Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chainmail

Not to be even the least bit confused with chain-mail which I consider pretty ridiculous. Just sayin'...

Those of you who don't know, chainmail was a thin, flexible armor worn by soldiers in the medieval periods. It was woven from chains of rings, hence the both clever and witty name. Chainmail was less expensive and easier to make than plated armor, so it was far more widely worn by military personnel. It also helped in filling gaps between the plates of armor suites. Basically, chainmail was your go-to-guy when you climbed from your straw mattress and scratched your head about what to wear to the impending battle that awaited you later that day.

Some folk go all 'olde' by spelling it with an extra 'L' and 'E' tacked at the end, and good on them for it. Wonderful show, and what not. But it doesn't really matter, and barely anybody knows what you're talking about in that case.

But what's the use of all this idle rambling? Well... when's there ever a use for it? The point (Because yes, despite what you may be thinking at this point, there really is a point to all this.) is I've been meaning to weave myself some chainmail for several years now, but kept being distracted and never really looked into it. But semi-recently I sat down and did myself a bit of research. Turns out, it's really not that difficult to make a bit of the stuff. And I picked it up pretty swiftly. So for those interested. I'll give you an idea of the process I use to make chainmail. Most of the tools and things that I use I bought at the Ace Hardware store where I work. Also - because I'm an employee there, I have a pretty out of sight discount which is incredibly handy when I have DIY projects like this one.


 

First, I built this little rig. It's made of an old two-by-four I found and a steel rod I purchased at Ace. The rod is 3/8ths of an inch in diameter and something close to a yard long. A shorter rod may have been more manageable, but it works well enough.

 
A drilled a hole big enough to slide my twelve-gauge wire through into the rod. Easy enough, actually, despite the rounded surface of the rod.

 
Before inserting the wire, I tighten a cordless drill onto the end of the rod. Then I slide a length of wire through the hole. Back in the middle ages, folks didn't have power tools. But I think the smithies of old will forgive me this shortcut. (It's not the first, and I doubt it'll be the last.)

 
Then I run the drill on a slow speed, collecting the wire on the rod. Pictured is only a small length. Usually I run wire 'round the length of the rod, so as to get as much rolled in one go as possible. Because really, in my opinion, this is all the most boring part of the job. I wear a nice pear of leather gloves while winding the wire, so as to keep from losing any fingers.

 
Once wrapped, the wire needs be cut on both ends. I try to preserve as much wire as I can, so I usually cut pretty close to my coils.

 
The result is a coil that very much resembles a long spring. Oh - what fun! I've never actually played around with these much, though, because I don't want to bend my wire. Getting it wrapped so close down the length of the rod is a task in and of itself, and I'm opposed to fooling around and ruining what I just put amounts of effort into.

 
Gawsh - it's cold out in that garage! Back in the warm house, I break out my bolt-cutters (The ones I got at Ace...) and clip away at the spring-like-thingy. I wear gloves for this job too, because they provide my palms with cushion. Because clipping twelve-gauge steel wire is tough work, son.

 
When finished, one has a pile of rings, all with an interior diameter the same as their steel rod. In my case, that's 3/8ths of an inch. The pile in the image is only an illustration. I get a lot more rings out of my springs than that. I think the pictured spring gave me something close to two-hundred rings.

 
Now the fun part begins, yo! The weave I've been using is the four-in-one weave. Basically, every four rings are attached by one central ring. In the picture, the five rings on the left make up the 'four-in-one' on the right.


It just makes sense to me, to make four four-in-ones and then weave those together.


The pattern continues. One ring for every four. Two four-in-ones make up the length on the right.


And again, one ring for every four. I use a pair of pliers per-hand to twist the steel rings into shape. (One which my dad gave me about a lifetime ago and one I bought at Ace Hardware.) On small bits like this, it's not difficult at all. But when working on larger lengths, the steel will start to get heavy.

 
 The bit on the left is four four-in-ones woven together. The one on the right is, you guessed it, four of those woven together. (So... then that's... four four four-in-ones?)


The length on the left in this illustration is the four four four-in-one pictured in the last photo. And the length on the right is only two of those. For as much fun as I find this to be, it's really tedious and made much easier by listening to a totally rad' playlist all the while. Which I do. I haven't finished weaving anything wearable yet, but I'm working on it. Hopefully I'll have my coife (Headpiece like a hood, usually worn under a helmet.) worked out and finished soon. Chainmail is awful fun to fiddle with, too. I know that probably sounds really random, but just fashion a small length and you'll be unable to put it down. It just begs to be swished around and shaken and dropped and... well, and worn. But I'm getting there!

8 comments:

  1. So you'll be a knight in shining armor?

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  2. That is totally awesome caleb! I want to weave some chainmail, may I have a go at it when I come a visitin'? BTW Happy Birthday ;)I'll see you soon!!

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  3. Good work! That is a most interesting project. Can't wait to see the final product :)

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  4. Looks as if I will need to make a new medieval dress to match this worthy chainmail! ;D (And start soon with how well you are getting along! :D)
    Lots of Love,
    Tinker-Belle

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    Replies
    1. You know, kiddo, chainmail is heavy stuff. It's about the very last thing I'd ever wear to a formal dance. ;)

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    2. Yeah, I know,...
      but who said that we would be wearing our medieval garb for dancing? And I mean if we were, we should just borrow Captain's wardrobe and go swing dancing! ;D (Though I'll take Peggy's! ;D)

      Lots of Love,
      Tinker-Belle

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