Tuesday, 22 December 2009

New Toys & A New Addiction

I got myself a Christmas present a few weeks ago.  I make my own jump rings for my jewelry, but it's a laborious process, requiring a jeweller's saw to cut the rings.  It might not be as big a job if I had a proper place to do it, with a place to put a vice to hold them, but since my kitchen table is my workbench, it was a pain in the butt.  For years, I've yearned for a jump ring maker and when I saw the Dave Arens model touted on one of the jewelry forums, decided to treat myself.

Dave Arens has a company called Gemstones Etc. and he makes a Koil Kutter (the "ks" almost put me off it!) that works with a Dremel.  Here's the picture of the Koil Kutter.

The wire needs to be coiled somehow, and I use a plastic mandrel that I've had for years and probably picked up at Michaels.
You slide the coil off of the mandrel, wrap it in masking tape to hold it together and set it in the bottom channel.  Screw the lid down, set the cutter (kutter!) in the top channel, turn the Dremel on, and slide it along the groove.  Zippo!  A whole whack of jump rings, whatever size you wanted, in less time it takes to put the blade in the jeweller's saw.

I need a little more practice with the Cutter.  Tried sliding a pencil inside the coil of metal to hold it steady instead of taping it, and found out why the pencils were called HB HARD. That coil didn't work out too well.
But the rings accumulated like confetti at a wedding.  I started with green artcraft wire, good to practice on because it's cheap, did whacks of copper and bronze copper wire and twisted some sterling silver and tried that too.  Great fun!  The Koil Kutter is easy to put on the Dremel and Dave's instructions are simple to follow and he has some very helpful tips.  The key is reading them before you start to cut.

Now...should be cleaning my house for Christmas (not sure if the dust on the jump ring picture is on my table or on my camera!), but I've been wanting to try doing some chainmaille patterns and never had enough jump rings...until yesterday. 
Pearl, the Beading Gem, has a wonderful tutorial for a Persian chain on her website. (http://www.beadinggem.com/)  She has very clear pictures and directions, and a video too, so that you can flip back and forth.  I started it in the store and kept getting interrupted (darn customers!) and was starting to think that maybe this old dog wasn't going to learn a new trick.  When my shift was over, I started again with a little peace and quiet, and almost right away had the "eureka moment" and knew I'd got it. 

Since it was a learning experience and some of the jump rings were a result of the pencil fiasco, I wasn't worried about closing them seamlessly.  But talk about addictive!  I put it down at 11 p.m. last night and went to shut off the light and thought, "just the last bunch of rings."  Ha ha.  I finished all the copper rings I had and then decided it should be finished.  So I went to another fantastic site for chainmaille tutorials, changed the pattern and finished the ends about midnight.  And can't wait to start another one, maybe a different pattern.  Pictures can't do justice to the suppleness and smooth feel of a woven metal bracelet.

Anybody who is interested in trying chain maille, should learn the basics with Pearl's tutorial, and then learn the amazing variations on http://cgmaille.com/index.shtml.  Jeff Olin very generously shares his knowledge of chainmaille weaves with very clear and picture-heavy free tutorials.  It's probably the most comprehensive library of chainmaille patterns anywhere.
I've often wondered about people who spend so much time creating entire chainmaille shirts and armor.  Now that I've discovered just how addicting the darn stuff is, all I can say is, "thanks, Dave, for giving me the opportunity to make hundreds (or thousands?) of jump rings in a short time."  And please, Santa, send me some more wire for Christmas!


  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I swear by the artistic wire coiling tool for hand coiling. But I haven't yet got the Koilcutter.

  2. Mmmmmm, I tried chainmaille once and was not feeling the luv. Your chain looks gorgeous, though, so I might have to give it another try. The Koilkutter (yeccchh - the "k"s put me off, too ;) looks like a must if you're going to do chainmaille seriously. What size did you make the rings?

  3. Very cool, I will have to check this out, my oldest daughter does chainmaille and this might make a great gift !