Ancient history

The right rings for your chainmail

Last updated:2022-07-25

If you buy chain armor, but also if you buy individual rings in order to make your own chainmail armor, you can choose from a variety of rings. Making the wrong choice here could be fatal. If you knot it yourself, then you put a lot of sweat and time into it. If you buy a ready-made chain mesh, it is comparatively expensive. Accordingly, it is desirable that you end up with exactly the ring quality that you need. But enough talking, let's take a close look at the rings.

What is the difference between the chain rings?

Chain braids differ in the processing of the rings. You can decide according to the following criteria:

  • Material (carbon steel, aluminum, spring steel)
  • Coating (uncoated, galvanized, black oxide)
  • Inner diameter of the rings (6mm, 8mm, 9mm)
  • shape (flat, round, mixed) and
  • Closure technology (riveted with wedge or round rivets, punched or not riveted)

Depending on what you intend to do with your mail, some properties will be more appropriate, some less so.

The Material

First of all:if you are striving for an authentic representation, you should opt for uncoated carbon steel. It doesn't matter whether you knot it yourself or buy a ready-made chain armor. We'll go over the pros and cons of other materials and coatings below, but we'll refrain from repeating that it's not authentic.

Spring steel has the advantage that it hardly tends to rust and hardly changes even when subjected to great force. If you want to knot chain mail yourself, please consider that you need more strength to bend the rings. It's not impossible, but it will definitely take you longer.

Aluminum, on the other hand, is a very light metal. For comparison, an aluminum Haubergeon weighs 4.2 kg, while a steel one weighs 10.2 kg. If you like the look, you could wear aluminum ring mesh in LARP, for example, because its reduced weight makes it more comfortable to wear over a longer period of time. But even with LARP, you should find out whether chain armor made of aluminum fits into the genre. You don't have to be a qualified historian to see from afar that the material is not historical. If necessary, make sure in your camp or with the game management.

The Ring Coating

As already mentioned, historically correct would be an uncoated chainmail. If you wear it regularly, oil it from time to time and otherwise take good care of it, you shouldn't have any problems with rust. You can find helpful tips on how to care for your chain mail in our blog post.

Galvanized chain mesh is less prone to rust, but you can tell from afar that it belongs to modern times, to put it mildly. Please note that galvanized armor parts should not be in contact with the skin, especially when there is increased sweat production. If you tie your chain armor with galvanized rings, make sure to only touch the rings with pliers or use gloves. Hands tend to sweat a little when knotting, which is not the best combination in terms of zinc.

A brief chemistry digression: There are people who try to dezincify their mail every now and then. To put it bluntly, that's not a good idea. When burned, zinc gases are released, which are very toxic. If you put your zinc shirt in acid, hydrogen is produced as a by-product, which is also a toxic gas. Quite apart from the fact that the result usually looks modest.

Blued rings look great and the coating protects slightly against rust. They rub off a bit, but that's usually not a big problem. Incidentally, you also have a slight discoloration with uncoated steel because small iron particles come loose. This is completely normal and gives your gambeson the right patina.

The shape of the chain rings

The term shape tends to lead to confusion, because it doesn't mean the entire ring shape - this is generally round. No, rather it describes the cross-section of the wire. There are round and flat wire shapes. Most rings are made in a similar way:first wormed and then cut. The round rings are then finished, whereas the flat rings are then hammered flat. Depending on the type of closure, further work steps follow. So much for the basic knowledge.

Opinions differ as to which form is better, so we would like to give just a few impulses at this point.

If you are striving for a historically correct representation, then you should research which finds were made for your region and in your chronological context. There are corresponding reconstructions for both ring shapes. Maybe you can already make a decision.

Flat rings also withstand more because the force can be distributed over a larger area. But these rings are also more difficult to process if you want to tie a chain mail yourself.

In addition, many performers prefer the flat shape because it fits the body more comfortably. However, we have also heard the opposite opinion. It's best if you try on both and see for yourself which faction you belong to. Perhaps you will find different shapes among your comrades in the entourage and can try them out. You are always welcome in our shop in Wacken.

The inner diameter of the chain rings

The most common inner diameters (short:ID) are 6 mm (especially in the Roman braid), 8 mm and 9 mm. If you knot yourself, you should keep in mind that smaller diameters are more difficult to knot. For some patterns they even seem completely unsuitable, for example the 6-in-1 pattern, since the connecting link can then hardly be closed without cramping.

The smaller the inner diameter, the tighter the chain mesh. Although more rings are used, the result is more stable. On the other hand, the wire thickness has more of an influence on the weight. With the Roman braid, a thinner wire can be used due to the small ID of 6mm. A Lorica Hamata is therefore about 1/3 lighter without the braid losing its protective effect.

The method of closure in the chainmail

We summarize the closure methods again:

  • Unriveted Rings:These are rings that are simply bent. They are quite cheap, can be processed relatively quickly, but are not very durable.
  • Stamped Rings:As the name suggests, these rings are stamped from the whole, so they cannot be opened. They are mostly used in combination with riveted rings.
  • Riveted rings:The rings are closed in the chain mesh using a wedge rivet or a round rivet.

Finds of chain armor consisting exclusively of rings that have not been riveted (i.e. only bent over) are truly rare and even there opinions differ as to whether they are forge-welded or not. We're not making judgments here, but recommend either going for all-riveted armor, or at least using alternating rows of riveted and stamped rings. Because the fact is that riveted rings can withstand much more. So if you plan to throw yourself into battle with it, such a chain mesh offers you much more protection and it does not have to be constantly patched.

You should consider a little more carefully if you tie the chain mesh for your ring armor yourself. The arguments are the same, but now you have to balance them with the effort. It is a bit more complicated and takes a little longer to rivet the rings. On the other hand, mixing them in alternating rows with punched rings saves you a bit of effort. If you are absolutely undecided, it is best to create a small square with both closure methods. Then you can better estimate the difference in workload.

You can find an overview of our available rings in this PDF:


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