Friday, 10 April 2015

How to Create a Celtic Pattern Bracelet

Making Bracelets with Wire

I have been busy preparing Celtic-inspired items for the Creative Jewellers Guild display at the BC Gem show this weekend. One of my projects was a bracelet made with sterling silver to accompany one I did with sterling and golf-filled wire some time ago. Here is the process.

Which Wire?

For this bracelet, I worked with 18 gauge sterling silver round wire. Wire, by the way, is available in a dizzying array of gauges and profiles: round, half round, square, triangular and rectangular. For bracelets, I generally use round wire although I have made some with square wire, too. In either case, you have to start by creating a bunch of sterling silver jump rings.

Winding Away

The first step is to take lengths of your wire and coil them on steel mandrels. I am lucky that The Big Guy gave me a jump ring maker a few Christmases ago. Prior to that, I was forever trying to find knitting needles, long nails, meat skewers, etc. in suitable diameters to make the rings I needed. The jump ring maker comes with a full set of steel mandrels to create rings in any size I can imagine I will ever need.

In these photo, you see the winding device and the coils. The larger rings are already off their mandrel and the smaller one are still on theirs. If you look closely, you will see that I start each coil by threading the wire though a conveniently placed hole in the mandrel. Cutters nip off that bit and leave a clean coil for cutting into rings.

Making the Cut

One can cut the rings by hand (and if you do, they literally jump off the saw blade - hence "jump rings"). If I only need a few, that is how I make them but, for a whole bunch, I set the coils into this jig and cut them with a blade on my rotary tool. It is like a mini-circular saw which runs in the slot you see in this photo. Because of the friction involved, I smear beeswax onto the top of the coil before I clamp the top down and make the cut.

The best place to find beeswax, by the way, is in a fabric store. It is frequently used to make threads easier to pull through fabrics when sewing by hand (hemming, for example).

A couple of seconds with the saw and — Ta-da! — dozens of rings appear.

I did not photograph the long process of opening all the rings (you do it by using two pair of pliers to twist them open) to get them ready to start weaving to make the bracelet.

Beginning the Pattern

Here, you can get a pretty good idea of how these bracelets come together.

Two pair of pliers — because you have to twist each ring closed again after you thread it into the pattern (DUH).

That steel wire loop is just a convenient way to hold onto the bracelet until it gains some length. You can see a supply of the larger, featured, rings at the top of the photo and the smaller, connecting, rings below them.

End Result

Here are both Celtic Pattern bracelets.

As I type this, both bracelets are at the Gem Show in Abbotsford, BC along with a wide variety of other Celtic-inspired items from members of the Creative Jewellers Guild (yes, that is the Canadian spelling).