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Micromaille Challenges
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Micromaille - feathery tendrils of metal seeming unlikely to support their weight - is most easily made by machines. They definitely have the advantage regarding precision. Fortunately for us, machines must be programmed for each weave which ensures most chainmaille is off limits. Though the time and cost for handmade can be prohibitive, it's sometimes necessary.

Micromaille generally refers to rings under 1/8" inner diameter and 20ga or thinner. Nanomaille would be smaller yet. Few manufacturers offer such rings so you're making them yourself, which is no small task.

Every conscientious artisan knows pinch- and shear-cut rings are a disaster in any maille, especially micro due the cavernous cut relative to ring and wire size. Responsible maillers know the only suitable rings are saw-cut with a jeweler's blade.

Coiled-and-cut rings are helixes, not a perfect donut shape (a tori). The material removed from cutting affects their appearance and function to a certain degree. It's a bigger concern for micro rings but not a deal breaker.

Simple math explains it. A 14ga ring (1.6mm) with an inner diameter of 10mm and a closure misalignment of 0.1mm will catch a fingernail. It is a 6.25% deviation based on wire diameter (0.1mm/1.6mm=0.0625). A micromaille ring at the same aspect ratio (0.4mm wire, 2.5mm I.D.) is a massive 25% misalignment (0.1mm/0.4mm).

The true difficulty can only be appreciated by those who weld or solder rings this small. It's necessary for durability and strength, a fact often glossed over. Anything this small should be avoided if it's not welded or soldered especially if it's precious metals.

Skill is determined by how small it can be made well.
Anyone who makes precious metal micromaille without welding or soldering the rings should rethink their approach. Precious metals are too weak especially in small sizes. That's what science says, and I agree. This story doesn't end happily.

For soldering and welding, the order the rings are added is critical. There has to be enough space to ensure the flame doesn't melt its neighbors. It often requires trying numerous assembly methods before figuring out what works best. Speed weaving is a hit or miss.

Micromaille is all that jazz but requires exacting detail and exponentially longer time. Skill is determined by how small it can be made well. Without the patience to close a ring properly in regular-size maille, looking through a magnifying glass while fumbling with rings too tiny to hold will be inglorious.

Simply, the challenges exponentially increase as rings get smaller. You have to walk before running; micromaille is a world-class decathlon. I have seen a $20k gold and silver micromaille necklace without soldered rings, many gaps and misaligned edges, and rings with crooked cuts. Expensive doesn't mean well-made.

Here are some micromaille designs or parts thereof. All have seamless welds and are handmade with my eco-friendly precious metals. Unless noted otherwise, they are 0.999 fine silver:

Posted by M: April 20, 2020

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