In my current lesson with Lexi, I am learning how to make my own design for a chain.  You may ask why?  Well, it’s important to know the skills involved in creating a unique chain of your own design.  Now this project is not complete, but I thought I would write about what I have discovered so far.

One of the really cool things about making your own design for a chain is it can add so much to your design for a particular pendant.  Cool for you, cool for the future wearer of the item.

I chose 16 gauge sterling silver wire.  One of the first steps is to anneal the wire.  In this case it was necessary because the wire was half hard.  If the wire had been dead soft, it wouldn’t need to be annealed.  Here is a photo of how the wire is being annealed with the torch.

annealingWireYou may notice how the wire is wrapped in a circle with T-pins holding it in place.  This is very important as it prevents the wire from unraveling while is is HOT, which it does as it relaxes with the application of the heat.

Once the wire has been annealed, it is more pliable and that makes it ‘easier’ to wrap it around a steel mandrel to take on a circular shape.  One of the tips Lexi provided for this process was to wrap the mandrel in tissue paper, because as you wrap the wire around it, the wire tightens….and sometimes you have a difficult time taking the wire off the steel.  With the tissue paper in place you can light a match to it to burn the paper and the wire comes off easily.  Cool, yes?

Fortunately, I’ve had some experience working with wire and winding it around the mandrel went well, once I got the first few wraps started.  I was able to remove the wire without any difficulty and had a nice wire coil ready for the next step.

All of this may seem rather tedious, but it’s necessary to understand the process.  The next step involves using your hand saw to carefully saw through each of the coils.  This creates a nice ring that will end up being a link in the chain, after the joining point is soldered.  I sawed and sawed and sawed….at the end my fingers did cramp and Lexi showed me a nice technique for stretching them out.

Now I have all these rings, which can be purchased from nice vendors like the Urban Maille or Rio Grande.  But the point again is to understand this process.

In this picture, a number of the rings are lined up on the solder brick with their openings facing the person soldering.  In this photo, it’s Lexi doing the soldering, but rest assured I had my turn at this.  You have to pre-cut very tiny pieces of solder, heat them up to form little balls and then using your solder pick, pick them up and place them on the joint of the ring.  Once heated to the correct temperature the solder flows, creating the join.  In theory….remember I’m learning technique here.  I get to practice.

SolderingRingsOnce all of the rings are soldered, I move on to my design for the link between these rings.  Now this is part of the fun, because you can come up with something that is truly unique and fits with the metal pendant you’ve already created.

And this is where I will leave you as I am in the process of finishing the solder joins and creating the design for the next link component.  I’ll take pictures and share this work in process.

Til the next time, aspire to be more as an artist and person.  May all of you have a great week of creativity!