Making Chainmail - Medieval Projects
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Making Chain Mail

Sixteenth Century Plate Armor
from Germany (Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York City)

In the Middle Ages men and women who fought in battles generally wore chain mail, which was both lighter and cheaper (because it was easier to make) than plate armor.

chain mail
Chain mail shirt

In fact, chain mail is so easy to make that you can do it yourself.

Just go to the hardware section of a department store, or go to a hardware store, and buy some a bunch of small springs, about 1/2 inch (one centimeter) in diameter. You want them in galvanized steel. A typical shirt needs about 10,000 links! (But for a school project you might just make a chain link bracelet!)

Get a couple of pairs of pliers to hold onto the springs with, and a wire cutter to cut the links apart.

Now, sit down and use the pliers to P-U-L-L the springs apart a little (make them longer than they were). You can have two people pull, one on each end. Then sit with the pliers and a wire cutter and cut one link at a time off the main spring. Cut lots and lots of little links.

Chain link
A closed link (there will still be a
small gap)
Chain link
An open link

Now all your links will be open. Take the pliers and squeeze most of them closed, like this:

Now loop four closed links onto one open link, and close that open one.


Do that a bunch of times, so now you have a lot of little bunches of five links. Then link each of those bunches together using more open links.

Here's a video showing somebody making chain mail

Or, you could do the same thing, but without having to cut metal, by using small sections of pipe cleaner, and just twisting them together to close the loops. That would be much easier, and teach the same lesson!

Bibliography and further reading about chain mail:

More about Medieval Europe
More fun projects

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 27 April, 2017