Chain Mail, Part 1

I’ve always enjoyed learning about and reviving bygone, less-than-practical arts and skills: for example, woodburning, embroidery, and leather-tooling, to name a few.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to dive into a whole new archaic art: chain-mail-making. The project is part of my cosplay for the upcoming 2017 Pensacon convention.

When my brother and I began working on it the chain mail shirt, we knew that we had two possible routes:

  1. Buy rings of our chosen weight, size, and material from a website like The Ring Lord
  2. Make, cut, and close our own rings

After a lot of price-crunching, we decided to go the difficult path and make our own rings. We bought an enormous roll of 16-gauge galvanized steel wire and set to work winding tight coils on a large drill bit.

After that came cutting the coils (1-3 rings at time) into rings with Knipex 8 inch wire cutters. A little over half of the cut rings we would close completely, with as small a gap as possible between the ends of the wire, while using opening up the ends of the remaining rings.

The tools we used for this step were regular and needlenose pliers.

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Once we had cut, closed, and opened plenty of rings, we used this helpful tutorial link here to get started on constructing the mail itself. Essentially, we started by putting 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and closing that ring, to create “5s.” Then, we took the 5s, laid them out flat, lined them up, and used more open rings to attach their edges together. Single strips then were attached to create small blocks, and after many failed attempts and redone rows and sections, we managed to construct the below piece.

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However, chain-mail-constructing is one of those skills that comes slowly at first and then becomes very natural and simple. Thus, within a couple of weeks, our pace was quickening, especially when we sat down and worked together on the chain mail for a couple of hours. As of last week, we had constructed this piece (almost 19 square inches):

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This piece is large enough to be the front of the torso of the shirt. So, we still have to complete a similarly sized piece for the back of the torso, smaller pieces to cover the legs, and, of course, sleeves.

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Although it has been very time-consuming, it’s been very an enjoyable and confidence-building task. And it’s really fun to form the huge chain mail square into a ball and toss it around. 🙂

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And the character I’m cosplaying as?

I’ll give you a single-phrase hint:

“I am no man.”

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