Up | LOTR Maille Patterns | Making PVC Maille | Chain Maille Cheats | Link Materials | Tools | Making Metal Rings | Pattern Making | Aging Maille | Tips
LOTR Home | All About Chain Maille | Armor Terms | Scale Armor | Armor Cheats | Armor Tips | Gambeson | Armor and LOTR

The Hobbit
News 'n'  Exhibits
Quick Costumes
Making 'Em
Buy It
Search Us
Contact Us


Chain Maille Tips


The number of rings, the length of wire used and the craft time depends of (mainly) four factors:

  • 1 - the weaving method
  • 2 - the diameter of each ring
  • 3 - the gauge of the wire
  • 4 - the skill of the crafter

Weave: The most common weaving method is called "4 in 1", and is an European style. Each ring, as the name says, is linked to other four rings. It makes a very light mail (compared with other mailles with the same wire gauge but higher linking rate), and is pretty flexible.

Diameter: Higher the diameter of each ring, higher will be its flexibility, and less wire you will use. But if you make very large rings it will become weak, with loosing links, and also less impressive-looking.

Gauge: The higher the gauge, higher will be its durability, but also higher will be the crafting time, since it's more difficult to cut, open and close. Also, high gauges demands larger rings.

Skill: well, if this is your first mail, be prepared to spend some time in it. the crafting can be pretty boring and slow, but after some time, you will be more used to it and will develop new methods (hint: not all rings must be opened and closed in the weaving!

==Doug D.

Practice Wearing your Maille shirt

Don't expect to go out and wear your brand new maille shirt the first day you get it.   You need to build up your back and shoulder muscles.  Practice building them up the same way you do wearing a corset.  Just wear it an hour or so at a time at first. Make sure that something is worn under it..  At least pad the shoulders.

You can wear the shirt out and about by putting an oversized sweat shirt on over it..  It has even been suggested that you can work up to jogging with it... and loose some weight.

== Cat, Judy, garfeimao and more

Wearing a full length shirt of maille

  One important thing to do with a full-length mail hauberk is to wear a belt with it.  Cinch it in nice and snug, then pull the mail up a little to make it "blouse" over the belt.  This puts the weight of all the mail below the belt onto your waist and hips and off of your shoulders.

Another possible need is padding.  I think someone mentioned a gambeson already, basically just a quilted tunic.  (A mover's pad is handy!)  You might just get away with a couple layers of blanket wool (or other padding) on the shoulders, though--basically just cut some head holes in some squares and stitch them onto or inside a tunic or shirt.  Your shoulders will thank you!  If the belt starts chafing on your waist or rubs on trouser waistbands, etc., add a layer of padding there, too.

 You can see a little more about mail and padding on my Midgard Armor

== Matthew A

How long does it take to make a maille shirt?

According to a good friend and experienced chainmailer, for an elbow length sleeve, and waist length shirt, using a light weave such as the four in one,  it would take a first time mailer 90-120 hours of work if the rings are pre-made. Add 25% if  you make the rings via drill-coiling and 50% if you hand-coil. An experienced mailer can make such a shirt, in 30-40 hours, including making the rings. Before taking on such a project, you need to work up a level of basic proficiency which takes about 4-6 weeks. Also remember that 10-15 hours a week working on chainmail is not something most people can do, because of the limitations of the muscles in the hands, and the blisters that come from the work which take time to heal.

== Jay

Rings open and close

small advice one: keep your rings in two separated containers: one for the "almost closed", other for the "widely open". When making a mail, you'll never need to open about half of the rings, so you can close a lot of them before weaving (which is faster and easier).


Starting out: First try & keeping rings straight

last summer I had a pile of jump rings (pre-made rings used in
jewelry making) that I decided would make some good chainmail.  they were 10mm rings, and since I had two pairs of pliers handy, I searched and found a good site with instructions and began chaining.  I used this site - . I found the instructions and images to be clear.

I know using jump rings isn't authentic or anything, but it's a good way to practice weaves if you happen to have them around, and you can create some nice pieces with it.  it might also work as a quick fix for people who just need a bit to peek out from sleeves or something (like me) for costuming.  besides, it just feels so smooth and wonderful when you've created a section of mail.  it's totally addicting.  I've also found it's very soothing once you get into the rhythm of it, like knitting.  I just wish I could find these things inexpensively in bulk quantities and maybe larger sizes.

At first I had trouble keeping the rings from sliding/meshing/jumbling into each other, and I wound up linking things I shouldn't. I don't know how other chainmaillers keep their rings straight, but I found that pinning the mail to my 'tomato' pincushion helped tremendously.  you can spread the rings apart and keep them in place with pins, and it really speeds things up!  amazing how being able to see what you're doing can help, eh?


Others have used a 'loom' (a frame with a horizontal wire or dowel) or a sturdier version of your invention (a board with nails). It's a matter of taste.

==J B

Getting Started: Ring size choice and work surfaces

Usually bigger rings are easier if the gauge is not too small or large.  I usually use 16 gauge with an inside diameter of 3/8th. I often use 18 gauge for my welded or riveted rings.  Are you going to make your own rings or buy them? A note to remember is even the smallest patch will require several hundred rings and a small shirt several thousand rings. The best place to get started is on a nice flat table with a light coloured bed sheet or table cloth that you don't care about getting messy permanently with rust or metal stains. That should help you get started and once you feel better about the whole process you could start to use your leg or what ever as a support.

== Walt

Fitting the Female Form

Chainmaille does stretch a bit. you must remember though that most of it is on one plane (like horizontal or vertical). Most made now run most of the slack side to side not up and down.  So if you happen to have a large bust the maille shirt will hike up  a bit  or with weightier shirts  press your
beasts down. That may or may not be painful and uncomfortable after
wearing for a while.

J B suggested that if you have one made or do it yourself expansion rings for your breasts  could help relieve the  weigh coming down on them.  If you are petite you should have no problem, but watch the length (
since most are made for big fellas).  A shirt will always stretch down
to full length by weight alone. If you are not tall and very petite a full
haubark could have you looking like Gimli at Helms Deep.  You wouldn't want to have to cinch up to much with a belt.

With any suit you get you can also "hem" it yourself or take it up, if it is too long but you are paying for the links you are removing.


Extra Definitions

'scale mail' and 'plate mail' never really existed. those terms were created terms often used in RPG and fantasy books. The items  which they refer *did* exist, but were never called 'mail', since that (actually the form 'maille') is derived from a word that means 'chain' or 'wire'...thus, i can hardly see 'plate chain', or 'scale chain'. the 'scale mail' to which you refer is actually called 'lamellar'.


See our Scale Armor page for more details

Wearing tips

After wearing my costume for a second time, I noticed that the sleeves succumbed to major rust (due to the sweat most likely). Is there any way to remedy this problem?

I can't imagine what would make it rust enough to crumble after only one use, but what most maillers do is to have a layer of protection on their maille. For mild steel, that's a bit of oil, for galvanised it's the layer of zinc, and materials like aluminum and titanium don't need a protection layer. It's still a good idea to keep your maille in a reasonably dry and clean environment, especially steel and galvy still change when they are put away when wet/sweaty. You can rub it off with a towel to dry it.

== JB

The sleeves are getting distorted after I wear the shirt.

Sleeves are not supposed to give in like that. You may want to check if your wire is strong enough to hold its shape under some stress. The area around the shoulders is a stress point, and rings are more likely to give out here first. If you've made it out of wire that's too weak.

== JB

Cleaning Rust from Chain Maille

I remember spending some time on a concrete sidewalk, scrubbing it with a wire brush.  That helped a lot.  A good rubdown with rags, and the little bits of rust that didn't come off basically wore themselves off in the next few wearings.  (Yeah, your tunic gets dirty!) 

Another time I tried the trick of rolling it around in a barrel with sand.  Got ALL the rust off, for sure, but it was FILTHY.  One of my tunics never recovered from that one!

Once it's clean of rust, though, a little oil is probably the best idea. Rub some of it off before wearing it (to spare the clothing and upholstery), and rub a little more on afterwards.  Yeah, it's a pain, but will save you greater pain.  (Medieval knights had the major advantage of having squires to do all this!  Cheaters...)

I don't think I've ever oiled my hauberk, just been careful to give it a rubdown after sweating in it, and storing it in a dry place (usually hung on the wall, on a solid wood hanger and a really strong hook).  Plus I've been
wearing it less and less over the years, and lately only with a padded gambeson under it.  That soaks up a lot of the sweat and keeps the mail dry.

Much more comfortable, too!  Just keeping more clothing between you and the mail will help (though of course the movie characters rarely worry about that!).

I would be very careful about acid baths or naval jelly--I've seen friends end up with some very icky, crusty mail after those.

==Matt A

One way to clean maille that has been suggested to me, at least with smaller sections of it is to use sand.  Get a box with some sand in it, dip the sleeves in there one at a time, rub them back and forth, and see if that get's the rust off. I've had to do this for the chain segment on the back of my helm. The rest of the helm needs no polishing, becuase of what it's made of, but the chain maille skirt on the back of the helm is a different matter.


Do I make metal or plastic maille to start out???

Please note that I'm a metal maille maker and as such I'm heavily biased towards actual metal maille.

I personally think that people overestimate the complexity of making metal maille. You can buy the rings ready made and you only have to link them together. There is no gluing or melting them shut like with some plastic rings. It's also unnecessary to paint the rings as they are already metal-toned, at most you might want to do some weathering.

The weight is also not as bad as everyone seems to think. For one thing, costume weight maille can be made of thinner rings as there is no actual combat strain on them. There are also lighter materials available which will drastically reduce the weight of your shirt. I'm making a shirt of dull aluminum (yes, that's a technical term) which I will be wearing for hours on end. Now I'm no trained warrior like Eowyn, so I'm not used to the weight of a steel shirt on my back and I opted for alu. It will only weigh a fraction of a regular (butted) steel shirt, and probably about as much as a 'period' riveted steel shirt (they're very light compared to modern stuff).

The one consideration where plastic might win is cost. It is labour intensive to cut it though, and I personally would invest that time in finding some nice wire (ring suppliers will also sell you wire or you can buy it locally) and winding my own rings. That way, you're not paying someone to make your rings and that is usually the biggest part of the price of ready made rings.

== JB/Steelweaver

      the gods made light metal and they saw that it was good


LOTR Maille Patterns | Making PVC Maille | Chain Maille Cheats | Link Materials | Tools | Making Metal Rings | Pattern Making | Aging Maille | Tips

LOTR Home | All About Chain Maille | Armor Terms | Scale Armor | Armor Cheats | Armor Tips | Gambeson | Armor and LOTR

This page was last updated 04/22/08