Viking Knit Chain – Dowels and Petals

The next bit of info on viking knit chain will be on using what size dowel and number of petals to use for your jewelry project.  It might be a little confusing at first, but it will start to make sense in a bit.

In case you haven't seen them yet, you may want to take a look at the three viking knit posts I've made so far:

Now on to dowels and petals, and how you select based on your wire gauge and desired look for your project.

What are Dowels?

Viking KNit Dowels, Metal and Wood (Click to Enlarge)

Viking Knit Dowels, Metal and Wood (Click to Enlarge)

Dowels, when it comes to viking knit at least, are the mandrels you use to stabilize your work.  Dowels can be wood or metal, and can be round or hexagonal (like an allen wrench).  Sizes can be from 5/32" up through 1".  The most common sizes I've seen used are between 3/16" and 1/2".

Wooden dowels, in a variety of diameters, are readily available in your local Michael's Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann, etc.  I went to get another few yesterday, and they ranged from $.59 to $.99 each.  Considering they are 3 feel long, I can saw them into 9" pieces and have 4 from each rod.  (You'll understand why I like plenty of dowels later in this post.)

Some viking knit instructions have you using an allen wrench, some a wooden dowel.  Both have advantages and disadvantages, so I'd suggest you try both ways and then choose the method that works best for you.  The chain looks the same either way.

What are Petals?

Wire Petals, Off and On the Dowel (Click to Enlarge)

Wire Petals, Off and On the Dowel (Click to Enlarge)

Once you have your dowel, it's time to decide how many petals you want to use.  But first...what the heck are petals?

For viking knit, petals are what start your first row of the chain.  They aren't supposed to look good, and in fact look kind of funky.  The only thing important is that the bottoms of the petals are even.  You'll eventually discard the inital petals, but they are handy for something to hang onto while you are pulling the chain through the drawplate.

The number of petals is part of what determines the thickness of your viking knit chain, and its eventual look.

Dowels, Petals, Wire and Viking Knit Chain

It all comes together here, the combination of dowel diameter, number of petals and gauge of the wire.

Here's the general rule:  the smaller the gauge of wire, the more petals.  The larger the diameter of the mandrel, the more petals.  Now obviously you can break these rules -- what's the fun if you can't experiment?  But if you're just starting out learning, you might want to try a 1/4" mandrel with 5 petals and 24 gauge wire.  This will give you a nice chain that can work in a variety of jewelry styles.

Once you've got the hang of the viking knit chain, branch out and try different numbers of petals.  Different size mandrels.  Different gauges of wires.  Build your chain library with 3" lengths of the various combinations and remember to label the chain with all the information!

A Tip for Starting a Chain

I hate starting chains; I spend the first couple of inches just getting it all even and looking right.  Then I got an idea; it works for me and I hope it works for you, too.

I have a variety of mandrels/dowels, in different sizes and number of petals.  I may have three dowels the same diameter, but one might have 4 petals, another 5 petals and yet another 6 or 7 petals.  (Now you understand why I like plenty of dowels.)

When I make a chain, I make an extra inch or so and leave that extra on the dowel.  That way when I'm ready to work on that particuar size and number of petals again, I already have something ready.  No need to spend the time getting another chain started; it's waiting for me.

Especially when I am working with silver or gold-filled wire, I like using copper wire for that last inch because it gives me something to hang onto when using the drawplate.  The end I use to hang onto tends to get a bit mangled, and I'd just as soon that mangled bit be a less expensive wire!

So there you have the basics of viking knit.  I'll cover finishing your viking knit chain next time....not to mention some finshed viking knit jewelry!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *