Tubes, Clips and End Caps

Bracelet made with clip back and hand woven silver cable

Remember:  Take all safety precautions – it is YOUR responsibility to know what they are.  I will list some, as I think of them.  But, please, please, please use common sense and caution. Ventilate when using chemicals, burning things or soldering, wear gloves when using chemicals, don’t put strange things in your mouth and tie back your hair. Wear a mask when sanding. Don’t wear loose, flowing clothing, especially things with long sleeves or fringe (I’m talking to you, hippies (my sister) and wear closed toe shoes.  Think smart.  Live long.

This drawing illustrates how to construct a bracelet using tubing in combination with Buna cord, metal cable or any other thing you want.  Reasons to do this are to: 1. keep copper or brass off of the skin to eliminate that green skin thing (tubes are silver)  2. a way to make a flexible, linked bracelet 3. ’cause you want to.

Ensure that your cord fits through the tube! Cut tubing to size. Sand or file one side of tubing flat. (Gives you more metal to solder to and makes the join stronger.) Solder the tubing to the back of your piece.  Pickle, neutralize and clean.

Tube with flat side

Thread the Buna’N (a synthetic rubber co-polymer – see Wikipedia explanation here) or cable through the tubing. Glue on your end caps. If you don’t own pre-made end caps and want to make your own, STOP HERE and read a few paragraphs below on how to make them.

If you desire, you can use  little “O” rings as spacers.  These spacers can also keep the pieces from shifting around.  You can also add a drop of Loctite, into the tube, to stop all movement. Don’t do this until you are almost completely finished with your bracelet, as soldering is now NOT AN OPTION.

Here’s an exciting little bit of information (ugh- too perky), Wow – you can make your own “O” Rings by cutting Buna cord and using super glue or  Loctite’s Quick Set 404, and gluing the ends together.  Try it!  It’s a very strong  join and you can make them whatever size you want.  Although, I must say, those teeny, tiny ones are easier to buy!

“O” Rings – VERY, very blown up.

Polymer Clay Express sells Buna’N cord and a bunch of other cool stuff.  They have the “O” Rings too.  Here’s a link to different kinds of Buna/O-Ring cord.

You can also use clips to hold Buna’N or Cable instead of tubing.  Here is a brief tutorial on how to make these clips:

1. Cut your metal to size – that’s up to you – experiment!

2. Curl the ends of the metal with round nose pliers. CURLED METAL

3. Bend the metal around a dowel, shank of a dapping punch or round nose pliers.

4. Now flatten the bottom of that curve so that you have a flat surface to solder or rivet into. You can use parallel or flat nose pliers , square stock or a square bezel mandrel to do the job.

5. Solder or Rivet the clip to your piece.

6. After pickling, rinsing, etc and when you are almost completely done with your piece, insert the cord or whatever, into the clip.  Squish (a technical jewelry term) the top of the clip together and smoosh (another one) it down.  You can also drop a bit of Loctite Super Glue (my favorite is their “Ultra Gel Control”) or some other type of super glue, onto the bottom of the Buna, (the part in the clip) – if, you don’t want it to ever move, again! Wasn’t that fun?

Making End Caps for the cords.

Now, if you are only using one cord, with the tubes or clips running down the middle, you only need to make two of these – one for each end.  The following directions are for the basic, single end cap.

You need tubing that fits your cable – as tightly as possible.  Try to match outer diameters of cord with inner diameters of tubing.  You can come close.  If the fit is very tight, you can, using a round file, file down the interior walls of the tubing. The tubing should be, at a minimum, 5mm long.  You want that tubing to stay in the end cap so, a little longer is better – say, 10mm (or 1 centimeter, for those who get this metric thing).

Ensure that the ends of your tubing are filed or sanded flush and are clean.  Cut a small square of metal, larger than the tube.  The cut can be rough, but the metal should be flat – I use scrap metal for this step.

As the above picture says, put the solder INSIDE the tubing – that way it doesn’t run up the outsides of the tube and it SAVES YOU TIME as you don’t have to sand off the solder!  Yippeee!  Solder tubing and bottom piece together.

Trim excess metal with French shop shears (here from Rio Grande Jewelry) or some other hand held metal cutting gizmo. File and sand to match the curve of the tubing.

Make or find jump rings that fit the tubing – a little Goldilocks and the 3 bears here – choose the one that is neither too big nor too small – you want it… “just right”.  Make certain that the two ends of the jump ring fit together tightly and cleanly.  Sand or file the edge where the two halves of the ring meet (the seam),  flat.

Now, take that flat edge and solder it to the CENTER (not as easy as it sounds) of the end of the tubing with the cap on it. You can use a third hand or using, cross lock tweezers, freehand it. I usually flux both pieces, place the solder on the tubing and, as soon as it flows, drop the jump ring, FLAT SIDE DOWN, right smack in the middle of the cap!  Of course, that “right smack in the middle” thing happens 6 out of 10 times.  I spend a bit of time re-flowing and re-positioning.  Jewelry making is such fun!  Don’t forget to solder a jump ring on the other cap.  If you are doing double cording you will do something different but similar.  See below.

Attach your clasp with a jump ring (or not) – made with a heavy gauge wire, like 14g, if you’re not soldering it – any other gauge jump ring will do if you are soldering.  Don’t use anything less than 18g for bracelets, they just don’t hold up.

Pull out your Loctite, either plop some into your tube or using a tooth pick, dab the glue into the cap (this is the “ladylike” version).

Side bar rant warning:

DON’T USE a cotton swab to apply Cyanoacrylate glues (super glues) supposedly, the combination of cotton, OR WOOL, and the glue causes an exothermic reaction – fire! So, don’t do it. Now, back to work. Grab your cording and shove that puppy into the cap. (Make sure that you have threaded the cording or cable through your tubes first).  Carefully, so as to not glue your fingers to the tubing, wipe away the glue that has gotten everywhere.  If that fails and you are stuck to the cap, stick a Q-tip or paper towel into some Acetone (not in the glue – remember!) and gently apply to your finger.  Don’t get the Acetone into the tubing and try to keep it off the Buna’N or Buna’V .  Wash with soap and water and slather with hand lotion to ensure soft and lovely fingertips! Ah hem. Others recommend using W-D 40 to remove your fingers from foreign objects. I wouldn’t know.  Super Glue Corp. can tell you all about it as can this link from our favorite, Wikipedia. The glue takes two hours for final bonding.  It is waterproof.

Here’s an UNTRIED tip: According to the stats on super glues, they dissolve at low temperatures.  I have read that to disassemble something that is glued with a cyanoacrylate (super glue), one simply places it into a household freezer for several hours and pulls apart.  Going to try it soon!

Untried tip two: Vaseline is rumored to remove dried super glues from your skin.  Now, don’t pour glue on your hands just to test this!  I’ll do that for you.  NOT.

Okay, enough already on the glue! Let’s finish this.

If you are not using a flammable/melt-able substance but instead are using silver cable or something similar, you can just solder the cable in place.  Flux interior of the cap and spread solder pallions around the interior.  Torch, quench, pickle and neutralize. Dance around the house naked.  First though, pull the blinds and lock the door.  This step is a suggestion, not a requirement.

So on to the problem of the double cord. Here you may ask, Nancy, what do I do if I have double cords?

Well, start out by making four tubes instead of two.  Follow all of the steps above – EXCEPT for soldering on the jump ring and attaching the clasp.

Now, solder two tubes together. Best to sand a flat spot on both tubes, put the flat spots together and then solder.  You can also, insert the tubes into a decorative (metal) box that you fabricate or add a metal spacer or whatever you want.  How you handle this part depends on how far apart you want the cording AND what you want the end of your bracelet to look like.  Solder the other set of tubes together.

After soldering the parts together, create a loop or use a jump ring (sand one side flat) and solder onto the center of the two caps.

Hook on or solder on, your clasp.  Follow directions on inserting and gluing cords in place.

Lock doors, pull shades…etc.

Here’s two bracelets made with this system:


4 thoughts on “Tubes, Clips and End Caps

  1. Hi Nancy, I am a huge fan of your YouTube videos. I am a beginner with metal work so they are not only entertaining but also informative. In regards to this tutorial, do you have any suggestions for not using jump rings on the caps and instead using strong rare earth magnets inside the tubes? I’m wondering if you have tried them and if so does the super glue hurt the strength of the clasp.

    Thanks,
    Carmen

  2. Hi Nancy,

    I recently *discovered* your beautiful works – and site – and just want to say that I too find your commentary alone wonderful and well worth *revisits*. Oh and that’s not to say your instructions aren’t worth it – they are great!..

    I have had a hiatus from doing metalwork for quite a number of years now – and must say all your videos and instructions have been a wonderful *refresher* in certain places – this particular one on making the end caps being one of them.

    Your site is great – thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge, tips, tricks – and a wonderful sense of humour. 🙂

    cheers
    Suzi

  3. Hi Catherine, Thank you so much! Such nice things you say! You make a girl blush. Glad we found each other. I’ve got two new videos coming out soon. Enjoy. Thanks again. Nancy

  4. Thank you so much for the instructions for metal end caps (and your funny commentary). I’ve been searching and searching and was very happy to stumble upon your site. Your work is beautiful.

    Thanks again,
    Catherine