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Cheap maille
Article © MAIL User: Dreemr

One of my favorite parts of this wonderful craft is the acquisition of materials. Of course I purchase many materials in order to undertake specific projects, but I would guess almost 70% of all my materials are free. I enjoy looking at a pile of rings and thinking ‘hmmm. What can I make with this?’ For me it’s fun to have the materials first, followed by the ideas of what I can do with it. This is a simple guide to how I make chainmaille for free.

First and foremost, you must be able to produce your own rings. Very often materials come in the form of wire and springs and you must have the means to translate your finds into rings. There is plenty of discussion through out M.A.I.L. involving ring production so I won’t get into that here. Second, you have to know where to look. Or more importantly HOW to look. I’ll get into that in a minute. And lastly, you’ll need a place to keep this stuff until you are ready to make it into rings. You may find something that you can’t use right away.

OK so let’s get to the big question… HOW does one go about looking for free materials? Start by looking at things for what they are fundamentally, not necessarily for what purpose they may be serving at the moment. Example: Many of us have clothes that need dry cleaning. My wife does on occasion, and every time she comes home with her dry cleaning hanging off of those crappy metal hangers… I see rings. Of course she has her own hangers that the dry cleaning gets moved to and the wire hangers are tossed to the side. She doesn’t dry clean often, so I keep putting them aside until I get enough to satisfy some kind of inspiration.

Start camping and or any other “stuff for free” ad listing you can find. People give away some weird stuff and occasionally it can be a treasure trove for the maille enthusiast. I scored a box of garage door springs from a lady who just wanted some one to take them out of her basement. In that case, all I had to do was cut them and I had enough rings to make a lengthy FP chain that’s about 2” in diameter.

Get to know the people around you. If people know you want wire (and they like you) they will probably give it to you if they have some they would normally throw out. Example. My neighbor is a welder. He had about 15 pounds of copper coated steel that got a little rusty and he was going to throw it out. Knowing I used the wire, he gave it to me. (and has since given me a ton of other wire) I stripped off the rusty part and had about 10 pounds of good wire. My father-in-law had a new service run to his house 2 years ago. The power company left a LARGE coil of aluminum service wire in his front yard. I have since turned that into 3 shirts and a coif. And I still have enough of this stuff left to make another shirt.

Get to know your local industry. I work at a recycled paper mill. I am surrounded by wire. Our raw product comes bailed in all kinds of different wire, our electricians are constantly tossing out bits of wire, our welders are forever leaving me partial MIG spools and hunks of TIG bits, the fabric that we put on our machine is sewed together by a 15 foot length of some fancy stainless that they remove and throw out. It all gets tucked away and when inspiration strikes, I have the material already. All of this costs my company money to get rid of, so they are more than happy to hand it off to me. You may find this kind of relationship in your neighborhood as well.

And lastly and my least favorite: garbage picking. If you're on your way to work and the Jones’ have thrown away the baby jumper with the massive spring at the top, stop and pick it up. Or if the Beaver’s finally tore their trampoline and have it at the curb in pieces, you just scored yourself about 50 springs. They’ll be tough to cut, but who cares it’s free and whatever you make out of it will be darn near bulletproof (Note: add link to 'bulletproof' article later. -- Ed). Check your local landfill as well. Some don’t allow scavenging so make sure you understand the rules first.
Most have special places for metal and you may come up with some big catches.

Hope this helps some one out there that has the bug but not the cash. Good luck and happy weaving!
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