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How to make your own coil winder

Raid your scrap pile to assemble a basic coiling tool or jump ring maker
How to make your own coiling tool

If you love chain mail like I do, you’ll find that buying your own jump rings can get costly and that you’re limited by the gauges and diameters of what’s commercially available. You may look into getting a coil winder or jump ring system to make your own rings from wire. But those systems can be expensive too. With just some wood scraps, a bit of hardware, a drill, and these plans, you can build your own basic coil winder for cheap! With all the money you’ll save, you can buy yourself plenty of wire for new rings. 

SUPPLIES

  • Wood:
    • 6-in. (15.2 cm) piece of 1x4
    • 4 1⁄2-in. (11.4 cm) piece of 2x4 
  • 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) chuck (Jacobs or hobby) with 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) 20-thread hole in back
  • Perforated steel strip:
  • 1 3⁄8 x 4 in. (35 x 102 mm) with 3⁄8-in. (9.5 mm) holes spaced 1 in. (25.5 mm) apart
  • 3⁄8-in. (9.5 mm)-diameter hex head bolt: 21⁄2 in. (64 mm) long
  • 1⁄2-in. (13 mm)-diameter fine-threaded rod (20 threads per inch): 4 in. (10.2 cm) long
  • Washers: 
    • 1⁄2-in. (13 mm)-diameter flat steel: 10
    • 3⁄8-in. (9.5 mm)-diameter split lock: 1 
  • Nuts:
    • 1⁄2-in. (13 mm)-diameter 20-thread hex: 2
    • 3⁄8-in. (9.5 mm)-diameter 20-thread hex: 3
  • Flush-head wood or drywall screws: 2 in. (51 mm) long, 2
  • Alternate handle optional:
    • 1⁄2-in. (13 mm)-diameter hex head bolt, long enough to fit your block, 1
    • 3⁄16-in. (5 mm)-diameter steel rod, 4 in. (10.2 cm) long, 1 
  • Mandrel
  • Hacksaw
  • Files
  • Bench vise
  • Drill or drill press
  • Screwdriver, to match screws
  • Adjustable wrench or vise-grip pliers: 2 
  • Utility hammer
  • Beeswax or lubricating grease
  • C-clamp

INSTRUCTIONS

Overview and prep


In each section, refer to the illustrations for exact measurements, placement of holes, and component assembly.

Select your chuck. You can use either a Jacobs keyed chuck or a hobby chuck. These are available at most hardware and hobby shops. A keyed chuck works like an electric drill and requires a chuck key for tightening; a hobby chuck is adjustable as well, but is tightened by hand and needs no key. The size of your chuck may affect your measurements, so adjust accordingly. 

Cut a perforated strip. Using a hacksaw, carefully cut a 4-in. (10.2 cm) piece of perforated steel strip. Make sure that the cut line lands between two of the holes. File or grind the cut ends of the strip to round the corners and remove any burs.

How to make your own coiling tool 1a
PHOTO 1a
How to make your own coiling tool 1b
PHOTO 1b
Enlarge a hole on one end of the strip. Place the perforated strip into a bench vise so that only one hole is exposed above the vise jaws. Using an electric drill with a 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) drill bit, drill through the hole in the strip to enlarge it [PHOTO 1A]. 

Alternately, you can clamp the strip in a drill press [PHOTO 1B]. Using a file, remove any metal burs from the hole.

Crank assembly
How to make your own coiling tool fig 1
Figure 1
Assemble the handle. Insert a bolt into the unenlarged hole at one end of the perforated strip. Thread a split-lock washer and a nut on the bolt. Using two wrenches in opposite directions, tighten the nut and bolt so they’re tight to the strip [FIGURE 1].

Place eight washers and a nut on the bolt, and tighten the nut until it almost contacts the washers. Thread a second nut on the bolt until it contacts the first nut. Using two wrenches, tighten the nuts against each other. The washers should be able to move but be tight enough to form a loose handle.

Form the drive shaft. Thread a nut flush with the end of a threaded rod, and insert the rod through the perforated strip’s enlarged hole. Thread a second nut on the rod until the nut is flush with the strip. Using two wrenches and keeping the first nut flush with the end of the rod, tighten the nuts.

Wooden base 

The terms “1x4 (in.)” and “2x4 (in.)” are the common names for standard types of lumber. The actual size of a 1x4 is 3⁄4 x 3 3⁄8 in. (19 x 86 mm), and the actual size of a 2x4 is 1 1⁄2 x 3 3⁄8 in. (38 x 86 mm). 
How to make your own coiling tool fig2
Figure 2
Make the base. Using a saw, cut a 6-in. (15.2 cm) piece of 1x4 wood. Using a drill with a 5⁄32-in. (4 mm) drill bit, drill two holes [FIGURE 2, A].

Prepare the bearing block. Using a saw, cut a 4 1⁄2-in. (11.4 cm) piece of 2x4 wood. Using a drill with a 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) bit, make a hole [B] through the wide face on one end of the 2x4. 

Add a lubricant hole. As you use your winder, you may need to add oil to lubricate the bearings; do this whenever they become noisy or you feel resistance. To facilitate this, you’ll create a lubricant hole that you can easily use to add a few drops of oil whenever necessary. 

Using a drill with a 1⁄8-in. (3 mm) bit, make a hole [C] on the end of the bearing block so that hole C intersects hole B. 

Secure the bearing block to the base. Place the bearing block on the base, centering the end of the block over the two holes in the base [A]. Use a pencil to mark the edges of the block on the base for reference. 

Stand the bearing block on a work bench or in a vise with the bottom (the end opposite hole C) facing up. Position the base over the bearing block, and align the pencil marks with the block. 

Place two screws into the holes in the base [A]. Lightly tap the screws with a hammer to make impressions in the bearing block. Remove the screws and base. Using a drill with a 3⁄32-in. (2.4 mm) bit, make a pilot hole at each of the two impressions in the bearing block [D].

Reposition the base over the bearing block, thread the two screws through the base and into the pilot holes at D, and tighten the screws.
How to make your own coiling tool fig 3
Figure 3
Assembly

Attach the crank assembly to the base. Rub some beeswax or a very light coating of lubricating grease on the threaded rod.

Place a 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) flat washer on the drive shaft [FIGURE 3]. With the handle located on the shorter side of the base, insert the drive shaft into the hole [B] in the bearing block. 

Attach the chuck. Place a second 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) flat washer on the exposed end of the drive shaft. Thread the chuck onto the drive shaft until it’s tight.

Place a chuck key into the jaws of the chuck. Using a wrench, grip the bolt on the end of the drive shaft. Turning opposite the chuck key, tighten the chuck to the drive shaft.
Use the winder to make jump rings. Using a C-clamp, secure the base of the winder to your bench. Insert a mandrel (see “What About Mandrels?” below) into the chuck. 

Secure the end of a piece of dead-soft wire into the gap between two teeth in the chuck’s collet, and wrap the wire tightly around the mandrel as you slowly turn the crank handle.
How to make your own coiling tool final
I drilled a hole in the 2-in. (51 mm) side of my bearing block so I can insert the round bar of my chuck key handle to easily store it.
How to make your own coiling final use
What about mandrels?
You’ll insert a mandrel into the winder, then coil wire around the mandrel to make jump rings. The diameter of the mandrel determines the inside diameter (ID) of your jump rings. Just remember that when you cut the coil into jump rings, the saw blade will remove a small amount of material as you cut; because of that difference, the diameters won’t be an exact match.

Here are some items that you can use as a mandrel:

Calibrated steel mandrel sets: These are commercially available from most jewelry supply companies. They often come in specialty shapes.

Wooden dowels: These allow you to saw the coil into jump rings while the coil is still on the mandrel. 

Knitting needles: The short, double-pointed variety work well, in aluminum, plastic, bamboo, or wood. Make sure not to dent hollow aluminum needles, or you’ll have a hard time removing your coil. 

Nails or other hardware: For safety, just make sure to blunt the ends of any nails before you use them for coiling.
How to make your own coiling tool alt 1
How to make your own coiling tool alt2
Handle option
If you have a drill press, there’s another kind of handle you could construct. Here’s how I made mine: Using a drill press with a V-block fixture, I drilled a 3⁄16-in. (5 mm) hole into the head of a bolt that was long enough to accommodate my block and chuck. I inserted a steel rod into the hole, and hammered the rod until its end was flush with the other side of the bolt’s head, for a friction fit. Using a vise and a pair of pliers, I bent the steel rod 90° to form the handle. Then, I used sandpaper to remove any sharp edges.
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