Tools Needed for Making Chain Mail (Chainmail, Chainmaille, Maille) or a Piece of Chain Jewelry

Roboguards on pliers
Roboguards on pliers

Have you ever made chain mail before?

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Tools for Making Chain Mail Rings

Regardless of whether you are making chain mail for jewelry, decoration, or armor, you will need the same basic tool set if you decide to make the rings yourself:

  • A mandrel, such as a metal knitting needle or piece of steel wire, that has an outer diameter slightly larger than you want the inner diameter of your rings to be. For example, you will need a mandrel slightly larger that 1/4" in diameter if you want to make rings with an inner diameter of 1/4". The reason for this is that you will remove a small amount of material when you cut the coiled wire to make the rings.
  • A jeweler's saw with small saw blade if you are making jewelry or flat-faced wire cutters if you are making armor.
  • Cutting lubricant, if you are using a saw to cut your rings.
  • A wood or other block to use to stabilize the coil of rings as you cut the coil into a pile of rings (using cutters or a saw).
  • A tumbler (such as a "rock" tumbler or jewelry tumbler) to tumble-polish the rings and remove any burrs from the cutting process. IMPORTANT: DO NOT tumble any plated metals as the plating will be removed! The same is probably true for powder-coated metals.
  • If you are going to solder each ring, you will need a torch and standard soldering supplies for the material you are working with.

Tools for Opening and Closing Chain Mail Rings

  • Two pairs of flat-faced (non-grooved) pliers such as jewelry-grade needle-nosed pliers or square headed flat pliers. Or, if you are making jewelry and prefer it, a special tool that you wear like a ring on your finger to help you open and close the rings instead of one pair of pliers.
  • A velveteen or Vellux brand cloth work mat so that you can quickly pick up rings in your pliers without needing to set down your pliers each time you work with a new ring. This material can be found in any fabric store and you will only need a small (8"X10") piece of it.
  • If you are going to solder each ring, you will need a torch and standard soldering supplies for the material you are working with.
  • A good "cheat" for saving armor/costume-size rings (not jewelry-size rings) that didn't close properly is using pliers with RoboGuards (available from Sears and designed for their RoboGrip pliers). The RoboGuards are cheap, protect the rings from surface damage, and quickly develop a groove into which the rings settle which keeps them from flying across the room as you apply pressure to close the ring.

Do you already own most of these tools?

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Tools for Finishing the Piece

  • Regardless of whether you are making jewelry or armor or other pieces, you will likely want to tumble-polish the finished piece (as long as it doesn't contain beads, fibers, plated metal, or other materials that would be ruined by tumbling).
  • If you want to apply plating, a patina, or paint, now is the time to do so (after tumbling). The materials and tools you will need will depend on the effect you are trying to achieve.

About the Author

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