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Making your own Metal Rings
Weta used a mix of real metal links and plastic PVC for maille. When trying to determine which an outfit is made from, look at the rings. If they are square cut on the edges, then plastic. If they are round like jump rings, metal. Remember, depending on the scene, mail (and armor) may change from metal and plastic and back again.
You also need to decide if you want to make your own rings. They can be
bought pre-made from several sources, and some prefer it this way to cut out
some of the grunt work and get right to the weaving. Of course you are
paying for the work someone else has done for you, so you end up paying more
than if you did it yourself. Pre-made rings in exotic
How to make
If you're going to make your own rings, don't feel forced to go for power tool methods. People made maille long before power tools were invented, and while power tools can add speed, they also add risks.
Decide for yourself how comfortable you feel with powertools and how willing you are to give them a go.
Most maille makers I know can achieve nice cuts and impressive ring rates with their hands, a simple hand crank setup and some cutters.
The saw cut, however, is the Arabian horse of cuts. It is pretty and perfect and smooth, oh my!:) Because the ends of the rings are straight, they can touch each other completely when the ring is closed, so you hardly see the join and things are less likely to get stuck in the closure. Other cutting tools can give pretty good cuts too, it just depends on how far you're willing to go (for a comparison, see http://www.chainmailman.com/mmmframe.html .) Saw cut rings are more expensive because they require more work.
The problem with saw cuts is that they work best in soft materials and/or thinner gauges, as hard metals or thick wire tend to wear out cutting disks or saw blades in no time at all. This can get pretty expensive in the long run. Another problem is the kerf the saw blade or cutting disk leaves. A saw takes away material to create a cut, where cutters just push the material to either side of the cut. Saw cut rings will always be less than round when they are closed, the trick is to not make this visible to the naked eye. To do this, the kerf has to be minimized by using a thin saw blade. If the kerf is very big, you'll need to bend the ring quite a bit to get it to close, and wonkiness may very well ensue. Thin blades that are still strong enough can be very expensive. Also, if your saw leaves burrs on the rings, you need to tumble them before you can use them, adding extra time that you won't be using to weave.
Using a drill to make coils of which you cut rings from is an accepted method, but doing your own saw cuts is much rarer. For drill coiling you only need a variable speed drill, a metal rod the size of the inner diameter you want and some sort of contraption with a hole to spin the rod in so it doesn't go all over the place (for tips and pics search the archives over at the chainmaille board http://www.chainmailleboard.com/ really, they're not paying me or anything, they're just very helpful:)). A saw cutting tool, be it a circular saw (big, unwieldy, rarely used) or a dremel-like machine with a cutoff disk, will always need new blades, so think of that when you consider buying one.
When winding your own rings, DO NOT use wooden dowels. They get smaller with use (at the end of your shirt, your rings are suddenly smaller) and can break quite spectacularly, with splinters flying everywhere. Get yourself a nice metal rod, because you're worth it:)
Safety should always you first, so be aware that you're working with hard things that can be hurled at you at great speed if you're not careful. Rather like bullets, if you think of it. So wear the goggles, the mask (if you're sawing so you don't breathe in metal dust) and the gloves, make sure your setup is stable and safe to work with, and generally do everything you can do to avoid getting hurt.
Having said all that, I just want to recap. Saw cuts are nice but they require saws (duh) and usually end up taking as long or longer than hand cutter cuts. Drills are handy to use, but not a necessity.
Personally, I take as a rule of thumb that if something will be worn on skin for a long time (maily jewelry type stuff) that good cuts should be used, either hand, machine or saw cuts, and my preferred cut is saw cut. Any good cut won't chafe your skin, but incomplete closures can pull at hair (there are many people out there who tried on coifs for fun without anything under it and are now suffering from temporary maille pattern baldness).
For big projects you will most likely not wear on skin (maille shirts were never meant to be worn without some undergarment), I'd invest in a good pair of cutters for the material and wire gauge you're working in, or some nice precut rings that aren't saw cut. It can save you a bundle in money and/or time.
Besides, you don't need the caviar to survive...a good square meal works just as well:)
==J B Brouwer
More on Winding
Any winding should be handmade. Drilling, among all things, is pretty dangerous and the wire can take you an eye or worst.
Yeah, you can make your own rings, that's what I've always done. Has the
big advantage of being cheap (my middle name!). But buying the rings will
save you weeks of work, at least. If you go with steel, be prepared to buy
(and wear) between 20 and 30 pounds of rings, depending on the size of the
shirt, sleeve length, ring size and thickness, etc. Aluminum will be a LOT
lighter, but naturally not as strong.
More on Cutting
After tightly winding the wire over a long pipe or metal bar, i simply cut the entire ring sequence with a single pass over the saw's blade. This can cut about 50 rings at a time (depending on how tightly you wind them). The whole process is manual, so be careful.
When cutting with the saw, always have your hands far from the blade (that's why i use a long bar) and use goggles and leather gloves (any good hardware store should sell it).
Place the saw in a way that, if a ring flies out from the bar, it will fly FROM you, not TO you.
If (and this is a big if in the modern world) you make your own rings, I implore you: If you are a beginner, **DO NOT** use a drill to turn your rings UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES until you understand exactly how fast it goes. I know maillers that have lost fingers this way, and they *knew* what they were doing. Wire, especially small gauge wire, is VERY dangerous at anything over 2 rpms. Ring making with a drill ALWAYS requires 2 people to be safe. Yeah, it's faster, but is it worth your hands? Hand-turning is not only MUCHO SAFER, but it'll build the muscles in your forearms til you look like Popeye. lol
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This page was last updated 04/22/08