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How to make Chainmail - The Coif

Updated on January 26, 2016

Making A Chainmail Coif

The coif consists of 2 main sections: A curved skullcap on the top and straight pieces added to the sides and back to protect the neck. You can make the coif as long or as short as you like depending on how low you want it to hang.

This article will cover the making of a simple coif at a beginner level of mail-working and assumes that you have read my beginners guide as mentioned earlier and so will not cover wire gauge choices and so on.

For those coming from my article on the basics of chainmail making this article will follow on from where we left off with the 13 ring piece of mail that we made. For those who want to read about the basic techniques used in this article please read my basics guide found here :

Making the Skullcap

The skull cap will consist of five triangles of the same size joined centrally with a larger diameter ring and stitched together to form a dome.

The length and width of each triangle depends on the size of your head.

Measure around the top of your head: around forehead and back of head. Divide his measurement by 5 and that length will be the base of your triangle.

The 13 link rectangle made in the first tutorial. An additional 2 rings have been added to the left hand edge to begin the triangle.
The 13 link rectangle made in the first tutorial. An additional 2 rings have been added to the left hand edge to begin the triangle.

1. The first step is to take the piece of mail we made in the first tutorial and to add 2 rings onto the left side (see picture on the right). If you are not coming from the tutorial you will need to make a rectangle with rows 3-2-3-2-3 as seen in the picture and then add 2 rings to the left hand edge.

The 2 rings that you just added will be on the center most point of the coif and will sit roughly in the middle of your head.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
2 more rings added; extending 3rd row up by one and down by one.Continuation of method: each row is one link longer than the last.A small triangle (longest row is 7 links).
2 more rings added; extending 3rd row up by one and down by one.
2 more rings added; extending 3rd row up by one and down by one.
Continuation of method: each row is one link longer than the last.
Continuation of method: each row is one link longer than the last.
A small triangle (longest row is 7 links).
A small triangle (longest row is 7 links).

2. Extend the triangle with each vertical row increasing by 1 ring each time. Look at these pictures on the right and you will get the idea. Remember to extend both up and down or you will end up with a right-angled triangle instead of an equilateral one.

The last picture in this series of thumbnails shows the triangle that will result in you extending the tutorial mail piece up and down until you reach its end. From here you need to extend the triangle until you are happy that the base length will be approximately one 5th of your head circumference. For me I did a triangle base length of 16 links but I ended up extending this slightly after the triangles were seamed up (more on that later).

One finished triangle (longest row is 16 links)
One finished triangle (longest row is 16 links)

Continue extending the triangle following the same pattern until you end up with something like the picture on the right.

One way of helping visualize the pattern better as a beginner is to make another small rectangular section, attach that to the middle of the right hand edge of your triangle and then build on it from there. When attaching other sections be sure that your links in the piece that you are attaching are lying in the same orientation as those in your triangle.

Remember if it looks wrong then it probably is, take your time as mistakes are much harder to put right further down the road. Counting how many links are attached to each other can help you find mistakes. With this weave the maximum number of links passing through any other link will be 4. If there are more than 4 links connected to a link then something is wrong.

Be patient and once you get your eye in the pattern is simple.

3. Once you have made your first triangle you will need to make 4 more exactly the same (for a total of 5 - crazy math I know).

Lay it out on the desk and pay close attention to the way the first 2 links are lying.

IMPORTANT: The first 2 links of all your triangles MUST lie in the same way.

Make sure and double sure that you do this because there is work involved going back if you don't.

5 triangles laid out as if ready to connect together. Which of the 5 is Incorrect?
5 triangles laid out as if ready to connect together. Which of the 5 is Incorrect?

The picture above shows all 5 triangles laid out ready to be connected together.

Look how all the central rings are lying as you go round the circle.

Can you see that one of them has been put in to test you and is not correct?

Have a closer look at the picture and then do the quiz to find out if you were right which one was incorrect!

4. You are now ready to start connecting the triangles together to form your scull cap. You will first need to make a link about 1/2 and inch in diameter and thread it through the 2 rings on the point of each triangle. The picture below shows what this should look like.

5. It is now time to seam up the triangles. This can be a little tricky if you are new to mail working so take your time, be patient and pay close attention to what you are doing. Remember the pattern is 4 in 1 and counting is your friend.


Have a close look at the picture above. In your mind try to work out which links need to be opened up and hreaded hrough the other triangles to continue the pattern propperly.

Halfway through connecting the 5 triangles together to for the "scull cap" portion of the coif.
Halfway through connecting the 5 triangles together to for the "scull cap" portion of the coif.
The finished coif top.
The finished coif top.

Meet Norbert. Norbert is an aluminium nosecone from a WWII spitfire. Norbert never saw battle instead taking upon himself to provide moral boosting beats by being turned into a drum. Norbert is taking the day off from being a drum and kindly agreed to be a head model for the day (as you can see he is positively delighted by the prospect).

Norbert trying on the finished circle.
Norbert trying on the finished circle.
Norbert (from the side) patiently waiting as the sides and back are lengthened.
Norbert (from the side) patiently waiting as the sides and back are lengthened.

The "Finished Coif"

Well lady's and gentlemen here it is, the finished coif as modeled by Norbert (round of applause for Norbert please). I use the word finished rather tentatively as I will probably continue extending the sides down onto the shoulders and will probably close the front opening up under the chin at some point as the weight is too far back on the head at the moment. Norbert does have a strangely shaped head (please don't say anything; he is sensitive) but on a real human everything fits quite nicely and I will try to upload a picture sometime in the future when things are completely finished.

For all intents and purposes, this hub should give you all the information you need to make a basic chainmail coif. I hope that you enjoyed reading the hub and I hope you have fun making yourself your very own coif in the near future.

Don't forget to look at my guide to the basics of chainmail making should you want a "start at the beginning" type tutorial to get you into things. The guide also contains some recommended tools and advice on materials. The guide can be found here:

DISCLAIMER: Making a chainmail coif does not give you the excuse to get hit round the head with something sharp or blunt! This guide is intended for hobbyists and if you are making chainmail for the purposes of re-enactment battling please make sure that whatever you do is up to specification. I can accept no responsibility for what you do with the information found here or in any other material I have written. Use all tools carefully and only if you are competent to do so.

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