What? About mail armour and chain mail shirts
Thinking of medieval times, noble knights come to my mind. They wear costly armour made of plate or mail. It fascinates me, how elaborately rigid pieces of metal can be connected to supple garments. In particular amour made from rings appears elegant. It flows around a body like an iron skin. Ring armour arouses a feeling of beeing invulnerable whithout significantly reducing the wearers mobility. The weight distributes evenly around shoulders, hips and arms. Thus it even feels light with 6 to 14kg of weight. Unlike plate armour it can be worn by wearers of different size and damages can be repaired inexpensivly. Also rust is not a problem, because the permanent friction of the rings helps to sand it off. All this makes garments of ring armour precious and utile pieces of art. They can be passed on from generation to generation without loosing their value or fascination.
You might have noticed, that I didn’t use the word chain mail in the last paragraph. Altough it is quite common in colloquial language, I try to avoid it. It delivers a wrongs impression, that rings are strung in lines like a chain. Yet istead of onedimensional connected chains rings are connected in two dimensions to a weave. Such a weave can be shaped into a bulge just like knitting. It can therefore cover a foots heel or a shoulder without corners or edges. To do that, some rings have to hold less or more neighbours as usual in the pattern. Consequently human bodyshape can be reconstructed very precisely. Weight can be cut down while mobility is preserved. Therein lies the true art of making good mail armour.
Unfortunately almost all modern mail armour, don’t show any hints of this elegant shaping. Instead they are constructed in primitiv manner. They are cut and sewn like cloth. In my opinion good mail armour is not woven and sewn like a shirt, but knitted like knitted fabric. That way it doesn’t show folds and exessive material, but rather fits to the shape of a body like a second skin.
Why? What brings you to such an extraordinary hobby?
As I pointed out, mail armour has got a fascination on its own, that can enough motivation to built it. Furthermore mail armour that is up to sale, is mostly off the peg. In many cases it is heavy, expensive, not well shaped or produced overseas in unknown conditions. Those rings contain a lot weak points like badly positioned rivets or protruding ends. You can achieve higher quality when you build mail armour on your own.
For people with a lot of money and only little time, it is a good compromise to buy rings. The you sort out about 10% of rejects and build mail armour of your choice. However you won’t experiance the joy of experimentating how to produce rings. Almost nothing is known about the exact methods and tools of medieval and acient mail makers. So there is a big playground for experimental archeology. If you take this path, you get rewarded with light and strong rings. They exeed the quality of rings in sale and get closest to historical ones. This site is ment to give you some help. Without exception I recieved positive feedback about this hobby and even made new friends because of this site.
How? About electric drills and hand driven cranks
To be honest: Although mail armour still has its meaning as protective garment for butchers or special forces, enthusiasm for history is in the center of modern mail makers motivation. For this reason my first priority is to make my reconstructions as acurate as possible to historic originals. Nevertheless in the process of achieving this, modern tools and methods should not be completly excluded. Using them, you can learn much faster. For example I use modern annealed wire, altough I know, that it doesn’t contain slag as medieval wire does. If I would smelt all the iron on my own, I wouldn’t have finished a single mail shirt until today.
The important thing is to master both historic and modern methods and to know about their diffenrent results. For example I use a crank, when I roll up wire onto a rod for demonstration. At home I use an electric drill instead. The results are the same. Astonishingly many times the medieval method works better than the modern one. For example rivet holes can be punched faster and more precisely with a stamp instead of drilling them. Many steps in making mail armour depend on personal choice and a lot can be learned by exchange with other mail makers. Don’t be shy to ask me anything.