Now, in the past I've dabbled in riveted maille a bit, my maille and plates cuise (that's thigh armour) and all the repairs on my cuirass. Thing is, for those projects I went and bought pre-made rings and rivets then just assembled them. That is hardly the DIY ethic that Instructables espouses now is it? So with a quick prayer to the gods of tedium and insanity I decided to try my hand at making my own riveted maille, from scratch.
Riveted maille is really done 2 ways, wedge rivets and Round rivets. the difference is pretty self explanatory. Wedge rivets are tiny triangles, Round rivets are tiny bits of wire. To the best of my knowledge maille started out with round rivets, then at some point, around the 14th century i think, a lot of European armouries switched over to wedge rivets, whereas maille from the middle east and Asia stuck with the round rivets. that's all pretty generalized, but it gets the idea across.
In any case, I'm making maille sleeves for my armour and my armour is a near/middle eastern style. So, round Rivets it is.
Enough of my babbling, this seems like a decent enough intro. Now onto the good stuff.
Step 1: The Tools I Use.
Here is what you'll need.
Standard maille tools:
-A pair of small pliers
-a mandrel for winding coils
-side cutters to cut the coils (these will be modified slightly)
The special stuff
-Rivet setting tongs
-a ring flatener
Now, to start with You'll need to grind or file a notch in your side cutters a little back from the tip. this will let you cut your rings with a little overlap. that's pretty simple.
Rivet setting tongs are pretty simple too. I made mine from a $4 pair of carpenters nippers. You could also make them from some linesman pliers, or really any pliers with about 6 inches of handle. just grind the jaws down till they are smooth and close flush, then take a 1/8" drill bit and put a little divot into one side of the jaws. that's all there is to it.
For flattening my rings I use a piston setup. I scrounged and scavenged mine. it's just a really big brake caliper from something, and 2 chunks of 1" steel plate, one of which has hole that's about the same size as the caliper on it. alternately, with some practice you can skip the piston and flatten your rings with just a hammer, or I've seen pictures of a Whitney punch with bits modified to flatten rings. My experience is that the piston setup has the quickest learning curve and gives me the most consistent results.
the hammer is pretty self explanatory, use it to bash stuff.
That just leaves the punch. Historically speaking you'd most likely have a set of tongs with a drift and a matching hole in them and you would just pierce a hole in your rings. A lot of people still use variations on this method. I've also seen arbor presses modded to hold punches or drifts. Myself, I'm using my knock off Whitney punch with a 1/16" punch and die in it. In the future I'd like to try re-working a punch into a drift to see how that works, but until then, I'll just punch holes.