How to Make a Chainmail Shirt




About: I enjoy building and inventing; I love creating new things and improving on old ideas. I am a student at BYU and am studying under a Mechanical Engineering Major. I enjoy camping, hiking, and backpacking.

so you might now how to put chainmail links together, but making a shirt is an entirely different thing. It includes hours of work and a lot of mistake-making, but the finished product can last a lifetime and looks pretty gnarly if you ask me.

Step 1: Materials

Since i'm not going to teach you how to make rings (there are other instructables on that subject), wire,mandrels, and cutters will not be on this list.

24,000 (give or take 2,000) 1/4 inch, 16 gauge galvanized/ungalvanized rings (you can use other sizes/gauges but the number of rings will vary)

2 pliers (one for each hand)

PATIENCE! - putting 24,000 rings together is no small can take months, even years depending on your speed

Knowledge of how to make 4-1 European chainmail

This instructable teaches the basic principles of how to make chain mail rings and how to connect them using European 4-1:

Step 2: Starting the Front Half

Pic 1: Make a long chain that runs from left to right. This chain (when stretched out) should reach approximately 4 inches past were you want your sleeves to end. For example, if you want your sleeves to go to your elbows, this chain should reach from 4 inches past one elbow to 4 inches past the other elbow.

Pic 2: Find the middle ring of the top row of your chain and mark it by attaching a ring to it.. Now, count 11 rings to the left and add a ring. go back to the middle ring and count 11 rings to the right, then add a ring.

Pic 3: Remove the ring that you used to mark the middle.

Pic 4: Now finish off the top row by adding rings to the left and the right of the rings already placed on the strip.

Pic 5: Continue until you have about 20 rows up on both sides. This will create the neck-hole of the shirt. If you don't have enough rows, your head will not be able to fit. Keep in mind that chain mail does not stretch like a cotton t-shirt. You might have to make your neck hole a couple inches bigger than your neck .

( if the instructions are confusing look at the pictures they make more sense)

Step 3: Finishing the Front Half (Part 1)

Now that you have the most of the neck hole completed, start adding rows to the bottom of your strip. As shown in the picture, add about 3-5 more inches of maille. The amount of maille you add in this step will decide how long your sleeves are from top to bottom. If you only add one inch, you will have very tight sleeves, whereas 6-7 inches will leave you with sleeves that are way too long. I added about 4 inches and it works pretty well for me.

Step 4: Finishing the Front Half (Part 2)

As shown in the picture, the next rows should be cut in on both sides from the sleeves. A good way to find out how wide the bottom half of your shirt should be is to measure your chest from armpit to armpit and then subtract an inch or two. The "inch or two" that you subtract will be made up for on another step. Now keep on adding more and more and more and more rows. This step will take up the bulk of your time. My shirt, for example, has 90 rows from the bottom of the sleeves to the bottom of the shirt and it took me 5 of the 6 weeks that I worked to finish this step.

Step 5: The Back of the Shirt

The back of the shirt will be almost exactly the same as the first. Keep the same amount of rows and the same length, but for the back you need to change the neck hole. Instead of having a neck hole that is 20 rows deep, the neck hole on the back side of your shirt should only be 6-8 rows deep. The reason for this is that when you are moving around, you don't want your shirt to be able to shift a whole 20 rows forward when you bend down.

As for the rest of the back half, complete it exactly the same way you completed the front.

Step 6: Finishing the Shirt! (Part 1)

Ok now comes the most confusing part. For this section of the instructable, I scanned in drawings of the concept in order for it to make more sense.

Part A: Make two pieces of maille that are 3-4 inches wide. They should be as long as the distance from the bottom of the sleeve to the bottom of the shirt. Use these two pieces to connect the front and back halves of the shirt. These pieces should NOT be at all connected to the actual sleeve. Check picture number one for clarity in this step.

Part B: Make 2 different pieces of maille that are as wide as your sleeves are long. These pieces should only be 3-4 inches tall. They should look something like this:


The left to right length is governed by how long you made your sleeves. The up and down length should be the same as the left to right length of the pieces made in part A.

Now connect this piece to the two sides of the bottom of your sleeves. Do not connect this piece to the piece from part A that is already attached to the shirt. The drawing makes a lot more sense so if you are confused look at the picture for part B.

Step 7: Finishing the Shirt! (Part 2)

At this point you are only minutes away from finishing your shirt. Before you work on the hard part, knock of the easier step first. Connect the shoulder pieces on the front to the shoulder pieces on the back. When you are finished the neck hole should actually be a hole now that the sides are connected.
For clarity, look at Picture A.

Know comes the hardest part. We are going to fill in the line of mail right in the armpit. This sounds like it should be simple but if you think about it, the rings from the piece under the arm are going the opposite direction of the rings that are running down the sleeve. While the drawing will make a lot more sense, I will try to describe how to execute this next step. Take a chain mail ring and connect it to on of the rings on the side of the sleeve. Follow through with the ring and connect it to two of the rings on the other side. Continue this down the line until the armpit is filled in.

Step 8: Now That You're Done...

There are many cool things that you can add to your shirt when you are finished. As always you can lengthen or take away rings in certain places. You can add dags, or small triangles along the bottome of the shirt or sleeves. You can also add inlays, which are shapes, symbols, or pictures put into chain mail through the use of different colored rings.

Dags- In order to make dags, start another row wherever you want to add one. Instead of finishing an entire row, connect 10+ rings and then stop. Instead of continuing the row, and a row under the one you just made, except make it with one less ring. If you started at 10 the second row will have 9 rings, the third will have 8, and so on so forth. A finished dag will look like this:


Inlays: By using other materials such as copper or bronze, you can make shapes on your chain mail shirt. As shown in earlier pictures, my shirt has a cross made out o 14 gauge copper 1/4 rings. You can make whatever symbols/shapes you want but more than likely you will have to make up the designs on your own.

Making a chain mail shirt is quite an amazing feat and I commend everyone that is able to finish one. Thank you for reading my instructable.

Here is a picture of an inlay used on a chain mail shirt.



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162 Discussions


3 years ago

Does anyone else get the eulalia reference?

Jinxer Girl

3 years ago

I want to make a chainmail shirt. Assuming I am using 16 gauge jump rings and a size 0 in women's clothing, around how many rings would i need?


4 years ago on Introduction

I started trying to make a shirt and realized I prefer to work from a hanging position. I built a frame that would allow me to not only build my shirt but I also incorporated a setup on the bottom to make the rings. Using the drill I wrap the wire around a 1/2 inch steel pipe. All told I put about $45 into the frame including the hardware and the lumber. I didn't have ,uch of a plan before starting so I had to improvise the support for the spool and the "legs" out of scrap wood but hopefully this offers some ideas for people who might be getting ready to try a shirt. Overall dimensions are 3'X4' so I can either work sitting on the floor or in a chair.(So I can work on it while watching tv.)


4 years ago on Introduction

This is awesome! I`m trying to find some good places to get my rings, so I was wondering where you got yours?

Shut Up Now

9 years ago on Introduction

hey guys, do you know if 17 gauge aluminum wire is fine for decorative maille?? also, will teh stuff meant for electric fences make everything it touches black??

2 replies

 with fencing wire it does turn your skin black if you play with it for while but ive been trying to find a way to combat that by putting the finished project (or just a heap of rings) into a sand tumbler very similar to what you would use to polish bullets im going to make one out of a bucket and an old rolling platform. im hoping that will polish the rings and also clean all that black crap from the rings. ill post an update soon


Reply 4 years ago

Tumbling or polishing is a temporary fix for black ruboff from aluminum. The best solution I have found to prevent it is to use anodized aluminum.

It does cost more, but is so worth the quality. And it doesn't have to be a coloured anodize.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

nice job!! some work gone into that, er! how on earth do ya get it on and off LOL!!!



Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

to get it on you need to put your arms into into it, grab the inside of the sleeves then put your arms straight above your head and flick your head into the bottom, then let it go so it falls over you, then you need to do some bounces so that it settles. Then taking it off you need to touch your toes wand then wriggle your shoulders until it falls onto your feet in a big pile, its not very dignified... or graceful


Reply 4 years ago

And this, my friends, is why squires were invented. :-D


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

LOL!!!!!!!! would have to make it extra large and get a wench to help me drag it off,

And now we all know why tabards are so popular. Because honestly, I can do the chain mail. But I don't think I can bring myself to rip it open and add more chain mail, much less in an actual drawing.

1 reply

A good tactic is too make a panel with your design first, then simply add it in while making the shirt. No need to reweave, and it's easier to work with.


7 years ago on Introduction

Do you know how many rings it would take to make a much smaller shirt? How big is the shirt in this instructable?I'm probably going to need something like half this size. Do you know if there is a better way to determine how many I will need than just halving the amount suggested?