Introduction: European 4-in-1 Maille (chainmail) Speedweaving

First of all: maille, mail, chainmail... their all different words for the same thing. I like to use the word maille, but I'm sure some like the other words better.

Maille is a form of armour. It was invented by the Celts and it became very popular in the middle ages, where it was used as 'standard' armour for allmost all soldiers, because it's flexible and prevents cuts from swords, knives etc. Nowadays maille is made for other re-enactments, as 'alternative' clothing, or just for fun like I do.

Back in the days maille was made out of mild steel rings which were riveted. Which means: a lot of work. Today most of the maille is made out of steel wire. And it's not riveted anymore. It's called "butted".

The most common weave is without a doubt "European 4-in-1" (or E 4-1). This is the way the rings were linked in Europe in the middle ages. I'll come back later on the 4-in-1 thing.

I'm Belgian and I live in Brugge (Bruges). But when I was a child, I visited the "Gravensteen" (that's a castle castle) in Gent. There, someone was making maille at the time. I found it very fascinating and the thought of making some my own never leaved my mind really. Some time ago I started making my own maille. Currently I'm making a coif (have a look on Google Images if you don't know what a coif is).

The technique I use is called "speedweaving" because it's one of the fastest ways to make maille. What I will describe is not the only way to speedweave, but this is the one I use, and which works great for me. I did not invent this technique. I'm just sharing it with the world...

Step 1: Making the Rings

Let's start making rings.

I used galvanised steel wire. For two reasons: it's easily obtainable and it's cheap. My wire is 1,5 mm thick.

Making rings starts with transforming your wire into coils. And than cutting the coils with a mini bolt-cutter. I won't describe the whole coil-making process but I'll include some pictures of the way I do it. Perhaps I will come back to writing this piece out one day.

My coils have an inner diameter (ID) of 6 mm, but because of a thing called "springback" the rings have a real inner diameter (RID) of 6,4 mm). My rings have an aspect ratio (AR) of 4,3. This is the ratio of RID and the wire size.

Step 2: Opening and Closing Rings

The first thing you have to learn is how to open and close the rings. This is usually done with pliers. I think the pictures are quite clear.

Step 3: Starting the First Row

Well, let's start connecting the first rings. The first 5 rings show clearly how "European 4-in-1" got it's name. 1 ring is always connected by 4 other rings.

Step 4: Continue the First Row

The pictures show how to connect more rings to your first row.

Step 5: The Second Row

You have a first row. Well, let's start a second one.

Step 6: Make Something

Once you can don this, you can make a lot of things. The only thing you will also need are contractions and exansions. But thats for an other time...

Or try making some really rocking Byzantine chain!

Here's a picture of the finnished coif and me... It took nearly 50 hours te make this one (making the rings and going to the hardware store to buy wire included)

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