Scale gloves made out of drinking cans

Many things can be made out of drinking cans. Some time ago I had the idea to use the sheets, that cover the opening. You know that stamped part which gets pushed inwards for opening the can. I made a pair of very light-weighting and flexible scale-gloves with them:

I removed the flat sheets from the cans and pierced three holes in each of them. Afterwards I started sewing them in rows on a ordinary working-glove. This works best, when you beginn near the wrist. A long and pointed pair of flat nose pliers can be usefull for handling the needle inside the glove. For sewing the fingers this won’t work well any more. Then it’s better to lead the point of the needle through two layers of leather at once, so that it comes out on the outside again. For that purpose you need to buckle the leather a little bit, what is only possible when the scales dont fit close to it. Therefore I threaded every whole row loose and thigthend it afterwards. It took around 500 scales for the pair of gloves. The parts, that cover the finger tips are made out of a thicker aluminium plate. I forged the parts in a homemade wooden swage.

Amount of work

How long does it take to build a mail-shirt? If you ask someone, who actually did it, the answer you get might be: “It takes just as long as it needs!” To finish a shirt of mail you need to have patience and fun doing it. If you got this, time doesn’t matter much. Nevertheless I measured the time, to give you an idea about the dimensions:

Hauberk with hood, face cover and attached gloves from ringen with 6mm ID.

The time spend on one ring doesn’t depend much on the size of it, yet the time per area of weave does. To cover 10x10cm, I need 200 rings with an inner diamater of 8mm. That takes me 8 hours from the wire to the weave. To make a shirt with short sleeves, you may consequently need about 600 hours. A full hauberk with a hood, covering the whole arms and the legs to the knee would take 1100 hours. The garment shown in the following picture is such a hauberk. I build it out of rings with an inner diameter of 6mm. This ring size made me spend about 1000 hours just for riveting. Yet this just means two years of watching an average amount TV while making mail.
During production there is some waste. Thus I have to buy 5m of wire to make 100 rings with an inner diameter of 8mm instead of 3,6m, which would theoretically be enough. I assume, that medieval mail-makers had by far less waste, for wire was more valuable. Furthermore I think, they could do it up much faster, due to more experiance and practice. If there have been workshops, where the task were splitted to several persons (master, assistants and apprentices), they could easily accomplish orders in a few weeks.


Mail made out of pull tabs from aluminium cans

You can find other resources than wire for creating mail weave, for example pull tabs from pop cans. They look nicely and the aluminum makes them pretty lightweight.

Weave from three differnet kind of soda can pull tabs

Such weave is comparatively fast and easy to build:

  • making-of-pull-tab-mail1
    Pull tab beeing bend over

    First of all you have to remove the tab from the can by moving it up and down. Afterwards you beend it in the middle in a certain angle. This works best with a thong. The angle depends on your favor, but it should not be too wide. Otherwise the weave will become crooked and can’t lay on a plain. If you choose a very pointed angle instead, the weave needs more tabs per area and the tabs may crack at the edge of the angle.

  • making-of-pull-tab-mail2
    The pull tab beeing cut on the thinner side

    Then you need a cut through the tab to make the connection possible. It’s your choice where you set it. One cut per tab is enough.

  • making-of-pull-tab-mail3
    Pull tabs set into each other

    Open the cut an insert the tabs in each other like shown in the picture below; afterwards close it again.

  • making-of-pull-tab-mail4
    Small weav with round pull tabs

    Enlarge the weave with more tabs. The picture should give you an idea about the pattern.




Mailweave patterns

“It was solid
Yet everchanging
It was different
And yet the same.”

This is part of the lyrics of the song “ThereIn (lies the beauty)” by the swedish metalband “Dark Tranquilllity”. Probably unwittingly they describe exactly what fascinates me about mail weave: Solid bodys, which are connected to something flexible and small parts becoming one seemingly liquid entity. Even out of one type of rings, you can create a diversity of twodimensional weave-patterns. This is a selection of some common weaves:

The most famous one is the european weave with one ring holding 4 neighbours. It contains a comparatively small amount of rings per area, what makes it very leightweight. Almost all historical european weave was built in this pattern. If this pattern hangs like shown in the picture, the rings splay, yet if turned 90° they move in together. The european 4in1 pattern was preferentially used this way, because it fits close to a body and easily diverts blows. A tighter and heavier weave can be made by connecting 6 rings each into one in a similar manner.

The Elfen-, Gracelock- and the Persian pattern have no historical origin as far as I know. Furthermore there are a few more ways to connect rings to a sheet as for an example the Japanese 4in1-pattern.

Rings in mail armour

roundring, flatring, and punched ring
From left to right: roundring with 6mm ID, flatring with 8mm ID and punched ring with 8mm ID

Rings can be connected by riveting or with butted ends. Furthermore a mail weave can consist to one half of punched rings and ring ends can also be welded together. This is usualy done for the rings of modern safety gloves worn by butchers. Besides this there are some more exotic methods like forging the ring ends into interlinking hooks. Riveted rings can either be hammered completely. I call them flat rings. For round rings only the overlapping area gets flattened and the other part of the ring retains the shape of the wire.

Left: round rivet, right: wedge rivet

There are also different types of rivets: round rivets and wedge rivets. The round rivet usually has a cylindrical shape with an optional hemispheric rivet head on top. You can insert this kind of rivet from each side. The hole for the rivet can be punched out of the overlapping area or drilled instead if you don’t mind about the thin drills tending to break easily. However the hole for a wedge rivet has to be pierced with an awl for the rivet has the shape of a wedge or a cone. It can only be inserted from one side of the ring.

flatring and roundring side-view
Left: roundring with a wedge rivet, right: flatring with a round rivet

As you see in the side view, the inserted wedge rivet has only one protruding rivet head, which consists of material from both the rivet and the ring. You can use this in a ring weave by aligning all the rivet heads in one direction. Thus they can’t grind garments worn under the mail.











Butted mail shirt

My first butted mail shirt made out of spring wire. Rings have an inner diameter (ID) of 9mm.

Here I want to share some of my experiences and ideas concerning the making of mail armour. It is obvious, that building mail is a time-consuming hobby and at first sight it seems amazing how people possess the effort and patience which is necessary for such projects. However if you once have started, you begin to realize that the monotone work brings ease and comfort. It nearly seems to be some kind of meditation. You can enjoy the steady growth of the weave with the feeling to create something durable and without worrying about accidentally destroying it. If you have some amusement during working (conversations, music, TV) time flies fast. I started making butted mail with some wire from the hardware store. I coiled the wire on a thick nail and cut off rings using pliers, then pushed the ends of the ring towards each other to close it. The weave I gained form this method was not quite firm due to the soft wire. Thus rings easily began to reopen, when being pulled. If you want to make butted mail, spring steel is a much better choice, because it can resist a bigger pulling force until the rings will reopen. Most of the mail garments reconstructed for enthusiasts, are made this way. I did my first mail-shirt in the same manner.

Left: ring from spring wire with butted ends. right: ring from annealed soft iron wire, closed with a rivet.

Yet soft wire can also be used to create firm weave, which doesn’t reopen by riveting it. Therefore the ring ends are made overlapping and connected by a small rivet. This was the common way during thousands of years in history.