Did you know that there are two main wire gauge measurements that we use in the United States? The first wire gauge measurement is the “Standard Wire Gauge” or SWG. The SWG is primarily used for industrial metals such as aluminum, steel, etc. The second, and the measurement used for making the Artistic Wire® Chain Maille Jump Rings is the “American Wire Gauge” or AWG, also referred to “Brown & Sharpe”.
The AWG is the primary gauge system for nonferrous metals or precious metals. And to confuse you further the larger the gauge number the smaller the wire diameter!
Why is this important you ask? The SWG wire measurements tend to run smaller than the AWG wire measurement. Say the instructions call for your jump rings to be 18 AWG and you purchase 18 SWG rings. You will find more likely than not that the SWG rings will actually be a smaller wire diameter than the AWG even though they are both 18 gauge rings. This means that the SWG rings may be too small for the chainmaille pattern to work.
Another term thrown around in chainmaille is Aspect Ratio. What the heck is that? Well, quite simply it is the way of describing how thick or thin a jump ring is. Technically the AR is equal to the inner diameter of the ring divided by the wire diameter of the ring. If you are a beginner, I wouldn’t worry about AR at this juncture. Most chainmaille instructions that you purchase or find for free on the Internet will tell you what size jump rings you should use.
Jump ring mandrel sizes. To make a jump ring the raw wire is wrapped around what is called a mandrel. Mandrels come in two basic measurements for chainmaille, inches and millimeters. You may have noticed on the Artistic Wire® Chain Maille Jump Rings packaging that the jump rings are listed by wire gauge (18Ga) and then in inches (9/64”), then in millimeters (3.57mm). This is because instruction writers will list their jump rings in either inches, millimeters, or if you’re really lucky both! Some creative chainmaillers use aluminum knitting needles or wooden dowels as mandrels.
And the final fun fact about jump rings is that they can “fly”! Just try holding the jump ring in your pliers to tightly and you will see what I mean!
Beadalon Design Team Member