Introduction: Making a Viking Cloak-Pin

Picture of Making a Viking Cloak-Pin

Pennannular brooches are common to many cultures. This particular style has been found in Viking silver hoards. I've seen Roman brooches of bronze. Convenient modern materials are copper (#6 wire, the size fastened to the pipes in your basement) and brass (3/32" brazing rod). You'll also need a hammer, a smooth block of metal, jewelers' pliers (preferably round-tipped), a file, and a gas flame. I'll illustrate using a propane torch, but I've also used gas kitchen stoves.

Use the pin to fasten a cloak at your right shoulder. This leaves your sword-arm free, just in case. Or take a square of cloth, a pin, and you have a shawl for those cold days.

Step 1: The Body of the Brooch

Picture of The Body of the Brooch

Take a piece of #6 copper, 5-1/4" long. Polish it, then bend into a circle with the ends about 1/4" apart.

Step 2: Beginning to Form the Pin

Picture of Beginning to Form the Pin

Heat one end of the brazing rod with a stove burner or propane torch. Hot hammer about 3/4" length flat, using the metal block for an anvil. Thin it out to about 3/16". Neaten and smooth the end. Polish.

Step 3: Forming the Pin Loop

Picture of Forming the Pin Loop

Heat the flattened end to soften it. Curl into a loop which is a snug, but not tight, fit over the #6 copper.

Step 4: Embellishing the Pin

Picture of Embellishing the Pin

Heat the brazing rod just where it passes over the copper ring. Leave the rod long enough that you can hold the cool end. Hot hammer the rod a bit wider, in a graceful leaflike shape. (This step is optional, but adds a bit of authenticity.)

Step 5: Finishing the Pin

Picture of Finishing the Pin

Trim the brazing rod, and file to a neat point. Make it just a bit rounded, for safety's sake. Polish.

Step 6: Joining Body and Pin

Picture of Joining Body and Pin

With the pin on the copper ring, widen the ends of the copper ring by cold hammering until the pin can no longer escape from the brooch. The metalwork is now finished, though a bit of final polishing can help.

Step 7: Using the Brooch

Picture of Using the Brooch

To use the brooch to fasten two (or more) layers of fabric together:

1) Gather two layers of fabric. Push pin through.

2) Bring gap in ring down past pin.

3) Turn the ring underneath, so the pin is held solidly.

Step 8: Small Pins and More

Picture of Small Pins and More

Small pins can be used pretty much like safety pins. I have a friend who uses small pins to hold her flowing sleeves out of the way at table. And my Paddington Bear won a "Dress the Christmas Bear" contest wearing one to hold the cloak of his Druid costume on. (I also made him a small golden sickle.)

For a nice small pin, wind some of your 3/32" brass rod around a 5/8" rod to make a tight spiral. Cut off brooch bodies (like step 1, only smaller) so you have maybe a 3/16" open gap per body, then flatten then into a single plane. Use 1/16" brazing rod for the pins. Small ones can be worked cold.

I have also made these of sterling silver. It cold-works nicely when occasionally softened by heating in a flame then plunging into water. I've also done them in nickel silver, which behaves pretty much like brass.


Dr.Ellen (author)2016-09-10

It's called 6-gauge here, and used to make sure things are grounded so thoroughly they can take any electrical load they're likely to encounter. I guess I was writing for an American audience. It's a soft copper wire, about 4 mm in diameter. If the copper isn't soft enough, heat it red-hot and quench it in water. The same goes for silver or brass. You don't want it glowing brightly, but you should be able to see a bit of a glow.

The nice thing about the copper wire is that if it's soft, you don't need to heat it to work it. Silver and brass, you do.


joerubberboots9 (author)2009-08-24

you rock!
(patington rocks too.)i have a race of sock-creatures that i call moozies",and mine uses tow of your pins. one to hold his cloak of webkin skins,(he HATES webkins.) and one to hold his sword(letter opener) belt. do you think steel would work?

That is awesome! Will you please post pictures?

Dr.Ellen (author)joerubberboots92009-08-25

Dear Joe -

It depends on what you call "steel". Certainly you could make cloak pins out of wrought iron or mild steel - I have a lovely elaborate pin by Magic Badger Smithies, worked up as a dragon. With higher carbon content steel, you would have to start hot working your pins, and maybe hardening and tempering them as well. (You can check out a how-to on similar steel-work at Jewelers' tools.) Different detail, but the hardening and tempering should work about the same.


Yorkshire Lass made it! (author)2014-08-27

Made one with both parts of 2.5mm squared copper wire from a length of twin-and-earth cable left over from extending a ring main. Added a squirly opening to the ring and a hammered finish to work-harden the copper.

padawanspider (author)2011-01-02

Thank you for this instructable - I had seen a pin like this before and wondered how it fastened (I did not realize the barb could move around the loop). I think I may make a few of these!

Dr.Ellen (author)padawanspider2011-01-02

We have a bit of relativity going on here. Once the barb is put through the cloth, it stays still. The loop moves around under IT. ;^)

padawanspider (author)Dr.Ellen2011-01-03

Point. What I meant to say is that neither the barb nor the loop are fixed to one another in such a way as to prevent rotational movement by one element while the other is held stationary. :D

(but what if I turned the fabric???)

red anger (author)2010-01-20

 neat instructable!
i will be making many.
av uh gud un.

merijnvw (author)2010-01-07

Thanks a lot, they made me make this once when I was a little kid at an archeology museum, but I lost it and forgot how it looked, I sometimes wondered how that pin looked but couldn't remember it, now I finally know it again so thanks.

Dr.Ellen (author)merijnvw2010-01-07

Thanks for the kind words. You also see cloak-pins like this on Scottish dancers and re-enactors. They range from the very utilitarian to the outrageously fancy. I tend towards the utilitarian end, though I have made them with cabachon jewels; and I know ways to make them even simpler. This is a wonderful first project to get people started - the materials aren't expensive or hard to find, but the brooch is tricky enough to give a feeling of accomplishment.

Infinitevortex (author)2010-01-04

Great illustrations and Instructible!

Did you scan the illustrations, or create them in software?

Dr.Ellen (author)Infinitevortex2010-01-04

I drew them in pencil on paper, then inked them. (It's been so long I can't remember if I used a pen or a brush.) Then I scanned them in.

yutzwagon (author)2009-09-06

I need to keep working on my viking costume for my brother's wedding, so this is great. Thanks!

De_frog (author)2009-08-09

Have made many of these penanular pins myself over the years and they're not as easy as it sounds. It's quite possible to "cold forge" them in steel if you don't mind hittin it hard, brass and bronze can be awkward if it work hardens... The first time I made one on a bellows forge I got carried away and melted my pin! :}

Dr.Ellen (author)De_frog2009-08-09

That's why I suggested copper for the circle, brass for the pin - the copper doesn't work-harden to an inconvenient degree and the work-hardening makes the brass stiffer. When you are learning the job, using the easiest and cheapest materials is wise. You can use trickier stuff later on. When I make one of these completely of brass, I hot-work the brass, using a propane torch. (It's harder to get carried away with a propane torch than a bellows forge.) If I make them of silver, I cold-work the silver, but anneal it whenever it starts to stiffen. I have one lovely iron brooch made by Magic Badger Smithies, but have never done steel or iron myself. Steel and iron are for utility in my world - tools, hinges, locks, stuff like that.

monster matt (author)2009-03-21

very good Instructable but quick question what demisions did you use for your cloak having trouble getting a good cloak shape I have gone through about 8 or so yards of cloth. I would be very grateful.

Dr.Ellen (author)monster matt2009-03-24

Wow, that's a rough question. I wrote an article about making cloaks, years ago. It's not machine-readable. I could xerox it for you and mail it - do you have a snailmail address you wouldn't mind putting on the Internet? ellen at washuu dot net

monster matt (author)Dr.Ellen2009-03-24

my email is at yahoo if thats makes any difference

Dr.Ellen (author)monster matt2009-03-25

Well, I had planned on a quick Xerox and a postal envelope, but that'd be a lot of data to send over the net. So I separated out the images and did OCR on the text, and a bit of edit and rewrite. You can find my article on making capes on my web site:

Instructables is oriented towards pictures, with text. I'm more comfortable with text and illustrations. So it's easier for me to put old articles up on my own site.

halvis (author)2009-03-07

I think it's awesome that you made this instructable! I would, however encourage makers to use other metals than copper, as it is fairly soft. Something harder might take longer to make, but will last forever, basically. Especially bronze ones. (I should know, I've found one!) The cloak-pin is actually called a ring needle and comes in two basic shapes; open and closed. The one you have drawn is the open, C-shaped one, and the one I found is the closed, O-shaped one. The O-shaped one, you have to pull the fabric through and then pin it. A bit more cumbersome, but cannot come undone. This is the same type as the one found in Newfoundland, and wich confirmed both Huseby (the dig site outside Larvik, Norway) and Newfoundland as Viking age. Both were made out of bronze. Bronze is probably the best material for ring needles, as it doesn't tarnish easily (though it will oxidize if it's left in the ground for 1000 years), but you can use iron too, but then the surface has to be treated so you don't get rust stains. The easiest way is probably melting some butter in a frying pan and actually frying the ring needle for a while. Wait until the butter gets good and brown, though. The soot helps. A couple of minutes should do, then pour the whoal thing down the drain, wait until cool and thoroughly dry off the fat with a paper towel. Don't wash it with soap or anything, you want that film of fat to stay on. Leave in a warm place for a while before using.

Dr.Ellen (author)halvis2009-03-07

I love it! Fried cloak-pin! (Though I must say, I've tried that sort of thing with iron with less than complete success.)

tracyandrook (author)2008-11-06

It's good and simple. As it is human nature to complicate things, I propose finding a couple of beads with big holes (glass or same-color metal, and epoxy-ing them on to the ends of the ring. You might have to hammer the ring ends down a bit to fit them together. Just a touch more flashy.

Dr.Ellen (author)tracyandrook2008-11-06

Of course, this is the simple one. I've also made them in sterling silver, with cabochon amethysts at the end; and some intermediate ones with brass and tiger-eye stones.

And you're right about the blankets. Get a good stadium blanket, and you can be very comfortable at the games or walking down the November street.

rocksalt2342 (author)2008-09-02

funny, no one has made a instructable on making cloak.

One wool solid colored or plaid blanket, lap-, throw-, or single-size. Drape around decoratively. Pin. Makes a nice bed for sudden nap attacks, but make sure the rest of you looks good or you might resemble a homeless person. (then again that could be your goal.)

yea...awesome pin but no cloak to use with it hahaha

Okay, I'm taking this to the forums.

click here

toogood (author)2008-02-19

this is a good Instructable but have you made one your self? Because if you have, with the past experiences I've had with forging brass it's more difficult than just heating up a rod and hammering it like you can steal. You should also describe how to make the leaf shape as it is also more difficult than it seems.

Dr.Ellen (author)toogood2008-02-19

Oh, I must have made fifty of them - most brass/copper, quite a few white brass, and a couple in sterling. You have to quench the brass fairly frequently if you do a lot of hammering, but it work-hardens the pin so it's less likely to bend. Silver, that you have to cold-work (with occasional heat-quench cycles). On the other hand, you can make the pins differently by hammering them into a wedge-shaped notch in whatever you're using for an anvil. I do some toolmaking, using masonry nails - they work okay when hot, you can do a lot of the fine finishing, then harden and temper them after they're sharpened and polished. The biggest problem in forging and casting brass is heating it so hot the zinc starts evaporating. The properties of the metal change, and you can get "zinc head". That lasts a couple days. You have a headache, and food tastes funny.

Robotrix (author)Dr.Ellen2008-04-07

Just a note: "zinc head" can be avoided by either heating your brass outside or having really good ventilation right at your workstation. Metal fumes in general are bad, but the fumes from brass are really fairly dangerous.

Ferrite (author)Robotrix2008-09-01

Zinc fumes are bad!!

twalia9 (author)2008-07-07

Amazing instructable! In-depth, easy to read instructions. Now I want to make one just for the sake of it!

Dr.Ellen (author)twalia92008-07-07

I have more on my own web site, - just go to The Lab and click on "How-to".

Velotrash Industries (author)2008-04-20

excellent photos. I'm taking this into account when I make my own. thanks!

thegreatnerd (author)2008-02-08

Very well done. It clearly shows how these work and allows for possibilities to create more.

Lftndbt (author)2008-02-01

Hmmm... very inspiring. I'm of scottish heritage, perhaps I shall make my kilt now I know how to make the final touchs... Thanks, great work!! The simplicity of your drawings intrigues me.. You should get back into it... if time allows...

Dr.Ellen (author)Lftndbt2008-02-01

The medical community understands drawings, and usually prefers them to photos. (Photos are better for skin conditions, where exact color and texture are needed.) A photo shows everything. A drawing just shows what's important. Simplicity rules! I still do some artwork, but mainly these days I write. I'm better at that. By the way - I've used these brooches for a greatkilt. There's an awful lot of fabric in a greatkilt - make it bigger than my specs so it can do the job.

Kiteman (author)2008-01-31

Very nice - who says a decent 'ible needs photos? Hmm.. I've got a Viking Science 'ble on the backburner. Needs some sunshine though.

ShadowHawk (author)2008-01-31

When I saw the title, and the initial photo - I thought "Cool - someone wants to make a pin that can cloak you - the picture has half of the 2nd person invisible.. from the waist down. Ha. The I read the article, and the light-bulb turned on. Good instructable!

ll.13 (author)2008-01-31


chuckr44 (author)2008-01-31

I always wondered how these pins worked. Now I know.

KentsOkay (author)2008-01-31


darkmuskrat (author)2008-01-30

Sweet, cosplay ideas anyone?

GorillazMiko (author)2008-01-30

Nice. I like the teddy bear at the end. And good pictures, did you make them?

Dr.Ellen (author)GorillazMiko2008-01-30

Yes, I did the pictures long ago. I originally tried to put this up as a comic strip (that's the way I do my instructables). But they wouldn't run it full size, so I had to break it down to one illo at a time. Must have made at least fifty of these over the years.

GorillazMiko (author)Dr.Ellen2008-01-30

Cool! How did you make the pictures?

Dr.Ellen (author)GorillazMiko2008-01-30

Long, long ago I wanted to be a comic book artist. Never got good enough to sell, but was quite good enough for this kind of instructions.

SWV1787 (author)2008-01-30

I have seen these in many Celtic shops for Kilts where the "Rooster Tails" of the Great kilt, also known as the feile mor. but with that the cloth of the kilt is not pierced by the pin but rather pinched by the bar and the ring of this style of broach.

canida (author)2008-01-30

What an elegant solution! Nicely documented- I love the pictures.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired museum curator.
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