Using a Bike Chain Tool




About: Long time bicyclist, bike commuter, bike tourer, recent bike builder/experimenter. I'm an energy consultant for hydro electric, solar and other renewable energy generation.

I build unusual bikes that often need custom long bike chains. See the unusual bikes at:

People often ask: "Where did you find the long chain?"
This instructable shows how to use a Bike Chain Tool to make chains of desired length.

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Step 1: Driving the Chain Pin Most of the Way Out

Place the Chain in the lower chain support and advance the tool's Driving Pin against the Chain Pin to push the Chain Pin most of the way out the other side.
Keep backing out the Driver and test (gently bend and pull) to see if you can separate the chain yet.
If you can't, then screw the driver up against the Chain Pin and advance another 1/2 turn then back out and check again.
Repeat ad successeum (That's mechanic-latin for keep going bit by bit until it works)

Step 2: Bending and Checking

Check to see if Pin is driven far enough out by gently bending the chain and trying to separate it.

Step 3: Separate the Chain

Gently bend and pull it apart.

Leaving a little of the Chain Pin still exposed helps greatly with re-assembly.

Step 4: Joining Chains

To link two chains together you need to have the Pin still through one of the outer plates of one chain's link. For the other chain you need the empty receiving roller side (narrow pair of plates) of a link. It looks just like prior picture.

First retract the Tool's Driving Pin so there is room to position the chain in the tool's lower support with the chain Pin protruding toward the Driving Pin.

Fit the two chain links together and line them up on the Chain Tool's lower support with the Chain Pin protruding toward the Driving Pin.

Then gently drive the Chain Pin in while gently steering the chain to keep things straight.
Be careful not to misalign so badly as to make the Chain Pin fold over in the plate hole.

Step 5: Drive Chain Pin Most of the Way In

Here you drive the Chain Pin most of the way in so it protrudes a little out the other end of the link matching its neighbors.

Because the plates squeezed together there is a little too much pin still protruding out the front end.

We will correct that in the final step.

Step 6: Loosening the Stiff Link

Driving the Pin in while the link was in the lower support compressed the plates together and made the link stiff.
Now it's time to help the link limber up and space the plates out a little.

This is done on the Upper Chain Guide where the chain floats. When the pin is driven a 1/4 turn on the floating support, the Pin spreads the plates out a little so the link is not stiff with friction.

Check to see there are about equal amounts of pin protrusion out from both outer plates.

Congratulations! You did it. You have joined the Chain Gang!

You deserve a treat, so go visit Sheldon Brown's hilarious chain cleaning page:

Step 7: Bonus Tip: You Can Use a Piece of Wire As a Third and a Fourth Hand to Hold Chain

Its hard to put the chain back together if tension and deraileur springs keep pulling it apart before you set the rivet. Just use a short piece of wire to pull tension in the chain and create slack in the part of the chain you upon which you are working.

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    11 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! This is amazing: I have this tool in my toolbox but never knew what it was for (inherited it). Now I know.
    And what's more: I often wondered how one could make a longer bike chain!
    Thank you!!!


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Very clear - enough to make resurrecting my old bike that little more likely. Would I be correct in assuming normal bike-shops will sell these widgets? Maybe even branches of Halfords? (note for colonial readers: that's an "auto" and cycle spares shop in the UK)

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    nope halfords dont sell them i tryed but you can get a cheap one from ebay for a couple of quid


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I've got to get myself a chain splitter, as a cyclist living with a semi-pro cyclist, he's insisted that the chain splitter is an essential tool to carry in the bicycle tool kit... :) And yep, he showed me how to use it in exactly the same way... :)


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I just took a chain apart using one of these gadgets and it took me forever to get it back together. Now that I have read your instructable, I realise that pushing the pin all the way out is real bad I learned my lesson the hard way, so I'm glad I got to see how to do this the right way.

    4 replies

    Good grief, that's horrible....then I scrolled down and saw the date that page was uploaded =D

    Sheldon Brown is a good reference site for bike-related stuff IMHO. (I'm not a hardcore cyclist but just want to know how to do basic maintenance and repairs).


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    On my current bike, I too made the mistake of pushing the pin all the way out. I managed to get it back in, but the adjacent links do not pitov nearly as freely as before. I'm not sure what to do about it....


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    You may need to do step 6 again where you put the link on the upper (floating) support and drive the pin about 1/4 or 1/2 turn to open up the plates. Another technique for loosening a couple of links is to hold them between your hands and bend the chain side to side leveraging the plates agaist each other.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I'd like to know how you made the chain tool. :-) I see you use long nut but what size and how do you make the pin. A instructable on chain tool making with measurements would be nice. I like your bikes too, someday I'd like to build one. Keep up the good work.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't make the chain tool. I bought it at a bike shop (typically $6-$12). It is a fairly simple tool that a machinist with drill, mill, tap and die tools could produce from copying a working one. Perhaps someone else can make an instructable on making the chain tool. I'm glad you like the bikes and I hope you don't wait 20 years (like me) to build your own. Now I'm two decades behind in my bike projects.