Jump Rings and All That Jazz
Last Updated: 10/29/18, May 10, 2017
When I started to write this page, I had no idea that there would be so much to write about such a deceptively simple loop. Of course, I was wrong. Go figure. Enjoy.
Jump Rings are those little round (most of the time) things that link parts of jewelry together or are used to create chain mail. How’s that for a scientific explanation! Most people have encountered them but may not understand what goes into making them. That’s basically what this page is all about.
Jump Rings can be made of many different materials but, we will be discussing metal ones – as I am a metalsmith. There are many different shapes for jump rings – no rules here. Square, Round, Triangular, Oval, Free form – whatever the design calls for.
Okay, so first, I’ll explain what a mandrel is: It’s a piece of metal or wood or whatever, that is used to form metal. There are ring mandrels, bezel mandrels, bracelet mandrels, wire wrapping mandrels, etc. The basic concept is that the metal follows the shape of the mandrel. So, if you want triangular jump rings you need to find a triangular piece of metal or wood, or pliers that posses the required shape.
EuroTools Hand Coiler w/std Mandrels.
There are many different brands and types of jump ring systems. Some are designed for small-scale production while with others, you can produce gallons of jump rings. The choice of tool or system depends on your needs. If you are making chain mail, you don’t want to purchase wire wrapping pliers or short, hand-cranked systems – the short length of the jaw limits how many jump rings you can wrap at a time and having to hand wind will make your arms fall off! The Ring Lord carries 18″ mandrels and many other tools for jump ring creation.
Here are long mandrels. Available on Amazon. Be aware, that you need a cutter that will cut these long mandrels!
Other jump ring makers are: The Koil Kutter Kit, originally from Dave Arens and now sold by Potter USA. The Koil Kutter gives you a choice of English or Metric mandrels. The Pepetools, Jump Ring Maker. is available on Amazon and at Micro-Tools.com. I have an upcoming video on how to make the most of your jump ring cutter. To be released early November 2018.
When purchasing a jump ring maker, think about:
- How many jump rings you will be making – chain maille? Many. Jewelry, a few or a lot – depending on your designs. Chain Making will require many more than just using a few jump rings for links. Generally though, for the occasional chain or necklace, the Pepetools Jump Ring Maker works well.
- What you can afford.
- How much space you have.
If you are making a lot of rings, think about something like the Ringinator.
If you are making a very small amount of jump rings, these little mandrels (made by various companies) work fine as do round nose pliers and bezel mandrels. I’m sure someone will argue that you can make hundreds of jump rings with pliers or those little mandrels. Yes, you can but IF you have limited time and limited patience (my M.O.) get a Pepe Jump Ringer Maker, Koil Kutter or a Ringinator!
Wubbers has a line of pliers that can be used for making jump rings like these round, Bail- Making Pliers. They have parallel jaws so, you can make same-sized jump rings. These are great for only making a few jump rings. I would run a wooden dowel, through the jump rings (after they have been removed from the pliers), for ease in sawing. Read on for more information on sawing.
You can also make jump rings on pliers that are not parallel. The trick is to wrap from the widest part of the jaw, trying to keep the coil moving down the pliers, toward the tip. So, wrap from the back.
Oval Jump Rings
NOTE: with all non-round jump ring creation, it is best to lubricate your mandrel for ease of removal. Use something like Pepe Lube, Liquid Bur-Life 3-in-1 oil or other oil. If using wooden mandrels, you don’t need lubrication because you can just saw through the wooden mandrel, which will loosen the rings.
You can also create oval jump rings by making a round jump ring. First, you solder it closed and then you alter its shape with a pair of bow or ring-opening pliers (reverse action pliers – you squeeze them and they open up). There are quite a few different sizes to choose from. These tools are also used in the body piercing industry.
Use Bow-Opening pliers to shape the ring into an oval. No Bow-Opening Pliers? Use your regular round nose pliers, insert into the jump ring and pull the handles apart or put one handle of the plier in a vise and pull the other. It is not as easy as using Bow-Opening pliers which is why I own Bow-Opening pliers. Next step: re-sawing open the solder join – if you need the jump rings open. If you don’t need them open, then you are done.
Bow-Opening Pliers Suppliers
When searching for bow-opening pliers, try terms like “reverse action pliers” and “snap ring pliers” too.
Using alternative pliers like these by Tekton (for opening snap rings) might work too. I have not tried these. (my Amazon Affiliate link – thank you for using!) If you want to use “ring opening pliers” (AA link) like those used in the piercing industry, purchase the smallest ones you can find. You may have to thin the tips with files and sandpaper too. But, if you’ve got some lying around, why not use them? Plus they are more than 50% cheaper than the official “bow opening” pliers.
*****Great idea from Musicman’s post on M.A.I.L. (Maille Artisans International League) called the “Squish Method” for creating oval jump rings. So simple, so easy! You could also leave the jump ring coil in the vise (with one end kinda poking out – see video 3 below under “Chainmaille Artists…”) and saw through them. I tried it but, the beginning links kept pulling away when I pulled the saw back (used a jeweler’s saw). Maybe using masking tape on the coil and using a separating disc (extra thin from Contenti) would work.
Another method for creating oval jump rings is to either: A. solder wire together and wrap your jump ring wire loosely around the mandrel (so that you can get it OFF the mandrel) or B. file a flat area on two round dowels. Glue and clamp. Wrap the wire around the wood. You don’t have to wrap loosely on the wooden dowels because you can saw the jump rings in place. IF you want to remove the coil from the dowels, you will need to wrap loosely. The wire digs into the soft wood and will not come off. I suppose you could start a fire and burn them off? Although, I don’t recommend the fire technique. Just a desperate measure – if needed.
The cheapest jump ring mandrel is the ever useful wooden dowel (as we’ve seen above, they can also be used for oval, as well as round jump rings.) Mind you, there aren’t 50 million sizes (or shapes) to choose from but, there are enough to create a pretty good range (both in size and shape) of jump rings. I adapt my wooden dowel mandrels by either cutting a slot in the top with a cut-off wheel (aka a separating disc) or by drilling a hole, the size of the wire I am using, into the side of the mandrel. These adaptations are made so that the wire can be firmly attached to the mandrel. The simplest method is just taping the wire to the side, with masking tape. Below are images of the three different methods.
You can also make a jig and use cut-off wheels to cut the jump rings.
A note on cut-off wheels: Purchase thin wheels. The wheels that I use are made by Dedeco and are sized: 7/8″ X .015″ or .009″. These can be used with the flex shaft or with a Dremel.
Variations in attachments. Taped to a dowel, slotted into dowel or side set in a dowel. If using the side set, leave enough space at the top of the dowel to insert into your winder.
Cutting Jump Rings
First off, always lubricate your blade! Wax based lubricants tend to clog so, get some sewing machine oil or Liquid Bur Life to prolong the life of your blades! Oil helps the blade to cut smoothly and reduces heat. Speaking of heat, don’t overheat your blade by not letting it cool down. Overheating essentially anneals the steel. Soft steel equals the teeth getting worn down much quicker. If your blade turns a bluish color, you’ve probably annealed it. You can harden and heat treat it by following the instructions, that I have, on making chasing and repousse tools. The process is the same.
Many of the jump ring makers listed above come with jump ring cutters. The Koil Kutter has a safety guard, as does the Jump Ringer, that works with either a flex shaft or a Dremel. There is also a steel cutting blade and a holder, within which, you put your jump rings. Potter USA calls it the Koil Holder Lock. This “Lock” secures the jump rings (which are removed from the mandrel first). The safety guard and blade unit fit onto and into the slotted top of the “Lock”. This helps to guide the blade. Notice I said helps. I have been able to destroy the top of my Lock by not cutting in the groove. I have no idea how I did it but, I managed to repeat the mistake several times! See the image of my poor little tool below. Takes skill kiddies, takes skill…
Suppliers of Jump Ring Cutters
- Potter USA sells the Koil Kutter (created by Dave Arens). See Melissa Muir’s video for Potter USA’s Koil Kutter.
- Contenti sells Pepe Tool’s Jump Ring Maker. See Melissa Muir’s how-to video on Pepe Tool’s Jump Ring Maker.
- Otto Frei carries Pepe Tool’s 307.70 Jump Ring Maker.
- Ringinator sells its heavy duty, Ringinator. This is for the serious jump ring maker: chainmaille creators, chain makers, etc. Art Jewelry Magazine’s video on the Ringinator.
- Waymil (via Amazon). Jump Ring Complete Kit. (By purchasing via my Amazon links, you help to keep these pages coming. Thank you!)
Desiree’s Desired Creations talks about using the Koil Kutter with a Dremel.
So, enough of the electrically based products – what about the old fashioned way, you may ask? Well, there are many old fashioned ways but, I’m not going to discuss them as my attention span is limited. What I will discuss is how I cut jump rings manually.
Cutting Jump Rings Manually
There are two scenarios here: one is you made your jump rings on a metal mandrel and two: you made your jump rings on a wooden dowel. The procedures are basically the same but, one is easier than the other. By using the wooden mandrels, you keep the jump rings on it to saw. If you used metal mandrels, you can try finding a dowel that will fit into your coil. The coil alone tends to move around so, extra tape would come in handy. The nice thing about using the dowel is it is more stable and you have a handle to hold onto.
This photos shows how to hammer the end if you are using the slot method. You only need to do this if the wire doesn’t fit into the slot – generally when you are using heavy gauged wire like 16 through 12 gauge.
What about soldering jump rings and opening them, Nancy?
Well, since you asked…
I like to use a charcoal block to solder jump rings on. The charcoal holds in the heat, reduces the amount of oxygen resulting in less firescale and I like it.
Solder over the seam.
There’s a couple (okay a lot!) of places to put solder on a jump ring: one is on the top of the seam and the other is on the bottom of the seam. I’ve done this both ways but have decided that I like putting the solder on the bottom the very best. Why? Because I’m lazy. Think about this: the solder has to follow the heat. If the solder is on the bottom and the heat is on the top? Yep, the solder runs through the entire seam from top to bottom. The top “loading” of solder works too but sometimes I have to flip it over and hit it with the torch a second time and if you are a lazy jeweler (yep) – that’s two steps instead of one. Also, the solder doesn’t jump around under there – more time savings as there are no “solder hunting” events to attend.
This “lovely” drawing shows where I place my torch when soldering jump rings. The flame is behind and above the ring. Why? Because I want to bring all the metal up to solder-melting-temperature at the same time so, that the solder doesn’t jump to one side and ignore the other. Pretty cool, eh? Old people do, occasionally, have wisdom to impart! We might not remember the name of the thing with the flame coming out of it but, dang it, we know where to put it!
So, my final word (stop praising the Lord!) on jump rings is on opening and closing them.
How To Open A Jump Ring
Jump rings are opened by either: A. Using two pairs of pliers or B. using either a slot headed screw or C. that doodad that they sell.
Never pull jump rings apart as you’ll never get them round again without a ton of work. Instead, twist, with two pliers, each end away from the other. Slide into chain, piece, whatever, and then close by pulling the two ends back together. I often, once again with the pliers, push the ends past where they meet, pull them back to center and then finish the twist to center. This maneuver creates tension and a tight, clean join.
If you are opening and closing a ton of jump rings, (chain mail comes to mind), try using one of the following tools:
This Doodad is called a Jump Ring Opener.
This one is called a Ring for Opening and Closing Jump Rings. Wonder why they called it that? So, looking at this, I think a slot headed screw soldered onto a ring band (saw screw to desired length first) would probably be a pretty cheap way to go too.
Videos from Chain Mail Artists and Their Jump Ring Making Solutions
- West Coast ChainMail – Chainmail Ring Coiling/Winding Apparatus/Jig.
Fancy, fast winding and cutting
- Kurnos34 – How to Make ChainMaille: Homemade winding jig. Supplies and getting started making chain mail.
- Schuler101 – How To Make: Rings for Chainmail. Home made jig and cutting in the coil in a vise.
- Coolantcooled – How to make chain mail rings – Enhanced Jig. Very “cool” winding jig. Just needs to be supported somehow.
- Tropicalwebsurfer – Chainmaille wood box coil jig. A simple solution for coiling. I just want to see it clamped down and off the carpet!
- Yvonne Williams has a good video (on YT) on cutting jump rings. She uses the Ringinator.
- Jewelry Supply on YT: How to Open Jump Rings.
Further Research on Making and Cutting Jump Rings
The RingLord.com has a ton of information on jump rings and making. Here’s a link to his chainmail community: The Forum. This article is on how to use a jump ring maker like the Koil Kutter of the Jump Ring Maker at Pepe.
- Make your own jump ring cutting jig, here at Instructables.
- Adam Sutton shows his jump ring cutter on YouTube. You can also find his CAD designs on his website: Adamofsutton.com, using a Dremel.
- Coil Cutting Pliers – these are used to hold the rings and then you saw them, using the slot as a guide. My link is to my Amazon Affiliate account. Purchasing through this link allows me to continue to provide this free service. I thank you!
- MJSA has an article on Cutting Jump Rings. The link is from Ganoksin.
- Shoebox Studio: Jewelry Making Techniques has an article: Wind & Cut Jump Rings Simply and Efficiently. A low-tech method.
- Okay, there’s probably subjects that I haven’t covered but, I am so tired of jump rings at this point that I’m having nightmares. Three days of this would drive you mad too!
Related Web Pages
Thanks for visiting and I hope this helped. Any comments or corrections are welcomed – if put in a nice way. No brow beaters or chest thumpers (I’m right – you’re wrong messages) wanted. Have a creative life!