Q&A with a New Chainmailler

31 03 2013

I’ve been having a good convo with a new chainmailler on Etsy. With permission, I’m copying our messages below. Perhaps you’ve had some of the same questions, and perhaps some of my ideas will help you, too. I’m adding the subheadings.

Wire / Ring Sources & Making Rings


Hi. I hate to bother you, especially with what might be a silly question, but I’m just now getting into chainmaille after years of loving the designs. I’ve started to make them myself, but I see many creators talk of using wire, but when I go online to find said wire, I can only find small amounts, such as 10 feet to 39 feet. I was wandering if you might be able to give me some tips or hints on how best to look for the wire. Currently I’ve been using Anodized Aluminum from theringlord.com, but it’s quite pricey to get jump rings from Canada. I’ve searched for places here in the US, but I end up mainly finding links to Blue Buddah and TheRingLord. I bought some rings on eBay, but there aren’t as many sellers for supplies there either. Etsy has a few, I’ve noticed, but most seem higher than TheRingLord.


First, I’m glad you’re making your own rings. Doing so will give you a lot of flexibility to get your chains exactly as you wish. You will also save a lot of money over time.

Second, base materials are often sold in pre-packaged amounts. You may be able to find raw copper wire and annodized aluminum (natural color only) in bulk spools at hardware stores. Tell the store clerks how much you want, and they will cut it for you.

For coated and plated wires, you will likely have to get them in pre-packaged amounts. I get my silver plate from Contenti.com (same place I buy saw blades and other supplies). Good jewelry supply stores will typically carry Artistic wire in small and larger spools, though you probably won’t get the lengths you want.

Third, fine materials (sterling silver, silver fill, gold, gold fill, platinum) are generally sold in whatever quantity you wish, whether you’re purchasing by weight or length. You can try Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. I get my gold fill and some other odds and ends from there.

I’ve never bought rings through Etsy or from Blue Buddha or The Ring Lord, so I can’t say much about them. However, if you can make your own rings, you will do better in cost over time.

If you plan to make a lot of rings for a long time, you might consider investing in a Jump Ring Maker or the Pepetools Jump Ring Maker – Flexishaft combo. I got my Pepe from Contenti for around $200. I make a lot of rings at a time, and the Pepe has been very useful for me. You can see the Pepe on Contenti or on my Chainmaille resources page at chainofbeauty.wordpress.com/chainmaille-resources/

I hope this helps. Good luck with your jewelry making.

Wire Sources and Tools for Cutting Jump Rings


Thank you. All of this information helps greatly. I’ve been working on the aluminum until I can get better at closing the rings and at certain weaves before going into sterling silver and the like, but I do plan on it eventually, and hopefully within the year, to be honest.

I’ve seen some mandrels and stuff for ring making but, to be honest, the measurements on most of them confused me, but I’ve never been good at fractions lol. But looking at the one you suggested looks like it has everything you need but the saw. Speaking of the saw, my mother suggested I use a saw blade on a Dremel. I was wandering what your opinion on that might be?

I didn’t think i could get wire at a hardware store, but now that I think about it, you’re right. I probably could get at least the silver tone aluminum there. Thank you.

Thank you again for the help and advice.


You can use a saw blade on a Dremel. Here’s what you will need to cut rings safely.

1. Blade: Get a blade made for metals.

2. A mount: You will also need some way to secure the wire coil so you can make a straight cut and so you don’t hurt yourself. Without a way to keep the coil from moving around, you can cut yourself very easily and very badly. That blade will be moving very fast. Also, without something to hold the top of the coil, the rings will fly away…right into your eyes. Some people will put a wooden dowel through the ring coil and use it to hold the coil in place.

3. Blade guard: Blades break sometimes, which means you’ll have a little piece of saw blade moving super fast through the air. It will cut or pierce any part of you that it hits. Also, you want to make sure you won’t touch the blade while it’s cutting.

4, Lubricant: You will need to lubricate the wire coil, so it may be slippery. (I use a drop of dish soap.)

I know of some people who cut all their rings by hand using a jewelers’ saw. This works, but it’s slow and the rings aren’t always perfect. I can’t imaging cutting a thousand rings this way. I used to cut rings like this, but I broke so many blades that I gave it up.

Fractions: I, too, don’t like using fractional measurements, which you will have to do if you’re measuring with inches. I prefer metric measurements because everything is in whole numbers and decimals. (For example, I would rather do the math with 5.6 mm than with 7/32.)

Calculating Rings per Inch – Using Metric Measurements


Thank you so much for your response.

I hate to bother you again, but you know so much, and explain it where it’s very easy to understand, whereas many out there just throw a bunch of words at you and assume you can muddle your way through it.

I’ve found a length of anodized aluminum wire 18 gauge at 39 feet, but I’m having issues figuring out about how many rings that would make. The sizes I seem to be using are the common 5/32 and 5/16 (though looking at a size guide I might look into 1/4 as well). Someone said that it was 1 link per inch, but seeing how small the 5/32s are, I’d say it’d be more than that, wouldn’t it be?


A 5/32 inch inner diameter gives you about 1 ring for every 1/2 inch, or 2 rings per inch. If you have 39 feet (which is 468 inches), you might get around 936 rings.

A 5/16 inner diameter gives you about 1 ring per inch. With 39 feet, you might get around 468 rings.

Here’s the math for the first one above. I’ll walk through it step by step, so please forgive me if I’m stating the obvious.
1. 5/32 = 0.15625 inches. This is your inner diameter
2. 0.15625 x 3.14159 = 0.49 inches, about 1/2 inch per ring. We multiplied the inner diameter by pi to get the inner circumference. Now we know that you will get 2 rings per inch because 0.49 inches is almost exactly 0.5 inches.
3. 39 feet x 12 inches = 468 inches. This is the total number of inches in your wire.
4. 468 inches x 2 = 936 rings. You’re getting 2 rings per inch, so we double the number of inches to get the number of rings.


This makes a good case for using metric measurements. 5/32 inches is…4 mm. 5/16 inches is 8 mm. I think 4 and 8 are easier numbers to use.




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