02 December 2009

The best news yet.

I’ve been holding back on this post because the holiday weekend, and this week just generally being pretty crazy.

I did some shopping and looking around up in Bloomington a week or so back. It’s a college town, for whatever that says. I won’t go off on an opinionated rant right now, but let’s just say it’s more than a little artsy. That’s good news for me, it turns out.

In looking around for beads and findings and stuff in the local jewellery shops. I ran across The Venue. A privately owned art gallery near the University. So I looked about, talked to the owners, mentioned what I did, and they asked to see it. So I pointed them at Etsy and gave a bit of a tour of my shop. Pretty much instantly I was invited to bring some of my jewellery to show and sell in their gallery.

A freeking art gallery, can you believe it? They host classes on occasion, and shows and a few other things. “Other things” pretty much mean “more exposure” and I’m good with that. They sell what’s on display there, as a consignment kind of deal. While they take a percentage of the sale, it’s a fair percentage. This does mean I’ll likely be raising prices online somewhat. Primarly because I have to match prices between the gallery and anywhere else I sell stuff, contractually. Coupled with the markup I have to make to actually profit after paying The Venue their portion of the sale, it becomes a little problem. I’ve done my best so far to keep my Etsy prices more than reasonable, hell, if I factor the time involved in making maille, I’ve been undercharging since the beginning anyway. Selling through Etsy however, means I only really pay a few cents in commission, and shipping. Which are more than made up for in the necessary adjustments.

What I’m getting at, is, major, major cuts in shipping charges. Probably free on lightweight items. So good news for you too!

 

Have fun,
--Charon

19 November 2009

Craft Swap with Tanya

  Something I organized over Twitter with a friend. She was looking for a pair of simple, cute, Swarovski earrings and wanted to organize a trade. Tanya’s a polymer clay artist, and Canadian, but I don’t hold that against her. I love her little dragon pins, each one’s made with a little personality and a story.

So here’s what I came up with for her. They’re for her sister in law for the gift giving holiday of your chosen denomination. ;>

Tanya's 005

And here’s Ember.

ember Pin

With Tanya’s little character profle:

Meet Ember. She’s a feisty little dragon who will keep you on your toes.

Ember likes to play tricks on people. She likes to sneak around and light candles and fires – if you have a fireplace.

If she gets angry, though, keep your eye on her. She’s been known to set a curtain or two on fire!

Ember arrived wrapped with a little ribbon, and in a sheer black pouch. Another example of great attention to presentation that I really need to work at myself. She made it here quickly, too. Sadly, I was beyond the point of thinking I’d have to send a replacement pair of earrings. Turns out, Moose are just really slow postal carriers, but I was told they made it there safely today. I’ve already re-ordered the Swarovski to replace them, but that’s alright, they can be used for something else.

I set up another swap with one of my closest friends back home, more about the new collection of polymer clay beads tomorrow when I have light for photos.

Have fun,
--Charon

01 November 2009

You want to know how to impress me?

  The short version. This:

Artbeads

The long version. I put in a small order for some beads with Artbeads.com because they had Swarovski in colours I couldn’t find elsewhere. And they offer free shipping in the U.S. I like free stuff. The image above were the contents of the shipping envelope exactly as I opened it. Yes that’s their business card secured in the tissue paper, nice touch. Inside the gems were in compartmentalized little capsule thingies, bagged individually, (in resealable bags even) and labeled. Then wrapped in a layer of… that flexible foam stuff that should be bubble wrap, because bubble wrap is more fun. Lack of happy popping notwithstanding, these little touches of presentation and attention are what make me want to come back to a company.

There was no question I got what I ordered, and it arrived quickly, and with free shipping. I like free stuff. Other companies, even home businesses, (myself included) could take a few hints from this to evaluate their packaging and shipping and labeling.

I’ve dealt with companies that cram unlabeled bags of whatever in a box, stuff contents list inside, and send it off. I’m thankful as all hell for a list of contents since half the time I can barely remember what I ate yesterday, let alone something I ordered a week or so before. The trick when it arrives, is figuring out what’s what without having individual bags labeled. Had I ordered rings in the same dimensions, in two similar looking materials, like Stainless and Aluminum, it’s that much extra effort to judge them by weight, make a label, and integrate them into my storage system (storage system, me? Yeah that’s a laugh, I have tchewbs, lots of tchewbs everywhere.) If a few more companies learned from Artbeads.com we could spend less time cutting open heat sealed poly and figuring out what’s what and more time putting nice labeled baggies in their place until their contents are needed for stuffmaking.

--Have fun,

Charon

Note, tchewb is the phonetic pronunciation of tube if you’re Australian. Ask any of them, ‘struth.

31 October 2009

Handmade Artist’s Forum Fall Challenge

 

Think it’s probably best here to say very little, and just link the blog. That said, I’ll probably say more. ;> I have a bracelet entered, which I’m sure is immaterial to you, since you all just want to vote for a chance to win the bracelet donated by Heather's Haven.

Stop by, look around and please comment and vote for me.

 

--Have fun,

Charon

25 October 2009

Jackassery, loopholes, copyright infringement, and 35 year old children.

Yep, that’s right. Some pathetic waste of bandwidth and skin set up a crawler to Chainmaille related images over to his own photobucket account, and post them to his site. Around a week ago, Peter Croteau of Virginia made the mistake of stealing images and articles submitted and owned by the members of M.A.I.L. Following him failing to understand the burden of proof, intellectual property laws, or how to conduct himself as a member of a civilized society. His website was shut down.

  That lasted about a week.

  Now Chainmaille.org is back up online, and using a loophole in the EULA with photobucket and several other free image hosting services. Packed with images owned by myself, and many other maille crafters. The solution, aside from pulling all my images from photobucket, is a bit elusive. I’d move everything from photobucket right away if I could find anything on flickr that allows me to link to my images directly, so they could be used in forum posts and such. Since I haven’t found that yet. I’m left with keeping my hosting private, which revokes the license loophole, but it may for the time being mean until I can obtain another hosting option I’m limited in where I can post my images. Unless I begin leaving them here as blog posts and linking to them.

  The rest of the solution, is more important. Association with little Petey and Chainmaille.org should be cut off by anyone with any respect for intellectual property. There’s a reason I’m not linking to him like I try to remember to do with everyone else. His site is an attempt at Search Engine Optimization, without putting any real effort into creating his own content. Search engines require links from outside sources, such as bloggers, community sites, or anywhere else, to partially determine how useful users are likely to find the site in question, and thus the order in which a site appears on a search return.

What Peter wants is to steal traffic from artisans and crafters by appearing in the top slots of search engine results, without actually being a crafter himself. Worse, he wants to steal traffic from you by using your work. Taken without permission through a segment of the EULA that states basically, that while you still own your work on Photobucket, you automatically grant every other Photobucket user the right to publicly display, alter, edit, add to, remove from, etc. He wants your traffic, maillers, for one reason, to generate revenue from advertisement links. Yes, like some of the ads I have here. The difference however is a vast chasm: I’ve made maille, I’ve taken photos, I’ve written articles and the occasional bit of funny; Little Petey there, hasn’t yet shown any ability to make maille, snap photos, or write anything but whiney confrontational blather directed at people who own the things he’s stolen in the past.

What have we learned from this? Peter Croteau is one of the lowest kind of parasites. Photobucket isn’t as cool as it seems. In the end, there’s still assholes on the ‘net. I wonder what Google will think about using the edge of the law to coerce adsense clicks?

Have fun, Unless you’re Peter Corteau of Virginia Beach, VA. If that’s the case, have a stroke, or a cardiac arrest.

--Charon

17 October 2009

One of these days I’ll get some Maille done.

Okay, not quite true that I haven’t gotten anything done. I put together a pretty awesome stainless bracelet this morning. I’d have photos, but now that I’m awake again and can take photos, I’ve got to go hang out with family again today. As a note, when your family tries to make you feel obligated to show up for something, it won’t be as amusing as showing up voluntarily.

Have fun, I probably won’t.

--Charon

12 October 2009

Oh, and there’s this.

I’ve been toying with live Writer for posting. I haven’t really come to a decision on how much I like it just yet. It does allow you to pre-write updates and schedule them for posting at a specific time, which I’m trying now. If all goes well, this was written about an hour before it was scheduled to appear. I think that’s kindof neat.

If you’re on Blogger too, and have made a few edits to your .css you might have seen how badly that can goof up Blogger’s layout editor. At least I don’t have to risk seeing that all ugly and misshapen.

Speaking of, I have some actual Maille to do. A stupid move on my part caused one of my pieces some damage, and I have alot of rings to replace. Embarrassing and upsetting.

 

Have fun,
-- Charon

A personal update.

Completely not maille related today. I’ve been distracted by a tragic family event. Which you can go ahead and just read as someone died. I wasn’t completely shattered over it or anything as I didn’t really know her all that well. Even that seems like speaking ill of the dead…

She was family though, and watching the family I do know and love lose someone they were close to is still pretty rough on me. I spent the weekend sortof dazed, reading other blogs outside those I usually visit, and just generally ignoring everything.

I guess it’s probably best not to go into too much detail. It’s enough to say that at driving over to your Great Aunt’s place to see if she’s alright and finding out no one got there in time will screw with you a little bit. I can’t and won’t blame myself, or anyone else, it was just one of those horrible results of a horrible and careless mistake that ended her life.

The real bite of it all still goes back to the rest of the family. What can I honestly say to them? Nothing makes it all-right. I can’t just console people with things I don’t believe to try and make them feel better. I know trying to console them with my own thoughts won’t do anything but cause more damage.

So yeah, I’ve felt pretty useless the last few days, and because of that I’ve been pretty useless. Non productive, reclusive, and generally apathetic about anything I should be doing.

 

Be well,

--Charon

08 October 2009

Moving right along.

Okay, so it's a snail's pace. I havn't really finished much of anything but the Snowflake earrings lately. I'm still arguing with the handflower I previewed earlier. Trying to find a suitable clasp that's at least somewhat adjustable. Thanks to the beautiful yet picky design I chose for the bracelet segment, adjustable isn't quite so easy.

I did have a rather sizable sale come around yesterday, and I can't complain at all about that. Time to go supply shopping.

While typing this, I noticed I got beat out by my friends over at the Handmade Artist's Forum for an artist feature I wanted to do soon. Curse you MBOI! ;>

Have fun,
--Charon

28 September 2009

I'm trying to get chainmaille into the public eye.

And these people aren't helping! At 11am my time, I drove up to a local handmade shop known to feature local crafters and artists. Groovy, just what I need, right? Well, after 4-wheeling it through the country roads to get there, I find the place, and see the sign on the door reading "closed" Okay, no big deal, I'll check out the shop hours and see what's up.

The shop hours sign read, and I can't make this up folks:
"Most days I'm here around 9 or 10, sometimes as early as 7, other days not until 12 or 1.

I'm here until 5 or 6 but sometimes open as late as 12 or I might be gone by 3 or 4.

I'm here almost every day, except on the days I'm not, and then I can be found here sometimes too."

Maybe a slight variation or two because of my faulty memory, but I'm not paraphrasing. To paraphrase would be, "Shop Hours, Whenever the hell I feel like it, good luck."

I wait for about an hour, noone shows up, I leave. Very likely not to return. Seems a little harsh maybe, and I might be cutting myself out of a venue; but I don't think it's a wise way to run a storefront to just be there whenever you feel like shuffling out of bed. I don't think it's a wise place for myself to sell either. People show up to browse, find out the place is closed until whenever. Are you going to sit around for an indeterminate length of time to see if they open at 9, or 10, or maybe 12 or 1? Or are they not going to be there at all, except when they are?

Think I'll stick with selling maille online, at least then my potential customers aren't getting turned away by a sign written by someone who thinks they're funny.

Have fun,
--Charon

26 September 2009

Half Persian 3-1 Tutorial, No fiddling, no guide wire.

One of the challenges many new maillers struggle with is starting the Half-Persian weaves. I've heard suggestions such as using yarn or extra wire to hold the rings in place until it becomes stable. While these ideas work perfectly, I try not to use starter chains or anything of the sort. I find it helps me understand the weave if I watch it fall apart when I drop it like a clumsy cartoon villain...

What I found after a project involving way too much HP 3-1 was a way to start a chain without trying fumble with those first three closed rings to get them in the right place. Experienced maillers will know exactly what I mean, and if you don't know, trust me, you're better off never attempting the Half Persian slide.

So, as promised (seems I say that alot, usually later than I intended) I have the following visual tutorial for HP 3-1. Lefties, you'll probably want to work from right to left, you freaks already open your rings the wrong way, might as well do everything backwards.

We'll start with an equal number of pre-opened and pre-closed rings. I've 10 each here.


Place two closed rings on an open ring, and close it, you'll have a simple chain of three rings. If you hold the center ring you have something like the image below. The notations on the image are to show you what I'll call the outside of the two hanging rings. You want to weave an open ring through the outside of the first ring only, then again through the outside of the second.


Going through the first ring.


The apparent mess after going through the second, don't worry, it will come together and start to resemble the intended result very soon.


Our friendly, if badly-drawn, arrow has a secret to tell you, he wants you to take your newly added open ring, marked in green, put a closed ring on it swing it around to the top of the chain beside the old center ring of the simple chain.


Setting it down a second because I promised the arrow a beer for helping out, we can see the open ring in place and the new closed ring kindof lazing around on the end.


If you look now, you see you have a sequence of two rings on top, and three rings on the bottom. Notice how they stairstep. On the top row each new rings goes on top of the next, but not through it, on the bottom row. Close the open ring and kick that bottom row ring underneath the one next to it. The eye between the last two bottom rings is where you'll weave the next open ring, add a closed ring, and close it.


After a repition or two, it starts to take shape and becomes more stable. Keep repeating the process of passing an open ring through the eye, adding a closed ring, then closing. Now, that floppy ring on the end, when your chain is as long as you need it, add the last open ring. Remember that we started with an equal number of each, used two closed rings at the beginning, so the final open ring is added the same way without bringing a closed ring along.


This is the end of a HP3-1 chain right before closing the final ring, notice floppy is on vacation.


Close it, and... is there a less pretentious and lame word than "viola" I could use?


There you have it. HP 3-1 without the annoying ring twist or guide wires, or duct tape, or throwing it against a wall in frustration and deciding to make something from Byzantine instead.

Have Fun
--Charon

24 September 2009

I found a new sales toy.

This little gadget from Sellit.com is built to present Etsy, Yahoo, Cartfly and CafePress stores in a unique little package. As a script applet... thing, to post on things like blogs. Sorta like this.



I'll leave a permanent version of this in the sidebar, probably in place of Etsy-Mini. Which my only beef with is that it randomly picks a few items from your Etsy shop when it's loaded.

Seems like the perfect thing for selling handmade to me. They also have a few reasonably priced advertising packages for those that are keen to do that sort of thing.

Yes I know a tutorial is due. I havn't forgotten you. More life showed up and maille had to be set aside for a bit, but it might happen later today, if not tomorrow.

Have Fun
--Charon

22 September 2009

Things have arrived.

Well, just one thing, or two. Exactly two photos of the Dark Aura necklace I posted yesterday.

I guess I could say this represents a more evolved line of my work. Finally branching out from copper now that I'm slightly better supplied. I don't really consider copper a primative or less formal material, but it's nice to use something else and have some variety available.

The necklace itself is composed of two real weaves, along with some simple chain. The first to mention is the centerpiece, composed of three units of Aura, a weave created by Legba of Corvus Chainmaille. A very kind and generous person who's taught me alot. The second weave involved is a good classic Half Persian 3-1. I chose this because it lies relatively flat. I didn't want a round chain for a broad piece like this.

I've always wanted to make something like this, so it's been a mini dream come true and I couldn't be more pleased with the result.

How about another tutorial for the next post? I've talked more than enough about my own projects and little annoyances getting in my way. Anyone want to see how HP3-1 is made?

Have fun,
--Charon

21 September 2009

A taste of things to come.

New materials, some stones to play with, a couple new weaves on the experiment list. So what happened, well, this.



Got bored, learned Aura, made it in blackened stainless and square stainless. Then I made some simple chains and flung them around like silly string, a few garnet chips here and there.

It's on a barrel clasp right now, I'm not certain if I like it but given the other options this was the only thing I had that suited it.

I'm expecting some more materials this week to finish the piece I previewed a few days back.

Also, I hate being single... I don't have a model. ;>

20 September 2009

Spread the Love.

Aww, my chainmaille and I were chosen to be HAFteam's featured shop today. Hoping I get a couple sales out of it at least. Yes, short post again, yes, mucho busy. Sorry about that. I'll be back to normal in a week or so.

Have fun,
--Charon

19 September 2009

Heave to and prepare to be boarded!

I love saying that.

Yes, it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. In honour of such, this happened.

Ha'e a look at the 'ol shop before the English find us!

15 September 2009

The least interesting update so far.

That isn't some sort of reverse psychology title to drag everyone in to read something. My brain has become Baldwin feed the last few days, and I'm having a motivationally challenged moment when it comes to actually wrapping the rings I need to get something done.

I know it's Wednesday, but I guess I should make a weekend and purposely not do anything at all.

Baldwins are aleins.

have fun,
--Charon

10 September 2009

Sneak peek at the new project.

Just a quick snap of the current work in progress. Yes, the photo is bad. I'm far too busy to pretty it up.

07 September 2009

So, how much for a maille shirt?

This, and four-thousand other questions along the same lines. I hear these alot. The answer is complicated, and I'll tell you why.

Any handmade item is going to carry a higher price tag than mass produced factory line stuff. Be it jewellery or a messenger bag or a steel chain shirt. In many cases, crafters are doing this on their own. We have both materials cost and our own time and effort to consider when setting a price. My time is valuable to me as I'm sure yours is to you. Time I spend mailling for somone else is time I could spend playing guitar or annoying my cats. Difference being, mailling is work. When most people work they expect to be paid X per hour for dedicating their time to someone else's venture.

So the understanding is, I am making an hourly wage. Most skilled tradesmen scoff at the proposal of taking a project on at minimum wage, and crafters should be no different. We employ a skill and talent that is trained and personalized, and therefor valuable in itself. We shouldn't be made to feel bad about considering our crafting time as valuable as that of a carpenter or welder.

In maille, buyers see finished sheets or chains of rings, maillers see the wire that was wound to make the coil that was then cut to make rings. We see closing each ring individually, and some to all of them have to be opened first. This is work, it's tedious, mind-numbing, and time-consuming. There's time again. Do you expect a product you buy to be made well, not have flaws, or pinch and stab you. This is what you're getting when you purchase a handmade item. There is a distinct difference between handmade, and homemade.

And the idea of handmade comes back around. People who craft handmade anything will generally attempt to use materials from local sources whenever possible. Local can be the shop up the street but it also can mean your own country. The idea of outsourced labour and imported materials is enough to start a riot in some parts of America. Buy handmade and you're pretty much guaranteed to be buying local, and you can feel confident that the money the seller allocates to his personal use will be spent locally. Would you rather spend 20$ in some random foreign factory, or 50$ next door?

There's at least one popular site selling pre-made maille shirts for an inconceivably low price in my mind. I don't know where they get their wire or rings, how their maille fabric is woven, or anything about the quality of their closures. It's obvious from the price tag alone that these items are mass produced. I can almost promise if I were to call them, they couldn't tell me exactly how it was made or where the rings came from. Nor can they tailor it specifically for an individual.

So, how much for a shirt again? That'll depend too on your measurements if you want it to fit properly. Then we have to decide on a material and the grade of the ring cuts. If you're expecting saw cut stainless, expect to write a cheque with more than two zeros on it, there's no way around it, the time and effort in saw cutting rings alone is worth several times more than the 100$ I've heard offered for a hauberk. In "low end" galvanized steel cut by a ring making machine or by hand with bolt cutters, you're still getting an incredible deal if you only pay 3-400$

So give it some thought the next time you find a handmade item of any sort and gawk at the price tag when "you can go down to Evil-Mart and get one for half that." You're not getting the same thing by a long shot, and if there's any question about the work put into it, any crafter will be more than pleased to tell you about the work put into an item. Ask with a genuine interest in how it was made, not so you can find a way to talk down the price, we can tell the difference. ;>

Have the fun
--Charon

03 September 2009

Finally!

Yes, it's done, yes you get to see photos. Yes, there's even some earrings involved! You excited yet?

Too bad, 'cause I am.



















This took as much in planning on the fly as it did in actual crafting time. I suppose one of these days I might have an image solidified in my head before I start something; but where's the fun in that?

I think the clasp needs some adjustment still. I'll use some larger rings, and the J-hook needs a step up or two in size so it's easier to feel and grip. I'll get at that before I take the photos for Etsy.

Also in the last day or so, got a few pointers on bead wrapping, and just look at what happened afterward.










The first pair are actually more of a violet colour. That wasn't visible until I took them out in the sunlight. I was convinced they were kindof a smoke grey. Why I get blue in the photos, I have no idea. Any colour correction I attempted made the copper look like brown plastic.

/me shrugs

Each one of these, the choker included, aren't terribly complex weaves. The Jens Pind 5 used in the nada-blue pair is probably the most difficult. It's one of the more daunting weaves at the beginning, but that's mostly just hype. Once you understand it, it's not hard to follow.

The choker's is made with European 6-1 bordered by Half-Persian 4-1. If that doesn't make much sense, refer back to my terminology and abbreviations post. ;> Why is "abbreviation" such a long word?

Choker aside... the earrings were fast, and great little gift projects. I can't complain at all about the comments and compliments I get on the little stuff like these. Spend nine days and 70 feet of wire (or more, I haven't even counted yet.) on one thing, and everyone wants to see the little side projects I used to relax. ;>

I think it's worth giving projects like these a shot, even if you're solidly devoted to making maille armour. You can add a new weave or two to your list, and if you can make your closures tight and solid in jewellery, you'll have no trouble making them nice and pretty in your armour.

Have fun.
--Charon

Slow.

Yep, not much to tell here. The choker I've been working on is finished, as well as two pairs of earrings and I'm taking a short break after cutting rings for the third. All three will debut as my first beading pieces. With nice little Swarovski drops.

Oh, the pictures? Yeah, I left those in my other pants...

Camera is not cooperating. I'm waiting on a temporary replacement.

Feels like I've been leaving alot of "coming soon" posts. Like this one, really, you'll get to see the choker, I promise, and a large maille related rant surrounding them, I'm sure.

Have fun.
--Charon

01 September 2009

New reading material.

I'm going to depart from the normal course just a little here and suggest a friend's little blog for a moment. It's not Maille-related at all; instead it's very personal. The account of my very good friend's struggle through her life, stumbling with drug abuse crime and prison along the way.

I consider it a very mature and responsible work. Not something to point at and laugh, ya get me? This is her therapy, and her attempt to straighten everything out for herself. She and I both hope it can help her readers just as much.

http://methprisonandcrime.blogspot.com

Expect something on-topic from me by morning. I've been a little busy, and I apologize for not keeping up.

Be Well
--Charon

28 August 2009

Handmade Artist Forum Team featured on Handmade News.

I have to say right from the beginning. I am a member of this team, and in the short time I've been with them, I've learned what wonderful and supportive people they all are.

For those unfamiliar the team, usually called by their tag "Hafteam", are a global collection of Etsy sellers dedicated to cross promoting, aiding, provoking, teasing, and challenging one another in the spirit of friendly fun.

Our current event is the Summer Memories Challenge. Members create and submit a work in their chosen craft that represents their memories of the summer season. Vistors and members alike are asked to comment on the pieces and vote on their favourite. This little cereal box of fun even has a prize inside. I promise. Check it out.

Somewhere along the way, word got out to Coco over at Handmade News and she was pleasant enough to write a feature article to support the event.

You can also see what our promotion chair Heather has to say about it on her blog, Heather's Haven.

I didn't really make it in time to submit anything myself, but I do love to browse. Guarantee you, you'll see some Maille from Stygian Chains stepping up for our Fall Challenge.

Have fun,
--Charon

26 August 2009

Chainmaille for Kids.

I've seen this come up a few times, and figured I'd probably go ahead and cover it.

Maille contains small parts. If essence, Maille is small parts, alot of them. If your child is prone to chewing on things, regardless of their age. Maille is not exactly a wise choice for multiple reasons. The off chance a ring comes loose and becomes a choking hazard being one of them.

Speaking of chewing on things, there are also CPSA standards to consider. Most of us who are marketing our craft can do a few things to stay in compliance. The first, is to use materials on their known safe list. At last check, items composed of these materials did not require manufacturer (that's you) testing. Be sure to stay up to date though, and not just take my word for it. Your suppliers should also be able to tell you if items you're purchasing from them are CPSA compliant. The next point to mention, which brings everything back on topic, is not to market your product to children under 13 in the first place. This is the safer, smarter, and simpler solution.

Now, if you have children, little gamers or squires or Hallowe'en knights, and they want maille, that's your decision to make. Keep a few extra things in mind: Young little bones are not fully formed, and adding a sudden extra weight load could end up causing some frightening damage. Also, the black oxide rub-off from standard aluminium, and the zinc coating on galvanized steel, are probably not something you want ingested. Zinc fumes are certainly toxic (one reason you should never heat galvy) and I wouldn't personally take the risk in any other form. A good solution to both of these problems, is the use of Bright Aluminium. Properly called alloy 5356. It's lightweight, doesn't leave that dirty looking black junk on skin and clothes, and it's incredibly shiny which makes for great costuming. Still not something you want them gnawing on, alright?

Again, if you have kids that can't help but chew on anything in reach, don't give them metal objects of any sort. Just plain don't sell or market to someone else's kids. Know what's in your work and what potential hazards are involved, and draw your line strongly short of risking such hazards for your own protection.

In my own work. I avoid any sort of symbolism that might be taken as child-friendly. Sorry, no pink hauberks with a Hello Kitty inlay... unless you can prove you're over 13, and want to pay alot for making me look at that much pink. A good portion of my market is strictly the 18+ crowd. No explanation is needed there.

Short version, just don't do it. If you do, use safe, lightweight materials for clothing, or "armour-like objects" not armour. In jewellry, know your materials and their contents, and the age and maturity of your customer. If you are marketing to a younger crowd, be fully aware of the standards set forth by the CPSA.

Have fun,
--Charon

25 August 2009

Maille as Armour.

Yeah, now we're talkin'

First off though, I want to apologize for not being able to either assemble, or locate a tutorial on earwires like I had planned. This weekend got stupid, and now it's late, which means I'm stuck with taking photographs indoors... and you'd probably prefer I just went outside and took them in the dark. It would be less painful for the eyes.

Wha... oh right, armour. Maille armour is the oldest known form of metal armouring in the world. Carbon dating places early celtic examples at 2000 years old. Samples of surviving Etruscan maille may be 3000 years old. Staggering to think that you're engaging in a practice virtually unchanged since 1000 B.C.E isn't it? In most of the world, that's late Bronze age or early Iron age. It survived as a form of protection on the battlefield until the 17th century in europe, and in Japan continued battlefield use until the end of the 19th century.

Here, a distinction should be drawn between the uses of European and Japanese forms of maille.

In Europe it was common to encounter armour elements such as a hauberk, chausses, or coif composed solely of chain. They would be worn over thick quilted clothing such as a gambeson which helped absorb some of the impact from a blow. While you find that it's incredibly difficult to cut through maille, it isn't rigid. Youtube, the wasteland of stupidity on video that it can be, can produce quite a few videos of people "testing" their new maille shirt, by smacking their dumb as dirt friends with a piece of bar stock. It isn't youtube if someone doesn't get hurt... right? Commonly the ends of each ring were cut to overlap, hammered flat, then punched and riveted. Some maille armorers will still craft riveted maille; the form most of us use today without rivets is called butted, or butt-joined. I just like saying butt-joined...

Japanese maille was used primarily as a way to add a flexible joint or connection between two pieces of lacquered scale; rather than as an entire garment. It was a compromise in having some protection and durability under use while still allowing range of motion.

Another aspect to be very, very aware of with maille, is that it isn't very resistant to piercing. An arrow or a weapon thrust is likely to force rings open. Yes, this means the heartbreaking news is coming, so never ask me... Maille is not bullet proof. No "what if you wrap it in kevlar?" "how many layers..." "if you use titanium/awesomanium/mithril/adamantium" questions. You'll get one of two questions in response. "Are you willing to wear about 150lbs of steel?" or, "How stupid are you, exactly?" depending on my mood. Seriously, think about it, if it could stop a bullet, why aren't we putting it to that use today?

Don't let that stop you from buying 40lbs of stainless or galvanized steel wire, weaving up a shirt, and displaying a skill that's survived for millenia. Look up the SCA if you're not already a member and I'll put money on you finding somone who's willing to trade sword swings with you against your new toy. If you really, really have to use it the way it was intended, there's no better or safer group for such a thing.

For what my opinion's worth, make one out of 5356 alloy aluminium just to wear while you're sitting at a coffee house at 3:30AM hoping the wi-fi doesn't crap out just so you can read over a few more blogs before dawn.

Have fun
--Charon

23 August 2009

Easy Chainmaille Projects.

It took me some time, and alot of observation of my fellow maille artists doing similar things before I really caught on to this one. I feel a bit dense for not realizing it earlier, but the last time I was considered observant, was back in the Reagan administration or so...

Earrings, simple, fast, inexpensive, unique, and very catchy. You only need to know a few weaves. Instead of writing out my own tutorials this time the tutorials or images from which I learned each weave follow the photos.

Full Perisan Ladder.



















First you need to know how to make Full Persian.
Connect a single full unit of FP6-1 consisting of eight rings to another like this.

Then there's the diamond shaped Half Persian 3-1 Sheet 6. Just HP3-1S6 or Sheet6 for short.










You'll need to know the chain form of HP3-1 to get started.
Once you have that move on to Sheet6.

Now, you need some earring hooks. You can buy these at nearly any craft store in the beading section, probably right next to some of your wire selections. ;> Alertnately, you can pick up a pair of round nose pliers, and a small file for smoothing pointy bits from your wire.

I notice now that I no longer have a link to a tutorial for handmade earwires. Guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow.

Have fun,
--Charon

21 August 2009

Shopping, promoting the Mailler's art, and another handmade jewellry project.

Discovered today that the Dremel wasn't really going to cut it... literally, when it comes to thicker stainless. So I'm buying a slitting saw arbor and building a cutting guide. It's not exactly the rig I really, really want, but I'll get to that eventually.

Meanwhile I have a wicked gift for a friend planned out. This will be my first attempt in shaping a pendant from a solid sheet of metal. I can't describe the plan, in case she reads this, but it'll be awesome, I promise. She digs steampunk stuff, especially keys, and while browsing Etsy the other night we ran across a piece she really loved. So I thought I'd change things up a bit, my way.

Promotion is wearing me thin right now. I'm out of motivation to weave for the time being, or maybe just inspiration. I tried a patterned version of the Doublemaille bracelet in a slightly higher AR than the last one, and just ran out of care juice.

Anyone out there have a good site or two for business cards? Some local, face to face style marketing might be just what I need. Maybe not just for the shop, but at least to make me feel like I'm getting somewhere.

Have fun
--Charon

19 August 2009

Using a Jeweller's Saw

Cutting rings for maille jewellry, especially in precious metals can be a challenege. When you're crafting something to be worn close to the skin, good cuts and closures are invaluable for the pure feel of the finished weave. If you're selling a piece, bad closures and sloppy cuts in something like Argentium or Fine Silver aren't going to catch any eyes. So what's the answer?

Read the title already.... Put down the wire cutters and find a jeweller's saw. It resembles a small hacksaw frame with thumbscrews. Don't try and use hacksaw blades with it, if you can mount the blade at all, you'll just wreck your rings anyway.
Some hobby stores have them for... in my opinion, way too large a price tag, but if you're unwilling to wait that's an option. I ordered mine from TRL and it's perfectly suitable for cutting rings. Blades are less than a few dollars a dozen, get a lot, you're likely to break a few. I prefer size 4/0 or 2/0 depending on the wire gauge I'm cutting. You'll need some kind of lubricant, beeswax seems to be the standard. I use the parafin wax that most cheese wheels come coated in, it's free if you like cheese.

Second, get yourself a jeweller's vise. Not a small bench vise. Where a bench vise secures your work by applying pressure between the jaws, and you risk crushing a coil; the movable jaw on a jeweller's vise secures by applying pressure to the body of the vise itself. This means that your can clamp something hand tight and lock it in place. I took a few pieces of masking tape folded cardstock to pad the jaws and prevent scratching, and help secure my coils.

If you're all set up, time to string your blade. If you have an adjustable frame saw, crank down that top screw first. Then loosen both the mounting screws. Look closely at your blade, the teeth cut one way, and glide the other. You want the cutting action to be when you push the saw forward, so the friction doesn't cause you to pull open your coil. Lock the blade in it's mount closest to the handle.

This is the tricky part, you need a little tension on your blade. So place the handle against your abdomen blade up, and lean forward with the other end of the frame against your bench, so it very slightly compresses the "[" shape of your frame. Now lock the far end of your blade in place and relax.

If you've done it properly you can pluck the blade like a guitar string and it will ping without buzzing or sounding dull. If it does either of those things, re-string it or you're just going to break a blade. Run your chosen lubricant across the blade a time or two, and you're ready.

This is the most important thing to remember when cutting: let the saw do the work, you don't need to press the blade down into your coil, it will cut perfectly just gliding along on it's own. There's a sound associated with cutting sheet metal by saw, but when your coils are secured this way that sound is muted. Listen carefully for something that resembles a slide whistle, up and down, as you cut. If you hear too much scratching rather than ringing, it's time to re-lubricate the blade, and while you're at that check it's tension again.

When you're done, and have gotten over admiring your new cuts. Unstring your blade, I left one overnight once and the blade broke while I was asleep, the springback of the frame recoiling cracked a glass candle holder on my desk. Stupid, stupid way to wake up...

Have fun,
--Charon

18 August 2009

The new look.

No, you havn't gotten the wrong Chainmaille blog. This is still Stygian Chains. Just decided it needed some tweaking.

I really did like the previous look, don't get me wrong there, but the individual segments were too narrow and that made it limiting on how I could arrange things. Maybe when I figure out how to adjust those myself I'll go back. Not a code monkey, I make maille, that's about it.

I did finish the bracelet I've been working on.
StygianChains,copper,handmade,bracelet,Chainmaille,Maille
bracelet,handmade,Chainmaille,Maille,StygianChains,copper

Comments are welcome. I'd like to hear opinions of the new look and the bracelet when it's posted.

Have fun
--Charon

17 August 2009

Okay, so I lied.

Taking longer than I planned to finish the project I was working on. Not because I mis-anticipated the time involved, just that I mis-anticipated the time everyone else expected of me this weekend. The problem with working from home, is that noone seems to think you're actually working....

If 245 4mm rings to reach about one quarter complete isn't working, well too bad, I'm doing it anyway.

I took a quick snap of my desk/bench when I took a break from cutting.




Have fun
--Charon

15 August 2009

A unique maille bracelet.

Ran into this thing over at Schizoid Mouse's blog. A maille bracelet using lockwashers.

There will be more updates later today, I'm sure. Hang tight.

Have fun,
--Charon

Chainmail Inlay.

Found this over at Sprite Stitch and wanted to share.

Yoshi Inlay by Heyley.

I know, small post, but it's worth it.

These are another awesome example of the kinds of things that can be done. Similar to cross-stitch patterning, inlays are coloured rings in a weave, layed out exactly like pixels. There's software available for chainmail artists that covert digital images into patterns. The most complete and functional I've found so far is IGP by Zlosk. Lots of info on the subject available on his site, as well as some sample patterns. It hasn't been updated in some time, but I havn't really noticed any problems with it either. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

In a previous entry I listed a shirt with an eagle inlay. Now this way if you want to do something similar, you won't drive yourself completely spare figuring out where to put the rings. Just set your work over a printed sheet of your IGP pattern, and it's like a paint by numbers, without numbers, or paint...

Man I need sleep.

Have fun
--Charon

13 August 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Not a terribly exciting one, I don't have any major plans, which is the idea. I make it a point to make my birthday the lazyest day of my year. I'll be stripping some salvage copper wire, watching videos, and enjoying a cake with fudge icing.

I did however, promise armour. I didn't think about how long it would take to get permission to host images myself, so I'll link to gallery images for some of my favourite pieces. And let their creators speak for themselves.

Maille glove by ~Mical~ with some amazing seamwork for fitting.
A Coif by David Austin, trimmed in bronze.
Olaf's two-tone Coif.
JoanieBeth with more headgear.... and I want the arsenal behind it while we're at it.
Cinnibar posted this wicked vest his wife wears. Never let it be said aluminum has no place. That shine stunning.
The famous Lorenzo Trinity maille vest.
AdrianHills with a very classic looking hauberk and eagle inlay.
Adrian also posted a Byrnie from the Musse de l'Armee in Paris.

Think you're up for making something like that? I know I am after seeing all these.

Have fun,

--Charon

12 August 2009

Some awesome handmade chainmail jewelry.

It's a slow day for me. Getting used to the new dremel and cutting stainless rings, building an improvised coil cutting guide. Sounds impressive, but it's not much more than a block of wood with a hole drilled in it and a slot for the blade. Took a look around the blogroll and found this over at the Handmade Artists Forum which I thought was definitely worth showing off.



Photo belongs to MGChains.

Tomorrow, I think I'll make it a point to pick out some armour. I know everyone's been waiting.

Have fun

--Charon

11 August 2009

Chainmail at the market.

Today, I went up to a famer's market I've been frequenting almost weekly, it's a small venue, but there's always been a couple crafters there, including a fellow mailler. I sit, talk, absorb the experience, make contact with people, and generally have a good time while promoting the art itself. Out of respect for Glendon I try to avoid talking about my work with his customers.

I'd have a table there, but the market season only has two months left around here, and I don't really feel like I have enough completed and ready to sell to make it worth my time at the moment. However, it's only a 10$ registration for the entire season of May through October.

If you're a crafter of any sort, and in an area where farmers' markets are a regular event, especially when they're hosted at parks or something similar on a weekly basis. Find out if they accept vendors of handcrafted goods. It's not expensive, you don't have to show every day the entire season, it's probably local so you won't need a hotel, and you'll see people on a regular basis, and get to know them.

I had planned today, to feature a host of photographs of awesome little handmade things and plenty of maille by Glendon. Instead, I found... that they were unusually not present at all. Disappointing in a sense, but I got a Dremel out of the whole trip as a birthday gift. Diamond wheel and stainless, anyone? ;>

Back on topic, check around. State.gov or chamber of commerce websites might have lists of local farmers markets in your area, it's not a massive craft fair or a gaming con, but it's a good place to hand your name out just the same.

Have fun,
--Charon

10 August 2009

Maille Arts: Terminology and Abbreviations.

I thought I'd take today and make it easy. Since it's monday, and noone wants to work too hard on Monday, I'll talk about some basic terms, abbreviations, and things of that sort.

Terms:

Aspect Ratio: The proportion of Wire Size to ring Inner Diameter. Abbreviated as AR.

Wire Size: Refers to the diameter of the wire from which your rings are made. There are multiple ways to express this. Examples using Gagues are usually shortened to G or GA. 20ga would be read as Twenty Gague. There are also multiple standards for wire gauge systems. Far more than the scope of this post could explain. It's easiest to figure that a wire gague number of 20 or greater refers to the American Wire Gague system, and all numbers less than 20 are in Standard Wire Gauge. Wire sizes may also be expressed in fractional inches as 1/16, decimal inches as .062, or metric as 1.6mm. For the math-minded you've already calculated that these three examples refer refer to the same size wire. Personally, I still find metric to be the easiest and most commonly understood amoung maillers. Wire Size composes the first half of Ring Stats.

Inner Diameter: The measure of the inside of a ring. Usually expressed for simplicity as the size mandrel the around which it was coiled. Again they can appear in fractional or decimal inches, or metric. Abbreviated as ID and composes the second half of Ring Stats. For perfect accuracy, ID may be measured after a ring is cut and closed because several factors may have a small inpact on the final result. Generally though, it isn't super important and listing your mandrel size as ID is just as acceptable.

Ring Stats: Or just Stats. The shorthand listing of your rings' wire size and Inner Diameter. 16ga 1/4ID or, 1.6mm 6.4mmID are both valid examples.

Closure: Closures are the point where the wire ends of individual rings meet. Usually pointed out by other maillers looking at your work. "Fix that closure halfway along the second row." ;> Good closures won't scratch the wearer and look like you take your time and pay attention to your work.

Eye: The space where two rings overlap, shaped like the outline of an eyelid. Rings that create eyes may or may not be connected to one another, most weaves are defined by the connections and their involvment with eyes. A ring may be connected through eye or TE, and around eye or AE. While some debate still exists on particular weaves it's generally accepted that the European and Persian families are defined by how they use eyes. A European weave has only TE connections, a Persian weave uses both TE and AE.

European: In maille, this refers to a family of weaves that originated in Europe, and is distinguished by it's decending rows of rings lying in alternating directions. Shorthand for European weaves look like "E 4-1, E 6-1, E 8-2". They're read as European four-in-one, six-in-one, eight-in-two. Meaning that each ring will be connected to Four or Six others. In the case of X-2 it means that a pair of rings performing the same function in the exact same location, are connected to eight others, these eight are also pairs.

(((((((
)))))) A common ascii to demonstrate the rows
((((((( in European maille. Each row should hang horizontally across the body.

Japanese: Also called Oriental. A family of weaves from Asia where large rings are connected to one another by smaller rings in simple chains in rows, then connected to one another by small rings to form colums. The large rings will lie flat against the body, while the small rings stand vertically. Shorthand for Japanese weaves appears as "J 3-1, J 4-1, J 6-1, J 12-2" and reads the same as the European shorthand.

0-0-0-0
|   |   |   |  
0-0-0-0
Common ascii depicting J 4-1. The 0s are the large rings, where the
horizontal and vertical lines are meant to depict the edges of small rings.
These ascii art will appear frequently in maille related message boards.

Kinged: Fancy way of stating a weave is constructed using pairs of rings. E 8-2 is also called Kingsmaille, and lends the term kinged to other weaves.

Roundmaille: A segment of maille who's edges have been connected back to one another to form a round chain. My description of this really isn't suitable in my opinion, you can see an example of Roundmaille, here.

Persian: A family of weaves that use both through eye and around eye connections to create a length of chain where the rows of rings are generally described as stacked. It's difficult to visualise. There are both Full Persan and Half-Persian forms. Abbreviations are similar to the other families. FP 6-1 for Full Persian six-in-one. HP 3-1 would be read as Half Persian three-in-one.


This, has run on far longer than I figured it would. So I think I'll take a break for a while, and let you do the same. I know this might not have been the most fun post you've ever read, but learning is good. ;>

Have fun--
Charon

07 August 2009

An Important Part of Making Maille: Aspect Ratio.

Aspect Ratio, usually shortened to AR, is a very important area of knowledge in the art of chainmail. To break it down simply, it's a number representing the proportions of your rings. What's meant by this, is the relationship between the wire diameter, and the inner diameter of a given ring. I personally prefer to list those wire stats in metric because it makes the AR easier to calculate.

"Oh no! Math? You didn't say anything about math!"

It's cool, really. The first number you need is the inner diameter, called ID for short. This is the same dimension as your mandrel, or very close to, depending on how much your metal springs back when winding. To use a recent pair of maille earrings I made as an example. The rings are 4mm ID. This is pretty close to 5/32".
The second number you need is the wire diameter, in this example it's .8mm. or 20ga. or .032" So now you probably understand why I use metric.... Divide the ID by the wire diameter.

4/.8=5 So the Aspect ratio on these rings is 5. Full Persian Ladder Earrings

Great right? Right? Oh, yeah, you probably want to know what it's good for.

Everything! Certain weaves like Jens Pind Linkage will only work properly with rings in the right AR. 2.8 to 3.2 or so in that case. When making a nice solid looking European 4 in 1 I find around a 3.5 to work nicely for jewellry. But you can make the same weave with a much larger AR. If you were following up through yesterday's post: "Weaving Chainmail" you may have noticed how some of the rings on the end of a strip seem to magically end up leaning the wrong way. More than likely you didn't make a mistake, just that your AR was loose enough to allow the rings on the end to flip around one another. It's really okay if that happens, they can be prodded back into place.

A chain shirt however, might require a little bit more room to allow for breathing, movement, and simply putting the thing on. A little goes a long way when speaking in AR terms though, so I'd keep it very close to 4.

Note that being able to make a certain chainmail weave isn't the only use for AR. If you want to enlarge or reduce something. Say you saw a pair of earrings and thought, "that weave would look good as a necklace." Most maillers will post ring dimensions (stats) when they show off an item to other maillers. So you can pick out the AR, and choose a larger diameter wire, and an appropriately larger mandrel.

The Ring Lord hosts a very complete Ring Size Chart with AR listings, and sizes in fractional and decimal inches, as well as metric. This is one of my homepage tabs, and I recommend everyone at least bookmark it if you're serious about making maille.

The final, and most amusing characteristic of AR, is it gives us one more abbreviation to use with other maillers while in public, and confuse the non-initiated to no end.

Have fun
--Charon

06 August 2009

Making Chainmail step two: Weaving maille.

We're back, and we're on to learning the basics of actually weaving maille. Note that I didn't use the term "chainmail". Either one is acceptable these days. "Maille" is taken from the original term "mail" meaning armour made from chain. The spelling has been prettied up a bit to make it distict from Postal Mail.

There's another tangent... I'm good at that.

Alright, you have some rings cut, begging to be used, so let's get them and your hands a short workout. Pick up your pliers, one in each hand, and grab a ring. No, not with your teeth... either the pliers themselves, or you can free a thumb and finger and use your hands. Keep holding the pliers though. You'll be surprised how much time you start to save when you can craft without setting them down.

Set the ring in the jaws of your pliers with the opening at the top. You should be gripping about half the ring in each set. Now twist each end of the opening away from one another so it makes a longer spiral. It should still look like a spring. If you're opening your rings like you're turning an O into a C, you won't be able to get them back into shape. Open them about far enough you can fit two wire widths in the gap between ends.

Practice this, open about 5 rings to get a feel for it. Then go for some more new rings and close them with the same kind of twisting motion. Each end should meet as flush and close as you can make them. It helps to push the ends in very slightly toward one another while you're twisting them closed, so they almost snap together. Close 12 for now and set them in their own pile.

An open and a closed ring. Open and Closed rings







Starting a weave is always vastly more difficult than continuing one, so we'll go with something both recognizable and reasonable to follow. European 4 in 1. European maille is characterized by each row leaning the opposite direction of it's adjacent rows. Grab 4 of your closed rings, put them on 1 open ring, then close it. You have what we call a fivelet. Doesn't do much on it's own, but it's the foundation. 4 rings on 1 ring. Each ring (excluding those at the edges) will pass through four others, two above, and two below.
Your fivelet.A Fivelet










So lay your fivelet down a moment to get a look at how it the weave will expand. Two rings on top, leaning to the right. One ring in the second row, leaning to the left. Two rings on the bottom, leaning right. Now to add to that, take two closed rings, put them on an open ring, this open ring will become a new addition to the middle row. Weave that ring in from underneath the rightmost ring the bottom row then down through the rightmost ring in the top row. Close your open ring.

With a little jostling, you should be able to lay out your work and see that everything leans properly, and falls into pattern. Now you repeat that last step again. Two closed rings on an open ring, weave it into the final two rings on the adjacent rows, and close. Repeat this until you reach the desired width.
Red rings are the original fivelet, Green are the three added afterward, and Blue the step after that.
A strip of E4-1
All well and good that you can make it as wide as you want, now how about expanding the other axis. Even simpler. Put two closed rings on an open ring again. Weave your open ring through the two leftmost rings in the bottom row, and close. From there, you add one closed on one open. Weaving through the rightmost on the bottom row, and the next two rings on the row above. Repeat as desired.

In the photo below. Red rings are the first three added in the new row, followed by the Green, and Blue again. Untinted rings are the original strip of three rows you've just built.
A patch of E4-1
So here's the best part. I know this is what you've been wating for. You can make a barrel like tube out of a large patch, then add straps to the top edge, and you have a very simple mail shirt. In detail, it will probably take some tweaking, and there are alot of things you can do to tailor and fit. More on that another time.

If you're not looking for a shirt, say you went with a light gauge copper for your first project, maybe you'd like a choker or a bracelet. Clasps can be purchased for an impressively low price. Also hook, or toggle type clasps can be made using wire wrapping techniques. These same skills can be put to use to make earring hooks, chainmail earrings are my best sellers. If you want a look, check out my Etsy link in the sidebar. /plug
If you've been following along so far, I'd love to see your work. If it's a bracelet, just a small patch, or you whip up a full shirt thanks to what I've posted here so far, please send images to me here and they'll be featured in upcoming posts.
Have fun--
Charon

(A Special thanks to Glendon of Glendon's Chainmaille and Handmade Crafts for taking time out of his day at the booth to allow me to photograph E 4-1 in progress. I couldn't figure out how to handle rings, operate pliers, a camera, and a soda can all at once; he was wonderful to supply me with the chance to take these images. )

05 August 2009

Making Chainmail step one: Making rings.

Ready to jump in and make your own chainmail? I know you are. If you have rings already, you're awesome. If you're starting with raw wire, you're just as awesome. Let's start from the beginning just in case.


  1. Hop on down to your local craft or hardware store.

  2. I recommend starting light, inexpensive, and easy to work with. 20 gauge copper, even the silver toned stuff in the beading section is a good way to cut your teeth.

  3. You'll need two pairs of pliers sutable for the size wire you're working with. Small flat nose pliers work perfectly for small wire. Heavy gauge wire calls for maybe a six or eight inch pair of linesman pliers. Remember that pliers with teeth will scratch soft metal, but go with what you can find easily. This is just practice.

  4. Side cutting pliers (wire cutters) the jaws will be sortof football shaped and sharpened. Heavy gauge will require something like mini-bolt cutters.

  5. A mandrel. Don't ask the guys at the hardware store for a mandrel, they'll look at you funny. What you're looking for is something to wrap wire around to make a spring. Pen barrels, metal rods, knitting needles, even a screwdriver.

  6. Gloves, please wear gloves, heavy work gloves.

  7. Eye protection. Flying metal can seriously ruin your chances of retaining binocular vision.


Now pull out some of that wire and wrap it around that mandrel. Learned a new word while you're at it. Wrap it tight and as consistantly as you can. You'll find a small hole drilled crosswise through your mandrel serves perfectly to secure the starting end of your coil. Turn the mandrel, it's easier than flopping wire around everywhere.

Example Coil


This is important: Always release the tension on a coiled wire slowly. You don't want to see the kinds of nasty cuts it could cause if you just let go. All metals will have a certian amount of springback, the percentage of bendyness they resist as it tries to return to it's orginal shape. Over a long distance like a length of wire, this means that free end can turn into a circular saw. So hold the free end of your wire tight, and carefully turn your mandrel the opposite direction. You don't really have to apply any more pressure than you need to keep it from spinning back on it's own. Once it's stopped working against you, you're good to let go. Another reason I suggested light copper over a heavy steel to start with, it's much easier to manage without building a more complex coiling rig.



So your spring, coil, worm, whatever you want to call it, is done, you've carfully eased the tension off the wire. Cut off the spool end then the secured end with your angle cutters and slide the coil off. All you have to do is clip each turn lengthwise from the coil. making short springs of only one turn, essentially.

Example rings

Now you have rings. After a short break, we'll move on to Step Two: Weaving Chainmail. Where I'll talk about opening and closing rings properly, and introducing you to your first chainmail weave.



Have fun,

Charon

Why Chainmail?

Well, that's a good question. Why not chainmail? Why not sewing, knitting, cooking or something more normal and mainstream? Well, I like to be different. If I'm doing the same thing everyone else is doing, I'm just one of the crowd. That's not the whole of it though, and I'll probably continue to come up with reasons as we continue to follow along on this little journey of mine.

Backing out of that tangent for now. I've always been interested in archaic weapons and armor. Without learning blacksmithing, yet, and tapping on an anvil for days on end, making chainmail at the time seemed like a place to start.

I was first introduced to the basic ideas surrounding modern chainmail construction some sixteen years ago by a friend in the SCA. Of course I wanted to dive right in but obtaining a drill press and tons of wire and a saw capable of chopping steel in any reasonable amout of time just wasn't going to happen on my allowance. Kids get it rough with hobbies, help em out if you have any.

Turned out many years later, the idea sprung back to mind. This time I had tools. Not a drill press or a rediculously overpowered steel slicing laser, but I had internet access. Next best thing. So I poured over Google links and eventually sifted through to locate TheRingLord.com, a shop selling rings specifically for chainmail and a forum at Mailleartisans.org full of the most helpful people. I ordered a few pounds of galvanized steel rings, and waited, almost patiently. I say almost, because I gave in and bought some small gague wire at a craft store while waiting on UPS. Then I went to practice the things I'd been studying for days.

I found making chainmail was incredibly relaxing, forgiving of early mistakes, and more versitile than I could have ever imagined. The first impression most people will get when they hear chainmail is a mesh shirt or body suit, either old-world technology and construction, or the modern shark suits like the Neptunic. Of course the former is still in use in the film industry, and by geeks like me who still drool over a nice sword. As an article of clothing rather than a protective device, the craft becomes even more interesting. I've seen neckties, bikinis, vests and common t-shirts all done in chainmail. It's also in contemporary use in sculpture, and has quite a following as a form of jewelry art both historically and in the current age.

So, why again? Well, it's an interesting study, has a near infinite amount of patterns (called weaves), classified somewhat by their origins: like European and Japense, or by their characteristics like the spiral weaves, and a couple oddities like Byzantine and the Persian family which has no record of ever appearing in Persia, but somone thought it sounded neat and different.

I've come to discover there's little it can't be used for. Chainmaille curtains, seen that too.

I think it's safe to assume, if you've stumbled into this little corner of the 'net you're looking for chainmail yourself. Maybe learning to make your own chainmail. Or just get ideas, weaves and patterns. I'll be getting along to those a piece at a time. So keep your bookmark handy, I'll be posting on a near daily basis recounting my journey through the craft, daily experiences, and what I think are several helpful topics such as:


  • Chainmail terminoligy
  • A Mailler's tools
  • Metals
  • Bying wire
  • Making rings
  • Using a jewelers' saw
  • Jewelry suppliers, beading and stones
  • Tons and tons of weaves introduced along the way as learning projects
So let me ask you this before I shut down for the night. Why are you into chainmail? I'll bet it's a good story.

Have fun,

--Charon