June 2, 2014

R&D - More Cutting Rings by Hand

As I work on a custom order of a niobium chainmaille finger ring, I thought it's about time I document the process of going from wires to chains.  This is how I first started doing chainmaille back in 2008.  Lots have changed since then.  Now we have many excellent sources specializing in chainmaille supplies.  But once in a while, I enjoy going back to the way it had all started.  So, here it is!

I'm making a Oops finger ring in pure niobium, based on this ring:

 A chainmaille Oops ring in 20 gauge AWG sterling silver.  This one was picked up by my old friend Mary S. :-)  A little more about it in this post here.

This time, my friend Joy M., who's my partner-in-crime from two of my previous lives, wants one of these in anodized niobium to match her bracelet and earrings.  So here it goes!

I start with a bundle of niobium wire.

Cut a length of this wire; I cut about 98".  btw, I use memory wire cutter; don't use your fancy flush cutters for silver or copper; niobium will chew them right up.

Coil tightly on a 7/64" mandrel, I get two coils, each looking like this.

I learned to cut coils by wrapping masking tape around it, put it onto a saw blade, then saw cut from the inside.  This cutting method was introduced in a free tutorial written by Carolyn Allan on JewelryLessons.com long time ago; it's no longer available on that site; but I've been faithfully following her method.

I load the blade cut side facing downward towards my right hand.  Start cutting from inside the coil like this:

I like to draw a straight line on the masking tape just as a visual guide for the blade.  Then cut steadily, keeping the blade to the top of coil, aim for the first 4 or 5 rings.  For this length of coil, it took me about 20 minutes to cut through; the last few coils tend to be problematic; they can be cut, but will take more effort; I mostly leave them out and save them for other projects:

Open the masking tape, and I get these:

A whole coil of rings, neatly open up in a long roll:-)  The masking tape also helps catching most of the metal filing inside, that's a good thing for my lungs!  Oh right, I use Bur Life on both the coil and the blade, re-apply liberally.  Niobium gets warm very fast, seems more so than most other metals I've cut...

Open up the coil and let out the rings! Yay!!

I carefully pick them up and put into a small jar 1/3 filled with water, tiny drop of Sunsheen burnishing fluid, some stainless steel shots, then shake!

Shake shake shake!  Shake shake shake! :-)

This cleans the rings, knocks off small burs from the cut.

It's a little hard to see in this photo, but in that murky water are all the loose stuff that I don't want on the rings.  I pour the water out in the backyard at a spot where I don't plant anything.  Careful not to lose the rings or the shots:-)  According to Rio Grande's data sheet on Sunsheen, it's biodegradable.  I just don't want the metal bits accumulating in my kitchen drain.

Now we get the rings, nice and clean, ready to go!!

Not sure if you can see them, but I coiled these the "wrong" way, which makes them "left-handed", meaning the left side of the ring is closer to me when I hold up a ring with cut end facing up.

Nothing really "wrong" about them, but many maillers reported right-handed folks work better with right-handed rings when it comes to threading them into a weave, specially in tight spots.  I'm right handed, but I'll take them anyway they come :-)

So, this is just an example of how I make a small batch of rings by hand.  If it seems tedious, then making rings is probably not your thing, LOL!  I quite like it; there's a zen to it that helps me focus.

Here is after they're added to the Oops weave; it's almost there... !

Oh and yes, those are two pairs of my favorite pliers, Xuron 475.  My go-to pliers about 80% of the time!!

Whew, this is a long post for me!  But it's well worth it, even for myself!

Glad you stopped by!


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