BLACKMAILLE
Part 66 - Product Review: Jewelry Workshop Chainmail Jewelry Kits
by Lord Thomas the Black
 


BLACKMAILLE

Product Review: Jewelry Workshop Chainmail Jewelry Kits

            Welcome back to another edition of Blackmaille! This month, I'm going to take a look at a few maille jewelry kits available on the market, and see if they're the perfect beginners' projects, or if they're junk best left alone. Specifically, I'll be reviewing a selection of Jewelry Workshop's Chainmail Jewelry Kits. The specific kits I've chosen are as follows:

Byzantine Bracelet

European 4-in-1 Necklace

Helm Chain Necklace

Byzantine & Double Flower Earrings

Japanese 6-in-1 & Japanese Lattice Earrings

There is also a "Japanese 6-in-1 Bracelet" kit that I was unable to find in my area, and so I chose not to review it here. More kits are available in "Bead and Wire" and "Woven Wire" product lines, as well.
 

           

            All of these kits can be found at Michael's and Hobby Lobby stores nationwide, and retail for about $8.00. To me, this is a good price, as it's not so much that beginning maillers will be put off by the cost, and with everything but the pliers included in the kit, it's a good value for the money.
 

            All of these kits had some traits in common. For example:

  The instructions were clear and easy to follow in every kit.

  Instructions were in English and French, but the pictures were only on the English side.

  One needs to be careful opening the blister pack that the rings come in, as the pack can be stubborn, and it's incredibly easy to fling the tiny rings everywhere.

  The included jump ring opener takes some getting used to, and seems as if made for smaller fingers than mine, but works quite well once you get the hang of it.

  If you have big fingers, the tiny jump rings are easy to drop, and if you drop them, you're boned, as there are no spares in the package.

  The cuts on the jump rings look like they were snipped, but the hardness of the wire makes the closures solid. You don't need to worry about the rings coming open accidentally.

  These are not projects for on-the-go, as once a ring is dropped, it's just gone.

And so, on to the reviews...
 

Byzantine Bracelet

   

 

Text Box: Kit includes:
            172 4 mm gold-plated jump rings
            1 gold-plated bracelet clasp
            1 jump ring opener
            1 T-pin
            Instruction booklet
 

 
            This was the first kit I tackled. I have some experience with the Byzantine weave, but I put it aside to follow the instructions verbatim. Surprisingly, the instructions were very clear and easy to follow! The T-pin helped considerably with the small rings, and the finished bracelet not only looked great, but was heavier than I'd expected. The only downside, in fact (and it was more of an inconvenience than anything else), was that the clasp needed to be bent closed more to work properly. This project took about 2-3 hours to complete, and produced an 8" bracelet.
 

        

 

European 4-in-1 Necklace

   

 

Text Box: Kit includes:
            104 4mm silver-plated jump rings
            216 4mm gold-plated jump rings
            1 gold-plated necklace clasp
            1 T-pin
            2 2:1 necklace findings
            1 jump ring opener
            Instruction booklet
 

 

 
 

            In this kit, the rings all came jumbled together, and needed to be sorted out before work could begin. I don't know if it was a manufacturing cost thing or what, but I would have gladly paid a dollar or two more to get back the 30 minutes it took to sort 320 rings into their respective colors! Still, the instructions were well-done, and should be followed closely. Having experience with 4-in-1, I thought I'd be clever and put together fivelets like I usually do. Unfortunately, because of the size of the rings, connecting these basic units together with the jump ring tool quickly became a nightmare. Don't try to short-cut the directions! The stainless steel jump ring tool that came with this kit was nicer than the brass one that came with the bracelet, so I ended up using it for the other kits (even though they came with their own jump ring openers). Also, I don't know if it was just the tiny rings, or my failing eyesight as I get old, but I eventually had to resort to a magnifying glass to see what I was doing. Still, the kit enabled me to finish an 18" necklace in about 2.5 hours total.
 

          

 

Helm Chain Necklace

   

 

Text Box: Kit includes:
            146 6.5mm silver-plated jump rings
            102 4mm silver-plated jump rings
            1 jump ring opener
            1 T-pin
            1 silver-plated necklace clasp
            Instruction booklet

 


            Again, all the rings come jumbled together, requiring sorting. Unlike the last two projects, the silver necklace clasp didn't need to be closed before it worked. The helm chain project went together relatively easily compared to the 4-in-1 project, possibly owing to my following the instructions instead of trying to circumvent them. Oddly, a T-pin was included in this kit, but wasn't used anywhere in the instructions! Also, the large (6.5mm) rings "pringled" surprisingly easily, needing to be bent back into shape before continuing. Again, I have experience with the helm chain pattern, but not as much as others. This kit produced an 18" necklace in about 3 hours.
 

      

 

Byzantine & Double Flower Earrings 

   

Text Box: Kit includes:
            18 10mm gold-plated jump rings
            92 4mm gold-plated jump rings
            4 gold-plated ear hooks
            1 jump ring opener
            1 T-pin
            Instruction booklet
 

 

 


            Wow! Two projects in one kit! Talk about value! Ok, not really, since both pairs of earrings took less work than even half of the bracelet project, but still... For some reason, this is the only kit I had extra rings left over at the end of. I'm not sure why. I re-read the directions to make sure I hadn't skipped a step, and counted the rings used, and sure enough, four extra rings in the package. Oh, well. The Double Flower weave was easy, consisting of three sets of three 10mm rings linked together, and the Byzantine instructions were almost verbatim the same ones from the bracelet kit. In fact, most of the booklet consisted of the Byzantine instructions, with the Double Flower weave added almost as an afterthought! Still, the earrings went together fairly quickly, with the Double Flowers taking about 20 minutes, and the Byzantine taking roughly 45 minutes. As an added bonus, I found that the Byzantine earrings in particular allow for added customization by simply adding a decorative bead to the end of the weave!
 

         

 

 Japanese 6-in-1 & Japanese Lattice Earrings

   

 

Text Box: Kit includes:
            84 6mm silver-plated jump rings
            152 3mm silver-plated jump rings
            1 jump ring opener
            1 T-pin
            4 silver-plated ear hooks
            Instruction booklet

 

 
             Holy Monkey! I thought the 4mm rings were small! The 3mm rings look very nice on the finished earrings, but with my unfortunate combination of bad eyesight and big fingers, they were almost impossible to work with. Again, I broke out the magnifying glass. The earring projects were actually fairly easy, but here again, the rings had to be sorted first, and again, a T-pin was included that wasn't called for in the directions. Still, the finished products look very nice, and can also be customized with drop beads at the bottoms. The J 6-in-1 earrings took about 45 minutes, while the lattice earrings only took about 20 minutes to finish.
 

    


Conclusion

             All told, these kits were a good beginner project for those wishing to get into maille for the first time. Each kit was inexpensive, included everything you needed to complete it (except for the pliers, of course), took only a few hours to complete, and resulted in beautiful jewelry that looks at least as good as anything you can buy in the store. Best of all, since the sizes of the rings is listed right on the package, if you want to make (for example) the Byzantine bracelet in silver rings instead of gold, you can just buy the rings you want and go from there!

             I found these to be a very good value for the money, and a good choice for an afternoon project for beginners and seasoned maillers alike. And my wife loves the finished jewelry! Go down to your local Hobby Lobby or Michael's store today and pick up some of these kits!

            Thanks for joining me for another month of Blackmaille! As usual, any questions, comments, fan mail, or hate mail can be sent to me at:

Tom Beckett
13628 Belmead Ave
Grandview, MO 64030
Attn: Blackmaille

Or you can email me at: tbeckett1@kc.rr.com

             See you next month!



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