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A suit of plate armor

A suit of medieval plate armor

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.

A white man wearing a chain mail shirt and carrying a sword

Chain mail shirt (reproduction)

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.

An open link

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.

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

Now all your links will be open. Take the pliers and squeeze most of them closed, like this. Then loop four closed links onto one open link, and close that open one.

Four links of chain mail around a central link

Do that a bunch of times, so now you have a lot of little bunches of five links.

Now you have a small piece of chain mail

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