Introduction: Chainmail(le) Primer: Making Jewelry-Size Rings for Weaving Chainmail

Picture of Chainmail(le) Primer: Making Jewelry-Size Rings for Weaving Chainmail
With very few tools, you can begin weaving jewelry-sized chainmail.
If you're a beader, or do wirework, then you probably have most of these items already.

Items needed:
- Wire: 20 to 24 gauge wire (preferably half-hard if you intend on wearing the items you make, but full-soft is okay if you're just teaching yourself some weaves
- Mandrel: 1/2" to 1/16" (I recommend 3/16"), preferably metal, but in a pinch, you can get away with wood. (Please see step 4 for some additional information on aspect ratios and selecting a mandrel.)
- Nail clippers, unless you have specialty wire cutters ( ~Stained-Glass~ says that Fiskars Micro Tip Pruning Shears work well for wire thicknesses up to 18 gauge.)
- Vise-grip (you don't have to use lockable pliers, but they make life much easier)

Note: If you have a power drill, you could use that to power your winding. I generally don't power-wind wire unless I have a hole drilled (or notch cut into one end) through my mandrel to secure the wire, and for most of my small diameter mandrels, I don't have such a hole.
Power-winding will be discussed in an upcoming instructable on making armor-sized rings.

A clever wire winding jig was constructed by mum, and is explained on step 6. Go on and take a look at the alternative method for coiling.

To actually weave your rings into chainmail, you'll need Pliers: two pairs to start with. Teeth will mark the rings*, but that's okay if you're just practicing weaves. However, weaving is not within the purview of this instructable. Please see instructables on European 4-in-1, and Byzantine chain for weaves.

  • Not entirely true, but if you're good enough at weaving chainmail that you can avoid marking the rings with toothed pliers, then you probably don't need this instructable, eh?

Step 1: Starting Your Coil

Picture of Starting Your Coil

You may wish to file/cut a small notch near one end of the mandrel--it helps hold the wire. I just filed a perpendicular line half an inch from one end of my mandrel.

Cut approximately 1 yard of wire (begin with 3', you can increase the length later)

Find one end of your wire, and line it up perpendicularly with the mandrel.

Clamp wire down with Vise-Grip, also perpendicular to the mandrel.

Note that the clamped down portion of the wire will be wasted. Adjust this length according to frugal you need to be with your wire.

Step 2: Winding Your Coil

Picture of Winding Your Coil

Pick a direction, and start winding.

Try to keep each rotation of wire as close together as possible. This will maintain consistent ring size.

You can use the Vise-Grip as additional leverage to help you wind.

If you are using half-hard wire (or full-hard) or thick-ish wire, you may need to apply a bit of strength to keep the coil tight.

Towards the end of your coil, be aware that there is quite a bit of pent up energy in the coil--the wire will spin violently in the opposite direction. If you are not careful, you may get cut pretty badly.

Un-clamp your Vise-Grip.

Slide your coil off the mandrel. If you cut a notch, you may wish to slide it off the opposite end (sometimes the notch catches the coil).

You may wish to continue right away with another coil (I find it easier to wind a bunch of coils and then cut them all in one go, too).
If you had trouble with your pre-coiled wire, you might want to cut a shorter length for this next coil. If you had no trouble, go ahead and cut a longer length.
The longer your coils are, the less wire you'll waste, but the harder it will be to manage the coiling. Find your balance.
Note! Wind your coils in the same direction so that your finished rings open in the same way. It gets ridiculously awkward when a portion of my rings open in the opposite direction.

Step 3: Cutting Your Rings

Picture of Cutting Your Rings

Pick one end of your coil to start cutting.

Look for where the wire starts forming uniform coils. This will be where your first cut will be.
(If you are using precious metal, or do not have much wire, you will want to waste as little wire as possible, so cut as close to the beginning of the uniform coil as you can.)

Cut perpendicularly to the coil.

You'll probably only get one ring per snip. Don't force the coil in order to get more rings per cut--you'll get damaged rings and poor closure.

Do notice where the end of the coil is, and make your cut as close to full circle as possible. This will ensure that your rings will not have gaps when you close them.

Step 4: Aspect Ratios

Picture of Aspect Ratios

Aspect Ratio. If you've heard of this term, you've probably also learned most of what I will be saying here. You may proceed to the next page where I have links to AR charts.

Technically, it is the inner diameter of your ring divided by the diameter of the wire.
Practically, "it tells you how fat the donut is."
The smaller the AR, the fatter your ring.

For the sake of simplicity, you can take your mandrel size as the inner diameter of your rings. You can look up the diameter of your wire, just make sure both diameters are in the same units.

AR becomes important when you want to have the optimal ring size for your project. Weaves have a range of ARs that will work, but there's a much narrower range for what looks best. Some ARs simply will not work for some weaves, and AR may even alter the weave you're making (Spiral will turn into Jens Pinds with a small AR).

I very rarely bother with actual AR measurements, but the concept is very important when selecting rings (don't pick fat rings for Full-Persian 6-in-1, I will laugh at you).

Take a look at the three Byzantine samples.
The inner diameter of the rings is the same: 3/16", but the wire diameter increases towards the right. Note how the weave looks really wimpy with the large AR (the skinnier rings), and looks the best with a smaller AR. (But any smaller than that final set, the rings won't fit in the weave!)

Step 5: A Few Useful Links

The Ring Lord - Hands down, this is the best supplier of rings. You'll wait a little longer for your rings to ship from Canada, but the price and selection are unbeatable.
UrbanMaille - They specialize in sterling silver rings (even argentium!), and there's a selection of a few other materials. The prices are higher than The Ring Lord's, but if you're working with precious metals, you might as well spend the extra money for quality (the polish is amazing). This is also where I get most of my tools. (Ring tool!)
Rings & Things - This is where I get wire to coil my own rings. The prices are very good, and they carry argentium. (Please note the $25 minimum, and surcharge for all orders under $50. I rarely have trouble meeting the 50$ mark...)

Weave Instructions:
Derakon's Library - Very clear instructions for many weaves. (This was the best instructional site back when I was first starting chain working, and it's still my primary reference site.)
CG Maille - (Previously Phong's Chainmaille Tutorials) Computer generated graphics for the tutorials, covers the same range as Derakon, but the graphics are prettier. So shiny.

The Ring Lord's Forum - Very active forum for chainmail (it might well be the most active out there).
M.A.I.L. - An active gathering of maillers, and it's much more than just a forum. There are instructions for weaves, articles on chainmail related subjects, galleries... the list goes on. It's good because any member can submit his/her version or interpretation a weave or theory. That also means you may have to wade through some pages that are of poorer quality.

Other Information: (Probably overkill for people just beginning to weave, though.)
Zlock's Aspect Ratio Pages - This appears to be the wellspring of in-depth information on aspect ratios. There's a handy chart,
Venom's Pit - There are a couple of charts that you might find handy, once you really get into working with chainmail.

There are many, many more sites out there that I have not listed. I have pulled what I believe are the best, and I intend to keep the listing short. However, if you violently disagree, or believe that I've grossly overlooked another site, feel free to let me know.

Step 6: Alternative Coiling Method: Wire-winding Jig

Picture of Alternative Coiling Method: Wire-winding Jig

This information was provided by mum, but edited and posted by me. For questions relating to the jig itself, speak to mum, for questions relating to the presentation of this information, it'll be me you want.

mum says: "I went to a jewelry class and didn't want to spend a fortune on a wire-winding jig that I might only use once, so I made my own."

Items for jig & mandrel:
2 L-shaped shelf supports (about 3inches in this jig, possibly with a bit sawed off the length)
G-Clamp (known as a C-Clamp on the States' side of the pond)
Knitting needle as your mandrel

Clamp the L-supports to the table to form a U shape (if you set them very close, you'll need to have sawn at least one L-support short)*
Bend knitting needle so you can get a bit of leverage to coil your wire (see photo)
Insert needle through L-supports
Wrap a bit of wire on the mandrel (probably at your lever)
Start coiling!
Note: hollow needles will deform in cross-section when bent, so some of your coil may not be perfectly round. Don't use these rings for projects requiring consistent ring size/shape.

mum also says: Knitting needles go up to a very large size so you would have to make sure the knitting needle would fit though the hole in the shelf support! Or you could drill a bigger hole in the support itself.

**I would suggest getting one clamp for each L-support and secure them sufficiently far apart that you can coil between the supports. This way you can also skip having to shorten the L-supports. You'll have to figure out how to start the coil, if you want to conserve wire: maybe a very small hole drilled through one side of the needle? Insert a bit of wire, and start coiling.
If anyone gets the wider set up to work, I can put your photos up, here.


TanaquilL (author)2016-04-11

You came up with brillant ideas and save money. Thank you for sharing.

Kayjay (author)2007-08-02

i was just wondering does anyone know if rings and things is a well knowen store in other places, i know we have one here but i was wondering where sone of the other ones are, plus our store isnt very big

ryzellon (author)Kayjay2007-08-02

Their showroom looks pretty large, and the purchase minimum+surcharge is applied there (unless you're a reseller. They closed their retail store in 2000, and I'm pretty sure they don't have any other locations.
(I've only ever ordered online.)
& I know none of my friends've heard of it before, but they're not beaders/jewelers, so that's not all that informative.
Hopefully someone else will have a better answer for you.

Kayjay (author)ryzellon2007-08-03

well i know the one here sells... well rings and things but they have beeds and all that stuff too

sokamiwohali (author)Kayjay2011-11-27

you know that The Ring Lord is in canada right?...they make some really good rings for the price. their selection is great, and your not limited my just rings. they sell wire too!!

their site is

ryzellon (author)Kayjay2007-08-03

Is "here" Washington, for you?

Kayjay (author)ryzellon2007-08-03

no here is swift current, saskatchewan (canada) 4 me

ryzellon (author)Kayjay2007-08-03

Yeah, didn't think so, but WA is relatively close to Canada, so I figured it's possible for a Canadian to cross the border for shopping. Anyhow. I'm pretty willing to bet that the store you're talking about isn't the one I'm talking about. They just have the same name (which isn't surprising, since they both sell ... well, rings and things.)

Kayjay (author)ryzellon2007-08-03

good point sadly i've never been to the U.S.A before

Speedmite (author)Kayjay2009-03-20

USA is pretty nice. Ive been to Toronto. Canada is nice to. THE FALLS ARE BEAST!!!! And you guys have the better view.

el.numbre (author)Kayjay2007-08-17

try the ring lord for all chain maille related things :) their prices are very reasonable for wire, rings, accesories, premade everything really :p the only thing is postage for me as live in the UK but they're situated in canada so the p+p should be reasonable for you :)

I've used rings 'n' things online, I'm not sure if its the same store though?

Luziviech (author)2011-08-09

Dude, there's an easy way to make clean and fast rings from using a drill and mandrels - just use a tool like this (got it from a friend, dunno if the idea of it existed even earlier): - It's just a piece of solid metal with a screw/cylinder in the middle, the difference between the screw and the several holes is the same as the wire's diameter i use. To use the tool i make sum rounds from my wire and put the tool over the mandrel using the certain fitting hole and can run the drill at full speed, if i want: the screw fastens the wire to the mandrel and forces it into rings...

joen (author)2009-06-29

Great tutorial. I liked it but when I tried to go to "Derakon's Library", in step 5 the link didn't work. When I Googled the name it sent me to "". Is this the right place?

J_SCAP (author)2007-12-03

ok if i where you i would just make it a 4 in 1 knight mail

Speedmite (author)J_SCAP2009-03-20

Homonym usage! Its "were" not "where". and its European mail, not knight mail. All mail can be considered "knight mail". There are many more different types of mail than 4-1

Speedmite (author)2009-03-20

Go here. Great tutorials on a lot. Ive only tried a few thing but its the best place Ive been. I really only seriously made 4-1 mail, but they have some cool stuff.

I recommend 20-24 gauge. If you want like a chain, smaller gauge. If you want micro, larger gauge. I wouldnt recommend micro if you are just starting. It can be irritating at first figuring out stuff, but its fun.

Also, I would recommend making the rings yourself. Its fun,cheaper,and easy. I used a long screwdriver as a mandrel, locking pliers to hold the wire, and wire cutters to cut it. And a vice to hold the screwdriver. And some random wire from somthing in the garage...


~StainedGlass~ (author)2007-08-02

For cutting 18+ gauges of copper, aluminum and silver, try out a pair of $14.95 Fiskars MicroShears... they work great and give incredible cuts!!

ryzellon (author)~StainedGlass~2007-08-02

That sounds like a good idea, and I'd like to add it into the instructable. But a few points of clarification first:
Is the "+" for wire diameter or gauge #? (i.e. for 18 gauges and thicker, or for 18-24 gauge)?
Could you provide a model #, photo, link to product or some other specific identifying info on these shears? I'm not finding any Micro Shears, but I'm seeing at least two Fiskars items that have Micro in their item name.

(I personally have a Xuron micro flush-cutter (9200) and a hefty pair of Wiss aviation snips (M6RS), and have to divide my wires between those.)

Speedmite (author)ryzellon2009-03-20

I think he means 18 gauge and thicker. Thats how I see It.

~StainedGlass~ (author)ryzellon2007-08-03

I meant 18 gauge and thinner, so, 20 gauge, 22 gauge, 24 gauge, etc. I have also used them to cut some 16 gauge, but the cuts aren't as smooth and shear then.

Here's a pic of them, they're sold in hardware store to trim and prune shrubs:

Their actual name is Fiskars Micro Tip Pruning Shears

Dusky (author)2008-10-12

Great links; I have been pleased buying from The Ring Lord. Their selection is a blessing and a curse...way too many shiny things to spend money on. .
I've been learning weaves with pre-made rings for several months now, and finally wanted to start winding my own rings; thanks for the tutorial!
cheers, dusky

BARBARIANROCKER (author)2008-03-10

My wife loves making this stuff. Great work.

J_SCAP (author)2007-12-09

my toe nail clipper go splode from this but i used wire cutters and it was ok

psykosteel (author)2007-11-12

Nice job, try using your mandrel in a cordless drill if available. They are cheap enough and a lot of them come in two speeds, set it to slow. Mount one end of the wire in a bench vice and the other end in the mandrel and drill. Pull back from the vice to add tension then squeeze the drill trigger slowly as you walk toward the vice. A few times and you will get the hang of it with minimal waste. You will also notice much tighter and consistent ring sizes. Happy winding.

ryzellon (author)psykosteel2007-11-12

Yep. "Power-winding will be discussed in an upcoming instructable on making armor-sized rings." (Though I haven't gotten around to writing that instructable, 'cause I'm out of the country.)

andy60 (author)2007-09-11

i usually attatch one end of the madrel to a drill at a low speed and this has proved a lot quicker in most cases

ryzellon (author)andy602007-09-11

Thanks for pointing out what I wrote in the intro--I do mention the use of a drill, but I appear to neglect my reasons for not using it with this instructable. I'll have to fix that. The drill method is prone to generating more scraps and a higher risk of mistakes, so I would use it with expendable wire. I can put up with half a dozen warped links when I'm coiling galv. steel, but I would rather not have that happen with the gold/silver wire. & when writing this instructable, I did not have access to a drill. Would you like to supply me with photos or a video clip of coiling small rings to add?

andy60 (author)ryzellon2007-09-12

sos bout that, busy life at the moment :( and yer i'd love to add some pics soon as i get my camera... (hopefully shouldn't be long) lol

beckinacea (author)2007-08-02

Holy in-depth instructable, Batman! I've been meaning to get a whole load of new links lately, but a friend of mine made them and I wasn't sure how. Thanks for sharing. :)

Building Books (author)2007-08-01

ryzellon, I seem to be pouncing on your instructables alot :P Noticed some people talking about the AR. The AR is is useful when determining the rings you want for the weave you're going to do. The AR is worked out by Dividing the ID (inner diameter) of the ring (or the mandrel size) by the thickness of the wire. For example 20g wire (0.8mm) on a 5mm mandrel will give you an AR of 5.8. Some weaves will only work within a certain AR range. Uhm, another way of getting a relatively flush cut using your nailclippers would be to use the score and break method. The score and break method is when you cut only a small way into the metal (score) then bending the ring up untill it breaks. Softer metals will require a deeper score than harder metals.

ryzellon (author)Building Books2007-08-01

I had added step 4 as a short discussion of AR at the suggestion of jtobako. Hopefully I've addressed the basics of AR sufficiently there.
An addendum to ring-cutting-methods is forthcoming, and I'll be sure to mention score&break.

atelier-sol (author)2007-07-28

I find I get better (flush) cuts with a jeweler's saw and a wooden mandrel so I can use one end to guide the saw. What type of cutter do you use? Do you get perfectly flush cuts? If so, please share the brand and model of the cutter. Thanks.

ryzellon (author)atelier-sol2007-07-29

Would you be willing to donate a photo of your saw-cutting method? And perhaps a description--if you'd like to collaborate on this instructable, I would definitely appreciate the aid. (I'm out of the country right now, so I have the absolute minimum of tools/materials.) There are many reasons why I don't use a saw, but it's mostly because I lose the kerf, and it requires more set up and tools than I can conveniently port along with me. I do own a pair of Xuron 9200 "micro-shear flush cutters," and those are very good shears and produce parallel butts. My problem with the 9200 is that it visibly deforms one butt, and that turns out to be far more noticeable than the marginally-less-flush cut of my nail clippers. You'll have to take my word for it--I can't get my camera to pick up the detail.

atelier-sol (author)ryzellon2007-07-30

I'd love to collaborate, and I think it makes sense to have the one instructable with two cutting methods. I'll take some photos and upload them or send them to you. Oh, and I don't know how I missed that you were using nail clippers -- it's right there at the top! I'll have to get a straight pair and try it. It's great when a cheap little tool ends up working best!

ryzellon (author)atelier-sol2007-07-30

I did try clipping with the scissors-like style of nail clipper, but it mangled the wire. I think it's the leverage? The standard clippers have pretty even pressure across the entire cutting surface, but the straight clippers don't. Either way, I'm just letting you know that I've had the best results with the common clipper style, and not any of the others.

FrenchCrawler (author)ryzellon2007-07-29

Here's a chainmaille group link:

And here's another showing a cutting tool/design using a dremel and gravity:

jtobako (author)2007-07-28

Could you add something about aspect ratio when choosing a mandrel for a particular wire? Thanks : )

ryzellon (author)jtobako2007-07-29

Done! (Well, I only pointed out the basic idea of AR. If anyone needs technical details, this instructable totally isn't the place to look.)

xenobiologista (author)2007-07-28

One question - could you describe what kind of wire would be "half-hard"? I guess "full soft" would be metals like copper or silver, but how hard is half hard? Nice Instructable, by the way.

ryzellon (author)xenobiologista2007-07-29

"Half-hard" and "full-hard" doesn't have anything to do with the material, it's determined by how work-hardened the wire is after being drawn, and whether it's been annealed, or the degree to which it is annealed. Usually the hard/soft will be given on the packaging or item description. If you go to a craft site/store and buy wire, you can (hopefully) choose the temper on the wire. In my personal experience, if the wire is not labeled, it's usually full-soft.

lawizeg (author)2007-07-28

sweeet! im definetly gonna make this.

HamO (author)2007-07-28

Nicely done, great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

About This Instructable




More by ryzellon:Repairing a Nintendo DS LiteMake a sling (weapon) out of a grocery bag! (Plus two bonuses! "How not to use scissors" & "Replace bandaids with sports tape")Chainmail(le) Primer: Making Jewelry-Size Rings for Weaving Chainmail
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