When I was 13 years old, like most boys my age, I was obsessed with swords, armour, weapons and so fourth. One day I was shopping with my dad and saw a chainmail shirt for sale. I badly wanted it, but it was very expensive and my dad was not keen to lend me the money to buy it. However, he did say if I wanted it that badly he'd help me learn to make one myself.
Ten years later, one of my favourite hobbies is still making chainmail, especially chainmail jewelry. I love the variety of patterns and projects that can be made from weaving rings into different configurations.
This is a great beginner project, I'm going to demonstrate how to make a men's slip on bracelet, but the basic principals of the pattern can be used to make fine women's jewelry, necklaces, pendants, wallet chains, keychains, etc.
I suggest you watch the video as well, as there are some parts of this project that are difficult to demonstrate with photos alone.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
You can use a wide range of ring sizes and materials for this project. I'll be using 18 gauge 1/4" Bright Aluminum rings. I purchased the rings online, but I have also made my own by rolling electric fencing wire around a wooden dowel and cutting the coil into rings. I found I required approximately 40 rings per inch of finished bracelet.
You'll also need 2 pairs of pliers. I own beading pliers which don't mark the metal, but in the past I have used regular pliers and covered the teeth with electrical tape so they don't scuff up the rings.
Step 2: Closing and Opening Rings
Whether you buy the jump rings or make your own, they will not be fully closed and will require you close them before use. To close a ring well, grip both sides with pliers and bend back and fourth a few times until the ends are flush with no gap between them.
Similarly, the rings will need to be opened a bit more than they will will be. As you can see in the photo, I open the rings enough that they can easily be woven into other rings, but not too much that it places unnecessary tensile force on the ring or skews the aspect ratio of the ring.
I like to start off by opening a bunch or rings and closing a bunch of rings so I can focus on making the bracelet without having to open and close rings at each step. For the box chain pattern, you'll need equal parts open and closed ring.
Step 3: Starting the Weave
To start the weave, take one open ring, put four closed rings on it, and close it. Place it on a flat surface and adjust the rings so it looks like the photo. You can also refer to the video if you're struggling here.
Then take an open ring with two closed rings on it, and weave it through the top and bottom rings on the right side it holds the pattern in place.
Finally, flip the loose rings so they fall in place with the outer rings.
This is a basic pattern for a weave called the European 4-1, named after the European origins and the fact that each ring is attached to 4 other rings. This is also the pattern used to make chainmail armour, and the pattern I first learnt to make a chainmail vest and head piece.
Step 4: European 4-1 Chain
Continue the pattern demonstrated in the previous step until you have a chain approximately 1.5 times the length of the finished box chain you want to make.
Step 5: Box Chain
Now, we're going to turn our European 4-1 chain into a box chain. Pick the chain up from one end, and flip the first 4 rings over as shown in the first photo.
Then take an open ring and weave it through the 4 rings, so it's opposite the initial centre ring and holds the 4 flipped over rings in place, as demonstrated by the second photo.
Close this ring, and you've created the first 'box' unit of the box chain! (3rd photo)
Pinch over the next two rings, and add another ring to hold them in place.
Continue this until you reach the end of the chain.
Again, if you're struggling with this step please refer to the video in the introduction step for more details.
Step 6: Finishing the Bracelet
To finish the bracelet, line up the two ends and follow along with the photos to see how to weave them together.
Step 7: Future Projects and Next Steps
To add colour to the weave you can use anodized aluminum rings. You can also use two sizes of rings for the top and sides to make a variation 'flat box' pattern. Enjoy!