Picture of Riveted Maille from Scratch.
There are already a number of Instructables on making maille, and making various projects from maille. The one thing that I found was missing was how to make riveted maille.

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.

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I have some questions. What is the purpose of stringing the rings you make onto a length of wire and heating them until they are red hot? Does that make the steel stronger or something? You called it Normalizing the rings. What does this mean? What effect does it have on the rings and on any armour you make from them?

Also I was wondering if this maille would provide a person wearing it as much protection as chainmaille armour made in the medieval era? Or do you need a different kind of steel wire or chainmaille making process in order to get that level of protection. Would I be better protected buying a hauberk online rather than making one like this?

Have you ever tested your chainmaille to see if it can be used in battle to stop a sword blow or a dagger thrust?

armourkris (author)  Silverblade317 days ago
I'll try and give some good answers.
The steel in the wire work hardens when you wind the rings. In any other circumstances it would be negligible and really not matter, but when the rings get flattened it does make a difference. Instead of flattening evenly the overlaps on the hardened rings tend to skip off each other.
Normalizing is heating the steel to it's critical temperature, basically red hot, and letting it air cool. this more or less returns the steel to it's default settings.
The softer rings flatten more consistently and the flattening work hardens the rings more than the original winding would have.

Protection wise I can attest that this stuff holds up well to all manner of abuse from blunted swords and spears and axes, I've never tested it against sharp weapons though. I trust it would work perectly fine against sharp edges, but i think I could put a solid spear shot through it. Mail is pretty week against blunt things in general, thats for padding and plate to deal with.

I think that medieval maille would be stronger than this stuff, for starters the ring size I used on this is up at the upper extremes for historical maille. this stuff is 7/16" id. if i recall, historical stuff tends more towards 1/4-5/16" id. Smaller rings make for stronger maille.
The other thing is that I punched holes for the rivets, This removes material and leaves a weak spot in the rings. Medieval rings on the other hand had the holes drifted. basically a small spike pierces the ring to make the hole. That way you don't remove any metal and weaken the ring.

For ultimate protection I would go with stainless steel welded maille, but not the super fine butchers stuff.
Depending on how you make your rings a purely home made shirt could be stronger or weaker than a store bought one. it'll cost less than $50 in supplies but It will take hundreds if not thousands of hours to build totally from scratch.
Store bought rings shorten that to probably a couple hundred hours but make it considerably more expensive.
Meanwhile, a store bought shirt on the low end will run between $300 and $1000 depending on materials, rivet style, sleeve length etcetera.

Really awesome tutorial.

jackowens5 months ago

You are awesome! I love your tutorials!

I am having an issue where I lay the ring on the anvil and when I attempt to flatten it with the punch it lays the overlap over no matter what I do. I cannot seem to find any consistent results and would love any ideas why the overlap keeps rolling over instead of just flattening. If anyone has a fix for this I would greatly appreciate it!

armourkris (author)  mathew.naylor.95 months ago
All I can say is persistence. I found that some would do that no matter what i did, but i just kept at it and with enough practice they got more and more consistent

I am just using a barbecue to normalize my rings so it cannot quite get it to critical temp but I tried to get them as close as I could and it did make a big difference, especially if the rings are untreated. I don't know if it is something to do with the zinc coating of the galvanized rings I am using right now but it is about impossible to smash the rings without the overlap folding over until the rings are heat treated. But that you very much for the swift response! I also got a whitney punch and altered one of the larger tips after my 1/16" inch one broke. I make it so instead of cutting the metal it punches through it with a point. All I did was grind it down until it just barely fit into the 1/16'" socket. It has done several dozen rings so far with no sign of wear that I can see. If you ever decide to try making rings again I find this specific alteration works much better for ring making than the stock tips.

brett12136 months ago

Armourkris you just buy rings now? I was going to do this but I dont want to if its not worth it. I mean with the hole punches going bad and all. Is it cheaper to just go out and buy some rings?

Rongconvn1 year ago
Love this
Timfee2 years ago
Man, this is fantastic . I wonder how you don't get mad doing this, but the result is beautiful . I love it . Congrats !
armourkris (author)  Timfee2 years ago
patience seasoned with insanity, lots and lots of insanity, you see, I do get mad, just not the angry kind of mad.
Too true! I usually save that anger mad for the LARP, where its allowed (within a certain degree.) But, the insanity part? Oh yes, it's definitely a madness! As someone once put on the forum of "The", "You have not attained the true insanity, until you have been commissioned to knit your own straight-jacket in E6-in-1" (Someone had that as their forum tagline many years ago.)
I resemble that remark! :-D I've been making butted maille for close to 28 years, and I tried to make some rivited rings once.. after a few failed attempts to get the ends to stay parallel, I gave-up.. (not out of lack of patience, more lack of good fingers.. began suffering a BAD case of carpal-tunnel!) Right now, have been keeping a 4 year old aluminum hauberk & coif mended for local faires.. Just noted in someone else's instructable on pop-top tab maille, I've still got the same duck-bill pliers from 11 years ago, when I finished my 1st hauberk. (made from recycled coat hangers.. I kept running out of hangars?!?!?!) My method for softening the metal, was similar.. I modified a Coleman camp stove to burn hotter, and using Propane, to anneal the metal... I later stepped back in time, taking a cast-iron pot, filling it with rings, putting a few pieces of paraffin wax (about 1/4 a slab from a box of 4), and a little gasoline to get it started, sitting on the same stove to keep it going. (nothing says psycho, like a blazing cauldron full of metal rings!) Alas, age, time constraints with my job (school bus driver), and a weak back told me to stop using the steel rings (especially when the last one weighed 95Lbs!) and I started looking to the aluminum. (quite a few spools of Fy-Shock 14-guage)..
it takes eons of patience! I've been knitting for close to 30 years now.. so, it takes patience, and lots of callouses.. (even with padded tools, you're going to compress skin at the finger joints.. it's unavoidable!) It's kind of a lost art that many still try to maintain.
SacredDemon2 years ago
Quick question, how would it affect the strength of the rings if you only flattened the overlapping part? Now i know that would take more time, but would it be stronger or weaker?
Usually, that is the only party that gets flattened.. The weak point, would be right at the rivot, though.. Because you have already weakened it by flattening the ends, then creating a fault above & below >|o|< with the hole through.. Now, mind you, the idea is to make the maille less likely to fall apart or tear, like butted, but now, enough force to strike, would cause the links to tear right at the hole through.. I like the design, but round rivots? I seem to remember the rivots were actually triangular. /\ , cut from a strip, (/\/\/\/\/\) but inserted/peened the same method. the actual rivot would be a little longer width.. =,.. I learned this back when I started tinkering with chain.. Now, I stick strictly to costume quality.. (aluminum.. Lighter, butted, easier to fix, far easier to keep clean.) The last steel one I made, was killing my back after 9 hours straight... (I was 45 at the time. I'm 49 now. yeah, I'm getting old...)
moe882 years ago
hello armourkris, have you had any problems with the whitney 1/16 punch braking while punching the ring?
armourkris (author)  moe882 years ago
I went through 4 punches before i decided to just buy pre made rings. Of those 4 punches only 1 of them broke, the other 3 just wore out
I'm on my 3rd punch now, the last two broke after a couple of rings, i'm going to start annealing the rings again before i punch them. By the way where do you buy the pre made rings?
armourkris (author)  moe882 years ago
I got my rings from Ice Falcon Armoury, Kult of Athena and Historic Enterprises also carry them though.
moe882 years ago
Hello, i have the same knock off Whitney punch as yours but it does not include the 1/16 punch and die. where did you get the 1/16 punch and die set?
love your tutorials
armourkris (author)  moe882 years ago
I went to the roper whitney website, i think it was and ordered it from them, i nded up gwtting 3 sets of punches and dies for $33 .
Ok thank you
seabee8904 years ago
If you can find a bar with a slot in it, or grind one into the bar that you want to use. you can use a dremel tool to cut a bunch of rings faster. I undrstand wanting to do this some- what old-school (can't remember where to put the damn dashes) however, the sheer volume of rings needed to complete any project might turn some people to the amazing art of mail working, good luck i am looking forward to see what readers create. ( and you also)
armourkris (author)  seabee8904 years ago
That's true, but it doesn't leave the overlap I need for riveting the rings and when I'm making butted maille I cut my rings with a pair of tin snips, but first i stretch the coil open. it doesn't leave as nice of a cut as a dremel and cut off disc, but it's way faster, leaves me with pre-opened rings, and 1 pair of snips has made 2 shirts and i don't know hoe many small pieces, so it's a lot cheaper than getting a new cut off wheel every couple hundred rings.
I know this goes back a ways but, in an old Stephen Biesty 'Cross-Sections Castle' book I had as a kid, it gave a fairly detailed description of how wedge riveted maille was made, along with diagrams of the tools used (For what was essentially a children's book, it was surprisingly comprehensive). I seem to recall that for labor saving purposes it described cutting the rings in a line the way seabea890 posited, and then performing the added step of passing them through a plate with a vaguely funnel shaped hole (similar to a draw plate) that created the overlap as they were constricted. This may be more trouble than necessary, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Great instructable!
armourkris (author)  Rowen273 years ago
I've seen pictures of similar setups, but in the end i just opted to notch my sidecutters so that i can just clip them with the overlap built in. Glad you like the instructable
bmelton13 years ago
I do not care how long this has been here. It is absolutely fantastic.
Could you make an instructable for wedge rivets? I checked and there don't seem to be any
I tried making up tools to make wedge rivets and rings, but it failed miserably, so if your looking for how to make the rings themselvs then i cant really help there. the rivets themselvs are easy enough, just take a suitably small diameter wire, flatten it out with a hammer and then use some side cutters to clip off tiny tiny triangles. the specific size depends on your rings though, so a bit of trial and error is needed there. as for riveting them, I used the same tongs that I use for the round rings, and did evrything pretty much te same, the only difference being that I was putting tiny triangles into a slit in the ring instead of siny bits of wire into a hole in the ring. i did find that you need to be a little more carefull lining everything up with the wedge rivets though so that they mushroom out instead of folding over.

I home that helps somewhat.
To add to the author's advice:

In my experience, wedge rivets made from flattened wire work best if your material is 1-2 gauges thinner than your ring wire (e.g. 17g or 18g for 16g rings). You can also clip the wedges from strips of sheet metal, but I actually found that to be more work than simply flattening a length of wire.

The only significant difference in the process is the riveting, itself. For wedge rivets, you are PIERCING (i.e. no material is actually removed) a slit, not punching/drilling a hole. The piercing drift can be a manual (like a center or pin punch) or it can be mounted in a mechanical punch. I've found masonry nails to be perfect stock for making the piercing drift - they're cheap (you WILL need multiples, whether to refine your head design or to replace broken drifts) and the steel holds up well. Some people recommend a trapezoidal head (like a fine slot-head screwdriver), but I found a pointed "bullet" shape to be more effective. Keep water handy while grinding the head - short bursts of grinding interspersed with dips in the water will help keep temper-destroying heat in check.

When setting the wedge rivets, I used a two-hole approach (easily doable with setting tongs/pliers - I just used a scrap block of steel and a flat hammer). The first hole was deeper than the rivet length, while the second was a more shallow bowl (smaller is better, in both cases, as more of the overlap is supported, but it need be at least as wide as the potion of the drift/rivet that will project through the thickness of the ring's overlap). First, the overlap of the ring was pierced, using the drift over the deeper hole. Don't overdo it, here - you want to break through the overlap, but only slightly, otherwise your slit will be too large for a reasonable rivet. A rivet was then pressed into the slit firmly (sometimes they're finicky and decide to fly away, stick to fingers, etc. so make plenty of extras!). The ring is placed back over the deep hole and the back is struck lightly with a flat-faced hammer (or the tongs are squeezed), seating the wedge firmly in the slit and leaving the back side (currently facing up) flush. The process is then repeated over the shallow bowl, which peens the now protruding tip of the wedge into a nice dome.

A bit long-winded, but hopefully helpful.
With my experience in riveted mail, using wedge rivets isn't that complicated. In essence you flatten a ring (easiest to me because you have many anyway ) and flatten it nicely. Now to be honest i was taught by an experienced maker with out the use of measurements so i don't really know how flat. Then you take either a chisel and crease a line and use pliers to bend it back and forth till it breaks off or your wire cutters and cut pieces that are triangular in shape. The angle is such that when you insert the pointy end into your drifted hole it goes in about 2/3 the way. The rivet is then hammered flat in opposing directions (one side to the left and one to the right..... the resulting wedges smash together and fill the hole and extend to the out side and mash to the left and right causing a secure hold.

I understand this might be confusing but I hope this helps a bit.
ilovefire703 years ago
I have a question.
Where did you get the punch?
If memory serves, Princess Auto is a Canadian seller. For those in the US, Harbor Freight sells a similar set. Quality control on most items is dodgy, but they've got a solid return policy. Mine hasn't given me any trouble in its several years of service (primarily punching smaller holes in 16g mild steel). Unless you'll be doing some serious and frequent punching, Roper Whitney equipment is overkill. It's great quality, but you pay for it, even used (a testament to their lasting quality).
armourkris (author)  ilovefire703 years ago
I got mine from Princess Auto, it's a Chinese knockoff of a Roper Whitney no.5 the knockoffs are pretty hit and miss. this one works great, i got another one and it doesn't work at all. f your after one I'd recommend just checking out E-bay for a used one.
mshate3 years ago
Beautiful crafting sir. I am currently getting my feet wet with simple galvanized wire bent into rings. I think I will use your guide when I move onto my next mail project.
Awesome work!
Pyropitcher3 years ago
This is insanely awesome, but I have a question. When you say "cut them with an overlap", you do this to make sure the flattened rings are wide enough in one area so the rivets can go through, correct? If so, wouldn't cutting them straight down the line, even with an overlap on the end, produce one overlapped ring and a bunch of normal ones? Can you describe how this would work to me please?
armourkris (author)  Pyropitcher3 years ago
yes, cutting them with the overlap ,makes sure the ends are flat enough to punch and rivet. as for getting one overlapped one and a bunch of normal ones, I dont actually cut them in a straight line, I rotate the coil about 3/16" each ring to make sure there is an overlap in every ring.
Oh just noticed something, fyi-ish, sorry for being a coner, but you are not normalizing the rings here, you are simply annealing, or softening them. I would recommend taking the patches of mail as you finish them, and then heating them and quenching them to harden the rings, and then tempering them. might be too much work for a costume, tho.
armourkris (author)  ninja of suburbia3 years ago
Ahh, but I am normalizing them, to anneal them I would need to cool them slowly by burying them in sand or vermiculite, or tossing them in a kiln or something similar, just letting steel air cool doesn't make them quite as soft as actually annealing them would.
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