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Learn Chain Mail with Lauren Andersen, part 2

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Facet is pleased to welcome back our guest blogger, Lauren Andersen, author of the book One Jump Ring: Endless Possibilities for Chain Mail Jewelry.

WEEK 1: Learn Chain Mail with Lauren Andersen

Welcome to week two of Chain Mail Month on Facet Jewelry! This week I would like to talk a bit about the mechanics of chainmaille, and share a few tips.

The most common question asked by my students is, "Should I make my own jump rings?” Actually, I suggest when first starting out, you purchase pre-made jump rings. You will find a number of companies that will produce beautifully-made jump rings; some of my favorites are WeaveGotMaille.comCandTDesigns.com, and SpiderChain.com.

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Chainmaille instructions will give you the wire gauge and inside diameter required for the jump rings. Each seller of chainmaille jump rings uses either inches or millimeters to measure the inside diameter of their jump rings. Here is a chart of jump ring sizes.

When purchasing jump rings for use in chainmaille designs be sure to purchase “chainmaille” jump rings. If the jump rings are not designated as chainmaille jump rings, chances are the rings are made using a wire temper that will not be strong enough to maintain their shape. The temper of the wire refers to the softness or hardness of the wire. Three common tempers are soft (also called dead-soft), half-hard, and hard. Half-hard wire is the preferred wire when making chainmaille jump rings.

I would also suggest purchasing enamel-coated copper jump rings, as they are affordable and easy to work with. Other metals that are popular in chainmaille are sterling silver, copper, bronze, aluminum and stainless steel. Stainless steel is a stiffer metal and can be harder to manipulate. I would not recommend stainless steel for a beginner.

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Chainnose pliers
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Bentnose pliers
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Snubnose pliers
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Flatnose pliers

Here are a few more tips I share with my students:

1.  Choke up on those pliers!  Don’t be afraid of your pliers! Put your hands as close to the tips of the pliers as is comfortable.  The closer you are to your jump ring, the more leverage you have over the jump ring.

2.  Use shorter-tipped pliers.  The shorter the tip, the more leverage you will have to control the jump ring instead of the jump ring controlling you!

3.  Most instructions will give the number of jump rings to open and to close.  Before beginning the weave always pre-open and pre-close the jump rings.  This serves two purposes, to be able to get into a weaving rhythm and not have to stop and open and close rings in the middle of weaving, and also you will get plenty of practice perfecting the closures on you jump rings.

4.  If you find yourself using what I call the “death grip” on your pliers, try holding out your pinkies, just like you would if you were to have tea with the Queen.  I know it sounds funny, but it works.  For some reason, when your pinkies are extended away from the pliers, your grip loosens.  If your jump rings tend to “fly across the room”, chances are you are gripping your pliers to tightly. Loosen Up!

 

Task lighting and magnification are also important when chainmailling.  And finally, a word about pliers. You will need two pairs of comfortable, non-serrated pliers with double leaf-springs. The four types of pliers I recommend are chainnose pliers, snubnose pliers, flatnose pliers, and bentnose pliers.  Some people mix and match chain nose pliers with bent nose pliers or snub nose pliers with flat nose pliers. Use whichever combination will work for you. Pliers can range in price from $5 to more than $80, but again, use whatever works best for you!

Check back next Tuesday for Part 3 of Lauren's guest blogs!
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