Chain Armor
Chain Armor
Please be sure to see the Making Chainmail section for instructions on how to make this stuff in the privacy of your own castle!
What is Chainmail?
Chainmail, chain mail, mail, chainmaille, chain maille, or maille (whew!) is a flexible material composed of small interlocking metal rings or loops of chain. Chainmail was historically used as armor from the Roman era up through and including the American Civil war, in both Eastern and Western cultures. It is used today for industrial armor, combat reenactment, jewelry, fashion design, sculpture, as well as for its armoring benefits in such applications as shark suits and butchers' gloves.

Today chainmail is still used as armor in medieval and renaissance re-enactment groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), the Company of St.George, fantasy "play" groups like L.A.R.P. and Amtgard. It frequently shows up in semi-historical movies like Gladiator, Timeline, and Braveheart, as well as period and fantasy films like the Robin Hood movies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Most sources claim chainmail to be an invention of the Celts. It was used around the world as material-efficient armor for several centuries, until the introduction of plate armor around the 12th century. Even then, chain was used to fill in the gaps where flexibility was needed: armpits, around the neck and chin, and crotch area. Armor that made use of both chainmail and plate is frequently called "Transitional" armor, as the transition was being made from all chain to all plate.

In it's original form, iron was drawn into wire, turned on itself to create the rings, which were then individually riveted in place to seal the rings closed. A type of ring called a "punched" ring was also used. Punched rings were solid metal rings punched whole from a sheet. They were used along with riveted rings to form very strong protection.

Most modern chainmail is not riveted. The the ends of the rings are bent to lie next to each other (butted) but not actually joined or "closed". This butted mail doesn't have design strength of riveted or welded mail, and will be more like to fail (read "not work and make you dead") under a cutting or smashing blow.

It is tough to emphasize just how much riveting the links adds to the strength of the chain fabric. When the wire size is measured in "gauge", 14 gauge is roughly 1/14th of an inch thick, 18 gauge is roughly 1/18th of an inch thick, and so on. The smaller the number, the thicker, heavier, and stronger the wire. Also bear in mind that the smaller the ring, the stronger the mail, all other things being equal. With all that in mind, think about this: 14 gauge butted mail is about as strong as 18 gauge riveted as far as turning a blade or holding up under a crushing blow. That's assuming the same size ring diameter and the same type and strength of wire. The design makes all the difference. Evidence suggests that butted rings were used for things like on field repairs and the like, but when time allowed for a proper repair, riveted was the clear choice.

Chain armor was expensive. A chain hauberk which would cover a warrior from shoulders to wrists and knees was worth about as much as a serfs small house. Armor from frequently looted from fallen warriors as part of the spoils of war and either added to the victors armory or sold.

Please be sure to see the Pictures section for some samples of my work. Please be sure to see the Making Chainmail section for instuctions on how to make this stuff in the privacy of your own castle. All this talent and I never had a lesson!