Daily Wire Tip Jan. 6: Tumbling Jump Rings for Chain Maille

By on January 6, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
January 6, 2011

Question:

I have started making chain maille jewelry, but I find that most rings are too soft for my liking. I hear that tumbling the rings will temper them, giving them more strength. I would like to know what kind of media to use and how long to tumble them.

-Tom in Marshall, Missouri

Answer:

We have a great article that tells you about everything you need to know about tumbling your chain maille pieces, called Tumbling Your Jewelry. It can also be found in our Resource Center, under Caring for your Jewelry.

I am sure that a lot of folks will add additional experiences and advice, so be sure to check back on this post!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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12 Comments

  1. avatar

    Linda

    January 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I have tumbled pmc with very good results. Wire with a coating will not stand much tumbling. I would check in every 10 minutes or so to make sure the coating is not being rubbed off. The same goes with fragil stones like turquoise…
    I have tumbled them, but not for as long as the other stones. They can be tumbled enough to harden half hard wire, it won’t harden the soft wire enough though, not enough time in the tumbler.

  2. avatar

    Kathy Bloom

    January 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t have a lot of tumbling experience. However I have been putzing around with chaine maille for a few years and I have found that a lot of it is trial and error. When using a 14 gauge wire, you can make it on a very large mandrel and it will probably never be a problem. The wire itself is strong enough to keeps its shape. On the other hand, using a 21 gauge wire, your mandrel has to be quite small or your rings may twist and bend out of shape. For example, I am making a chain using 22 gauge bronze wire on a 2.35mm mandrel with two rings per link and it is very strong. If you are not following a pattern that gives you the gauge of wire and mandrel size to use, it’s all experimentation. Also the type of metal you use will make a difference too. Copper will be much stiffer and hold its shape better than silver. Hope this helps. I any case, you can still tumble your work to get burs off and shine them up.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks Kathy : )

  3. avatar

    Lila

    January 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    If you are using sterling wire or gold filled then the rings can be tumbled for a long time. I don’t know anything about coated wire. To tumble, use stainless steel shot of different shapes. You can buy it by the pound at various websites. Use Dawn dish soap or a burnishing compound to clean the rings. You can tumble wire for hours and hours. I’ve let the thing run for 24 hours when I have wire only pieces in there. I would certainly let it run a long time for jump rings.

  4. avatar

    Cheryl Dunham

    January 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I have made chain maille for several years, and have always used a tumbler with ceramic shot. Several sizes from real tiny to about a quarter inch in size. It works wonderful, work hardening the silver, or copper, and makes the piece shine really nice.
    Hope this help you.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Cheryl!

  5. avatar

    celeste

    January 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve been doing and teaching chain maille for years. While I currently purchase my jumprings, I seriously considered making my own about three years ago. I spent hours on the phone talking to my jumpring supplier and he was wonderful with sharing the process with me. To summarize our conversation, he typically uses half hard wire (there are some cases where he uses soft) and then tumbles them in his vibratory tumblers for 8 – 10 hours to work harden them and remove the burrs.
    I personally use a rotary tumbler for all my chain maille and classes and use mixed stainless steel shot and a drop or two of Dawn dishwashing soap with water to clean and work harden my pieces. I have no experience with coated wire…typically work with sterling and gold filled.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 7, 2011 at 11:42 pm

      Hey Celeste, Far Out!! thanks so much for sharing some ‘direct’ info with us : )
      Happy NEW Year!
      Dale

  6. avatar

    The ChainMaille Lady

    February 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I would also try using stainless steel jump rings. They are very sturdy rings without tumbling. Alot of the coifs and “armor” items are made using stainless steel for strength. Bronze & brass are also harder metals used in making jump rings.

  7. avatar

    Vivian

    May 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I am having the worst time tumbling my sterling silver jump rings. I have watched all the videos and read all the comments about how to do it along with how not to mess it up. I even purchased new shot as I thought this might be the problem. I use Dawn and just a drop in my tumbler along with the shot and my rings come out looking like copper every time. I have washed the tumbler inside and out as I said bought new shot and nothing helps. What am I doing wrong?
    Thank you

  8. avatar

    Tchin

    July 23, 2013 at 4:38 am

    you must use distilled water. get it in the supper market . or from your dehumidifier. clean shot by running it w/ a table spoon or two backing soda untill clean then w/ soap alone for last cleaing,an hr. or so.

  9. avatar

    Robin

    November 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I too am having trouble with my Lortone tumbler. I have used a drop of dish washing liquid and I run it for an hour and my rings are almost black. I have subsequently used burnishing compound with the steel shot alone with no silver to clean the shot but it seems I have to clean my shot after every single use of tumbling my rings. I’m so frustrated. I used the tumbler tonight and ruined about $20 of silver!!! I notice that when I wipe the rubber barrel with a paper towel it comes out with black schmutz. Any suggestions please? I’m ready to give up my tumbler and go for a vibratory one…. Thank you for your response.

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