Chainmaille, It’s Not Just For Armor Anymore

(originally posted 3/1/2009)

I love making chainmaille jewelry.  I started by taking some classes at a local bead/art shop.  A different chainmaille project that takes about 2 or 3 hours is done every month in a workshop.  I’ve made a mobiused bracelet, a japanese flower pattern bracelet, byzantine earrings, a chainmaille-surrounded swarovski rivoli, and a double spiral bracelet.  I’ve always purchased that sterling silver kits for these workshops.

I’ve been making lots of chainmaille jewelry: earrings, bracelets, necklaces, on my own.  I find it really therapeutic.

I started by purchasing sterling silver rings.  I love the sterling silver and copper rings from Urban Maille.  They are perfect.  No rough edges, no mars. Definitely worth the price.  And they come in fantastic clear topped containers with gauge and size labels affixed.  The containers are wrapped in tissue paper.  Opening a package from Urban Maille is like opening a present.  One of the really nice things about Urban Maille’s website is that it has recommended ring sizes for specific weaves in the weave gallery.  The weave gallery was just recently updated, and unfortunately, the number of weaves included are smaller than before the update! Boo!

I wanted to play with some colored rings before Christmas so I ordered a variety pack of  anodized aluminum rings from Blue Buddha Boutique.  The site is really nice to order from.  But working with the anodized rings required a change in my technique and some modifications to my tools.  The first thing I needed to do was order some Tool Magic and coat two good pairs of chain nose pliers.  I use chain nose pliers for the copper and sterling silver rings and it requires some skill to avoid marring the rings.  It’s even more difficult to avoid marring the anodized rings, that is the reason for using the Tool Magic.  Other than that, the colored rings were really fun to work with.  I made some bracelets and necklaces using the the Shaggy Loops weave and some chains with no real name.  I still haven’t made anything for myself using colored rings, but I will.

My next adventure was to try stainless steel rings.  I ordered my rings from The Ring Lord.  This is a Canadian company and shipping takes forever.  I’ve never ordered stainless steel rings from anyone else, so I’m not sure what type of quality I should expect.  However, many of the rings have tool marks and a coating of lube (?) and the cuts aren’t clean.  Unlike the rings from Urban Maille, these rings often have notches and spurs at the opening.  I’ve made many really nice pieces with these rings, but I can’t get the closures that I’d like.  I know that stainless steel is rough to work with.  I’ve really chewed up a few sets of pliers using these rings.  Oh, and chain nose pliers are NOT the way to go when using stainless.  Pliers with teeth are almost a necessity.  You don’t have to have pliers with teeth, but you’ll work much, much, much harder if you use pliers without teeth.

I recently bought anodized aluminum rings from the Ring Lord.  I was a bit disappointed with the amount of discolored/uncolored rings in the package.  I haven’t used these rings yet.  The cuts on the rings appear to be the same as the cuts on The Ring Lord’s stainless steel rings.  I don’t have tons of experience, but I can compare the anodized aluminum rings from the Ring Lord and Blue Buddha Boutique.  The rings from Blue Buddha had no discolored/uncolored rings and the cuts are much cleaner than those from the Ring Lord.  Also, Blue Buddha has a larger selection of gauges and sizes than the Ring Lord.

I think that next time I’m going to order from Metal Designz.  I had not ordered from them before because 1) they had no online ordering – you had to e-mail or phone in your order, and 2) they have a much smaller selection of gauges, sizes, and shapes of  stainless steel rings than the Ring Lord.  This is another Canadian company, so I can’t help but wonder if  shipping takes forever like it does with the Ring Lord.  I experienced a two-week lag between ordering and receiving my shipment for my two orders from the Ring Lord.  On the plus side, 1) Metal Designz has a fantastic list of recommended ring sizes (I have to say that Blue Buddha has wonderful info on this as well), 2) Metal Designz sells precious metals, bass metals, anodized aluminum and niobium, and rubber rings, 3) it now has online ordering.

Great resources for making chainmaille are CG Maille and M.A.I.L..  Both offer free online tutorials for many, many chainmaille patterns.  Blue Buddha Boutique offers a few free weave tutorials, shaggy loops being one of them.  The Ring Lord offers some Blue Buddha Boutique tutorials for sale.  Metal Designz offers Dylon Whytes tutorials.  They are about $10 each though.  Ouch! Urban Maille does not sell tutorials by themselves.  You have to buy a weave kit which has the rings and the instructions.  These start at about $70 each.  Ouch, ouch!

Half Persian 4-in-1 in 12 gauge copper rings

On my own, I made some of the following weaves: Half Persian 4-in-1 (snake), Full Persian (foxtail), Byzantine and various variations on Byzantine, Helm Chain, European 4-in-1, double spiral, mobiused earrings, 3-in-3 chain, 4-in-4 chain, box chain,  Maru, and Jen’s Pind.  The Half Persian is an excellent weave for men.  If you use a heavy gauge, it just looks amazingly masculine.  My husband has a bracelet made with 12 gauge copper rings.  It looks fabulous on him.  I’m the model for this picture though.  You can tell it’s way to0 big on me.

European 4-in-1 cuff made with 2.0 mm 22 gauge stainless steel rings

I want to try some new patterns.  I have a thing for making weaves in really tiny rings.  I like the contrast between the hardness of metal and the delicateness of the small rings.  I made a cuff in European 4-in-1 with 2.0 mm stainless steel rings. I couldn’t find a wide enough finding to end it, so I just made it large enough to slip over my wrist.  It took more hours than I’d like to remember.  And I ruined two expensive pairs of chain nose pliers.  Ideally, I would’ve used pliers with teeth for stainless steel, but the rings were far too tiny and pliers with teeth were far too clunky to accomplish this task.  Having to use smooth jawed pliers on stainless steel required an insane amount of hand strength.

It is such an amazing piece.  It either looks very rock-n-roll or very sophisticated depending on my outfit.  It’s always unique.  I made a matching ring.  I don’t wear them together, it’s too much metal.  But they are both excellent, versatile pieces.


One thought on “Chainmaille, It’s Not Just For Armor Anymore

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for your recommendation of our rings, services, and website! It means a lot to us and we’ve already received a referral from your blog 🙂 Happy Weaving and please let us know if we can help you in any way as you continue to advance in your mailling.


    Blue Buddha Boutique

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