Having precisely measured the customer's finger, it’s not always possible to stock every ring in every size. But by utilizing a few simple techniques and some clever tools, it is possible to quickly and easily adjust most rings to the perfect fit. But with so many different rings it's important to understand the many options available…
The basic wedding ring is a plain wide gold band, the same dimension all around and without any stones. These are usually the simplest rings to adjust. Pepetools have a range of Wedding ring stretchers/ reducers which can perform the task in seconds.
Above. The pepetools Ring stretcher and reducer.
Note the expanding mandrel on the top, and the reduction dies on the bottom.
The wedding ring stretcher and reducer is really two tools in one. As the name suggests, it can expand or reduce. On the top is an upright ring mandrel. The ring is slipped over the mandrel and by pushing the lever, the mandrel expands slightly to stretch the ring. This is done carefully in small movements, rotating the ring between each stretch. As the mandrel is tapered, it is also important to flip the ring to ensure both sides are stretched equally.
Above; A ring being stretched on a ring stretcher. As the handle is pushed back the mandrel expands stretching the ring.
For particularly wide rings, Pepetools also offer a version with a ‘stepped’ mandrel, which helps to apply more even pressure on wider bands. It also alleviates the need to keep flipping the ring over. In most cases, a ring can be stretched a couple of sizes in a matter of seconds without any marking or damage.
Above; Pepetools Stepped upright ring stretcher.
Note the magnified view left showing the stepped mandrel.
For extra care, you can slip a piece of paper or leather inside the ring to protect any hallmarks or engraving. PTFE tape also works well, but it is vital that you can see the edges of the ring as it is stretched.
The big question is always how far you can stretch a ring in this way. With a brand new ring, you should be safe with a few sizes up. Note that as the ring expands in size the band gets thinner. A thick chunky ring can, therefore, be stretched a few sizes without any noticeable difference in appearance. However, very thin rings should only be stretched a minimal amount to avoid the band getting too thin and weak.
The ring stretcher is capable of exerting a lot of force, and if misused can easily snap a ring in half. With an old or used ring, you must be cautious. It is vital that the ring is examined carefully and is in good sound condition, to begin with. Poor solder joints, previous repairs, wear or damage can create a potential weak spot. As the ring is stretched all round, any weak spots can potentially cause a break. There is also the issue that an old ring may have already been stretched previously. With such rings, work slowly and gently with small movements, do not force the handle. keep rotating and flipping the ring, to stretch evenly. As you work constantly check the edges for any signs of narrowing or fine cracking. Any weak spots should be addressed (soldered or polished out) before continuing.
Annealing if a large stretch of multiple sizes is required it may be advisable to anneal the ring to soften it. By gently heating and then quenching it. This will soften the metal and make it easier to stretch. Of course this will require cleaning and polishing when complete.
Reducing wedding bands.
The same Pepetools ring stretcher can also be used to reduce rings. At the bottom is a double-sided disc with holes of increasing diameter (reduction dies). Pepetools have gone to great lengths to accurately machine these holes and polish them for a smooth finish. The application of a little grease or oil in the holes will greatly help the process. The ring is placed in the largest hole it will sit in whilst standing proud of the surface. Ideally, it will sit about halfway in the hole. As the handle is pulled the plunger pushes down and forces the ring all the way into the hole. It is important to push the plunger all the way down until it is flush with the surface. This will reduce the ring slightly. Again, always flip it both sides to ensure uniformity. Check the size and if necessary, move on to the next smaller hole. Again a few sizes can be accomplished very quickly and easily. If required, a final very slight stretch on the mandrel can adjust to that perfect size.
Above; diagram showing a ring being reduced in the reduction dies, by first reducing one side, flipping over and reducing the other side. Note the start position, the ring must sit in the hole but be slightly proud of the surface.
Top tip. If the ring has any pattern or engraving, a couple of wraps of plumbers PTFE tape will protect it. Just start with a slightly larger hole.
The Pepetools ring stretcher reducer also has many other uses. For example, a bent and misshapen ring can be slightly stretched on the mandrel to make it round again. A misshapen wedding band can be pushed through the reduction dies to make it perfectly round, then adjusted back to size on the expanding mandrel.
These ring stretching tools are perfect for making coin rings too. Using the mandrel to stretch the ring and the reduction dies to make it uniform. But that’s something for another blog.
Above; His n Hers Coin rings made by Dave Wilson of Celtic Dreams using the upright ring stretcher and reducer. Note that both rings started life as the same size coins, British silver shillings.
Gem set rings.
Gem set rings should not be stretched using the wedding ring stretcher. Often gem-set rings have thinner backs, shoulder details and settings to the front. The action of stretching them uniformly all the way around can potentially cause mounts to open and stones to loosen.
For very small adjustments it may be possible to simply hammer the ring on a steel mandrel using a small nylon hammer to just work around the rear of the shank. But care must be taken when doing this with gem set rings, and the potential size increase is minimal. So, for these types of rings, we really need a more specialist tool.
For this reason, Pepetools have created the “Deluxe Ring Enlarger”. This ingenious tool is designed specifically for enlarging gem-set rings. it uses a small pair of rollers rather like a miniature rolling mill, to thin out and expand the rear part of the ring shank.
Above; The Pepetools Ring enlarger with 17 rollers.
Note that the various rollers correspond to different ring shank profiles.
To begin, chose a roller that matches the profile of the ring shank. It is important that the ring shank sits within the groove on the roller. The chosen roller is fitted into the tool. The ring is placed over the central straight post and the grooved roller is clamped snugly next to the band by twisting the handle. As the handle is swung left and right, the roller runs around the ring applying pressure between the roller and the post. This compresses the shank making it thinner and longer – thus increasing the ring size. When the movement feels loose, a small twist of the handle will re-tighten the roller and another swing left and right will expand the ring further. Using this clever tool, you can stretch specific parts of the ring shank, such as the sides and back, without affecting the front, stones, or shoulder details.
Above; Diagram showing how the roller presses against the gold ring. Important to note how the concave profile of the roller (right) matches the convex profile of the gold ring shank (left). with 17 rollers available, there's sure to be a match.
This tool may not be suitable where the shank is patterned all the way around. Note too that comfort bands, with a curved inside profile, should not be adjusted this way as the inside roller is straight. But for most gem set rings, with flat square or D shape profiles this tool allows a quick and easy adjustment in seconds, requiring little more than a quick polish afterward.
‘Reducing’ a gem-set ring.
Unfortunately 'reducing' a gem-set ring isn’t quite as quick and easy. The only real way to reduce a gem-set ring is to cut a piece out of the band and re-solder it. Likewise, any rings requiring large adjustments up or down (which can't be stretched), can be resized by cutting the shank and a matching piece inserting (or removing). The ring is then re-soldered and finished. In cases where a piece needs to be inserted to make the ring much larger. It is important to match the profile of the ring shank.
Historically, soldering a gem-set ring was something for an experienced professional. Certain stones can be very sensitive to heat. The ring may also contain rhodium plating around the mounts or even adhesives for semi-precious stones and pearls. Heat sink tweezers, thermal paste, and precise torches can all help to reduce potential problems. In some cases, a ring may need to be completely unmounted, adjusted, polished, then the stones set. Obviously, this is a time consuming and costly job. So, should be discussed accordingly with the customer.
Thankfully, recent innovations such as pulse arc jewelry welders and lasers now allow such rings to be cut and welded in seconds, without the need to remove the stones and requiring only minimal cleanup of the join. This new technology overcomes many of these previous difficulties.
There are still a few types of rings that cannot easily be resized. Rings with patterns all around or pierced Celtic designs can be problematic as they can stretch in unpredictable ways. Rings with continuous stones set all around such as full eternity rings, cannot usually be resized, as this can loosen the stones..
Two part spinner rings.
Likewise, two-part spinner rings, which incorporate a moving band around a channel ring, can also be difficult. Simply expanding it will cause the spinner band to tighten and possibly even snap. You may need to remove the spinner part, adjust the main ring and then adjust and reattach the spinner. A more advance technique, The Pepetools ring stretcher reducer can be used to reduce one side just enough to remove the spinner band. Size the main ring accordingly. Then measure the diameter of the channel. Stretch the spinner band accordingly (a mm or so wider to allow it to spin freely). Replace the spinner in the same manner. Reduce just one side of the main ring just a little in the reduction dies and Slipp the spinner part back on. Gently re- expand the same side with the mandrel back to its precise size ensuring you do not over expand and tighten the spinner.
Above. A two part spinner ring. The central dark ring rotates within a channel. Although an advanced technique such rings can be stretched by utilising the Pepetools ring stretcher / reducer.
For the ultimate solution, I recommend the Pepetools ring stretcher and reducer with an integrated ring shank bender, which offers an incredibly useful three tools in one. Couple this with the deluxe ring enlarger and you have the vast majority of engagement and wedding rings covered by just these two easy to use tools.
Above left, the Combination Ring Stretcher / Reducer / Bender.
Right Ring Enlarger with set of 17 rolls
Pepetools also create several other important tools for working with rings.
Superior ring bender. A great useful tool for creating accurate curves in ring shanks. Ideal for when you are making rings from strip or adjusting replacement shanks. It can also assist greatly in straightening bent or misshapen rings.
Above; The Pepetools superior ring bender with additional set of Delrin dies and posts. Checkout the video here.
For heavier-gauge ring shanks, Pepetools make some more heavy-duty ring bending tools such as the ring shank bending tool, which offers maximum leverage. (Great for making spoon rings !). Whilst these tools aren’t quite stretchers or reducers, they are essential tools for anyone creating, or repairing rings. The new Delrin dies and posts ensure that adjustments can be made to finished rings without marking them.
Above. The Pepetools Ring shank bender. Ideal for heavier jobs
and perfect for making spoon rings !
Remember too the Pepetools calibrated ring mandrels and finger gauges to ensure consistent accuracy. See the Pepetools blog on finding your correct ring size.