Chainmail 101.5: Beginner’s Chainmail with Advanced Topics

Overview:

Welcome to Chainmail 101.5. This workshop will cover the basic techniques of mail production including:

Essential Tools for making Chainmail

  • Turning wire into rings
  • Knitting Steel
  • The 4 in 1 pattern
  • The 6 in 1 pattern
  • The 8 in 1 pattern

We will also cover these additional advanced topics:

  • Constructing a Wire Crank
  • Creating a Coif

Essential Tools and Materials for Making Chainmail:

The tools required for making chainmail are simple and easy to obtain. They also depend on whether you are making the rings or purchasing them. Personally, I prefer to make my own rings. This gives you satisfaction of saying “I made this from scratch!” and it is more cost effective. A ¼ mile of 14 gauge Galvanized Steel wire cost about $15 at Farm & Fleet and will produce at least 20 lbs of rings (I haven’t actually weighed the spool so I’m estimating from heft) whereas a 5 lb bag of rings usually runs for about $15-$20 on Ebay. This list below are the required tools and materials for working from scratch.

  • 14-16 Gauge Wire (I recommend 14 gauge as it is more durable)
  • Wire Spinning Crank
  • Clippers (Tin Snips, Heavy Duty Wire Cutters, or equivalent)
  • 2 Pairs of pliers (Pick your favorite type)
  • 3 Containers to put your rings in (Open, Closed, Unprocessed)

Turning Wire into Rings:

The process of winding rings can be the most tedious part of mail making, but it is also the most important (without rings you won’t get very far on your project!). The first thing you must decide is what size rings you will produce. The most common and versatile size is 3/8”, but I have also seen people use ¼” and 5/16”. This decision affects the construction of the wire spinning device (see appendix A)

The next step is to make a spring, insert the wire in the retaining hole and slowly turn the crank. The wire should wind along the spindle as close to the previous coil as possible. If you go to fast, you might get an overlap which will cause you to lose rings when you cut them. When the spindle is full, clip the wire, or pull the end out of the hole, and slide your spring off.

Now that you have a spring the real fun starts. Pick an end of the spring to start on and start clipping. The first cut will usually be to snip off excess wire, but from that point on you should start seeing good rings. Clip straight up the coil for best results. You should get about 100 rings out of a 10” spring.

Now you have a pile of unprocessed rings and it is time to sort them out and process them. How you sort the rings depends on your style of mail making. I usually sort them into two piles with 2 rings to be closed for every 1 open. To make closed rings, hold the ring in one pair of pliers and use the other to twist the ends until they meet. To make open rings, twist the rings to be so that the ends are about 2 wire widths apart (depending on how tight your coil was some rings may already be “open”).

You have now successfully created the building blocks for your Chainmail project.

Knitting Steel:

There are a number of patterns that can be used for producing chainmail, or knitting steel. Some patterns are very complex and most often used for jewelry making. In this workshop, we will stick to the “functional” patterns that are used for armor. The patterns are referred to by the number of rings linked through an given link: 4 in 1, 6 in 1, or 8 in 1. You choose the pattern based on the ring size and the density of the finished product. Since we are using 3/8” rings any of the patterns can be used. The most common pattern is 4 in 1, which is quick to produce and provides a loose but effective weave. I use this weave for making ceremonial chainmail items. For armor grade I use 6 in 1, but that is my personal preference 4 in 1 is sufficient for heavy list. Examples of the different weaves are shown below.

The 4 in 1 Pattern:

Steps for constructing 4 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 2 of rings in the previous set
  3. Repeat step 2 until you have a strip of the desired length
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created the desired number of strips
  5. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through four links, 2 from each strip.

The 6 in 1 Pattern:

Steps for constructing 6 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 4 of rings in the previous set
  3. Repeat step 2 until you have a strip of the desired length
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created the desired number of strips
  5. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through 6 links, 3 from each strip.
  6. Match any additional rings needed, ie., a ring through the first 4

The 8 in 1 pattern:

Steps for constructing 8 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 4 of rings in the previous set
  3. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 6 of rings in the previous set
  4. Repeat step 3 until you have a strip of the desired length
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you have created the desired number of strips
  6. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through 8 links, 4 from each strip.
  7. Match any additional rings needed, ie., a ring through the first four and then through the first 6


Adding Single Rows:

Adding a single row of mail to an existing strip is accomplished by weaving open rings through the bottom row of the strip using the technique described for connecting strips

Adding Double Rows:

To add double rows, you need to start with 2 closed rings on one open ring. Connect the open link through the first 2 links in the strip. From this point on, add one closed link to the open and then connect it through the appropriate number of rings on the strip and in front of it. Eg., for 4 in1 the open link should have 1 closed link and then attach to 2 rings from the strip and 1 ring from the previous addition. For 6 in 1, it would have 1 closed and attach to 3 from the strip and two from the previous addition.


Appendix A: Constructing a Wire Crank

The wire crank is an essential tool used to convert wire into springs or coils. The springs are then cut to form the individual rings used to produce chainmail.

Building a Period-style Wire Crank:

The materials used to construct a crank are as follows:

· 2 1’ pieces of 2x4

· 1 2’ x 8” piece of plywood (or equivalent)

· 1 2’ piece of 3/8” dowel (or whatever size you want your rings to be)

· 1 6” piece of a 1” dowel

· 1 6” 1x2

· A drill

· 4 Drill bits (7/16”, 3/8”, 1”, and 5/64” or 3/32”)

· Screwdriver

· 4 2” wood screws

· Tack hammer

· 2 2” nails (small gauge)

· 2 Carter Pins

Construction Steps

1. Drill a hole in the center of the 2x4s about 1” from the top using the 7/16” bit. This hole will be large enough for the dowel to slide through an rotate smoothly.

2. Attach the 2x4s to the plywood using the wood screws. I recommend attaching them centered and about 1” in from the edge.

3. Drill two holes, 1” and 3/8”, in the 1x2, one at each end.

4. Push the 1” dowel into the 1” hole and secure with a nail through the end of the 1x2.

5. Attach the handle you just made to the 3/8” dowel in the same manner.

6. When everything is dry, slide the crank through the holes in the 2x4s. position the crank so that there is about a 1”space between the handle and first 2x4.

7. You will now need to mark three points on the 3/8” dowel. The first 2 will be for restraining clips to prevent the crank from sliding out prematurely. The marks should be made on the outside of the 2x4s. The third point should be about ½” in from the 2x4 farthest from the handle. The third point will be the hole to secure the wire.

8. Remove the crank from the jig.

9. Using the smaller bit, drill holes in the crank at the points you have marked.

10. Place a carter pin in the hole closest to the crank handle and place the crank back into the jig

11. Push the remaining carter pin into the hole on the other end of the crank.

12. You are now ready to use the crank to produce springs.


A Modern Wire Crank:

A much faster crank can be made from a variable speed drill and a 3/8” dowel. I do not recommend using a dowel over 1' in length as it will be unwieldly. The first thing you need to do is to drill a hole through the dowel large enough to insert the wire. Once this is done, insert the dowel in the drill and tighten it down. You are now ready to produce your springs (Aren’t modern conveniences wonderful!)

I have also heard tell of someone using a metal lathe with a custom feeder jig for the wire, but I don’t know too many people who have one of these laying around their house.


Appendix B: Making a Chainmail Coif

The following instructions can be modified to construct a more form fitting coif. If followed exactly, they will produce one with the same dimensions as mine, ie it will fit my head quite well. The measurement I used to determine how many rings I needed to fit around my head was 24”. This is measured just above your eyebrows and all the way around.

1. Link 12 rings on a single center ring and lay flat.

2. Attach 12 rings by connecting 1 open ring through 2 closed such that the added rings will overlap the previous by 1 ring.

3. Repeat step 2

4. Repeat step 2 and then add another ring to every second ring in the previous level. The expansion rings should only connect to one closed ring. This will expand the ring count to 18

5. Using the same method as in step 2, add 18 rings

6. Repeat Step 5 again and then add expansion rings every second ring. You will now have a base of 27

7. Add 27 rings and then add expansion rings every 3rd ring. The level will now be expanded to 36

8. Add 36 rings

9. Repeat step 8 and then add expansion rings every 2nd ring. You will now have a base of 54 rings.

10. Add 54 rings as the next level.

11. Repeat step 10 until the caplet created ends just above your eyebrows.

12. Count the number of rings that hang above your face. This number will be used to determine how long of a strip you will need to add to go around the back of your head; Subtract the number from 54 to get the number of rings required. Most likely this will be around 16 rings.

13. Construct enough strips of chainmail of the appropriate length (38 rings) to reach from the base of your caplet to the base of your neck.

14. To construct the mantle, assemble 2 strips of mail 60 rings long and connect them.

15. Add expansion rings to the bottom row every 3rd ring, this will bring you to 80 rings

16. Assemble 2 more strips of mail 80 rings in length and connect them

17. Add expansion rings to the last row every 4th ring, to bring the total to 100 rings

18. Add 2 more strips of mail 100 rings in length.

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Comments 1 comment

Joshua 6 years ago

I also found some good chainmail info on http://echainmail.com

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