Introduction: A Novel Approach to Mail Armor

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Ah, the old, good chain mail armor!

There are out there a tons of guides and howtos on how to make it. Heck, just a little search on instructables just gives you dozens of result!

So what's the catch here? Just by changing one fundamental detail you'll get a lighter and more comfortable mail armor.

Maybe you use the mail amor for LARPs, or for cosplay? So you know how much it can be exhausting to wear one all day. Even just putting one on can be a lot of pain!

I know that, I've been there. Too many times.

So I wondered, there is any better way for making it?

Eager to know? The answer is yes!

Step 1: The Usual Approach

So, for this instructables I'll use the standard 4-to-1 weave. Let's take a look to a small piece of chain mail. You'll soon note that there are two different orientations for the mail.

In the first one you see the armor tends to expand to the maximum height in the verticaldirection, and to shrink in the horizontal direction. The usual approach is to use this direction for making the armor, making an ideal cylinder (with an hole for the head) that you should then wear.

Now, let's take a look at what happens when you put one of the classical mail. Do you notice all the rings that gets compressed on the centre of the torso?

Things gets even worse, as you usually have to put on a belt just to reduce the weight on your shoulders.

There is some discussion on the practical benefits of this approach, one interesting theory is that the compressed rings would give more physical protection. Just to restate the purpose of this instructable: we're talking about
LARPs or cosplay here. For this activities, the armor hasn't to actually protect you from any mortal blow.

Image courtesy of:

Step 2: The Novel Approach

Now it gets interesting. Let's study the second orientation!

You see that now the armor already extends itself, both in vertical and horizontal direction, without any compressed rings. Every ring is already nicely spaced from all the others! It is easy to see that with this orientation you can cover the same surface with less rings.

For making an actual armor, notice that you need to apply force to extend it even further on the horizontal direction, reducing total height. This is actually a nice property!

So, the underlying idea is pretty simple: just make a shirt that is slightly smaller than your waist, so that to put it on you have to push it a little. The mail will try to extend it in the vertical direction, becoming perfectly tight around your body!

This means that the weight of the armor is supported around all your waist, not only on your shoulder! And believe me, after a full day of wearing it you will feel the difference!

Also see that my mail is not riveted, meaning that from time to time I need to check if any ring has gone out of place. For this maintenance now I have simply to open the mail and spread it of the table: finding any spot to fix is only a matter of minutes!


  • for the same covered area, the mail armor is lighter
  • the weight is distributed on all your torso, meaning it is more comfortable to wear
  • it is way easier to put on (see last page of the instructable)
  • maintenance is straightforward


  • the armor needs to be tailored to the user, and can't simply be sold as a one-size-fit-all

Step 3: First, Weave the Mail

For making the rings you can refer to the great 'ibles:

You'll also need some stripes of leather, for giving more strength to the edges. A very thin stripe of leather will also used as a string.

In the photo you'll see the finished pieces (in order: front, back, detail of one arm). So with a bit of patience, first weave all the mail to make them!

Step 4: Work the Edges

Along all the edges:

  • mark the locations of the rings,
  • make the holes,
  • with the leather string close the leather stripe around the edge, working in and out each ring!

Step 5: Attach the Buckles

For each junction you'll need two small pieces of leather, one buckle, one rivet and two washer.

The rivet and the washers are needed, because the buckle will actually hold a lot of weight!

(In the end I've used 11 buckles on each side of the front piece, plus 2 to hold the arm piece to the shoulder and 1 to close the arm piece)

Step 6: Ready for Battle!

Remember: ALWAYS WEAR A GAMBESON (or, at least, some equivalent dressing like an old coat). It really helps you going through a full day of fighting!

The process of putting this on yourself is much easier than regular chain armours. Just clasp the buckles on only one side of the chain, and leave the arm buckles open. Put it on, and proceed to clasp the remaining buckles. Voilà!