I’ve been making chainmaille jewelry for 8 years and also work with
metal clay and am working on basic silversmithing skills. I love to
work with wire and have decided to learn the Classic Loop in Loop
techniques. I am well started with Stark’s book on Loop in Loop but
I have read and re-read the book and cannot find whether the fine
silver wire needs to be dead soft or half hard. I’m preparing to
order a large quantity of wire (large for me…) in 14, 16, 18, 20,
and 22 gauge which would cover all the gauges the projects require
but need to know about the hardness of the wire. Can someone out
there in Ganoksin-land help me??
Dead-soft would probably be easiest to start wrapping a coil with but
it hardens a bit when you wrap the coil & then gets annealed when you
fuse it so it doesn’t really matter all that much.
In terms of the fusing, it doesn’t matter if the fine silver wire is
dead soft or half-hard. It’ll fuse either way, and will become dead
soft in the process.
In terms of the winding the wire on a dowel to make the jump-rings
that will be fused, dead soft is easier because it’s less springy.
Personally, I’m really liking Argentium for L-in-L chains. It’s best
to use a slightly bigger dowel that Stark specifies, or a slightly
smaller wire gauge (it doesn’t stretch as much in the forming as fine
silver), but it’s MUCH easier to fuse and after the chain is made, it
can be hardened.
However, if you want to use it with PMC, it does have a
substantially lower melting point than fine silver.
Anyway: I’d recommend dead soft for either fine silver or Argentium
for LinL chains; that’s what i use, and it works well.
While I can’t recall the specific book off the top of my head, have
you considered if you have the ability to anneal the wire at home? If
you have a torch it would be easy enough to do. That way you could
order the 1/2 hard wire and, if you decided you didn’t like
loop-in-loop you could use the wire for other projects? Be it
chainmail or trichonopoly (aka Viking knit).
Also, personally, I found that it’s easier with harder wire (like
1/2 hard) to get the ends of the rings to press against each other
(by over-lapping them first, then aligning them) so that you can fuse
the rings easier.
So, in short, my suggestion is for the 1/2 hard wire.
I don’t see that it matters. If you’re going to be making fused or
soldered links, the wire will get annealed anyway.
I use dead soft for woven chains.
Since most of the loop in loop chains are made from fused rings
they’ll all end up dead soft anyway.
if you are going to be making loop-in-loop chains, you will be fusing
the fine silver rings. you’ll be heating the rings to red heat. this
temperature will anneal the fins silver wire - you should order
annealed (dead soft) fine silver wire. you’ll find that it is a
delight to work with. it fuses easily and flows quickly. your
greatest challange will be to fuse the rings without burning them
through. it takes a light touch and a torch that has a reasonably
i make and teach fused fine silver chains. my preferred torch is a
bernz-o-matic pencil torch because of the flame control provided by
the pressure regulator. no business association with bernz-o-matic,.
just a satisfied custiomer.
i also do not use a kiln as suggested in the chain book and have not
had any difficulty fusing rings from 14 guage to 22 gauge wire.
sometimes the heavier wire rings must be turned over to fuse the side
that is initially away from the flame.
you may also cut the fine silver coils with a sharp shears. a garden
shears with blades narrow enough to fit inside the coil workw very
well. look for shears with narrow and short blades and long handles -
this arrangements gives you more leverage for cutting and makes
good luck with your chaining.
If you go with dead soft wire you can’t really go wrong as you do
need the fused ring to be dead soft for forming loop in loop however
I don’t think the starting temper will make much difference in the
end. If you order full hard wire then any wire you have left over
from loop and loop is more useful for other chainmail applications.
With torch fusing I start with full hard wire and by the time the
ring is fused its dead soft (using a water torch at full 5000F). I
would think that if this hot of a flame anneals the entire ring then
any torch will anneal the entire ring.
I also fuse rings with pulse arc and plasma welders and with these
rings I need to anneal the rings after welding as welding does not
anneal the entire ring - just the area close to the weld.
The Ring Lord Chainmail
The key to making a beautiful loop-in-loop chain is consistency
(IMHO). You can use either annealed or unannealed wire loops. Just
use the same loops for one chain. The unannealed will result in
larger loops because the wire will not coil as tightly as annealed
wire. Some chains toward the back of her book specifically call for
using both annealed and unannealed loops to achieve slight
differences in size to create a tapered chain. I use different
containers for annealed and unannealed loops and label them
That said, I anneal my wire before coiling for my own sanity. There’s
nothing worse than discovering that you have used both types of loops
and the chain is misshaped because of that! Good luck and let us in
"Orchid-land" know how it went!
Also, personally, I found that it's easier with harder wire (like
1/2 hard) to get the ends of the rings to press against each other
(by over-lapping them first, then aligning them) so that you can
fuse the rings easier. So, in short, my suggestion is for the 1/2
I totally agree with Mark’s comments about 1/2 hard wire. In addition
to the above, you will find that you will produce fewer and smaller
burs when cutting 1/2 hard wire as compared to dead soft. An
additional advantage is that if you are not going to solder your
rings closed, the chain will be stronger.
Ray Grossman Inc.
Would someone please explain why the choice of Fine Silver rather
than Sterling in making the chain maille loop-to-loop. I use
Sterling dead soft, do not solder, and manage the jump rings to be
aligned and smooth. Finished pieces go in the tumbler.
It has been suggested by a couple of Chain Maillers that I use
half-hard instead for a better fit. I want my bracelets and necklaces
to be smooth. Any suggestions? I cut my own rings (with jump ringer)
and clean them in the ultra sound before assembling.
Fine silver is, I believe, preferred for loop-in-loop chains because
it fuses so easily without needing solders or pickle, which are tools
that some chainmaillers don’t have. Also, it is a softer metal, so it
can be manipulated easier (both in forming of rings, ovals, and then
in the drawing down of the chain).
For chain mail, I wouldn’t suggest dead soft wire. It is easy to work
with, and the ends can be lined up easily, but since you’re not
soldering the ends of the wire, it’s only dead-soft wire holding the
piece together, so it would be more prone to the rings
bending/deforming and falling apart. Certainly the piece falling
apart would not be desirable.
The idea of using fine silver is so that you can fuse them to make
loop in loop chains. That is different from chainmaille. Of course,
with the advent of Argentium, you can use Argentium to fuse your
rings before forming them into loops. The only reason you wouldn’t
use Sterling is because it can’t be fused. Yes, you can solder them
closed but the solder join will be a weak point and will often break
during the forming of the loops.
For chainmaille, whether you make your own rings or not it’s your
choice if you want to use dead soft or half hard. Like you, I prefer
to make my rings from dead soft. I find it easier to saw through
them and the harden while worked and after tumbling. On the other
hand, I also have half-hard jump rings for those jobs that are not
going to be tumbled afterward.
Once you’ve fused your rings any hardness will disappear as they’ll
be annealed in the fusing flame. I’d suggest purchasing whichever is
Mike DeBurgh, GJG
A list of personal preferences for chain making materials:
ARGENTIUM - High Customer Satisfaction because it is tarnish
resistant - cost is a bit more but well worth it - stuff looks good
for longer period of time - fuses well. In addition to all the
factors involved in constructing an item, it is always a good idea to
look at the piece from a sales point of view - customers respond
positively when told an item is tarnish resistant and they don’t have
to polish it as often. Also, let them know that if they keep their
jewelry in plastic zip lock bags it will stay bright for a long, long
time. Even if I give customers a nice, fancy jewelry case with their
piece, I give them zip lock bags also.
DEAD SOFT WIRE - Easy to coil - hardens wit h tumbling and is fine
for chain maille bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings. If cut
well it closes well even if not fused or soldered and pieces are
smooth to the touch.