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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

I am just starting out making rings and thus far I have been using a piece of plastic that happens to be my ring size. I want to start making rings for others, and I am wondering what material my ring mandrel should be made out of. I have seen plastic/acrylic, wood, hollow nickel, solid brass, and solid steel. Which material would you recommend?

-Brandi in Jacksonville, Florida

Answer:

Hi Brandi, making rings can be so much fun! I am so glad you asked this question, because there are so many choices for ring mandrels available. Here are my opinions of the uses of each material you list, with regards to making rings from wire.

Plastic/acrylic and wood: most of these mandrels are great for using as a ring “stick,” to see what size of ring a customer has who wants you to make one the same size, or to check and size rings you have made. They can also be used for making what I call simple rings, where a thin strand of wire is wrapped around the mandrel one or more times to shape and then form into a ring (with or without beads).

Hollow nickel, solid brass, and solid stainless steel: metal is the best to purchase, as it is a “one-time-purchase” that will last a lifetime! Thinking about most of the rings I make and teach, most of them need to be forged and or shaped by using a mallet (rawhide or nylon/plastic) to beat the ring while it is on the mandrel, a metal mandrel is the proper surface to do so. It will not dent; splinter, crack or “give,” and it still can act as a ring stick. The metal choice is yours; the Wire-Sculpture Faculty and I prefer using a stainless steel ring mandrel.

While we are on the subject of ring mandrels, I would like to mention the shapes available. The two basic ring mandrel shapes are stepped and graduated.

A stepped mandrel is one that actually has a defined step for each whole size (like 3, 4, 5, etc) there are no half or quarter sizes (similar to the stepped jaw on the 3-step round pliers). One cannot make a ring and slide or force it down this mandrel to size or work harden the wires.

A ring mandrel that is graduated resembles the jaw of regular round-nose pliers. It also has more size possibilities such as quarter and half-sizes. This is my favorite ring mandrel shape as one can really make rings “to size” by being able to slide them up and down during creation.

A ring mandrel that has a flat side is perfect for making the Classic Cabochon Ring. If one is going to make this style exclusively, then purchasing one is a good decision, however a regular, graduated metal ring mandrel will also do the job nicely. The flat side can also be used when making rings with faceted stones as the culet of the stone will not be damaged during the creation process.

The ring mandrel that has a groove running along one side is great for making rings that contain a focal bead, or for making rings with faceted stones. Just keep the ring positioned so the focal item is within the groove.

With all of these choices, I will tell you that I personally use a graduated stainless steel ring mandrel about 98% of the time, although I do have another (same material and shape) with a flat side, but I usually forget I have it!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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