I'll warn you now that this isn't a quick and easy project. It's very time consuming and the actual linking together of the tabs can be dull and extremely repetitive. I started this well in advance hoping to enter it into the 'untouchable' challenge and am now writing it up an hour-and-a-half before the deadline.
The end product looks great though and it's an extremely satisfying build to get finished. It would look great as part of a costume or perhaps on display with other pieces of recycled armour (watch this space...)
Step 1: Materials
Lots (and lots) of ring pulls, and
Lots (and lots) of patience.
At first I was just adding to this project whenever I did the recycling. Progress was slow and I was concerned my teeth would rot and fall out with all the extra fizzy drinks I was consuming. Eventually I gave in and scoured eBay for some materials and found that you can get 1000 ring pulls for around £10. I found that I needed roughly 4 and a half thousand, though I should point out that I'm an absolute ogre, and if you happen to be a regular sized human I think around 3000 is a reasonable starting figure.
Step 2: Prepare the Tabs
First bend the smaller end to roughly 90 degrees. There's no exact measure here but I found clamping the end with the smaller hole in the pliers, then forcing the remainder with my thumb so it was flush with the tool worked best.
Next you need to cut the top end so it can be connected to other pieces. I found a pair of decent scissors will do the job here but it will blunt them over time. Also this process will create small shards/fine pieces of dust so I'd recommend working at a table and sweeping up after (especially if you have kids or animals running around).
There's no need to prepare every single tab before fixing - I found preparing around 100 at a time provided me with enough to be cracking on with whilst not boring me silly repeatedly bending and cutting.
Step 3: Basics
One thing that didn't work so well was creating 'patches' and joining them together. I found it easiest to always work on the main body of the armour as it avoids having to line things up carefully and retrospectively take sections apart.
Step 4: Build Up
I imagine there are lots of ways to build this up, but my method is as follows.
First I constructed a large square that roughly covered chest-to-waist. This square purposely wasn't designed to meet with the back piece because the sides would be added later.
Next I repeated the same for the back but continued a little higher to cover the shoulders.
Now, the way the design works is to essentially create these two distinct flat pieces - front and back - then connect the two. This works fine around the waist and torso but where the two join at the shoulder they form a 'seam', as shown in the attached image. Once I had the two squares I created a strap for each and formed the shape of the neck.
At this point the suit is a sort of tunic and the next step is fill in the sides to create a single self supporting piece of chainmail. As I say this step became a bit measure-as-you-go but over time you develop a pretty good eye for it.
A couple of things to noted at this stage:
The chainmail seems very flimsy at first and tangles easily. This is normal and it gains strength and rigidity as it grows. That said, it will always tangle and can be a nightmare at times when it catches on itself and knots. It's worth taking a little extra care when constructing to ensure that all links are closed and reduce the chances of them inadvertently linking to other parts of the suit later on.
Also a couple of safety points. It's very easy to start doing this and lose a couple of hours before you even realise. Focusing on a precise task like this for long periods of time can strain the eyes and can also be hard on your fingers. Take breaks every now and again and don't get too engrossed in it. Also, as previously mentioned, bending and cutting the tabs can create small shards and fine dust that end up all over the bench and also on your fingers. Make sure you wash hands after downing tools and try to isolate any mess.
Step 5: Finished Product
Step 6: Conclusion/final Remarks
I had intended to incorporate arms into the design but this proved too inflexible, so a possible future plan is to open it up at the front and have some nice leather fastenings like a button-up shirt. In hindsight that's possibly the best design because it also allows for the armour to be a little more fitted. I'd also look at extending the armour past the waist and have a go at building a coif (armour that drapes over the head).