Armor consisting of thousands of metal links connected to each other. Best at stopping edged weapons, not as good at stopping blunt trauma weapons such as a mace. Can be made in your own home out of wire. See

Also the name of the origianl role-playing game designed by Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, which later evolved into Dungeons and Dragons. It was more rules for use with miniatures than an rpg as we know it today, but everything has to start somewhere. Dungeons & Dragons was originally published as a supplement to the Chainmail rules which incoperated Role-Playing elements to the wargame style rules.

The term "chainmail" is actually relatively new. The armor used to be called maille, which I have from one source is/was a French term meaning 'to knit. At some later point the name was lengthened to chainmaille, and then shortened to chainmail. Most chainmaillers use the two oldest spellings, at least when conversing via written word among themselves.

Chainmaille was made by drawing a hunck of metal through a set of progressively smaller holes shaped like conic sections, so as to produce wire. This method of making wire also strengthened it. Then, as today, the wire was wrapped around a round metal bar (called a mandrel) in a coil, and links were cut from the coil. You take the links and close them with a pair of pliers in each hand.

The earliest chainmaille came about sometime around 300 c.e., and was first made of bronze; and then later steel as metallurgy advanced. I do not know in what part of the world maille was first invented; but it was in use in Japan and eastern Europe, and perhaps Persia as well.

In the past, each link was actually rivited shut, which added a huge amount of time to the already time-consuming task, but also added strength. A suit of maille cost a year's wages for an entire small town in Medieval times. Rivited mail is rare today, and costs upwards of $600. Butted mail, which is what you get if you just close the links, is pretty much standard now. Butted links are strong enough to hold together without being riveted, but will require more repairs if used in combat. Historically, butted mail was used for battlefield patching until the maille could be taken back to the forge for riveting. Soldering the links shut is a recently-used practice, and about as time-consuming as riveting.

Knitting chainmaille requires a good amount of patience, and natural and/or trained dexterity. You also need two pairs of good-quality spring-loaded pliars, and a source of rings. The latter can be had online, or you can roll and cut your own. I will let someone else detail this process, as I prefer to buy my rings rather than roll and cut them myself. Instructions, which require visual aids, can be had online; or if anyone wants to make a trip to Austin, TX I will happily meet you at the local gaming store and teach you.

Chainmaille Weaves

How well a given piece of chainmaille can stand up to combat is determined by five things:
1. The weave
2. The inside diameter of the rings
3. The gauge of the rings
4. The metal from which the rings are made
5. Whether the rings are riveted, butted, or soldered

The thicker the gauge and the smaller the ID of the rings, the stronger the maille will be. Carbon steel is one of the best metals from which to make maille, and titanium ranks right up there with it. Unfortunately, niether of these is very practical, since carbonized steel tends to be hard to work with (either that or your start with mild steel and have a blacksmith carbonize the armor when you're done making it), and titanium is about ten times as expensive as steel.
Stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper-coated steel, and mild steel are all quite close to the previous two, so long as they have a good temper (say, half-hard).
Bronze is denser than steel, but not as strong. It must have the proper temper in order to be useful as armor. The same goes for brass.
Copper is way too weak in my opinion to be useful as armor, but would make nice jewelry or costume pieces.
Sterling silver, gold, and gold-filled wire makes beautiful jewelry but can be expensive and somewhat weak unless you get it at half-hard temper.

In the node for each weave, you will find information on what gauges and ID's are good for armor, costume pieces, etc.

European Weaves:
  European four-in-one
  European six-in-one
  European eight-in-one

Japanese Weaves:
  Japanese four-in-one
  Japanese six-in-one
  Japanese eight-in-one
  Japanese eight-in-two
  Japanese twelve-in-two

Persian Weaves (no one really knows if these are truly historical Persian weaves, but somehow the name got attached):
  Full Persian or Persian six-in-one
  Three-quarters Persian
  Half Persian four-in-one
  Half Persian three-in-one
  Persian spiral

Weaves of unknown origin:
  Birdcage or Byzantine

Pieces of armor you can make out of maille:

The weave links are under construction as of 4-10-01.

By chainmail in this context, I mean a style of armor created by numerous interlocking metal loops, a style used heavily in Europe up until it was rendered obsolete by gunpowder, as well as in Japan. The term chainmail, however, can also mean a written form of communication, propogated by post or email, intended to induce the recipient to reproduce and retransmit the letter to several new recipients; a kind of wetware virus. This writeup is about the former flavor of chainmail.

It isn't difficult to create your own chainmail clothing and accessories. Most of the tools you'll need are commonly available, and the supplies are cheap. You can make a bracelet or necklace in less than an hour. Chainmail clothing is more time-consuming, by necessity of larger size, but can be quite rewarding as well, although you're probably more likely to wear a chainmail bracelet in public than a chainmail shirt.

As far as raw materials are concerned, you'll need metal wire. The kind of metal and the thickness depend on your preference and the particular application. 14-gauge and 16-gauge galvanized steel wire is appropriate to start with and is available at many hardware stores. Stainless steel is better for jewelry, but you may need to order it. There are several retailers on the Internet specializing in wire. You can also buy pre-made rings from Internet suppliers, but that seems like cheating to me.

All you really need for tools are a pair of pliers (the exact nature of which is a personal preference; I find I operate best with one wide, gripping plier, and one needle-nosed moving plier), wire cutters, and a wooden or metal dowel ("dowel" is a fancy word for "stick"; the diameter of which determines the size of the rings). You can get these at any hardware store. Optional tools which are handy but not necessary are: a sturdy pair of gloves; vice-grips; high-end wire cutters such as Knipex's compact center-cut bolt cutters.

The overview is: wrap the wire around the dowel into a spring-shaped coil, then cut up the dowel, producing individual rings. Then, use the pliers to open the rings, attach them together in a pattern, and subsequently close the rings. Please note that this process is much modernized from the actual technique used by chainmail artisans back when chainmail was combat technology.

Making the coils is the most physically arduous task of chainmail-making. The goal is to wrap the wire around the dowel. (You should probably wear protective glasses while doing this, in case the wire slips, springs back, and hits you in the face. I have some nasty scars.) You will get a spring. Use the wire cutters to cut off each ring. The rings should be very nearly circular, with the ends not quite touching.

I find the vice-grip is very useful to hold the wire to the dowel while you rotate it.

There are several standard patterns, enumerated by Tsarren.

A European four-in-one chainmail hauberk (waist length shirt with sleeves) constructed from sufficiently small steel rings can weigh upwards of 40 to 50 pounds. This is in addition to any other mail armor (coifs), plate armor (helm, breastplate, pauldron shield, etc), clothing and weapons one might use in combat. Consider also that most medieval chainmail pieces were made from iron or mild steel (not stainless which is now very common), which tarnished and rusted, causing them to grow weaker and eventually break.

Consider now making a Tolkien-esque hauberk by using an aluminum alloy instead of steel. How much closer to mithril can one get? Aluminum does not rust or degrade; instead it oxidizes, protecting it from the elements. It is very strong. Most importantly, however, it weighs a third of what steel does. Suddenly that 40 pound shirt is a "magical" 12 pounds.

Considering that aluminum is a very "recent" metal in terms of the industrial age, there was nothing like it in medieval times. There is no telling how people in the 15th century would react to seeing a suit of aluminum armor ...

One might also use a titanium alloy .. with its very light weight and extremely high tensile strength. You could survive melee and then take a tank round!

I made a section of European six-in-one mail out of aluminum rings. This weave was considerably dense; a regular screwdriver would not penetrate or damage it. Repeated violent bashings of the small piece with a large shop screwdriver resulted in no damage. Such mail would probably be more than sufficient to stop arrows (and possibly crossbow bolts).

I've made several pieces of aluminum mail and they are awesome .. lightweight and extremely strong. You can wear it for hours without getting tired. Truly "magical" ..

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