Introduction: Recycle Soda Pop Tabs Into Chain Mail

My grandson Zachery is really into Dragons, Knights, Renaissance and the like and I really wanted to make him something special so I thought up this idea using soda can pull tabs. I made this nifty chain mail shirt for him that he loves. He has worn it several times and has it displayed on his bedroom wall. So I thought I would show you how to make one for your Renaissance guys.

Step 1: Supplies Needed

Supplies you will need:
Lots and lots of pull tabs from soda, beer, or energy drink aluminum cans.
wood block
needle nose or jewelers pliers
beading or jewelry wire
Round key rings or D rings to connect at sides and at sleeves. I used 18 1" key rings.
Duct tape for lining.

Step 2: Getting Your Tabs Ready to Use

After washing and drying all your tabs to remove any soda residue, check to make sure there are no sharp edges. You can remove any sharp edges using a hammer and a wood block to flatten them down. Just a couple of soft taps with the hammer will take this out. You don't have to hit so hard that you totally flatten the tab, you just want to take the sharp edges down.

Step 3: Measure Your Subject

Measure the person you will be making the chain mail shirt for from side to side. This will determine how many tabs you put in your first row and subsequent rows. After measuring add 2 inches to each side for any clothing they may wear under the chain mail. You want room for them to be able to move around and allowing for clothing will help this.

My first row used 35 tabs in the strip wired together
I made 22 rows of 35 tabs for the beginning of my chain mail shirt, but it will depend on who you are making your shirt for as to the number of tabs you will be using in your first row.

Step 4: Wiring Your Tabs Together

I used jewelry wire or beading wire to wire my tabs together because it is flexible enough to work with and can be tightened easily and added to if I run out of wire. Only use a length of wire that you are comfortable working with at arms length. If you need to add more to finish a row, just twist another length of wire together with the end and tuck the ends in so they won't scratch. The tabs are wired together using an X or cross fashion when making your strips.

Step 5: The Pattern

I made 22 rows of 35 tabs in each wired together and then attached the rows together again using wire. The rows will overlap and that is fine. It just adds to the overall look of the chain mail. The 22 rows will bring you up to the arm hole are where you will start decreasing the number of tabs in each row.

Beginning at the fourth tab, I then wired 27 tabs together for the next row which meant I had 4 open tabs on each side. For the next row decrease one tab on each side so you should now have 25 tabs in this row.

The following row has a decrease of 2 tabs on each side so you should have 21 tabs in this row.

Now you will make the shoulder area by making one row of 5 tabs on each end and then 2 rows of 4 tabs each on each end. You now have the front of your chain mail shirt done.
Repeat the same for the back but add on three rows of 3 tabs each on each side at the shoulders to allow for the shoulder to come up over and connect to the front.

Step 6: The Sleeve Area

The sleeves are relatively easy to make compared to the shirt section. Begin by making 4 rows of 20 tabs wired together. On the next row decrease 3 tabs on each side so you should have 14 tabs now wired together. Decrease 1 tab on each side for the next three rows, so you will have one row of 12 tabs, one row of 10 tabs and a final row of 8 tabs. This is your sleeve and you will need to make two of them.

Step 7: Connecting the Pieces

Now that you have all of your pieces it is time to join them together by using the key rings or D rings. Either will work fine. Using either of these will help to make it easy to put the chain mail shirt on and off.

Even though I did my best to tuck in any lose wire ends so they wouldn't scratch, there were still some buggers poking out so I used duct tape to line the entire chain mail shirt. It not only kept it from being scratchy but the silver color matched too.

Step 8: Final Instructions

Keep in mind that this pattern is for a teenage boy who wears man's size medium to large and can be adjusted to fit who ever you are making this for. Though I had fun making it, it was a learning experience and if I ever make another one I might try using cording or ribbon to tie it together instead of wire. Try making one for yourself and keeping these tabs out of landfills. Remember to recycle the cans they come off of though!
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