During the medieval period, most fighters wore a type of armour called chain mail. This armour, which was created by interlinking small metal rings, was both lighter and less expensive than other available forms of armour, such as plate or leather. Typically, chain mail armour consisted of only a long chain mail shirt, though the more affluent knights or soldiers may also have had some form of head protection.
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Things you need
- Flexible wire and dowel rod or small springs
- Needle-nose pliers with wire cutters
You need a long coil of rings to begin. You can purchase small springs, no more than a half-inch in diameter, or you can make your own coil. Using a flexible wire, such as copper or aluminium, wrap the wire tightly around an appropriately sized dowel rod to create metal coils, like a spring.
Pull the spring apart so that there is a little visible space between rings.
Cut the spring into individual rings. Make sure your rings are the same size. This is most easily accomplished by using your needle-nose pliers to snip the rings apart in a straight line down the top of the coil. The resulting rings are called “open” rings because they have a small open space at the top.
Pick up an open ring and use your pliers to carefully close the small gap that was created when you cut it off the coil. The two ends of the ring must be made to line up both horizontally and vertically with precession. If this is done correctly, it may still look like there is a small gap. This gap occurs because the wire was cut at a slight angle, and is not a concern as long as it is not large enough for another ring to pass through.
Repeat this closing process for three other rings.
Place the four closed rings you just created onto an open ring.
Close the open ring that now contains the other four closed rings. This is what is called a 4-to-1 block.
Make a large pile of 4-to-1 blocks, also called “fivers,” leaving yourself a small pile of open rings. Armour is then constructed by connecting 4-to-1 blocks to create larger sheets of chain mail.
Take the first block and lay it flat.
Arrange the rings so that the centre ring remains in the centre, with two rings laying side by side at the top, and two rings laying side by side at the bottom.
Lay a second fiver above the one you just prepared for joining. Arrange the rings in the same way, with two above and two bellow the centre ring.
Using an open ring, connect the two fivers. This can be accomplished by running the open ring through the top two rings of the first fiver and the bottom two rings of the second fiver. When the two fivers are joined, use your pliers to close the open ring.
Repeat this process by placing a third 4-to-1 block above the two you just connected, carefully arranging its rings, and using an open ring to attach it to the top fiver.
Continue repeating this until the strip is the full length of the desired garment. Because a beginning strip of fivers is used to determine length, chain mail is completely customisable, and can be very specifically fitted to the wearer.
Once the appropriate length is met, begin adding on to the chain mail sheet’s width. Starting at the bottom of the chain mail strip you created, lay a fiver beside the strip, arranging it in the same pattern as before, with two rings on top, and two on the bottom of the centre ring.
Using an open ring, connect the two rings on the left of the strip’s fiver with the two rings on the right of the new 4-to-1 block, and close the ring as in previous steps.
Lay a fiver above the last one you attached, and to the right of the strip, and use two open rings to attach it to both the first fiver in the new strip, and to the block in the old strip.
Continue this process down the full length of the first strip. When this is done, you have doubled the width of your strip and have the beginnings of a sheet.
Continue this process, adding strips to the width, until it is wide enough to go all the way around your body.
When the sheet comfortably circles your torso, use open rings to connect the two sides, in the 4-to-1 pattern, to create a tube. This is the main body of your chain mail shirt.
Create smaller sheets of fivers, using the same fastening techniques as above, which are the right length and width to go over the top of your shoulders. Typically, these are three to five blocks wide, depending on your size, and as long as the area of your T-shirt between the collar and the shoulder seam.
Connect these smaller sheets, using the same 4-to-1 connecting methods, to the top of the tube-shaped body of your shirt.
If you desire sleeves, smaller tubes can be created using the same method used to make the shirt’s body. They should be the length of the desired sleeve, and wide enough to go around the arm at its widest point.
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