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Build a Gear Necklace

Use assembly line techniques to perfect a handmade contemporary turn on an industrial motif.
Side view
A side view reveals how the hook and staple connect to create a hidden clasp.

Jewelry design can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Each component in this seemingly complex necklace is made with the same simple fabrication techniques. Learn to saw, texture, dome, solder, and finish the gear components — and brush up on your production tech-niques along the way. Thanks to a handy template and a few tricks, beginning and advanced jewelry makers alike can easily create this head-turning necklace. 

MATERIALS

  • Sterling silver sheet: 22-gauge (0.6 mm), dead-soft, 15.2 x 12.7 cm (6 x 5 in.)
  • Sterling silver wire: 18-gauge (1.0 mm), dead-soft, 25.5 mm (1 in.)
  • 18 Sterling silver jump rings: 18-gauge (1.0 mm), 4 mm (1/5-in.) inside diameter (ID)
  • Toolboxes
  • Circle template
  • Snap-on mandrel and sanding disks, fine grit
  • Texturing hammer (optional)
  • Sanding sticks: 180, 280, 320, and 400 grit
  • Dapping punches and block set that includes 16.8 and 24.6-mm (approximately 3/8 and 15/16-in.) punches 
  • Silicone abrasive wheel, fine grit 
  • Leather (optional)
  • Bezel pusher

INSTRUCTIONS

Gear necklace_step 1
Step 1

 

NOTE: Tracing the circles close together helps reduce the amount of wasted metal and also ensures that all the circles will fit on the sheet.

Gear necklace_step 2
Step 2

 

NOTE: Saw on the outside of the marked line. You can sand up to the line to create a perfect circle. 

Trace the circles. Use the circle template and an extra-fine permanent marker to trace circles onto a sheet of 22-gauge (0.6 mm) dead-soft sterling silver [STEP 1]. Trace the circles so the lines almost touch.

You will need to trace:

  • 16 20-mm (25/32-in.) circles
  • 18 22-mm (7/8-in.) circles (two of these will be used for the clasp)
  • 2 30-mm (13/16-in.) circles

Cut the disks. Use a jeweler’s saw with a 4/0 blade to cut out each disk [STEP 2]. You will have 36 disks total.

Gear necklace_step 3
Step 3

 

NOTE: Place the sanding disk on the mandrel so the abrasive side faces the flex shaft handpiece. This gives you more control and visibility while sanding.

 
Gear necklace_step 4
Step 4

Sand the disks. Use a snap-on mandrel with a fine sanding disk in a flex shaft to remove the saw blade marks and round the edges of the silver disks [STEP 3]

Using a circular motion, sand the back of each disk with a 280-grit sanding stick. Sand the front of each disk with progressively finer grits until you reach 400 grit [STEP 4]. Set aside all the 22-mm (7/8-in.) disks and one of the 30-mm (13/16-in.) disks.

Gear necklace_step 5
Step 5

 

NOTE: Make sure you place the disks texture side down in the block. 

Gear necklace_step 6
Step 6
Create the texture. Place a 20-mm (25⁄32-in.) disk front side up on a steel bench block. Use a hammer of your choice (see “Dome Textures,” on the downloadable PDF) to create a textured pattern on the surface. Repeat to texture all the 20-mm (25⁄32-in.) disks and one of the 30-mm (13⁄16-in.) disks [STEP 5]

Dome the disks. Use a dapping punch and block to dome a 20-mm (25⁄32-in.) textured disk. Dap down progressively to a 16.8-mm (approximately 3/8-in.) punch. Repeat to dome each of the 20-mm disks.

Dome the textured 30-mm (13⁄16-in.) disk progressively down to a 24.6-mm (approximately 15/16-in.) punch [STEP 6] .
Gear necklace_step 7
Step 7
Gear necklace_step 8
Step 8
Sand the domes. Place a 180-grit sanding stick flat on your work surface. Move a dome over the sandpaper in a figure-8 or circular motion [STEP 7] until the bottom edge of each dome is smooth and level. Repeat to sand the bottom edge of all the domes.

Mark the tabs. Center a small dome on top of a 22-mm (7⁄8-in.) disk. Use an extra-fine permanent marker to trace the circumference of the dome onto the disk. Repeat with all of the 22-mm (7⁄8-in.) disks. Trace the large dome onto the 30-mm (13⁄16-in.) disk [STEP 8].
Gear necklace_step 9
Step 9
Gear necklace_step 10
Step 10

Place a disk in the center of the Tab template. Use the radiating tab lines on the template as visual guides and draw tab lines from the edge of each disk up to the marked circle line [STEP 9]. Repeat to mark tab lines on each flat disk.

Saw the tabs. Saw the tab lines up to the traced circle line [STEP 10]. Do not saw into the circle line; this allows space for the tab to bend and for the dome to lie flat inside the tabs. Saw the tab lines in all the disks.

On two of the 22-mm (7⁄8-in.) disks, cut away every other tab by sawing along the marked circle line. You will use these two disks for the clasp. 

Gear necklace_step 11
Step 11
Gear necklace_step 12
Step 12

Bend the tabs. Grip a single tab with a pair of flatnose pliers. Position the pliers parallel to the tab lines, so that the tip of the pliers’ jaws is on the outer edge of the marked circle line. Bend the tab up 90° [STEP 11]. Repeat to bend up every other tab.

Use the fine-grit snap-on sanding disk to remove saw blade marks and to smooth and round the edges of each tab [STEP 12]

Gear necklace_figure 1
Figure 1

 

NOTE: Tap the center punch gently with the mallet. Too heavy of a blow can distort your disk. 

Gear necklace_figure 2
Figure 2

Mark the drill points. Place a tabbed disk on the steel bench block. With a center punch and a rawhide mallet, make a divot in the center of one of the flat tabs. 

Make a second divot in the tab directly opposite the first divoted tab [FIGURE 1]

Repeat to make two divots on each of the 22-mm (7⁄8-in.) tabbed disks. 

On the 30-mm (13⁄16-in.) tabbed disk, make a divot in the center of one of the flat tabs. Mark the second divot on the third flat tab from the first instead of the one directly opposite [FIGURE 2]. This spacing will prevent the large focal gear from tipping forward when the finished neck-lace is worn. 

Gear necklace_step 13
Step 13
Gear necklace_step 14
Step 14

On the two clasp disks with every other tab removed, make a divot in the center of only one tab [STEP 13]

Drill the holes.
Drill through each divot with a 1.3-mm drill bit [STEP 14]. Using a larger drill bit, slightly bevel the edges of each hole. Hold the drill bit in your fingers and twist it gently in each hole, first from the front and then from the back.

Assemble the gear components. Insert each dome into a corresponding tabbed base. Select one assembly and secure it sideways in a vise. 

NOTE: Use thick leather on each side of the vise to protect the jaws from marring the silver. Take care not to tighten the vise too much or you’ll dent the dome.

Gear necklace_step 15
Step 15

Use a bezel pusher and a rawhide mallet to lightly hammer one tab flat against the dome [STEP 15]. Loosen the vise, rotate the assembly 180°, and secure the second tab. Keep rotating the piece in the vise until all you have set all the tabs. 

Repeat this process with all the domed assemblies. Use a 400-grit sanding stick or a fine silicone wheel in a flex shaft to remove any marks left by the bezel pusher.

Full necklace
The domed gears in this 43.2-cm. (17-in.)  necklace appear complex, but are actually the same component repeated 17 times.
For the rest of the instructions on forming the clasp and assembling the rest of the necklace, view our free, downloadable PDF with step-by-step instructions and accompanying photos!

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