The most general term used for any type of zipper that is packed and sold by the yard. It is the beginning part of a finished zipper when we manufacture them in our factory or an individual creates a one of a kind zipper from components. Zipper chain is made up of two separate halves of zipper tooth / fabric combinations. When two halves of zipper tooth / fabric material are meshed together, they form a chain, and that is the beginning piece of a finished zipper. Zipper chain usually falls into the following categories; nylon (coil) chain, metal chain, and plastic chain. All other zipper chain is a variation on one of these types, for the most part.
“Nylon Coil Zipper Chain“
The most common, is used in everything from clothing to furniture. It is unique in that the teeth are actually made of a continuous piece of nylon monofilament, which is basically fishing line, coiled into a long spring like shape that is flattened a bit and sewn to a fabric called the zipper tape, remember? That same nylon zipper chain can come in many different gauges or widths of the teeth. The higher the number is, the larger the teeth will be. This correlation works for all zippers in terms of the gauge. #3 Nylon zipper chain for example would be used to make the zipper on the back of a prom dress while #10 Nylon zipper chain may be used on a heavy duty duffle bag. Most nylon zipper chain is made in sizes like #2 all the way up to #25 (but very rarely). Nylon zipper chain also has the advantage of allowing bidirectional use of sliders; that is you can put sliders on this chain in either direct and they will work. One of the directions is slightly better than the other, but they do work both ways. There are a few variations on nylon zipper chain, but the most common is a special nylon coil chain called concealed or invisible. It is used where a hidden zipper is desired, and yes, there is much more info and options available in Zipper University and in the product section.
“Metal Zipper Chain”
A totally different type of zipper chain. The only commonality it shares with other chains is that it is made up of the two halves of the tooth / fabric combination meshed together forming the chain and the fact that the higher the gauge number, the larger the teeth. Metal zipper chain mainly comes in standard gauges from #2 to #10. Metal zipper chain has individual teeth that are actually attached one at a time to the tape of the chain. No, we do not do this at Supreme Zipper Industries; it is extremely specialized and is best left to mass producers of metal chain where that is their specialty. Metal zipper chain can be divided into three major types as far as functionality goes. There is one way metal chain; this is a type of chain that will only allow sliders to function in one direction, making the chain have a “top” and a bottom” (you can see more on that in Zipper 101). The second type of metal chain is basically one way chain that allows two way functionality; it outwardly looks like one way chain, but allows sliders to function in both directs, albeit one way works perfectly and the other about 75%, in terms of smoothness. The third type of metal zipper chain is two way zipper chain. The shape of the teeth on this chain are completely different from the other two and they allow 100% functionality of a slider in either direction. The last aspect of the metal zipper chain is the actual metal it is made from. The most common of these metals is brass due to its self lubricating ability. Did you ever have a great old jacket that had a zipper that just seemed to get better with age? Chances are it was a large tooth brass zipper that just gets smoother as they wear. The other common metals we can make zipper chain from include aluminum, nickel (which is a special metal based mostly in brass but looks silver), and even exotic metals like stainless steel and special die cast metals too.
“Plastic Zipper Chain”
A lot like metal zipper chain in that the teeth are individual on the tape, but the similarity ends there. Plastic zipper chain is made from different types of plastics, most of the time something called delrin, which is molded in a form over the individual side of the zipper tape. Again, when two of these are meshed together, they form plastic zipper chain. This is the type of zipper you would find in a winter jacket. Those chunky looking teeth that usually (but not always) match the color of the fabric they are attached to. Plastic zipper chain is inherently made in such a way that it has two way functionality; you can put sliders on either way and they function 100%. Gauges range from #3 on the small side to #30 on the ridiculous, weighing several pounds per yard. Uses for this chain include outerwear clothing to vehicle covers, storage bags to dolphin slings (yeah, we actually made one for this use once!) There are a few variations to this chain, like rhinestone plastic zippers; you can find out loads more about plastic zippers in Zipper University.