Chain Maille: It's Really Not That Hard

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Rory's new chain maille bracelet. Photo: Jenny Williams
Rory’s new chain maille bracelet. Photo: Jenny Williams

This past weekend, I got my very first introduction to making things out of chain maille. After some brief history, we were taught how to make a Byzantine patterned bracelet. The results were magnificent, but I thought the process was very easy, in addition to being a lot of fun.

Making chain maille crafts mostly consists of opening up metal rings with pliers, and then closing them together, in specific patterns. There is slightly more to it than that, but not much. The only items I needed for this project were metal rings, a set of two pliers, and clasps. With guidance as to the pattern to follow, I was able to make a chain maille bracelet for Rory in about an hour. I used 16 gauge aluminum rings that were 1/4 inch in diameter. They were very easy to work with and bent back into shape without difficulty. I then made myself a bracelet in the same pattern, but with 18 gauge rings that were 3/6 inch in diameter. Because these were smaller and bendier, it took me almost twice as long to finish my own bracelet. I’ll have to keep my eye out for smaller pliers.

In any case, I was very pleased with both resulting bracelets. I’m sure people who have been making this kind of thing for a while will spot all my mistakes, but I think the bracelets look very nice. And the process was both fun and easy enough to encourage me to try my hand at more bracelets, more patterns, and more items. (Chain maille dice bag, anyone?) You see results quickly as you go, and following the patterns is like putting together a puzzle.

My new chain maille bracelet. Photo: Jenny Williams
My new chain maille bracelet. Photo: Jenny Williams

One of my favorite ways to expand my mind is to learn to make new things. In recent months I’ve learned inkle loom weaving, illumination, silk banner making, pewter casting, many different kinds of cord making, Viking embroidery, how to sew medieval clothing, and now chain maille. Where have I learned all of these new skills? The SCA. Yup, I’ve now outed myself. But it’s like a school for maker culture. You might want to check it out.

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