Genuine Chainmaille From Pop Tabs

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Introduction: Genuine Chainmaille From Pop Tabs

About: You know me. I am that one guy that everybody knows, who is there on the outskirts of the group. Just close enough to be friends with the group, and just far enough to be friends with the outsiders. Not beca...

Constructing a genuine European 4 in 1 chainmaille weave using only pop tabs.

Turns out this is very easy and makes a really great looking piece of maille, and as an added bonus you don't have to worry about having a quarter mile of wire on hand to attach them together.

Step 1: Assemble Your Supplies

OK, you are going to need lots and lots of pop tabs. Don't give yourself renal failure trying to drink them all yourself. Spread it out or enlist the help of your family, friends, workmates, or maybe even the local recycling center. Here is what you will need:

Cutters
Staple remover
Old key
Non-mangled pop tabs (however many you need, 1000 is a good start)

Step 2: Prepare the Tabs

You will need to prepare the tabs for the weaving. Bend the collar down from the "top" side of the tab using the tumbler side of the key. Then use the back of the key to continue bending it down against the side of the tab. Lay the tab face down and push the cupped part down flat.

Step 3: Cut

Now that all your tabs are flat and consistent, you need to cut and crimp them.

Cut them in the very middle of the pull part of the tab, or for a stronger connection, on the rivet side, either way just be consistent.

Step 4: Bend

The tabs will need to be bent slightly so they will lay together properly. This is where the staple remover comes it. Turns out it gives it just the right amount of bend. Put the tab in cut side first and close the tool down so that one side holds the cuts and the "bridge" is over the metal edge on the other side. Press with your finger and, bam! you're done.

Step 5: Repeat

Keep making the links, do them all at once, do them in batches. Either way, its pretty easy to make them.

One note: If you are using cutters, you can bend the tabs first, if you are using scissors you have to cut them first.

Step 6: Weave

Now that you have a massive pile of tabs ready, you will begin the weaving. The first picture shows 4 links woven together in the traditional European 4 in 1 style. The next photos show the proper way to connect them together.

Holding one tab by the back, with one hand, take another tab with your free hand.
Push the back of the second tab through the cut on the first tab from the bottom so that it is on one side.
After they are connected together do the same with a second tab, but on the opposite side.
The fourth tab you put on will connect the two "shoulder" tabs together.
Connect the fourth tab so that the second and third are laying one on each side.
The back of the tabs should always end up on the bottom side of the weave.

Step 7: Continue Weaving

Keep doing this until you have reached the desired size. I won't go into detail in this Instructable regarding how to make a specific garment or item. But I will give you some tips on weaving. Because of the pattern, you have a couple different "fabric" geometries you can work with.

The first is the diamond geometry, each link is connected to 3 others
The second is the square, each link (except those on the edges) uses pattern's full 4 to 1 connection

As your swatch gets larger it might be easier to flip it over to continue weaving, because you will need to handle the main body less as you attach new links.

Step 8: Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this instructable, it is the first I've written. I still have alot more tabs to go before I will be able to finish anything. I will probably make a pixane, and create a new Instructable for it. I will leave you with some pictures of this cool looking chainmaille.

6 People Made This Project!

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825 Discussions

I made a shirt freshman year of high school for a Halloween costume, and here's how. I measured how big around my chest was, then made a strip the length of my circumference and 4 tabs tall. I pinned it down and continued adding rows until it was the length of my torso, then added tabs in a way that would go around my neck and connect together over my shoulders. I did the same for my arms (measuring circumference, etc.), but removed a tab every once in a while going down so that it would be more form fitting (since my shoulders/biceps are larger than my wrists). I then connected* the shoulder part of the arm pieces to the holes left by the shoulder part of the shirt. Finally I wore a gray shirt underneath to compliment the metal and protect my skin. Eventually I hand-sewed the edges of the cotton shirt to the tabs to keep everything from moving around too much. Everyone loved my costume, and years later I still have it, although I eventually took the sleeves off because I had little flexibility with them attached.
*connected using more tabs, not wire or any other means

chain mail close up.jpgchain mail.jpg
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LOVE it! Good for you! I doubt I would have the patience for this project, but at least I can admire your work.

Just a few questions:
Why do they need the metal ring on the pop tab still (don't you just bend it away anyhow?)
Also, why do you bend it with the staple remover, are there any other ways, or items to use?

1 reply

These are good questions. When the metal ring is still on the tab it allows you to have a folded metal edge instead of the the sharp irregular edge of a broken ring.

I used the staple remover primarily because it was handy at my desk and gave the tabs a consistent amount of bend. It can easily be done with any other tool, though. It can easily be done with pliers, but the consistency will be a bit more difficult. I think one person in the comments (buried way down there somewhere) said he was going to make a wooden jig in a clamp to do several at once.

I hope that helps, thanks for taking the time to send me questions.

this is one of my favorite instructables, and am thinking about collecting to make a nice bag and decoration for a jacket. looking forward to the fun!

 I really need to make this wider; it keeps folding in on itself as I work. Takes five minutes to straighten out like in the photo below.

DSCF3364.JPG
1 reply


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Very cool, I want to make a pull tab outfit, so I can look like Tina Turner in Max Max beyond Thunderdome.

If you were to do that, you would need a low temp solder gun

A normal soldering gun would melt the metal the can tabs are made from.

1 empty 15oz can of spicy chile (or what ever can of what you like a lot) yields about a little over 500 tabs. So far I think this might be about enough for 1/3-3/5 of a chain mail shirt without sleeves.

My chainmail curls in on itself if I flip it over when I'm figuring what the problem is and when I was a 4th of the way from being finished making it a vest, I couldn't take it off of any flat surface without it rolling in on itself and becoming a nuisance. I've taken it apart and I'm restarting to try and figure out what went wrong through action, but does anyone have a clue as to why it wanted to roll inward?

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TinaJ2

2 years ago

I have been saving my tabs for this project, I haven't counted them but I will be making something before fall. I really like the instructable you created, thank you!

Awesome chainmail. Gonna be handy for the Geralt of Rivia costume i'm planning to do :)

i made if for a halloween costume and i bought the pop tabs on ebay it is awesome i recomend it for other people to try it it is really cool

This is either a great idea or you have way too much free time. I like to think, it's a cool idea. If you were to take it one step further and drop a touch of solder (even liquid solder) on to each split so they wouldn't come apart, these might even be sold to costume stores and others people for a little extra jingle in the pocket. Nice job!

This looks so awesome. I am going to try it! Well, as soon as I get the pop tops for it. LOL

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Dawsie

2 years ago

thanks for the Instructable :-) while reading the comments made I saw someone with a length of the tabs done and thought to my self ummm it would make for a great belt for a day outfit :-) or even on an evening dress :-) looks like I will have to go through my bag of cans and pull all the tabs befor taking them to the recycling port :-) thanks for the idea :-)