Wire Length Calculator for Chainmaille

19 10 2013

If you read this chainmaille blog occasionally, you may have seen my post complaining about wire suppliers incorrectly measuring wire I purchase. In brief, I used to order wire by troy ounce, and the actual weight received would be slightly different. As a result, I don’t always get enough wire for a project. I decided to start ordering by length.

This leads to a problem. How much wire do I actually need to order, i.e., how long is the wire? If I know how long the wire is in a piece of chainmaille jewelry, I know how much wire I will need to make the jewelry again.

Why a Wire Length Calculator Is Useful

If I’m using silver plated wire or copper wire, I don’t need to worry about the length because the wire is so cheap, and I always have a lot on hand. However, when I use sterling silver wire or gold-filled wire, this question is important. I usually order just what I need for a particular piece because these wires are more costly.

Let’s say I made a bracelet in silver plated wire, and now I want to make the same bracelet in gold-filled wire. How much wire do I need to order? How long was the wire in the original silver plated bracelet? I will need the same length in sterling silver or gold-filled wire.

To answer this question, I start with 2 known facts: feet per ounce for silver plated wire and weight of the bracelet. First, I use my digital scale (new window) to determine weight. Then I look up the feet per troy ounce. And then I do the math. I’m good at math, but this gets tedious.

I like making chainmaille, and I like using Excel. With these two interests, I created an Excel spreadsheet to calculate wire length. Now, I only enter weight and gauge, and Excel does all the math for me.

Screenshot and Download

Here’s a screen shot of my Excel “calculator”:

Screen shot of the calculator. Click for larger view.

Screen shot of the calculator. Click for larger view.

You can download the Wire Length Calculator here (file name: wirelengthcalculator.xls).

This file is hosted by WordPress. It does not use macros, just regular Excel formulas.

How to Use the Calculator

1. Decide which wire type you used in the chainmaille jewelry. Your options are “Plate” (for silver plate and copper wire), Silver (for sterling silver wire), and Gold Fill (for…gold-fill wire).

2. Enter the weight of the jewelry in regular ounces (not troy ounces).

3. Use the pull-down menu to select the gauge.

Once you do these three steps, the calculator will tell you how long the wire is in the jewelry.

You can only add information in the yellow cells. The rest are locked so you can’t accidentally delete the formulas. The spreadsheet is protected, but not with a password. If you want to see the formulas, you can unlock the spreadsheet. I don’t recommend unlocking the spreadsheet unless you really know what you’re doing. (Of course, if you do mess up the spreadsheet beyond repair, delete it and download another copy.)

Now that I know how much wire is in the chainmaille jewelry, I know how long of a wire I need to order to remake the jewelry. As long as I am using the same gauge wire, the length of wire is the same regardless of the wire type. The weight may differ, but the length is the same. For example, if I have a byzantine bracelet in silver plate that uses 10 feet of 20 gauge wire, I can make the same bracelet in gold-filled wire with 10 feet of 20 gauge wire.

Additional Formula for Purchasing

I always order a bit more wire than I need. I will mess up a few rings, and I will have a little left over at the ends of wire coils. Maybe I want some extra rings to lengthen the jewelry for a custom order. To make sure I will have enough wire, I usually order a little more than what I think I will need.

The calculator has an extra formula for ordering. The main formula will tell you the number of feet and inches in the original jewelry. The “purchase length” formula adds 10% to the weight and tells you what length will result.

More Resources for Chainmaille Artisans

Take a look at the Chainmaille Resources page on this blog. On that page, you can also download my ring size calculator, get recommended ARs, read jewelry care tips, and more.




One response

21 02 2015

Thanks for this information. I do love how Excel simplifies this kind of calculation once one figures out how to enter the formulas. You’ve just made a problem I’ve been struggling with no longer a problem!

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