How to Make Scale Mail / How to Make a Riders of Rohan Costume

Introduction: How to Make Scale Mail / How to Make a Riders of Rohan Costume

scale mail is a type of armor that dates back to at least the roman empire. it was also worn by the Riders of Rohan in the second two Lord of the Rings Movies. it is a series of overlapping metal scales that in this case, though not always, have a backing.

since this is also a costume I've also made a sword, shield, and helmet.

Warning this is a costume so don't wear it as actual Armour because its not and probably wont protect you.

Step 1: Materials

for this project you will need


sheets of leather, (i didn't know where to find leather and figured it'd be expensive so i used brown vinyl and denim you will also need colored vinyl for the shield if you want it.

tin snips

26 gauge sheet steel (you could use something thicker if you don't mind the weight and have something to cut it with)

metal wire
(i used 20 gauge copper wire i got craft store that meant for jewelry making)

a hammer

nails (i used both the sort of nails used for construction and the sort of nails used for trim)

a piece of wood (for hammering into)

ply wood

paint (what ever colors you want for your shield)


blow torch

tin of some sort (tin from corrugated tin roofs would work and you could probably find it at a junk yard)


a soldering iron and solder
(i think this makes it stronger but its not necessary)

Step 2: Making the Scales

making the scales in easy but it gets kind of monotonous after a while. first you cut small rectangles out of the larger sheet of metal. i found the best way was to cut 2 inch strips out of the sheets. then i cut the strips in half then the halves in half. and continued doing this until i had a bunch of pieces about 2inches by 1-1/2 inches.

then you cut the pieces in to scale shape hammer out the sharp parts made by the tin snips if there are any. then you poked holes through the corners with the large nails. after this you hammer the hole flat so its not sharp. but this can mess up the hole so then you have to  repunctured the scale in the same hole then hammered it again. this gives you a good hole in the scales that shouldn't cut the wire later.

Step 3: Making the Armor

once you have amassed enough scales its time to make the Armour. I made a vest and leg guards. for the vest first you cut two pieces of vinyl and 3-5 pieces of denim (the variable in the amount of denim is based on how thick your denim is). for this i had 4 layers of denim. you cut the pieces of fabric into the right shape, then you wire the scales through one layer of vinyl and about half of your layers of denim.

to wire your scales to the baking first you poke holes through the baking with the small trim nails. then you pull them out and wire cut a piece of wire. bend it into a u shape and stick it through the holes in the scales and through the holes in the baking. the twist the wire and solder it if you are using solder. then cut off the part the wasn't fully twisted up.

Step 4: Vest

since it is a vest i you need to connect the sides below your arms.

there are two ways to do this. one in to make it so that it laces up like shoe on either side using the leather strips, or i suppose you could use an actual shoe lace. this is probably the better way because it makes it much easier to get on and off.

the other way (this is what i did) is when you put the scales on you don't wire the scales on the end on both sides.

on the front (it doesn't really matter if its the front or the back i,m just saying the front to make it easier) you have the scales on the end go partially  off the side.

on the back you have the scales go near the side but not to it so that it is about as far from the side as the corresponding scale is sticking off the side on the front. so if

this way you can wire the front to the back through some of the backing.

Step 5: Leg Gaurds

i got this idea from the lord of the rings movie.

to make the leg guards you cut out your vinyl and denim into pentagons but not regular pentagons. they are basically rectangles with triangles stuck on the end. the advantage of them being this way and being in separate pieces is that you can walk easily in them and, this would be helpful for the  Riders of Rohan, you could ride a horse in them. you have to be careful though that the backing covers all of the wire though other wise it will scratch up your ankles if you not wearing long socks or something to protect them

I was going to do scales all the way up the leg guards but i ran out of time, and so i quickly put scales on the triangles on the end and cut my remaining metal into rectangles which i used on the rest of the leg guards. then i bent to rectangles so that they would fit better when wear it. to put the leg guards on you cut slits in to top and threat the belt through. then to wear them you just put on the belt.

Step 6: Helmet

im not a blacksmith but i tried to hammer a helmet shape out of the metal i already had any way. this didn't work but i didn't heat up the metal so that may be part of it. so the i cut the metal from the outside towards the middle and bent it into a sort helmet shape. this left me with a bunch of slots in the helmet so i rebent the pieces so that all the slots are facing the back of the helmet.

then i knocked holes at the edges of the helmet and put nail through them then i heated and hammered these nails to hold the pieces together so the helmet would not fan out. i also made a nose piece and attached it in the same way

then i made some scale mail chin straps and and a larger scale mail curtain and wired them onto the helmet.

i also made a vinyl and denim lining for the inside of the helmet.

Step 7: Sword

if you already have a sword you could use that and if you don't want to mess around with casting metal you can use this-

if you don't mind casting metal here's what you can do.

tin is very easily melted with a blow torch. then you can pour in into your mold. the clay i have was self drying and had already dried so i had break it up into small pieces and then put it into a container with water for about an hour then drain out the water witch resulted in giving a bunch of a sort of clay sludge, but then it dried out for a few days and it got to hard but not that had so i wet it with a spray bottle and i got it to workable consistency. I'm telling you this because you may have to cast multiple times or your mold could break. and this is how you get the clay back to a good consistency for making a mold.

then you heat and melt the tin in a something, i used part of a can, and poor it into your mold. the clay i used exploded when it was heated, just small parts of it not the whole thing, and so i didn't do much with it other than make a bar of tin. it wasn't as good as my first mold so i didn' have a very sword like object but i hammered it a lot and it broke a lot (if your sword brakes you can just put the broken pieces together and put some aluminum foil around it and melt the pieces back together) until it was the shape of a sword.

at first i had a curved sword bu i decide i like strait better though it is still slightly curved. at the bottom of your sword you have to have a skinnier part that goes into you swords handle. this piece breaks especially if its thin so you have to be careful.i also used a grinder to make the sword shiny because its pretty dull when it comes out of the mold and if you recast it to fix it.

i turned the hilt of my sword on a lathe but if you don't have a lathe or access to one you can use the method in the instructable listed above.

Step 8: Sheild

the shield is a relatively simple process. but the results are excellent. first you cut your ply wood into the shape you want. i choose a circle about 2 feet in diameter. since the ply wood i happened to have from another project was about 1/5 of an inch thick i used three layers and glued them together. then i put in some screws around the edges and cut off the part of the screw that was sticking out. its probably cheaper though to just get some half or three quarters inch ply wood. but it would be harder to cut.

then you get some foam and staple it to the wood around the edges with a staple gun. then you stretch the colored vinyl over the foam and staple around the back of the shield. cut a circle of vinyl that's bigger than the shield by a few inches. that cut the edges into strips but make sure that the strips are not to long or you will be able to see them on the front of the shield. then staple the strips around the back. when you staple the strips make sure they over lap so bits of vinyl don't stick out.

  than you paint a design on the front. i chose swirly yellow quarters. to make the swirl you take a model of part of the circumference and use it as a stencil between a point of the circumference and the midpoint of the circle.

now you make the lump in the middle. to do this first you have to get a lump. i turned one on a lathe, but you could also go to a hard ware store and find something like a fence post or table leg or some other wooden object that has a sphere on it and cut the sphere in half, and use that. then you paint it silver and screw it onto the shield. you have to make sure that the lump is in the center of the design not the center of the shield because otherwise it would look weird. if the center of the design is the center of the shield it will be much easier to screw in the lump. other wise just try to find where the center of the design is and screw the lump on. if you miss when drilling a pilot hole of when screwing that's OK it leaves only a very inconspicuous hole. what you have to be careful of is the fabric catching on the drill bit of screw and twisting up. if this happens, reverse the drill and use  nail or something to poke a hole to help the screw go through. i put the screws in from the back to the front and cut off and painted the parts that stuck out of the lump, but the best way would be to to drill a hole the size of the screws top and then drill the pilot hole through that and the put in the screw through that. and then  use a plug cuter to cut a plug and fill in the hole with the plug and the sand it down, then cut of the screw in the back.

the to make then handle and strap you get some fabric and cut it in to the right shape. then you staple it on to the shield, i used lots of staples just to make sure they didn't all point out. you could also use some glue as well. i would suggest making the strap sort of round and fitted to your arm, not just secured at the ends other wise your arm will slide around in the strap. then you out fabric in the shape you want for the handle. i had it wide at the ends so that i could fit lots of staples in. to make it easier to grip i got piece of a  wooden dowel about and inch thick and cut out a piece a bit larger than what i would grip with my hand and put it in the handle. then to keep in in place i wrapped some extra blue vinyl around it.

now your have completed your shield.

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    7 Discussions


    6 years ago

    Would there be any foreseeable issues with using aluminium sheet rather than steel? It would be cheaper and lighter, surely.


    7 years ago on Step 6

    For hammering the helmet, try buying a baseball batting helmet at a thrift store or second-hand sporting goods store (rather inexpensive). You could heat the metal with a torch but it would probably melt the batting helmet as you were working. Or just try cutting the batting helmet to the shape you want and adding a nice paint job.

    The shield is quite good, with a miner exception. In the movie, the shields have a hole in the wood behind the boss, and a single, vertical wooden handle right behind that, which goes all the way across the shield. But with that change, and your armor, that is one amazing costume.


    10 years ago on Step 1

     hi there,
    now im on a low budget so i was wandering how much the metal that you used would cost?? Recently i have been collecting soft drink cans so do you think that the aluminum in those would be suitable substitute?

    finbar galdeep
    finbar galdeep

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    on the vest i used about 780 square inches of metal and at lowes you can get a 24"/48" sheet, witch is 1152 square inches, for about 27$ but that's just the vest