How its done - The work involved.

The following shows some of the steps in making a classic Celtic Bracelet. It takes up to two days to make a 20cm bracelet, and another two days to finish and polish it. The intention here is to give an indication of the amount of work and skill involved in making these pieces. I have generalised many points here. It is not as easy as it looks. Even simple things like sawing the links takes time and skill. I also don't want to give away too many secrets,- it took me a long time to work out how to make "this" design, and I haven't seen it in any jewellery book. I hope this helps you appreciate the uniqueness and inherent value in these pieces.

How the items are made

I use computer illustration software to work out the mathematics. I calculate the diameters and distance of the bars in order to make a certain sized link. This isn't trial and error, this is precision. Otherwise the links wouldn't look right. I also use spreadsheets to calculate the length of wire needed for the project.

To begin, 1mm silver wire is wound around a jig (two metal posts) in a figure 8 shape.

Continuing this process makes a kind of wire spring. This is constantly adjusted all along and the wire kept under tension. Any slight twists will make one loop larger than the others. The wire may also need to be annealed before bending. The key here is consistency. After several turns. I will start again with another piece of wire, until I have the required number.
Each spring is then sawn by hand to form a series of individual figure 8 links. This is a very tricky bit. Sawing produces a clean cut rather than using tin snips. However, there are a few little tricks to ensure a neat saw job.

Every single link has to be checked and finished by hand, using small files to finish the ends so that they can be soldered perfectly. Everything is in the preparation. a good join will solder well and look good. A bad join may not even solder at all.

As I file the ends I repeatedly check them back on the jig and ensure that they are all the same, identical and perfectly formed.

The links are then all closed shut, and checked for fit. Only when they fit perfectly are they set aside ready for soldering.
Initially half just of the links are soldered . This requires skill when making the later joins as to avoid melting the others. It can be done by using successively lower grades of solder, but in my pieces, only Hard solder is used with the highest purity of silver. I only do this at night, and solder in the dark so that I can see the colour of the metal, and avoid melting it. The final knot will have some six or more soldering joints all of the same solder, (i.e. it all melts at the same temperature) so this requires a great deal of skill and practice.
After pickling, in acid and cleaning, each link is checked, cleaned, and filed. Then "squared up" or rather figure 8'd up. In case they have bent during the soldering. Any unsatisfactory links are thrown into the melting pot. Uniformity is the key here, anything slightly out, must go. Hence why I always make a few extra as I go along.
When half the links are soldered. soldered figure 8 is hooked onto an unsoldered one, and the ends closed ready for soldering
Now the second link can be soldered, being careful not to melt the join on the first one. This is repeated with all the rest.
This forms two interlocked figure 8's which are both soldered closed. Now these pieces are returned to the jig and squared up again. Once more, all the pieces are filed, and cleaned in order to inspect the joins.

The tricky bit... by twisting one of the links around I form the knot shape. Everyone asks me how I get all the links the same size & shape. I'm afraid that's a little trade secret I'm keeping to myself. keeping all the links uniform is the secret to making a perfect chain.

here you can see the two figure 8's interlocked and ready to solder the final knot.

The whole knot is then soldered (it already has two solders) a further 4 solders are completed in order to fix the knot into its final shape. This is the most difficult part, as not to melt the other solder joins or completely melt the whole piece. At this point it is very easy to ruin a link. So patience and care is needed.
Each completed knot is then filed, sanded, cleaned and polished. At this point any additional soldering is done, and removing of tool marks. Having made a couple of links extra, I hand pick the best ones for the bracelet.

I feel that when making a hand made bracelet it defeats the purpose if you then attach a shop bought lobster catch. Hence I always make my own, to match the style of the bracelet.

Using similar techniques the hook clasp is made and soldered. Another little trade secret makes the hook "springy".

Finally a batch of jump rings are made, by winding a "spring" around a bar, similar to before. Forming a spring. This is then "sawn" to form little rings, which are then filed & cleaned. These tiny jump rings are used to join the links together and assemble the chain.

 

All the knots are connected with the jump rings and "all" are soldered. The final chain is then again, cleaned, filed, and polished. This is done using tiny brass wire brushes to burnish the silver. I also have a special barrelling machine which polishes the bracelet with small ball bearings.
BOXES

 

After final inspection, the bracelet is stamped 925 for sterling silver. Labelled and boxed ready for its new owner..

Site and jewellery created by Dave Wilson (C) 2003.

Website and all images ©2013 David Wilson. All items hand made soley by David Wilson.