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Advanced Maille Basketry
Article © MAIL User: Chainmailbasket_com

Article originally written in 2003.


This article is intended to supplement sakredchao's Basic Maille Basketry article. It is also intended for me to reflect upon the development of my personal chainmail basketry skills. The first part of the article contains some information on making chainmail baskets, as well as a brief history of them. The second part of the article displays my first 19 chainmail baskets and some notes on them, and showcases my personal progression in this application. There are references to my baskets (by name) throughout the construction section, so please refer to the second part of the article for clarification as needed.

A Brief History of the Chainmail Basket:

Who made the first chainmail basket? Some of the first chainmail baskets to appear in the Internet chainmail community were those constructed by Kim Chatfield (sakredchao), which appeared in late 1998. He pioneered the European 8 in 1-sided basket. He has, throughout his mailling career, made somewhere around 20 baskets, and a few vases (which involved using very similar techniques). Mike Edelman (thexnihil) made some early chainmail baskets as well, including the first to incorporate Persian-weave sides. He made four baskets around June/July 1999. After seeing pictures of these early works of chainmail basketry, I decided to take a stab at it. I made my first chainmail basket (Basket 1) around April/May 2001. Since that point in time, I have made 19 chainmail baskets (as of this writing). In these last few years, I have seen a few chainmail baskets pop up by various artisans in the community including those made by Stoli, sockmonkey, Runvitky, Phoenixmcroy, Dragorlad, Odeon, Nadru, and sydney075, among others (the strange names are from M.A.I.L., The Chainmaille Board, and The Ring Lord's Forum).

Chainmail Basket Anatomy:

The parts that make up a chainmail basket include mainly: the basket bottom, and the basket sides (or walls as they are sometimes referred to). Also, optionally you can add trim or a lip, or even a stand (as can be seen with the Mail Grail (basket 17)). If you are confused about any of this, please refer to the diagram below:

Image: abasketc02.jpg

In the article I will be referring to the parts listed above, as well as the top part of the basket sides, and the bottom part of the basket sides. As you may have already guessed, the bottom part of the basket sides is the part of the basket sides adjacent to the basket bottom, and the top part of the basket sides is the part nearest the trim (provided the basket in question has trim).

Construction Techniques:

Image: abasketc07.jpg

Three general techniques:

1. Originally, I always made the basket bottom first, and basically worked my way from the center of the basket to the top of the sides until it was complete (although only truthfully on my first basket).

2. I later found it better to construct the sides and bottom separately, and attach the two afterwards. This made it easier for me to make a bottom that was the 'perfect fit' (although not always) for the sides.

3. However, now I mostly work my way towards the center. I build the sides first, then build the bottom one row at a time starting at the bottom part of the basket sides until I reach the center. I started doing this with the One Basket to Rule Them All (basket 16). This, I have found is the best way to get an almost perfectly tight chainmail basket every time. It also makes it seem, in a sense, that the basket is a whole, and not the product of two parts (bottom and sides) (even though it still technically is).

Basket Bottom:

The basket bottom has evolved quite a lot since the early days of maille basketry. The two most obvious solutions for a (close to) round basket bottom are:

1. to use European X in 1 weaves, and make an 'Expanding Ring Circle', similar to what is seen in the top section of a chainmail coif, or
2. to make a hexagon out of the Japanese 6 in 1 weave (which works better with all rings doubled (Japanese 12 in 2)).

Image: abasketc08.jpg

These two techniques (herein referred to as the two basic chainmail basket bottom paradigms) are very well suited to the chainmail basket application. Of course, this is if you are making the basket round; a round basket requires a round basket bottom. I will not go into any detail on how to make a basket bottom exclusively using either of these two techniques. That information can be found elsewhere, or is straightforward enough to figure out without a tutorial. I will instead be describing a new type of chainmail basket bottom.

After a few baskets (only 15!) I decided it was time to move away from either of these two methods. With the One Basket to Rule Them All (basket 16), I broke the basket bottom barrier. Working my way towards the center (the third chainmail basket construction technique described in Construction Techniques above) allowed me to combine elements of these two techniques, as well as introduce a few others. This advancement continued with the Basket of Nothingness (basket 18), and subsequent baskets in which this technique deemed appropriate.

To incorporate the new style chainmail basket bottom (as it will be herein referred to), you basically just have to keep adding rows using whatever weave or linkage pattern you feel will contribute to the overall goodness of the basket bottom until you reach the center. Sometimes you will discover in adding a row that it won't be until you are adding the last few rings that the row won't work. Then all the rings in the row just added must be taken out and replaced with something else. This is a fact of chainmail sculpture. This experimentation goes hand in hand with the tightening factor.

The Tightening Factor

I have noticed, starting with the Basket of Nothingness (basket 18), that making a very tight basket bottom can majorly contribute to the overall tightness of the basket. I knew this already (and experienced it a little bit with Basket 9 originally), but it wasn't until the Basket of Nothingness (basket 18) that I understood completely just how much of an impact it could make. It also contributes to the curvature factor (described below in the 'Basket Sides' section).

New Style Basket Bottoms:

So how do you make the new style chainmail basket bottom? Well like I said, experiment. I know this is a little vague, but there is no exact science to it. I will explain parts of what I did with two of the chainmail baskets I made that incorporate a new style chainmail basket bottom.

One Basket To Rule Them All (basket 16):

Image: abasketc10.jpg

With the One Basket to Rule Them All, I needed not worry about the tightening factor; the Staggered Captive Inverted Round Sheet sides took care of making this basket as tight as it ever could be. However, I wanted to do something special with the bottom. So I didn't use one of the two basic chainmail basket bottom paradigms. I started with a row of the Celtic Visions weave, which is a derivative of the Japanese family of weaves. Those single rings that divide each cell of this weave are 11/32". Originally I tried 5/16", but they did not work. After I added this row, I added a row of .085" 1/4" copper rings which later were connected together with their .063" 1/4" counterparts (counterrings?). After this row, I added a row in similar fashion of .045" 7/32" stainless steel rings. This row was the catalyst for the coalescence of the aforementioned section, and the European 4 in 1 section. The European 4 in 1 section is pretty straightforward. Each row's rings get progressively smaller as the row you are adding to becomes less lengthy. This cannot go on forever. So in this case, I changed the weave after the row of 9/64" rings. I wanted to do something very special for the center so I made a mini-mosaic from a 12 SWG 1" galvanized steel ring. The mosaic wouldn't stand up well on its own, but being that it was encompassed by a mass of vertical .063" 5/16" bronze rings, it keeps itself in place quite effectively.

The Basket of Nothingness (basket 18):

First of all, might I note that I originally intended to make the Three Quarters Persian Sheet 6 in 1 basket sides 80 rings around, but I accidentally made them 81 rings around. I figured 80 would be a nice number with which to work. However, 81 divides pretty easily into a number of integers (no pun intended), so I knew I could work easily with this number. If all this isn't making a terrible amount of sense yet, please be advised that later in the article I will be explaining some of the mathematical concepts inherent in the planning and implementation of chainmail baskets. Back to what I was originally talking about: The first thing I did for the basket bottom was add .063" 1/4" rings, one to each ring of the bottom most row of the basket sides. To these rings in groups of two I added .063" 5/16" bronze rings each to consecutive groups of three of the aforementioned copper rings. I connected them (the bronze rings) with .045" 3/16" stainless steel rings in a fashion similar to that seen in the second row in on the One Basket to Rule Them All (basket 16). Then I converted to European 4 in 1 before finally moving to Voodoo Hexagonal for the basket bottom center.

Image: abasketc09.jpg

All I did in the last two paragraphs was basically describe some of what rings, and weaves were used in the basket bottoms for two of my baskets which incorporate the new style basket bottom. The exact techniques used may not work in all cases, but they should give you some ideas on just how to go about incorporating a new style chainmail basket bottom in your basket. The things these two basket bottoms have in common include Japanese weave-style linkages, and European 4 in 1 sections using smaller rings with each row for basket bottom contraction. While these two techniques (which are derivatives of the two basic chainmail basket bottom paradigms) are both extremely effective, they might not be the only way to go. They sure do make things easier though.
Don't forget to be creative.

Basket Sides:

The basket sides can be made from just about any sheet weave that will stand up on its own in some way. Generally speaking, it is best to find the tightest possible aspect ratio that can be used for that weave. This is not always the case though. A somewhat loose weave can be used, as long as it is tightened at the top and/or bottom of the basket sides. Sometimes the not quite tightest possible aspect ratio will allow more experimentation with basket side curvature.

Image: abasketc12.jpg

The Curvature Factor

I first saw the curvature factor come into play in a major way with Basket 9. I later experimented more with it on my 18th and 19th baskets. This is not to say that there wasn't curvature with my earlier baskets; there most certainly was curvature with Mr. Wonky (basket 5), but it is a different kind of curvature. The kind of curvature I will be describing in more detail in this article is what I refer to as divine curvature.

Three main factors contribute to divine curvature:

1. using a weave well-suited for curvature,
2. constructing a tight basket bottom that pulls the bottom part of the basket sides in, and
3. tightening the top part of the basket sides properly.

The first factor is very important. You must use a weave that is well suited for curvature. I have found (so far) that Half Persian 3 Sheet 6 in 1, Three Quarters Persian Sheet 6 in 1, and Dragonscale contain the properties needed to create a basket with divine curvature. The European X in 1 weaves provide some of this curvature, a thing I have not yet fully explored (so far I have concentrated on achieving tighter baskets by utilizing their lowest aspect ratios). How do you know if a weave is well-suited for curvature? You basically have to make a small sheet of it and see if it has the proper flexibility properties. If you can make it flex so that it curves in both ways (side to side, and up and down) as seen in the below picture, without the integrity of center part of

the sheet of maille being largely diminished, you probably have a good weave for basket side curvature.

Image: abasketc01.jpg

This brings us to the second factor. Using the third method explained in the Construction Techniques section (making the sides first, then making the bottom one row at a time, working towards the center) makes it relatively easy to make that perfectly tight basket bottom. This is explained in much more detail in The Tightening Factor (above).

The third factor that contributes to divine curvature is the tightening of the top part of the basket sides. This can be done in either of two ways. The first way I will mention is to use tightening trim (sometimes referred to as the basket lip). Trim that serves the purpose of tightening the top portion (and consequently the whole) of the chainmail basket is tightening trim. An example of tightening trim can be seen on Basket 1, Basket 2, Basket 9, and Basic 6 in 1 Basket (basket 15). The picture below (of Basic 6 in 1 Basket) shows a perfect example of tightening trim.

Image: abasketc06.jpg

The second way to tighten the top part of the basket sides is to control it by means of either using contraction methods, or using different sized rings. I have experimented with the latter on the Basket of Nothingness (basket 18). What I did was use one ring size smaller for one row of the Three Quarters Persian Sheet weave. Specifically, I incorporated one row of 9/32" rings on the otherwise entirely 5/16" ring basket sides. This was done on the fourth row down of the 17 rows used on the sides of this basket. Observe the picture below:

Image: abasketc03.jpg

Mathematical Concepts:

Math plays a huge role in chainmail basketry. It plays a huge role in all applications of chainmail, and almost all applications of life really. The math used in chainmail basketry is fairly simple. One of the key tools I have only recently fully acknowledged in my chainmail toolkit is the calculator. I have used it in most of my chainmail applications since I picked up the hobby. In the following paragraphs I will provide a few specific examples of the math I have thus far used in chainmail basketry.

Basket 1:

The European 6 in 1 section is 56 rings around. What I did for the Half Persian 3 in 1 trim was divide it into 8 sections of 7 (8 * 7 = 56). The trim has 6 rings of 1/4" copper rings, followed by 1 ring of 5/16" bronze, and continues this fashion all the way around (6 + 1 = 7). The number of rings around the Japanese 12 in 2 basket bottom perimeter is 18. So each of these sets of rings was connected to three rings on the bottom row of the basket sides. (3 * 18 = 56).

Basket 8:

The perimeter of the Japanese 12 in 2 basket bottom contains 24 rings. Each of these 24 rings is connected to 4 rings of the basket sides. Thus, the basket sides are 96 rings around (24 * 4 = 96). The trim has 8 equivalent sections of 12 rings each whose top row is 96 rings long. (96 / 8 = 12).

Image: abasketc04.jpg

Now I will briefly discuss some mathematical techniques as they have been applied to new style chainmail basket bottoms.

One Basket to Rule Them All (basket 16):

There isn't a very lot of math used in this basket to tell you the truth. What I did was make the Staggered Captive Inverted Round Sheet sides an even 60 cells (or half cells, as they technically should be called). Each row in the basket bottom is 30 rows/cells around except at the basket bottom center. The last row of the European 4 in 1 part (the row closest to the center) of 9/64" rings is 30 rings, and the following row of vertical .063" 5/16" bronze rings are each 30 rings. The next thing I did was divide that by three to give me 10. There are ten small Byzantine sections in the very center of the basket each divided by three of the 5/16" bronze rings. (30 / 3 = 10).

Image: abasketc13.jpg

Basket of Nothingness (basket 18):

On the Basket of Nothingness, I used more math than I have used in any other chainmail project to date. The first thing I did (after discovering the basket sides were 81 rings around, and not 80), was reduce this to a row of 27 (81 / 3 = 27). The center part of the basket bottom was made before I started the basket. The picture below shows the original swatch that was to be part of a basket bottom:

Image: abasketc05.jpg

I wanted to incorporate this swatch into this basket, but there was a small problem: It was 12 rings around on the outside row, and the basket bottom's current row was 27 rings around. 27 and 12 don't divide evenly. I had to use contractions in three places. The three contractions brought 27 down to 24, into which 12 does divide evenly (24 / 12 = 2). But the three contractions had to be spaced out evenly. This was possible only because 3 divides evenly into both 27 and 12. That is how I reduced 27 to 12. Every 9th ring in the last row of European 4 in 1 is a contraction ring (27 / 3 = 9). Every 4th ring in the outside row of the picture above was the ring that accommodated the contraction ring (and was replaced with a set of two 11/32" stainless steel rings) (12 / 3 = 4).

Image: abasketc15.jpg

Basket of Everythingness (basket 19):

The last row of European 4 in 1 had 25 rings which only divides without a remainder into 5. 5 wasn't a great number to work with in the case of the Basket of Everythingness, so I used two rings (alternating 3/16", and 5/32") which attached to 3 and 2 rings each in the previous row (3 + 2 = 5). This brought a row of 35 down to 14 in an awful hurry (35 / 5 * 2 = 14). The times 2 part is indicative of the fact that there are two rings for every five ring section. 14 was then easily brought down to 7 to finish off the basket bottom (14 / 2 = 7).

Image: abasketc14.jpg

The First 19:

The following section shows pictures of my first 19 chainmail baskets, and a brief description, and some notes on each one.

Summer 2001:

Image: abasket001.jpg
Basket 1
European 6 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
Half Persian 3 in 1 trim.

You have to start somewhere right? Actually I really liked the way this basket turned out. The trim was used to tighten the basket up a bit. The bottom is quite loose though.

Image: abasket002.jpg
Basket 2
Half Persian 3 Sheet 6 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
Three Quarters Persian trim.

This was a major improvement over the first basket, but the bottom is still quite loose.

Summer 2002:

Image: abasket003.jpg
Basket 3
European 6 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
Half Persian 3 in 1 trim.

I decided with my third basket to recreate my first basket, and make it better. It is better, but the entire structure is loose and can be squished quite a

lot. Its ok that it is loose because it always returns to its natural basketal state.

Image: abasket004.jpg
Mr. Squishy
(Basket 4)
Snake Skin (European 4 in 1) sides,
European 4 in 1 / 6 in 1 bottom.

The material for this basket was originally going to be used for a wrapped bottle. But I found a way to make it into a basket. Go figure.

Image: abasket005.jpg
Mr. Wonky (Basket 5)
European 6 in 1 sides,
European 6 in 1 bottom.

I did not initially intend on this basket ending up the shape it did. But it did.

Image: abasket006.jpg
Basket 6
European 8 in 1 sides,
Japanese-based weave bottom.

A pretty small basket just made for kicks.

Image: abasket001.jpg
Basket 7
European 8 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom

This is the first basket based on the baskets of sakredchao. This was my breakthrough basket.

Image: abasket008.jpg
Basket 8
European 8 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
European 4 in 1 trim.

I love this basket! It's my first perfect one. The trim is beautiful, and it is very structurally sound.

Image: abasket009.jpg
Basket 9
Half Persian 3 Sheet 6 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
Three Quarters Persian trim.

This is the first basket of mine that utilizes the major curvature factor in a big way; something I would explore more fully in future chainmail basketry endeavors (Baskets 18, and 19).

Image: abasket010.jpg
Basket 10
European 8 in 1 sides,
European 4 in 1 bottom.

I only really made this because I had the piece of copper Euro 4 in 1 in a circle, and wanted it to be a basket bottom. I went with what I knew for the sides: Euro 8 in 1.

Winter 2002:

Image: abasket011.jpg
Basket 11
European 8 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
European 4 in 1 trim.

I started this basket quite awhile before finishing it. A lot of small rings. I don't have anything more to say about it.

Image: abasket012.jpg
Basket 12
European 6 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom.

This basket is very unique. The sides were initially very floppy, so I folded them over and connected them in a weird way (a technique pioneered by sakredchao). It worked well, but the last ring'll never be added.

Image: abasket013.jpg
Basket 13
Japanese 8 in 2 Cube,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom.

This is my least favourite basket. The Japanese 8 in 2 cube sides did not stay like I wanted them to. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Early 2003:

Image: abasket014.jpg
Basket 14
European 8 in 1, and Three Quarters Persian sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,
? weave trim.

This basket is small, but very good. I am in love with the 3/4 Persian section at the bottom.

Image: abasket015.jpg
Basic 6 in 1 Basket
(Basket 15)
European 6 in 1 sides,
Japanese 12 in 2 bottom,

This basket was made for the purpose of writing the Basic 6 in 1 Basket tutorial. I added trim to the basket after the tutorial was written.

Image: abasket016.jpg
One Basket to Rule Them All (Basket 16)
Staggered Captive Inverted Round Sheet sides,
Celtic Visions, Japanese 6 in 1, European 4 in 1, and Byzantine bottom.

This is the first basket to incorporate the new style basket bottom. It is also very significant because of its immense size.

Summer 2003:

Image: abasket017.jpg
Mail Grail (Basket 17)
European 6 in 1 / 8 in 1 sides,
Japanese 6 in 1 bottom.

Crikey, that's not a basket, it's a grail!
I still consider it a basket, seeing as it uses the same principles. It's just up on a stand.

Image: abasket018.jpg
Basket of Nothingness (Basket 18)
Three Quarters Persian Sheet sides,
Japanese-based weave, European 4 in 1, Voodoo Hex bottom.

This basket is a true work of art. It features rigidity, good size, a beautifully complex, yet not overwhelming basket bottom, and divine curvature.
Believe it or not, before constructing the bottom, you could push the sides together and make the opposite sides touch each other.

Image: abasket019.jpg
Basket of Everythingness (Basket 19)
Dragonscale sides,
European 6 in 1, European 4 in 1, Japanese 6 in 1 bottom.

In my effort to eventually use every sheet weave for basket sides, this is the Dragonscale-sided basket. Dragonscale utilizes the curvature factor in a major way, but does not contribute well to the larger basket movement. The colour contrast from the use of two different metals for the different ring sizes in Dragonscale is a nice feature. I am particularly fond of the use of colour in the center of the basket bottom as well.


While it is true that a chainmail basket can be quite rigid, they are not generally intended to support large amounts of weight. I would hate nothing more than to see a beautiful chainmail basket damaged as a result of it being subject to supporting more weight than it can handle.
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