Jump Rings are those little things that link pieces together. How’s that for a scientific explanation! Most people have encountered them but may not understand what goes into making them. That’s basically what this page is all about.
When I started to write this page, I had no idea that there would be so much to write about such a deceptively simple loop. Of course, I was wrong. Go figure. Enjoy.
First step: WATCH MY VIDEO ON JUMP RING MAKING!
Jump Rings can be made of many different materials but, we will be discussing metal ones – as I am a metalsmith. There are many different shapes for jump rings – no rules here. Square, Round, Triangular, Oval, Free form – whatever the design calls for.
Okay, so first, I’ll explain what a mandrel is: It’s a piece of metal or wood or whatever, that is used to form metal. There are ring mandrels, bezel mandrels, bracelet mandrels, wire wrapping mandrels, etc. The basic concept is that the metal follows the shape of the mandrel. So, if you want triangular jump rings you need to find a triangular piece of metal or wood, or pliers that posses the required shape.
Currently, there are oval (Otto Frei) (Rio Grande), triangular, diamond shaped and square (Otto Frei) (Rio Grande) mandrels on the market (as well as the ubiquitous round mandrel) with slight price variations. Beadalon makes the (mouthful here!) Complete Wire Twister and Jump Ring Maker Set, that includes ovals with the standard rounds. Draw backs: limited number of sizes and no cutter.
There are many different brands and types of jump ring systems. Some are designed for small scale production while with others, you can make many. The choice of tool or system depends on your needs. If you are making chain maille, you don’t want to purchase wire wrapping pliers – the short length of the jaw limits how many jump rings you can wrap at a time. I’d choose nice long mandrels, like those that are in the Jump Ringer MKII – Long kit. (544.50 as of 7/12/12 from Otto Frei) or the Long Mandrel Set from Contenti.
Other jump ring makers are: The Koil Kutter Kit (89.00), originally from Dave Arens and now sold by Potter USA (the one I own – not the store, the system!). The Koil Kutter gives you a choice of English or Metric mandrels. The Pepe Tools, Jump Ring Maker ($128.00 as of 7/12/12). Rio Grand also carries jump ring kits and individual items for making jump rings. There are more manufacturers but, I don’t have the strength to list them all.
If you are making a very small amount of jump rings, these little mandrels (made by various companies) work fine as do round nose pliers (see my video.) I’m sure someone will argue that you can make hundreds of jump rings with pliers or those little mandrels. Yes, you can but IF you have limited time and limited patience (my M.O.) get a Koil Cutter or a Jump Ringer!
Making Jump Rings with Pliers
You can also create custom shaped jump rings by making a round jump ring and then altering its shape with pliers – a bit more difficult, time consuming and often frustrating procedure. But, sometimes, that’s the only way to create what the design requires.
One technique for creating these specialty jump rings with pliers is as follows (directions are for an oval jump ring):
Make a round jump ring. Solder it closed. Use Bow-Opening pliers (Otto Frei – Fancy ones: here), place inside the jump ring and squeeze (reverse action pliers – you squeeze them and they open up). No Bow-Opening pliers (Rio Grande)? Use your regular round nose pliers, insert into the jump ring and pull the handles apart. It is not as easy as using Bow-Opening
pliers which is why I own Bow-Opening pliers. Next step: re-sawing open the solder join – if you need the jump rings open. If you don’t need them open, then you are done.
There are many new pliers on the market, in a variety of shapes that can be used for jump ring making. One interesting new one is Wubber’s Square Mandrel Pliers (made in Pakistan, as a lot of our tools are).
The cheapest jump ring mandrel is the ever useful wooden dowel. Mind you, there aren’t 50 million sizes to choose from but, there are enough to create a pretty good range (both in size and shape) of jump rings. I adapt my wooden dowel mandrels by either cutting a slot in the top with a cut off wheel or by drilling a hole, the size of the wire I am using, into the side of the mandrel. These adaptations are made so that the wire can be firmly attached to the mandrel. The simplest method is just taping the wire to the side, with masking tape. Below are images of the three different methods:
Variations in attachments. Taped to dowel, slotted into dowel or side set in dowel. If using the side set, leave enough space at the top of the dowel to insert into your winder.
Okay – the end of MANDREL LAND!
Cutting Jump Rings
Many of the jump ring makers listed above come with jump ring cutters. The Koil Kutter has a safety guard, as does the Jump Ringer, that works with either a flex shaft or a Dremel. There is also a steel cutting blade and a holder, within which, you put your jump rings. Potter USA calls it the Koil Holder Lock. This “Lock” secures the jump rings (which are removed from the mandrel first). The safety guard and blade unit fit onto and into the slotted top of the “Lock”. This helps to guide the blade. Notice I said helps. I have been able to destroy the top of my Lock by not cutting in the groove. I have no idea how I did it but, I managed to repeat the mistake several times! See the image of my poor little tool below. Takes skill kiddies, takes skill…
The Jump Ringer now comes with a specialized holder for non-standard shapes. This is called a Jump Ringer Four-Sided Coil Holder . It costs 89.00 at Rio Grande and Otto Frei only sells in in the kit at $200.00 (7/12 prices).
Melissa Muir of Kelsi’s Closet Jewelbox Design has posted a great side-by-side analysis between the Koil Kutter and the Jump Ringer – so, I’m not going to do it. Another good read is Desiree’s Desired Creations. She talks about using the Koil Kutter with a Dremel. Long Canyon Jewelry also has good information on the (now famous – at least on this page) Koil Kutter. BTW, this is my last link on this subject!
So, enough of the electrically based products – what about the old fashioned way, you may ask? Well, there are many old fashioned ways but, I’m not going to discuss them as my attention span is limited. What I will discuss is how I cut jump rings manually.
There are two scenarios here: one is you made your jump rings on a metal mandrel and two: you made your jump rings on a wooden dowel. The procedures are basically the same but, one is easier than the other. By using the wooden mandrels, you keep the jump rings on it to saw. If you used metal mandrels, you can try finding a dowel that will fit into your coil. The coil alone tends to move around so, extra tape would come in handy. The nice thing about using the dowel is it is more stable and you have a handle to hold onto.
This photos shows how to hammer the end if you are using the slot method. You only need to do this if the wire doesn’t fit into the slot – generally when you are using heavy gauged wire like 16 through 12 gauge.
What about soldering jump rings and opening them, Nancy?
Well, since you asked…
I like to use a charcoal block to solder jump rings on. The charcoal holds in the heat, reduces the amount of oxygen resulting in less firescale and I like it.
There’s a couple (okay a lot!) of places to put solder on a jump ring: one is on the top of the seam and the other is on the bottom of the seam. I’ve done this both ways but have decided that I like putting the solder on the bottom the very best. Why? Because I’m lazy. Think about this: the solder has to follow the heat. If the solder is on the bottom and the heat is on the top? Yep, the solder runs through the entire seam from top to bottom. The top “loading” of solder works too but sometimes I have to flip it over and hit it with the torch a second time and if you are a lazy jeweler (yep) – that’s two steps instead of one. Also, the solder doesn’t jump around under there – more time savings as there are no “solder hunting” events to attend.
This “lovely” drawing shows where I place my torch when soldering jump rings. The flame is behind and above the ring. Why? Because I want to bring all the metal up to solder-melting-temperature at the same time so, that the solder doesn’t jump to one side and ignore the other. Pretty cool, eh? Old people do, occasionally, have wisdom to impart! We might not remember the name of the thing with the flame coming out of it but, dang it, we know where to put it!
So, my final word (stop praising the Lord!) on jump rings is on opening and closing them.
Jump rings are opened by either: A. Using two pairs of pliers or B. using either a slot headed screw or C. that doodad that they sell.
Never pull jump rings apart as you’ll never get them round again without a ton of work. Instead, wist, with two pliers, each end away from the other. Slide into chain, piece, whatever, and then close by pulling the two ends back together. I often, once again with the pliers, push the ends past where they meet, pull them back to center and then finish the twist to center This maneuver creates tension and a tight, clean join.
If you are opening and closing a ton of jump rings, (chain maille comes to mind), try using one of the following tools:
This Doodad is called a Jump Ring Opener.
This one is called a Ring for Opening and Closing Jump Rings. Wonder why they called it that? So, looking at this, I think a slot headed screw soldered onto a ring band (saw screw to desired length first) would probably be a pretty cheap way to go too.
Okay, there’s probably subjects that I haven’t covered but, I am so tired of jump rings at this point that I’m having nightmares. Three days of this would drive you mad too!
Thanks for visiting and I hope this helped. Any comments or corrections are welcomed – if put in a nice way. No brow beaters or chest thumpers (I’m right – you’re wrong messages) wanted. Have a creative life!