Introduction: Silver Tie Chain

About: I'm a biologist interested in all things sciency. I love to figure out how things work and to make my own stuff, be it food, woodworking, electronics or sewing.

This instructable will show you how to make a tie chain from silver thread. Tired of the old tie clip? This is a great way to keep that tie out of your soup.

Step 1: What You'll Need

1 mm silver thread
1,5 mm silver thread
Silver solder
Vitrex cleaning solution
Ammonium chloride and dishwashing soap.

Gass torch
Jewellers saw
4 mm knitting needle or round rod.
Bowl of water
Brass brush
Needle files
Fine sanding paper

Polishing drum

Step 2: The Wire

To make a chain, we need rings. Lots of rings.
You can buy silver jump rings (or other metals) in bulk from various sources, but I make my own. The main reason is cost. Buying rings usually costs a lot more then buying thread. Besides, it's very satisfactory to be able to say you made each and every ring with your own hands.

The thread I use is 99.9% silver. This is nice to work with, and more resistant to tarnishing than sterling silver (92.5%).

First, cut of a piece of thread, about 50 cm long. This thread is usually work hardened when you buy it, and thus very stiff and difficult to make rings from. Before we start, we need to anneal it. Since these are long thin pieces, I find it easiest to hold it in one end with tweezers, and heat it while it is hanging.

When you anneal metals, basically what you do is letting the molecules move and reset to their natural state. To achieve this, we need to heat the silver to a pink glow. To be able to see this, you need to turn the lights down or off in your work area.

I start heating the wire with the torch from the top. As it starts glowing, I move the torch down the wire, making sure the glowing section moves evenly down the length of the wire. As it does, the wire will uncoil and become straight. As the wire is thin, this does not take long. Be careful not to melt the wire.
Now you can quench the wire in water, or just let it cool down.

Now that we have a nice and soft piece of wire , we can turn it into a coil.
You can buy mandrels for this, but I use knitting needles. They do a good job, and come in pretty much any diameter you need.
Hold one end of the wire with pliers, and hold the mandrel in the same hand. Wind the wire tightly around the mandrel.
These coils are the basis for our rings.

Step 3: The Rings

To cut the coils into rings, I usually place the coil in a small groove on a piece of plank to hold it steady. I press the coil firmly to the wood, and saw of rings with a jewellers saw. The saw blade is gliding between my thumb an index finger. I have tried different jigs for doing this, but always return to this simple method.

Now that you have made a bunch of rings they need to be annealed again. All that bending and sawing has work hardened the silver to a point where it is no fun to work with.
Spread the rings out on a soldering plate, fire brick, tile or other heat proof surface. Don't place them to close to each other, as that makes it easy to melt one while you are looking at another. Heat the rings to a glow with the torch. Keep it moving all the time. These rings have very little mass, so it doesn't take much to overheat them. As I usually have a lot of rings to anneal, I do them in batches, and dump them in water so I don't have to wait for them to cool down.

The rings are now ready. The last step before we can start building the chain is to open them. Just hold a ring with the pliers, and push it open with your thumb. If the rings are properly annealed, this should require very little force.

Use smooth pliers that will not leave marks on the silver. I made mine by smoothing the gripping pattern of with a dremmel, but you can buy jewellers pliers instead.

Step 4: Assemble the Chain

This pattern is called a rope chain. It is created by threading each new ring through the previous two rings. Make sure to lay them in the same direction all the time to build the twisting pattern.

This time I'm using 1mm thread and an inner diameter of 4 mm, but the chain can be scaled up or down. The chain has what is called a key number of 4. If you want to use different wire thickness, you multiply the thickness with 4 to get the inner diameter of the rings.

wire thickness x 4 = inner ring diameter.

To close a ring, hold each side of the break with the pliers, and bend the ring to a closed position. Rub the ends together a few times. This removes the burr created when you sawed up the rings. Bending it back and forth also work hardens the ring. This helps prevent it from opening again, and creates a more solid chain.

Now and then you come across rings that don't close properly. This is usually because of inconsistencies in the spiral, or uneven sawing. The ring in picture 4 is an example of this. Though you can bend them into place, these rings will never look good, so discard them.

Step 5: The Backbone

To create a backbone, cut of a piece of 1.5 mm wire. I cut it oversized on purpose and used a 12 cm piece.

Anneal the wire before bending.

Shape the loop, that fits behind the shirt button, with ring pliers, and bend the arms into a symmetric shape.

Now you can measure out the final length of the backbone. I made this with a span of 6 cm. Make sure you cut it symmetrical, so it will hang straight. I cut it with the saw, to get flat ends. This makes it easier to work with for the soldering.

I used 1.5 mm wire for rigidity, but this will not fit in the ring pattern, so we need to solder on some 1mm rings on the ends.

If you don't want to do the soldering, you could make the backbone from 1mm thread and shape rings in each end of it.

If you choose soldering, and have the tools, I'm assuming you know how to do it.

After soldering, i decided to give the wire some patterning by hammering it lightly with a peening hammer on a steel mandrel. This also work hardens the silver after the soldering. The ends of the wire will need som rounding with files and fine sanding paper.

Step 6: Clean It Up

Now that the parts are ready, it's time to clean them up.

I use a Vitrex solution to remove the black oxidation. This is a commercial product that works great. There are a bunch of options and products to clean silver, so pick your poison. After a few minutes in the Vitrex, the silver has gone from black to white. Pick it out of the solution with some stainless steel or plastic tweezers, and give it a rinse in water.

At this point it is stil not shiny. The silver is covered in a white, dull layer of dirt. This is effectively removed in a solution of ammonium chloride and dishwashing soap. A tablespoon of each in a liter of water does the trick. Scrub the silver lightly. I use a soft brass brush that doesn't scratch the silver. This solution turns blue over time.
Use gloves and eye protection when doing this.

The cleaning solutions can be used for years, so just keep them in bottles till next time.

The silver is now clean, but lacks that final shine. You can stop at this point if you want.

I polish the silver in a polishing drum filled with stainless steel polishing media, and a wax soap. After tumbling in here for an hours time, the silver has a beautiful shine, and a wax coating that will keep it from tarnishing for a long time.

Step 7: Assemble an Use.

Time to assemble the parts.
I do this after polishing as that minimises the risk of damage in the polishing drum. A chain without free moving ends can twist itself apart in the drum.

Attach one end to the backbone, put the appropriate twist into the chain, and attach it to the other side. Note that the rings on the backbone only enter the last ring of the chain, not two rings as in the rest of the pattern. This gives the chain a bit more freedom of movement.

The tie chain is done. Enjoy!

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