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Riveted Maille: Overview
Article © MAIL User: Eli


Why riveted?
Riveted maille is a lot more work than simple butted maille. It involves quite complicated or expensive tools (whether you make or buy them), high temperatures and loud noises that will result in the time spent on a garment to be 4 times the length of the time with butted maille.

Why use riveted then?
The main advantages of riveted maille are:
Light weight - riveted maille can use larger rings and thinner wire while still being stronger than butted, thus making it light without sacrificing strength.
Durability - rings riveted shut have much more strength than butted rings (up to 15 times more), that riveted rings will hold to the rigors of SCA combat and won’t open. Quality riveted can be used in live steel combat, offering the minimal protection that butted mail simply can’t provide.
Authenticity - Butted maille is not a historical type of armor. The only historical European mail used in combat is all riveted or alternating riveted and solid rings (either punched from sheet metal or forge welded).

These factors far outweigh the increased amount of time for people that need their mail armor to be protective and historically accurate.

General advice:

Start out with soft wire. I used electric copper wire when I first began and it was much easier than the mild steel I use now. You will see that the copper wire isn’t even soft enough to flatten properly without normalizing (heating to red-hot), though it is softer and more readily pierced than steel.

Start small. When first starting out it is best to use small batches. Before you know how you need to make each step it is best that you experiment with a wide variety of factors in relatively small amounts. Deciding how much overlap to use, how much to flatten the ring, where to place the piercing drift, how far to pierce and the shape and size of the rivets is a matter of experience.

Don’t give up. No matter how long it takes you to make a good riveted ring don’t despair. With experience you will reduce the amount of time it takes you to make each step, improve the consistency of your work, and reduce the amount of wasted rings and wire. Remember, practice makes perfect!

The wire used historically was wrought iron. Unfortunately wrought iron wire today is not available for sale, so you’ll need to make due. The best alternative in today’s market is iron wire, but this is very hard to find, so most people use mild steel wire. Mild steel has a very low carbon percentage (0.05-0.1%) and is similar in characteristics with the wrought iron used historically. Mild steel wire can also be called tie-wire, and is available in farm and construction supply stores.

The best wire for riveted is un-coated, so that’s why tie-wire is used. If you have a tough time finding un-coated mild steel wire in the diameter you need, you can consider using galvanized steel. Galvanized steel is mild steel wire that has been coated with zinc to prevent rust. When normalizing the rings you will cause the zinc to evaporate, giving off nasty fumes that are bad for your health. If you do plan on using galvanized steel heat it away from people and yourself. An easy way to do this is to toss a large number of rings into a bonfire and step back upwind, so that the fumes don’t reach you. If you want to learn more about the hazards of heat-treated galvanized steel, go here.

[Ed- A lot of these links are outdated, and may or may not be as helpful as they once were, but remain here for the sake of antiquity.]

If you don’t want to make the tools for making riveted maille yourself, you can buy them through these sites:
De Liebaart: sells an entire kit for making riveted maille. You can also email him to buy specific tools. This page also has instructions.
Forth Armoury: sells setting tongs, as well as pre-pierced rings, rivets and finished garments.
The Ring Lord: sells piercing tongs (for wedge rivets) and setting tongs, as well as mild steel wire and pre-overlapped rings.

More information:
I believe that the best road to follow is a well-trodden one, so I’ll list here sites where

you can get more information:
Yahoo! Groups: rivetedmaille: an excellent place to ask questions about riveted maille. Also browse through the images and the archive messages.
The Arador Armor Library: has extensive articles about riveted maille written by Steven Sheldon of Forth Armoury. Also it has a very good discussion forum where you can get your questions answered here.
De Liebaart: a good page showing how to make riveted maille using the tools he sells, but good for anyone else.
The Armour Archive: has a discussion board regarding historical armor where you can post your riveted maille questions.
Forth Armoury: has research articles about riveted mail and on historical wire making.
Erik D. Schmid: Erik and The Mail Research Society have good information about riveted maille. Erik also produces some of the best and most historically accurate mail in the world.
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