Intro: Creating a Repeating Unit Bracelet
Instructable for Creating a Repeating Unit Bracelet:
- acrylic sheet in various colors (and thicknesses, if you like)
- 18 gauge aluminum wire (or sterling silver if you want it to last longer – it is more expensive and a bit harder to work – if you have never made something like this before, play around with aluminum first)
- vector art software
- USB stick
- laser cutting machine
- side cutting pliers
- pin vise
- riveting hammer
- chamfering tool in a drill OR hand-held reamer
- bench vise or other flat metal surface to rivet against
I made this project at the TechShop (www.techshop.ws) using the laser to easily cut multiples of my acrylic shapes. Note that the riveting hammer is a specialty item that you may need to purchase from a jewelry supply source.
1. Design your bracelet units in some vector art software that you are familiar with. For purposes of this Instructable, I chose something easy: the contoured outline of an arc of a circle. Each unit has two 0.04” holes spaced 1” apart, and I found (for my hand) that eight of these units was large enough to slip my wrist through when the bracelet was elongated (oval as opposed to circular).
2. Cut your parts on the laser cutter. If you have a clear idea of what design you would like, you can cut just the right number of parts for your bracelet. I cut a large number of multiples in a bunch of different colors and thicknesses of acrylic because I wanted to play around with the design a bit.
3. Peel off any backings left on the acrylic pieces (the cuts are less “scorched” if you keep both sides protected while you cut them on the laser, but the time involved increases if you have to peel both sides of many units) and be sure the holes are clear of residual “plugs”.
4. Decide how wide you want your bracelet to be, and cut lengths of wire that are ~1/4” - 3/8” longer than this width (you can always cut them down after you set up your design, too; better to have too much than too little). You will need as many lengths as the number of units that will fit around your hand (so for mine it was eight).
5. File one side of each length of wire flush (perpendicular to the axis of the wire).
6. Using the pin vise, clamp the flat end of one of the wires so it protrudes above the pin vise by half of the diameter of the wire.
7. Taking the riveting hammer, and supporting the pin vise on a flat surface, start spreading the “head” of the wire with small taps of the hammer’s working end (the pointy end); work out from the center, first up and down, and then left and right. You are just trying to get a bit of a lip to hold the units while you do the design work, so there is no need to overdo it at this point. NOTE: If you are familiar with jewelry techniques and are working in sterling, go ahead and make a ball at the end of the wires (you’ll need to cut them longer) with a torch.
8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 for each of the wires you cut in step 4.
9. If your design is not yet set, play around with stacking up the acrylic pieces on the open ends of the wires until you get a design you like. Remember which units will be in contact with the rivet ends, and disassemble the whole thing temporarily.
10. Chamfer the outside holes of units that will be in contact with the rivet ends, providing a countersink for the rivet head. I used a chamfering bit, held in a cordless drill, but you could easily use a hand-held reamer for the job.
11. Reassemble the acrylic units on the wires, again with the open ends up. Make sure the top units have the countersink for the top of the rivet.
12. Cut off any excess wire that is sticking up more than three-quarters of the diameter of the wire above your design. File this end flush, taking care not to mar your acrylic with the file.
13. Making sure that the bottom rivet end is securely seated against a flat metal support (the back of many bench vises have a flat that works well for this), start hammering out the top rivet end in the same way that you did with the bottom. This time, though, you are wanting to fill the countersink hole (on both ends) with metal from the rivet head.
14. Use the finishing end (round end) of the riveting hammer to round off any material that is sticking up over the edges of the countersink. The rivets should be tight, and it should take a little bit of effort to flex the joints (they will loosen up over time).
15. Wear it out!
Keep in mind that these basic techniques can be used with any number of different types of “units” that you want to make. Get creative and play around with mixing and matching shapes and materials (wavey shapes, wood and acrylic, etc.) Have fun, and let yourself experiment!