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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 14 of 22

Changing the Shape of Links After Soldering


Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 14 of 22

Changing the Shape of Links After Soldering


Lesson Info

Changing the Shape of Links After Soldering

The next option, which is our variable number six, is to change the shape of links after soldering. So, round links can actually be manipulated into other shapes after soldering. And the advantage of this is that if you can't get something through wrapping or you just really want to make sure that your shape is nice and secure you can go ahead and manipulate and bend your round links. So what I'm gonna do is, let's see nope we're not there yet stay there. Alright, I've got a few chains here that were already soldered. I'm gonna show you guys just a couple different shapes on this as well. So the first kind of really classic one is to take a round link and turn it into an oval. And so, the way you do that is simply by stretching it. So you'll take something like a round nose plier, put it in the middle, and just stretch it open. So that's another way to make an oval. The reason that I prefer ovals on the dowel rod to this is you can see like you kind of end up with a little point at the...

end, so of course you can use that as part of your aesthetic, part of what you wanna do, but know that it's gonna give you a slightly different oval. The other way that you can take your round link and make an oval is simply by hitting it with the top of your hammer. The problem with this is it's clearly a little bit tricker to control. You also find out if your solder seam is bad. And in this case, I'm just gonna put that in there. Clearly I messed up that solder seam a little. So that's a good test you know of if your solder seams are strong enough. And of course you can do kind of free form shapes as well. So I did this sort of kidney bean shape there, and I wanna say to do that I like hammered it first a little bit and then kind of took my pliers and like smooshed it in and then smooshed it out a little. Something like that. I remember it working so well in my studio. I don't exactly remember what I did. But I mean so you can really get kind of like these funky little free form kidney bean, all kinds of different shapes like that as well. And some of these shapes like this that sort of that kind of free form like pebbly whatever shape, those are a nice one to do after soldering, cause to try to kinda bend that by hand, especially if you're not going for consistency doesn't really make sense when you can just kinda like quick smoosh it and move on. And pretty much with all of this kind of after soldering chain I recommend putting the whole chain together first and then bending the links. You may wanna do like a three link sample if it's going to drastically change the length, but there's no need to like do half the links, manipulate them all, just put your chain together and then manipulate them all at the end. The other one that I did, like I said like four different ways to make a square. So I can take my flat pliers and come in and literally just pinch, I think I did opposites first that usually works better, pinch, pinch, pinch, and pinch. So this gives us that kind of rounded square but it's a little bit more controlled than like the free form bending. So you can see how this, if we wanted to make a square and we didn't care that it had some rounded edges, this saves us a lot of filing time versus like that free form bending of the square. So that's sort of the advantage of doing something like this. And the same thing, you could totally turn this into a rectangle if you wanted to actually like stretch it into an oval first. So if I were making this into a rectangle I would stretch it into an oval first, maybe squish it a little, and then I would take a thinner nosed plier and then kinda bend my ends. And then I might kinda just come in here and straighten this guy out. So you're not limited to a square in this case. I mean it's still obviously a slightly rounded rectangle, but you could use that to make a rectangle as well. I find that this all works best with fitter gauges. So by the time you get up to a 14 or a 12 you're better off kind of either doing some of the mandrel wrapping or bending it by hand rather than trying to manipulate a link after, because the thicker the gauge the stronger the link and the harder it's gonna be to play with shape in that. Make sense? So then the other thing that I wanna talk about in our manipulating links post solder, is I wanna show you guys a kind of chain, a different kind of chain style called a loop-in-loop chain. And I wasn't necessarily gonna teach this, but I kind of personally love this chain style so much that I couldn't leave it out. So I'm gonna show you guys a couple of examples here of what this looks like. And this is a chain where the construction is a little bit different. So this is a single version and this is a double version. And I'll show you guys how this is made and that's probably the easiest way to understand. So the way that a loop-in-loop chain works is instead of doing our every other solder packets of three, we're gonna take thin links and we're actually going to solder all of the links that we need in our chain. So I've got all of my little links and if I were making a chain I would solder 100 percent of them closed. Then what we're gonna do is actually stretch them into a really long oval. And so in this case I think I used these guys, cause I didn't want it to get too pinched at the end. These were a little bit rounder. So you're gonna take every single one and you're gonna stretch it. And because of the way this chain is built you wanna take this to it's breaking point, because you wanna know now if it's actually soldered or not. So I'm really actually pulling on this. Let's see if I have one that's bad. I bet I can find one. So I'll go through and just go ahead, I really wanna break one. Isn't that the way right? You want something to fail and then it won't and when you don't want it to fail it will. So I'm really stretching these. One of these has gotta be bad. Seriously? I cannot get any of these to fail. Oh this one looks bad, come on, be bad. There we go. You want this to happen if it can, because you certainly don't want that to break once it's in the middle of your chain. Because the only way to fix it is to take the chain back apart. So our step one is we've go the circles and then we go ahead and stretch them out. And then once you've stretched them out you basically are going to bend it in half over a little dowel rod or something round. So I'm gonna go ahead and just take this and now bend it this way. And when I stretch these I try to keep my solder seam, you can see here I try to keep my solder seam in the middle of my oval so that it's at the bottom of this little point. Make sense? And now for this single version, literally all I'm going to do is I'm going to thread, I don't know if you guys can see this in here, thread the bent one through the previous guy like that. I'll do a couple so you can see what's happening here. Let's get all these guys out of the way. So I'm literally just putting this one through the center of that and then bending it out. Did you guys catch that that time? Perfect, yeah. So I'll just do one more just for safety. Thread that in there and bend that out. So now we have this really kind of nice flexible chain. But you can also go ahead and make this denser by alternating the direction of these links. So I could take, so that's what's happening in this guy here. Is I could take one of these and another one of these, and I'm basically crossing them over. Do you see how that's started there? And you'll notice when I start these I like to give myself a little tail so I've got something to hold on to. So I'll just take a little extra piece of wire. Probably not something this thick it's just what I have on the table top. And I'll thread it through these bottom two just because it gives me something to hold as I'm building this chain. And then in this case, I'll do the same thing where I'll put them through, I will just rotate which direction I went. So this guy goes through this guy here, and then so we basically just keep alternating directions. And so you can do kind of two links across each other like I did, or you can even do more. You can do like six in almost like a flower pattern which gets you an even denser chain. So this is actually, I was telling our audience or telling somebody yesterday, this is literally 30 inches of this chain that I spent an entire semester making in college because I was crazy. And so but you can see what happens is we get this really nice kind of flexible chain. And so after you're done building your chain if you want it to, especially the four cross and the six cross will be a little bit wonky, so you can actually get these draw plates where you thread it through and pull it out the other side. And what that'll do is it makes the chain thinner but it actually makes it more flexible. So you can build really long chain like that. So this is another way to manipulate your links after they've been soldered. It's a kind of chain that actually exists in antiquity. It's a really cool chain style. Can you demo that again? Yeah, which one. The whish, the pull through. Yeah, absolutely. And Charlie Brown was asking about chain mail vests. Same process? No, not exactly. Let me whoosh through the right one. So, this is a little tight. So I'm gonna go back to the next size. So just pull it through. And if you're having trouble like you can have a friend hold this and you can just pull it through the other way. And the idea is that you can make this chain as small as you want so you can keep stepping down. So I'll just pull this one through the next one. And you can see there is a point of diminishing return because every time you do this it elongates the links, and so you kind of lose some of that tightness. So I wouldn't go, whatever it fits through naturally I wouldn't go more than like two or three holes in the draw plate. So the chain mail vest, so that's one of those where it's really about putting links together in specific patterns. And typically with chain mail they're actually all on soldered links. So chain mail is one of those places where you want to look for making sure you have the right ratio between the gauge of your wire and the size of your link, because in chain mail it's just too many links to solder. I don't know many people who solder their chain mail. But then it's really all about like finding the right pattern. So if that's something that you're interested in I bet if you Google chain mail vest pattern you'll probably find some patterns for putting those together. Thank you. Sure. But yeah, so this is one of those chains that is just really fun to make. And it has a lot of kind of a place in antiquity. I actually bought a little antique vessel at a antique shop in India and it had this exact same, it was smaller, but it had this exact same chain on it to make it into a bractlet. So it's a chain that you actually see a lot all over the world.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chain making 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 chain making 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 chain making, 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 chain making 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 chain making 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!



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!