wheel) on top. Insert the size mandrel you want into the chuck of
the drill, push one end of the size wire you desire to make into
rings into one of the spaces in the chuck holding the mandrel, and,
holding your thumb against the wire as it winds on the mandrel, you
will get a uniform coil of rings (looks like a spring). One can also
use a wooden clothes pin to feed the wire onto the mandrel. You will
then have to cut this to make individual rings. If you care to
review the technic I have evolved to do this last step without the
purchase of a ring cutter, let me know and I’ll post that for you
and others who might be interested.

HTH Joe Dule

If you are not using heavy gage wire for these rings, try flush
cutting pliers. There are some that will flush cut on both sides but
mine do not. I simply clip both sides. I wouldn’t do this with gold
or if really exact sizes are needed or if I were not going to solder
the rings shut.

Marilyn Smith

It’s definitely not an “egg beater”. It has a wooden knob on top for
positioning the hand to steady the drill. It is almost completely
metal; I can’t recall a “breast plate” but it does come down from
the knob and form a handle as the metal forms a 3 sided square for
grasping then on down to the drill which is inserted in a typical
chuck. One grasps the handle and rotates it around and around.
Primitive but I actually recall my dad using it exclusively.
Perhaps the whole thing should be saved as is and I should invest in
one of the other inexpensive devices Dave Arens mentioned off-list.
Couldn’t any drill chuck be mounted in a vise?

The Chain Maille folks have a simple set up that you can see a
picture of at this website:


Judy, In Jean Stark’s book (Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains), the drill
doesn’t go into the vise. One end of the wire is clamped in the
vise, and the other end is attached to a wooden dowel for winding by

Keep the wire straight while winding, but don’t pull so hard it
stretches. I don’t know how well a hand drill would work, but my
electric drill was too fast, even using low gear.

I always anneal the wire before winding, and again after cutting.


Judy, you do not have the kind of drill we are talking about. You
have a brace, which is a lovely thing, but different . The drill I
use has a geared mechanism, you know, with little teeth that fit
together? I happen to have a strange one that already has flat sides
to easily fit in a vise, but you could easily flatten 2 sides of the
handle, as already suggested, of a cheap model from the hardware
store. I wouldn’t alter your nice old brace. Keep it for putting
holes in wood. – M’lou Brubaker, Jeweler Goodland, MN

Judy–page 249 of the Rio Tools & Packaging catalog, item J at the
bottom of the page, is what it sounds like you’re looking for.
What’s sometimes referred to as an “old egg-beater drill”. I got mine
at an Ace Hardware, or someplace like that, for about the same
price. Mine is set horizontally in a vise, which is clamped onto my
work table. I insert the mandrel into the chuck and tighten. The
end of my wire goes into the chuck too, and then I start turning the
drill. Go slowly at first, but with practice, you can quickly wind
nice tight coils. After that, it’s the jeweler’s saw for me
(JumpRinger money is currently earmarked for other things sigh)
but once you take the coil off the mandrel, you can cut it any way
you wish. Hope that helps, Jill

I’m amazed of the creativity in the ways that you Orchidians wind up
your rings. I have made a lot of sterling jump rings and have
experimented a little with the winding, and here is, what works best
and fastest for me.

  1. I cut a slit in the end of the mandrel to accomodate the silver
    wire. I normally use steel rods for mandrels but have also worked
    with knitting pins and brass rods drawn in the draw bench to give me
    a specific diametre.

  2. In a piece of wood I cut another slit parallel to the fibres in
    the wood.

  3. I then thread the wire through the slit in the wood and clamp the
    wood in a bench vise, the end of the wire protruding about three to
    four times the diameter of the mandrel, and the wood protruding a
    little over the bench vise.

  4. The mandrel is then mounted in an ordinary electronic hand drill
    with variable speed control and the wire is pressed into the slit in
    the mandrel.

  5. hold the drill in one hand and use the other hand to guide the
    wire and mandrel for the first two or three turns, and when they are
    ok, one can speed up the drill and finish a 24 inch coil in less than
    an minute.

P. S. You can control the tightness of the turns by applying more or
less pressure to the piece of wood by loosening or tightening the
bench vise.

Try it, you will be amazed.

P.P.S.: In the cut the coils on an old M.D.M jewellers circular saw
that I bought for less than 100 dollars, but that is quite another

Kind regards
Niels Lovschal