Introduction: Soda Can (Pop-top) Chain Mail - ChainTab Category

Picture of Soda Can (Pop-top) Chain Mail - ChainTab Category

Alright so considering I have over 20 weaves I've decided to condense these into 4 separate categories, and just run through the steps in each variant. Note feel free to visit my site: http://poptoppaladin.com/ for HQ instructions and more individualized tutorials. There's also a gallery page and an about page talking about how my Soda Can Chain Mail came about. For reference all my weaves are original and I've only seen 1-2 styles that are close to mine on the internet, and I felt it would be better to show off my work and inspire others to make their own soda can chain mail.

This category is called ChainTab because it's the style that connects using tabs alone. I'll first walk you through prep, making chains and then eventually the 2 styles of Maille.

First though let's go with setup.

What you need:

Pop-Tops - note the sq. ft. on 10 in 1 ChainTab is about 1,250 tabs so just to get an idea of scale you need thousands.
Diagonal Cutters - preferably a thinner pair like I show in my tutorial as it's easier to work with. (Springs help too)
Time - and I mean lots of it.

Step 1: ChainTab Prep

Picture of ChainTab Prep

This is the prep stage, once you've got your bags, boxes, and buckets of tabs needed to do this you need to cut them in a single location.

Now I've seen other tutorials that cut the tabs in a different place, and bend their tabs, and certainly for art crafts and for showing off the weave that works well enough. The first few months working on this I must have destroyed thousands of tabs just trying to find the right way to bend/cut/order the tabs into a manageable state that was sturdy, and wearable. Now I'll mention later how 2 of these weaves are actually still weak, but the 10 in 1 you'll see later in this step is most importantly - sustainable.

This isn't meant to be armor you can show off, but wearable for long periods of time (I wear this to conventions) where you don't need to repair all the time, or worry about it breaking if you bend or sit the wrong way. Also I've sword tested this armor with sharpened steel, and it performs just as well as regular chain mail aside from piercing where it has a little more give.

Anyway onto the prep.

1. Basically remove the chad with pliers,
2. And cut down the middle, watch tv or something when you do this as you will spend hours turning an uncut pile into a cut pile.

Step 2: 2-ChainTab

Picture of 2-ChainTab

The original chain – now considered mostly too weak for regular chain usage due to the cut tabs naturally bending after time (months wearing in wallet chain or necklace); however here it degrades much much faster than 4-ChainTab (which you'll see next). Therefore this really should only be used in either 8 in 1 or 10 in 1 ChainTab.

1. First arrange the tabs back to back.
2. Now here’s where you make your first connection. You need to make sure that you don’t “bend” the tab, once a tab has been seriously bent it’s weak and unusable – throw it away. So then how do you connect tabs? It’s a sort of pushing them into one another the cut tab side shifts but it had a natural elasticity that you can feel connecting them. Simply pressing on one half with your index finger to push it enough to connect will suffice.
3. Once you connect one make sure it’s back to back again and connect the next tab.
4. Then it’s just keeping on as long as you like.

Note: You'll notice overtime that some tabs have been bent too much from wear (or if you take a chain/mail piece apart) and that the tabs feel 'weak' feel free to test this by cutting 2 tabs and bending one and bending it back - it loses a lot and is garbage - don't feel bad about throwing it away - the truism of "You're only as strong as your weakest link" really does apply here.

Step 3: 4-ChainTab

Picture of 4-ChainTab

If you've done the previous step this should mostly be a no-brainer. This is mostly used for chains. It is possible to combine 2 4-Chains into a single branch making a Y shape - albeit it's more difficult to connect. I use this for necklaces, wallets, chain for the armor. It's surprisingly solid, very iconic, and best of all - lightweight. A chain this size in steel would be awful.

1. Arrange the tabs as shown below, basically 2 back-to-back and then another 2 on the outside of those.
2. Then connect 2 tabs facing the same way
3. And the top making it back-to-back again.

Step 4: 8 in 1 ChainTab

Picture of 8 in 1 ChainTab

Alright good the fun stuff. Personally though I wouldn't recommend doing this weave. While it does use about 1/5 less tabs then 10 in 1 it's weaker. Of course by weaker I mean that wearing it morning to night for 3 days in a row will cause you to ~20 holes where tabs need to be replaced - but again this stuff was made to be usable, not displayable.

So if you're lean on tabs, and this is for a more Halloween type deal where you'd rarely wear it going with 8 in 1 is fine.

1. Make some chains
2. Now add a tab to each part of the chain making the 2 connectors face back to back. Make sure the cut side goes on the uncut and vice versa.
3. Continue this for the rest of the chain – making sure it’s every other tab. You’ll want to do this for all chains except the final one.
4. Now we connect the “connector” tabs to the other chain – as you may have noticed to do this you had to flip the chain in order to have uncut only connect to cut sides.
5. Continue on down the line making sure connections match up.
6. Finally go outwards with your swatch’s width. This is considered 8 in 1 Hole TabChain. This is a lot more flexible but obviously it is incomplete as full chainmail.
7. So then we begin the process of filling it in. You basically add a connector in-between the connectors. Making sure in this step that the top side has the shiny side of the tab.
8. And add the other side so the shiny side faces you. This way the 2 tabs “bad sides” face each other.

Finally I have a look on what this looks like in full. There's no real "pattern" to this. Basically what I did was make a long piece 2-3 feet by 6-8 feet with a square hole to put my head it. Then i extended out the shoulder area (this is all flat btw) to have a flap for sleeves. Then you simply connect the sleeves to themselves and the sides to themselves adding in more ChainTab to accommodate for size. This makes a fully wearable shirt that is made entirely from tabs. I have keyrings on later versions, but that's simply to make it easier to repair - although the new one I rarely need to do that. \

To accommodate for 'ahem' chest sizes I've not tested it (as I don't need it.) but I would think making the front side longer than the back but connecting them up lining up the bottom would give you room. Then upper on the mail you'd create a small "patch" that connects the sides - this would have to be custom, and I may infact do some testing with this in the future as it's not as easy as regular chainmail

Step 5: 10 in 1 ChainTab

Picture of 10 in 1 ChainTab

This is the current chainmail armor piece I wear, if you're looking to make some honest to goodness tabmail then look no further. This is much more solid than 8 in 1, and has 20% more tabs. The single chest piece I have alone is 40,000+

1. Make some chains
2. Now add 2 tab to each part of the chain making the 2 connectors face back to back. Make sure the cut side goes on the uncut and vice versa.
3. Continue this for the rest of the chain – making sure it’s every other tab. You’ll want to do this for all chains except the final one.
4. Now we connect the “connector” tabs to the other chain – as you may have noticed to do this you had to flip the chain in order to have uncut only connect to cut sides.
5. Continue on down the line making sure connections match up.
6. Finally go outwards with your swatch’s width. This is considered 10 in 1 Hole TabChain. This is a lot more flexible but obviously it is incomplete as full chainmail.
7. So then we begin the process of filling it in. You basically add a single connector in-between the connectors. Making sure in this step that the top side has the shiny side of the tab.
8. And add the other side so the shiny side faces you. This way the 2 tabs “bad sides” face each other.

Finally I've just got a closeup of the armor as I wear it

Step 6: Finish.

Picture of Finish.

Alright I've given you the steps, it's simply taking the time, effort, and collecting needed to make a piece of armor. Since mine has been a process of building, rebuilding, adding on new sections I can't give an accurate timescale, besides - about a year on and off, but dedicated daily work will make it go faster.

As I've said this is wearable, tabs only, mildly battle worthy, and not the easiest to move around in. You can't scratch your back, but you can touch your shoulders or nose. It weighs ~40-60 lbs, and trust me you notice when you take it off. You have a sudden urge to run and jump because you feel so much lighter.

I do want to point something out though, because this aluminum there is dust (even if you wash the tabs before cutting, and after assembly) so after wearing you'll have this sort of gray dust on you. It comes off with some soap and scrubbing so don't worry about it, just try not to touch walls I guess.

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