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Coil Winding Meets The Industrial Age
Article © MAIL User: MrSchnuh

If you are like me then you probably are looking for the easiest way to make your coils. If you are a purist and have to do it with a hand mandrel with no jig to hold it, STOP READING NOW, this is not the article for you. Also if you make chain maille as nothing more than a hobby and don't want to spend a bit of cash, STOP READING NOW. Okay now that I'm done with the warnings, on with my methods.

I never did like coiling wire by hand -- too much time and kinda dangerous if you aren't paying attention. So I tried to find an easier way. Jigs were okay for a while but I needed something that would make coils fast and easy, as in with-me-barely-lifting-a-finger-EASY. One day I stopped in to see my brother at work; he worked in a machine shop. As we talked I was watching the machines run, and I was fascinated by the lathe, making threads in steel bars automatically without lifting a finger. I asked many questions.

I learned that you could make the threads as deep and as coarse as you wanted but sometimes you needed to make extra cuts for the depth. No problem. I went straight home and jumped online searching for industrial surplus store sites. I found one ... and a lathe that would suit my needs, and then some, for around $250. A friend and I went the next day and picked it up in his truck. It was a six foot lathe from the 1940s, but it had exactly what I needed, a powered tool rest (meaning that it would automatically move the tool down the work piece) variable speed motor, and a 3-jaw chuck (for mounting the work piece quickly and squarely). To tell the truth I got one helluva deal on this lathe. On the surface it looked like it had sat in a field, but when I started to clean it up and assess the damage, I found that it was actually just a thick coat of grime that had accumulated and the mechanical structure was in perfect working order. It had a lot of thick slimy goo on it and I asked my dad about it. He said it was cosmolene. The military used it to store parts for long periods of time and it kept the metal from rusting. WOOHOO, no rust, no damage (of course I was extremely lucky but with the economy the way it is, machine shops close all the time and a lot of the equipment gets auctioned off cheap, so you might get lucky too; also I had a nice empty garage bay).

I went out and bought a case of brake parts cleaner, hosed it off and it was gleaming. I then broke out the hacksaw, drill and some steel plate I had laying around to make a piece to hold my wire reel and guide it onto the mandrel. Basically it was a flat plate with an upright and a bar coming out of that to hold the reel, and another upright in front with a hole in it to thread the wire through so it stayed tight to the mandrel. Next I bought some steel rods and drilled centering holes in the ends to keep them from wobbling in the lathe and a starter hole to put the wire in (I don't mind cutting it off to get my spring off the mandrel, not when it is one of the hardest things to making the springs). I had to play around with rotating speed versus travel of the wire, but I have the hang of it now. Now I can make a spring that will yield over 900 rings of 14AWG in less than a minute including setup time. Now I have plenty more time to do actual weaving. Sorry for lack of PICS, my digicam is on the fritz. I will post pics as soon as available.
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