Introduction: Maille and Plates Armour

Picture of Maille and Plates Armour

For my second instructable I'll be making some Maille and Plates armour.
I've chosen this style of armour due to the fact that it requires only a couple more tools than maille, goes together fairly fast, is easy to make, and i think it's pretty damn awesome looking.

For this project you will need....

Maille supplies
-THIS covers making maille better than i ever would in here.

Plate supplies
-fabric measuring tape
-tin snips
-a metal punch
-as much 1 1/4" pallet banding as you can get your hands on.
-something to curve plates with (rubber mallet, soup can, chunk of pipe... it just needs to be round)
-duct tape
-a sharpie

and that should about cover everything you need.

Step 1: Making the Plates 1

Picture of Making the Plates 1

Step one is working out how big to make your plates.

I did that by using a fabric measuring tape to measure my chest at nipple height, make sure you're taking a deep breath for this measurement or it will end up too small.
got that number? great. now divide it by how many columns of plates you will have.
I'm doing 8 in total so i wound up with plates that are just over 4 inches long.

step two will be prepping your pallet banding.

the first thing you'll want to do is cut your banding into manageable size. I usually cut mine down to lengths around 3 or 4 feet. if you want to cut down on waste then cut them to the circumference of your chest plus 1//2 inch.
after you've done that you'll want to bend out any kinks as best you can. this batch of banding was around small bundles of pipe at work, and is in worse shape than i usually find.
Now that you have manageable lengths of banding it's time to clean them. Fortunately I clean metal for a living, so I have access to all sorts of fun machines to do this for me, odds are you'll have to do this by hand.
I'd recommend just hitting them with some emery cloth or sand paper and sanding them to a nice satin finish to remove the rust and paint on them. it's easier to sand a bunch of 3 foot lengths clean than to sand hundreds of 4 inch plates clean.

Ok, so you've got a bunch of shiny strips of metal now, right? Good.
now measure out the length of one plate, mark it, then take your tin snips and cut it as perfectly as you can. this will be your template. now just keep using this to measure and cut your plates until your ready to pull out your hair. i usually make my plates in batches of a hundred or so.

Step 2: Making the Plates 2

Picture of Making the Plates 2

Now it's time to punch holes in your plates and give them a bit of shape.

To Start off you'll need to put the 5/32 bit into your punch, and set the depth gauge to the shallowest setting.
now punch 3 holes down down each end of the plate. i line the punch up flush to one side for the first hole, then line up the edge of the punch with each hole for the next.
you'll want to make about 50 or so that are only punched down one edge. they'll come in handy later.
next make 8 plates that have holes punched along the top edge as well as the sides. make these plates by punching the side holes first, then line the punch up with those holes to make the top row.
I'm afraid i don't have any pics of these plates since i didn't think about it until after i had it all put together, around step 8 or so.

Step 3: Making the Plates 3

Picture of Making the Plates 3

now it's time to curve the plates.

curving the plates should be as simple as bending the plates over a round object. pallet banding however, can be stubborn since it is usually made from medium to high carbon steel and tempered to be a bit springy. Ideally I'd form these around a T stake, but i cant do that in my apartment, so i had to find a different way.
The method I came up with* was to lay the plate on my hand with one end resting on a solid surface. Then using a rubber mallet to act as a roller and rolling it along the plate while sliding my hand out form under it. the mallet should force the plate to curve between the edge of your hand and the surfaces it travels down, putting a curve along the whole length of your plate and not just the middle.
it took a few to get it to work smooth for me, and it still didn't work perfectly for every plate, but it worked good enough.
make sure you use a surface that can get scratched up. I used one of my shields.
now go curve a hundred or so plates.

*looking back on this i realized that it was a needlessly difficult way of curving the plates. for later plates i just used the curved edge on my kitchen counter.*

Step 4: Making the Mail

Picture of Making the Mail

Making the maille is dead simple.

First things first, make sure you're using 14ga. 3/8"id. rings

Now just make one strand, make it about 3 or 4 feet long. We'll be using it to join all those plates you just finished making..
I think the pictures explain it well enough, but if not there are a few good maille instructables on the site. i don't think i need to repeat what they already say.

Step 5: Assembly 1-the Chest Band

Picture of Assembly 1-the Chest Band

Here is where it starts to get rewarding and look like you've accomplished something.

Were going to make a strip that is 8 plates tall and 4 columns wide.
Just lay out the end of that strip of maille and start connecting it to one side of your plates.
Remember that your third ring and every second ring after that will have to pass through 2 plates.
keep adding plates until you have a column of 8 plates linked on one side by maille. Now break off the remainder of the strip and link it to the other side. From there just add more plates and repeat the process until you have 4 columns of 8.

Step 6: Assembly 2- the Upper Chest

Picture of Assembly 2- the Upper Chest

Remember those plates that you only punched on one side? they are for your upper chest and back.

start off by adding a strand of maille up from the center of that strip. If you line the top of your armour up with your nipples the added strip of maille should come up just past where your collar bones meet.

Next add the half punched plates until they reach just below your collar bones, you'll need to punch the lowest hole on the first plate on each side and link it to the one below.
Now flip the whole thing over, line up the plates so they sit straight and run a strip of duct tape up the backside of them to hold them in place.

now were going to figure out the cutouts for your arms.
You'll want to be able to move your arms without having to push against the edges of the plates, after all, steel is harder than fabric, so it wont move out of your way, and will get uncomfortable if it doesn't fit right.
I really cant explain how to measure for this, so use an old cereal box or something similar and test different cutouts with it until you find one that works. look at the pictures for an idea of what shape you are looking for. when it fits right you should be able to touch your elbows in front of your chest without bending the cardboard. it usually works out to be around the width of your chest between your nipples or slightly more.

Once you have your pattern made trace it onto the plates then remove the tape and mark the lines right across each plate. Use your tin snips to cut it along the lines. then punch those edged just like all the others and link them up to a strip of maille.

Step 7: Assembly 3-the Waist and Tassets

Picture of Assembly 3-the Waist and Tassets

as this sits right now, it only comes down to the bottom of my ribs. so I've made another row of 4 columns, again 8 plates tall, then attached it to the bottom of the existing breastplate.

Once it's all attached it's time to test fit it. in this case it comes down to just below my belt buckle, and more importantly, wont let me bend over properly. This problem is solved by putting a split up the center from the bottom to my bellybutton.
The split is done by unlinking one row of rings from the strand of maille, then re-weaving the 2 half strands into full strands.

once you have the split in place it's time to add the tassets. I'm making them by adding 2 more columns of 8 onto each side of the split.
simple as that, put it all together and you have your breastplate. congratulations your half finished.

Step 8: The Backplate

Picture of The Backplate

assemble the backplate just like the breast plate, only make the center 2 columns a little taller. You probably wont have to make any cutouts on the back.

When you make the slit up the bottom you'll only need to bring it up to about where your belt sits.

Step 9: Shoulders

Picture of Shoulders

to make the shoulder plates you are going to need enough maille to make 2 columns that are 5 plates long. a couple things to keep in mind that i didn't, curve these plates extra, your back and chest are fairly flat, your shoulder isn't so much. Also make sure the maille runs the same way on both shoulders, i didn't and had to take one apart and remake it.

Once you have them made it's time to attach them to the armour, startting on the backplate link them to the first 5 holes from the add a strip of maille along the rest of the backplate, connecting both shoulders together and edging the top most plates.

now to add the breastplate. start by edging the top of the breastplate like you did the backplate, then knit a piece of maille that reaches down from the shoulder connecting it to the breastplate. it'll probable take a bit of trial and error to get the right length for you. your aiming for the smallest hole you can still get your head through easily while having the top of the breastplate sit just below your collar bones.
it worked out to be 6 rows of maille for me. once you have that done fill out the maille a bit until your happy with how it looks. On mine i came straight down from the shoulder till i reached the breastplate, then came in at 45 degrees to blend it into the breastplate.

On the back side i just came straight down from the shoulder plates.

Step 10: Strapping Your Armour

Picture of Strapping Your Armour

How you choose to hold your armour shut is up to you, and can range from something as simple(and ugly) as duct taping it to yourself, or as fancy as sneck hooks. I'm going to go for the middle ground and use straps and buckles.

I'm not going to show you have to make straps and buckles here, thats a subject that is better tackled with it's own instructable. Besides, if you've gotten this far I'd hope you can figure out how to make what basically amounts to a small belt.

I will however show you how i strapped my armour, and why.

to start with i ran a strap that goes from the small of my back around my belly under the breastplate. this acts to keep the backplate snug against my back, and in place while I'm doing up the breastplate. once the armour is all done up it doesn't really support anything, so it's only a single half inch strap.

On the breastplate i got a bit fancier. i put the strap mounts just below the top of the side plates and just above my hip bones. from there i ran short straps to D rings mounted on the end of the actual buckle portion of the straps. the pictures should make more sense than my descriptions.
strapping it this way is a bit more complicated than just using 2 buckles on each side, or using 2 straps like the belly strap across my back, but it means that i only have to do up one easy to reach buckle in the small of my back instead of 2 on each side, or 1 easy one in the small of my back and one pain in the ass one between my shoulder blades. also i think it looks cooler.

Step 11: Your New Armour

Picture of Your New Armour

congratulations, several hundred plates, a few thousand holes and god knows how many rings later you've made yourself some sweet armour.
If everything worked out alright you should have something that looks more or less like this.

i should also mention the manikin is a bit larger than i am, so the armour doesn't fit quite right in this picture.
once i find my digital camera I'll get pictures of me in the armour

Step 12: Upgrades and Reworks

Picture of Upgrades and Reworks

So since i first published this instructable I've completly re-built this armour. A couple of times.
first I added integral neck armour in the form of a brigadine gorget covered by a maille collar and made it front opening. then I re-tailored it, tapering the plates down the sides and adding in an hourglass shaped row of plated down the spine, then I ditched the integral gorget converted the whole thing to riveted maille and built elbow length sleeves. still to come I plan on swapping the tassets with a proper maille fauld.


jackowens (author)2015-01-02

Just curious, what would you classify this type of armor as? It seems best described as "plated mail" from what I've seen. Sort of a transitional armor mix between lamellar and chainmail. Not too sure on the historical accuracy of this armor, if anyone has anymore information on this please let me know! Thanks

armourkris (author)jackowens2015-01-03

The armour I made originally is only historical-ish, but it's pretty historically accurate in it's current form after some major re-tailoring.
I've most often seen this style of armour referred to as mail and plates. What I finally ended up with is a yushaman. This style of armour shows up in the middle east and India as well as up into parts of Russia and i think the Asian steppes? Similar styles of armour show up in Malaysia as well. I'm pretty sure it starts to show up in the mid to last third of the 14th century and continues to be used in some areas up until the 18th.

ojochris (author)2014-05-30

Very nice! How thick is the steel banding? And where did you get it?

handful of dust (author)ojochris2014-09-17

Buying it is not terribly expensive, however it is usually sold by the hundred pound or some other ridiculously high number which leaves you with the interesting problem of finishing your armor and then wondering what to do with the remaining 90lbs.

armourkris (author)ojochris2014-05-30

the steel banding is 20 gauge, I scavenged it all, mostly from train yards and lumberyards

Green X (author)2014-05-06


curvy77 (author)2012-09-19

wasent the kind of way of armor i was looking for, but still looks really cool. (trying to make custom armor via fire and mold but no clue on how to hollow plates for body.)

armourkris (author)curvy772012-10-11

what do you mean by fire and mold? could you post a pic of something similar to what your thinking?

curvy77 (author)armourkris2012-10-11

sadly, i do not have a photo at the moment but i can try to describe.

by fire, i mean im useing a forge (in my case a wood/coal based fire pit, with a metal base.) and melting the metal. unlike what u have done, which isent bad and im not hateing on it, i prefer to use more manuverable ways.

because steel takes a great deal of heat to melt i use aluminum, which can be as strong as med-strength steel and is not only cheaper but has a much lower melting point. i try to melt this and pour into molds made of fireclay, so as too not only keep it contained in a cheapish container but because of the materials it is easliy moldable and dosent explode from extreme heat.

if i have confused or lost u somewhere please just let me know.

armourkris (author)curvy772014-03-10

Hey Curvy, I was just looking over this and realised I never replied, did you end up getting cast armour to work? I think to cast a breastplate or something similar you would probably have the best luck sand casting it, but it'd take a big mould and i suspect that making the positive would be as much effort as just hammering out a breastplate in the first place.

curvy77 (author)armourkris2014-03-11

no, while I was able to make enough ingots to fashion such a piece, i
underestimated the required heat to remelt them. as for sandcasting, that was
my initial plan, however as u said id need a large mould and do not have the
space for it. iv used an assortment of other materials to use instead (minor
projects) but winners. (even tried a block of treated wood. worked
surpriseingly well with only slight bursts of flame.) i am now working on other
projects and will come back to this one at a later date.

hasanraza (author)2013-08-03


The Metal One (author)2012-02-04

you could make some extremely flexible plate armor this way....shoulders, breast, thighs, etc. a full suit even

armourkris (author)The Metal One2012-02-05

Something sorta like this?

Maille and plates V.3.0

The Metal One (author)armourkris2012-02-08


Advar (author)2012-01-23

Verily, good sir, thou dost have skill! :)

skimmo (author)2010-08-30

any one got anyideads on how to make this kind of washer armor?

Advar (author)skimmo2012-01-23

For a scalemaille look one could overlap the washers from the bottom up.

ninja of suburbia (author)skimmo2011-05-24

Go to They sell these rings, or something similar, and it not only looks better, but more effective.

Gryndar (author)skimmo2010-09-19

buy a bunch of washers and literally sew them to a vest, it wouldn't be very protective as far as thrusts went, and very ahistorical too. It looks kinda like armour, but is mostly hollywoody.

skimmo (author)Gryndar2010-09-26

i think from a thrust you would have good odds of hitting in side a washer which would stop a thrust but chainmail wont stop a good thrust anyway

Gryndar (author)skimmo2010-09-26

yes it will, theres been lots of tests on riveted maille, made with period materials, and maille is amazingly proof against swords, not so good against polearms though

skimmo (author)Gryndar2010-09-28

riveted maille will stop a sword alot more then if it just open end mail such as this, with out welding or riveting you have to chance the edge will hit the gap in the ring then it just slides open and you have a gut full of knife

Pryo Chain (author)skimmo2011-01-02

That's true, but even with riveted maille there's a chance that the blade could just break the rings apart, whether it be by thrust or through a strike. Everything is completely dependent on whether the competence of the wielder of said weapon.

skimmo (author)Pryo Chain2011-01-09

well yeah is that:P

Gryndar (author)Pryo Chain2011-01-02

on most of the tests I've read involving maille made using period techniques and iron wire, not steel wire, the links would deform alot before they broke and then only the one link dirrectly affected by the point would break, thats only speaking of swords and arrows mind you, pole weapons are a completely different story

Aethereal (author)2011-08-01

Is there a way you'd recommend to do this without the punch? As in, would drilling the holes work, or would it be better to just buy a punch?

armourkris (author)Aethereal2011-08-02

Drilling the holes will work, it'll just be a whole hell of a lot slower and you may need to de-burr the inside edges of the holes after.

Aethereal (author)armourkris2011-08-17

Alright :) Thanks a lot!

Great 'ible, too:)

scalhoun (author)2011-06-12

I plan on making some gauntlets and the like, but i was wondering what type of steel you would recommend between cold rolled, hot rolled, or galvinized? I know stainless is probably the best way to go but it is much more expensive.

armourkris (author)scalhoun2011-06-17

I mostly work in cold rolled steel. only because it's less finishing work than galvanized or hot rolled. in either case though once your piece is finished you can strip off the coating by soaking in vinegar overnight. all three are pretty much identical as far as how strong a finished piece is and how hard they are to work with.
stainless is a beast to work with. i try and avoid it, it chews up your tools, work hardens faster, needs to be hit harder, and is just generally more of a pain. the advantage is that you can often get away with using a gauge lighter steel and get similar strength to mild, and it's as low maintenance as armour gets.

pyrorower (author)2009-10-09

I'm thinking of making this out of aluminum since I have a forge now. I'll try and post it when I can.
Also, about how heavy is your suit? I want to estimate how heavy my aluminum one will be.

overblast (author)pyrorower2011-01-02

You could use the forge to make aluminum plates from soda cans and transmission cases, which is what a friend of mine does for art projects. But you must be very very careful, it spits, he accidentally set the barn on fire.

DO NOT SET YOUR BARN ON FIRE. Your wife will be really really mad.

armourkris (author)pyrorower2009-10-11

You shouldn't actually need a forge for any of this, also, forges and aluminum don't mix well, aluminum doesn't turn red hot or anything, it just looks like aluminum then looks like a puddle.
as for the weight of my armour, well, i;m not really sure. 15 or 20 pounds would be my guess. it isn't that heavy, certainly no more than 25. In aluminum i'd recommend using 1/8" plates, i think that's 16 gauge in aluminum, and i would guess it would come out in the 10 to 15 pound range.

pyrorower (author)armourkris2009-10-11

I actually know that we don't need a forge for this, it's just that we could only find plastic palette banding and we happen to already have the forge and some old kick scooters :P And thanks for the weight estimates. I'll post pictures just as soon as we have it built.

azurelupine (author)2009-03-06

how about using "blue barrel" ie HDPE plastic as a plate material?

armourkris (author)azurelupine2009-03-06

In my experience blue barrel plastic varies between 1/4 and about 3/8 inch thick, making it too thick to connect with the chain maille rings. I think 1/8 inch is about the thickest you could get away with. Strips cut from 5 gallon pails would probably work, but i don't know how protective it would be.

azurelupine (author)armourkris2009-03-07

Hmmm, 1/4" sounds about right.. would work with 1/2" rings using 14ga. mild-steel rings. As for extra protection, a good arming coat would also soften some of the blows (unless you rhino-hide, and I DETEST rhino-hiding! Please call a good shot a good shot. ;) ) Atlantia, Always! Vivats! Vivats! Vivats!

armourkris (author)azurelupine2009-03-10

I've really got to recommend riveting or welding at least the rings that link the plates together, as I've found i usually have to repair or replace 3 to 5 rings for every shot to the body i receive. I've been repairing my rings with riveted rings and haven't had any problems with them so far.

azurelupine (author)armourkris2009-03-13

BTW, Kingdom of Atlantia, Barony of Sacred Stone, Canton of Aire du Falcon. and serving in the household of my master, THL Osric the Pale (Hus Sla' Hamar) and the Lady Una von Shieb (Corvus)

armourkris (author)azurelupine2009-03-13

Kingdom of An Tir, Principality of Tir Righ, Barony of Lionsgate.

PKTraceur (author)armourkris2009-03-16

Is that SCA?

armourkris (author)PKTraceur2009-03-18

yep. that it is. basically it works out to Pacific north west, BC, Vancouver. I do PK as well.

PKTraceur (author)armourkris2009-03-18

I think Ill try to make your armour. Think you could help me on gate vaults?

pyrorower (author)PKTraceur2009-10-09

I can help you there. Armored invasion starting to sound good :D

The Jamalam (author)2009-09-26

Any chance of a picture of you in the armour? I'd like to see how it fits together and things.

armourkris (author)The Jamalam2009-09-29

normally I'd say yes, but my camera drowned while i was hiking the west coast trail, so I wont be able to take any new photos until i replace it.

swordsmen (author)2009-08-29

what do you use to clean the metal

armourkris (author)swordsmen2009-09-07

I cheated. I used o work at a metal cleaning shop and I;ve still got access to all the tools there, so i ran them in a giant tumbler filled with burnishing media overnight. If i had to do it by hand I;d use emery cloth, not sure what grit though, i's ahve to experiment for a bit first. the paint does come off fairly easy though. you might be able to get away with a coarse scotch bright pad.

Agnus Warstrider (author)2009-07-23

A friend of mine has a torso/shoulder armored unit of pickle-barrel. Pretty thin stuff, but has been quite durable throughout its life of beatings. I want to get a full suit of the stuff, but I'm not sure where to get the barrels themselves. Any ideas? By-the-by, posting from the Kingdom of the West.

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