European 4-in-1 Maille (chainmail) Speedweaving




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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417 Discussions

I use 16 Ga wire, mild steel used for either baling hay or for wood stove pipes. Comes in 5 lb rolls, stores well and can be slipped onto a roller beneath a ring-rolling jig so you can snip off what you what and roll as many springs as you can handle. Fairly cheap, although somewhat messy. I use "airplane shears" M-6 to snip the springs into rings and simply butt join them, the M-6 is a good tool, although at my age I brace it against my leg so it isn't all hand muscle. I've made a few pieces: coifs with and without mantles, shirts with 6-1 bodies and 4-1 arms and straight old 4-1 shirts. If you toss in Oriental mail you have a great palette of texture and flow to work with.

Buying your wire at the hardware store is too expensive. Like $18 - $25 for 200 feet. Go to Tractor Supply Company and you can buy 14 gauge electric fence wire for $50 for a half mile.

2 replies

Go to home depot or lowes and they have 200 ft 16 gauge gal. steel wire for $6.27.

This is bad advice, if you want your chainmail to discolor, stain your skin, or if you do weld your jump rings give off toxic fumes. Just order stainless steel wire off of amazon.

it may be just because im starting out but for some reason i cant get it to layout nearly as neat especially on the second row it just looks like a jumbled mess i may also be impatient

instead of spinning jig you used to make the loops you could put them on a drill and do that to make a ton realy fast

I found, on the second row, it was easier to attach 2-1 to the first row then weave 1 open through 3 on the piece and put 1 closed on it.


Man, You have too much time on your hands. It seems that it would take weeks to make anything of any size that would be useful.

8 replies

try months. and where do you think (aside from shark attacks) that chain mail would be useful? it's just cool

In Renn Faire reenactments, they often use live steel. In such case, real armor is very useful.

Doesn't matter how careful you are, when someone's swinging a real sword, it's a good idea to have a bit of protection in the way.

Actually, maille is much better suited to fending off bladed sweeping attacks (although a form of it is used for crazy people wishing to dive with sharks).

My trick during college was to keep a handful of rings and my pliers in my backpack. There are about 20 times a day when I found myself having just enough time to put a handful of rings together. When the piece got too big to haul around I thew it in my closet. When I had a pile of them, I put them together into a shirt.

Duh, that's what Nintendo DS is for. Just kidding! But seriously, is for wasting time when time ought be wasted.

Someone criticized my "How to Make Butter" video on YouTube as a waste of time. (I uploaded it to illustrate my How to Make Butter Instructable)

Commenter #1: "Ever heard of Land O lakes? Too much work for so little yield. Does it taste that much "fresher" than just getting butter from the store?"

Commenter #2 "that's what i was thinkin :). would be good if you're retired i guess and really bored "

My reply "I find it funny that you thought it was a waste of time when you just watched a ten minute video on how to make butter --- but you don't want to make butter. hahaha / jk"

Commenter 2: "you may have a point there :) ".

as I said to someone else you are on a fricken website that is only diy where you spend fricken time doing projects and learning how are you saying that being a member of instructables(im not looking for confrentation im looking at a point of the matter)