No More Aluminum Wire

8 09 2012

Dragonscale with aluminum rings

One of the great things about chainmaille is the ability to use many colors and materials. The first time I made a dragonscale bracelet, I used light, shiny blue larger rings made from aluminum and dark blue smaller rings made from coated copper. The larger rings are aluminum because the color I wanted was available only in aluminum. The bracelet looked great.

This is the final piece after 6 months of occasional wear:

Mermaid bracelet sparkles on a wrist

Lovely, right?

Six months after I delivered this bracelet, I asked the owner to let me have it back for a day. I wanted to see whether the clasp was still securely fastened and the rings were still closed tightly. In fact, I was a little nervous about this bracelet because the larger rings are aluminum, and aluminum is very soft.

You have to realize that this is a fairly strong weave. Any pressure is well distributed across many rings, so individual rings don’t have much pressure on them.

Analysis and repair after 6 months of use

Boy, I was glad I looked at it. The large aluminum rings were beginning to separate. The next image shows where the rings were opening.

Gray circles around problem rings – Click for larger view

When I looked at this bracelet under a magnifying glass, the problems were even more obvious. You might be thinking that these problem rings aren’t too bad. However, one thing I know for certain is that small problems get worse. And they get worse at an accelerating rate.

The problem here was not that the bracelet was made sloppily. When I made it, every ring closed exactly. The problem was the material: aluminum.

Bracelets get a lot of abuse. They are knocked on table edges, pushed up the arm until tight, banged into in many ways, and get tugged on or snagged. Usually, this is not a problem if the piece is well made. It was a problem here because the aluminum rings were too soft to withstand this abuse.

Well, I took about a half hour and fixed the bracelet, ring by ring. (The inside rings were fine, as expected.) When I was done, every ring was re-closed, and the bracelet looked fine. But I was still unhappy. I want people to enjoy my jewelry for a long, long time. This bracelet doesn’t have the durability for years of use.

Solving the problem: replacement

The owner’s birthday is coming up soon, and that gave me an idea: remake the bracelet from scratch with better, stronger materials. I will also change the design slightly. I can’t make aluminum any stronger, so I will simply replace the bracelet.

First, I’ll make the bracelet more narrow, with rows of 2 and 3 rings instead of 3 and 4 rings. The weave will look like this one:

A slinky, sexy gold and silver bracelet

Also, I will use different colors: light pink on the outside and gun metal bronze on the inside. The colors look like this when together:

The owner really likes these colors together, and she will be very happy with the new bracelet. With the darker rings on the inside, the dragonscale bracelet will have an amazing depth and contrast. Also, all the rings will be permanently colored silver-plated copper. They will be strong enough to stand years of use.

The new bracelet will take many hours to make because dragonscale chainmaille is a very time-consuming weave. She will give me her old bracelet in exchange for the new one. And what will I do with the aluminum bracelet?

Remove the clasps for re-use, and throw the bracelet in the trash.

I won’t use aluminum ever again.




2 responses

18 02 2013
Corina Rose

Your self reflection on your work is very thoughtful and though provoking.
Where do you get you permanently colored silver-plated copper?

19 02 2013

I purchase the colored wire at various craft stores. I generally use Artistic Wire, which is fairly easy to find. The silver-plated wire I order from Contenti. It’s good quality, and it comes in good quantities.

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