Product Review – Koil Kutter, Koil Winder, John Fetvedt’s Mandrels

by bethwicker on March 17, 2010

I brought John Fetvedt in for a chain making workshop in January, and he recommended Dave Arens’ Koil Kutter and Koil Winder (available from [email protected]) for making jump rings.  Since my daughter is a chain maille junky, I ordered both, and got John’s set of mandrels to use with the winder (http://www.bijoux-de-terre.com/).  When my daughter gets going on chain maille, you had better be ordering wire in hundreds of feet – she goes through it FAST <grin>!

She has been home on Spring Break the last two weeks, and the Koil Winder and Koil Kutter have really gotten a workout!  I have been extremely pleased with both, and love John Fetvedt’s mandrel set.

The Koil Winder is a manual winder that you can mounter permanently (I have it screwed into my Kobalt workbench), or you can use it with a clamp if you want to be able to take it with you.  It opens and closes through a wide range of widths to hold mandrels to make jump rings in a huge range of sizes.  It is very easy to use.  The smaller mandrels from John do not have a hole drilled to hold the wire, so you make a right hand turn with pliers in the end of the wire and insert it into the slot in the winder.

end of wire bent to insert into slot in winder

end of wire bent to insert into slot in winderbent end inserted into winder

The larger mandrels have a hole, and you insert your bent end into that to hold the wire while you wind it around the mandrel.  Once you have your wire secured, you hold it with one hand and wind the crank with the other.  I have mine mounted so that I hold with the left hand and crank with the right.  If you are doing very many, you will need something to protect your hands from the wire or you’ll get blisters or worse.  I use a neat product called Tuff Brake from Warg Enamels (http://www.wargetc.com).  It doesn’t show on their product list, but they do keep it in stock and it is WONDERFUL stuff!  It is thin but tough, flexible, and protects both you and what you are working with.  It is one of my “must keep in stock” items.  Lasts a long time too, so well worth the purchase.

using Tuff Brake to guide and feed the wire into the winder

using Tuff Brake to guide and feed the wire into the winder

You want to keep your wire laid on nice and evenly.  If it gets gaps, wind it back, straighten, and start again.  The gaps will cause problems when you start cutting your coil, so fix them as they happen!  Once you get about 3 – 3 1/2 inches wound, then remove the coil.  If you are using a small mandrel, you can just slip the coil off the end.  If you are using a larger mandrel where you fed the wire into a hole, take pliers to pull the wire out of the hole, then pull the coil off.

using pliers to remove the wire from the mandrel hole

using pliers to remove the wire from the mandrel hole

Once you have it off, snip off any wires sticking out at either end.  Then put a piece of masking tape on the top of the coil, running the whole length of the coil.  Use whatever form of saw lubricant you prefer to run across the length of the masking tape.

masking tape applied to coil and lubricated

masking tape applied to coil and lubricated

Now set the coil into the cutting Koil Kutter coil holder with the masking tape face up.

coil set in coil holder

coil set in coil holder

Now take the craft stick that is included and gently push the coil to the left, into the stop that is part of the underneath side of the cutting guide.  Note:  when you are using the holder, it is easier to set the left screw by the stop to the desired height, and leave it alone.  Just remove and replace the right screw.  If you have trouble screwing it in do NOT force it – gently back it out and try again.   When it is aligned properly it will screw in easily. Next screw the top of the holder down.  It is important to screw it down just until it is straight – do NOT let it bend on either end!  You are not screwing it tightly, just lightly enough to hold the coil steady.  If the top guide is bent you will have trouble cutting your coil!

here you can see the stop under the guide

here you can see the stop under the guide

using the craft stick to gently nudge the coil into the stop

using the craft stick to gently nudge the coil into the stop

Now you are ready to cut.  When you order your Koil Kutter, either let Dave know what model of rotary tool you will be using (he makes them for Dremel, Flexshaft and Proxxon), or you can order a Proxxon rotary tool from Dave.  The Koil Kutter is an arbor designed specifically for each rotary tool that fits on the tool, and holds the included blade (you can order extras from Dave also) at the correct position so that only the top of the jump ring is cut.  It is not hard to get it attached, but it is finicky, and once you have it on you probably want to leave it there.  I recommend purchasing a rotary tool you can dedicate just to jump rings, so that you don’t drive yourself crazy putting the arbor on and aligning it and taking it off and repeating!

arbor and blade mounted on my Dremel 400

arbor and blade mounted on my Dremel 400

Note: you will, of course, be wearing safety glasses for the next bit!  I recommend ones that wrap around, as I find tiny bits of metal attacking my face.  I go for more coverage rather than less.

Make sure the speed on your rotary tool is set to the highest level possible!  If you have it set low, it will not cut well!

The genius of this too (or part of it anyway), is the way this nifty arbor sits nicely on the coil holder, fitting the blade right into the slit in the top guide.  You gently fit it onto the holder with the blade in the slit, turn your rotary tool on, GENTLY slide it from right to left NOT pressing down, just letting it glide!  When you get to the left end it will hit the stop.  At that point turn it off THEN lift the rotary tool off the coil holder and guide.  Do NOT lift it while the blade is spinning!  Set the rotary tool to one side, and remove the top guide off the coil holder.

jump rings nicely cut, and mostly held together by the tape

jump rings nicely cut, and mostly held together by the tape

If you secure the tape down the sides, it generally holds most or all of the jump rings in place.  If you try it without the tape, as you cut jump rings go flying about the studio.  Then you get to do the “jeweler’s bend” and go hunt for them.  Not fun.  I have tried it with tape on the bottom instead of the top, and it seems to work better with the tape on the top.  Your mileage may vary.

Your rings will have tiny burs where they were cut, and will need to be finished to remove them at some point.  I generally tumble mine using Rio Super Sunsheen liquid burnishing compound (http://www.riogrande.com/MemberArea/SearchPage.aspx?page=GRID&free_text=tumbling&first_answer=61), and do this after my daughter has finished her piece and any clasps have been made and added.  Then everything has the same finish, and I’m only tumbling once!

The mandrel set from John Fetvedt (http://www.bijoux-de-terre.com/) is really nice, and comes with a stand to hold the mandrels, and a “map” that shows where each mandrel is and what size it is.  When you are doing precision chain maille, you have to use very specific mandrels to create exactly the correct size of jump ring to make the pattern work.  I love the “map”, and keep it right with my mandrel set on my bench.

mandrel set and "map"

mandrel set and

The only other cutting mechanism for jump rings I have tried was a hand made one I picked up at a swap meet, and you used a saw to cut them.  It was MUCH slower and I was never quite happy with the jump rings.  User error, probably, but with the Koil Kutter I can keep up with my daughter’s demand for jump rings quickly and easily with very few “bad” jump rings.  Any “bad” ones go in the scrap pile to melt and use again.

bethwicker

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Pembleton April 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I love Dave’s Koil Kutter. I use it all of the time for aluminum, 14/20 gold, silver, copper, brass, silicone bronze (very hard), silver plate and silver-filled. I just put a short section on fishing line through the center of the coil before I cut them. This keeps the rings together.

Beth Wicker April 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

So far I’ve only cut silver and copper with it. E-mail Dave and ask him – he is always very helpful!

Bette Luksha-Gammell April 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

Have you ever used it to cut soft aluminum coils?

Jordan October 25, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Hi, I just looked on John’s web site and can’t find the mandrel set. Am I just over looking it, or is it not there? They are away until 30 Oct, so I was just wondering if you could help me here. Thanks very much. Jordan.

Kitty Davidson October 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Thanks, Beth…the information is excellent. I just bought the Koil Kutter, and I love it!! I’m new to the cutting end, and learned a lesson today right off the get go. Cut over 2000 rings, then bingo..my saw blade broke. I had found that I was tightening the right had screw tighter than I should. I had a slight bend…duh, actually I know better. So to contribute to the Jump Ring junkies out there, lesson to be learned. Don’t cut when your tired 🙂 By the way…congratulations, this article on the Kutter is absolutely on target.

Michele April 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Can you tell me how I can contact Dave Arens to buy a Koil Kutter? I’m finally ready.

Beth Wicker March 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

You could ask John about the spring back…. I know he did say to be aware that different degrees of hardness would react differently. I use soft or 1/2 hard, and it seems to be holding shape fine. I am NOT an expert though! John is!

Rina March 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm

thanks for doing this Beth. Very comprehensive. Can you tell me if the map for the mandrel set takes into account the variations in spring back for different metals, such as copper vs. dead soft silver?

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