THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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CHAIN (through the O. Fr. choeine, choene, &c., from Lat. catena), a series of links of metal or other material so connected together that the whole forms a flexible band or cord. Chains are used for a variety of purposes, such as fastening, securing, or connecting together two or more objects, supporting or lifting weights, transmitting mechanical power, &c.; or as an ornament to serve as a collar, as a symbol of office or state, or as part of the insignia of an order of knighthood; or as a device from which to hang a jewelled or other pendant, a watch, &c. (see Collar). Ornamental chains are made with a great variety of links, but those intended for utilitarian purposes are mostly of two types. In stud chains a stud or brace is inserted across each link to prevent its sides from collapsing inwards under strain, whereas in open link chains the links have no studs. The addition of studs is reckoned to increase the load which the chain can safely bear by 50%. Small chains of the open-link type are to a great extent made by machinery. For larger sizes the smith cuts off a length of iron rod of suitable diameter, forms it while hot to the shape of the link by repeated blows of his hammer, and welds together the two ends of the link, previously slipped inside its fellow, by the aid of the same tool; in some cases the bending is done in a mechanical press and the welding under a power hammer (see also Cable). Weldless chains are also made; in A.G. Strathern’s process, for instance, cruciform steel bars are pressed, while hot, into links, each without join and engaging with its neighbours. Chains used for transmitting power are known as pitch-chains; the chain of a bicycle (q.v.) is an example.

From the use of the chain as employed to bind or fetter a prisoner or slave, comes the figurative application to anything which serves as a constraining or restraining force; and from its series of connected links, to any series of objects, events, arguments, &c., connected by succession, logical sequence or reasoning. Specific uses are for a measuring line in land-surveying, consisting of 100 links, i.e. iron rods, 7.92 in. in length, making 22 yds. in all, hence a lineal measure of that length; and, as a nautical term, for the contrivance by which the lower shrouds of a mast are extended and secured to the ship’s sides, consisting of dead-eyes, chain-plates, and chain-wale or “channel.”


Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

Links to other EB articles: Links to articles residing in other EB volumes will be made available when the respective volumes are introduced online.
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