Introduction: How to Make a Chainmail Shirt

About: A mechanical engineering graduate-turned software product manager. But there will always be a special place in my heart for making.

so you might now how to put chainmail links together, but making a shirt is an entirely different thing. It includes hours of work and a lot of mistake-making, but the finished product can last a lifetime and looks pretty gnarly if you ask me.

Step 1: Materials

Since i'm not going to teach you how to make rings (there are other instructables on that subject), wire,mandrels, and cutters will not be on this list.

24,000 (give or take 2,000) 1/4 inch, 16 gauge galvanized/ungalvanized rings (you can use other sizes/gauges but the number of rings will vary)

2 pliers (one for each hand)

PATIENCE! - putting 24,000 rings together is no small can take months, even years depending on your speed

Knowledge of how to make 4-1 European chainmail

This instructable teaches the basic principles of how to make chain mail rings and how to connect them using European 4-1:

Step 2: Starting the Front Half

Pic 1: Make a long chain that runs from left to right. This chain (when stretched out) should reach approximately 4 inches past were you want your sleeves to end. For example, if you want your sleeves to go to your elbows, this chain should reach from 4 inches past one elbow to 4 inches past the other elbow.

Pic 2: Find the middle ring of the top row of your chain and mark it by attaching a ring to it.. Now, count 11 rings to the left and add a ring. go back to the middle ring and count 11 rings to the right, then add a ring.

Pic 3: Remove the ring that you used to mark the middle.

Pic 4: Now finish off the top row by adding rings to the left and the right of the rings already placed on the strip.

Pic 5: Continue until you have about 20 rows up on both sides. This will create the neck-hole of the shirt. If you don't have enough rows, your head will not be able to fit. Keep in mind that chain mail does not stretch like a cotton t-shirt. You might have to make your neck hole a couple inches bigger than your neck .

( if the instructions are confusing look at the pictures they make more sense)

Step 3: Finishing the Front Half (Part 1)

Now that you have the most of the neck hole completed, start adding rows to the bottom of your strip. As shown in the picture, add about 3-5 more inches of maille. The amount of maille you add in this step will decide how long your sleeves are from top to bottom. If you only add one inch, you will have very tight sleeves, whereas 6-7 inches will leave you with sleeves that are way too long. I added about 4 inches and it works pretty well for me.

Step 4: Finishing the Front Half (Part 2)

As shown in the picture, the next rows should be cut in on both sides from the sleeves. A good way to find out how wide the bottom half of your shirt should be is to measure your chest from armpit to armpit and then subtract an inch or two. The "inch or two" that you subtract will be made up for on another step. Now keep on adding more and more and more and more rows. This step will take up the bulk of your time. My shirt, for example, has 90 rows from the bottom of the sleeves to the bottom of the shirt and it took me 5 of the 6 weeks that I worked to finish this step.

Step 5: The Back of the Shirt

The back of the shirt will be almost exactly the same as the first. Keep the same amount of rows and the same length, but for the back you need to change the neck hole. Instead of having a neck hole that is 20 rows deep, the neck hole on the back side of your shirt should only be 6-8 rows deep. The reason for this is that when you are moving around, you don't want your shirt to be able to shift a whole 20 rows forward when you bend down.

As for the rest of the back half, complete it exactly the same way you completed the front.

Step 6: Finishing the Shirt! (Part 1)

Ok now comes the most confusing part. For this section of the instructable, I scanned in drawings of the concept in order for it to make more sense.

Part A: Make two pieces of maille that are 3-4 inches wide. They should be as long as the distance from the bottom of the sleeve to the bottom of the shirt. Use these two pieces to connect the front and back halves of the shirt. These pieces should NOT be at all connected to the actual sleeve. Check picture number one for clarity in this step.

Part B: Make 2 different pieces of maille that are as wide as your sleeves are long. These pieces should only be 3-4 inches tall. They should look something like this:


The left to right length is governed by how long you made your sleeves. The up and down length should be the same as the left to right length of the pieces made in part A.

Now connect this piece to the two sides of the bottom of your sleeves. Do not connect this piece to the piece from part A that is already attached to the shirt. The drawing makes a lot more sense so if you are confused look at the picture for part B.

Step 7: Finishing the Shirt! (Part 2)

At this point you are only minutes away from finishing your shirt. Before you work on the hard part, knock of the easier step first. Connect the shoulder pieces on the front to the shoulder pieces on the back. When you are finished the neck hole should actually be a hole now that the sides are connected.
For clarity, look at Picture A.

Know comes the hardest part. We are going to fill in the line of mail right in the armpit. This sounds like it should be simple but if you think about it, the rings from the piece under the arm are going the opposite direction of the rings that are running down the sleeve. While the drawing will make a lot more sense, I will try to describe how to execute this next step. Take a chain mail ring and connect it to on of the rings on the side of the sleeve. Follow through with the ring and connect it to two of the rings on the other side. Continue this down the line until the armpit is filled in.

Step 8: Now That You're Done...

There are many cool things that you can add to your shirt when you are finished. As always you can lengthen or take away rings in certain places. You can add dags, or small triangles along the bottome of the shirt or sleeves. You can also add inlays, which are shapes, symbols, or pictures put into chain mail through the use of different colored rings.

Dags- In order to make dags, start another row wherever you want to add one. Instead of finishing an entire row, connect 10+ rings and then stop. Instead of continuing the row, and a row under the one you just made, except make it with one less ring. If you started at 10 the second row will have 9 rings, the third will have 8, and so on so forth. A finished dag will look like this:


Inlays: By using other materials such as copper or bronze, you can make shapes on your chain mail shirt. As shown in earlier pictures, my shirt has a cross made out o 14 gauge copper 1/4 rings. You can make whatever symbols/shapes you want but more than likely you will have to make up the designs on your own.

Making a chain mail shirt is quite an amazing feat and I commend everyone that is able to finish one. Thank you for reading my instructable.

Here is a picture of an inlay used on a chain mail shirt.