I like to think of chain making as "production", there aren't many steps but each step is repeated many times. Go slowly and do the best job possible; it is no fun fixing the same mistake in 100 links!
For the purpose of this tutorial I am using 3 feet of 18 gauge sterling silver round wire and a 9 mm wooden dowel, as a mandrel to wrap the wire around to form jump rings.
Step 1: Annealing the coil
Wrap the wire into a tight coil, taking care to "tuck" in the ends. While annealing, the ends of the wire will be very vulnerable to melting, tucking them in will help protect from the flame. First move the cloud of the flame slowly around the entire coil, the first time the coil is annealed, the sterling silver will turn golden (image 1) then blue-black (image 2), at this point concentrate the flame in a smaller section of the coil until the sterling silver turns a dull (not bright) red; move to the next section and repeat until the full coil has, at some point reached a dull red (image 3). When finished the coil should be completely black (image 4). Pickle and rinse. When removed from the pickle, the coil should be white (image 5) not bright silver. If the coil comes out bright silver the metal did not reach annealing temperature; repeat and properly anneal.
It is possible to anneal some sections of the coil and not others; I recommend beginners anneal the coil twice, just to be sure it has been fully annealed.
To learn more about annealing sterling silver and how to pickle, turn to page 46 in the July Creating Linus Jewellery, 2012 issue or click here.
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