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80 by 46 by 3 days flat
Article © MAIL User: ClymAngus

Hello! Sorry about this, noticed one or two technical typos that make me look like a bit of a pranny, (mainly mixing up cm with mm) all fixed up now though and attached below.


There are times in life to sit back and let a good opportunity pass by because it's bordering on the impossible. There are other times to rise to the challenge and fight your way through to the bitter end for the fame, glory and maybe even a paycheque. In hind site, tapping away with my poor RSI ravaged fingers, it's still difficult to place this job in either of the above 2 categories .

But as per usual I'm getting ahead of myself, this all started about 2 years ago at Ealing studios, where one of the productions had a problem.... Sir Gadabout a children's TV series was shooting in stage 4 and they needed a chain mail purse, which I happily supplied on a return basis (hell it's a credit). They liked it, used it and I still have the screen shots which did my reputation no damage at all, thank you very much. 2 years later the phone rings....

"Hello? Is that Mr Clym Angus?"
"erm, Yes?"
"This is the BBC props department, we were wondering if we could talk to you about chain mail for the new version of Macbeth we're currently filming?"
(Moment gap to pick up jaw.)
"Righty ho, no problem at all! In what way can I be of service!"
"The new version of Macbeth is being filmed in a restaurant with Macbeth as the head chef, and to give some of the scenes a more 'Medieval' feel, we want 2 chain mail lamp shades do you know where we'll get 2 sheets of chain mail 40 cm by 64 cm. Cheaply?"
(visions of highlanders swathed in my expensive bespoke chain evaporate) "Ah, how cheap?"
"As cheap as possible."
Well that figures, your hardly going to break the budget on 2 lampshades now are you? "Right, well you could take a look at health & safety clothing suppliers and tear apart a chain mail apron but it's still going to cost you a fair whack of cash." I had to steer this round to a sale some how, BBC prime-time would be a nice little deal. "I could put together some designs and e-mail them to you, if you like?"
"Excellent, that would be fine"

The simplest solution was Japanese 4 in 1, it looks good, couldn't be easier to make (if you've got a frame) and most importantly requires the fewest links. I gave them 2 options steel and aluminium. One cheap but heavy, the other a little more expensive but light. They went for the aluminium, fine by me. It was at this point I suffered my first set back, they loved the smaller connecting links (4.7mm to be precise) to be attached to the 8 mm aluminium ones. This would mean a considerable increase in work, but still doable given a reasonable time frame.
Time for the body blow;

"So when do you need them for?"
"Thursday."
"Which Thursday?"
"Next Thursday."
Silence........ "So, you need 2 sheets of chain mail 40 cm by 64 cm by next Thursday?" This was bad news considering that it's Friday, the links won't be delivered till Monday, even if I ordered them that second and I was starting a new job first thing Monday morning. That left evening, night and wee early hours of the next morning, over 3 days to construct 2 honking great sheets of filigree metalwork.
"Yes. Next Thursday"
"And payment?"
"£140.00"
"what about £160.00?"
"done."
The only thing currently holding this deal together was it's 'BBC will be broadcast at prime-time' credentials.
Time to call my contact and get me what I need, link me baby.... Armchair Armoury on redial.

"Mike, it's Clym here.... HHHHHEEEEELLLLLPPP MMMMMEEEEE!"

Despite being landed with a 2 dozen coif job from hell, good as his word Mike sorted me out with the estimated 8 thousand Aluminium links it would take to make up the sheets. I was confident (cocky?) that I had a reasonable number of the 4.7mm's in stock already (Mistake! But we'll come back to that later). So as Monday drew to a close, I had a hook rack, shed loads of links and a sneaking feeling that I was onto a winner.....Oh the folly of youth, fast forward to 5 am, 20 cm by 64 cm done and the 4.7mm supply is fairing slightly worse than my hands were. Which appear to have turned into hooked claws. Now, however much you love your chain mail, there are certain physical limits to anyone's endurance. Yes, you can do chain mail for 6 hours straight but by gum you'll feel it in the morning, especially when the morning is only 2 hours away. Panic was setting in, this process needed speeding up else it was all screwed.

Quick call to the BBC;
"Hello! the chainmaile's going well, would you really mind if the small links weren't all closed properly?"
"as long as it looks like chain mail, and doesn't fall apart, do what you like."
I could have kissed them. Next back on to Mr Mike at Armchair Armoury;

"Mike, it's Clym again.... HHHHHEEEEELLLLLPPP MMMMMEEEEE!"

4 thousand 4.7mm stainless links dutifully fell through the letter box that evening. That man is well and truly on my Christmas card list. Right, Tuesday night, it's the maker or breaker. I do however have one last trick up my sleeve, free links. Having had the go ahead from the BBC to be a little more slap dash with my work (I know it's bad form, you don't have to tell me) I could feed most of the small links in as I closed the aluminium ones. End of the night 58 cm by 64 cm, not too bad. Decided to waste some time splitting the sheet so I could at least have the moral boost of having one finished. Pity about being 2 hours late for "real" work, still a busy mans savior is an understanding boss. Seconds out.... Round 3.....

Now the worse thing wasn't the making, by the third night the chain mail maker was the weakest link. After 2 days without sleep I spent more time correcting my own mistakes than finishing the piece, still it did get done and the finished sheets were couriered off the next morning. Job done you say, but it does raise some very important questions about what we do and why we do it.

There is the appeal of steel, I love making chainmaile. That said commissions are difficult to cost correctly. Very few people will stump up the cash in direct correlation to the numbers of hours spent making a piece (even at minimum wage). Was it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. Of the £160.00 paid just under half of that went on links and their timely delivery. I'm left with the hope that the effort put in will show on the screen. For mine was a more than money deal, but for the love of god if your selling your work PAY YOUR TIME WELL. Your hands with thank you for it.
Original URL: http://www.mailleartisans.org/articles/articledisplay.php?key=349