Introduction: Recycle Soda Pop Tabs Into Chain Mail

Picture of Recycle Soda Pop Tabs Into Chain Mail

My grandson Zachery is really into Dragons, Knights, Renaissance and the like and I really wanted to make him something special so I thought up this idea using soda can pull tabs. I made this nifty chain mail shirt for him that he loves. He has worn it several times and has it displayed on his bedroom wall. So I thought I would show you how to make one for your Renaissance guys.

Step 1: Supplies Needed

Picture of Supplies Needed

Supplies you will need:
Lots and lots of pull tabs from soda, beer, or energy drink aluminum cans.
wood block
needle nose or jewelers pliers
beading or jewelry wire
Round key rings or D rings to connect at sides and at sleeves. I used 18 1" key rings.
Duct tape for lining.

Step 2: Getting Your Tabs Ready to Use

Picture of Getting Your Tabs Ready to Use

After washing and drying all your tabs to remove any soda residue, check to make sure there are no sharp edges. You can remove any sharp edges using a hammer and a wood block to flatten them down. Just a couple of soft taps with the hammer will take this out. You don't have to hit so hard that you totally flatten the tab, you just want to take the sharp edges down.

Step 3: Measure Your Subject

Picture of Measure Your Subject

Measure the person you will be making the chain mail shirt for from side to side. This will determine how many tabs you put in your first row and subsequent rows. After measuring add 2 inches to each side for any clothing they may wear under the chain mail. You want room for them to be able to move around and allowing for clothing will help this.

My first row used 35 tabs in the strip wired together
I made 22 rows of 35 tabs for the beginning of my chain mail shirt, but it will depend on who you are making your shirt for as to the number of tabs you will be using in your first row.

Step 4: Wiring Your Tabs Together

Picture of Wiring Your Tabs Together

I used jewelry wire or beading wire to wire my tabs together because it is flexible enough to work with and can be tightened easily and added to if I run out of wire. Only use a length of wire that you are comfortable working with at arms length. If you need to add more to finish a row, just twist another length of wire together with the end and tuck the ends in so they won't scratch. The tabs are wired together using an X or cross fashion when making your strips.

Step 5: The Pattern

Picture of The Pattern

I made 22 rows of 35 tabs in each wired together and then attached the rows together again using wire. The rows will overlap and that is fine. It just adds to the overall look of the chain mail. The 22 rows will bring you up to the arm hole are where you will start decreasing the number of tabs in each row.

Beginning at the fourth tab, I then wired 27 tabs together for the next row which meant I had 4 open tabs on each side. For the next row decrease one tab on each side so you should now have 25 tabs in this row.

The following row has a decrease of 2 tabs on each side so you should have 21 tabs in this row.

Now you will make the shoulder area by making one row of 5 tabs on each end and then 2 rows of 4 tabs each on each end. You now have the front of your chain mail shirt done.
Repeat the same for the back but add on three rows of 3 tabs each on each side at the shoulders to allow for the shoulder to come up over and connect to the front.

Step 6: The Sleeve Area

Picture of The Sleeve Area

The sleeves are relatively easy to make compared to the shirt section. Begin by making 4 rows of 20 tabs wired together. On the next row decrease 3 tabs on each side so you should have 14 tabs now wired together. Decrease 1 tab on each side for the next three rows, so you will have one row of 12 tabs, one row of 10 tabs and a final row of 8 tabs. This is your sleeve and you will need to make two of them.

Step 7: Connecting the Pieces

Picture of Connecting the Pieces

Now that you have all of your pieces it is time to join them together by using the key rings or D rings. Either will work fine. Using either of these will help to make it easy to put the chain mail shirt on and off.

Even though I did my best to tuck in any lose wire ends so they wouldn't scratch, there were still some buggers poking out so I used duct tape to line the entire chain mail shirt. It not only kept it from being scratchy but the silver color matched too.

Step 8: Final Instructions

Picture of Final Instructions

Keep in mind that this pattern is for a teenage boy who wears man's size medium to large and can be adjusted to fit who ever you are making this for. Though I had fun making it, it was a learning experience and if I ever make another one I might try using cording or ribbon to tie it together instead of wire. Try making one for yourself and keeping these tabs out of landfills. Remember to recycle the cans they come off of though!


MiniatureTaco (author)2017-01-01

If I could do this I'd take it to school

Homemade airsoft gear (author)2014-05-26

I link them together, then tie with wire for strength.

gonzowizard (author)2013-08-06

This is pretty damn cool! I had come up with the idea of soda tab chain mail on my own about a month ago, and now I have a good guide to follow for making large simple sheets!

Can you tell me how you were able to amass such a large number of soda tabs? I've asked my friends and coworkers to save them for me, but I only have enough to make about half a shirt so far.

Thanks gonzowizard! Collecting the tabs took no time at all it seems. Asking everyone I saw drinking sodas to save me their tabs. I also picked them up off the street or anyplace I saw one laying on the ground. Then washed them all before using them. Have fun making your own. I'm sure it will be great!

Hmm, perhaps I just need to ask more people to save their soda tabs, or start drinking more beer everyday... welcome to the wonderful world of cirrhosis! lol

monkeybones1999 (author)2013-06-14

I have done it too

Nerd King (author)2012-07-09

This will work great for LARP. Can't wait to get started I drink enough soda to give an elephant diabetes.

babasfarmlife (author)Nerd King2012-07-10

You'll have loads of fun seeing it all come together. Good Luck on your project!

downbey (author)2011-06-26

how do u link the tabs?

babasfarmlife (author)downbey2011-06-26

Though I used wire to link them together, it's much easier and neater to use links. Next time I will do that.

MostlyDemonic (author)2010-06-24

why wire them when you can link them?

You are absolutely right. I did this before I thought about even linking them. Thanks for the reminder.

greenfreak (author)babasfarmlife2011-05-26

i saw this instructable and instantly thought you linked them XD LOOKS AMAZING!!!!!!!!

babasfarmlife (author)greenfreak2011-05-26

Thanks. Wish I had linked them. I'm certainly going to do that next time.

NIJU! (author)2009-11-12

 here is a pic of mine i made in 28 mins until i ran out of tabs :( 5 mins ago

NIJU! (author)NIJU!2009-11-12 here is the link for how to make this with only the tabs no rings 

BadVanGoh (author)NIJU!2010-09-07

I've almost got a full shirt going with this style! I've even lined the edges with red closed tabs

babasfarmlife (author)BadVanGoh2010-09-07

Great job!. I like saving the red, green, or blue tabs for finishing touches like that. I made a rosette to go on mine with red tabs.

babasfarmlife (author)NIJU!2010-09-07

Very cool! Love the look!

darknessfalls (author)2010-07-29

you are awesome for making this!

Thanks so much! My grandson thought so.

could i ask how long it took you to gather the tabs and make it?

Really not that long at all. I just picked up tabs where ever I found them. People thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. I had a project to do. And I had the kids helping me find them.

ChaseyWasey11 (author)2009-09-19

good idea for the soda tabs every one I hope your all having fun with this. Chainmail is fun any ways and once you make real chainmail (even this soda tab stuff feels neat) it all feels so neat and looks neat to. I'm glad there are people online that do this stuff other than me.

It is fun to make. I bought my grandson a chain mail making kit for Christmas and he is now enjoying it too. If I make another I will make my own rings.

It is a fun project and I love the look!

DainiusGB (author)2009-03-09

maybe you could actually link the chains together somehow, i dunno but that would take alot of that extra wire.

babasfarmlife (author)DainiusGB2009-03-10

Yes I thought about using links to connect them and it probably would have looked a lot better too, but the cost of buying all the links was just too much for me at the time. Thanks for the idea though! That would be great!

Lizander (author)babasfarmlife2009-10-02

just buy some spooled wire, then make the rings yourself.... takes a little more time, but is cheaper in the long run.

ChaseyWasey11 (author)2009-09-19

ineverfinishanyth thats a good idea. babasfarmlife how long did you work on this? Have you even tried making real chainmail? I figure if your going to do a project why not make it worth your time? ineverfinishanyth's idea is great. The pattern looks more like 4 in 1 pattern and even looks more durable than yours. If I was to do this I would use ineverfinishanyth's idea because its concept is way better and probably just as easy. Good job ineverfinishanyth.

If I ever do another one I will use rings instead of wire. The wire is just a bit rough to work with. The rings may take a bit longer to make but it will be well worth the effort.

mattccc (author)2009-09-04

how long did this take to make

babasfarmlife (author)mattccc2009-09-19

Surprisingly it didn' t take that long once I had all the tabs. I would say a full week of wiring it all together.

animan1 (author)2009-09-03

there is one that uses only pop tabs no wire at all

babasfarmlife (author)animan12009-09-03

I saw that and it looks fabulous! I'll have to try that method next time I do one.

k_man93 (author)2009-08-20

no words can aptly describe how badass this looks! seriously, it is a cool way to re-purpose those tab things and make it look good

babasfarmlife (author)k_man932009-08-20

Thanks K_man93! It was fun to make.

lobo_pal (author)2009-08-05

If you have duct tape on the inside, is there really a need to remove sharp edges?

babasfarmlife (author)lobo_pal2009-08-05

Yes, sharp edges can poke through the duct tape, so removing them prior just improves the feel of smoothness.

ineverfinishanyth (author)2009-03-10

This is the method I use to connect pop tabs. In my opinion it looks a lot better and is much stronger. The pop tabs look much more orgainzed when they are assembled in this manner. The rings that i used to connect them were handmade and if you search "Ye olde chain maille rings" on the instructables website there is an instructable on how to make them. Hope this helps!

that is a good idea. i think ill do that instead

much better

It does look so much nice using ring. Thanks so much for showing me!

sir-zeke (author)2009-07-17
lil jon168 (author)2009-03-14

lol ur grandson is a nerd *dragons lol

how do you know? have you met him?

babasfarmlife (author)lil jon1682009-03-14

LoL, Yeah gotta love nerds!

harrie lynn (author)2009-07-01

That is so cool!

Darter76 (author)2009-03-26

it looks sharp will it hurt if you wear it without clothes under it?

babasfarmlife (author)Darter762009-03-26

No when it's lined. It works ok with duct tape inside.

About This Instructable




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