For a seemingly minor and innocent looking component, jump rings can cause a jewelry artist tremendous headaches. But since there is really no way around them, I decided to come up with a method to consistently produce quality jump rings that I could be proud of. For me it is important to always have the proper size rings on hand, which is why I decided against purchasing ready made jump rings pretty much from the beginning.
You only need to browse Pinterest to know that there are numerous ways to cut jump rings, but to be honest, I had neither the desire nor the cash to invest in yet another tool lying around my studio collecting dust. And building a jig sounded like a waste of time, when there was jewelry to be made. Not to mention, some of those thingamajigger contraptions look painfully awkward!
Holding the coil with a special tool in one hand while having to cut it with the jewelers saw held in the other, gah, entirely too wobbly and cumbersome.
So, ideally my process had to meet these criteria:
- be relatively inexpensive
- not take up much space
- not require a special setup and new, fancy tools that couldn’t be used for anything else
- create jump rings that are seamless
- allow me to cut rings that were consistent in diameter
I knew aluminum knitting needles make perfect mandrels. They come in graduated sizes and unlike wood needles they hold their shape. Added benefit: if you loose one, you have a spare:) and they are readily available, not to mention relatively cheap. You may already own a nice selection, like I did.
You can see I marked some of mine for ease of use.
So I had the mandrel problem tackled, but I since I did not yet own a jewelers saw at the time, I cut each and every one of these tiny rings with my flush cutters – twice. Once to cut it from the coil, the second time to cut the little pointy end that is left on the opposite side of the flush cut. See how beautiful the saw-cut copper ones are?
And despite the tedious nature of this method, I still wound up with a result that just wasn’t as clean and seamless as I had hoped it to be. Whomp whomp.
Now, I like torturing myself as much as the next gal, but that just wasn’t gonna cut it – literally.
I finally broke down and bought a jewelers saw. It’s cheap and easy and simple cutting can be mastered by anyone with just a little practice. Here is a great tutorial I found for you on YouTube. And after a little bit of trial and error I came up with my way of cutting jump rings.
Here is what you will need for my method:
Not pictured is a cloth that I put in my lap to catch to cut rings.
The best vise to use is small and clamps on to your work table for stability. My little vise is clamped onto a board at the side of my work table at the perfect height for me to cut the coils comfortably.
To keep the coil from being marred by the vise, pad the inner surface with 2-3 layers of masking tape like this:
The tape layers also help cradle the coil and reduce the amount of tension that needs to be applied.
Once I have wound the coil and trimmed both ends, I insert the coil into the vise like this:
It’s important not to clamp down on the coil too tightly, doing so will squash the rings. Not applying enough pressure won’t hold them securely enough to be cut. Larger rings in thinner wire gauges do have a tendency to shift. If needed, secure the back of the coil with a strip of masking tape to stabilize it.
I have found this method to work best for 20 gauge half hard wire (dead soft in this thinner gauge would not hold up) up to a 5 mm diameter, 18 gauge dead soft wire up to about a 8 mm diameter and 16 gauge up to 10 mm, larger yet for 14 gauge wire. Naturally, the larger the diameter, the more unstable the coil. It may take a little practice to find out what the limit is for you.
Generally my coils are no longer than 2″ or 5 cm, just like the one below. Be sure to wind the coil as tightly as possible. Snip off the long wires at each end before clamping the coil in the vise.
Begin cutting the coil in the center of the portion facing you. Hold your jewelers saw as vertical as possible, just like you would cutting any other kind of metal sheet. This way you can usually cut about 3/4″ worth of jump rings, before having to move the remainder of the coil up to the top. Repeat moving the coil up until you get to or near the bottom of the coil. If the last few rings prove more difficult to cut, you can tape them from behind with masking tape. With copper I often just let the last 3-4 rings uncut, with silver I try to minimize waste and tape.
Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what the finished product will look like.
So, there you have it. I hope you give it a try! It may not be the fastest method, but it sure beats cutting them individually by hand. Before you know it, you’ll never run out of jump rings when you are busy creating pieces like this…
I would love to hear how it turned out for you. Let me know if you have any questions! In my next post I will show you how I store my jump rings!