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Tutorial - Creating Chain-like Plied Wire

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On my WIP thread I am using a piece of plied wire to represent a chain on a character who weilds one. I offered to post a tutorial on the technique, so here we are.
Plied wire is a technique used by the Vikings to create jewlery - typically they took four wires of silver or gold and created a bracelet or ring.  However, the end result is very chain-like, so I thought it could be useful in miniatures for making a chain.  Here are a few examples of the wire:
It isn't exactly a chain, but it does read like one.  In order to properly do this tutorial, however, I need to start be explaining the difference between an "S" and a "Z" spin.  Whenever you twist two strands together, when you look at it vertically the spin will go in one direction or the other - Upper left to bottom right, or bottom left to upper right.  Even if you flip the cord, the spin will be in the same direction.  I've illustrated the spins here:




I've drawn over the wire in red, the first is an "S" spin, the second a "Z" spin.  This is important as basic process is to twist two sets of two wires together in the same spin, then twist those two sets with each other in the opposite spin.  Here is a step by step explanation:


First you will need wire.  This example is 22 gauge steel wire, which was actually slightly large for what I needed it for.  24 or 26 gauge wire is good for wire for the mini to hold, but I have used this technique with as large as 14 gauge wire.  You can obtain many sorts of wire from the hardware store - check the "Picture hanging" and "Wiring" section.  Steel wire will create a fairly rigid result which is still pliable enough to shape, but copper will be easier to work with in general.


Start with two strands - each of these strands should be over twice your desired final length (we will cut the result in half, and twisting will reduce the length.)  Remember, you can always cut down the final result, but you can't add to it.  I used two pairs of locking pliers, but you can also use one pair and a clamp.  I also used leather to hold the wire, but this isn't necessary if the wire is strong enough - it will mark the ends but you won't use the ends anwyay:




In my experience you will need the leather for 24 gauge copper as it can shear from the pliers, otherwise you will probably find it more of a hindrance as the wires will pull out.  Twist the wire in one direction, keep backward pressure on the plier(s) so that the wire does not bunch up while you twist it.




When it is fairly tight, unclasp it and cut the wire in half.  A normal pair of wire cutters might do it at this piont, I used a pair of 10" end snips, there are of course other options.  Now, note the spin:




I have a Z spin here.  Clamp down both ends between your pliers and twist in the opposite direction - so in this case I want to see the wire going over the other top left to bottom right




Again, keep backward pressure on your plier to prevent it from bunching.  You'll note here I stopped using the leather, as it kept pulling out.  Keep twisting until you have reached your desired look.




Then unclamp it and cut off the ends - you may need a better cutting tool for this, as at this point you're cutting through four wires.




The end result is still flexible, but holds its shape very well.  You can use pliers to make tight bends

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I've used a cordless drill to twist wires before and it worked well. I doubled over one end to form aloop and either placed the loop in a vice or around a hook then chucked the two ends into the drill, chose a direction and hit the trigger. Just be careful not to overtwist it. I don''t see why a brace wouldn't work as well though it might be a bit unweildly.

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out of curiosity (because I just found one in the shed the other day) would a clamp and a hand cranked drill (I know they have a proper name, can't think of it) work as a faster way of doing this? 



 Shadow, the hand drill may or may not work with really small wire, but I've done something similar when twisting larger steel wire for outdoor uses.



I've used a cordless drill to twist wires before and it worked well. I doubled over one end to form aloop and either placed the loop in a vice or around a hook then chucked the two ends into the drill, chose a direction and hit the trigger. Just be careful not to overtwist it. I don''t see why a brace wouldn't work as well though it might be a bit unweildly.

A drill works just fine for the initial twist - I've used a drill to twist large amounts of wire for wire-wrapped sword-hilts (real ones - well, real hilts, fencing swords.)  For the second twist, it looks like Fishnjeeps already tried it - so that's fine too.  I know there's a gentleman out in Chicago who uses a drill to make Viking bracelets, though he's working with a much higher gauge than you'd use for minis.

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