Trouble shaping cuffs

I am making cuff bracelets anywhere from one inch wide to two inches
wide and I get a little frustrated with shaping them. I have a
wooden bracelet mandrel. I start with the piece of silver sheet
centered on the mandrel and then I start bending it with my hands.
It seems to go okay at first, but when I get to bending the sides in
after the sheet is started around the mandrel, it gets out of shape
and I have a hard time holding it. I also have some forming pliers
now that help me refine the shape some, but I wonder if I am using
the mandrel correctly. Do you rest it against your workbench and
push against it? How do you hold the silver in place on the mandrel
while shaping the sides? Tricks? Comments?

J. S. Ellington

Always start bending from the ends not the middle. If you bend in
the middle first, you lose all leverage. Forming that you can do with
your hands will not leave marks. If you need to hammer, use a leather
mallet, prferably a well broken in one. It may help you to put the
mandle in a vise or it you do not have one, brace it between your
body and the edge of your work bench. I recomend that you read
"Jewelry Fundamentals of Metalsmithing" by Tim McCreight.

Marilyn Smith

J.S. I use a steel mandrel and hold it in a vise with a pair of
inserts that allow you to hold a tapered object. I do as much bending
by hand and then follow up using a rawhide mallet. Hold the bracelet
on one side of the mandrel and strike the bracelet on the opposite
side. Turn it around and work on the other side. This works for me.

Joel Schwalb

J. :I usually place my bracelet mandrel in a vice. This gives it
lots of hold so it doesn’t move when you strike it. I have also
found it is easier to start the forming at one end. This gives you
more angle leverage against the mandrel, In other words you can
change the angle that the piece of silver is contacting the mandrel
so as to apply the most pressure and get the maximum bend. When I
have one end bent then I work on the other end and then the middle.
Seems to work best for me unless I have excess silver that can be
cut off of each end after bending. Then you can start in the middle
and you can bend past a complete circle in both directions and then
cut off the excess. This method works really well with rings to get
a complete circle . Frank Goss

It sounds like you are doing it the hard way. For a relatively
minor expenditure you can buy a great tool to take most of the hard
work out of it. I have friends who own such a bracelet-making tool
for both convex and concave turns and wouldn’t be without it. Check
out the following site:

I am making cuff bracelets anywhere from one inch wide to two inches
wide and I get a little frustrated with shaping them.

…There are a number of ways to make a bangle, but I rarely use
the bracelet mandral! The easiest way to make a slightly domed
bangle…any width…is to get a soft wood, like a pine 2x4, put in
vise,end up, and hammer a depression woth a round ended hammer. Then
take your ANNEALED blank and hammer with same or similar hammer into
depression, this will start to curve in 2 dimensions. With careful
hammering, front will stay somewhat smooth. You will have to anneal
at least once, depending on size of blank, how much hammering, and
degree of arc.Try that, THEN you may need to use the mandrel to even
up, though, you can do it on the wood better. Thomas Blair

Hmmmm…perhaps I missed something, but did anyone mention that
frequent annealing ought to alleviate the apparent loss of
malleability that you are experiencing while attempting to shape your
bracelet? I make an awful lot of big cuffs, and I haven’t used a
vise yet, but then I probably ought to try it…I am probably
missing something…as usual :slight_smile:

Oh…and anyone who has tried to write me for the last month or so,
write again, my computer went kablooey, (technical term…), and I
lost e-mails and addresses. Hate it when that happens.

Lisa, (Watching two redtailed hawks duke it out mid air, 15 feet in
front of me while I write this from on top of my mountain.) Topanga,

I never invested in a bracelet mandrel until recently. I found that
a base ball bat with the knob of the small end removed works better
than the mandrel. I lay the bat across my lap and hold the flat
bracelet on the surface of the bat so that the end of the blank is
raised above the bat. I hammer the end with a well worn leather
mallet which starts bending the end of the bracelet I continually
raise the end of the blank away from the surface of the bat and
hammer the end down to the surface. I bend both ends of the blank
before stating to bend the center of the blank. The idea is to hold
the blank hard against the surface of the bat with the portion you
want to bend raised from the surface. Hammer the raised end down
until it meets the surface of the bat. Lee Epperson

Eve- I am trying to shape bracelets up to two inches wide. I don’t
believe the tools on Midland Tool will do one that wide. Also, I
can’t tell for sure, but I don’t think it would be much different
from the bracelet-forming pliers I have except for the
convex/concave curve being created simultaneously?

J. S. Ellington

1 Like

In addition to the other good advice offered, I’d say to those who
are doing jewelrymaking as much for fun as for profit – don’t bother
buying those very expensive (and heavy) steel mandrels. Just get
yourself an old wooden softball or baseball bat (with as large a
diameter as possible) and shape your bracelets around that, using
your rawhide mallet. In addition, for cuff bracelets that need to be
more oval than round in shape, find an old wooden oval table leg and
use that (or get a woodworker friend to make something for you).

Both of these “mandrels” taper a bit, so you would need to reverse
the cuff’s position now and then. HTH.

Judy Bjorkman

Thanks for your answer. Most seem to think it is better to bend the
ends first. I have been bending the center first and then trying to
bend the ends. I am a little confused about the bat, though. That is
round and my bracelet mandrel is more oval like a wrist.

J. S. (Sue) Ellington

Your mandrel needs to be mounted, either in a vise (sideways) or by
shaping a board with a tang to be inserted into the hollow middle
(the board is screwed down). It is much easier to form the metal if
you’re not having to also support the mandrel with your hands. Start
with the ends of the metal first, shaping the curve first on one end,
then the other. Use a large rawhide or wooden mallet to tap the end
of the metal against the mandrel, while you use your other hand to
hold the metal in place. The middle will be straight, with two curved
ends. Start with the small end of the mandrel, as the ends will
spread as you bend the middle, to match the correct circumference.
Next start shaping the middle by tapping it around the mandrel,
beginning with the small end of the mandrel, and gradually sliding it
down the mandrel to the finished size you need. On non-tapered
cuffs, usually those that are 1" and smaller in size, reverse the
direction of the bracelet frequently, turning the top edge to the
bottom, and the bottom to the top.This is accomplished by sliding the
cuff off the mandrel and rotating it 180 degrees. On larger cuff
widths, you don’t usually do this because you want that taper to
follow the taper of the forearm. If your ends spread too much, you
can reform them on the small end of the mandrel again. Cuff bracelets
are generally formed on an oval mandrel, while bangles are formed on
a round mandrel.

I have also been reading these posts with great interest, as I am
now making sterling cuffs for my shop inventory.

I’m using 18 and 20 gauge 1" strips, and don’t have lots of tools.
Most of them are left over from 30 years of leather working and
hammers for the knock off hubs for Austin Healey’s. (tells you how
old I am).

I’m using the closest table leg to my bench, which is working fine.
I didn’t know how to form this before my teacher told me to try it.
I did start on one side, forming around with my hands, and then the
other end. I then took a 6" piece of pipe that is 1 7/8ths" diameter
and 1/4" thick, good and sturdy, that I got the plumbing store to
give me. I covered it in a product we use on the race track to wrap
horses tendons before galloping, called Sealtex. It’s a latex
bandage 3" wide and 5 yds long for $10.00. This will last for a long
time, you can cut out whatever lengths you need.

I wrap the pipe in it, have some on my ‘anvil’ (a piece of railroad
track I was given by a friend, and can use my leather or rubber
hammer to form it better, finishing by using my hands to do the final

I realize this isn’t probably the ‘formal correct technical’ way to
accomplish this, but for someone starting out, it works and is very

Necessity is the mother of invention.–ask any one who operates a

Cheers! Dinah.

Sue, I learned to shape cuffs using a baseball bat (if you get one,
be sure it is a hardwood bat). I was taught to always shape the ends
first . If you do this, the middle automatically stays flat and it
is then it is your choice whether to continue molding it to a round
shape or spruce it up a bit and remain with the oval shape - your
personal choice for comfort in wearing. If the cuff is narrow, a
nice round cuff which fits fairly snugly is very comfortable. Wider
bands, I tend to like in the oval shape as they rest more comfortably
on the wrist when your arm lies on a flat surface.

I made quite a few cuffs before I was entirely comfortable with the
process but I think you have found that most everyone starts with the
ends first. I generally make mine a tad loose to start with and then
gently mold it to my wrist which also tends to somewhat work harden
the piece to the right tension for putting on and off.

The baseball bat mandrel is relatively cheap, and has sizes for
everyone - just measure the diameter and mark and you have an
infinite array of sizes. The smaller end of the bat when cut off
makes a nice large mushroom dop for other uses, similar to a carriage
bolt but somewhat larger.

Good luck.

Back when I was in the turquoise business, and we made cuffs by the
thousands, between all the silversmiths, that’s pretty much what we
all did, and still do —the tools and mandrels being varied by the

A few years ago I purchased a steel stepped bracelet mandrel.
Believe it has four steps ranging large to small. It works pretty
well now, after I polished the steps. The steps had all sorts of
machine lines that marred the inside of the bracelet. This mandrel
was manufactured by a company that many of us use. Polishing those
steps was a real chore, file, sand, file, sand, polish, you know the
drill - a lot o work. With the various other alternatives mentioned
on this thread, think I’d try a ball bat instead.

Jerry Cave