Scroll Saw Jig for Cutting Jump Rings




My son volunteered to teach a basic chainmail workshop at a family camp.  He had two hours and wanted to give the students ready made rings - but it's no fun to cut so many rings by hand.  A search online showed many variations on cutting jump rings with a jeweler's saw and variations on using a rotary tool/flexshaft with a circular jewelry blade and some kind of jig to hold the coils steady for sawing.  Well, we don't have a jeweler's saw or small, very thin rotary blades... but I have my trusty RBI Hawk scroll saw.  Mmmmm.  Here's what I came up with using stuff from the garage:  This is faster than handsawing jumprings, but not as fast as a dedicated rotaty saw jump ring cutter.

I used:

2 x 4 inch lumber scraps (2 x 2 inch or similar also works)
drill bits
drill bit gauge
fine toothed scroll saw blades (varies with gauge of wire used, but something like 40 - 60 tpi should work - thinner kerf is better)
metal rod to use as a ring mandrel - I used 1/4 inch metal rod and 3/16 inch brass rod
non-ferrous metal for making rings - I used 17 ga. aluminum wire for electric horse fencing - $22 for 1/4 mile spool of wire.
drill press or hand drill
metal file

drill driver to help speed up coiling the wire
small wood dowels or skewers the same size as the coil mandrels.

Wire of your choice:  Any non-ferrous (no iron or steel) wire should work, but test a small sample before you coil up tons of rings. 

 Standard SAFETY warning:  be careful when using sharp tools and power tools.

Step 1: Wrapping the Wire Coils

There are many ways to get wire coils, you can find lots of ideas online.  Here's a summary:
1.  Hand wind wire around a rod of the desired size - you can use metal rods, metal hole punches, plastic pen barrels, knitting needles etc.  Wood dowels and skeweres don't work that well because tightly wound wire can crush the wood and get stuck on the dowel.
2.  Hand wind wire on a crank style mandrel - this is easier on your wrists.
3.  Insert rod into the check of a and electric screw driver or drill.  Wear gloves to protect your hands and guide wire onto the slowly spinning mandrel.  Use scrap lumber with a hole drilled in one end to support one (or both) ends of the mandrel as it spins.  My son has strong hands and loves to use the cordless drill driver to wrap coils - I like to hand wind coils.

Step 2: Make Your Cutting Jig

1.  Determine the outer dimension of your coil - this varies with mandrel size and wire gauge.  You can use a calipers to measure, but I find it easier to use a drill gauge and stick the coil trhough holes in the drill bit gauge.  Find a hole that the coil just fits through - this is the size drill bit you will use for your jig. 
2.  Draw a line about 1/8 inch away from the edge of wood - along the longer side of the wood.  Mark spacing for coil holes - this varies depending on size of coils.  You want at least 1/8 inch between the EDGES of the holes.  Mark the centers of the holes to drill.  You can eyeball this , or calculate and measure (center spacing = diameter of hole + inter-hole spacing;
3.  Measure thickness of wood, subtract at least 1/8 inch = depth of holes to drill.  Mark hole depth on the drill bit with a pieces of masking tape, or use the depth gauge if you have a drill press.
4. Drill holes on center marks.  Make sure you do not drill all the way through the wood!

 Drill screw holes if you want to have a bolt on top to secure coils in the jig while you are sawing.  I used machine screws and thumbnuts.

Step 3: Cutting the Rings

This method works best for 'score and bend' ring cutting.  Cut the rings almost all the way through the coil, remove from jig and snap the rings off at the scoreline.  (If you cut the rings all the way through, they can jam the scroll saw blade in the jig and bend or break the saw blade).

   Cut coils to fit into the jig
1. Insert coil into the jig hole and press it down into the hole
2. Take a utility blade and insert it one coil above the top surface of the jig
3.  Carefully bend the coil to the side.
4.  Remove coil and cut the measured part of the coil just below the bend.  Trim edge flush to the top of the coil.
5.  Insert coil into the jig hole and make sure it sits almost flush with the top.
6.  Repeat for all holes.
Screw top down using thumbnuts.  OR use masking tape to secure wood to hold down the coils OR use a nail or metal rod to hold the coil down while you cut  the coil. 

7.  Insert fine tooth metal blade into the scroll saw (40-60 teeth with as small a kerf (blade width) as you can find.
8.  Start from the outer edge of the coil and make a straight cut towards the center of the coil.  The first time you use your jig, you will cut through the wood before you reach the metal coil - see the marked lines in the 3rd picture below. 
9.  Make sure that the coil is secured so it doesn't bounce up and down as the scroll saw blade moves up and down - the coil should be held down by the wood cover, or maually held in place using a thick nail or piece of metal.
10.  Saw almost all the way through one side of the coil.

Note: Thinner gauge wire may need to be supported by a wood dowel or skewer placed inside the coil.
Saw SLOWLY, applying a smooth, even pressure - go SLOW and let the blade do the work of cutting, do not push hard or you will snap the blade.

Step 4: Snap the Rings Apart

1.  Remove coil from cutting jig
2.  Firmly grasp coil in your hand, bend the top ring out (away) from the coil, until it snaps at the saw line.  Stiffer wire will snap better, while soft metal may twist and kind of tear away from the coil.    Use a pliers if you need to do grasp the rings.
If your saw cut is not deep enough, you may need to 'help' the ring come off the coil - use a fine wire cutter as needed.
3.  Inspect the rings and make sure there is no sharp burr on the end of the ring.  If there is a burr, you can file it away, or tumble all the rings in a rotary tumbler with steel shot and a little soap.
4. Make stuff with your rings.
If you really like making chainmail, explore faster ring cutting methods, such as the Jump Ring Cutter

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    18 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Updated link for the jump ring maker:


    3 years ago

    thanks for the great idea of the wooden block for cutting the rings :-) I have used so many different ways but end up in a mess :-/ this block idea is the best I have seen outside of the rininnator :-)


    3 years ago

    ¡Great idea! I will do it for sure :D ¡Thanks!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    oh my goodness!!!! :D where has this instructables been all my life, this is just what I needed


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i had a simpler and faster idea. get a dowel or PVC pipe. wrap metal wire around it like a tight spring. take a small dremel cutting wheel and cut the sprint just enough to snap it apart. it is very fast.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, a Dremel cutoff wheel could be faster... but the kerf is pretty wide and not suitable for small rings. You can get very thin metal saw blades for rotary tools, which I've been told work really well. Scroll saws are slow, but I already had one in the garage :-). Also, it is safe enough that my kids can use the cutting jig - I am not sure I'd want them to use a cut off wheel yet. Thanks.


    If you use a thin blade slitting disk for the dremel please remember to drop a drop or two of light machine oil on the coil before you start. It makes it go so much better. I have done the slitting saw with galvanized as well as Stainless steel. As long as you use oil no problem.

    Captain Greg

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! makes the whole operation so much easier! Thanks for taking the time to share your ingenuity!


    5 years ago on Step 4

    I bet this would work with a jeweler's saw too. The slots may need to be a little wider to prevent breakage of the blade, but this is something I'm definitely going to try!


    6 years ago on Step 4

    Very Clever!! and a very fast way to make a bunch
    Thx for sharing your shortcut


    7 years ago on Introduction

    That was pretty useful to me as I have a scrollsaw too & an unfinished collection of parts to build the cutting jig in my link. I think the links in the article to the saw blade & spindle are out of date but I found a source in Ohio. It's older, but seems an upgrade to UR project.

    1 reply

    Thanks. I looked at the jig in your link - it looks much faster than mine. Scroll saw is not fast, but it's what I already had on hand. If I ever decide to mass produce rings, a circular jeweler's saw & spindle seem like the best way to go.

    bobby sissom

    7 years ago on Introduction

    sent this link to a friend who make his own chainmail armor he will be thrilled to learn of a faster way to cut many rings at once, thank you


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your idea. I've been looking for a cheaper way to cutting rings and this is great.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very clever, thanks for sharing it. I make wire rings sometimes, and cutting them is the worst part, without a jig.