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

Picture of Chainmail(le) Primer: Making Jewelry-Size Rings for Weaving Chainmail
0 - Tools.jpg
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?
Kayjay8 years ago
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)  Kayjay8 years ago
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 ryzellon8 years ago
well i know the one here sells... well rings and things but they have beeds and all that stuff too
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)  Kayjay8 years ago
Is "here" Washington, for you?
Kayjay ryzellon8 years ago
no here is swift current, saskatchewan (canada) 4 me
ryzellon (author)  Kayjay8 years ago
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 ryzellon8 years ago
good point sadly i've never been to the U.S.A before
USA is pretty nice. Ive been to Toronto. Canada is nice to. THE FALLS ARE BEAST!!!! And you guys have the better view.
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?
Luziviech4 years ago
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): http://i762.photobucket.com/albums/xx267/Luziviech/CIMG6633.jpg - 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...
joen6 years ago
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 "http://theringlord.org/derakoninstructions/index.html". Is this the right place?
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~8 years ago
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.)
I think he means 18 gauge and thicker. Thats how I see It.
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
Dusky6 years ago
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
My wife loves making this stuff. Great work.
J_SCAP7 years ago
my toe nail clipper go splode from this but i used wire cutters and it was ok
psykosteel7 years ago
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)  psykosteel7 years ago
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.)
andy607 years ago
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)  andy607 years ago
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 ryzellon7 years ago
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
beckinacea8 years ago
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. :)
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 Books8 years ago
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-sol8 years ago
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-sol8 years ago
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.
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-sol8 years ago
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.
Here's a chainmaille group link:

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

jtobako8 years ago
Could you add something about aspect ratio when choosing a mandrel for a particular wire? Thanks : )
ryzellon (author)  jtobako8 years ago
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.)
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)  xenobiologista8 years ago
"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.
lawizeg8 years ago
sweeet! im definetly gonna make this.
HamO8 years ago
Nicely done, great pictures. Thanks for sharing.