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For some reason, we are going through a lot of bike chains this summer. Downhill racing and dirt biking may have something to do with it...

The silver lining of this, is that they are an interesting addition to the collection of odds and ends we have to draw on when making or fixing things, and, there is this handy tool called a chain break! that allows you to take apart the links and reattach them easily, in any size section or loop.

My son, actually started working with the bike chain links first, to make a key chain as a gift. He started with a group of ten link sections and then decided to slide a split ring through them, to create a small star shape that looks a lot like the one in the holiday ornament instructable by MattBruzer but is held together without using any glue.

I took it from there, and used a split ring to make make a medium sized star and then wire to make a large star and coaster.

Step 1: Materials and Equipment:

  • Chain break (follow Bike (key) chain instructable by crashzoom to take apart your chain without this tool)
  • Old bike chain (clean with soap or degreaser and a toothbrush)
  • Wire
  • 1" split ring (small star)
  • 1 1/2" split ring (medium star)
  • Pliers
  • Toothbrush and soap or degreaser

Step 2: Clean Your Chain

I recommend that you clean the dirt and grease off your bike chain using warm water and soap or a degreaser, and an old toothbrush to scrub it, before you get started on this project.

As you might notice in some of the photos, I didn't always clean my bike chain first...

Step 3: Count Your Links and Remove a Section:

Depending on which star you want to make, you will need to count out the links you need (see numbers below) and use the chain break to remove a section of chain the right length:

Small star: 1" split ring with 10 links (5 inner and 5 outer links).

Medium star: 1 1/2" split ring with 18 links (9 inner and 9 outer links)

Large star: wire with 36 links (18 inner and 18 outer links)

Coaster: wire with 54 links (27 inner and 27 outer links)

To break your chain, slip the link you want to unlink into the chain break. Line up the pin in the middle of the link joint, so that it is right under the end of the screw in the chain break.

Turn the handle clockwise to apply pressure to the end of the link pin with the break pin. Keep turning the handle gradually, pushing the pin in the link joint and moving it until it is sticking far enough out the other side, that you be able to wiggle the links apart. Loosen off the screw by turning the handle counterclockwise and separate the links (photo 2). If they are still stuck, put the links back in the chain break and screw the pin out a bit further.

Step 4: Making a Loop

Take the two ends of your section of counted links, and wiggle the inner link on one end of your chain in between the outer link on the other end of the chain, and place it back in the chain break.

Notice which side the pin is sticking out from, and place this side towards the chain break screw. You might have to unscrew the break more to get it into place.

Line up the end of the pin in the link joint with the middle of the chain break screw, and begin to turn the handle clockwise, tightening the screw and pushing the pin back into place and reconnecting the links.

You want the pin to end up right in the middle of the link, so it will be able to move freely. If you end up tightening it too much, it will be stiff. If this happens, flip the link back over and using the chain break again, push the pin back a little in the other direction.

You now have a small section of chain joined in a loop!

Step 5: Small Star

The small star is made using 10 links and a 1" split ring.

If you haven't already, use the chain break push the pin out of the 10th link and then rejoin it into a circle again.

Lay out your links to form a five pointed star.

Using a 1" split ring, spread the two halves apart and begin to slide one end of one half, around the inside joints of the star one at a time (every other joint). Continue to keep the first half of the split moving along inside the links while you begin to feed the other half of the split ring through until the ring is whole again and completely inside.

If you have trouble feeding the split ring, it may be that your ring is too stiff. One of the rings I used was very stiff, so I reduced the over lap of the two sides of the split by cutting off half of the second side of the ring. This meant I had less material to feed through the links and less resistance, but still left plenty of overlap.

If you still find it difficult to feed your ring through, you can use wire instead (see step 7).

Step 6: Medium Star

The medium star is made using 18 links on a 1 1/2" split ring.

If you haven't already done so, use the chain break to create a section of chain 18 links long and then join it into a circle by joining the end links with the chain break.

Lay out your links to form a nine pointed star.This star is made exactly the same as the 5 pointed star, except that you are using a 1 1/2" split ring and threading on four extra links.

Spread the two halves apart and begin to slide one end of one half, around the inside joints of the star one at a time (every other joint). Continue to keep the first half of the split moving along inside the links while you begin to feed the other half of the split ring through until the ring is whole again and completely inside.

If you have trouble feeding the split ring, it may be that your ring is too stiff. One of the rings I used was very stiff, so I reduced the over lap of the two sides of the split by cutting off half of the second side of the ring. This meant I had less material to feed through the links and less resistance, but still left plenty of overlap.

If you still find it difficult to feed your ring through, you can use wire instead (see step 7).

Step 7: Prepare to Make Large Star or Coaster

The large star uses 36 links (18 inner and 18 outer links) and the coaster uses 54 links (27 inner and 27 outer links)

Count out your links, and break the chain into the length you need using the chain break (details in step 3).

Join the chain together in a circle using the chain break to reconnect the links (details in step 4).

Take a piece of wire about 8" long and roughly form it into a circle.

I find it helps to lay out the star shape to keep track of where you are. Both the large star and the coaster, have 9 points or arms. The points of the large star each have 4 links and the points of the coaster each have 6 links. Both stars have 8 inner points that you will be threading the wire through.

Lay out your links in the pattern you will be making.

Step 8: Thread the Wire

Once you have your pattern laid out (photo 2), take your wire and begin threading it through the inner points of the star one point at a time (photo 3). Keep going until you have all 8 inner points on the wire (photo 5).

Bring the two ends to the outside of the star on either side of your first link (photo 6).

Step 9: Twist, Tighten and Cut the Wire

Using your pliers, twist the wire ends together, gently shaping the points into a more symmetrical shape and
bringing the inner points together as you tighten.

Tighten the wire as much as you can so that the wire is in a circular shape, the points are touching but are not so tight that the links can't lay flat on the table.

Cut the twisted end of the wire off, leaving about a quarter inch of twisted wire, and bend in between and around the closest link, and tuck it out of sight.

Step 10: Put on the Kettle

You're done!

Enjoy your fabulous bike chain stars!

<p>Great idea, a really good way to reuse it. I'm bored with seeing chains become belts for guys that eventually work their way down around their ankles. ☺</p>

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