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Maille Student Handout
Article © MAIL User: Dragorlad

This is my handout I've made for a manufacturing class. I thought it might be helpful for anyone who's teaching students. Good Luck!

By: Andy Heller

The Art of Maille Smithing

History: The art of maille smithing originated in ancient France and Ireland. It started with the Celts, a society that was prevalent around 3000 years ago. The oldest known piece of maille was recovered from the graves of Celtic warriors and has been dated at over 2700 years old. The oldest pieces cannot be dated, so this art may be well over that age. The Celts made their rings by wrapping thin strips of metal over a wooden dowel; they then cut it with a hard chisel, usually of steel or iron.

Practical Applications: Over thousands of years maille, or chain mail, has been used as armour. This was because maille has the ability to spread an impact over a larger area and minimize the cutting effectiveness of a sharp edge. This property of maille is used to this day, where butchers wear protective gloves to prevent cuts from knives. Maille is also used as jewelry; this is usually woven out of brass, copper, stainless steel, gold, silver, titanium and niobium. Titanium and niobium, which are pure elements, (although titanium is usually sold as an alloy -- Ed.) can be anodized, which means that they can be coloured by either electrical current, or by heat in the case of titanium. You cannot anodize niobium through heat, as it Changes chemically at 200 degrees Celsius.

Techniques: Modern maille smiths use far more advanced techniques and tools. Now rings are wound on a steel mandrel, which turns out consistent and clean results. The cutters used are much better now as well: diagonal cutters, mini-bolt cutters and a jeweler's saw are all clean cutting alternatives to a chisel. Once you have wound the rings on the mandrel, utilizing either a crank handle or a variable-speed drill, you can remove the formed coil by cutting the end of it from the small hole or slot that is drilled in the end. You then use a cutting implement to make your individual rings.

The Weaves: First of all, weaves form either chains, sheets or single units. There are five families of weaves (as arbitrarily classified on M.A.I.L. -- Ed.), each with its own connection style. These categories are: spiral, persian, japanese, european and hybrid. The difference between the families is the connection style. The Japanese weaves are very geometrical; the Persian weaves have a non-linear staggered connection style. European weaves alternate direction every other row and the Spiral weaves have a helix formation, or a spiral formation. The Hybrid weaves are specially classed because they use more than one of the connection styles or a new one to form chains or sheets.
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