Handmade Stainless Steel Chainmail


We know that armor making is an art form. We know it. Still… it’s really easy to let yourself think that making a chain mail shirt is easy after seeing the skills [KdogCrusader] throws down in this build. His hauberk isn’t quite finished yet, though we don’t blame him from wanting to show off the work having put so much into it.

The process starts with fifty pounds of stainless steel wire. That’s the coil suspended on a rod in the upper left. It’s fed into his hacked together coiling jig where it is wound into coils that set the diameter of the rings (think long springs that aren’t springy). Coils are cut along one side resulting in that mountain of individual rings. From there it’s a matter of interlinking all of the rings. He cut apart an old T-shirt to use as a pattern during the assembly. So far the front and the back are only connected at the shoulders as he has yet to add sleeves and finish the sides.

[via Reddit]

57 thoughts on “Handmade Stainless Steel Chainmail

        1. Don’t forget the Greeks and Persians had maile too. So did the Assyrians.. But theirs was bronze not iron. There has pretty much been chainmail since there has been processed metal.

        1. lol – made me laugh. I was half expecting the circumstance of a circle, average weight of a ring, rings per square inch and approx number inches of cloth in an extra large t-shirt. you know back of an envelope ball park calculations.

        2. Well, he posted the purchase of 30 pounds, so no. Historically, a full on setup of mail with padding (very important) weighed in similarly. I suspect that is why he purchased that amount, though I doubt it will all be used unless he lengthens and makes a coif too.

      1. More than you’d want to wear, I have I made also out of stainless steel. It gets tiresome quick. Also it sucks to put on or remove if you have long hair. And if you dont do anything to weld or rivet the ends of the rings shut they’ll slowly bend apart and fall out. You’ll want to be sure to keep some of the excess rings around to replace the ones which will eventually fall out.

  1. I made one of these (more than 25 years ago now). The advice I was given was to ring around the local spring makers and find one who would make the rings for you by cutting the rings off each one turn. Then you simply spend your evenings in front of the telly “knitting” the rings together using two pairs of pliers.

      1. Great vs zombies. Only so so vs sharks and vampires. Basically any knawing monster is defeated, but piercing teeth monsters can still get through. Not nearly as deep and unable to tear flesh, but still hurts.

  2. Pfft nothing new here my knight ancestors were making this back in the 1152. The wire was drawn from an old Grail they found and melted down (amid much peril) and wound around a shrub to make the coils.


    1. Assuming 20 years per generation, 1152 is long enough ago (2^42ish generations)that you are likely related to everyone not geographically isolated at that time.

      Congrats! You, (probably)occidental sir, really are descended from knight ancestors.

  3. There are quite a few books written on the subject. You can find them and people whom will teach this art at Ren Faires around the world. I did this a long time ago with a similar setup. But I used a power drill for the ring spool with a dowel-mounted “carrier/shuttle” to line up the wire on the spool(ProTip: wax up the carrier). To do the rings “properly” you need to solder, weld, or hammer-crimp each link.. or even do it the old-fashioned way by flat-hammering the joints on the rings, poking a hole through the flat part and hot-riveting them to close the link…

    One point to those wishing to do this: DO NOT use heavy baling wire!!! You have to heat it up to get the diameter right for the torque you can apply easily(some are rated to 200k PSI) and it’s really hard on tools. I had two pairs of diagonal cutters go “poing” on me… then I was stuck with a 1000 feet of the stuff. I suggest starting with softer metals(I’ve seen copper and aluminum – which can be later anodized in cool colors – used with some skill to create beautiful patterned pieces… and once a piece that looked like the beryllium copper golf club heads.. with the oil-on-water sheen to it). “Invisible” or electric fence wire is a good choice. And “finer-grained” pieces such as the “Mithril Mail” seen in LoTR can be made with smaller gauges of wire.

    1. Yeah, historically, rings were closed in some way, but in practice you can only tell if you’re up close, so butted closed is fine for most purposes that don’t involve actually getting stabbed.

      Only unacceptable solution is the jagged, pointy ends left by a standard wire cutter. The butted-together points create dips that catch the other rings, so all the force ends up being applied to the weakest part and it’ll constantly come undone in spots. Also, the ends end up with sharp burs that catch clothing.

  4. So far nothing but a nice looking replica. To withstand a spear attack or sharp shark tooth, each ring needs to be welded close. In the current state, any stabbing tool will simply open a ring by bending it open, the chainmail will only become strong if the rings are closed.

    1. It looks like the direction is correct to me, except at the shoulders/sleeves. He’ll want to change the direction as the arms ‘should’ have the same up/down grain to them as it goes down the arm.

      Going the correct direction would help with absorbing energy from the incoming weapon as it’s moving all the weight it can instead of it hitting a semi-rigid sheet and bending the heck out of rings.

      Rig some coiling jigs, specialized bolt cutters for many rings at a time (or a dremel with a cut off wheel, and a set of compression pliers, and a spot welder with custom tips for forming the molten metal into what LOOKS like riveted mail is a good investment in time and money if you are going to do a lot of this.

      Will, maker of a couple shirts, a hauberk, and a good many coif. (And the mail for a kids suit of full plate armor that made it into a Sports Illustrated for Kids)

    1. Yes. Historically they were more likely to be riveted together than welded. But as you can imagine this is significantly more time consuming and as long as you aren’t actually trusting your life to it the difference isn’t worth the time.

    2. Try assembling a shirt sometime, then once you’re done ask your self do you really want to spend even more time welding or riveting them all closed, or just replace the rings which are bound to fall out.

    1. Used to jog in a suit of this stuff with some plate legs to try to get conditioned for SCA combat. It makes a pretty jingle as you run. At night when it’s cool, people aren’t sure what to do with that sound coming at them in the dark at break-neck speeds.

      As it was put to me, “I wasn’t sure what to do, run and hide? or freeze!”

      As for thunder storms, a full suit of chainmail can be used to create a skinning effect for Tesla generators… Might attract lighting more, BUT you might be better protected from it. (Still, rather not chance it. Hah! )


  5. What a frightening amount of work. Could you also thread coils (perhaps alternating left-hand and right-hand coils) together? Yeah, it would no longer be chain mail, but would it work?

  6. I used stainless steel welding wire to make mine. Sears wouldn’t let me replace my wire cutters after the fourth pair. Kept breaking the tips off them. Never finished the shirt, I don’t even know if I still have it, haven’t seen it since the move from AK.

  7. This kind of chainmaille really is old-school. I have heard of machines which automatically make sheets of this stuff, where each ring is automatically welded closed. Now THAT’S an article I want to see on Hackaday.

  8. If you’re cutting rings with wire cutters, the best I’ve found is to use the right-angle ones (blade is parallel to the rivet in the cutters) and to only nick the wire with the blades, and then grab the opposite side of the ring and rotate it around the nicked spot, shearing it off. The ends come out with beveled spots going into the flat end, but they do come out much flatter than if you were to bite clean through, and it’s much quieter to boot.

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