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Some recent chain maille work

Printed From: Illyriad
Category: Miscellaneous
Forum Name: Art
Forum Description: Art, sketches, & even magic-lantern moving pictures!
Printed Date: 17 May 2021 at 05:15
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Topic: Some recent chain maille work
Posted By: HonoredMule
Subject: Some recent chain maille work
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 18:27
Yeah, chain maille...that's what it is.  Which makes it totally related to Illyriad, and stuff.

Anyway, here's the piece I most recently created.  My largest piece has been a work in progress for months, but it will be done soon too.  It may be too racy to post here, though, and it's fitted for a real person, not a mannequin.

Anyway, I present the dragonscale collar: - - - - -

It is based on - this design , execpt that it was made with $20 worth of aluminum and stainless steel, rather than $600 worth of silver.  And it has some structural enhancement in the form of a wire which keeps it from spilling outward from the top, and a much better join in the back than anything suggested in the original article (which I unfortunately neglected to photograph.  The difference in appearance from mine is primarily my poor camera and that model's grotesquely narrow neck and concave shoulders.  On a person it hangs exactly the same in terms of relation to collar bones, etc.

And for the men, there's my signature tie: - - -

Sadly, I don't have the best pictures of it, at least yet.  I need some good strong halogen lamps for photographing metal like this, not to mention a decent camera.  When I took these, I didn't even have the benefit of a newer halogen fixture in the kitchen.  It is made of bright aluminum like the outer rings of the collar though, and is even shinier.

It holds its shape and position very well and always draws comment.  The design is entirely my own, and based on a weave called gracelock (half-persian braid sheet for the knot).  I've seen the odd chainmail tie online, but none even close in quality.  Others have flat sheets for the knot which looks totally fake, and very rough shape which doesn't really hold.  The only downside with this one (which you don just like a normal tie, pulling the inner tongue through and setting it on a hook) is that it's too thick for a tie clip.  At some point I'll add a means of latching onto a button or button hole halfway down.

Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 19:01
Crikey. I had no idea there was all this latent creativity and talent in the community...

Are the rings Aluminium or Steel?  And what's the overall weight like?  Comfortable enough for the lucky person to wear for a night on the town?

Very, very cool HM. Clap


Posted By: Painterman
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 19:14
Dang man! I knew there was some great talents hiding in the woods of Illyriad. I love that tie. How much does it weigh? And can I buy one?

"To go against human nature is the most human thing a human can do." Larry Niven

Posted By: G0DsDestroyer
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 19:21
Looks great man! That must take some time though!

-------------" rel="nofollow - Tia mi aven Moridin isainde vadin

Posted By: Mr. Ubiquitous Feral
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 19:36
I want to learn how, I will go to the movies with full armor!  This may be the best thing since real armor!

I am a Machine.

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2011 at 19:44
Aluminum weighs about 1/3rd as much as steel, but is a "dirty" metal.  "Bright Aluminum" is a chemically cleaned variant that only leaves tiny traces of residue unless worn for a long time in direct contact with oil/skin, and is still very cheap.

Stainless steal isn't nearly as bright/shiny, but has a very pleasing darker gleam and is still relatively affordable to use in large projects.  But the weight can be a problem, at least for larger pieces.  At "jewlery-scale" it tends not to make a significant difference.

The tie, being all-aluminum, is quite light and comfortable to wear all day (about the same as a normal tie, anyway).  The collar uses tiny 19g rings inside the larger aluminum ones, and those are stainless steel.  I thought at first that this might be important for structural integrity--aluminum wire is weaker and more elastic which makes it unsuitable for large (inner diameter) rings in small gauge (wire thickness)--and so I made a patch with aluminum inner rings and another with stainless steel.  Strength turned out to (probably) not have been an issue, but the stainless steel still looked better due to the contrast and lower visibility of inner rings.  It is a bit heavy, but no more than enough to feel its presence.  It doesn't even move the needle on a bathroom scale, and I don't have a kitchen scale on hand.

My wife has at times preferred items crafted from stainless steel, for their sturdy, hefty feel.  For a rugged/gritty look you can use galvanized steel instead.  Galvy is a good starting material since you can just pop into the hardware store and grab some hanging wire (and tin snips for cutters, dowels for coiling mandrels, and a couple pairs of jewler's flat-nose pliers).  It's a cheap, low-cost way to find out if the hobby is for you.

I also do various other bits of jewlery...I've done some two-tone cuffs (aluminum and copper) an inlay (sheet with "Home Sweet Home" printed with copper), several various simple and elaborate chains and bracelets, and a few earrings--these being the most popular: - -
Given their popularity, I may make a bunch and try to sell them.  Some of the work is annoyingly finnicky, but it's still a small job so I could actually make a decent return.  I also made a wide belt with the same gracelock weave as the tie--that took forever.  Just for a point of reference, I'd have to charge around $600 for the tie if I were going to produce it commercially.  90% of that cost is labor at minimum wage.

My primary passion is for much larger pieces that piece together a colorful variety of weaves and chains--but that's a story for another day, when my ~40,000 ring (yes, that's forty-thousand rings) masterpiece is finished (soon).

Posted By: Brids17
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 01:06
Originally posted by HonoredMule HonoredMule wrote:

I present the dragonscale collar

As cool as that looks, I can just imagine how cold the first 15 minutes of wearing it would be. At least if you wore it on bare skin.

Though it's clear if I ever want some form of chain mail, I'm going to have to make it myself. Unless I get a really high paying job I suppose. Is this type of stuff difficult to do or is it just time consuming? I've been looking for hobbies lately since I recently realized I don't really have any and since you mentioned the magic words (cheap, low-cost) it's something I could possible see myself at least trying.

Originally posted by HonoredMule HonoredMule wrote:

My primary passion is for much larger pieces that piece together a colorful variety of weaves and chains--but that's a story for another day, when my ~40,000 ring (yes, that's forty-thousand rings) masterpiece is finished (soon).

I can't wait to see pictures of that. I'm assuming you're making it out of aluminum? I can't imagine wearing something large like that out of steel, though I suppose back when it was used in combat that's what it'd have been made of.

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 01:45
At the "jewlery scale," the coldness isn't much of an issue.  It's when you try to drape something over your whole chest that you get a chill and your skin salutes everywhere.  When I get my wife to do fittings for the big thing I'm making, I have to leave it on a heater before she can stand it.

However cold, though, there's not enough material to stay cold for more than 2-3 minutes, even in the heaviest designs.  If something just wraps around a neck, wrist, or waist, you can probably just slap it on and get over the shivers in 5 seconds.

As to difficulty level, I can't say for sure.  I find it easy and just time-consuming, but my wife and best friend struggle with doing even simple jobs.  You have to have dextrous fingers and it does take some strength training before your hands can manage to work for more than a couple minutes without fatigue.  There's a wide variety of potential complexity in the weaves themselves as well.  Some weaves (especially persian-based ones) are a mind-bender to learn.  But if you learn some basic concepts and are patient/perseverant, weaves become steadily more familiar and comfortable.

In addition to being the cheapest material, bright aluminum is also one of the easiest.  It cuts like butter and the rings are easy to twist open and "over-extend" for a tight closure.  I can weave with 1/4" 18g bright aluminum all day.  And the cuts made by tin snips are some of the highest quality possible IF you make sure not to squeeze the handle too far past the cutting point--that warps the ring.  I wired a piece of steel mandrel behind the hinge of my pair so the blades couldn't close too far. - is a good place to start learning, and rates the difficulty of the weaves it teaches.  There are literally hundreds of weaves (though most of them aren't capable of forming sheets), and after you know the foundational weave types, you can start inventing your own.  Of course the chances of inventing a really good one (in terms of structural properties and usefulness) are slim.

Word of caution though:  making your own hooks, clasps, etc. is definitely hard.  It takes a lot of practice, and never stops being a trial.  For chains, lobster claws are cheap and probably worth the investment.  I can get nickel-plated ones in bulk at 5 cents each.  But for bands or other more elaborate projects, you're probably going to need something custom-designed.  Even when something standard is suitable, that something standard tends to be significantly more expensive and not as elegant a solution.

Posted By: Lord Jon Flamont
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 05:20
I tried to make chain mail using steel wire and solder, however I found that the process of winding the wire around a dowel and cutting it was immensley time consuming and difficult. The mail turned out okay, but nowhere near as shiny or neat as your work. I eventually gave up after a weeks work, when I had made a hankercheif-sized peice. I congratulate you on your perseverance.

Lord Jon Flamont
Master of Peace
the Threefold Path

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 07:05
Oh yeah, you don't want to be making your own rings for very long without a good drill.  Coiling even with a drill can still take some practice, and it helps to have a mount for the wire spool since you'll need one hand on the drill and another on the mandrel.  You can make frames so that your drill and mandrel are like a lathe, but rigid mounts wreck the drill and mandrels aren't straight or strong enough for smooth operation.

Material and tool quality counts for a lot, as well as knowing what ring sizes are appropriate for the wire you're using, and how to open and close the rings properly (mainly, twist and don't spread).

Posted By: KillerPoodle
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 16:33
Next up - chain mail lingerie  :)

Posted By: Painterman
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 16:41
$600 is to steap for my wallet now, but I'd say its worth every cent:)
I really hope you will post you big project aswell.

"To go against human nature is the most human thing a human can do." Larry Niven

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 20:02
Actually, you got me thinking.  I reviewed my old notes, rough-counted the rings and crunched some numbers, and I think $500 is closer to the mark--though still very much a ballpark figure.  Working from an existing template might even enhance productivity enough to shave it down to $400, but that could just be fanciful optimism.  I did originally spend a lot of time working out the smoothly tapered borders, the question is whether it's any easier to copy than it was to get right the first time, and that's actually hard to say.  Of course $400 is still much more than most inquirers will pay, but you're not the first person to express interest in having one either.

I plan on eventually making another one in colored rings for myself, and keeping an accurate inventory-use/labor log so I can better estimate the cost.  I'm also thinking of making a narrow-style tie in (glossy/chrome) black rings using the same dragonscale weave as the collar, which would be actually less work than the collar was--and much less work than the gracelock tie.  Even discounting the tapering of a tie, before curving the collar was about 35% longer than a generously-long tie, and I'd estimate its worth around $200.  I don't know if people will be as interested in a narrow tie--they certainly work for - Neal Caffrey (guy on the left).  But if they are, I can at least offer some nice two-tone effects and pricing in a range more typical for ties (probably around $150).  Even though the narrow tie would be significantly smaller, the real savings is in weave-time per square inch.  Gracelock is significantly slower to assemble--even using the accelerated technique I worked out--and dragonscale doesn't need nearly so much work on cleaning up the edges.  The edge is already smooth, and "for anti-aliasing" I'd just taper down the size of the outermost outside rings over a few rows.

The big thing isn't even worth estimating at this point.  I've been working on it for months, and the 40k ring count doesn't even begin to account for the time spent tweaking piece shapes, joining seams between differently-woven pieces, making adjustments, and learning how to make/extend various sheet and chain weaves more efficiently.  When it is done, I will try to get a more accurate ring count by measuring liquid displacement--all rings are the exact same shape/size, but not weight, because it is a mix of aluminum and copper.

Posted By: Painterman
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2011 at 22:14
Have you taken into consideration the kind of meterials you are useing and the marketpricing for this kind of jewelry from pros? Market price is more important then the actual labor. Being an artist is a low pay job. Often below minimum vage.

"To go against human nature is the most human thing a human can do." Larry Niven

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 16 Apr 2011 at 03:43
Short version:  More like (see bold text below)

Long version:

Regarding cost of materials, the price can only go up.  To be clear though, it's purely a question of material rarity as opposed to the quality of the finished work.  Silver is the most common jewelry material, and it's actually too soft to be a very good material for maille.  Stainless steel is actually almost as good as you can get in terms of functional material quality, especially strength and scratch resistance.  You can only do slightly better, by paying 14 times more for titanium.

Sometimes market price is more important than actual labor cost, but in this case there is no market price.  There is simply no market.  A few people set up shop in renaissance fairs and charge thousands for shirts made out of plain old (and possibly machine-generated) E4-in-1.  If you see a larger intricate piece (something made with thicker weaves, more variety, and possibly custom-tailored), it'll probably be on some babe at comicon (or similar convention) who's husband made it for her, or be part of some performer's costume, made by the wearer.  I've only once ever even heard of something more elaborate than basic sheet being commissioned, and that was theringlord (large wire/material shop that also sells basic E4-1 sheet) making a scale-maille costume for "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Film."  And even that was basically just E4-1 with scales attached, in flat sheet cuts stitched together.

People who sell their work online only do jobs of a tiny nature (necklaces, earrings, etc. in tiny weaves and low ring counts) which hides the structural flimsiness of gold-plated, silver, and especially brass wire, allows fusing the rings with cheap tools, and cuts down on labor as well.  Typical pieces will have around 20-80 rings and sell for $30-$100, and in these cases the material is worth maybe 1/3rd that.  Thus the material cost becomes a larger part of the equation, and their market can sustain more equitable pricing--which in this case is typically 20-30% more than cost of materials plus labor, unless the artisan is somewhat renowned.  And if you actually sell your stuff, you absolutely do have to factor in markup over the wage you expect to live on, or there'll be a lot of ugly surprises from unexpected overhead.

That's as close as anyone can come to commoditizing chain maille.  If artists tried to sell finer, more intricate large pieces at what any kind of general market would bear, they'd be working for somewhere between 1/4 and 1/10th minimum wage, assuming materials were free.  So while I'm open to paid work, and do look for opportunities to make something cool that will sell at its worth, I won't do the starving artist thing.  I can make 2-3 times minimum wage as a programmer even in a junior position.  And while I enjoy weaving as a relaxing thing to do, I won't push for productivity and struggle to meet deadlines for less than an equitable return.  I'd rather work at the relaxing pace that makes me want to do this in the first place, and get to keep the cool stuff when I'm done.

Posted By: Painterman
Date Posted: 16 Apr 2011 at 14:14
Sounds like a smart choice. At once you start going pro you loose some of the fun in it. Hobbies are under rated (at least here in Norway). Anywho, keep up the good work:)

"To go against human nature is the most human thing a human can do." Larry Niven

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 16 Apr 2011 at 16:57
Originally posted by KillerPoodle KillerPoodle wrote:

Next up - chain mail lingerie  :)
I have firmly gained the opinion that maille and lace go together way better than leather and lace. Of course in practice it's quite difficult for the two materials to coexist, so I just do dainty/lacy weaves with tiny rings.

Posted By: Shadar Logoth
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2011 at 15:37
All I can say is... respect Thumbs Up
Had the pleasure of talking to HM about various subjects before. Knew him to be a well versed man. But man, you blow my mind once again!
Actually today I talked to someone who said something wise, at least in my eyes Pig 
So you guys can decide for yourself if you read any trueth in this...
We were talking about a certain topic, and then he said it was the 20%/80% rule...
20% of the people have 80% of the hobbies...
Not stirring up a conversation. But hell... HM if any of this is true this must surely apply to you m8 Geek
(lol last smiley was a joke, meant as a show of respect Evil Smile
Again... my respect.
That chain and lace stuff sounds good to... u got a private address for orders ??? Cool

More Orc, less talking!

All that is said is my own opinion. I am not a leader nor voice for Invictus. I will always abide by Invictus's rules.

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 18 Apr 2011 at 22:50
Still needing some change of pace from the big project, I've started on another tie using the dragonscale weave as I mentioned above.  I have just over 1/3rd of the main piece done, which is about 1/4 of the work.  I'm quite pleased with how the idea of using graduated ring sizes worked out, so here's a preview showing that: - -

Posted By: lokifeyson
Date Posted: 20 May 2011 at 00:10
very cool :)

so when can i order a white gold mail tie? :)


Posted By: kicking5251
Date Posted: 20 May 2011 at 00:48
so your master piece will be ready soon(TM)

I can't wait.......

tie looks very cool   Cool

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 20 May 2011 at 04:14
Oh, hey. Tongue

I actually did finish the new tie design ages ago, and took some new crappy pictures of my wife and I wearing them and various other pieces I did (including the collar).  I guess I'll have to post them some time.  At the moment, I'm hard at work writing HarmlessButler 2.0, which will be a huge technological advancement beyond the first.

Posted By: Kumomoto
Date Posted: 20 May 2011 at 19:22
Hugely impressive, HM!

Posted By: SirTwitchy
Date Posted: 21 May 2011 at 14:27
I have a Hauberk I crafted years ago, weighs in at 17lbs, took over 1800 linear feet of 16 gauge galvanized wire and 3 weeks solid to make, I still have my custom made mandrel and winder somewhere. The callouses on my hands finally went away LOL.  Its a big hit at the Ren Fairs and on Halloween. But it is tiresome to wear for more than a few hours at a time.....

please disregard the twitch, the meds haven't kicked in yet...

Posted By: Rannuir
Date Posted: 05 Jun 2011 at 18:09
Shoot I love the earrings!! Wish I knew how to make my own but if you sell them I'd buy! :)

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 30 Jun 2011 at 00:53
I finished the maille teddy a few days ago.  I have lots of pictures this time, so rather than posting a whole bunch of links I threw them up on a drupal installation I had kicking around.  The gallery is viewable here:" rel="nofollow -

I'll eventually put up some galleries for the other work I've done, including the new tie, which I did get around to photographing in in an outdoor daylight setting (along with the original one and some other pieces).  The final edge tapering on the dragonscale tie is also much better now than the early shots showed.

My next big project will be a corset I had planned for quite some time.

Posted By: Kurfist
Date Posted: 30 Jun 2011 at 01:31
Bow Chicka Wow Wow

Patience is a virtue, resource giving is a sin

Posted By: HonoredMule
Date Posted: 30 Oct 2011 at 08:54
I've just added 20 new galleries to the site which I guess is now dedicated to my maille work (" rel="nofollow - ).  Perhaps eventually I'll actually put a little effort into site design, but for now it's a decent recap of my finished chain maille projects.

I currently have 2 huge projects on the go and coming out beautifully.  I've made a couple more ties now too, and I'm getting much more efficient at them.  I believe I could now equitably sell either design for about $200+shipping+material upgrades (i.e. if you want something other than bright aluminum).  If anyone's seriously interested, feel free to drop me a message.  Of course if it has to be shipped overseas, it's probably still not worth it.

"Apparently, quoting me is a 'thing' now."
- HonoredMule

Posted By: GM Luna
Date Posted: 30 Oct 2011 at 14:51
Really amazing stuff! I love the earrings. :)


GM Luna | Illyriad Community Manager |

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