Learning to make handmade wire chain is a great foundation for jewelry designers interested in learning how to make wirework jewelry. All sorts of chain can be made, depending on the types of wire used and shape of the links made, from simple to complex. Only a handful of tools are needed to make wire chain, and it can be made without having to solder.
This tutorial is a first in a series of chain tutorials we’ll feature. First up, we’ll cover how to make a textured wire chain bracelet with a handmade clasp.
How to make a wire chain bracelet
Tools and supplies you’ll need:
- Two Sharpies
- Round-nose pliers
- Flat hand file
- Flat-nose pliers
- Flush cutters
- Chasing hammer
- Steel bench block
- 22-gauge half-hard sterling silver wire
- 16-gauge pure copper wire
- Liver of sulfur (optional)
- Fine steel wool (optional)
- Rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot (optional)
Tape two Sharpies together with packing tape to create an oval-shaped mandrel.
Cut 3 1/2″ of 16-gauge copper wire. Place the Sharpies on the center of the wire. Press the wire up and around the bottom section of the mandrel (the black area of the Sharpies). Press the wire firmly against the mandrel to create an oval shape.
Continue pressing the wires around the mandrel to make an oval shape with the wires oriented in the opposite direction.
Find the center of the oval shape. Insert the flat-nose pliers under one of the wires, with the edge of the pliers at the center of the shape. Bend the wire up so that the tail is perpendicular to the oval shape.
Measure the tail wire to 5/8″ and trim. File the cut end of the wire. Bend the tail wire back 90 degrees.
Mark the round-nose pliers approximately 3/4 of the way from the tip with a Sharpie. You will use this mark to make a simple loop.
Grasp the end of the tail wire with the round-nose pliers at the mark. Roll the wire forward to make a simple loop. Readjust the loop as needed so that it is centered on the oval link shape.
Trim the excess wire from the remaining tail. Line the cutters up with the simple loop and make a flush cut. Grasp the wire with the flat-nose pliers and wiggle the cut wire back and forth as you would a jump ring, so that the cut end of the wire is flush against the edge of the loop.
Place the link on the steel bench block. Hammer the outside edges of the oval to flatten.
Turn the hammer over and use the ball end to add texture to the wire link. Readjust the open end of the wire so it lines up flush with the loop, as it will shift while hammering.
Cut 3 1/2″ of 22-gauge silver wire, leaving a short tail to grasp hold of the wire. Wrap the longer end of the wire around the copper link tightly. Make four wraps (you can vary the number of wraps depending on your preference) and leave a small space. This space allows room to attach the links together. Make another four wraps around the link. Trim the wire on the same side — this will be the back of the link. Press the cut ends down with the flat-nose pliers to secure.
Note: These wire wraps help to keep the links centered on one another once they are linked together. Without these wire wraps, the links will slide around when the bracelet is worn.
To make the hook clasp, cut 4″ of 16-gauge copper wire. Repeat Steps 2 through 4, but leave a 1″ tail instead. Hammer the very tip of the tail wire with the hammer and bench block to flatten slightly. Grasp the end of the wire with the tip of the round-nose pliers to make small loop. Grasp the wire under this loop with the back of the round-nose pliers and rotate forward, creating a hook.
Open the simple loop of each link and attach to the next link by closing the loop in between the silver wire wraps.
Note: I recommend oxidizing the bracelet in a liver of sulfur solution to bring out the details in the wirework. After oxidizing, brush off the excess oxidization with fine steel wool(#0000), then add to a rotary tumbler to polish and work-harden the wire links.
And that’s all there is to it! See how easy how easy it is to make your own bracelet from wire chain?
If you’re looking to get creative, here are some ideas for variations on this chain:
- Use a round-shaped mandrel instead of oval.
- Change the types of wire used. Use sterling silver as the base with gold-filled wire for an elegant look, for example.
- Try adding different types of texture on the link. Instead of texturizing hammers, use metal design stamps.
- Vary the size of the links — one small, one large — making a new chain pattern.
For more detailed instruction on how to design and construct your own metal jewelry masterpieces, sign up for the Craftsy class Make Your Own Wirework Findings with Lisa Niven Kelly. She’ll teach you how to design like a pro with custom jump rings, head pins, ear wires, clasps and more.