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Jump Ring Stretcher
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Categories: Jewelry; Projects and equipment

Word count/read time: 542 words; 2-1/2 minutes

One challenge common to every industry is acquiring the proper tools for efficient operation. Efficiency is subjective, i.e. it's not exclusively about time. Other considerations include reducing defective parts, improving consistency, and minimizing costs.

Sometimes tools don't exist and the user must design them. Tool quality, durability, simplicity, and the need to pump out pieces in mass matter. A hobbyist's version is quite different than a professional's - I'll opt for professional-grade.

My favorite chains are in the loop-in-loop family. They are among the most beautiful and diverse imaginable! Weaving each ring takes minutes, not seconds like chainmaille. Time adds up quickly and anything reducing labor is vital.

Unlike chainmaille, weaving the rings is only a fraction of making quality loop-in-loop pieces. Besides, anyone old enough to use pliers (i.e., ten-year-olds) can make perfect chainmaille though the marketplace suggests otherwise since the majority is abysmal, unadulterated junk.

Loop-in-loop designs demand advanced skills. Every mistake exponentially compounds errors from previous steps and it shows! Welding or soldering, forging, stretching, and manipulating the rings require additional tools.

Assuming the ring is symmetrical and has an invisible welded or soldered seam, thus begins the real labor. First it must be stretched into an elongated rectangle with rounded edges. Easier said than done as it will have a bulge on one side if done incorrectly. It will not be the proper length or play nicely with other rings. Every ring it touches and some before and after will be visibly deformed.

Poor construction techniques in loop-and-loops can be partially mitigated with a drawplate which compresses, stretches, and homogenizes the weave somewhat randomly. Relying on a drawplate to fix shoddy, lazy workmanship is inviting disaster. Instead, I make my chains with precision and symmetry to avoid this wincing, weave-wrecking step.

Unfortunately, each jig is specific to a particular ring diameter and bending radius.
Round-nose pliers can stretch rings provided the ring sits perfectly aligned, is perfectly round, perfectly centered on the same spot of both tips, perfectly and identically stretched, and perfectly.... That's too many variables to be reliable or efficient! You don't get credit for defective rings.

No commercial tools were available so I made jigs to minimize these gremlins. Unfortunately, each jig is specific to a particular ring diameter and bending radius. While more efficient and precise than pliers, I don't have an eternity to make umpteen jigs. A design to accommodate all ring sizes, wire shapes, wire diameters, and bending radii has been elusive and on my mind for many years. Then it came to me one day.

The initial iteration didn't even make it to a prototype. The concept remains unchanged in V2 but requires significantly more planning and complex, synchronized, layered mechanisms. I'd spend countless hours looking at the cryptic and nebulous drawings calculating how, what, where, when, and if it would work. Nothing's set in stone until it's machined from solid stainless steel and it's an unfinished work in progress as I write this.

Alignment pins center the jump ring properly and ideally will pinch it into an hourglass shape. A starting position locator keeps it stationary, and a limiter stops it from overstretching (silver will happily and easily do so otherwise). All are adjustable. Different pin profiles from 1/32" to 1-1/4" diameter - round, square, pointed, hexagonal, ovalized - can be made easily.

Posted by M: January 18, 2024

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