Jump Rings

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Jump Rings and All That Jazz

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.

  Jump Rings are those little round (most of the time) things that link parts of jewelry together or are used to create chain mail. 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.

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.

                      

Mandrels

                                                                (Pepe mandrel)

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 (Amazon – Hand Coiler with Oval Mandrels) (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.  ***Note:  as of 10/14, it appears that sets of oval jump ring mandrels are as rare as hen’s teeth.  Wonder what happened to them?  Otto Frei, Pepe Tools and Rio used to sell them.

Other mandrel systems are: BeadSmith Multi-Mandrels (not my favorite tool), Metalliferous’s Mandrels, and EuroTools.

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 mail, 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. ($496.00 as of 04/14/2017) from Otto Frei.  The Ring Lord carries 18″ mandrels and many other tools for jump ring creation.

(MKII – Long)

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 ($170.00 as of 04/14/17)).  Rio Grande also carries jump ring kits and individual items for making jump rings.  Otto Frei carries many types and prices of jump ring systems too.  There are more manufacturers but, I don’t have the strength to list them all.

When purchasing a jump ring maker, think about:

  • How many jump rings you will be making – chain maille?  Many.  Jewelry, a few or a lot – depending on your designs.  Chain Making will require many more than just using a few jump rings for links.
  • What you can afford
  • How much space you have

If you are making a lot of rings, think about something like the Ringinator.

   Beadalon Multi Mandrels

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!

Wubbers has a line of pliers that can be used for making jump rings like these round, Bail Making Pliers.  They have parallel jaws so, you can make same-sized jump rings.  These are great for only making a few jump rings.  I would run a wooden dowel, through the jump rings (after they have been removed from the pliers), for ease in sawing.  Read on for more information on sawing.

wubbers-oval  Wubber’s Oval Pliers

You can also make jump rings on pliers that are not parallel.  The trick is to wrap from the widest part of the jaw, trying to keep the coil moving down the pliers, toward the tip. So, wrap from the back.

plier-wrap  How to wrap on a non-parallel plier.

Oval Jump Rings

NOTE:  with all non-round jump ring creation, it is best to lubricate your mandrel for ease of removal.  Use something like Liquid Bur Life, 3-in-1 oil or other oil.  If using wooden mandrels, you don’t need lubrication because you can just saw through the wooden mandrel, which will loosen the rings.

You can also create oval jump rings by making a round jump ring and then altering its shape with bow or ring-opening pliers  (reverse action pliers – you squeeze them and they open up). There are quite a few different sizes to choose from. These tools are also used in the body piercing industry.

  Make a coil of round jump rings.  Separate the rings from the coil by sawing. Bend the jump rings shut.  Solder them closed.  Use Bow-Opening pliers  to shape the ring into an oval.    No Bow-Opening Pliers?  Use your regular round nose pliers, insert into the jump ring and pull the handles apart or put one handle of the plier in a vise and pull the other.  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.

  Opening jump ring with Bow pliers – note grooves on pliers to hold jump ring.

   Here’s a comparison of round nose made rings (left) and bow-opening pliers (right).

Bow-Opening Pliers Suppliers

Amazon, Contenti, FJD Tool, Rio Grande, etc.

*****Great idea from Musicman’s post on M.A.I.L. (Maille Artisans International League) called the “Squish Method” for creating oval jump rings.  So simple, so easy!  You could also leave the jump ring coil in the vise (with one end kinda poking out – see video 3 below under “Chainmaille Artists…”) and saw through them.  I tried it but, the beginning links kept pulling away when I pulled the saw back (used a jeweler’s saw).  Maybe using masking tape on the coil and using a separating disc (extra thin from Contenti) would work.

Another method for creating oval jump rings is to either:  A. solder wire together and wrap your jump ring wire loosely around the mandrel (so that you can get it OFF the mandrel) or B. file a flat area on two round dowels.  Glue and clamp.  Wrap the wire around the wood.  You don’t have to wrap loosely on the wooden dowels because you can saw the jump rings in place.  IF you want to remove the coil from the dowels, you will need to wrap loosely.  The wire digs into the soft wood and will not come off.  I suppose you could start a fire and burn them off?  Although, I don’t recommend the fire technique.  Just a desperate measure – if needed.

wood-dowel  Wooden dowels for oval jump rings.

You can also wrap your wire around a craft stick like these Wood Skinny Sticks that Michael’s carries.

comparison-of-linksComparison of oval jump rings formed with:  (from left to right) Squish Method, Skinny Sticks and two dowels glued together.

Other Mandrels

The cheapest jump ring mandrel is the ever useful wooden dowel (as we’ve seen above, they can also be used for oval, as well as round jump rings.)  Mind you, there aren’t 50 million sizes (or shapes) 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.

The Jiffy Jump Ring Tool ($42.30 at Otto Frei as of 7/12/12),  is a manual system.  I have not used this tool but, from what I’ve read on a few blogs, it is fine for small jobs.

Cutting Jump Rings 

 Safety guard, blade and Lock of the Koil Kutter.

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).  As noted above, I can’t find the oval mandrels anymore (10/14).

Desiree’s Desired Creations talks about using the Koil Kutter with a Dremel.

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.

Cutting 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.

  this shows the hammered end put into the slot.

   Image shows drilled (and much used) bench pin.

   Placement of dowel and coil on bench pin.  Coil alone would have a similar placement.

 

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.

    Charcoal, jump ring and solder under seam.

  Solder over the seam.

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.

How To Open A Jump Ring

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, twist, 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 mail 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.

   One of these (largish size screw or bolt with a slotted head) screwed or bolted into the desk would work too.  Check the hardware store in your area.

Videos from Chain Mail Artists and Their Jump Ring Making Solutions

  1. West Coast ChainMail – Chainmail Ring Coiling/Winding Apparatus/Jig.
    Fancy, fast winding and cutting
  2. Kurnos34How to Make ChainMaille:  Homemade winding jig.  Supplies and getting started making chain mail.
  3. Schuler101 – How To Make: Rings for Chainmail. Home made jig and cutting in the coil in a vise.
  4. Coolantcooled – How to make chain mail rings – Enhanced Jig.  Very “cool” winding jig.  Just needs to be supported somehow.
  5. Tropicalwebsurfer – Chainmaille wood box coil jig.  A simple solution for coiling.  I just want to see it clamped down and off the carpet!

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!

 

7 thoughts on “Jump Rings

  1. Hi Dana, Well, how’s this for a slow reply? I finally got to my website emails. Still have 180 Facebook messages to respond too. Alas, there only poor pitiful me answering emails. So, I’m done whining and I’ll try to answer your question!

    You are getting your jump rings too hot! The 2nd jump ring should already be pretty hot by the time you get to it. You shuld just have to briefly hit it with the torch. You are talking about soldering linked jump rings? Do you have a smaller torch tip? What type of torch set-up do you have? Is it gas/air or gas/O2? How large is that tip? I use a small tip for soldering jump rings and heat them from the opposite side of where the solder is. Another tip, use a pair of cross-lock tweezers. Clamp them over the previously soldered jump ring. The tweezers will act as a heat sink and the metal won’t heat up enough to re-flow. If the tweezers are too big, maybe hold the jump ring, while you solder, with tweezers? Anything to keep the ring from overheating. There is this stuff called Rio Chill Gel and it protects pieces from heat (for a time). But, it’s messy and might dirty up your next solder join.

    Well, that’s all the ideas that I have for now. Let me know if this helped or you have other questions. Sorry for the danged slow response. I’m working on the “better late than never” premise! Thanks and have fun. Nancy

  2. First of all let me start by saying I absolutely love you! I love watching your videos, one because you are very real and funny and second, I actually “get it” when you demonstrate, and I’m kind of old too darn-it.

    So my problem is in soldering several jump rings together without remelting the solder from previous jump rings only to make a jump ring stick. I have a hand held torch, noting fancy and am thinking it gets too hot and I will not be able to solder several together because of that. Whatcha think, is it a lost cause?

  3. Hi Gianna, Thank you so much! Glad my odd teaching style is working for you. Keep watching, there’s always something new and silly around the bend. Thanks again and take care. Nancy

  4. Great rundown on jumprings…very informative. I love your video (I’ve started watching some of your others, as well…) I enjoy your fun personality, and you’ve really taught me some fantastic tips so far. So…thank you! ;-D