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Chain reaction

Forge sterling silver wire to create this interwoven rectangular-link belt.

This chain belt is actually two interwoven chains. A chain of vertical rectangles is woven through a chain of horizontal rectangles. Initially, I made the interwoven chain out of copper as a bracelet for my mom, who was experiencing arthritis in her wrist. She says her symptoms are greatly diminished when she wears her copper bracelet every day. 

To make a belt in sterling silver, I envisioned rectangles three times the size of the ones in the bracelet. The 40-in. (1.02m) adjustable belt can be worn at the waist or at the hips.

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Step 1
1.  Set up a workstation. Set up a solid work area. Use a large, wooden table or a steel blacksmithing anvil as your base for working. You’ll be hammering a lot to forge this heavy-gauge wire. Be prepared to work on the forging for a couple of days and to keep your workstation stable during that time. If you are using an anvil, hang the coil of sterling silver wire on the anvil’s horn so the wire can feed onto the rectangular steel mandrel as you are forging. Make sure to use ear protection.
Chain Reaction 800 2
Step 2
Chain Reaction 800 3
Step 3

2–3. Forge 35 rectangles. Forge a coil of 8-gauge (3.25mm) sterling silver wire around a 2 x 1-in. (51 x 25.5mm) steel bar that you’ll use as a mandrel. Begin forging on a 2-in. (51mm) side of the mandrel. Use the flat face of a ball-peen hammer to hammer the wire flat on each side of the mandrel. Use your nondominant hand to rotate the mandrel away from you as you guide the oncoming wire with your thumb [2]. Hold the oncoming wire down against the face of the mandrel as you hammer toward yourself [3].

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Step 4
4. During forging, you will need to give the previously forged sides a few taps to flatten any bow created by stretching the metal. The last side forged will also need an additional few taps before you turn the mandrel [4]. The taps help to even the heavy wire, confirm the corners of each rectangle, and keep the rectangles tight against the mandrel.
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Step 5
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Step 6

5-6. Cut and solder the rectangles. Push the rectangular coil to one end of the mandrel. Place that end of the mandrel in a vise. If your vise has serrated faces, cover the faces with copper jaw covers or a sheet of leather to avoid marring your rectangles. Mark a centerline along a 1-in. (25.5mm) side of the coils with a fine-tip black marker to keep your cuts straight and consistent. Use a separating disk in a flex shaft to cut along the line, creating 35 separate rectangles [5]. File the cut ends of each rectangle flush with each other where needed. Set one rectangle aside for step 11. Close each join on 34 of the rectangles, and solder the joins with hard solder [6]. Pickle the rectangles, and clean off excess solder with files and sandpaper. 

Forge the rectangles flat. Place the rectangles on an anvil, and use a planishing hammer to flatten and texture them, hammering both sides. If the rectangles deform from the texturing, flatten and realign them with a rawhide mallet.


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