Introduction: PVC Chainmail

Picture of PVC Chainmail

Interested in historically accurate chainmail for costuming or display? You may have found that a single chainmail shirt can run up in the range of $1000!

Now you can make your own chainmail out of pvc pipe for only a few dollars, just like they did in movies such as Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean!

Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need

1. Several feet of PVC plastic tubing, about 1/2 inch in diameter. The kind I got only costs about $1 for 5 feet
Tip: Using pipe with a low pressure rating will make it easier to manipulate.

2. A band saw, jig saw, scroll saw, or PVC cutters. I am using a scroll saw because it is what I have on hand.

3. Tin snips or a table saw.

4. C clamp and block

5. Nimble fingers

Step 2: Cutting the Pipe

Picture of Cutting the Pipe

First cut your pipe into manigable pieces, about a foot. The shorter the piece, the easier it is to handle, however the more waste that will be produced. I've found once I have about 2 inches left I cannot cut any further without risking cutting myself (which would seriously slow down this process!).

Now, if you have a table saw, set the blade very low and cut all the way down one side of the pipe. If you are using the tin snips, we will do this later.

Now you are ready. Using a few test cuts, find the thickness that you want for all of your rings. Mine are about 3 milimeters. Use your C clamp and block to ensure that they are all the desired size.

Now start cutting! Including mistakes, I've found that you get just over 100 rings per foot. This takes about 5 minutes.

If you have PVC cutters, just cut the rings one by one. This probably takes a lot longer, but I haven't tried it so I can't tell you from experience.

Step 3: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Now you will probably have many rings that all have little "fuzzies" on them, little bits of PVC that don't come off in the cutting process. Simply take a handful of rings in both hands and rub them together vigorously. This will get them off of the outside. For inside the ring, push your finger through and brush them off.

If this hurts your finger or is just annoying, try gluing sandpaper to a dowel that fits inside the rings and using that as you would your finger.

Using pvc cutters may not create the "fuzzies" in the first place, but I haven't tried that yet, and that seems like a lot more work.
EDIT: meburnfire says "Don't use PVC cutters on this.... 30 minutes yeilded 50 rings and a extremely sore hand. After a few hours, your hand will bleed :D" That's pretty much what I was expecting, but if anyone has had good luck with them, let us know.

Now if you haven't used the table saw to get this shape, use the tin snips to cut one side now. This doesn't take nearly as long as you would think.

Step 4: Weaving the Mail and Finishing.

Picture of Weaving the Mail and Finishing.

I used a standard European 4 in 1 mail pattern for this sheet. It is called this because each ring has four other rings looping through it.

Start by putting two rings into one as shown. Then add another between them, overlapping onto the first one. Then put two in that ring overlapping the first two, and continue that pattern until you get a chain, probably about a foot long. Then add more rows going down until you have whatever size sheet you want.

Congradulations, you've made PVC chainmail!

Now with this skill, you can make whatever you want. Shirts, Coifs, I've even seen patterns for coasters and penguins!

When you are done with what you are making, you can spray paint with plastic bonding paint. It's a little more expensive, but won't scratch off like normal paint.

Step 5: Tips

Here are some helpful tips that aren't neccessary, but might help the process go smoothly.

Take breaks every few minutes while cutting. Its never happened to me, but I have heard saws can overheat when cutting plastic for too long, which can damage the saw and possibly make it break. Better safe than sorry.

You can try putting the rings in an old pillow case or burlap sack (sealed) in the dryer on air only cycle for ten minutes or so. I've found certain types of tubing works for this, but with others the "fuzzies" harden and this process does almost nothing.

Try buying PVC with a low pressure rating. It makes it easier to work with.

You can glue the rings together with super glue and a quick drying formula to make it stronger, but it takes longer, and I haven't found it necessary.

Don't paint until you are done with your project, and then use a paint like Krylon Fusion, which is specifically designed to bond to plastic. Spray a coat, shake it to get the areas that were covered, and spray again.

EDIT: I no longer work with chainmail. I never really made anything out of this, but I still think its a worthwhile project, so I will leave it up for those of you who have a better work ethic than me.


jackowens (author)2014-11-05

How durable is this? How much does it weigh compared to normal steel maille? Thanks

TheMrCOOLguy2 (author)2013-06-03

Idt they used PVC pipe in the movies and it can not be worth $1000
I don't believe that but other than that nice job

They didn't cut up actual pvc pipes, they use premade plastic rings though. Like these

artteacher05 (author)2012-08-30

there are special PVC cutters that look like garden shears that would probably leave a cleaner edge if they will cut that skinny! I think I will borrow a pair from my neighbor and give it a try!

Wolf Seril (author)artteacher052012-09-02

Cool, tell me how it goes!

DanDevlinOS (author)2011-09-11

One thing you might try, to make this a little stronger, is to only cut slits in about half of the rings. Also if you do decide to glue them together it will make it go faster.

meburnfire (author)2011-04-16

Don't use PVC cutters on this.... 30 minutes yeilded 50 rings and a extremely sore hand. After a few hours, your hand will bleed :D

Wolf Seril (author)meburnfire2011-04-17

Thanks for the tip; I hadn't tried them myself. I'll put it in the 'ible.

greymatter21 (author)2010-05-07

"Now, if you have a table saw,..."  NO NOOO NO NO NOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!never  use a table saw to cut pvc! use something safer!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wolf Seril (author)greymatter212010-05-07

If you aren't smoking weed while operating the saw, as your profile implies you would do, you will probably be fine.

greymatter21 (author)Wolf Seril2010-05-08

well,my uncle pat 1nce cut his thumb in half,tha long way,on a table now that his thumb is reconstructed he can no longer bend his thumb at tha first joint... soo ya....

micjwelch (author)greymatter212010-11-18

Large teeth on a blade aren't very effective for PVC anyway. I tried to use a chop saw once, and it tends to crack and break the PVC. Stick with a small blade with fine teeth.

greymatter21 (author)2010-05-07

btw they used real chainmail in movies,not plastic...

Wolf Seril (author)greymatter212010-05-07

No, you are absolutely wrong. All of the extras and some of the leads wore PVC.
Go watch the special features.

flashanimator (author)2009-10-23

When you made this, could you actually wear the chainmail or was it just the pvc rings all put together, because i'm thinking of making a helmet, cape or chainmail for the 2009 halloween contest, do you think any of these would work, besides the chainmail.

Wolf Seril (author)flashanimator2009-10-24

You can definitely wear it, I was just to lazy to make any finished product with it.

I entered this in the Halloween contest a year or two ago, though, so they might not accept it unless it was just a small part of a more complex costume. Good luck.

master moose00 (author)2009-05-13

hey on this step I was just wondering when I cut my pvc rings do I cut a slit in them to link and then glue it shut

If I understand what you're asking, then yes, you cut them so that you can connect them. Gluing is optional. The sheet shown in the picture has just been sitting on my dresser for the past year, so obviously I didn't need to glue it. If you're just making it for display or to say "hey look at what I made", then you probably can just leave it. However if you want to use it for a costume or something, it's probably safer to glue it.


sharlston (author)2009-09-04

nylon washers also work

sharlston (author)2009-09-04

what weaving system is it? it looks like 4 in 1

william4632 (author)2009-08-23

that is awsome!!!!!

Silence (author)2009-08-22

your tumble method in a pillow case with a buncha marbles or small stones would basically ball mill em. would make a hell of a racket in the dryer tho :P

armored bore (author)2009-08-04

I tried this out and it seems to work pretty well! I just have a question about the material. I'm assuming the PVC tube used is ~1/2" inner diameter with a wall thickness of a little over 1/8"?

Wolf Seril (author)armored bore2009-08-10

Yeah that seems about right.

CapnTac (author)2008-07-18

All of these RS references are beginning to annoy me...

Flash19950 (author)CapnTac2008-08-07

wat do u mean by rs?

CapnTac (author)Flash199502008-08-07

runescape. I left it lower case to show my dislike of it.

FreshPineSent (author)CapnTac2008-08-19

Agreed. People should play a real RPG like D&D;.

or WoW o=|:|=======> yay a sword finally, *little kids voice*i figured it out all by myself

Derin (author)foxtrot46972009-02-21

more professional

Speedmite (author)Derin2009-06-17

GAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! Ive tried to post swords that I have made from text but they dont work here. GAAAAAHH!!!!!!

foxtrot4697 (author)Derin2009-02-21

well i did mine wifout speciaw chawacters

foxtrot4697 (author)foxtrot46972009-02-21

oops that an mmorpg

Speedmite (author)foxtrot46972009-06-16

yes, just like runescape. Why are you comparing mmorpg to rpg? They are different for a purpose! Rpg is for antisocial people

Speedmite (author)foxtrot46972009-06-16

Maybe someone dosent want to pay for it. Runescape is free, but you can do more if you pay.

Speedmite (author)FreshPineSent2009-06-16

What is that? I heard of WoW and runescape andI never heard of that. That shows how common your game is. More people on the other 2. =)

shamaya (author)CapnTac2009-03-20

invader zim is amazing.

CapnTac (author)shamaya2009-03-21

Yeah I know! I LOVE Gir!

Speedmite (author)2009-06-16

Narnia and Monty Python and The Holy Grail!!!!

master moose00 (author)2009-05-13

lol I posted earlier if it was necessary to glue now I c it's not rieally thanks my I'm heading out to the garage to get started I made metal Chainmail but it took for ever because my rings were only like twice as big as this O. so I spent hours and only produced a 5 by 5 sq in sheet it took to long thanks for this post man.

necropolian (author)2008-11-04

"""...just like they did in movies such as Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean!...""" oh my holy god (odin), do you really think that those big moviemakers can't afford a blacksmith?! this is nice, and sheap, but you can better make it from real steel. 3.5....

jeebugorn (author)necropolian2009-04-28

yes, they had a blacksmith...but almost ALL (to include the main actors) of the chainmail was plastic rings. 12.7 million plastic rings were used to make their chainmail. you can see that its not metal just by looking at the armor. all of the rings are flat, not round like wire would be. they explain this on disc one of the special features for Fellowship of the ring.

necropolian (author)jeebugorn2009-04-28

oh, sorry. most times, i don't look through the special features. i will check that.

jeebugorn (author)necropolian2009-04-28

no worries. alot of people dont notice it. i didnt know until i was at a LOTR panel at a convention and they were talking about it being made out of PVC-type pipe. Weta Workshop has a whole division dedicated to making chainmail now. Other movies they've used the pvc rings are Narnia and i THINK (not for sure on this one) Kingdom of Heaven. but let me correct my previous comment. not all of the actors' armor was made of pvc. Frodo's mithril shirt was made of the same material that butcher's gloves are made out of. its a very small, machine-made ring fabric.

Wolf Seril (author)necropolian2008-11-04

It's true. Although the main characters had genuine chain mail, most of the extras had plastic. How do I know this- 1) I originally got the idea from the special features about the WETA Workshop in the extended edition of LOTR: Fellowship of the Rings. 2) The captain of the ship I sailed on in the Bahamas was an extra in the third Pirates movie, he said part of his costume was plastic chain mail. Now lets see- with the average cost of a suit of custom made chain mail being around $1000, the movies had hundreds of actors, and each actor always has more than one costume (in case there is a malfunction), you are talking hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. Or, get a team of 10 special effects technicians who work for you anyway to crank out a couple a day, would probably only cost a few thousand.

necropolian (author)Wolf Seril2008-11-06

that's right, but if a person hears about LOTR, he will think about frodo, aragorn, pippin, merry, sam, gandalf, legolas, gimly and maybe théoden, and not about that soldier from the third house on the west of rohan. you're probably right, sorry...

Metalcaster14 (author)2009-02-13

cool. waiting for the hauberk! thanks!

zamirii (author)2009-01-20

it's easy enough to find a chainmaile shirt & coif online for about $65 --- the only drawback is that they use soft steel for the ring so it falls apart easy. my 2 shirts are made from galvanized - blued to black and stainless

redneck123.6 (author)2008-05-26

what is that gunna protect you frum

About This Instructable




More by Wolf Seril:Play Liero on Vista or XPK'nex Spike Grenade (halo 3)PVC Chainmail
Add instructable to: