When it comes to chainmail or chain maille, the two most important factors in its construction, use and appearance are the rings and the craftsmanship. The type of rings used also play a large role in the aesthetics and specifications of chainmail. Ring type is based on three different qualities: the metal from which the rings are composed, whether the rings are flattened and the type of rivets used to close and connect them.
As a matter of presumption, all chainmail is composed of a type of metal. While plastics could be used today, most people want a product that is as authentic to historical chainmail as possible. While most chainmail was made of steel, several other metals were used historically and several others have come into use in the modern era. Some types of metal used today are mild or high tensile steel, bronze, brass, silver, titanium and aluminum. You can learn more about the different ring metals used for chainmail in the first blog of this series.
Flattened Rings and Rivets
Once a material for chainmail is chosen, the armorer must decide how the rings will be worked and riveted. Some types of armor use the round rings as they are, but in other types, the rings are flattened with a hammer or a press. Neither has any clear advantage over the other, assuming they are both expertly crafted. The choice is primarily one of personal taste.
When using flat rings, the armorer has a choice of two different types of rivets: round rivets or wedge rivets. However, round rings can only accommodate round rivets.
Round rivets hold the two ends of the ring together by drilling a hole through them and inserting a small length of hard wire with a round head, such as a pin or nail. The rivet is then squeezed together tightly until it is locked into place.
Flat ring wedge rivets are wedge-shaped pieces of metal rather than round wire. The small end of the wedge is inserted through the holes in the ends of the ring, and it is locked into place with a specially designed pair of pliers.
A great example of flat ring wedge rivets can be found on our BK Large Medieval Chainmail Collar. This kind of chainmail ring is much more authentic than the flat ring round rivets but it takes a little longer to make.
Rounded Rings and Dome Rivets
Chainmail rings often come in a rounded form. They are circular in nature and can be linked in different patterns to create a full chainmail item. Dome rivetted chainmail is highly economical while also offering reasonable authenticity.
This kind of chainmail boasts rings that are twisted or butted together. There are no rivets to connect the rings. It is typically available in mild steel, aluminum or high tensile steel.
When choosing your rings to either make your own chainmail or to just purchase the right kind of ringed chainmail for your event, make sure to take into account what you are using it for, how comfortable you’d like it to be and the strength of protection you will receive.
In part three of our series on chainmail, we will dive further into ring size, wire gauge and how the two relate to the construction and practicality of the armor.