How to Cut Chains
There are a variety of reasons you may need to cut a chain. Many people need to cut chains when they have lost the key to a lock or they need a chain to be a specific length. It may be that you just need to cut a necklace chain to shorten a necklace that is too long. Whatever the reason and the type of chain you have, with the right tools and technique, you can make short work of cutting through a chain.
Cutting Chain With Bolt Cutters
Find bolt cutters that are large enough to cut your chain.Bolt cutters come in a variety of sizes. Find a pair that is big enough so that the chain you want to cut will fit between the cutting blades when the cutters are in the open position.
- If you have a large pair of bolt cutters, such as a 24 inches (61 cm) pair, they should be big enough to cut most common chains.
Pick out the link to cut.If you need to cut a chain to a specific length, you should measure the chain and mark the link that you want to cut. Remember, the link you cut will be destroyed, so you should mark the link past the length that you need.
- It may be helpful to put a mark on the link with a marker, just so you don't lose sight of which one to cut.
Position the bolt cutters on the link.You should try to put the link as far back between the cutting blades as possible. However, if you are cutting a large chain, you only want to put one side of the link between the blades at one time.
- Position the cutters so that you are cutting through the long side of the link. This will make it easier to position the cutters in place.
- Putting the link towards the back of the cutters will give you more leverage when cutting through it.
Cut both sides of the link.In order for the chain to break apart, you will need to cut a link on both sides. If you were to cut just one side, the link would be weakened but would not fall apart.
- If your chain is large, you may need to cut one side of the link at a time.
- If you have a small chain, you can cut both sides of the chain at once.
Using a Saw to Cut Chain
Pick a saw to use.If you don’t have bolt cutters or you have a hardened metal chain that bolt cutters won’t cut through, you can use a saw instead. There are a wide variety of saws that will effectively cut through a chain. Saws that are commonly used to cut chain can be manual or powered and include:
Decide which link to cut.If you are cutting the chain to a specific length, measure the chain and mark the specific link that needs to be cut. Be aware that the link you cut will be destroyed, so the link you want to cut should be the one right after your desired length.
- Put a mark with a marker on the link you want to cut so that you can keep track of it as you go through the process of setting up your cut.
Secure the chain in a clamp or vise.It’s important to make sure that the chain link you are cutting won’t move while you are cutting through it. To accomplish this, put the chain in a vice or secure it to a solid surface with clamps. However you secure it, make sure the link you need to cut is in a position that allows you to cut it.
- If the chain is attached to something, such as if it is held together with a lock, find a link to cut that can be steadied either with your hands or against what it is attached to. However, be aware that it is hard to saw through a chain by just holding it your hands while sawing.
Saw through one link.Position the blade across the link and begin sawing, either by turning on your power tool or by moving your manual saw across the metal. Keep sawing until both sides of the link are cut in two.
- If you are using a manual saw, take your time and adjust your position if necessary. It can take a lot of energy to cut through a large chain.
- Once you have cut through the link, it will be unusable. It should be easy to pull out of the remaining solid chain pieces.
Cutting Small Jewelry Chain
Get small cutting pliers.To cut small chains, such as necklace chains, you need small pliers that can cut through metal. These are often called “nippers,” or wire cutters. Small pliers such as this can be found at any home improvement or craft supply store.
- If you are just cutting chain one time, use whatever small pliers you have. If you plan on cutting a lot of chain, you may want to purchase small jeweler’s pliers, which are made to cut chain.
Line up the link you want to cut in the pliers.Put the link inside the very tip of the pliers. Be sure to position the link so that the pliers will only cut one link.
- It won’t take a lot of pressure to cut through very small chain, so you don’t have to position it in the very back of the cutting area like you do with large chain.
Cut the chain and remove the link pieces that were cut.Squeeze the pliers until the link is cut in half. With a small chain, this shouldn’t take much pressure. In many cases, the cut link pieces will fall out of the rest of the chain immediately after being cut.
- In some cases you will need to use small-nosed pliers to pull out the pieces of chain that you cut from the ends of the chain.
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