Inspired by the 2018 Halstead Design Challenge, learn how to make a basic knuckle hinge in your jewelry designs using tubing, sheet and wire.
The 2018 Halstead Design Challenge kit included a piece of sterling silver tubing for participants to work into their Hidden theme. What better way to hide something than a beautifully hinged piece! Learning how to make a hinge for jewelry projects may seem intimidating, but they can actually be very easy with a little practice.
How to Make a Simple Knuckle Hinge for Jewelry:
Step 1. Cutting the Tubes
To create the hinge shown above, I used a tubing cutter jig with a saw to cut two 6mm lengths and one 8mm length of sterling silver metal tubing.
Tip: Tube cutting with a saw is very important. If you use cutters, the tubing will collapse at the cut. In the studio here at Halstead, we use tube cutting jigs. I highly recommend purchasing one of these if you are going to cut a lot of tubing.
Step 2. Preparing the Sheet
I've lined the tubing up with the sterling silver sheet and used a permanent marker to draw the lines on the sheet where I will cut the pieces to fit the length of the tubing.
Tip: Use a saw here. Cutting with sheet shears leaves ragged, bent edges whereas a saw will produce a nice, clean cut.
Step 3: Tubing and Gaps
I've finished preparing the metal sheet and I've placed the tubing in-between the sheet to check the fit. The length of the tubing fits perfectly, however, look where the arrows are pointing and you can see a large gap on each side of the tube. If you look at the zoomed image, you can see that there just isn't enough contact between the tubing and sheet to create a strong join.
Tip: The solution to this problem came from Soham Harrison on his YouTube video: 3 Knuckle Hinge.
Step 4. Gap Solution
There are a couple of solutions to this problem. First, you can file your sheet on the edge where the tubing meets the sheet using a round joint file. This creates a round indent along your sheet that the tubing rests in. Second, you can start by placing two additional metal sheet pieces on top of your soldering block. Place the sheet you will be using for the hinge on top of those with the hinge resting between them. This creates a platform that lifts your sheet up to the center of the tubing, which removes the gaps and will create a strong join in the center of the tube.
Tip: This was a great solution since I didn't have a file on-hand that would work.
Step 5: Prepping for Soldering
You'll want to place your solder bits on opposing sides, as shown by the arrows above. The one on the left will hold solder onto the sheet on the left and the two on the right will solder to the sheet on the right.
Tip: It's very important that the solder doesn't flow onto the adjacent hinge sections. Keep your solder bits far away from the separate sections and use tiny slivers of solder bits.
Step 6: Soldering your Hinge
Solder your pieces now. After the solder flows, pickle, quench and dry your pieces.
Tip: I like to start out by moving the flame in a large circle around the piece, which dries the flux slowly rather than quickly. Drying too quickly causes bubbles to form and may move the solder bits around.
Step 7: Cleaning
Clean your hinge sections now. I used 3M Radial bristle disks on a flex shaft.
Tip: Keep the bristle disks away from the hinge sections. They can remove the edges on your hinges.
Step 8: Creating the Hinge Pin
Piece your hinge together with a wire that fits inside the tube. Cut the wire so that only 1mm is showing on either side of the tubing. Using a bench block and riveting hammer, flatten the wire ends slightly so they can't slip out on either side.
Tip: Make sure the wire fits as snugly as possible.
Now that you know how to make a basic jewelry hinge, have fun experimenting with new designs! One of my favorite books that we have in the Halstead Library is The Metalsmith's Book of Boxes & Lockets by Tim McCreight. I highly recommend it if you'd like to learn how to make different types of jewelry hinges. It's full of how-to instructions and the photos inside are beautiful and inspiring.
Got questions? Email our studio coordinator Erica Stice at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you. Sorry, studio support is not available by phone. Emails only, please.