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Making Bracelet End Links


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I have several vintage watches with twisted, bent or warped end links. I also have some nice vintage bracelets that are missing the end links completely. Some of them are rare enough that finding replacements is out of the question.

Case in point: my gorgeous ‘73 Pencron. Both end links were damaged, but one was terrible. I made a new end link for it tonight using 0.3mm SS and mandrels I made from 3mm, 6mm and 8mm square stock. I’ll replace the other eventually, but it’s not bad.

The mandrels that I made will allow me to make a wide variety of end links and eventually, my own SS bracelets. 😉
 

Pictured is the old beat up link and the new one, installed.

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Edited by PinLeverPete
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As this isn’t really a “walkthrough”, I’ll just post some pics and descriptions here. You can fill in the blanks 😉

Here is a picture of tonight’s project and it’s original bent and scratched end link:

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The end product will basically be a piece of rectangular SS tubing with a butt or lap seam at the back (or could have the ends tucked into a “B” shape, etc...I started mandrels for this, but probably won’t pursue that route as it’s over-complicated).

The key is keeping the face clamped flat, so it won’t warp, while making the bends. That, and making the last bend on the bracelet. You can’t bend it back without warping.

Cut your SS larger than needed: measure the width of your lugs, then add 2-4mm. Cut a strip about 2cm long and the width needed.

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Edited by PinLeverPete
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Bend the strip around your mandrel (I am currently using 3/16”, AKA 4.65mm, square stock from Lowe’s and it has been perfect for end links).

Clamp the SS (at the midpoint and perpendicular to the length) in between your mandrel and a flat hard metal surface and bend one flap over (don’t clamp too hard or you’ll damage the metal). Press down hard with a flat metal tool (flat head screwdriver?) to get those bends sharp. I actually rolled mine flat with a large spark plug socket. Fast and easy.


Trim the flap end so that it is even with the end of the mandrel.

Flip the piece over, then clamp, bend and cut the other side the same way. 

The end result will be a “C” channel. I found that I got the best 90 degree bends using my bench vise with the knurled jaw flipped around so the flat side is facing the piece. 

 

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Edited by PinLeverPete
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Note: all cutting is done with a Dremel and 420 cutoff wheels. Snips, etc cannot be used as they will bend and warp the SS.

This next mandrel is the same stock, cut down to 2mm thick (not great looking, but proof of concept).

Move the piece to this mandrel and wrap the flaps around the rear, leaving one flap at 45 degrees (this will be the bracelet side). Again, press down hard with a flat metal tool to get those bends sharp.

Like I said, not pretty, but the end result...

This can also be done with $2 Walmart clamps and a larger piece of stock if you don’t have a vise.

 

 

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Edited by PinLeverPete
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Remove from the mandrel, make one end perfectly square using the Dremel disc face or other flat. Measure off of your square end to cut and square the other side to exactly your lug width.

Cut a slot on the rear of the link on the lug side for removing the spring bars in the future.

 

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Edited by PinLeverPete
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At this point, you would trim the bracelet side, but I didn’t need to with this one.

Clean up flashing, file edges lightly, round corners and finish by removing blemishes from the face with 600-1000 grit in even, parallel strokes for a brushed finish. Follow up with metal polish, only if you want a mirror/chrome-like finish.

For two tone, mask your brushed areas and polish the rest. 😉
 

Slide your 45 degree flap trough the bracelet slot and carefully bend the flap shut so that you don’t warp the face (if you want a curved face, gently squeeze the ends of the link with pliers to bow the face out...this is tricky at first).

You only get one shot at it. If you try to open it back up, you will warp it. Do it right the first time. 😉

Sanded piece is pictured on the left, unfinished on the right.

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Edited by PinLeverPete
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My tools could be more refined. I’m working on that. This was really more of a “proof of concept” trial that turned out very well. 

If someone were so inclined, they could make mandrels with different face and/or rear profiles to make them curved, etc. I started work on several, but the square mandrel has worked so well and easy that I doubt I’ll pursue more complex profiles anytime soon.

If anyone has anything to add or other ideas, please post them and your results. 🙂

Edited by PinLeverPete
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I just did this on a whim the other day and am a bit embarrassed about my “tools and supplies”. The square stock was purchased at Lowe’s for around $2 per piece and the SS I found at...ummm...Walmart. 

I just walked around with my calipers in hand looking for SS. Found lots of nice, low cost stuff that I’ll be able to make my own rally bracelets out of. The SS I’m using here came from a $7 small trash can (it was a 0.3mm veneer on the lid, so the can is still useable = free SS).

I’d had the idea for a while, but was finally motivated by my sad looking Pencron end link staring back at me.

 

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