FAQ – Chainmail Weight, Cost, and Time needed
What about the weight and costs of chainmail? What changed from medieval times to today? Here are some of your most frequently asked questions about chainmail.
1. How much does chainmail weigh?
A short-sleeved shirt of chainmail typically weighs around 8kg/18pound. A long-sleeved shirt reaching to the mid-tights or further is called a hauberk. Hauberks like that can weigh 12 kg/27pound. A hauberk with coif attached weighs 2.5 kg/5.5pound more whereas a separate coif brings about 3.5 kg/7 pound to scale. An additional pair of mail mittens or gloves weighs 1.5 kg/ 3pound. The legs can be protected by a pair of chausses which adds another 5 kg /11 pound. To cover the whole body this adds up to about 19 kg /42 pound.
Wearing mail does not feel as heavy as carrying a backpack, because the weight is well distributed around the body. This is especially true when a belt at hip-height is used and straps fix the mail around arms and legs. Then the weight of mail rather feels like more of the own bodyweight.
Furthermore, chainmail weight can be heavily reduced by tailoring mail to the body, only allowing for thin layers of padding to be worn under it. This is in accordance with some medieval depictions that show people in mail-armour very thin. Furthermore, the type of rings and their dimensions affect the weight by up to 50%. Naturally, the material also matters. All the above were examples of chainmail made from iron or steel.
2. How long does it take to make chainmail?
It takes me about two minutes to build and assemble one ring. For a long-sleeved chainmail shirt with 8mm rings, I need about 30.000 rings. That equals 1000 hours of work. If somebody is doing this 8 hours a day, he will need 125 days. Without working on the weekend it will take that person a bit more than 6 months to finish.
However, this does not represent the time a customer would have to wait for chainmail. If chainmail is produced in a workshop, many workers can team up and start with sheets of chainmail that they have prepared in advance. Thus it would take one or two weeks to build a custom-tailored chainmail shirt. I assume it was done this way in the middle ages.
3. How expensive was chainmail in the middle ages?
Before answering this question, I want to note that buying wasn’t the only way to get into the comfort of wearing chainmail. You could also inherit, rent it or take mail from an enemy. Given the longevity of chainmail, I bet that buying is overrated.
Here are some records of what people spent on chainmail:
1000 Germany: Mailarmor costs 820 silver coins. A cheap cow is 100.
12th-century England: Mail is 100 shillings, a warhorse 50, a cow 10.
13th-century Scandinavia: A good cow equals 12.3 kg of iron ingots.
1322 England: A hauberk costs 10 marks. A mantle costs 1 mark.
1324 England: A haubergeon costs 10 marks. A tent costs 3 mark.
Sources:  https://www.mittelalter-server.de/Mittelalter-Geld/Das-Mittelalter-Geld-im-Mittelalter_Preise.html  Frances Gies, The Knight in History, Harper & Row, New York, 1984, page 30  Smith, K.P., Ore, Fire, Hammer, Sickle: Iron Production in Viking Age and Early Medieval Iceland Skre, D. (Chapter 3) Silver Economies, Monetisation and Society in Scandinavia, AD 800-1000  South Lancashire in the reign of Edward II as illustrated by the pleas at Wigan recorded in Coram Rege Roll no.254 Page 111  John France, Medieval Warfare 1000–1300. Further Reading: Table of Medieval Prices
4. How expensive is chainmail today?
Today the majority of chainmail items are produced in India. They come in standard sizes without the benefits of custom-tailoring. The prices for this chainmail vary depending on the total weight and the size of the rings. There are additional costs for tailoring if someone in Europe or America is hired to improve the fit. Here is a very rough estimation of what a long-sleeved chainmail hauberk with 8mm rings can cost.
Butted chainmail off the peg: about 120 euro/dollar
Riveted chainmail off the peg: about 600 euro/dollar
Riveted chainmail, tailored: about 4000 euro/dollar
Riveted mail, handmade and tailored: 30000 euro/dollar
5. How do I get started with chainmail?
I’m glad you asked! Compared with plate armor it is very easy to get started with making chainmail. You will likely become very good at making rings even before you finish your first mail shirt. So get some wire from the hardware shop. Make some butted chainmail. And when you are ready to dive deeper you find all tools and instructions here:
Everything you need for making riveted chainmail
What you need to know about buying chainmail