Hi, my name is Leo and I've always been a huge fan of the fantasy genre. During the winter break my junior year of high school I thought I might use my free-time to finally make myself something I can wear to the next Renaissance festival with my friends.
The style that I used for my project was European four in one, for other takes on this style of weaving rings I used these instructables as references:
Step 1: Assemble Your Tools and Materials
As far as other armor styles go, chainmail is relatively simple to gather materials for:
The tools I used for this project were:
Tinsnips: to be used for cutting off the end of a coil and separating rings
Vice grips: I used a large pair to clamp one end of my wire to the curtain-rod as I wound my coils. For the holding, shaping, and closing of rings I used a needle-nosed pair. Any pliers should work for this project, but I felt that vice grips were the easiest to manageable hold and manipulate the rings with.
Metal Files: I made sure to take off any sharp edges on all my rings before storing them (this IS an article of clothing after all) to ensure that nothing would get caught and tear the clothing below as the shirt would be put on and taken off.
Assorted storage: You will end up with a lot of rings, and I mean A LOT! Be sure you're ready to store all of your materials in the long term, as making chainmail tends to be a rather large time-investment. I also found it helpful to keep my spare rings separate from my groups of rings for the sake of working efficiently.
Dowel/Metal Rod: You will need something to wrap your wire around in the process of making coils. Most of the guides I've looked at used something that was 3/8". I decided to make mine slightly larger, I used a 3/4 inch metal curtainrod because at three feet long, it was the right size to rest on the floor as I wrapped the wire. Also since my purpose was decorative, and I wanted to make the weaving easier since this was my first attempt, I felt it wasn't necessary to make the rings smaller. Most Dowels and Metal rods will work for this so long as they are sturdy enough to stand up to steel wire being wrapped around them.
Because of this blasted mithril shortage, chainmail is traditionally made of steel because it is strong enough to both hold itself togather as a garment, but more importantly offer defense against an incoming attack. The gauge of the wire however, changes based on the armorer. I've seen projects use anywhere from 14 to 18 gauge wire, though I would definitely recommend opting for a larger size for larger garments. The wire I used for my project was Blue Hawk 16 gauge steel wire, I bought it from the local Lowe's and although it's labelled as "Picture Hanger", it's pretty heavy duty.
Step 2: Create Coils
The easiest way to cut rings for chainmail is to first create coils from you wire by wrapping it around a rod.
I used a large pair of vice grips and clamped one end of the wire spool to the metal rod, and twisted it by hand. However for those inclined I found two others who made a more automated system that I would definitely recommend:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Chainmail-1/ ← His step two explains how to twist coils if you're using a Dowel
Be careful as you're winding the wire around the rod, you want to keep the coils tight, but don't let the wire jump up on itself or you'll end up with misshapen rings.
Step 3: Cut Coils Into Rings
This step is the simplest, but that does not make it any less important. Take the tinsnips and cut a line along your coils, lining up with the one end. The rings will simply pop off in perfect copies as you cut, but the final ring on each coil may be misshapen or too small, so just set it to the side, you'll end up with plenty of other rings to use, believe me.
Before you store your newly-cut rings be sure to file any rings that have sharp points or edges that might stick out and catch on whatever clothing you would be wearing underneath. This would make it difficult to put on and take off, as well as run the risk of scratching or tearing you or your undergarments (but hopefully not you).
Step 4: Create 4 in 1 Groups
Now it's time to begin weaving the rings into groups of five. As the name suggests, each group of rings consists of one central ring, with four others strung inside. Although you will need a mountain of these groups of rings, be sure to keep some rings free. You will use these later to attach the groups, and later the chains together.
The technique I'm using to weave the rings is referred to as "butted mail". Each end of a ring is pushed up against the other end, and the strength of the chain-weave keeps the rings from warping.
Note: Pace yourself, you don't want to injure yourself by overworking. I began to get blisters as the metal rubbed up against my thumb and forefinger, so I made a makeshift thimble for myself out of paper.
Step 5: Make Chains From Groups of Rings
Next, arrange the groups of rings into a chain, keep in mind that your groups of rings need to be oriented in the same direction for the pattern to keep its strength.
The length of the chain will vary on the shape of your body, but as a general rule of thumb each chain should be able to wrap around your body loosely. You will also want several shorter chains to become the shoulders and sleeves.
Step 6: Combine Chains Into Full Torso
Use more of your spare rings to connect chains to widen each strip. Repeat this process until the strip height matches the length you want your garment to be. This step will require the most space, so make sure you have room to properly orientate the chains you're working with.
It is even more important now that the chains are oriented in the right direction now, as your chainmail will not be as strong, and you nun the risk of having your rings warp under the shirt's own weight.
This is also the time to combine the sleeve-pieces into a strip wide enough to cover your shoulders all the way across your arms.
Step 7: Finish the Shirt
Now it is time to convert all the pieces you've been working on, into a fully-formed shirt of chainmail.
To help me connect the torso piece, and weave the "tube" that will be the body of your shirt I used a body-pillow as a model to wrap my chainmail around. It isn't necessary to wrap the chainmail around something, this step can be done just by folding the piece over itself, I just found it helped me get better control over what I was working with.
NOTE: the sleeve pieces will only line up with one side of the weave. The pattern will be going the opposite direction when you try to attach the other side. I connected the sleeves like I would any other piece, but doubled-up all the rings to make up for the weak-point.
Congradulations! You're now ready to protect yourself from invading hordes, or more likely, dress for success at your next medieval festival.