Chainmail Rings the Easy Way

Introduction: Chainmail Rings the Easy Way

Before I say anything else I would like to apologies for the extremely bad video quality. The reason for the bad quality is the fact that the videos was made back in 2002 (a time where recording digital video was still a new thing and most camera was only able to record 30 sec at a time). At that time I was into making chainmail and plate armour and thought that I would make a tutorial. The tutorial was never made but when I found this page and saw some of the other chainmail tutorials I thought that I would share some of my techniques.

A chainmail has a lot of rings and therefore you want to spend the smallest amount of time on each ring.

Just to give you a reference I made a chainmail with 13000 rings. The assembly time was 24 hours which is equal to 6,6 sec per ring. The preparation of the rings is not a part of the 24 hours. I did not time how long this took.

Also note that the wire I used was galvanised wire fence with a diameter of 2mm and 1,6mm. I have never tried anything else so I can not guarantee that it will work with other kinds of wire.

Step 1: Making the Coils

When making coils almost all tutorials suggest to make some kind of winding stand and then control the wire with one hand while the other hand turns the rod either manually or with a drill. This way is slow and if you try to do it fast you will either burn your hand or destroy the glove your are wearing. Also it is difficult to control the wire.

I used this method for a while but then came up with something much much better but still very simple. It is so simple that the pictures really don't need any explanation. I cut the wire into length before winding it but if you are able to have the wire on some kind of spool it would be even better.

Step 2: Peparing Rings

Before cutting the rings you have to pull the coil so that the finished ring is open and ready to go.

To cut the rings I use a knipex mini bolt cutters like this one: Knipex bolt cutters

Step 3: Closing and Putting Rings Together

I will not go into detail about how to make the 4 in 1 pattern but I will talk about how I think you should connect and close them.

After you have made the first 3 rows you then make one row at a time like I show in the video. This way you only have to connect the new ring with two rings at a time. In the video I only have a small section of mail. You should be working on a piece at least 50 cm wide.

And now to the real revolution - The way you close the rings. Some people suggest to hold the ring with two pliers - one on each side of the opening and then force the two ends together. This method sucks for several reasons all related to the force required.

  1. Your hands and fingers will be abused and you will get blisters.
  2. If the pliers accidentally slip you will move the rings you already put together having to realign them before you can continue.

The way you should do it is like I do it in the video. You hold the ring with one pliers and with the other you press the two ends together and then align them by giving the pliers a small twist.

Step 4: Pliers

The pliers I use are simple pliers found in any hardware store.

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12 Discussions

I found that using the round part of the wire cutter part of the needle-nose pliers works very well for closing the gap for most of the the rings. Place the aligned and mostly closed ring in the rounded out part and gently close the pliers, like a clamp. Careful not to be too forceful otherwise it makes the rings into ovals.

Depends on where you get them. I've found Craftsman makes a "Duck-Bill' plier, which I've used for ages. (from side, look like a pair of needle-nose, but from tip, they look [--] style.. (flat wide tip.) Ace hardware makes a pair of lineman pliers with a thinner flat tip too, and I've even found light-duty versions at craft stores that have wire design sections. It depends, though, on the softness of the wire, you can grab the steel rings with the duck-bill pliers, and grip good, but on softer wires, the serrated face of the jaws, can score it.

side-ways is good. I've also done it 'Knitting machine' style (wide patches, working left to right, right to left.).. 2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2 in a string, then putting one off-set, above the "1"'s, and linking 2 of the "2"'s. .. A faster method, closing two new rings, and when you put a single opened ring down through one of the "2"'s, put the two new closed rings on under it, and come back up through the next "2" ring, and close. , then closing one new ring, opening another, go down through the two "2"'s, add the new closed, and back up through the single "2".

You might want to try either a 8" pair of bolt cutters (double-compound joint), or even a 14" (2-hand, but not HUGE) bolt cutters, But avoid any that have the top of the jaws ground back. -{ style. they must meet on a perfect -) style. NEVER grind them to grab more, this weakens the hardening! I've been able to cut 2-3 rings at a time, 14-guage 5/16-ID rings using these. (depends on the jaws, and the softness of the steel.) One serious word of advice.. Always use the soft steel if you use galvanized fence wire. (hanging ceiling wire is the same type.) NEVER use the super-hard fence wire (comes in 2-foot diameter hoop rolls), Way too hardened, and like cutting glass that will whip-back like a spring! ( a few scars to prove it, from the 1st & Only time I ever used it.)

One suggestion I would make, on your mandrel, putting a shaft collar (Looks like an extra thick washer, with a set screw through the side), and drilling a hole just a little bigger than the wire stock, trough the 90-degree side, opposite of the screw. This way, after you've made your "L" bend to the wire, insert it into the hole in the collar, and let it begin on the drill. I've done a similar jig, using a roller bearing and a piece of flat stock to keep the wire on the mandrel, (the bearing just above the mandrel, and the flat stock just to the left, leaving plenty of room). I've been able to wind a few 5' 9" coils, (leaving about 1-inch of the mandrel left in the block). The bearing also keeps the wire tight to the mandrel, so when you clip it just short of the guide piece, it winds the last of the wire tight against the mandrel. Very nicely done!!!!

1 reply

trough=Through.. (about the shaft-collar..) meaning (o) side, here, _[] (with the set screw straight up). Also, the bearing idea is not too good for softer metal wires, like aluminum, (leaves a flat side), Copper (Fair, still leaves a flat), But perfect for steel.


2 years ago

Could you use a Dremel instead of pliers to cut all the rings?

2 replies

Yes, you could. But, if it's galvanized steel, I would suggest either using a low-speed, fine-tooth rotary saw blade, or if you use a cutting wheel, use (a) plenty of ventilation and (b) respiritory mask, Zinc fumes are toxic. the fine-tooth saw will also leave a little bit of a gap between the ring ends, and if the blade is too thick, will cause the rings to "Egg-Shape". I tried cutting with a jeweller’s saw (like a hand scroll saw, but super thin & fine-toothed blade.), about the same, but still plenty of effort. The Bolt-cutters may give a "><" style end, but it will also reduce that gap, wasting less material.

As cdays_01 says there will be a problem with a gab because you remove material with the dremel. If you use the "normal" method of closing the rings you can force the ends together but with my method you just align them which will result in a small gap. But you should give it a try and see if it works for you.

Tlp801, the only issue I see there is you're removing a small part of the material. With wire cutters you are pinching/cutting. I'd be afraid that a gap would be present. Great tutorial. The videos really event that bad. Short and simple. I've never attempted this but this makes it look easier, just time consuming. Thanks!