Armor like it's 1099!


Yeah, so by this point, some people are aware I make chainmail. I alluded to it in my last blog and some of the membership have actually seen some of my work. A few of them have a piece or two.

No, I’m not into LARPing or Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). I just really like doing things with my hands, so wires and pliers really let me stretch that as far as I care to go. Like a lot of things, it’s simple but it’s not necessarily easy.

There are hundreds (probably thousands) of different weaves, depending entirely on the size of the rings you’re using, specifically the aspect ratio (AR). The AR is the ratio (uh…really?) of the thickness of the wire (gauge) and the inner diameter of the ring.

The simplest weave is what’s most often referred to as European 4-in-1 (E4-1). It’s what most people think when they think of chainmail. Every ring has 4 other rings passing through it. This is designed mostly to be a sheet weave. Sheet weaves are used to create things that would normally be used for fabrics; think apparel and containment.

The second type of weave is a chain weave. Chain weaves aren’t meant to be (but some can be turned into) sheets. They’re used for jewelry or decoration or…well, pretty much anything you’d use a chain for.

Since I mentioned armor in the title, I should talk about that a little more, maybe. Maybe not. Whatever, I will anyway.

There are two main types of chainmail. The first type is the earliest (used mainly by Roman Centurions), referred to as butted mail. Butted mail is pretty self explanatory, the edges of rings are butted up to one another.

The second type is called riveted mail. Riveted mail has rings with edges that overlap, are flattened, and have a rivet driven through that overlap for added strength. Since the second requires more time, tools, and technique, and I don’t care about whether it can stand up in battle, I make butted mail. Here’s how the basic stuff is done with some E4-1.

First, get yourself two pairs of pliers and a lot of little tiny rings. These happen to be inexpensive chain nose pliers since I’m working with an aluminum alloy. For harder materials, more heavy duty equipment is needed.

You can probably see how these rings are all split. That comes from winding wire along a mandrel and cutting the coils. Cutting those coils causes the offset that allows you to open and close the rings.

To make one basic unit of E4-1, you need 4 closed rings and one open ring.

You then put the four closed into the one open and close it.

After that, expand in all directions and create a sheet.

Repeat that a few dozen times and you’ll have something more substantial.

Repeat the few dozen a few hundred and you get something recognizable.

Just FYI, the sheet in the above photo is going to become the missing sleeve. Also, the shirt is the same aluminum alloy but trimmed with copper.

The cool thing about this is that you can do just about anything with it since it essentially becomes a metal fabric. The only difference between chainmail and any other fabric is that this (for obvious reasons) has absolutely no stretch, so measurements are always very important. There are some slightly more advanced techniques like expansions, contractions, and 45 degree seams but a lot can be accomplished without having to know any of that stuff.

I know maybe 2 dozen weaves (out of hundreds, maybe thousands) but only really come back to 8 or 9 that I really like and find extremely useful.

If anyone’s interested in learning how to do any of this, I get all my supplies from a Canadian company called The Ring Lord. As always, I’ll entertain whatever questions you’ve got. I’ll throw up pictures of some of the other stuff I’ve done someday soon.