How to Make Chainmail Armor

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Few things evoke the Middle Ages as much as chainmail armor, nor are few things as rarely seen. Swords and suits of plate armor are common but costly decorations in some households, but anyone can make chainmail easily and inexpensively. With a minimal investment and only a few simple tools, you can build your own authentic chainmail armor.

Things You'll Need

  • Spool of wire
  • Two pairs of needle-nose pliers
  • 5/8-inch diameter metal rod
  • Vise grips
  • Gloves
  • Choose the type of wire you want to use. You can use virtually any type of metal wire, including brightly colored anodized aluminum and precious metals such as silver or gold. For a more authentic piece, however, steel is the metal of choice. If this is your first chainmail project, consider using galvanized steel, which is easy to work with and widely available. Whatever you choose, use wire with a diameter between 0.05 inches and 0.1 inches.

  • Using the vise grips, clamp the end of your wire tightly against and perpendicular to the metal rod. With your gloves on, tightly wrap the wire in a spiral around the bar. Try not to let any of the rod show through the wire as you wrap.

  • Remove the vise grips, slide the wrapped wire off the rod and cut the spiral into individual rings. Using the pliers, straighten out each ring so that the ends are touching and the ring forms a complete, unbroken circle.

  • Choose a chainmail weave. "European 4-in-1," so named because each ring in the chain is attached to four others, is a good one to start with, as it is a relatively simple and straightforward weave and saw extensive use historically as actual armor. CGMaille.com, listed below in the Resources section, offers a variety of different weave instructions.

  • Practice with smaller chainmail projects before attempting to make any pieces of armor. Most people make mistakes early on, and making smaller projects such as bracelets or even just small sheets of chainmail allows you to experiment with different weaves before committing yourself to a larger project.

  • Rather than guess at the correct shapes, use an armor pattern. Simple shapes are not terribly difficult, but a full chain shirt is complex enough that getting it right without a pattern will be extremely challenging. A construction pattern for a European hauberk is listed below in the Resources section. There are also a number of books available with patterns, such as Mary Brewer's "Art of Mail Armor."

  • After you've practiced and decided on your weave and pattern, put on your gloves and use the pliers to weave the rings together. In accordance with the weave you choose, open each ring to thread through another ring and then close it again. Weaving chainmail takes a long time, since you have to open and close each ring of potentially thousands, so be patient and don't rush the process.

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  • Photo Credit Matthias Kabel
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