Tools and Techniques

Making Split Rings in Quantity

December 4, 2017

A common piece used on a model ship is a split ring.  Often made from brass, these are small rings that are cut open at one spot.  By twisting the ring you can open it up or close it back.

My wife runs a jewelry company, and she calls these ‘jump rings’.  She buys them in bulk because they go through thousands of them.  I could ask her for some (they’re cheap), but she buys them in various types of gold suitable for jewelry.  I don’t need to bling out my boat with gold.

A model ship kit will usually come with a bunch of rings, but what if you need more?  Making a single ring is pretty easy – just wrap some wire around some round nose pliers and cut.  Sometimes, though, you need a lot of rings fast.  While working on my Bluenose build, I decided to substitute rings for the hanks to secure sails to their stays.  I needed to make several dozen rings, and making them one at a time would be tedious and would result in a bunch of slightly different rings.

So, here’s the method I used to mass-produce split rings.  (I’m sure I learned this from somewhere…this is not an original idea.)

  1. Start with some brass wire that is the thickness you want for the rings.
  2. Find something round, with the diameter that matches the size of rings you want to make.  I used a piece of brass tube.
  3. Wrap the wire around the tube tightly.
  4. Slide the tube out.
  5. Use some cutters to snip your way through the coil.

Start with some brass wire and something round, like a tube.


Wrap the wire around the tube.


Remove the wire.


Using shears, cut straight down one side of the coil.


Boom.  Split rings.


Some tips…

Make sure the brass wire you use is bendable enough, yet will hold its shape.  I use a 22 gauge wire.

For a tube to wrap around, I use some brass tubing.  A while back I picked up a package of ‘assorted brass tubing’, which contains various sizes of tubing.  By switching the size of the tubing, I can make rings in nearly any size.

The tighter you wrap, the better your rings turn out.