What? About mail armour and chain mail

Medieval times make me think of noble knights in costly armour. I’m fascinated, how rigid pieces of metal can be connected to form mobile garments. In particular, amour made from rings appears elegant to me. It can flow around a body like an iron skin. Ring armour arouses a feeling of being invulnerable and agile at the same time. 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 inexpensively. Rust is not a problem, because the permanent friction of the rings helps to sand it off. All this makes ring armours precious and utile pieces of art. They can be passed on from generation to generation without losing their value or fascination.

You might have noticed, that I didn’t use the word chain mail in the last paragraph. Although it is quite common in colloquial language, I try to avoid it. This being said, I do use the word chain mail here to help you find this site. However, the term chain mail delivers the wrongs impression, that rings are strung in lines like a chain. Yet instead of one-dimensional chains, rings are connected to two-dimensional weaves. Such a weave can be shaped into a bulge just like knitting. It can thus cover a heel or a shoulder without corners or edges. To do that, some rings have to hold less or more neighbors as usual in the pattern. Consequently, human body shape can be reconstructed very well-fitting. Weight can be cut down while mobility is preserved. Therein lies the true art of making good mail armour.

Unfortunately, only a rare fraction of modern mail armours show this elegant shaping. Most modern chain mail is constructed in a primitive manner instead. It is 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 doesn’t need excessive material. It rather fits the shape of a body like a second skin. With this site, I want to help you to built well fitting made-to-measure chain mail yourself.

Why? What brings you to such an extraordinary hobby?

As mentioned, mail armour has got a fascination on its own to me, that sparks my motivation to learn more about it. Furthermore, mail armour that you can buy is seldom made-to-measure. It is heavy, expensive, not well shaped or produced overseas in unknown conditions. The rings contain weak points like badly positioned rivets or protruding ends. I learned that higher quality can be achieved by commissioning a skilled person or building mail armour yourself.

For people with a lot of money and only a little time, it is a good compromise to buy rings. Consider, that you usually have to sort out up to 40% of the rings. That way you can build mail armour of your choice. Yet you won’t experience the joy of experimenting with ring production. Little is known about the exact methods and tools of medieval and ancient mail makers. So there is a big playground for experimental archaeology. If you take this path, you get rewarded with light and strong rings. They exceed the quality of machine-made rings and get closest to historical ones. This site is also meant to give you some help with that.

How? About electric drills and hand driven cranks

To be honest: Although mail armour still has its application as protection for butchers or special forces, my motivation is enthusiasm for history. Thus my first priority is to make my reconstructions as accurate as possible to historic originals. Nevertheless, in the process of achieving this, modern tools and methods should not be excluded. By using them, I can learn much faster. I use modern annealed wire for example, although I know, that it doesn’t contain slag as medieval wire did. 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 different results. This means 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 historic methods work better than modern ones. 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. So please ask me anything. I’m glad to help.