The Mega Manly Roundmaille chain

A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me to ask if I could make him something special for himself.  He had an idea in mind, and just needed someone to execute on it.  “Big chain, long, with a pendant on it.  In copper.”

I’d just made a roundmaille chain, so I showed him that as well as a Jens Pind Linkage and Byzantine.  He chose the roundmaille, and I whipped up another sample in 19g wire so he could decide what size chain he wanted.

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“BIGGER…I was thinking more the size of my thumb.” I shook my head, not sure I’d read correctly, but I went back to my calculations to see what the best A-R* was for the weave in a heavier gauge wire, and tried again.

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This one (on the right) passed the test.  Mark sent me the Ankh design he wanted, and I set to creating a 28″ long, endless chain with a 3″ copper pendant.

(Skip ahead if you are bored with How I Create Things a.k.a. “it’s not as simple as going to Kohl’s and buying something out of the bargain bin”.  You can just take a look at the finished piece, which turned out GREAT, if I may say so myself.)

Making maille, as I explained to someone who happened to ask today, is just a matter of process. I always line up my rings (and usually in groups of 10) so I can keep track of what I’m weaving.  With Roundmaille, I speed weave 3 open rings and 3 closed rings (2 rows in one step), so my table looks like this.

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10 rows of 6 rings equals around 2″ of completed weave.  By the time this chain was completed, I had 119 rows of 6 rings…that equals…let me think for a second…714 rings that had to be opened and reclosed.  Plus one to hang the pendant from.

That’s a lot of rings.

Someone asked me today when I was showing off the completed chain how long it took me to make it.  Aside from the “Plus 15 years” of just learning how to make jewelry, I’d estimate…quite a few hours.  Even though I’m pretty fast, I have to break every once in a while when my hands start to cramp up or my eye start crossing.

Back to the chain.  I normally measure against a “ruler” I’ve drawn on my table in Sharpie, but it only goes to 15″.  I had to take out the Big Guns to measure this guy.

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That’s 28″ of coppery goodness right there.  Now, I have to join it together.  I was a little stymied by this at first, because I’ve never done an endless Roundmaille before, but eventually I figured out an easy way and got it all hooked together.

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Mark wanted his chain and pendant to be “new copper penny” color, so the first bath this baby took was in some hot pickle.  This removes all of the oxidization from the metal, and makes it shiny.  After rinsing, I left the chain to dry while I started on the pendant.

A couple of hours before, I’d taken the template and glued it to a sheet of 20g copper.  My first cut was the inside of the Ankh – to do this, I had to drill a small hole in the center that I could insert my saw blade into.

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Before the hole was drilled.

Next, I begin to saw out the shape, using a jeweler’s saw.  The blades are super thin and you have to have really good posture when sawing.  It’s not like sawing a log in half – I sometimes laugh because I learned to hold the saw gently and hold out my pinky like I’m having tea with the Queen.

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You can’t see my pinky sticking out, but you can see that the saw has to be straight up and down, like a sewing machine needle. Bend or twist it, and TWANG there goes your saw blade.

And in no time, the inside of the Ankh was done.

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Next up, the outline.  Like a famed sculptor once said, “Just cut away the part that’s not an Ankh.”  I was really careful to stay right on the line between the black and white so that I didn’t have a ton of clean up to do after I was done sawing.

Sawn Ankh and my trusty saw.

Sawn Ankh and my trusty saw.

I soaked the Ankh for a minute or two to remove the paper template, and then worked on cleaning it up.  This involves a grinder, Foredom, and files.  I also determined the best method of hanging the Ankh from the chain, measured where I should drill a hole, and BAM! drilled that baby and hung it from the chain.

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Last step was to tumble polish the entire ensemble for about an hour.  This polishes the chain and pendant to a brilliant shine, and actually help keep it that color longer.  The only problem is that the stainless steel shot that I tumble the chain in ends up INSIDE the chain, and I had to spend some more time picking it out.

FINALLY…I could consider this project done, except, of course, getting in some glamour shots of the mega manly roundmaille before I send it off to it’s new home.

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