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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 15 of 22

Creating More Variation With Multiple Links


Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 15 of 22

Creating More Variation With Multiple Links


Lesson Info

Creating More Variation With Multiple Links

So now let's look at a couple more ways to create a variation. We've gone through six of our variables now but the next one's come to kind of configuration which is really our person who was asking about chain mail, that's really what we're talking about with chain mail, which is playing with the configuration of our links. So I've got a lot of samples that I'm gonna show you guys, this segments a little more about showing you some examples and starting to get the ideas churning here. So the first variable that you can play with is actually playing with the number of links you use in your chain. So you can see in this example here, I literally just doubled the number of links, right? So instead of putting one and one and one and one, I went two and two and two and two. When you're during multiple links like this, double or triple chain, what you've actually built now into your chain is redundancy so if you're not gonna do a soldered chain, if you're not soldering for some reason, a dou...

ble or a triple strand chain is great because if one link fails, there's still another one there holding it in place. So that's a good thing to kind of play with too. If you're like, "Oh, I wanna use thinner gauge wire "but I don't wanna solder," playing with multiple links gives you that kind of redundancy. But if you were going to solder this chain, what you would do is you would actually treat it like you would still, because again, we basically doubled the number of links you want, you would still solder half your links closed but then what you would do is you would take four closed links and put them on one open link. Make sense? You would solder that closed. So what you'd have then is two, one, two. After you solder that first one, then you'd add the second one in there and solder that closed. So you'd still end up with a packet of three, but it would be one, two, three, so it would be six links. Right? Make sense? So that's how I would build that chain if I were soldering it. And then obviously triple, you would just repeat the process. So, that's one option is just to play with literally the number of links that you've got. Then, you can also think about connecting multiple strands. And as I mentioned, if you look at a lot of what I do in my production line, there's a lot of multiple strand things happening here. So this is literally just two strands that come together to then fit into one strand. Make sense? So I made strand, put it together, and again, you'll probably have to do a little bit of math in terms of your soldering arrangement but it's pretty straight forward. We're again, thinking about three strands here. And obviously if we think back to our kind of 10x earring challenge, this one's probably not gonna make like the nicest earring but it would certainly be the starting point of a really sweet little necklace, right? So you can think about number of strands that you wanna use as well. And actually, in our samples, which have disappeared at this point, one of the things that I was playing with with the 10x earring sample was instead of hanging it, say, from this, if I grabbed it from the middle. Now I'm creating multiple strands out of a single strand in my earring. So that's a really fun way to play with that multiple strand idea in earring. And of course, I love kind of imbalance so what happens if I grab it here or if I grab it at this one and kind of play with that as well. So that's another way to think about multiple strands as you're thinking about our 10x earring challenge. And really, chain mail is kind of a fancier version of multiple strands with interlocking links and all of that. Chain mail is it's whole other world that you can dive down that rabbit hole for pretty much the rest of your life if you wanted to. (laughing) And then, our next variation is what I call configuration of links. And this is literally where you can think about taking any of the other variables that we've done and basically mixing and matching those in different configurations. And I wanna show you guys an example actually from my own production line. So these two necklaces use the exact same number of links. They use, I believe it's eight big links and 11 small links, might be 12 small links. They use the exact same number of links but it's the order that I put them in that changes the feel of the necklace. So you know, in the one it's small ones then two big ones then one small one then two big ones then one small one. In the other one it's all small ones and then a series of big ones that are actually put together using a twist, which I'll show you guys how to do. And then back to the small ones again. So literally the same number of links, two different arrangements, two different feels to a necklace. So you can really experiment with kinda the placement and the order and the variety of links, and again, thinking about all our different variables. So here, I did a whole bunch of samples and I just wanna point out, too, that again, we can layer variable upon variable upon variable so all of these samples that I'm showing you right now, I just used round jump rings because it was easy. But certainly you could do any of this with a square ring or a leaf shape or whatever it is you wanna use. So think about how you can layer your variables, too. So this is like a little tri-metal with some bronze, silver, brass. This is a little hard to see in this light but it's actually alternating brass and bronze. So you can play with mixing metals. I think I threw like one silver link into this brass, which again, maybe not so much for an earring but as you start to build out your necklace, and if you've ever seen, I just retired it this year, but my signature collection is literally built on this idea of, "What happens if I stick one link "of another color in the middle of a chain?" So, this kind of really simple thing can give you a lot of impact. Let's see what else we have in our little bag of tricks. Yeah. Can I throw out a quick question? Absolutely. That was actually a question from the internet, a few people were asking about mixing metals. Do they react with each or it's just no problem at all? No, so with something like this it's fine because you're actually, and you can solder mixed metals together, but in this case we're not even soldering one metal to another, we're just putting them together. Just for kind of cleanliness sake, if I were doing something like one of these guys that was a half and half, I would probably build my entire silver section first, my entire brass section second, and then my last step would be soldering the two halves together. Just to kind of keep them apart as long as possible. But there's really no need to mix, the only thing that you wanna always again make sure, is that you don't stick your steel tweezers in your pickle because that's when we could accidentally contaminate and suddenly your lovely silver is now flashed with bronze. But as long as you don't do that, put your steel in your pickle, you're fine there. But yeah, there's no reason that you can't mix metals and play around and put all those things together. So then beyond kind of the configuration with mixing metals, then of course you can play with things like size of link, gauge of link. Here's big doubles alternating with singles. Big and small. Really thick and thin. Again, things that probably aren't so nice for our 10x earring challenge but would make a really nice necklace with like a chunky element in the middle and a more delicate piece on the outside. Let's see what else we have. Oh, this is one of kinda my other personal favorites is when you start hanging links off of other links. I'll put this one here so you can see. This guy is literally a thin, like a single chain in the middle and then every chain has a free hanging big circle from it. So that's another way that you can play with kind of configuration and multiple links as well. And of course, playing with where you put those. So while you might put a big link in the center if you were making a necklace, maybe for our 10x earring challenge you wanna stick one kinda big, fat link at the bottom of a skinnier chain. So there's all kinds of different ways to play around there. The other thing that you can do is you can actually go through and make a chain that's got a little bit of a twist to it. So you can see in this example here, instead of it being one link into one link into one link, these two chains kind of mixed together. So the way that you're gonna build that twist is a little bit different than the process that we've done before because we wanna kinda keep our order together. So what I'll do here, you guys can hopefully see this in our overhead shot, is I usually start by just like linking kind of two by themselves. So add a third link here and I'll kinda hold onto this so that I can see the space where these two overlap. Do you guys see that? So then my next link, instead of going through just one, goes back through both of those. Did you guys catch that? So then I'll close that one and I'm always holding onto my last two so that I can find that space. So then I'll go ahead, take my next jump ring, again through the last two. And I always go, it doesn't matter which direction you go but you always want to go the same direction otherwise you're twist will actually change. So I always put mine in from front to back just because that's what I always do and so that way I'll remember. So front to back and then I'll keep building out my chain like that. So next one, and I'll continue along and it will end up looking like our little twisted guy here. Now this is one of those where, again, you could probably get away without soldering it because we've got that redundancy, right? If one fails, it's gonna change the pattern of the chain a little bit but it's not necessarily going to make the entire chain fail. The thing with this kind of layout is that unfortunately because of the way that you have to build this, the only way to then solder this is to take your chain and literally, one at a time, put the first guy in here, solder that guy, quench it, you don't have to pickle every time but quench it every time because it will be too hot to touch, put the next guy in there, solder that. And then keep working your way down the chain. Because of the way it's twisted together, it's really hard to kind of mentally figure out how to like solder half of them and then still stick them back together. So this is kind of the best way to do this. So if I were going to make this kind of twisted chain, I would probably make sure that I'm using a thick enough gauge of wire that I don't have to actually solder it and I would just use a slightly thicker gauge of wire and count on that redundancy of the doubled up chain to hopefully not fall apart. A couple of questions over here. Yeah. And then we'll go to the in-studio. This says, "I have a hexagon, round, and square mandrel, "could I shape the coils that way and then pull them off "and saw them that way or would that be too difficult?" No, you can absolutely do that. So I'm assuming that their mandrels are made of metal, so obviously they can't saw on them. So yeah, you can certainly pull them off and then cut them from there. If I had something like that where I was say wrapping around like a hexagonal mandrel that was made of metal that I then could not cut onto, I would probably then try to find a size dowel rod that slides into my hexagon shape fairly snugly so that I still can cut into that because any time you're trying to basically cut a coil in the air, I'm not actually gonna cut it I'm just gonna do it, especially if you have a long coil and now you're like not supported and you're trying to cut out here, that starts to get a little tricky. And so my recommendation would be, wrap them around that but then slide a wood dowel rod in there to make your cutting a little easier. Thank you. Sure, is that it from our online? There's some general questions that we might get to later after our demo. Okay, well, let's just hit 'em up now. You wanna hit 'em? You got it. So, one of our users is using bronze wire and bronze colored solder but my solder seems to have turned a silver color and my wire is pink after soldering. Okay, so that one we're gonna come back to in our fourth segment because we're gonna get into a little fancy trick called hyper-pickle. Okay, as far as linking, we're good. Perfect. Alright, you guys feel okay about any kind of multiple solder demo? This is kind of our last chance for solder demos so if there's anything more that you guys wanna see? Yeah. So if it was a hexagon shape, are you cutting on a flat side? You don't hit it on a corner? Yeah, I would cut the hexagon shape on the flat side because I think it's just a little easier to control. My guess is, with that hexagonal shape it's gonna wanna do the same thing that that square wants to do and it's gonna wanna spring apart a little bit, so kind of really keeping an eye on it. The other thing that you could do if you're finding that when you slide it off a mandrel it's springing apart, is actually wrap some painter's tape around it before you slide it off of the hexagonal thing because you can cut through the painter's tape. Wrap that around there and it will at least keep it a little more secure than if you just like let it spring out into space where it wants to twist.

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!