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Last Edited: December 12, 2012, 3:53 am
Know Your Maille Terms
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Know Your Maille Terms
Article © MAIL User: Blaise
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.
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.
- See the article Know Your Pliers
- Bolt Cutters - Heavy-duty compound cutters used for thick or hard wire. Characterized by having triangular cutting edges which meet point to point.
- Diagonal Cutters - The most common kind. These can be found in all shapes and sizes, and have wedge-shaped cutting edges, one side of which is flat in the plane of the cut. Specialized versions of this type include flush cutters, which make a cut on which one side is clean and flat, and double-flush cutters, which supposedly make a cut on which both sides are clean and flat.
- End Cutters/Nippers - Have a cutting edge which cuts perpendicular to the plane of the handles. Often used for heavy-duty work. The profile of their cutting edge is much like that of a diagonal cutter.
- Jeweler's Saws - Look like a cross between a jigsaw and a hacksaw. They use extremely fine blades and are used to make almost perfectly flush cuts, albeit slowly.
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:
- Byrnie - A shirt made of maille which comes to the waist and has no sleeves.
- Haubergeon - A shirt made of maille which comes to the hips/upper thighs and has short sleeves. Historically, these were also often laced up the sides.
- Hauberk - A shirt made of maille which comes to the knee or mid-thigh and has half to full sleeves. Late versions of the hauberk included maille mittens.
- Mantle - A circular drape made of maille with a hole in the middle for the wearer's head. It covers the shoulders, upper arms, and upper chest.
- Coif - A head covering made of maille with or without an integrated mantle. Usually worn over a padded cloth head covering which is unforunately often also called a 'coif'.
- Gambeson - A padded garment worn under (and historically, sometimes over) a Hauberk. AKA Jupon, Aketon
- Aketon - A padded garment worn under a Hauberk. AKA Jupon, Gambeson
- Arming Cap - A padded cloth head covering worn underneath a maille coif. Also known as a coif.
- Bracer - A forearm covering made of maille. A smaller version of a Bracer might be called a bracelet, for you students of linguistics. AKA Vambrace.
- Chausses - Full leg coverings made of maille. Usually attached to a leather belt to hold them up.
- Handflower - A piece of jewelry composed of an integrated bracelet-to-finger-ring arrangement which covers the back of the hand in whole or in part. AKA Slave-Chain.
- Slave Chain - See Handflower.
- Vambrace - See Bracer.
- Inlay - A multicolored design woven into a piece of maille by using two or more different colored materials.
- Dice Bag - A small maille pouch intended for the purpose of holding the dice used by Role-Play Gamers.
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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