Making my own rings?
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Making my own rings?
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Posted on Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:24 pm
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So, I've kinda started making my first thing (its gonna be like a shirt type thing) outta chainmail (as opposed to just making sheets of it) and, uh,, I'm now realizing that buying links is really expensive?? I'm using 1/4" 16 gauge stainless steel to make my thing, and I just googled around for 16 gauge stainless steel wire, and I did the math, and realized making my own rings will be A LOT cheaper than buying premade rings, but I also don't feel confident in my ability to actually... make the rings? Like first of all, won't 16gauge stainless stell be pretty difficult to bend precisely, and to cut through? Also how much extra am I gonna end up having to spend on wire cutters, possibly setting up a crank or something for coiling the wire, or whatever else might come up? Alsoalso, how much actual extra work/time is it to make your own rings? Is it worth the money you save? Will it still be worth it if I end up being really bad at making the rings and end up with low quality stuff? I dunno, I guess I'm just asking for advice, or if anyone has any experience working specifically with 16 (or thicker?) guage stainless steel? Cuz I've heard that stainless stell is tougher to cut than other metals, apparently, I guess? I'm still pretty new to, I guess, the chainmail community so sorry if I've said anything stupid here in my first post? Okay I'll stop rambling now, thanks for any replies.

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Posted on Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:09 pm
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Stainless is much more difficult to work with than other metals. Making rings is cheaper ONLY IF you are already equipped to do it. But the learning curve and start up costs are more significant that you probably realize at this point.

Knipex bolt cutters alone (bare minimum needed for stainless) will probably set you back close to $100 with shipping - and that will only get you low quality pinch cut or score-break rings. Coiling stainless is challenging as well, figure on some kind of power winding set up for that.

You're definitely going to get a variety of opinions on this topic. My advice is to do a lot of research before you decide to jump in with ring making. If weaving is what you want to do, consider that you can buy a lot of pre-made rings with that money, and spend your time making a shirt instead. Cutters



Joined: July 17, 2009
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Posted on Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:17 pm
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Consider buying Shear-Cut machine made rings from one of the major vendors of rings. I hate to promote them really, but that is bang-for-the-buck with quality appropriate for a shirt (you don't NEED saw-cut rings for a shirt).

40,000. rings is a quick guess for a shirt. Other people can advise better on quantities. It costs what it costs, there is no way to do it for free. Figure the costs to buy the rings, then decide if you want the shirt bad enough to spend the money.

Lots of good folks on this forum happy to help you with advice. Don't be shy to ask more questions.



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Posted on Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:51 pm
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However, I'd say that a pinch cut as boltcutters like Knipex would make -- the cut ends look like this >< -- is acceptable for a shirt. Shirts run 20K-30K links, and yours in 1/4" links is definitely closer to the 30K end. 40K, like Pfeiffer said, particularly if your shirt is fifteenth century longsleeved sort -- longsleeved but not knee length was typical martial mail of that time. You'll need the fastest cutting method you can conveniently get for coiling and cutting links of your own when you get into tens of thousands of links.

I am not convinced you actually have to go as pricey as the excellent Knipex. They're a helluva cutter for their middlin' size, but you can go bigger in cheap cutters: bolt cutters of the 300mm-350mm handle size. These things will power through a 1/4" thick bolt, and even rather fatter round stock. Their big fat cutting jaws don't fit inside a coil of wire, but they don't have to: angle the coil until the tips of the jaws bear on the wire, and pump the handle. One way to get it done is to sit in a chair, cradle one handle of the boltcutters in the crease of your thigh and work the other handle with your one hand while you feed the coil into the jaws with the other.

These bolties cost twenty-five to thirtyish dollars.

Bending the wire -- have a look at my pic of my powerwinding rig here onsite at Library: Gallery: Tools.


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Posted on Thu Nov 29, 2018 5:57 am
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Now to throw another brick in the wall-o-text, with apologies to Pink Floyd. There are a couple-three speeds you can get for coiling, and tools for the job are chimp simple: a feed block to spare your fingers a lot of wear, and a mandrel -- with some means of rotating it to coil wire around it. The means is where the speed of operation varies most.

Coiling your own links can be quite fast if you powerwind and use a hands-free wire feeder, so really all you do is a) fix your wire onto your mandrel; b) get hold of your electric drill with the mandrel rod chucked in its jaws; c) angle the rod a bit to your right (wire comes in from the left) to let the wire wrap round it 'downhill,' as it were, hit the trigger and go to town on coiling.

In any thickness of 304 alloy stainless you're likely to use on a 1/4" mandrel, a regular electric drill will have the torque you need to bend that wire. There are ways to bend really mean tough stiff wire, but you won't need to look into those here. Your wire diameter is about .063"-.064"? Or what is it? (commonly spoken of as 16 gauge, but gauge numbers are a nuisance and measured wire diameter is often better, all the more so with stainless wire, which is quite modern; gauge systems have their root in the 19th century) It is well to keep the actual wire diameter in mind when ordering wire by mail.

The powerwinding/power-coiling rig: http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/gallerydisplay.php?key=900 You don't really need but the one eyescrew, the one closest to the mandrel. The eyescrews you're going to use aren't big and come several to a package.

Slower ways to coil wire involve bending the end of the mandrel rod, either into a crank or even just a simple L-shape to make a lever. The length of the simple lever or the throw of the crank should be 4 to 5 inches; you don't need more. Some use a small Vise-Grip to make that lever, if they have one around. To use this thing, sit in a chair, stand the mandrel upright between your knees and corral its bottom end between your feet; turn with one hand and feed wire with the other. I recommend securing the wire end with a washer and a couple-three shallow notches filed into the end of the mandrel, slanted like so: / / /. Lay the wire end in a notch, whichever of the three is handy, jam the washer down over the wire end to hold it. When the coil is done, pop the washer off the end and slide the coil off. You can even push that end of the wire onto the mandrel so it too is part of the coil you'll cut your links from -- no waste, hey.

The feed block is useful with such hand-turned mandrels, and is just a bit of scrap wood with a hole drilled across its middle for the wire to pass through, feeding onto the mandrel. It makes a good tool to tidy up sloppy wire coiling by pushing the wire around as needed. You hold the block in your hand, letting the wire pass between your fingers, feeding onto the mandrel.

When coiling steel wire, expect a fair bit of spring tension to build up in the coil, and the longer that coil, the more spring tension is there. You need then to let the tension off, so the coil will relax and let go of that mandrel so you can slide it off. Safest way to do this powerwinding is when you have filled the mandrel, flip the power drill into reverse and reverse-turn the mandrel about half a dozen turns. You'll see the coil relax and loosen, and you can slide the coil off.

Letting the tension off suddenly and all at once, the wire end on the end of the mandrel whips around like a propeller. You can get a nasty cut.

Your mandrel rod can be got at a hardware store. 1/4" round stock is a thinnish smooth metal rod. Don't get threaded rod -- terribly inconvenient for coiling, you can't get the coil off. Round stock usually comes in three-foot lengths, though a longer rod, say 4 feet, has an advantage in that you spend more time actually coiling, and 25% less time stopping to reload. It adds up.

Cutting and Pre-Opening Your Coils
Now that you've got all those pounds of wire made into neat little coils, you can do pre-opening. Take half your coils and stretch them out to a little more than twice their original length: grab each end and pull 'em. I often use my pliers if the ID is big enough. The other half of your coils you can just leave as is until you cut them into steel cheerios and completely close them. The stretched coils are cut the same way, with your cutters. What you have now is half of your links all pre-opened at a mere couple seconds' time for a hundred or so links opened. You can weave mail together with half your links completely closed, these threaded onto those pre-opened links -- we call it speedweaving, though I think it's only slightly faster. Still, this *is* mail we're talking about.

Store your preopened links and your closed and raw links in separate containers. Preopened links are very tangly. In deploying them, I don't even put my pliers down, but reach into the container of the preopened links and use my pliers to lift out a clump of them and thump the clump on my worksurface, scattering some links off the clump. I use those, thump the clump again, etc. It quickly becomes second nature.

Cutting, as I said, needs a powerful enough cutter like the small-size bolt cutters I mentioned, worked sitting, one handle in the crease of your thigh, your hand on the other handle and your other hand feeding either plain coils or stretched coils into your cutter jaws at an angle the jaw tips can bear on the wire. From time to time, sweep the cut links into like a coffee can set there. A good thing to do while watching TV. Or reading articles and viewing the gallery on M.A.I.L. Wink

There is such a thing as a mini bolt cutter. It has handles about 200mm long and costs about like a good pair of pliers. Works well enough, though not as fast cutting as the 300+mm size of cutter. If you're interested, I can outline a way to cut even faster using the small-size bolties and a bucket. Lemme know.


'The Minstrel Boy to the War is gone...'

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Posted on Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:15 pm
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Hey, thanks so much for the advice, y'all; I definitely have a better idea of what to look into now!! I was mostly jist concerned because, like, one tutorial for making rings that I read was talking about what some good bolt cutters are, and mentioned about one of them that it could cut through galvanized steel easily but would still have no chance of making it through stainless. But, I guess all that means is that I have to find cutters that CAN do stainless? Anyways, thanks also for that tip about streching the coil out so that the rings are preopened; I never would've thought of that on my own!
One more thing on the topic of cutting: is saw cutting an option? I obviously dont NEED the quality of saw cut rings, but, just thinking about the actual cutting process, it seems like using a saw to just go straight down the coil would be, like, a lot faster and easier than cutting each one, one at a time with bolt cutters? I imagine a saw would be far more expensive than bolt cutters, but hey, it's the holidays, the perfect time to get my family to financially support me on this ;p

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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:37 am
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There are a couple options there for cut links. Saw/Dremel cut is one: doable, but of course the saw has an easier time of it in the softer metals. Gives a very neat clean || kind of cut. Thing is, stainless tends to fight being sawn; it's also harder to machine for the same reason. Dremeling uses their mini grinding wheels, which work on steel, and alas Dremel grinding uses those wheels up pretty readily too, occasionally breaking one. Increased cost. Messy with abrasive dust too.

A more industrial-production choice is offered from the suppliers who have the necessary machinery -- the "machine cut," which looks rather like |/. They can whip these out fast, so the price increase is not huge.

Some like machine-cut. Some decide they will just butt their cutter-cut links closed facet to facet and not straight point to point -- /\\/ not ><. The points overlap; the cut ends are pushed into that overlap as you twist your link closed, and feel the grind-click of them passing over each other until they're pushed in enough to stay. Might take a couple passes. The closure is tidy, and the link is slightly out of round this way. Okay for a mailshirt.

With the 300mm bolt cutters hung up near vertical by one handle, jaws down and a 5-gallon bucket underneath to let links fall off the boltie jaws when cut, you have a cutting cyclic rate of as high as 120 cuts/min. Mostly from arranging the cut steel cheerios to fall clear automatically. The in-the-lap-watching-TV technique I wrote about probably maxes out about 80. 60 being more realistically sustainable.

The saw stroke has to be arranged so you're not ignorantly sawing your link into two half circles. Small metalcutting circular saw rigs are usually the answer for the determined sawyer, who even rigs a fine water drip to keep his saw cool so the blade isn't detempered by friction heat. The whole affair ends up being a benchtop piece of light machinery. Gallery pix and threads here on saw cutting can tell you the whole story. Ingenious -- and I never saw a need to get into it myself. Can be done, takes intelligent tinkering and a fondness for screwing things together.

Quote:
. . . one of them that it could cut through galvanized steel easily but would still have no chance of making it through stainless.


That description sounds like the medium-large sort of diagonal wire cutter -- the business end of which looks like a bird beak. I used that type very little, preferring the compound leverage of the mini, 200mm boltcutter or the small 350mm boltie. Their power lets them run right through even the hardest wire, which is what I bought the 350s for -- some brutal hard cable wire. Regardless of their respective sizes, they made the identical pinch ><cut>< apex.

You spoke of "a shirt type thing." Reckon I'll run you through some shirt nomenclature, then, so you can master the topic.

Byrnie: the smallest shirt, vestlike and either sleeveless or almost so. The real Beowulf wore this one -- went swimming in it too, because he was so princely and macho. And hardworking. Hey, that Baltic Sea is pretty chilly. A byrnie (the word seems just to mean 'armor' because simply every warrior knew what armor looked like -- you can find words like it all across N. Europe from Russia to England to France) was short, too, often only to the belt. NOT TO 'NAD LEVEL! That hurts; it'll slap ya, but not silly.
Hauberk: Byrnies grew, got sleeves... and we really don't know how fast they grew nor any particulars because the next really good reference is the eleventh-century Bayeux Tapestry. The hauberk/hauberc/haubert (medieval spellynge, very quaint) descended to the kneecaps, in slit skirts, slits front and back, for riding you and your heavy coat of mail around at speed on a stallion, so both you and your horse kicked ass. Bayeux showed hauberks with half sleeves. Very ritzy warriors, dukes, and princes also had stocking-like chausses of mail. Regular knights just trusted to luck.

Hauberks continued to grow a little, until by the mid thirteenth century, hauberks had long sleeves ending in mail-backed mitts, or mufflers (old word for mitten), and an integral mail hood too. Now the warrior was armored from kneecaps to bald spot in one single piece of equipment, a record not equaled before or since. Plate harness may have been harder -- much appreciated! -- but it was a multipiece affair.

Haburgeon: As plate developed and literally grew on the warrior, there was less need for an entire hauberk inside the plate, so it shrank. Haburgeon literally means "little hauberk," and here was what most of us think of as the generic mailshirt: short sleeves, hem at mid thigh. Its heyday (that we can swear to) was the latter fourteenth century. By the final decade of the fourteenth century, plate harness was nearly complete, and soon into the fifteenth century, it was, becoming the polished steel shell they called the 'alwite' armor.

Mailshirts were then going out of the limelight, but shirts were not extinct: they just went to infantry use -- indeed, after three centuries of eclipse, the infantry was becoming a much more effective fighting arm, with bills and halberds and other pole weapons, deadly enough to take on armored horsemen -- and designed to defeat them too. Shirts of mail could still have long sleeves, but still stopped at mid- or upper thigh. A heavy infantryman might have a plate breastplate to go with.

Mail had some specialized jobs even in full plate armor, particularly helping to cover the hip joints. Mail was the only protective cover for inside the armpit; plate couldn't even approach doing the job. The best plate could do was shelter the armpit area some, rather like the eaves of a roof. For right-there coverage, they needed the flexibility of mail. They did the same for their 'nads, with mail drawers known as "brayettes of mail." Slide into 'em and lace them shut.


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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:00 am
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Next brick: this is the best mailshirt tute I know. It copies a historical German-made mailshirt from Hamburg, and dates to right around 1438. The shirt has a signature link in it of one Bernardt Couwein, mail maker, who applied for a business license in Hamburg in 1438.

https://web.archive.org/web/20160508055350/http://homepage.ntlworld.com/trevor.barker/farisles/guilds/armour/mail.htm
Download the pages and store them in your desktop. The original Farisles site went dark years ago, and this is too good a shirt-tute to lose.

The shirt's details of construction and tailoring suggest that apparently shirts were made about the way you're making one: pre-made squares and rectangles being zipped together, plus triangular expansion arrays and contraction arrays too, set in amongst the plain E4-1 weave pieces. Mailmakers probably made up rectangular mailpatches and some expansion arrays and then zipped them together when they had a client.

Triangular expansion/contraction arrays -- a contraction array is just an expansion array turned upside down -- can excellently tailor a shirt, making it not try to slide down through your cinching waistbelt from its own weight. They can deliver any degree of flaring out from just one extra link's worth to, well, lots. And then still just weave into ordinary E4-1 weave, because all the tricky stuff is inside the array.


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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:39 pm
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Konstantin the Red wrote:

and I never saw a need to get into it myself.


I see what you did there. Cutters Coif LoL


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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:54 pm
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Oh wow, saws really do sound like a pain to work with/set up, lol.
Also, when I said "shirt type thing" I specifically meant, something in a similar style to, like a short sleeve button up shirt, the kind that you can wear open over a t-shirt, because thats how I intend to make my thing. It seems really complicated to have to fit the... fabric? the maille? Not sure what the exact term is for, like, the maille you make out of the links but don't put together into a finished product. But it seemed complicated to try to get that to fit in a way that i could actually pull it on and get my arms through the sleeves and everything.

Anyways yeah, I wasn't going for any kind of historical armor, just kinda a two-in-one fashion piece/weighted short-sleeve snuggie, I guess, haha.
Getting a little off topic, If you're in the mood to give me any more advice, I'm still debating whether I should make my shirt open or closed hang. I prefer the assembly process and general texture of open hang, but I think you're supposed to make shirts closed hang, so they can expand and breath around your body. But also I'm making my piece so that it doesn't even close in the front to begin with, so does it actually need the breathability like that?

Thanks again for all the advice!

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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:21 pm
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Don't give up.. Making a shirt is a nice project and you will appreciate the finished product when you are done.

Look for pictures of examples that other people have made. Here is a nice one:
http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/gallerydisplay.php?key=4135

There is another person, going back a few years. I cannot find the pictures. He made the most amazing maille shirts from tiny split rings. Really very exquisite, if anyone knows it, please share links. I will keep looking for it.

Make that shirt! (and share pictures with us...we like pictures) Cutters



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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:26 pm
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Dr. T makes exquisite shirts from split rings and uses exotic weaves too.
http://www.mailleartisans.org/members/memberdisplay.php?key=3550


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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:31 pm
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ashemdragon253 wrote:
also I'm making my piece so that it doesn't even close in the front to begin with, so does it actually need the breathability like that?


If you are doing this and using European 4 in 1, then you’d likely want to weave it the “wrong way” so it hangs open.

I did one like this:
http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/gallerydisplay.php?key=3030


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Posted on Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:35 pm
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Yep...that's it. If I wanted to make a shirt I'd sure like it to be like that!
Chainmailbasket_com wrote:
Dr. T makes exquisite shirts from split rings and uses exotic weaves too.
http://www.mailleartisans.org/members/memberdisplay.php?key=3550




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Posted on Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:05 pm
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Hey guys, uh, one more question:

Should I just start using galvanized steel to make the rings for my shirt? Cuz sources are still telling me that I need "special tools" to work with stainless steel. Also, galvanized steel wire is way easier to find and buy in stores than stainless is. (at least it is where I am). I already started a piece that I was thinking was gonna be the beginning of my shirt outta stainless steel, its abt 700 rings. Which, I know isn't a lot in the grand scheme of a shirt, but also that one piece is the first piece of maille I ever put together (obvs I've worked on more maille since I started this piece, I've just kept this one around n kept expanding on it little by little) so it's got some, I guess, sentimental value? (the first piece of maille I make eventually becoming the first big thing I actually make out of maille? It feels somehow... poetic.)

Anyways, if I did switch to galvanized steel, will it be similar enough to stainless that I could just keep working off the piece of stainless that I have? (Honestly this one I can probably answer myself, because I'm stopping by some hardware stores later today and according to google they'll have galvanized wire in stock and I'll be able to compare looks myself.) (But I'm already posting, so I may as well ask.) What are the most important differences between stainless and galvanized in the context of chainmaille, anyways?
Most importantly, if my non-chainmaille-loving friends ask if it works as actual armor, is saying "it's made of galvanized steel, so." as cool/convincing as saying "it's stainless steel, so." I know it's silly, but I don't care if it would actually protect me from a knife stab or a sword slash or whatever; my pals and I like to casually debate the actual defensive value of chainmaille and I like to sound at least a little convincing, haha.

Thank you all again for your advice and hospitality!!

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