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Mistakes to Learn From: Raw Beginners
Article © MAIL User: SheepNine

This is the first in what is hopefully a series of articles geared towards people that have never ever wound a coil or closed a ring in their life. I'm writing it as I learn the craft myself, as a showcase of how I learned the craft, what I think is a good way to learn, and all the mistakes I've made, so that you can avoid making them. Hence, the title of the article.

Okay, so, you're a total neophyte when it comes to chainmaille. You have no supplies, no tools, nothing. Where do you start? Well, the first thing to do is take a local trip down to a nearby Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Home Depot, or other hardware supply store and get yourself the following:

Mistake: Do NOT get a rebar rod. These are threaded. You might think that the threadedness helps guide you when you're winding your coil, but really, it just makes it hard to get the coil off when you're done. You want a smooth rod.

Mistake: You want bolt cutters. Don't buy tin snips. This was dumb of me.

That's really all you need to start. You'll be winding coils by hand, instead of on a mandrel, but I made this guide to have the absolute minimum initial investment. If you like making chainmaille, great. But dumping a bunch of cash to make a mandrel and then discovering you don't have the patience to weave maille is bad.

Now that you have what you need, the first step is to wind a coil. Grip the end of your wire with a pair of pliers, hold the pliers and rod in one hand, and start using the other hand to wrap the wire around the rod. You want there to be no space between successive turns, so keep the winding reasonably tight. Make about fifty turns, then stop. You won't be able to make much out of fifty rings, but if you keep winding by hand, your pliers-holding hand will start getting sore. Cut your coil from the spool with the mini-bolt cutters, then slide your spool off the rod. You now have a very weak tension spring.

Step two is to transform your coil into rings. Take your bolt cutters and start snipping away. The idea is to transform your fifty-turn spring into fifty one-turn springs. Try to go in a fairly straight line down the coil, so your rings are fairly uniform. Forty-nine snips later, and you have fifty rings.

Mistake: Don't be stringent on quality at this point. When I first started, I read about how bolt cutters make pinch cuts, which are the least flush of all cuts. So I took a jeweller's saw and sawed each ring by hand. It should not take an hour to make 16 rings. Your first rings won't close very nicely, but that's fine - this is just a primer. Worry about making a custom dremel-powered cutting rig much, much later.

Now, play with your rings! To close a ring, grip it with both pliers on opposite ends of the gap, and gently twist it until it's closed. Try making some of the weaves listed here on the M.A.I.L. website. European 4 in 1 is perhaps the easiest one to learn. You could also try making a Box Chain (which is basically just European 4-1 folded up and stitched together). Try making a bracelet out of a byzantine chain. The first thing I made was a bracelet which was just a strip of European 4-1 with the side rings doubled-up. You might need more rings, just wind yourself another coil. When your bracelet is done, it will need a clasp. If you're careful, you can bend one side of a ring and make it into a 6-shape hook that works quite well.

When you're done, you have one thing to do - examine the time you spent. Did you find it boring, or tedious? You probably want to cut your losses and stop here. Did you find it all-consuming, and spend six hours winding coils and linking rings? You got the bug like I did, and you'll probably want to read the next installment of my series.

Keep on linkin'
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