Chain mail (or mail or maille for the language purists) is a type of armor (or sometimes jewelry) made of interlocking links of wire.

Chain mail is generally more comfortable than any kind of interlocking plate armor, and is excellent defense against slashing and thrusting weapons like swords or arrows. Because it is next to useless when struck by bludgeoning weapons such as axes or maces, it is almost always worn over a padded undergarment called a gambeson (which, incidentally, also keeps one's body hair from being pulled out.) A common technique was to cover large inflexible areas of the body with plates, and cover joints with chain mail.

Though there are many different ways of interlocking the links to form a sheet, the most common one seen today in historical reenactment groups is called the European four-in-one, where each link is looped through the one above it, below it, and to the left and right. European six-in-one and European eight-in-one are similar. Other popular pattern families are the Japanese or Oriental weaves for sheets of chain, and the Persian family for making long, decorative chains. ASCII diagrams are woefully inadequate for explaining patterns, so I won't even try.

Both historical and modern mail has been made, almost exclusively, out of wire that is wrapped around a mandrel (dowel) to form a springy coil, and then cut into links. Links are then interlocked in the appropriate pattern, and bent into a closed loop. Due to a lack of manpower, most modern mail construction ends at this point, but archaeological finds of this "butted" mail armor are limited to obvious field repairs. In order to increase mail strength and durability, and to allow the use of smaller gauge wire, historical mail links were joined by riveting or, less often, welding. (Solid stamped "washers" were also sometimes used for up to half the links in a piece.) Links were riveted closed by overlapping the two ends of the wire in the link, pounding them flat, drilling a hole, then pounding a very short piece of wire into the hole. Mail-making required an enormous amount of labor, and in many areas was only feasible through the use of slaves.

As far as I am aware nobody has yet invented a chain mail making machine; modern mail is mostly made by bored SCA members while sitting in front of the TV. Around 2003 or so several wholesale mail-making factories opened up in India to cater to the first-world reenactor market, and while their wares are (relatively) cheap, the situation is a little too close to being "historically accurate" for my taste. A quick Google search will turn up vendors willing to sell you ready-made rings, and patterns are likewise easy to find.

For a particularly stunning use of chain mail armor, see lorica plumata.

Wouldn't it be cool to go toyour SCA conventions wearing your very own handmade piece of chain mail? Well:
To make your very own hauberk of chain mail you will need:
  • An electric drill
  • Two small blocks of wood
  • A LOT of 14g granulated steel wire (it takes about 1/2 of a mile or so..but dont worry granulated steel wire isn't very expensive at all)
  • A metal or wooden dowel thats 3/8" in diameter
  • Two pairs of needle nosed pliers
  • Something to cut wire w/ (a small rotary saw works pretty good, wire cutters are second best, and you'd be crazy to try anything else)
Procedure:

1. Drill small holes into opposite corner on the blocks of wood(so theyre diagonal to each other) and glue pegs as big as the holes onto the corresponding side of the opposite wood block. Put the blocks together locking the pegs into the holes.

2. Drill a hole through the combined blocks of wood 3/8" in diameter.

3. Drill a small hole on the top of the block to move the wire through when drilling and a corresponding hole on the end of the dowel.

4. Now put the dowel into the wood blocksand close the blocks up, place the wire through the hole in the wood and into the dowel rod hole. Then place the dowel into the drill like a drill bit.

5. Now drill the dowel through the block of wood and what you should get is nicely made uniform wire rings

6. This part is very easy but incredibly boring and time consuming. What you want to do is get the rings weaved together in a 4 in 1 pattern which is like this:

    #####    #####
   #     #  #     #
   #     #  #     #
   #    8#8888    # 
    ###8#    #####
       8      8      
    ###8#    #####
   #    8#8888    #
   #     #  #     #
   #     #  #     #
    #####    #####

In other words for every one ring you should have four rings in it. This is very easy once u get into making the mail.
Start by taking one ring and wrapping two more into it, then wrap one ring through both those rings you just added and take two rings and wrap them onto the one ring you just added and so on and so on, until you have a line that is about half the width of your chest(for instance my chest is 40" around below the armpit so id make a line that's 20", you may want a little extra room for comfort however so keep that in mind). Now close up all the rings using the needle nosed pliers by grabbing one half of each ring in each plier and pulling the butts of the ring together.

7. Well now that you have one line you're gonna want to make as many as it takes to reach a little bit shorther than length of a shirt youll want (ill tell you why that should be later), well get to it! But before you make a buncha lines try connecting the first two lines you make by:
Take the first part of the chain that has two rings hooking through one on each side and hook the top ring of the two to the bottom two rings of the other line, like this:
    #####    #####    #####
   #     #  #     #  #     #
   #     #  #     #  #     #
   #    8#8888   8#8888    #
    ###8#    ###8#    #####
       8      8 8      8
    ###8#    ###8#    #####
   #    8#8888   8#8888    #
   #     #  #     #  #     #
   #     #  #     #  #     #
    #####    #####    #####

Make sure that if the ring ur using to connect two lines goes under the two rings its connected to on that line that it goes over the two rings it will connect onto in the other line. Or your pattern will be FUBAR

Now I realize this is pretty confusing...with practice it will be easier, and I hope my illustrations cleared it up a bit

8. Ok so now that you've made a sheet of chain mail thats as long and half as wide as you want it, make another identical sheet, this is that one will be the front and one will be the back.

9. Well after all this work on making those two sheets you are now ready to make the top of your hauberk, just make a sheet as wide the other sheets but barely longer than the your head, except the catch is that in the middle of this sheet leave a triangle big enough for your head to fit through.

10. Now that you have all three sections done just piece them together, and leave holes on each side(seam between the front and back pieces) for your arms, and if everything went right ur done!



Now if this tutorial wasnt as helpful as you needed it to be, just look up chain mail making tutorials on the net, there are plenty of them out there, and most of which have waaaay better illustrations than my crappy ASCII art. --- Strike that crappy ASCII art comment, I can't remember who but *somebody* gave me the current illustrations, and I apologize for the lateness of his generous contributions.
Chain mail, though noisey, is a light and relatively effective piece of armour. It will stop most slashing attacks- axes, swords- but is poor against bludgeoning attacks; A hammer will hurt only a little less. It's also useless against thin stabbing weapons, such as pikes and arrows.

It's normally worn over the top of some heavy cloth, to insulate- all those holes are bad for heat- to prevent chafing, and to give extra protection against stabbing weapons and cushion impact.

Sometimes, a cap, known as a Coif was also worn. Chain mail is one of the most common armours worn by infantry, as it was relitavely cheap and light. It was used on archers and other units that needed flexibility and to be unencumbered. Another common use was on pole-arm wielders.

The thing about chain mail is the word "Mail" means mesh, or chain; So you're literally calling it "chain- chain".

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.