Introduction: Genuine Chainmaille From Pop Tabs

Picture of Genuine Chainmaille From Pop Tabs

Constructing a genuine European 4 in 1 chainmaille weave using only pop tabs.

Turns out this is very easy and makes a really great looking piece of maille, and as an added bonus you don't have to worry about having a quarter mile of wire on hand to attach them together.

Step 1: Assemble Your Supplies

Picture of Assemble Your Supplies

OK, you are going to need lots and lots of pop tabs. Don't give yourself renal failure trying to drink them all yourself. Spread it out or enlist the help of your family, friends, workmates, or maybe even the local recycling center. Here is what you will need:

Staple remover
Old key
Non-mangled pop tabs (however many you need, 1000 is a good start)

Step 2: Prepare the Tabs

Picture of Prepare the Tabs

You will need to prepare the tabs for the weaving. Bend the collar down from the "top" side of the tab using the tumbler side of the key. Then use the back of the key to continue bending it down against the side of the tab. Lay the tab face down and push the cupped part down flat.

Step 3: Cut

Picture of Cut

Now that all your tabs are flat and consistent, you need to cut and crimp them.

Cut them in the very middle of the pull part of the tab, or for a stronger connection, on the rivet side, either way just be consistent.

Step 4: Bend

Picture of Bend

The tabs will need to be bent slightly so they will lay together properly. This is where the staple remover comes it. Turns out it gives it just the right amount of bend. Put the tab in cut side first and close the tool down so that one side holds the cuts and the "bridge" is over the metal edge on the other side. Press with your finger and, bam! you're done.

Step 5: Repeat

Picture of Repeat

Keep making the links, do them all at once, do them in batches. Either way, its pretty easy to make them.

One note: If you are using cutters, you can bend the tabs first, if you are using scissors you have to cut them first.

Step 6: Weave

Picture of Weave

Now that you have a massive pile of tabs ready, you will begin the weaving. The first picture shows 4 links woven together in the traditional European 4 in 1 style. The next photos show the proper way to connect them together.

Holding one tab by the back, with one hand, take another tab with your free hand.
Push the back of the second tab through the cut on the first tab from the bottom so that it is on one side.
After they are connected together do the same with a second tab, but on the opposite side.
The fourth tab you put on will connect the two "shoulder" tabs together.
Connect the fourth tab so that the second and third are laying one on each side.
The back of the tabs should always end up on the bottom side of the weave.

Step 7: Continue Weaving

Picture of Continue Weaving

Keep doing this until you have reached the desired size. I won't go into detail in this Instructable regarding how to make a specific garment or item. But I will give you some tips on weaving. Because of the pattern, you have a couple different "fabric" geometries you can work with.

The first is the diamond geometry, each link is connected to 3 others
The second is the square, each link (except those on the edges) uses pattern's full 4 to 1 connection

As your swatch gets larger it might be easier to flip it over to continue weaving, because you will need to handle the main body less as you attach new links.

Step 8: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this instructable, it is the first I've written. I still have alot more tabs to go before I will be able to finish anything. I will probably make a pixane, and create a new Instructable for it. I will leave you with some pictures of this cool looking chainmaille.


Mythbuster009 (author)2013-08-28

I made a shirt freshman year of high school for a Halloween costume, and here's how. I measured how big around my chest was, then made a strip the length of my circumference and 4 tabs tall. I pinned it down and continued adding rows until it was the length of my torso, then added tabs in a way that would go around my neck and connect together over my shoulders. I did the same for my arms (measuring circumference, etc.), but removed a tab every once in a while going down so that it would be more form fitting (since my shoulders/biceps are larger than my wrists). I then connected* the shoulder part of the arm pieces to the holes left by the shoulder part of the shirt. Finally I wore a gray shirt underneath to compliment the metal and protect my skin. Eventually I hand-sewed the edges of the cotton shirt to the tabs to keep everything from moving around too much. Everyone loved my costume, and years later I still have it, although I eventually took the sleeves off because I had little flexibility with them attached.
*connected using more tabs, not wire or any other means

tmaragakis (author)Mythbuster0092016-04-15

Dude. Friggin' epic.

windoz (author)Mythbuster0092016-03-27

LOVE it! Good for you! I doubt I would have the patience for this project, but at least I can admire your work.

Ianflow (author)2013-12-08

Just a few questions:
Why do they need the metal ring on the pop tab still (don't you just bend it away anyhow?)
Also, why do you bend it with the staple remover, are there any other ways, or items to use?

quixotiCfluX (author)Ianflow2013-12-09

These are good questions. When the metal ring is still on the tab it allows you to have a folded metal edge instead of the the sharp irregular edge of a broken ring.

I used the staple remover primarily because it was handy at my desk and gave the tabs a consistent amount of bend. It can easily be done with any other tool, though. It can easily be done with pliers, but the consistency will be a bit more difficult. I think one person in the comments (buried way down there somewhere) said he was going to make a wooden jig in a clamp to do several at once.

I hope that helps, thanks for taking the time to send me questions. (author)2013-11-02

You got a feature on iFunny today

lycoris3 (author)2013-02-12

this is one of my favorite instructables, and am thinking about collecting to make a nice bag and decoration for a jacket. looking forward to the fun!

timothymh (author)2010-05-31

 I really need to make this wider; it keeps folding in on itself as I work. Takes five minutes to straighten out like in the photo below.

frenzy (author)timothymh2010-06-07


Your posting has won today's "I Made It challenge. For winning you are receiving a free 3 month pro membership.

Thanks for using instructables!

JamieL3 (author)2017-02-19

1 empty 15oz can of spicy chile (or what ever can of what you like a lot) yields about a little over 500 tabs. So far I think this might be about enough for 1/3-3/5 of a chain mail shirt without sleeves.

GavinC25 (author)2016-12-26

My chainmail curls in on itself if I flip it over when I'm figuring what the problem is and when I was a 4th of the way from being finished making it a vest, I couldn't take it off of any flat surface without it rolling in on itself and becoming a nuisance. I've taken it apart and I'm restarting to try and figure out what went wrong through action, but does anyone have a clue as to why it wanted to roll inward?

LauraD119 made it! (author)2016-07-10

Working on a Destiny cosplay, and this came in so handy!! Thank your for this tutorial! Now the only hard part is to find the tabs...

TinaJ2 (author)2016-07-01

I have been saving my tabs for this project, I haven't counted them but I will be making something before fall. I really like the instructable you created, thank you!

RobrechtC (author)2016-05-11

Awesome chainmail. Gonna be handy for the Geralt of Rivia costume i'm planning to do :)

johnkbenson (author)2016-04-27

i made if for a halloween costume and i bought the pop tabs on ebay it is awesome i recomend it for other people to try it it is really cool

deswiger (author)2016-03-30

This is either a great idea or you have way too much free time. I like to think, it's a cool idea. If you were to take it one step further and drop a touch of solder (even liquid solder) on to each split so they wouldn't come apart, these might even be sold to costume stores and others people for a little extra jingle in the pocket. Nice job!

curtiplas made it! (author)2016-03-30

It doesn't sit the greatest, but it's a fun thing to do on lunch :)

hujan made it! (author)2015-08-28

Thanks for the fab Instructable, I used your technique to make a lampshade ;O)

Joecool 3 (author)hujan2016-03-22

Awesome! :D

hujan (author)Joecool 32016-03-24


morsed2 (author)hujan2016-03-22

Now, that a good idea!

hujan (author)morsed22016-03-24

Thanks, it makes really nice light around but still straight on the desk without the pattern not to be disturbing when working ;)

JudithH8 (author)2016-03-23

This looks so awesome. I am going to try it! Well, as soon as I get the pop tops for it. LOL

Dawsie (author)2016-03-23

thanks for the Instructable :-) while reading the comments made I saw someone with a length of the tabs done and thought to my self ummm it would make for a great belt for a day outfit :-) or even on an evening dress :-) looks like I will have to go through my bag of cans and pull all the tabs befor taking them to the recycling port :-) thanks for the idea :-)

morsed2 (author)2016-03-22

I don't have much need for medieval chain mail armour!

BUT, your instructable was very interesting and well thought out.

I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

claudette sova (author)2016-03-22

If your state has the "Bottle Bill" which would mean there are Can Redemption Centers in that state, you can go and ask the owners if they will allow you to collect tabs for free. (or you can help them sort can's and bottles for free for them.) In NY state we have redemption centers (I used to run one) and people would come in and want the tabs for the American Legion to collect so they could make a few bucks when they brought them to be recycled. It helped out when they could literally collect thousands of them.

raen714 (author)2012-12-22

After three years (most of which was gathering supplies), I finally have a wearable hauberk.

Joecool 3 (author)raen7142016-03-22

I bought most of my tabs on Ebay..

Joecool 3 made it! (author)2016-03-22

I've finished my tunic, though while making it, I found out that if you bend the tabs in the opposite direction, the smooth side looks a lot more like real chainmail.

Unfortunately, I found this out too late, and this is all I can show of it.

CheriRead (author)2016-03-22

This is very cool. I may try it in the future. Right now I have too many projects going. This looks much lighter than some of the stuff I have seen.

Gorilla22 (author)2016-03-22

Oh man, that's a lot of pop...

moore2404 (author)2016-01-31

i don't have a staple remover, what do i do ?

mcgypsy9 (author)moore24042016-03-22

I think a stapler would work too!

quixotiCfluX (author)moore24042016-02-08

A set of pliers can do a good job, you just have to be a little more careful so each piece has a similar amount of bend.

ONEPUNCHMAN (author)2016-01-05

This is smart and simple!

It's really cool!!!

gabbyg2831 made it! (author)2015-10-09

I have many pieces of chainmail using this method and they all have turned out great! I used spray paint to colour them gold and it worked out perfectly. The only problem is that every now and then the can become unlinked but it is an easy fix.

These look so awesome. I wonder if it's possible to solder the cuts together in order to create a more permanent connection...

VincentClaymore (author)2015-08-08

This is so cool. I feel a little silly for asking, but how do you change the circumference to allow for a sleeve to get tighter towards the wrist? I have made a tube now that fits around my upper arm, but it is too baggy around the wrist...

Mithril Armour (author)2015-07-30

I over came the weakness and fragility of this design, by weaving with a fine wire. As you can see, it gives a beautiful fish scale texture, and many different designs are possible. I've been wearing at festivals all summer, and the response has been overwhelming!

Here's a couple of pictures to show you the fruits of my labour!

Mithril Armour (author)2015-07-30

bravo0923 (author)2015-05-04

could you post some reference pictures for the upper chest area: around the neck, shoulders and arms. I have the lower chest done, just a little stuck on the neck area

EricM12 (author)2015-04-10

the chain mail will work for paint balling because the paint ball will hit it and just splash your shirt. :D

nikolaj.boellehuus (author)2015-02-22

I made a chainmail with different colors for my littlebrother in christmas present (-:

I also added a cape on the back.

michael.olson.5220665 (author)2014-12-20

Could I make it look like a tunic where the sides are sealed, or would I have to throw it on like a poncho?

Riseto (author)2014-10-01

one question: do you glue again the tabs when you using them to form anything?

korynnininm (author)2014-02-26

the staple romover bender wasnt working for me the one i have the thumb rests bend down messing it all up so i use the edge of my desk just a tip for anyone with the same problum as me

DragonBlue (author)2014-02-23

Do you experience the tabs constantly coming undone while trying to put these together? So far I've put together about 50 tabs and it is a nightmare when it all crinkles together into a roll of tabs that start to come undone when I'm trying to flatten it back out. Are there any tips or tricks that might be able to make the cut tips not allow other parts to slip back out?

daproben (author)2013-11-25

Thanks for this amazing post! :)

Oragami (author)2013-05-07

I now have something to do in my spare time (thanks to Isa for posting a link to this on her Tumblr :D)

cybercapri (author)2013-05-05

Wow, what a great way to make aluminum chainmail, thanks for sharing.

About This Instructable




Bio: You know me. I am that one guy that everybody knows, who is there on the outskirts of the group. Just close enough to be ... More »
Add instructable to: