Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking

Lesson 9/22 - Assembling and Soldering a Basic Chain

 

Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking

 

Lesson Info

Assembling and Soldering a Basic Chain

What we're gonna do now is we're gonna take the basic jump rings that we made in the first segment and we're gonna actually go ahead and solder those. Now, as I mentioned in the first segment, you do not have to solder a chain. If you don't have a torch, or you're a little bit afraid of fire, though hopefully by the end of this segment we're gonna get rid of the afraid of fire part. But if you don't have a torch, you can make chain that's unsoldered, but in general, the rule of thumb is, any time you can solder a chain, you should. That's because it's just going to make it stronger. When we have our little links here, if we don't solder them, there's always a possibility that a link gets caught on something and gets torn apart, right? We don't want that, so if we can solder a link, we will solder a link. Hopefully you guys took the time to watch our prereq video about soldering so that you know the basics of what's happening, and if you have not watched that, you can always go back on ...

the next break, catch back up on that, so that you have a little bit more familiarity with the process. But what you want to know about what we're doing is we're soldering with something called silver solder. This is a different kind of solder than if you had a soldering iron. That's a low temp lead solder. We're not dealing with that here in this class. We're dealing with silver solder, which is an alloy of silver and some other stuff mixed in to make it melt at a slightly lower temperature than our metal, and that's going to be heated with our torch, and that's going to make our solder flow. Now, I say silver solder, but in all honesty, there are some other types of solder as well, so I have here some bronze solder, and bronze solder is just something that you can buy that's a little closer color match to your metals. There's bronze solder, there's brass solder, there's also yellow solder, which is yellow silver solder, which is meant to match gold filled wire or even brass wire. You can use any of those options when you're soldering, and we'll get back to the types of solder in just a second, but let's start by talking about the steps for assembling your chain, because there is a slow, painstaking way to do this, and there's a slightly easier way to do this, and I of course want you guys to do the slightly easier way. I'm going to explain the process, and then I'm going to demo it for you guys. Basically, what we're going to do is we're gonna start by closing half of your jump rings, so if you remember, in our last segment, I showed that example and I said, okay, there were five jump rings for two inches. We ended up knowing that we needed plus some extra jump rings, so in this case, we would close half of our jump rings. When I say "close," what I mean is that when we take our jump rings off of our mandrel because we've cut them, you can see that because of the way we twist our wire, our jump ring is actually slightly open, right? What we're gonna do is take half of our jump rings, and literally... This is awkward to do at this angle, but I'm literally gonna take my pliers and I'm going to close this jump ring as tight as I can. What I'm looking for here is as small of a gap as possible. The most important thing to know about soldering is that solder does not fill gaps. When I used to teach at the university level, I would make my students write that really big in their notes: "Solder will not fill gaps" in all capital letters, because it won't. Solder actually works through a process of capillary action, the same way that water would travel between two panes of glass, and so because of that, we really want that nice, tight fit. We'll take half of our jump rings, and we'll close them just like I showed you, and if you noticed when I was working here, we always want to twist our jump rings open and closed. We never want to pry them open, because when we pry them this way, it distorts our shape. When we twist them, it actually keeps our shape nice, so I'm always twisting them open, twisting them closed. But I'm gonna take half my jump rings, and I'm going to close them. Then we're going to solder half of those jump rings, and I'm gonna show you guys how to do that in a really quick, efficient way. Basically, if we were making a chain, we'd have half of our jump rings soldered, right? Then we're going to take two closed jump rings, so two jump rings that we've soldered, and put them onto a third jump ring, so we end up with... I don't know why I call them "packets." We end up with a packet of three, so we'll end up with a little grouping. I have no idea why I call them packets, but I've always just called them that, so we'll end up with a little packet of three here, and we'll take that jump ring in there, and we'll solder that. We'll end up with all of these packets of three, and then we'll take our packets of three, we'll solder those together to end up with packets of seven, and we'll keep building our chain out like that. Then you'll literally continue to repeat that process as needed until your chain is your desired length.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chainmaking and discover your own creative voice.

There’s no need to buy boring, store-bought chain. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking, you’ll learn the basics of creating your own handmade chain (including how to get comfortable soldering with a torch) and how to take the basics of chainmaking and add endless variations to create designs that are uniquely yours.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has built her own jewelry line by discovering her signature style in chainmaking, and now she wants to help you do the same!

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make and solder jump rings into a basic link-in link-chain.
  • Create variation in your chainmaking through wire gauge, link size, shape, and more.
  • Hone in on your aesthetic to find a style that’s uniquely you.
  • Finish your chains so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your chainmaking explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’re looking to inject some creativity into your jewelry designs, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to create your own unique chain. Plus, you’ll explore your ideas by creating a series of chain-link statement earrings - perfect to wear, share, or sell!

Reviews

Liz
 

Megan' an excellent instructor and lays things out very clearly, with a lot of good tips based on her extensive experience. I've experience making wire wrapped chain and have taken a beginning metalsmithing class before, and this class had some good refresher information. I particularly appreciated seeing her techniques and process for streamlining production.

a Creativelive Student
 

Megan is an awesome teacher! She is genuinely enthusiastic about sharing her metalsmithing skills with us. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at designing and making a chained necklace on my own soon.

Vernell Bevelander
 

Another excellent class! Thank you Megan!