Mighty Homemade Chainmail Armour




About: My name's Joe. I build things and I fix things. All too often I have to fix the things I've built.

This project began life when my mind began to wander whilst doing the recycling. I could think of tons of things to do with flattened out cans but what about the ring pulls? Surely there's a handy little project using these forgotten about pieces of waste metal. Halfway through rewatching an episode of Game of Thrones it hit me.

I'll warn you now that this isn't a quick and easy project. It's very time consuming and the actual linking together of the tabs can be dull and extremely repetitive. I started this well in advance hoping to enter it into the 'untouchable' challenge and am now writing it up an hour-and-a-half before the deadline.

The end product looks great though and it's an extremely satisfying build to get finished. It would look great as part of a costume or perhaps on display with other pieces of recycled armour (watch this space...)

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Step 1: Materials

Good scissors,
Lots (and lots) of ring pulls, and
Lots (and lots) of patience.

At first I was just adding to this project whenever I did the recycling. Progress was slow and I was concerned my teeth would rot and fall out with all the extra fizzy drinks I was consuming. Eventually I gave in and scoured eBay for some materials and found that you can get 1000 ring pulls for around £10. I found that I needed roughly 4 and a half thousand, though I should point out that I'm an absolute ogre, and if you happen to be a regular sized human I think around 3000 is a reasonable starting figure.

Step 2: Prepare the Tabs

There are two things that need to happen to each tab before they can start being connected together, these can be done in any order but this is the method I settled on.

First bend the smaller end to roughly 90 degrees. There's no exact measure here but I found clamping the end with the smaller hole in the pliers, then forcing the remainder with my thumb so it was flush with the tool worked best.

Next you need to cut the top end so it can be connected to other pieces. I found a pair of decent scissors will do the job here but it will blunt them over time. Also this process will create small shards/fine pieces of dust so I'd recommend working at a table and sweeping up after (especially if you have kids or animals running around).

There's no need to prepare every single tab before fixing - I found preparing around 100 at a time provided me with enough to be cracking on with whilst not boring me silly repeatedly bending and cutting.

Step 3: Basics

The basic principle is that each piece connects to four other pieces; two above and two below. The two 'prongs' should hook above and behind the piece above as shown in the attached image. This can take a bit of thought at first but becomes very intuitive after a short while. This process repeats in all directions, though I'd recommend working top to bottom (left-to-right or right-to-left).

One thing that didn't work so well was creating 'patches' and joining them together. I found it easiest to always work on the main body of the armour as it avoids having to line things up carefully and retrospectively take sections apart.

Step 4: Build Up

This became a bit of a measure-as-you-go job for me. Perhaps that's not the best way to go and I'd be interested to see if anybody manages to measure this up and produce something nice and neat.

I imagine there are lots of ways to build this up, but my method is as follows.

First I constructed a large square that roughly covered chest-to-waist. This square purposely wasn't designed to meet with the back piece because the sides would be added later.

Next I repeated the same for the back but continued a little higher to cover the shoulders.

Now, the way the design works is to essentially create these two distinct flat pieces - front and back - then connect the two. This works fine around the waist and torso but where the two join at the shoulder they form a 'seam', as shown in the attached image. Once I had the two squares I created a strap for each and formed the shape of the neck.

At this point the suit is a sort of tunic and the next step is fill in the sides to create a single self supporting piece of chainmail. As I say this step became a bit measure-as-you-go but over time you develop a pretty good eye for it.

A couple of things to noted at this stage:
The chainmail seems very flimsy at first and tangles easily. This is normal and it gains strength and rigidity as it grows. That said, it will always tangle and can be a nightmare at times when it catches on itself and knots. It's worth taking a little extra care when constructing to ensure that all links are closed and reduce the chances of them inadvertently linking to other parts of the suit later on.

Also a couple of safety points. It's very easy to start doing this and lose a couple of hours before you even realise. Focusing on a precise task like this for long periods of time can strain the eyes and can also be hard on your fingers. Take breaks every now and again and don't get too engrossed in it. Also, as previously mentioned, bending and cutting the tabs can create small shards and fine dust that end up all over the bench and also on your fingers. Make sure you wash hands after downing tools and try to isolate any mess.

Step 5: Finished Product

Job done! Time to don your armour, saddle up the horses and take Winterfell. Alternatively, make yourself a cup of tea, stare out into the distance and pose for a heavily filtered photograph.

Happy building!

Step 6: Conclusion/final Remarks

This was a lot of fun. I mean, at times, it was horrible and tedious, but all-in-all it was good fun.

I had intended to incorporate arms into the design but this proved too inflexible, so a possible future plan is to open it up at the front and have some nice leather fastenings like a button-up shirt. In hindsight that's possibly the best design because it also allows for the armour to be a little more fitted. I'd also look at extending the armour past the waist and have a go at building a coif (armour that drapes over the head).

Before and After Contest 2017

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017



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    6 Discussions


    11 months ago

    I love making chains out of soada tabs and still have plenty left over and will definitely try this out! Thank ypu so much!


    1 year ago

    I love the idea however, like most pop tab crafts a lot are needed. It's great that you had the time and effort to collect and make this but I think I'll save this for a less last-minute costume opportunity. :)


    2 years ago

    the arms are fairly simple with wire rings, but with pop-tabs, not quite.. make a W-I-D-E strip about shoulder to wrist length, in the same rotation as the shoulders. (and about the same height as the inverted "U" of the vest shoulder holes.. ), attach to the shoulders, and then begin closing from the wrist end into a tube. Once you're about 8-inches from the flanks, begin attaching the inverted "U", back towards the wrist, (will require adding another horizontal row on one side, to even it out.) once you reach a odd-triangle, simply close with one. . this should give you a slightly downward to both sleeves. (which, read below, Stresses like crazy if you raise your arms a lot.) (picture of me, with a friend with the first Inlay I did, in copper & steel.)


    2 years ago

    Nice Tab-Maille! But, hardly mighty.. Even butted (plain metal ring) tends to tear over time with stress in areas. (I've made steel, copper & aluminium wire rings. and every time, have a few shed. by opening)


    2 years ago

    Dude, that's Super crazy... I Love It!


    2 years ago

    What a great way to make some chainmail! Great job!