Introduction: Making Jump Rings - Quicky and Easily

Picture of Making Jump Rings - Quicky and Easily

Each design of a jump ring chain or a chain maille weave requires large numbers of rings that are precise in size, are well shaped without any nicks or scratches, and have square cuts so they close without a noticeable gap. Here's the process I teach in my jewelry classes to make large numbers of uniform rings quickly and easily. There are three steps - finding the right size mandrel, winding a coil of rings, and cutting the rings apart.

Step 1: Getting the Right Size Rod

Picture of Getting the Right Size Rod

Jump rings are made by winding a wire around a rod or tube. Common sources are knitting needles, wooden dowels and metal stock from hardware stores and hobby shops. But finding the right size can be a problem. Minor changes in the size of the jump rings can make a big difference in the final "look" of the chain, so it's important to have a variety of mandrels to choose from.

Jewelry catalogs sell selections of straight rod mandrels for $50 or more, but my choice is from Harbor Freight.  They have a set of 28 sizes, from 3/32 inch to 1/2 inch, for under ten bucks. It's called a Transfer Punch Set. The catalog number is #3577.  www.harborfreight.com

Step 2: Winding the Rings

Picture of Winding the Rings

If you need just a few jump rings, it's easy to grab a mandrel and wind a couple of them. But when you need a large number, some form of winder saves a lot of time.  A variable speed screw gun makes quick work of winding the coils.

To wind a coil, just bend a right angle on the end of the wire about 3/8 inch long and insert this into the screw gun chuck. Then wind slowly, keeping a tight coil. I like to rest the end of the mandrel on the edge of the table or bench pin.

One note of caution - if you are winding an entire length of wire, be careful as you get near the end of the wire. If the end passes under your thumb, it can cause a nasty scratch or cut.

Step 3: Cutting the Rings From a Coil

Picture of Cutting the Rings From a Coil

The difficult part of making jump rings for me has always been holding the coil while cutting off the individual rings. No wire cutter has ever given me a square cut on the end of the wire, and this is essential for hiding all the joints in your design.  I use a jewelers saw to get the best fit when closing the rings.

I've seen all sorts of suggestions for ways to hold the coil, but the one that works best for me is this little jig made from scrap wood. It's about 2 inches wide and 4-5 inches long with a groove cut down its length to cradle the coil of wire and a thin stop attached to the front end.

To cut the rings, use a fine blade like a 6/0. Thread the saw blade through the coil, hold the coil down in the groove and against the front stop. Tilt the saw at a 40 degree angle as shown. Saw frames and blades can be found at jewelry supply companies like www.riogrande.com

Don't forget to use some wax or oil on the saw blade. It really does make a difference. If you don't believe me, do an experiment while you're cutting some rings.  Count how many rings can be cut before breaking a blade, first without lube and then with some every 6-8 rings.

That's all there is to turning out jump rings quickly and easily.  More of my jewelry tips can be found in "Bench Tips for Jewelry Making - 101 Tips from Brad Smith" on Amazon.

Comments

ldallas1 made it! (author)2015-08-13

I cut jump rings a little different. It is based on your way. maybe this photo will help. Here are some of things I have made.

snoopindaweb (author)2014-12-18

Thank You - Now I can get some use out of My Harbor Freight transfer punch set. ~(:-})

BradSmith13 (author)2013-08-31

I'm glad so many like the idea of the grooved block. They're easy to make if you have some woodworking equipment. If you don't, you can cut a groove with a ball burr or can glue two small sticks (like the square sections of chopsticks) to a piece of board.

I have to make up 50 or more of the blocks to give out as bonus items to people who buy my "Bench Tips for Jewelry Making" book next weekend at a talk I'm giving to jewelers in Long Beach, CA.

dkoebnick (author)2013-08-31

Love it...thanks.

Titanica-art (author)2013-05-22

The jig is wonderful. I'll have to make one for my viking jewelry projects. :)

wobblycogs (author)2013-05-21

A word of caution, be careful when winding wire around a powered mandrel. It's easier than you might imagine to get your fingers caught in the wire with less than excellent results - that half a second needed to stop the drill will be the longest of your life.

Treknology (author)wobblycogs2013-05-21

I use at lathe at VERY low speed (so slow it can actually be "boring") with one foot hovering over the braking bar. It may still seem like half a second, but I assure you it's almost instantaneous. My experience is winding coils, not so much cutting them into rings.

If I were using a lathe for this process, I'd run the power through a dead pedal. Lift your foot in panic and the power stops.

danmulvey (author)2013-05-13

I love this, simple and the rings are already separated so I just need to connect them and close the gap. Awesome! What kind of wire do you use to make your rings? Is there anything in particular that you would recommend for making chainmail?

BradSmith13 (author)danmulvey2013-05-21

Thanks all. This is my first instructable.
Danmulvy, I use copper wire for testing out a new weave design and then do the piece in Sterling silver. For chain agile, all I have done are a few simple bracelets and those have been Sterling. Usually, I use 14 gauge but have gone as small as 18.

Gelfling6 (author)2013-05-21

I make rings myself, for hobby-made chain maille (mainly costume grade. I used to use galvanized steel, but it just got too heavy! Now, 14-guage aluminum.).. Most of the rings are wound on a 5/16" piece of weld rod. But, this is a great idea if you have various size rings needed. Most of the work I do, the main size is all I need, and in bulk! (so the mandrel is a 3-foot rod.) I've done hand-crank, and also changed to a gear drive to slow things down off a power drill.. Yes, slow is boring, but not quite as over-exciting as losing a finger.. I use leather/cloth gloves myself, just incase there's a burr on the wire surface. (most of my stock is spooled electric fence wire.)

Alderin (author)2013-05-21

I always recommend a leather glove on the wire-holding hand, both for the end-of-wire-slice prevention and the finger-caught-in-the-coil minimizing. Much better to lose a bit of leather than a bit of skin. Might not be as much of an issue with softer metals like the copper shown here, but I'm usually working with 16 gauge steel wire (when I'm doing this sort of thing, been a couple years :-).

allindsay (author)2013-05-21

I make mine in a similar way but I use pieces of threaded rod, I had them laying around and didn't have to buy anything. Also i use shortnose aircraft sheers. They are similar to tin snips but smaller. They don;t make a square cut, it has a slight angle to it but it normally matches up nicely.

billbillt (author)2013-05-21

great idea

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