Jewelry chain is one of our best-selling categories and options are available in a huge variety of styles. Here are some tips on how to finish the ends of footage chain. This article outlines attaching a jump ring to finished chain, how to use a heat sink for soldering delicate chain, attaching a tab end to footage chain, how to solder the attachment loop on a clasp and how to attach a tube end to chain. The images of the chain in this blog have either been factory finished or finished in our in-house studio.
Soldering a jump ring to a tiny chain
Small linked chain, such as the .7mm box chain (1) and the 1.2mm cable chain (2) shown above, are too small to allow a jump ring to thread through the links. Don't be discouraged though, adding a jump ring is very easy.
Instructions: To finish chain, you'll need a small open or closed jump ring. Stretch the chain straight and place a jump ring right up against it, making sure that they are touching. If you are using an open jump ring, now would be a good time to attach a quality tag or jewelry clasp to it.
The image to the left shows an open jump ring. To close that jump ring, lightly clean the oils and dirt off of the pieces where the solder will flow using 800 grit sandpaper, then line up the jump ring opening to the chain end. This allows you to close the jump ring while soldering the two pieces together.
Flux and then take a pallion chip of soft solder and lay it directly underneath the opening in the jump ring and the very end of the box chain. By having the chip below the chain and the jump ring, then heating above that, you are drawing the solder up through the jump ring and link.
When first heating your piece, run the flame across all of it a few times to evenly heat it, then focus the flame on the area where you need the solder to flow (Note: never keep your flame still, it always needs to be moving). Once it's soldered, then pickle, quench and dry. After you are done, the piece will look like the one shown to the right, which shows a tiny cable chain soldered onto a jump ring.
If you're comfortable with this technique, solder a jump ring onto each end at the same time. It will save you a lot of time!
Using a heat sink
A chain that's made of larger links will allow a jump ring to thread through, but a delicate chain will require protection from the torch flame.
Instructions: To solder a jump ring closed and protect your links from melting, place the chain in a third hand. Whenever you heat a piece, no matter where you aim the flame, the entire piece will become hot in a matter of seconds. When you add a third hand to the mix, the steel will actually draw the majority of the heat away and protect the pieces that are not hit with the flame.
For instance, in the image on the left, I have placed the jump ring above the third hand and the chain below it. Since the flame will be focused on the jump ring to flow the solder, I have left enough of the jump ring exposed so it will maintain a high temperature, but the steel on the third hand will protect the chain in its grip and the chain below as well. Take advantage of a third hand whenever possible, it makes a lot of metalsmithing soldering techniques possible.
Be sure to solder all of your jump rings closed when creating necklaces. Your work will look more finished and will be so much more durable!
Chain Solder End Tabs
You've seen the two ways to attach jump rings to chain ends, but what can you do about those fancy chain links where a jump ring just can't work? Use a chain solder end tab!
Instructions: A chain solder end tab will work great with different styles of chain. For instance, these end tabs were used to finish the sequin (3) and Figaro (5) necklaces shown above.
To start, clean the end tab and chain link with 800 grit sandpaper. Situate the chain link on the end tab so it lies half on/half off the tab as seen in the image on the right. Flux and place a piece of medium solder on the link. Heat the chain and the end tab using several passes with the torch, then focus on the end tab and the link. Once the solder flows, you can pickle, quench and dry it.
You can flow solder up to three times before it is unusable so there's no need to add more.
The link is now attached to half of the tab. Sand the other end to prepare it for soldering. Fold the end tab over in the middle until it lays over the link (Note: do not flatten the middle of the tab where you bend it because you will need to pass a jump ring through it later when you attach a clasp). Place the piece in a third hand, soldered side up. Heat the entire tab from underneath allowing the solder to flow once more down onto the unsoldered tab. Pickle, quench and dry, then repeat with the other end of the chain.
To keep the bend in a round shape as seen in the image to the left, place a mandrel inside the fold such as cylindrical jaw pliers, the handle on a small punch (or something similar) when you fold the tab.
Closing a clasp
So, you've attached a jump ring or fold-over end tab to your chain end, but how do you get that small spring ring soldered closed? Use a third hand to protect it, too!
Instructions: Many clasps have an attachment loop that will need to be soldered to securely attach it to the chain.
Thread the clasp's attachment loop through the jump ring that's attached to your chain. Then, place the jump ring in a third hand and expose the clasp above its grip. Keep the area you are soldering as far away from the jump ring and third hand as possible. Flux, then place a tiny piece of soft solder across the ring's seam. Heat the clasp, then focus just on the attachment loop. Since solder flows toward the heat source, aim the flame upward from the bottom so the solder flows downward through the seam.
Use less solder! The more you use, the more clean-up you have.
An alternative way to end footage chain
With round links or smooth chain like Rollo and snake chain (5), you have the option of using an end cap.
Instructions: First, find an end cap that fits your chain end. Place your tube end cap into a third hand, tube side sticking straight up with the clasp protected at the bottom underneath the jaws. Drop one piece of soft solder in the tube, making sure it's at the bottom of the tube, then flux.
Place your chain in a second third hand with the chain extending downward inside the tube. Be sure the chain end reaches the bottom of the tube. Heat the tube with your flame until the solder flows. Pickle, quench and dry. Repeat with the other chain end, minus the clasp.
Some end caps come with lobster claws or spring rings already attached, but you can always add one if they don't.
Watch the entire video!
Find everything you need to finish necklace and bracelet chains at HalsteadBead.com.
Got questions? Email our studio coordinator Erica Stice at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you. Sorry, studio support is not available by phone. Emails only, please.