Picture of Chainmail

Chainmail (or mail or maille) refers to armor that made from metal rings that are joined together in a pattern to form a protective mesh. Historically this kind of armor was used to protect soldiers on the battlefield from slashing and stabbing injuries. This kind of protective gear is still used by some butchers and shark divers.

In addition to being able to protect the wearer from sharp objects, it is also useful for protecting against high voltage electricity. Many people who work with high voltage devices such as Tesla coils use chainmail as a wearable faraday cage. The metal is very conductive and it is able to safely redirect electricity around their bodies.

Chainmail is also commonly used as a decorative element. The simple elegance of interwoven rings makes it ideal for jewelry making. 

In this project, I am going to give you a basic introduction to the art of making chainmail in its various forms.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
The only material that you need to make basic chainmail is metal wire. The kind of wire that you need depends on the specific application. Chainmail armor is typically made from steel wire with a thickness between 18 gauge and 14 gauge. A shirt of chainmail will require about 1/2 mile (0.8km) of wire. You can buy large spools of wire at any store that sells fencing supplies. If you are making jewelry, you will want to get thinner wire that has a non-reactive coating. You can find appropriate wire in a variety of color at most craft stores. 

You will also need some basic tools. You need a dowel to wrap the wire around. You need wire cutters or bolt cutters to cut out the individual rings. Then to bend the wires into their final shape, you will need two pairs of needle nose pliers.
Fission Chips5 months ago

Cool! Could be entered in the Halloween Costume contest.

Green X10 months ago


wfarnham1 year ago
This is a cool instructible with useful info, I was looking into this myself for a while but have been held up.
A couple of things though, in researching this topic myself I read that a wood dowel was a bad choice as the wood can compress and give you odd shaped rings as such a metal rod was the material of choice.
Also it became apparent that the alignment of the links was an important factor in defence, for example with your alignment a person would have higher defence from horizontal strikes than they would from vertical strikes, and vertical strikes were the more common of the two apparently.

Also I've read that one of the hardest areas to do is the armpit and most opt to simply leave it bare, did you have this same problem?

Your Arm guards look cool did you make them?

Those arm guards

Don't be afraid of trying things with mail , its very easy to add or remove rings if you make a mistake

I purchased the arm guards from a leather craftsman at a renaissance festival.
Gelfling61 year ago
For cutting the steel, Look for 16-Inch bolt cutters, where the end of the jaws meet in a -) Not a -{.. Another alternative, though more expensive, a metal cutting saw wheel and a constant supply of lubricant/coolant. to cut the coil on an angle, and as the wire cuts through, the rings simply slide off, and fall to a bin. That, or look for what they call a jump-ring saw. It'll look like a small table saw, but with an adjustable block frame above the cutting wheel.
jklovance1 year ago
A few comments;
Metal rods are better. Wooden dowels have a tendency to crush eventually making the rings smaller. They also break and inopportune times.
Fence wire is generally too soft for maille. While galvanized is ok, aluminum is much too soft. A friend of mine has an aluminum fence wire shirt that I can tear apart by hand with little effort. Welding wire is a much better option.
Galvanized wire works but will eventually lose it's shine and begin to smell like a wet dog.
Avoid using pliers with teeth. They improve grip but scratch the rings significantly. Try to find pliers with short jaws. Long jawed pliers decrease leverage and therefore grip.
A great place for tools, wire and rings is The Ring Lord. They have an excellent selection, great prices and ship almost anywhere.
I've dealt with TRL, They're a great source for everything involved in the hobby! (tools, materials, patterns, tips, and even finished pieces.) My favorite knitting tools are a pair of duck-bill pliers from Sears. Yes, and despite the zinc, Galvenized WILL eventually rust as well. (smelling even worse!) In the past 5 years, I've been using 14-Guage Fy-Shock Aluminum electric fence wire from Tractor Supply Co.. It still oxidizes, but it maintains the shininess, but obviously a weaker metal. I went with the aluminum mainly because the less cleaning needed, but mostly my back was giving out from the 100-Lb Copper/Steel.
Couldn't agree more. I've been making chainmaille for over 8 years and could disagree with much from this tutorial. I would also add:
- 16g 3/8" even in galvanized steel is not a sufficient armor quality shirt. More like 14g 3/8"
- Steel rod is the only way to go. Wood will give way too inconsistent results and will not hold up to the abuse if you want to do a lot of mailling.
looks good. Great instructions, How many hours did you have invested?
The shirt pictured took me about 40 hours of dedicated work. But keep in mind that this is a small shirt without sleeves. A typical shirt could take up to double that.
depends on the material.. Steel, brass, copper, aluminum. My aluminum 14-USWG 5/16"-Dia whole costume was initially a 2-month rush job. (A), I was already on the front-gate criers guild at a fair, (B), I wanted it ready for a 'Blackmore's Night' concert here in Connecticut, (the shirt was 3/4 done, about hip-length, with a 5" square patch still not finished on the back-left. had to go in for the concert.) Some, it takes a few more months. My Steel/Copper that I named 'Falcon Spirit' (inlayed the Iowa Jayhawks insignia to the chest of the hauberk, and to the back of the coif.) took 3 months alone, building the chest inlay, then another 2 months the rest of the hauberk around it. Then another 3 weeks putting the entire coif together.) the harder the material, the harder it is to wind, and the even harder to knit.
fantine1 year ago
Wow! Can you say how many rings and of what dimensions were used to make the shirt displayed?
DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  fantine1 year ago
For the shirt pictured, I would estimate about 10,000 rings. It took about 1/4 mile of wire. But keep in mind this is a small shirt and the rings are slightly bigger than average and there are no sleeves. A typical shirt would probably have double that.
Thanks for the reply. If I don't have arthritis now, I would by the time I finished that work. Bravo to you.

I have a chainmail bra I purchased at a Ren Faire many long years ago. It is a well loved piece of my costumery. Taught me something about posture and balance carrying that weight.
LOL, Arthritis comes in a few years.. Callouses, In less than 4 weeks. You can delay the Arthritis by doing finger exercises (touch each finder to the thumb, but in an 'Every Other Finger' pattern. (pointer, ring, middle, pinky) for a few minutes, backward stretching (both hands, fingers interlocked to eachother, and as if you were cracking the knuckles.) Don't laugh, but liniments, hand cream, help soften the callouses. There's one I've seen called 'Bag Balm' at most hardware stores. (initially was for cow udders, on the farm. It's a zinc based liniment.). works great after a lot of cutting. Yes, You do find your upper torso a little heavier with the armor.. Surprisingly, I've managed to stay standing, despite the top-heavy feeling of mine. (47Lb 3/4 long-sleeve hauberk (shirt) and an additional 10Lb coif w/mantle and a twisted-rope coronal.).. You really get used to it, til you take everything off, and then... you feel uneven in weight like you're ready to float up.
dozer7891 year ago
Nice job! Looks pretty cool!
Nicely done!
nidhug1 year ago
Nice instructable.
I have made many kilos of mail over the years (but never made an instructable... might be time :) ) and have a few pointers that will greatly save your time.
Logically you should touch each ring as few times as possible after cutting (ideally only once).

The way I see it there are two basic ways to do this (if we are talking "european" mail)):
- 1: Make long "chains" of the three wide pattern you show - using 1/2 closed rings and 1/4 open rings, and later join the chains together to form larger pieces (with the last 1/4 open rings).
- 2: Add all open rings one by one to an existing piece ot chain started with method 1 (or on peg board for beginning).

One might think at first that method 1 is much faster as you only have to close half the rings, but unless you have punched the closed rings from sheet metal (which is a very good way to make mail that actually has to be stab-proof (as butted mail opens when stabbed)), you have already closed the closed rings after cutting them.
That means that you have worked/manipulated min. half the rings rings twice after cutting; once to either open or fully close them and once to close half the rings durin assembly.

So here is the tip: Use method 2 and -
Pull the coils slightly before cutting. Enough to allow the cut ring to be slipped on two others. Then cut the coils and you have 100% open rings. Practice the angle of cut.

Then take a peg board or pin board and attach a single row (or the three- wide chain) across the top of the board and start adding new (only open) rings one by one to the piece. In that way you will only have touched/manipulated each ring once in the process of - picking up the ring - inserting ring through two rings of the working section - closing the ring. Next ring! Next ring...

Also - on pliers - my favorite are quality bent-nose pliers. With them you can pick up the rings with the points, insert ring, grip with other pliers, get better grip with first pliers and close. In that way you don´t even have to put down the pliers. Also add padding to the grips to avoid blisters and mayby a thumb-loop allowing use of the fingers without dropping the pliers. I don´t worry about scratching the rings too much (using only steel or iron rings) - marks will be smoothend by wear :)
billbillt1 year ago
JJVOgre1 year ago
Good job on the video, but wanted to say if you're gonna hand cut then use smaller cutters or buy rings already made. New site just coming up w/ cheap shipping in the states and will ship internationally is which supply rings in a variety of materials, gauges and ring diameters.

Note, if you're gonna hand coil your rings be careful, look at lathe injuries and you'll understand.
Wonderful! Looks like the real stuff:) Would make this in a heart beat.
dude... this is awesome. soooooo cool!!!
CJR21151 year ago
If I got hit by a sword with this on would it hurt me
DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  CJR21151 year ago
Yes! It would hurt as much as it would to get hit with a metal baseball bat. But if it is made properly, you probably won't get cut or impaled.
You can also purchase the rings premade and in Stainless steel from Rosco. I've bought from them many times and the rings are very strong and the sizes make for very wonderful projects. Plus you don't have to worry about rust or having the zinc rub off on you.
cal2871 year ago
Very cool! I was just thinking about making something but wasn't sure how. Thanks for all the info!
I actually have been doing chainmaille for about a month now. Great way to pass the time! I plan on making a "dice bag" for my uncle so he can use it as a coin purse -cause he plays card games with us on the holidays- and give it to him for Christmas. Great projects and gift ideas come out of this!