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*UPDATED Jan. 6, 2009



Boxchain Earrings:
an introduction to chainmail

by Marilyn Gardiner
www.MarilynGardiner.com

Introduction

This is the fourth project in a series of chainmail earrings for beginners.

This month's chainmail weave is called Boxchain. You may see references to its other name, Queen's Chain or Queen's Link. Weaving boxchain is very similar to weaving Byzantine chain—but more about this later. As with most weaves, changes in the size of the wire and the rings can produce very different looks—just see the two pairs of earrings at the right.

Boxchain Chainmail Weave

This weave is part of the European family of chainmail weaves. Take a look at this website to see other weaves in this family.

The Magic Number: Aspect Ratio

Every chainmail weave has a magic number (or range) that determines whether or not a given jump ring will "work" for it. In other words, you don't want chainmail that is sloppy looking or too tight and stiff.

In a previous project, Mobius Flower Earrings, I talked about measuring the inside diameter of a jump ring and measuring the thickness of wire (gauge). It is the ratio of these two measurements, inner diameter ID and wire diameter WD, that determines whether or not a particular jump ring will work well with a specific chainmail weave. the formula for Aspect Ratio AR is:

AR=ID / WD

(with both ID and WD measured in the same units—inches or millimeters. Here is a Conversion Chart for converting wire gauge to inches or millimeters.

Here is an example of an Aspect Ratio Table that gives aspect ratios for particular weaves.

The recommended AR for Boxchain is 4. So, if you have 18 gauge wire, which is 1.0 mm WD, then the formula tells you that a ring with 4 mm ID will work well for this weave. ID = 4 (AR) x 1.0 (WD)

If you wanted to use 20 gauge wire (0.8 mm) then you would need 3.2 mm jump rings:
ID = 4 x 0.8 = 3.2

Supplies

The main jump rings for the earrings in the top photo are made from 1.0 mm diameter (18 gauge) round sterling silver wire.
The inside diameter (ID) of the rings is 4 mm.
Quantity: 44 rings

1 pair of earring findings
• french wire, • post, • lever-back, • clip on
See: Earring Findings for examples.

Tools

2 pairs of smooth-jawed jewelers' pliers (flatnose, chainnose, tapered flatnose)

See Earring Project 1 for more information about pliers.

Once you have made these earrings, it would be easy to work on a more challenging project such as the bracelet below.
Once you have made the bracelet, another challenge would be to use tiny rings to make these long, delicate earrings. Use 22 gauge jump rings with 2.56 mm or 7/64 inch ID.
How to: OPEN AND CLOSE JUMP RINGS

To Open a Ring
Use 2 pairs of pliers to hold the sides of a jump ring with the opening at the top (12 o’clock). To avoid warping the ring, cover most of the ring with the 2 sets of pliers.

Hold the ring steady with your dominant (writing) hand while you rotate the wrist of your non-dominant hand, twisting the pliers tip away from you.

Never open up the loop by pulling it side to side—you won’t get it back into a true circle.

To Close a Ring
Use 2 pairs of pliers to hold the sides of a jump ring with the opening at the top (12 o’clock).

Pull the ring ends back together by rotating your wrists and exerting a bit of inward pressure. You may hear a “click” as the ends meet.

The goal is to have the two ends lined up exactly, with no space between them.

Move the ends back and forth by small amounts to adjust the fit. If you go a bit past where they are even, they will spring back and match exactly.

Spend the time to close each ring carefully—this will be the mark of a professional finish to your work.

Before starting your first chainmail project, practice opening and closing rings until you feel confident.

After opening and closing a whole lot of rings you WILL find it easy, you WON'T leave marks on the rings, and you WILL find that the pliers become an extension of your hands.

The Project: BOXCHAIN EARRINGS
Overview: The Boxchain Segment

The Boxchain pattern is composed of short, repeating segments. Each complete segment, after the first one, uses 4 jump rings.

Step 1

Close 4 rings (red) and open 2 rings (yellow).

Hold one open ring with the pliers, gather up the 4 closed rings, and then close that ring. Add the 6th ring along the same path.

Attach a twist tie to an end-pair of rings. Your 2-in-2-in-2 chain should look like this photo.

Step 2

Open four more rings to prepare for step #4.

Hold the twist tie and the first pair of rings with your thumb & first finger. Flip the end rings, one to each side, as in this photo.

Now fold those 2 rings down and hold them between your fingers, as in the next photo, so the middle rings (yellow) are exposed.

Step 3

Separate those two middle rings (yellow dots). Peek between them and see the top edges of those 2 end rings you flipped to the sides (red dots).

Use a crochet hook, a hat pin, an awl, a piece of wire, or something similar to help lift up those 2 center rings (marked with red dots) a bit.

This marks the path for inserting the next 2 rings!

Step 4

Pick up an open ring with your pliers and insert it through this path. This ring is marked with a green line in the photo. Close the ring.

Step 5

Add a second ring through this same space and close it too.

This photo shows the two rings (green dots) that lock in the fold.

Step 6

Insert another pair of rings into the last pair (with green dots).

You now have 2 linked pairs hanging down (all ready and begging to be folded).

Step 7

Repeat steps 2-6 to continue this pattern until you have completed 4 segments, ending with just 1 pair of rings.

Now add another pair of rings BESIDE this pair. These last 4 rings finish off the bottom of one earring.

Use a 16 gauge, 3 mm jump ring to attach the top 2 rings to the earring finding.

Boxchain vs Byzantine

While the appearances of Boxchain and Byzantine are very different. they are very, very similar to make. In Boxchain you add 2 pairs and then fold them. In Byzantine you add 3 pairs and then fold them. Go back to the Byzantine Earring project and compare!

Variations

Here is an interesting necklace that was fun to make. The sections of boxchain are linked with 3 rings, and the center ring of the three is made from twisted wire. When the necklace was completed it was oxidized with liver of sulphur, giving it a steel gray patina.

The problem in working with sections of boxchain is that at one end the last two rings lay horizontal, while at the other end they are vertical. Examine the necklace to see how I decided to solve this problem. Notice that the center strands could not be just one segment.

This necklace was designed to showcase a lovely lampwork bead.

Copyright 2006 Marilyn Gardiner.
All Rights Reserved.