How to Make Chain Mail Armor from Start to Finish
This article is a guide for making Chainmail Armor from start (simple wire) to finish (a finished chainmail shirt). We will be using the European 4 in 1 weave, as this is the most common weave. This is the weave that you usually see in movies.
There are several sections to this guide: Materials, Making the Rings, Weaving the Rings, and Making the shirt.
There are two ways to go about making chainmail armor. The cheaper but more time consuming method is to make the rings yourself. The quicker, but more expensive way is to order the metal rings online from a site such as The Ring Lord. If you choose to get your rings pre-made, then you can skip the second section of this guide, "Making the Rings." Whichever method you choose, I hope you enjoy this guide.
If you have any questions, ask in the comments section and I will try my best to answer them!
Also, at the end of the guide, I have a few alternate ideas for making chainmail. Check them out!
The basic materials you need are two pliers and rings. If you are making your own rings you will need additional materials, but I will cover that further down in the guide. However, there are many points to consider when considering what to use.
First we have the wire (or ring). Here are several points to consider while choosing.
Step 1: Choosing the Metal
The metal that the rings will be made from is one of the factors that will determine how strong the armor is in the end. It also determines how expensive and difficult your project will be. The weaker and more pliable the wire is, the weaker the armor will be because the rings will break easier. Also, the weaker and more pliable the wire is, the easier the rings will be to open and close. Generally, this makes the wire cheaper as well, but not in all cases. Here are the pros and cons of several common Chain Mail metals.
- Aluminum: Aluminum wire is extremely cheap (I made a chain vest with only thirty five dollars out of Aluminum) but very weak as well. Aluminum gives a very shiny, silver look when cleaned. You can also get Anodized Aluminum, which comes in many brilliant colors. If you are looking to make costume armor or chain jewelry that does not need to be strong, then this is a good choice because this metal is very light.
- Steel: Steel is generally a happy medium for those who want strength and affordability. You can get Mild, Galvanized, or Stainless steel. Mild steel is strong but has the problem of rusting if not properly cared for. It also has a dull appearance and gives a medieval look. Galvanized steel is cheaper, reasonably strong, but dirty, and it is the most common chainmail metal. Stainless steel is my personal
favorite metal for making armor. It is reasonably cheap and very strong and shiny. Plus, it's clean and rust proof. You can buy this with a black magnatite coating if you want a different look. This metal is about 3x heavier than aluminum, a good choice for Functional Armor. Expect a shirt to weight over 10 pounds.
- Brass, Copper, and Bronze: These metals give a penny like appearance and are rather strong. They are all expensive; however, copper is especially expensive. They are all very corrosion resistant, making them another good choice for Functional Armor. These metals are also quite heavy.
- Titanium: Titanium is very strong. It is a wonderful metal for armor. It can be bought in variious colors as well. The pros to this metal is that it has almost unparralelled strength and will make super armor. The cons are that it is rather expensive and difficult to bend. This Metal is also pretty light.
- Gold and silver: These metals are extrordinarily expensive and very weak. Obviously, these are not a good choice for armor, but they do make very nice jewelry, although they are ather heavy.
Step 2: Choosing the Gauge
The gauge of the armor is a measurement of how thin the wire or rings are. When wire was made hundreds of years ago, the metal would be put through a gauge machine over and over. The more times it went through, the more fine it became. This measurement is still in use. The higher the gauge, the thinner and weaker the wire. In general, anything 16 gauge and lower is quality armor. 18 to 20 works but is weaker. Anything 22 or higher is very thin and really only good for costume strength chainmail and jewelry. The higher the gauge, the less expensive the wire becomes.
Step 3: Choosing the Size of Ring.
Choose the size (diameter) of ring you want for your armor. Obviously, the smaller the the diameter of the rings, the longer it will take because you will need to connect more rings together and the more expensive it becomes because your armor will be more dense. However, the smaller the diameter of the ring the stronger the armor is. Don't get this confused with Gauge; when I say a smaller ring, I mean a smaller diameter of ring, not a thinner ring. I've made Chain Mail shirts with both 3/16 and 5/16 inch ring sizes. These are both good sizes. This is one way to compensate for having weaker metal. By using more rings, you improve the strength.
- I am currently making a shirt with 5/16 inch, 16 gauge, spring temper stainless steel rings. This shirt is very strong. If you want a nice, cool looking, strong shirt, these are good specs.
- Check out theringlord.com for more information on the individual metals. They also include armor ratings for each of the individual gauges and metals. Even if you don't buy from them, this is a good resource to get more information.