Introduction: Chainmail Armor Tutorial

Picture of Chainmail Armor Tutorial

In this tutorial I will show you how to make and link rings together to make chainmail armor.

Step 1: Getting the Materials

Picture of Getting the Materials

Tools you'll need:

  • variable speed drill, 3/32 drill bit
  • two needle nose pliers
  • mini bolt cutters, here's the pair I have - Mini Bolt Cutters

Materials you'll need:

  • 14 gauge galvanized/stainless steel wire (I got a quarter mile of wire)
  • 3/8'' wooden or metal dowel

You can pick up 14 gauge wire online or at a local hardware store. You can choose a higher or lower gauge steel, but the higher the gauge the thinner your rings will be.

Step 2: Making the Rings

Picture of Making the Rings
  1. Drill a hole in one end of your 3/8" dowel, about an inch from the end with the variable speed drill and 3/32 drill bit.
  2. Place the dowel in the drill and thread the wire through the hole.
  3. Spin the drill slowly. The wire will wrap around your dowel and will look like a spring. Continue spinning the drill until the wire coils right to the end of the dowel. Keep the coil as tight as possible!
  4. Once the entire dowel has wire coiled around it, cut the wire. Then cut the end of the wire you inserted into the hole.
  5. Slide the coil off the dowel.
  6. Using your mini bolt cutters, cut along the length of the spring. Individual rings have been made!

Step 3: Linking the Rings Into Chainmail

Picture of Linking the Rings Into Chainmail
  1. With your needle nose pliers, bend 1/2 of the rings cut from your coil so that the two ends join and make a closed circle.
  2. You will also need to bend some of your coil cut rings open in order to connect other rings together as shown in steps 4 and 6.
  3. You'll end up with piles of open and closed rings. You'll need approximately an even amount of opened and closed rings.
  4. Hold an opened ring with your needle nose pliers and hook four rings onto it.
  5. Close the opened ring like in step 1. Your result should look like picture 5. You will need a large amount of these 4 in 1 linked rings. Arrange your 4 in 1's so that there are two rings over and two under.
  6. Take another opened ring (I used a blue ring in the picture) and hook it down and up through the two rings on the top of the 4 in 1.
  7. Place the bottom two rings of the top 4 in 1 over the opened ring.
  8. Carefully pick up the opened ring and close it as in step 1.
  9. After joining two 4 in 1's together this is what it will look like.
  10. Continue this pattern to make strips of whatever size and length you want.
  11. To increase the width of your maille, join strips together. Take another opened ring (the red ring in the picture) and hook the opened ring down and up through the first two rings.
  12. Place the next two rings over the opened ring.
  13. Carefully pick up the opened ring and close it.
  14. This is what you will have if you hooked it correctly.
  15. Continue this pattern down the strips until they are attached. (Refer to pictures 15a & 15b).

  16. Choose a shirt that's a couple sizes bigger--after all chainmail doesn't stretch! Expand your piece in width and length with chainmail strips until it matches the size of the shirt. Repeat again to make the back. Use your creativity to add extra strips at the sides and shoulders so you can fit into your custom armor. Attach your pieces together at the shoulders and sides. I used approximately 12,500 rings to make my chainmail shirt.

Step 4: Now You're Ready for Battle!

Picture of Now You're Ready for Battle!


Mochicat6 (author)2017-07-25

That is amazing!

tuffstuff1518 (author)2016-05-30

Hey i got the size that's above the 3/8 the 3/16 is that okay?

YoungYadi (author)2015-08-16

How long did that suit take? I am making a pop tab suit. It is taking forever! Any ideas or suggestions?

I would recommend not getting diabetus before finishing your suit. stick to fencing wire.

Tim P (author)2015-10-15

woa. speachless... this must have taken you a good while to make this! also how did you make it into a shirt? i mean ya making a chain mail square is (relatively) easy, but a shirt is much harder, right?

knutknackebröd (author)Tim P2016-04-28

Not really, it just takes a great many squares;)

polymarkos (author)2015-11-03

1) It's not 'chainmail' but simply 'mail.' (2) Most armor was 18-22 gauge. (3) no coif had just eyeholes.

If this is all you have to comment on butted maille i suggest you research a bit more.

Nice ible! cheers, Knut.

GarrettG2 (author)2015-10-07

how long did this take dude!

anoos5 (author)2015-09-01

You should make some gauntlets to go along with the rest of your AMAZING looking armor.

Gunter187 (author)2015-08-14


jackowens (author)2015-08-12

Great shirt, but I'd like to point out that the ring AR is too large to use as actual armor.

Dwargh (author)2015-08-11

Your pictured (and colored!) way of explaning how to make and connect those rings together is freaking fabulous!!! :)

TrinityOmega (author)2015-08-05

A couple of things.....

First, awesome tutorial, this is about how I started making my first chain maille. I used a steel rod, cutting a notch in the end, using the drill to wind the coils.

As for cutting them, bolt cutters, or tin snips work well, but leave 'v' shaped ends because they don't really cut the metal, they spread it apart, the problem with this is that when two of the rings meet at 90 degrees, the ends can slip right past each other. If you search, you can find a high speed drill bit with a high speed saw blade on the end, like a larger version of a dremel. If you take a rectangular piece of wood, drill a hole through the center of the length,, the outer diameter of your coil, cut a slit up the side for the saw blade to fit halfway down in this tube, get creative with mounting the block of wood vertically to a bench with the drill, you can feed the whole coil straight down into the hole, and it will cut the rings fast and smooth. The ends become flush and butt together nicely, eliminating coming loose and leaving any burrs. As for the dust, if you do it in a well ventilated area, and wear a filter, you should be okay.

But an awesome starting tutorial, it is how I got started, and learned/expanded from there. Thank you for taking the time to put down such a well thought out Instructable, I look forward to seeing more!

The Green Gentleman (author)2015-07-31

This is an excellent instructable! I loved the way you illustrated the technique!

Ringer1633 (author)2015-07-28

Great Instructable! I love chainmail and yours looks awesome!

I used a dremel to cut my rings open, how difficult was the bolt cutter?

omandave (author)Ringer16332015-07-30

I haven't tried this but I just re-plumbed parto f my home with PEX pipe. I had to cut through some crimped compression rings to reclaim a PEX fitting.There is a PEX Ring Cutting tool available that might work in cutting the rings off of your "Coil"... just a suggestion... link to example:

TimZ2 (author)omandave2015-07-30

Thanks for the suggestion. That cutting tool would very likely cut through rings with ease.

Ringer1633 (author)omandave2015-07-30

looks neat!

TimZ2 (author)Ringer16332015-07-28

The bolt cutters work well, but your hands will get tired over time. I never thought of using a dremel to cut the rings--that is a good idea. I'll have to give that a try!

Gelfling6 (author)TimZ22015-07-28

The only thing with using a Dremel is the dust.. Galvanized steel, you get vaporized zinc. (Not good for the respiratory system.) Likewise aluminium. I've done the Jeweller's saw method.. (both, manual and a rotary blade.) the manual takes a little effort still, the rotary, still needs something to push.. One other alternative, but still takes some effort, 16" bolt cutters (same rounded jaw face as the hand cutters, I've seen ones that have a indent, that defeats the purpose.) But, usually requires balancing one handle on your leg, while lifting/pushing down the other. same general method. I always wanted to make a slightly larger version of a jump-ring saw (looks like a table saw, but with a [<>]-frame above, where you passed the coil through the diamond area. Main problem, was finding a gear motor that wasn't too fast or too slow, to run the rotary saw.

swimspud (author)2015-07-30

very good instructable! thanks for using the different colors, made it very clear. Do you have to soder the joints, or do they stand firm?

TimZ2 (author)swimspud2015-07-30

The rings will stay fairly firm if you use thicker wires, but soldering the joints would make the rings stronger. The only downside is soldering every ring would take a lot longer.

CarlTheDabbler (author)swimspud2015-07-30

The different colors really help. That was an excellent idea.

This is great work. Having done a little chain work in the past I understand the dedication that outfit must have taken. Wow.

robolimbo (author)2015-07-30

Awesome armor! Is it +2 versus undead? I'll bet it takes about 2000 little rings to make that headpiece! How many hours of labor have you in it? Great work!

TimZ2 (author)robolimbo2015-07-30

I haven't tested it against undead... yet. I would say the headpiece took somewhere around 60 hours to make though.

jklovance (author)2015-07-30

I have been making chainmaille for over 15 years. Cutting with a jeweler's saw is extremely slow especially on hard metals like steel. Another method is score and break which has much better results that a cut with bolt cutters. I buy my rings from the Ring Lord.

criffster (author)2015-07-30

Bloody brilliant!

fredthebread (author)2015-07-30

Use split rings that you slip door keys on to.

dhall-1 (author)2015-07-30

A few pointers. When you are doing your opened to closed rings, only close half of them. Leave the other half, EVEN but open. You will still use the needle-nosed pliers to level them off from their curvy spring form to a flat form, but leave them open enough to get rings into the loop. Then put 2 closed on the opened ring, slide it up inside 2 other already attached bottom closed rings and then close up the middle.

Also a LOOM is quite handy. I grabbed two 2x2-48 sticks of wood. cut them in half so you get four 2X2X24s. Make an H with 3 of the 2X2s and then put the 4th 2X2 across the top. Now place a paneling nail every inch or so across the top bar. Now you can just HANG closed rings off the nails, put 2 closed rings inside an open weave it up inside the 2 on the nail and close it. This lets you make 2 rows at a time...when it gets to the floor, take it off the nails, flop it over the top and continue along. Keeps the rings from flip flopping while working on them and makes it a LOT easier, plus when you move it and put it away its easier to pick things up later on without losing your mind.

MarcosY (author)2015-07-30

Hey bro can this stop a bullet?

CarlTheDabbler (author)MarcosY2015-07-30

No it will not stop a bullet.

studleylee (author)2015-07-30

Awesome, Why don't they make/use this on the "Walking Dead"???? Please tell Rick and the gang about it !!!!!

Instructomaker (author)2015-07-30

Pretty cool. Kind of like crocheting with steel. I must add this our maker bucket list. :-)

GaanonG (author)2015-07-30

I make maille for hobby and sale. I can't stress enough, DO NOT USE WOOD as your mandrel. It will warp and ultimately lead to uneven rings. I took a 3/8" metal rod, about 3' long, bent one end into a handcrank and drilled a hole through it. Then put it through a pair of wooden uprights for support. Now you can wind by hand anywhere.

Two other important factors to consider: 1) Galvanized steel doesn't have any official specs or tolerances. What you get from one supplier can vary greatly on strength and durability compared to another. If you plan on using it against anything stronger than foam weapons, test it out thoroughly before use. 2) I don't care what material you make it out of, it will NEVER be bulletproof and do not trust it against solid edged weapons until it has been thoroughly tested.

Gelfling6 (author)2015-07-27

One note, If someone goes to a farm supply store, DO NOT get the LARGE (2-foot coil) un-spooled lengths of galvanized wire. If you cannot deep-bend the wire by hand (the older style hard wire.) Don't use it! #1, Spring-back could rip leather, or worse, SKIN when it whips back. #2, Great way to break cutters, when you try to cut the rings. The 1/4-mile spools (and there is a 1/2-mile spool,) usually are a softer steel. If you're looking for lighter material, ask the supplier for Aluminium wire. (Seen it in 14-guage & 17-guage 1/4-mile spools).

OrientalHero (author)Gelfling62015-07-30

I avoided the finger pinch by using a guide. It was a T junction copper pipe just larger than the mandrel and wire. Once the wire gets started, it's go no other place to go than nice and snug around the mandrel. I used a hand drill to turn the mandrel with the guide held in a vice. As you turn the drill/mandrel you step away from the vice/guide where the wire goes in.

billbillt (author)2015-07-30

Love this... Got my vote...

knutknackebröd (author)2015-07-30

great ible! always nice to see armour instructables^^ one tip, use a metal rod instead of a wooden one. the wood will compress over time thus making your rings slightly smaller, not a problem for small projects but if you ever want to make a 6 in 1 hauberk or something you will notice the difference in size

Zorn Industries (author)2015-07-28

Awesome instructable, you have my vote in the metal contest.

lclaiborne (author)2015-07-28

Awesome! If you can learn how to use a jewelers saw, it's an extremely easy and efficient way to cut coils into rings. The whole coil cuts at once. It's an mazing tool though, and it's like using pencil with a little practice. The temperament that makes chain mail would love the things you can do with a jewelers saw...

TimZ2 (author)lclaiborne2015-07-28

Thanks for the great suggestion! I will definitely try using a jewelers saw.

reitaka18 (author)2015-07-28

How much does your mail shirt weigh?

TimZ2 (author)reitaka182015-07-28

The shirt weights around 17 lbs, and the helmet is just about 9 lbs.

MrTinkerer (author)2015-07-28

I love that you colored a ring for better illustration of the process. This is a great Instructable.

tomatoskins (author)2015-07-27

I love the method of coiling the wire! So simple and so effective!

jmwells (author)2015-07-27

Not being picky, the proper name for this garment is "haliburk". The spelling changes with the era and nation of origin.

Gelfling6 (author)2015-07-27

Well done! I've made chain maille for many years, and very similar tools! My most recent winding jigs, have been either a 2-1/2 foot hand-crank (for more authenticity) 5/16" Dia. mandrel in a |____|-style frame, and a 6-foot 5/16-Dia mandrel for making coils with the drill. Only thing, with the drill, ALWAYS wear leather gloves! Last thing anyone wants, is a little blood on their coils. (I've gotten fingers caught between the wire & mandrel, and it's Not fun! The leather gloves give plenty of protection, and give the wire a chance to slide, instead of cutting into the skin.) Also, use a drill that will allow speed selection.. I.E. as you start, and when you get to the end of the coil, you slow down.. The coifs I've made, are open-faced, but closed mantle. (making a square opening form just above the brow, to under the chin, then graduating the sides up so the chin doesn't flop.)

amberrayh (author)2015-07-27

Wow! This is pretty incredible. Thanks for sharing!

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