A Short About Me:

I went to my first Renaissance Festival in Georgia, USA, last year and fell in love with them. From then on, I have been trying to improve my costumes and create something extraordinary! This was the first thing I found, and decided that I wanted to make a chain mail shirt. They say not to make a shirt as a first chain mailing project, but I did. I went all-out and even made my own jump rings. I didn't make the shirt for nothing, and I wore it to the next Renaissance Festival.

My only regrets is the tool I used to cut the rings. If you want to make your rings and good quality chain mail try to find something that will cut the rings as flush as possible, e.g. jewelry saw.

Step 1: WHY 6-IN-1?

Picture of WHY 6-IN-1?

First, I want to make a comparison.

6-in-1 versus 4-in-1 made with the same ring size.

Notice the density difference between the two? For some wire gauges and ring diameters the 4-in-1 just doesn’t give your chain mail project the authenticity and functionality it needs. Would you be impressed with a hauberk that looked like you could almost poke your finger through it? No, not really. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with 4-in-1 and in some projects it looks amazing and it is much easier to make. But if you wanted your chain mail to look much more defensive and resilient, larger rings and a denser weave would be what you are looking for.

Is European 4-in-1 all you know how to make? Then this Instructable is meant for you! It is time for you to progress to the next level.



Ample working space, whether it be the tabletop or the floor, as long as there is enough room to shuffle things around.

  • 2 Pairs of Pliers (make sure your pliers have good grip on jump rings and that they are comfortable to use, keeping in mind how many thousands of times you are going to use them)
  • Jump Ring Opener/Closer Tool (optional)
  • 3 Pans to Separate Jump Rings


  • Rings for Your Project (the rings featured in this Instructable are right-handed, mild steel, 12 gauge with a loose inner diameter of 3/8”)

In This Instructable: Term Glossary (only, it’s not in alphabetical order)
Row: The literal row of chain mail links in a straight line
Chain: This term is my reference to a three rowed piece of chain mail
Base Chain: The piece of chain mail you build on for the main portion of your chain mail project
Weave: Why we chain mailers call it “weave” I really don’t know but that is the term for making chain mail

NOTE: I am right-handed so for all the left-handers out there do what is comfortable and actually that goes for everyone. There is no right or wrong way as long as the weaving process is done correctly. Other than that, make it however works for you.


  • Start with 1 open ring and 6 closed rings.
  • Put all of the closed rings in the open ring and close the open ring.
  • Slide another open ring through the last four rings, add two closed rings and close the open ring. Continue this until you have a base chain long enough for your project.



This is my personal preference when adding to the base chain because it adds 4 rows to your project at once. However, there are other ways to add to your base chain (instructions in later steps). This one requires you to make another chain exactly like your original base chain. Lay them out on a table where the rings on the edges lay in the same direction.

Take an open ring (obviously) and insert it into three rings on each piece and close it using your pliers. Keep going until they're joined.

It is prudent to check your work periodically to make sure everything is as it should be and catch mistakes early.


With this method two rows are added to your base chain.
  • Start by placing an open ring thorough the first three rings on the top of your base chain and add three closed rings to it and close.
  • Next, insert one open ring through the next three rings on the base chain and through the last two you had just added.
  • Add one closed ring to open ring and close. Continue this until you reach the end of your base chain.


If only one row is needed to be added this method is what you’re looking for. It’s as simple as inserting one open ring through three rings and closing the ring. Just make sure you make the row you’re adding look exactly like the middle row of your base chain. However, be prepared to spend a lot of time opening and closing rings as every single one has to be!

What about adding a piece onto the end of your chain mail? I did call this a beginner’s guide so here’s how in the next step!



Match up the ends of the chain mail where it looks like a continuous chain. Using the rings already at the ends of the chain mail join the two pieces together by identifying the center row of the chains and opening the first ring and passing it through the four on the opposite piece. Next, take the second ring in the row and open it, passing it through the two opposite. Pretty simple, huh?


If you want to make your own rings but can’t afford the expensive wires or you want to try 6-in-1 and not waste your expensive wire then go to your local hardware store and by a spool of tie wire. It work-hardens as you wind it around the mandrel so it becomes strong enough to use for chain mail. DO NOT get a rusty spool. If you can, get a newer spool that still has the coat of oil on the wire. However, after you wind the coils and cut them all that oil is rubbed away. Be sure to coat your chain mail in some sort of rust proofing agent. I used linseed oil for mine. It dries and leaves a dark finish on the rings. However, if you’re looking for a knight in shining chain mail look, than this wire would not be suitable.

Have you ever put on a frame backpack? Did you notice how it took some of the weight off your shoulders? Wearing a tighter belt around your waist will do the same thing, making a chain mail shirt much more comfortable. It takes all the chain mail below the belt and puts it on your hips instead of ALL the weight being on your shoulders. Believe me, wearing a mail shirt for six hours straight (yes, I did), it makes a difference!

If you plan to make a sleeveless chain mail shirt consider making the shoulders wide, to give it more surface area to spread and even out the weight.

Also, if you’re really wimpy, shoulder padding might help. 

Now, boys ignore this next piece because it is completely irrelevant to you!
Girls, if you’re crazy like me and want to make yourselves chain mail shirts, keep this in mind. When you wear chain mail it tends to take all the flattering curves away from your figure. Sure, woman going into battle wouldn’t care if they were pretty or not. But we don’t have any real battles to fight so we do care how we look; it’s a fact of life.

To evade embarrassing myself, I will simply leave it to your imaginations how wearing something heavy would work out. So, to solve the problem, and to make it more feminine and form-fitting, add a black string into the chain mail under the bust to create a drawstring.

Make sure the string you use is durable (or it will break under tension, like you inhaling) but small enough to not be seen in the chain mail. Find or make a needle (paper clips or chain mailing wire work well) that has an eye the right size for the string you choose and that can be fed easily into the chain mail links. Put on your chain mail shirt and find where the drawstring should be inserted. Keep note of how many rows from the neckline or arm it is and remove your chain mail shirt. Feed the needle into the row of rings, passing through the middle. The place you start is also where you finish so that is where the drawstring ends will be. Tie something bigger than chain mail to the ends of the string so it will not get pulled back through (like those annoying pajama pants that do that when you wash them).
Put it back on and synch it up to a comfortable tightness and tie it off. Goodbye boyish blob, hello girly curves!


Dakaath made it! (author)2014-06-21

Just wanted to say I've been using your method. Made a mandrel using a 5/8 inch steel rod from home depot and drilled a hole through it. Made a guide for the wire using an old chair leg, and can turn out a 24 inch spring of wire in about a minute with an electric drill hooked up.A lot cheaper after sunk costs then buying the rings premade. Then I cut the springs using a pair of wire cutters. Little bit of a workout cutting all the wire by hand, and not as clean as a saw, but i like the workout as I spend so much time typing its nice to work the hands.i did start using a dremel and a metal cutting blade on it, but it burns through the blade too fast. I might look into your saw method, I'd love to see a picture of it. I've been using 14 gauge electrical fence, 12 was a bit too heavy, expensive, and tough to work with.

I've been using your speed weaving method and I have been making 100 ring long strips, since I didn't want to start joining them together until I figured out a pattern for the shirt, neck hole size, sleeves or sleeveless, etc, and 100 is a nice size for my body size. About to start joining the strips together. Made 4 250 length ones for the sides, and will work inward.

Great method and great instructable. I call it my manly knitting, and have been working on it while watching TV or movies, great way to relax and keep me still long enough to sit through the show.

Shadow Ranger (author)Dakaath2014-06-24

Thanks for posting pictures Dakaath! I like seeing others' work and you're doing a right professional job! And cutting them with cutters is deffinately a workout, as I found out for myself. I made my first shirt with mild steel tie wire and I was cutting it with a pair of antique cutters, but after a while it started hurting my wrist so I decided an alternate cutting method was a must. My dad has a metal cutting band saw and we tried it out just to see if it worked and I was very happy with the result. Using a saw removes the metal instead of moving it out of the way like cutters, so it will make your rings a slightly smaller size but no different than if there was no spring back. So your actual inner diameter will be roughly the same size as your mandrel.

I will try to post a picture and a short how-to in the next couple of weeks so check back. :)

Hello Shaddow Ranger

Ring cutting is a problem for me. Do you have a photo of your dad's contraption to cut the rings, to give me an idea on doing the same thing please. Thanks :)

The Block Meister (author)2017-01-27

I need to make some 6 in 1 mail for a science project, I want to keep it accurate, quick and cheap. Should I use homemade rings or prefab rings?

shawnlambert (author)2013-05-06

Nice instruct-able. You may want to include in this:
• a shirt pattern(s)
• typical cost
• time to build
• and a side note that real chain mail links were individually riveted together by a blacksmith and not simply crimped--making them much stronger.

The cost of this shirt was around $30.00 (I made this shirt last year so I'm not entirely sure about the cost anymore) because I bought tie wire from a local hardware store. If you want to buy the rings online I would suggest doing much research and expect the cost to be much higher.

The time was around 3 months but I was doing it basically whenever I felt like it.

The shirt pattern I made from paper, cutting it to fit me, and then fashioning the chain mail after it (with additional space to allow for putting it on and taking it off). I simply used square pieces that I joined together, because chain mail forms to you fairly well.

Tenire (author)Shadow Ranger2015-12-05

This is a darn good instructable! However, when you say it cost you $30 to make it, you aren't projecting an accurate estimate.

I see $30 in materials, perhaps, but your time is easily another $300. Don't forget the hours you spent making rings, making a jig, and weaving.

Mail ain't cheap, and there's a reason why custom pieces are so expensive.

Richardperki (author)2015-06-15

Easy as to do this, but a bit tricky joining rings and strips of rings together at first.

Tie wire is easy to use, but also come apart more easily. Galvanised electric fence wire is the best so far and I have tried High Tenstile wire (HT) but that is too hard and it broke the tip of my bolt cutter that I used to cut the rings one by one from the mandrel. What I need is an easy way to cut the rings, and I am working on something now to work a bit like a stationary saw while sliding a coil of rings through it. Thin blade would work best, but it is still a work in progress, and any ideas would help. Thanks

My dad has a metal cutting band saw that works from a tabletop (best way I can describe it) and basically he designed a cuttable mandrel using a long bolt and attached a guide to it to keep the blade cutting strait. (Now that I'm actually trying to describe this thing it is sounding more complicated than it really is and I'm almost confusing myself.) I apologize for not posting the pictures sooner but life seems the always get in the way of things. If possible, I'll post them in a few weeks. But keep at it, Richardperki!

Hi There

About posting a picture of the Cutting Mandrel, etc. Just a request / reminder to post a pic for us, thanks.

Forgot - Thikness of wire is 2.0mm

gkarkavitsas (author)2015-05-28

Great instruction and work. The thickness is the wire you are using;

blackholeseeker (author)2015-04-22

Were can we get the rings?

You can purchase rings online from various suppliers or you can go for the cheaper option and make your own. I used simple tie wire for mine bought at some 5 dollars from my local hardware store. Of course this is more hassle and time consuming but for someone who would like to keep a hobby inexpensive it is the better option. But you will just have to look around to find what rings are right for your project and your budget.

Thanks for commenting and reading my instructable!

Thank you, for your answer.

kalacia (author)2015-01-14

Great instructable. I think ill be making me some chain. Still not sure if ill go for the 4 in 1 or the 6 in 1 above, although ill probably try it with anodized aluminium (as the colours can look awesome!)

For those who know, is there a reason why curved rings are used rarther than flat. I would imagine that it allows it to flow easier for the wearer...

Shadow Ranger (author)2014-05-20

I would like to add for those out there trying to find a good cutting method: If you happen to have a steel-cutting band saw just lying around your place, you can rig up a rod to slip the coil onto, attach it to the machine and cut them that way. My ingenious dad figured it up for me and has made making chain mail so much more enjoyable...and less painful. I'll post a picture later for anyone that would like to know how he did it.

Would love to see a photo. I think I have about half the picture in my head.

AJMansfield (author)2013-11-13

Are those rings painted, or did you just color them with photo-editing software? At least in the last one, they definitely look like they could have been treated with an eggshell powdercoat or something like that.

No, the rings are not painted, nor have I edited the photo. They are simply mild steel tie wire that had the oil cleaned from them during the coiling process. Tie wire tends to be dark to begin with, and I just kept the look. After the shirt was made I did coat it in linseed oil to prevent rust, but that is the only tampering I have done with the color of the rings. :)

No, I meant the colored ones on step 8.

Oh! I didn't see where the comment was posted. Sorry! :}

Those in step 7 are indeed edited with the lowly computer program called Paint. I changed their color to make it more comprehensive so that people could understand exactly which rings I was talking about.

There is, however, some success in painting rings with spray paint (the automotive spray paint seems to work best) if you desire your rings to be colored. Of course, other paints are available, but I have yet to try any, with the exception of nail polish...which works fairly well. But test all paints before you do your rings, to ensure it looks the way you want.

Peter11235 (author)2013-05-02

Maybe 6-in-one looks cooler but in real combat situations both were about the same against a sword swing but 4-in-1 is lighter so it's better too. A knight wore about 40 kg of armor and it mate his moves slower and made him and his horse tired. So the lighter his armor was the longer he could fight and he was more efficient in fighting. But for projects, I agree 6-in-1 looks cool (well, both of them are pretty awesome). NO OFFENSE MEANT.

sq_10_e (author)Peter112352014-01-09

Actually, the density of the weave did make a difference in its protective abilities. This is explained in further detail in wikipedia:

Finkswitch (author)Peter112352013-05-05

I've been making this stuff for a long time now. The 6-in-1 looks way nicer because it's dense. The 4-in-1 is still adequate because it's meant to stop the cutting/piercing power of a weapon. (cutting primarily) A sword has a wide area that it hits, so having a few more rings doesn't always add anything to it. Either way, great work! Looks fantastic.

Peter11235 (author)Finkswitch2013-05-05

that's just what I was sayind :-)

lordgasmic (author)2013-10-17

This is a great guide! You have done the best (that I have seen) in showing how to link everything together. I will be using this for making my own mail. Thanks!

Shadow Ranger (author)lordgasmic2013-10-25

You are very welcome, lordgasmic.

ah64mech (author)2013-07-10

How did you make the rings? I rather like the crimping instead of the rivets, it seams a lot cheaper and less time consuming.

Makedo (author)2013-05-05

This would be OK for art or a costume. The rings would need to be welded so they would not split when hit. The ends are a bit sharp and will cut you a bit if not lined up right. Is there a way to make a cut more squared for flat ends to touch? Other wise a good leather undershirt would help.

ApprenticeWizard (author)Makedo2013-06-07

Historically, the rings would not be welded - each one would be flattened at the ends, overlapped, have a hole punched in them, then riveted. I have seen one chainmailer do this - works well, but tedious...

Shadow Ranger (author)Makedo2013-05-08

Generally, an undershirt is REQUIRED anyways when wearing chain mail. Metal is not good to wear against your skin (especially galvanized steel) and will sometimes turn your skin different colors as copper would, so unless you have jewelry grade jump rings, I would recommend a gambeson to anyone who plans on wearing chain mail armor.

Ramundicus (author)Makedo2013-05-06

Yes. Saw cut the rings. You can use a jewelers saw to cut by hand or some have built power saws that use fine tooth slitting blades. The blade needs to be very thin to avoid leaving a wide kerf which when closed would distort the shape. I made one once using a set of brass tubes to match the OD of the worm which was fed through the tube into a 1"-2" slitting saw blade powered by a drill and a flex shaft. You can't permit any twisting or you'll snap the thin blade. And everything needs to be kept lubricated (I used cooking oil) to keep it cool. I believe I was cutting aluminum before my flex shaft bound up, twisted and broke. But with a slow enough feed rate and proper blade rpm, you can cut thin steel wire.

cybercapri (author)2013-05-05

Great instruct, as I have viewed many ways to make chainmail you method seems to be the best. The included photos are priceless as they show just how to link things up.

@Makedo no you are wrong, this 6 in 1 is too dense to be welded and chainmail is known to split from time to time so regular maintenance and care is needed to ensure such splits are kept to a minimum. Costume Mail is made from Aluminum and typically 4 in 1 pattern is used. If you read about chainmail you will see a think layer of cotton is used to guard from such cuts and scratches as you mentioned. A leather undergarment would be very hot and cause the body to sweat, hence the reason thick cotton is historically used.

Shadow Ranger (author)cybercapri2013-05-08

What you are referring to, cybercapri, is called a Gambeson. It is a padded, or quilted shirt worn under chain mail (not to be confused with a surcoat which is a tunic worn over chain mail with the knight's/lord's insignia emblazoned on it). As you say, leather does not breathe, however, a leather shirt lined with cotton underneath would work. It depends on personal preference and availability of leather (for me personally, leather is expensive) as well as if you have the tools and experience to work it.

cybercapri (author)Shadow Ranger2013-05-08

Hi Shadow Ranger,

Yes as an SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, member I am aware of the proper naming for period clothing, I was merely using simple terms so that the person I was responding to would be able to understand what I was saying. Thanks for the reply...

Shadow Ranger (author)cybercapri2013-05-08

Ah, I see. :D

Zimminger (author)2013-05-05

You brightened my day. Many years ago my wife was visiting neighbors and they asked what I was doing. Making chain mail. Writing chain letters? No, that armor stuff. I was only experimenting with heavy copper wire. It does hang differently in one direction than the other depending on the weave. They riveted the links together in the past. What fell on the field of battle rusted away and is lost because it was only wire and rusted to nothing. Making it took a lot of effort so I do like hearing that someone is still doing it.

Shadow Ranger (author)Zimminger2013-05-08

I have encountered that as well, Zimminger; people who don't even know what chain mail is! There are few DIYers out there anymore (present company excepted, of course) and people just don't think about making things themselves so when you tell them you're making chain mail, they say, "Oh, I know that that is! It's the letter writing thing, right?" Uh, no! It takes a picture or the actual thing to get them to understand sometimes. Then they think you're a bit crazy for taking the time to make something like that. The attitude toward chain mail has changed but I think the more you make things the better you are at comprehending life.

esmith37 (author)2013-05-05

If you want flush cut rings without the hassle of using a jewelry saw, I would suggest a pair of wire shears. I've had great success with them. It's hard to find them in stores, so your best bet is to look online.

xenor (author)esmith372013-05-06

I made a coif and a hauberk a few years back and I used a pair of sheet metal shears. It's worth the investment in a quality pair, the ones with the extra linkages to give you more leverage are best.

I'd also recommend grinding down the back of the blades to fit through the coils better. Another tip I can offer is to not fully close the shears, as some may distort the shape of the rings. It's no fun spending three times as long reshaping the rings before they can be used.

From memory, I used 1.6mm galvanised tie wire and the smooth part of a 10mm diameter bolt as a mandril for my coils, with an old spanner duct taped to the end.

A note on closing the rings, I use two pairs of pliers with one held upside-down. This gives you a balanced grip on each side of the ring, helping to prevent distortion. The rings should be twisted open, not pulled apart (ie, don't make the ring diameter larger).

Ludwig Von Mech (author)2013-05-05

Very,very nice. You did a terrific job!

Too Many Projects (author)2013-05-05

If you are going to do a lot of jump rings, and you'll need to, put together a winder and make a provision to run a Dremel or other cutting tool with a cutting disk. You can slide it the length of your winding rod and cut the rings squarely. Allow for the width of the cutter in your overall ring size. Then rings will close flush and can be welded if desired.

Barqz2 (author)2013-05-05

You can also make chain mail using pop tops from aluminum cans.....start saving!!

Treknology (author)2013-05-05

I agree that 6-in-1 looks better.

Moyashi (author)2013-05-05

Hi, this is a fantastic instructable and a huge inspiration to me who has always wished to make a chain vest, but I was wondering if you could provide more details on the correct sort of rings to buy please?
I live in the UK so my best bet is to buy sets of 1000 or something from eBay but there are so many different sizes and thicknesses I can't tell which would be best..

OrientalHero (author)Moyashi2013-05-05

This site at the section linked below has guides to wire diameter (gauge) vs internal diameter so you get an idea of what's gonna work. As this marvellous instructable says, too thin a wire with too big a ring size doesn't look good. Also too small a ring for the wire size gets really fiddly and less flexible. Of course it's for 4 in 1 so you'd have to use thinner wire or bigger rings for 6 in 1!

bnottle (author)2013-05-05

I've had a lot of success using the "score and snap" method when cutting my own rings. Using a mini bolt cutter you pinch the wire on your coil where you want to cut the ring, but don't cut through. This hardens the wire so that you can twist at that point and it will cleanly snap with a much straighter edge. Maybe not as flush as a saw, but a lot better than wire cutters and fairly fast too. It might be possible to score the wire with cutters but I have small hands and I need the leverage that bolt cutters provide.They

RandomIdeaMan (author)2013-04-30

Great Instructable!

Making chain mail is something I've wanted to try for a while, but never been sure where to start.

My only thought/question would be where are you getting your rings and/or how are you making them?
I've come up with a few solutions of my own (and I think they are similar to yours given the photos [wrapping wire around a steel pipe and cutting into rings]). Perhaps you could add another step... or maybe I'll put together my own ible when I get my technique down :)

The site I've included below is fantastic for both rings and wire in an assortment of metals, sizes, and gauges. I made a hand crank that turns a really long bolt (like 1.5 feet) so that I can produce many at once.

A jeweler's saw works wonders but is harder to use than a nice pair of bolt cutters which make the work go really quickly but do not give as nice an edge.

About This Instructable




Bio: The woods are my home...always.
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