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Know Your Maille Terms
Article © MAIL User: Blaise

With maille making becoming more popular and the rise of the internet bulletin board as the primary means of instruction for new maillers, communication has become the most important skill for the new mailler to possess. Newcomers to the boards are often overwhelmed by a flurry of new terms, or worse, terms they already thought they knew the meaning of but which mean something completely different in this new context.

The purpose of this article is to provide a brief background for the terms a new mailler will need to understand to get started in the on-line maille world.

A maille weave is the design of the minimum repeatable unit in a particular kind of maille. The term 'weave' should not be confused with the term 'pattern' which describes the overall design of a finished piece, and can contain one or more weaves in various configurations.

There are scores of basic weaves known, with names like European 4 in 1, Japanese 6 in 1, Half Persian, Full Persian, etc... Note that the name of a weave *rarely* has anything to do with its origins, but often can be descriptive of its design. In addition to the basic weaves, there are literally hundreds of variants based on one or more of those weaves, many of which also have their own unique names. To make things worse, not everyone agrees on these names, so be sure you know for certain which one someone is referring to in conversations.

There is a basic system in naming that can help you out with simpler weaves. The appellations 4-in-1, 8-in-1, 12-in-2, etc. refer to the number of rings which pass through the interior plane of any one ring in the weave. For example, European 6-in-1 is a weave of the European family in which every ring in the weave has 6 others passing through it. This system also allows description of weaves in which a basic design is enhanced by doubling or tripling (or more) rings in the weave. For example, Japanese 8-in-2 is a weave of the Japanese family in which every ring is doubled (hence "in-2" instead of "in-1") and has 8 rings (4 rings doubled) passing through it.

Wire Gauge
The basis of all maille production is wire. There are a number of issues regarding wire you should be aware of in order to communicate clearly on the subject.

The diameter of the wire you are using is extremely important to any design. It affects the choice of ring size, the weight, and the strength of a project. The simplest way to measure wire diameter is using one of the standard measurement systems such as decimal inches or metric. Unfortunately, most suppliers and users of wire have been in the wire business since long before these systems came into common usage, and use much older and less intuitive GAUGE systems.

The confusing part of this is that there are many gauge systems to choose from, and somehow the system you use never seems to be the one the person you're talking to uses. The two most common gauge systems are Imperial Standard Wire Gauge (SWG) and American Wire Gauge (AWG), also known as Browne and Sharpe. Make sure you specify your system when talking about wire, and make sure you know the other party's as well.

The basis of maille construction is the ring. Several simple concepts encompass most discussion on this topic.

Rings are usually either purchased pre-made from a commercial supplier, or produced by the mailler him/herself. In this case, the rings are normally made by winding wire into a coil around a cylindrical shaft called a mandrel, then cutting coils into rings. The coiling process can be done by hand, by means of a coiling apparatus wherein the end of the mandrel is bent into a handle and inserted into blocks (hand-cranked), or by 'power winding', a risky practice wherein the mandrel is inserted into the chuck of a power drill.

Rings can be described in any number of ways, but at the core, two basic measurements define a ring; 1) Wire Diameter (discussed above) and 2) Ring Diameter. The diameter of a ring can is usually described using one of two different systems; Inner Diameter (i.d.) or Outer Diameter (o.d). In the maille community, most use the i.d. method (owing to the ease of finding mandrels of standard sizes), but always make sure.

A convenient means of discussing ring sizes is the aspect ratio (a.r.) of a ring. This is nothing more than the mathematical ratio between the diameter of the ring and the diameter of the wire. It's convenience comes from the fact that weaves will have the same properties for rings of the same a.r., regardless of the actual size of the rings. Aspect ratio lets you scale your designs up and down, and discuss them clearly with others.

When a ring is produced, the gap between its two ends is called a kerf. Obviously, the larger the kerf, the more effort must be put into closing the ring. Once the ring is closed by the mailler, the ideal closure has no kerf at all, but is tightly butted together.



The whole point of making maille is, of course, to produce a finished product. The following is a list of terms in general use for various items maillers often want to make or use with the things they make:

This is by no means an all-inclusive document of every term a mailler needs, but should serve to build a simple common vocabulary for communication between maillers.

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