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Advanced Power Winding


I have been hand-winding my coils for 7.5 years. I finally decided (although
had been thinking about for a good long time) to start power winding. My
main goals were the ability to quickly wind coils in any size (inner diameter)
from 3/32" up to 1/2", using wires from .030" up to .104", as well as for the
operation to be safe and easy to use.

I picked up a good electric drill awhile back. It is a 5 amp, variable speed,
reversible Mastercraft drill with a 1/2" keyed chuck. Any drill of similar
nature will work with this setup. I recommend a keyed chuck, as with this
style, you can tighten the mandrel in the drill better. The drill must be
variable speed as well. You will need a workbench or some flat surface on
which to mount the structures being used. It has to be something that you
don't mind putting a few holes in. I just used an old bookshelf.

Three different things need to be made for this setup: a mandrel holder, a
drill holder, and a wire guide. You will need some wood to make the
mandrel holder and the drill holder. Observe the pictures to see what works
well. As well you will need some hardware to put everything together. I used
3 1/2" wood screws to hold the mandrel holder together, and 5/16" carriage
bolts and nuts to bolt things down. You will also need some good strong
wire to make the wire guide (but I'm sure you already have that). The
mandrel being used in this demonstration is 7/16".

Now, let's make some sawdust.
Step 1:

The first thing you will need to do is bolt a piece of wood down to your
workbench. All this piece of wood really does is elevate the mandrel holder,
which you will be making shortly, as well as contain bolts which you will
add that will hold the mandrel holder in place and allow it to be put in five
different positions.

Step 2:

You have to make sure the bolt ends do not stick out the top of the piece of
wood. I used 5/16" carriage bolts, and after drilling two 5/16" holes through
the piece of wood and the bookshelf to which I attached the piece of wood, I
used a 3/4" drill bit to add a shallow larger hole to accommodate the end of
the bolt, so that it is flush with the top of the piece of wood.
Step 3:

Next, make a structure similar to the one shown below. This is called the
mandrel holder. It is simply made with three pieces of wood; two screwed
onto the ends of the one that will sit flat atop the board which is bolted to the
The total length of the mandrel holder will be based on the lengths of your
mandrels. The ones I am going to be using are 18 inches long. You have to
make sure the mandrel holder is a little shorter than the length of the
mandrels you will be using so that part of the mandrel can go in the drill's

Step 4:

The next thing to do is drill at least four holes through the piece of wood in
the mandrel setup, and also through the piece of wood that you have already
bolted to the workbench. You don't have to go through the workbench
though, so you should take that board off the workbench and re-attach it
afterwards. It is important that these holes are the same distance apart from
each other. They also must line up properly. I made the holes on my setup 2-
1/2 inches apart.
Step 5:

I messed up the first set of holes (they didn't line up properly), so I drilled
another set of them. You have to put bolts through the piece of wood which
was originally bolted to the workbench. These bolts are used to hold the
mandrel holder.
Step 6:

You also have to make sure the bolt ends of these bolts are flush with the
piece of wood and don't protrude, so you can bolt it back down to the
workbench. Make sure they're in there pretty snug too so there isn't much
Step 7:

Now bolt the piece of wood back down to the workbench. This is what the
mandrel setup looks like when it is held in place by the bolts just added. It is
adjustable to five different positions. The reason for this is so that you can
have different sized holes in the two opposing boards to better accomodate
mandrels of different sizes.
The setup is shown at its left-most position:

The setup is shown at its right-most position:
Step 8:

Now fashion a drill holder out of some wood. It will hold the drill in place
while winding.

The drill will not be high enough with this device alone.
Step 9:

Cut some boards to length to use to elevate the drill.
Step 10:

Bolt the boards down to the work bench. Put it in place so that the drill
chuck will be right up against the mandrel holder.

Step 11:

Now screw the drill holder to the boards.
Step 12:

Put the drill in the drill holder; it's chuck right against the mandrel holder.
Use a pencil to draw a circle on the wood around where the end of the drill
is. You are going to be drilling a hole through the mandrel holder where the
mandrel will go through it.

Step 13:

Do the same for all five positions of the mandrel holder.
Step 14:

Take both end boards off the mandrel holder and draw lines though each of
these circles so there is a cross at the exact center of each circle. Then drill
holes in each of these five spots. I drilled 1/8", 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", and 5/8"
holes. Make sure the boards are perfectly lined up and drill through both at
the same time.

Step 15:

For the smaller three holes (1/8", 1/4", and 3/8"), you will need to drill a
shallow 1/2" hole to accomodate the drill chuck which will protrude slightly
when you have a smaller mandrel in it.
Step 16:

Now drill holes above each of these five holes through both boards. These
holes should all be the same size. These holes will be used to hold the dowel
which will accomodate the wire guide. I drilled 5/8" holes, because I will be
using a 5/8" dowel for the wire guide.
Step 17:

Now you can re-attach the two end boards of the mandrel holder, as all the
holes have finally been drilled (for this part).
Step 18:

Put a mandrel through the mandrel holder and into the drill. You will have to
pull the drill back a bit from the mandrel holder to tighten the mandrel using
the key, if your drill has a keyed chuck.

Step 19:

After you've tightened the mandrel into the drill, push the drill right up to the
mandrel holder.
Step 20:

Now place a mark on the mandrel, fairly close to the board on the mandrel
holder. This is where you are going to drill a hole through the mandrel itself.
Step 21:

Using a punch and hammer put a small divot where the mark is on the
mandrel. This will help you drill the hole through the mandrel, as it will help
keep the drill bit from slipping.

Step 22:

Now comes the worst part: drilling through steel. If you have, or have access
to a drill press, this will make things much easier. If not, put the mandrel in a
vice to hold it from rolling. It's best to start with a small drill bit and work
your way up. I first drilled a 1/16" hole through the (7/16") mandrel, then
used a 7/64" drill bit to make the hole the proper size. The size of hole to
drill is slightly larger than the largest wire size you plan on winding on the
mandrel. In this case, I drilled a 7/64" hole in my 7/16" mandrel to
accommodate a maximum wire size of .109". Tis’ also a good idea to use
cutting oil when drilling so that the drill bit does not get too hot, and does
not dull out as quickly. You have to drill a hole in each of the mandrels you
plan on using with this setup. This is by far the trickiest step, and if you have
a lot of mandrels, it will be a real pain in the butt, but it will be worth it in
the end once they're finished.
Step 23:

After the hole is drilled in the mandrel, set everything up as shown. You will
need to put your wire guide dowel through the holes above where the
mandrel you're currently working with is.
Step 24:

The next step is to make a wire guide. This device will feed the wire onto the
mandrel and make perfect coils, keeping your hands from getting close to
the quickly spinning mandrel. Make it out of a piece of fairly strong wire. I
used .080 stainless steel. Wrap it around the mandrel a few times first, and
then around the wire guide dowel a few times. Then bend the metal back
down and make an eye. The eye should line up with the hole in the mandrel
when the wire guide is first set up to be used. If it is too far away from it,
(i.e. too far to the left in this case), then you will get looser coils, and that's
not something serious chainmaillers want. You will have to make a wire
guide for each mandrel you plan on using with this setup.

Note: This wire guide is based on a design by one lordaaronj of The
Chainmaille Board.
Step 25:

Feed your wire through the eye on the wire guide, then through the hole in
the mandrel.

Step 26:

Now start winding with the drill. Start off slowly. If you're not careful, the
wire will try to wind the wrong way, so try to avoid that by pulling the wire
to the left a bit with your hand (keep your hand well away from the
mandrel). Make sure the dowel holding the wire guide doesn't slip out, and
while winding, keep the drill chuck against the mandrel holder to ensure the
opposite end of the mandrel doesn't slip out either. I should note that I have
the drill in reverse mode so that I end up with right-handed rings (more
about ring orientation is mentioned later in the article).
Step 27:

Keep winding until you have a coil of good length (usually the whole length
of the mandrel holder), then cut the small bit of wire where it goes in the
hole on the mandrel.

Now you have a perfect coil. If your coil is not perfectly tight, you might
have to adjust the wire guide a bit.
Additional notes:

It is far easier to use this setup with wire on a spool. This way you can make
a wire dispenser that will feed the wire consistently. If you use bulk wire, it
will try to tangle on you, and you'll likely want to cut off lengths of wire
before winding.

Feel free to modify this design to your own liking, or to your own benefit. If
you only plan on using a few mandrel sizes, you can pretty much skip steps
4 - 7. Another option for making the mandrel holder positioning variable
would be the use of a track of somekind, not that unlike what is used on a
desk with a keyboard tray.

Make sure your drill holder doesn't cover up any vent holes on the drill.
Ring orientation:

Rings can be made in either of two orientations: right-handed or left-handed.
I have setup this operation to create coils which yield right-handed rings.
There are two options for changing this: 1. if you have a reversible drill, you
can reverse it to change the way the coils will be wound, or 2. you can drill
the hole in the mandrel on the opposite end and make your coils the opposite
way. I use my drill in reverse mode, with the mandrel hole on the end where
the drill is.


Since the writing of this article, I have made significant changes to this
setup. I have obtained a full set of mandrels from 3/32" to 1/2" in 1/64"
increments. Each was custom drilled for me. I have also turned the whole
thing around and use my left hand on the drill instead of my right. Instead of
using a 5/8" wire guide rod, I now use a 1/4" one that is a bit closer to where
the mandrel will be, and on a slight angle to it, instead of directly above it.