Introduction: Scalemail 101
This basic instructable will teach you how to make scale mail. You can follow these steps to make a basic bracelet in about an hour and eventually move on to something more complicated. If you are making armor for reenactment...it is roughly $50-100 in parts and 1-2 weekends to make yourself an undershirt. Good project to work on while watching a couple seasons of your favorite show.
The person who taught me about chainmail, scalemail and general armor making always said that it takes the "Three P's" to get started in handmaking armor. Patience. Practice. Pliers. Things you'll need to get started: 2 Needle Nose Pliers (I got mine from Lowes, most hardware stores carry them, I tend to prefer one with a spring to help keep it open and one without) Rings(I got all my stuff from theringlord.com, great place to get a large variety of rings and they're reasonably priced) Scales (Ring Lord also has these for sale, we got anodized aluminum in a variety of colors) Time Note: All photos courtesy of a great crowd at AZ this past year. We are posting the class online here as it sold out in 5 minutes and we know a lot of people didn't get a chance to try this out. Hope it helps you with your cosplay, SCA armor, and awesome costumes.
Step 1: Open the Metal Rings
This step can honestly go anywhere during the process before you start attaching rings and scales. You'll need a lot; at least one for every scale you plan on using. If they're big enough or a metal of low enough density, you can bend a lot of them by hand, but a pair of pliers will save your fingers.
Open them so there's about 3 ring thicknesses of space between the ends of the rings. Also, you'll want to twist them apart, not pull them apart. Most rings will be cut so they're split and won't lie flat; just twist them open a bit more and you'll be good.
Step 2: Pick Up 4 Pieces of Scale
Take 4 pieces of scale mail and put them together facing each other like chairs at a table. Three should half one face up, and the fourth should have the opposite face up.
Step 3: Starting the Connections
Start off with four pieces of scale and four rings. Specifically, the four scales you set in a flower-like creation. Connect the three same-facing scales using two rings.
Step 4: Make the "Seed" of Scales
I like to call it the seed, because it kind of looks like a flower bud, and it's where you build off of. This is where you connect the first four scales into the first set of overlaps. Take the first three scales connected by two rings and set them so the fronts of the scales (the raised parts) are facing towards you. Put one scale on the bottom and two on the top.
Then place the fourth ring on top of the now-middle two. The scales are rather reflective, so the pictures are a tad blurry. Loop the rings through the top ring and down and back at an angle so the top scale falls back over the other three. This creates the overlap that scales are famous for.
Once everything's connected, you'll be able to better see if it's correct by flipping it over. The rings will be "leaning" in one direction, while the scales will be "leaning" in the other.
Step 5: Expanding
Most of making scalemail is just expanding on the "seed" you've already created. Keep adding scales and rings until you've created something of appropriate width and depth for what you're looking for. Bracelet, necklace, shirt, coif, etc.
For center parts, every scale will have four rings going through it; for edge scales, each will have only two rings. Each ring will only have two scales connecting it. In chainmail, you generally see patterns such as 4-in-1 or 6-in-1, which means each ring will have 4 or 6 other rings looping through it. Scale is a little different since they're meant to overlap rather than be dense.
Step 6: Closing the Loop.
The last step in working with any thing that will end up being circular is to close it. Since this is a bracelet, it won't take much to closet it. The ones being made in this process were fairly narrow bands of scale. So there's not much "length" to connect.
If yours is thin enough, lay it around in a circle so that the free ends connect and check to see if the pattern lines up. This one's alternating two and one scale. So, the connecting edges would have to be a two and a one. If, say, you had edges with two and two, then you'll have to take one scale and connect it in the center.
Of the four pictures, the one with the nice lady already has hers connected. In the one with the wood top as a background, I've broken a completed ring and shown you how it would connect. There's a "seed" and a mostly finished small ring of scales. The ring ends with a one and a one on the edges, and the "seed" has a one and a one on its edges. So, to connect the incomplete ring, you'd need to put two in the middle, as shown in the seed.
Step 7: Have Fun!
Watch out for pinching and have fun.
One trick to practicing with this is to use different colored scales to separate the rows, columns, layers, whichever you want. If you want to practice various patterns, you can even do diagonals or eventually designs. There's no limit to the fun (aside from purchasing the parts and how patient you are). Great luck to everyone and come back next time!