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Loop in LoopArticle © MAIL User: Ukko

Making Loop in Loop Chain

First step in producing a loop in loop chain is making the loops. There are many different ways to do this, two of which will be introduced here. First, you must establish which type of chain you want to make, and choose your wire and mandrel sizes accordingly. Using larger loops made out of thinner wire results in a chain that is more open and flexible, and smaller a.r (Aspect Ratio: link inner diameter/wire diameter) loops yield chains with a denser, more complex-looking pattern. Here are suggested aspect ratios for most common types of loop in loop chains:

double - a.r ~16
double through two - a.r ~20
triple through two - a.r ~24

For an example: if you want to use 0.5mm wire to make a double through two loop in loop chain, calculate the mandrel size by multiplying the wire thickness with the a.r figure, which is twenty. 0.5mm*20=10mm. Or, if you wanted to make that same chain with 0,30mm wire: 0.3mm*20=6mm.

Start by coiling your wire on a mandrel of appropriate size. Try to make the coil as tight and even as possible. Once you have coiled a desired length of wire on the mandrel, take a narrow-pointed marker pen and draw a straight line on the coil. Now, release the coil from the mandrel, and cut along the line you just drew. Or, if you prefer, you can make the links as described in chapter 2.

Next step is to close the links. Manipulate a link so its ends meet, apply a tiny amount of soldering paste on the joint and lay the link on your soldering surface so that the joint is pointing away from you.

Only a little soldering paste is needed, what you see in the picture is plenty.

Then, light up your torch and adjust the flame. It should be quite small and sharp, and entirely blue (consuming flame). Introduce the flame to the link, heating it evenly: it is crucial that you heat the entire link, not just the joint! It helps to move the flame constantly; do not allow the flame to linger on one spot for long, or you risk melting the link. As soon as the solder has flowed properly, remove the flame.

Be careful with the torch; it is easy to melt the links, especially small ones.

2 Fusing method

Wrap your wire on a wooden mandrel, and just like in the previously introduced technique, try to make a tight and even coil. When you have enough wire on the mandrel, apply masking tape to keep the coil from unwinding once you let go of it. Then, cut the coil with a thin-bladed saw, preferably at an angle. This method yields links with better closures, which is very important for successfully fusing them.

Whichever method you use, it is essential that the joint is strong; a weak joint will break in the following work stages. A broken link in the middle of the chain is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible to replace.

3. Forming the loops

Place a link on the tip of narrow-pointed pliers and open the jaws of the pliers to form the loop as shown in the picture. Be sure to form the loop so that the joint is close to the middle: this way it will be hidden out of sight inside the chain. Especially when using thin and soft wire (such as fine silver) you should be careful to not exert too much force: it is easy to stretch the metal, making the link larger than intended. You can file grooves on the jaws to help make each link identical.

4. Weaving the chain

Take a piece of brass rod that has a diameter no larger than the desired diameter of the finished chain, and place the starting loops on top of it. If you are making a double loop in loop chain, put two starting loops, if you are making a triple loop in loop chain, put three, et cetera. Solder the starting loops on the brass rod, and bend each end of the loops upwards. Use a scribe, or any other pointed tool of your choice, to open up the loops so you can pass new loops through them. Then pick a new loop in your fingers and flatten it slightly at the middle, then insert it through the loop that is lowest in your stack of starting loops. Then, using the same technique, insert another new loop through each of your starting loops, from bottom to top, and bend their ends upwards. Now you have two layers of loops, each connected to one loop in the previous layer. If you want to make a through-one chain, simply add new loops through the loops in the previous layer until you have a chain that is as long as you want. But, if you want to make a through-two chain, insert the third layer loops through the loops in the previous layer, but also through the loops in the layer beneath that; each loop you add is inserted through two loops. Then insert new layers of loops the same way, each loop connecting to two underneath it. Following the same logic, you could make through-three chains, through-four or through-as-many-as-you-want chains.

Starting and weaving the chain.

5. Finishing the chain

The loop in loop chain that you now have may seem somewhat messy and uneven, but worry not: passing the chain through a drawplate (a block of wood that has holes drilled through it will do) will work wonders. Simply insert the brass rod through the largest hole in your drawplate that the chain doesn’t seem to fit through, grasp the rod with drawing tongs (or any pliers that give you a strong grip, preferably pliers that you can lock) and pull the chain through the plate. Then pass the chain through the next smaller hole in your plate to compress the chain further. Repeat this as many times as is needed to give the chain the appearance you want. Three or four draws usually suffice to make the chain appear smooth and rope-like. Drawing reduces the diameter of the chain, but also increases its length by approximately fifteen percent.

You have to use force to pass the chain through the drawplate.

As you draw the chain, it will work harden, and harder the metal gets, more difficult it will be to draw it through yet another smaller hole. To make it softer again, it can be annealed if the loops were closed using the fusing method. If the soldering method was used, annealing the metal to its soft state is at least difficult, if not impossible. However this is rarely an issue if you are using fine silver which is very soft. If you use sterling silver, which is much harder, this could be a real problem. Drawing will also reduce the flexibility of the chain, but you can just bend it back and forth until it regains sufficient flexibility. When you are done drawing the chain, remove the brass rod. If you want to bring up the pattern of the chain, you can oxidise the chain and then polish the surface, leaving the interior blackened.

A double through-two loop in loop chain made of 0.30mm wire

As a last step to finish up your fine piece of handmade jewelry, attach your favourite kind of clasp mechanism and it’s done!