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Make a suit of chain-mail armor

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

armor_main2.jpgTwo leather-clad warriors face each other, swords drawn. Suddenly one of the warriors attacks, his swinging sword clanging loudly against the defending warrior’s. Back and forth they cut and parry, the meadow ringing from impacts. Suddenly the attacker sees an opening and takes a swing he knows will surely cut his opponent in two. His sword slices through his enemy’s leather clothing—but strikes metal instead of flesh! Stunned but far from dead, the attacked warrior says a silent prayer of thanks to the armorer who had saved his life by making him a coat of chain mail.

The Scouts in BSA Troop 324 at European Command Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, don’t plan on being in any sword fights. But making their own suit of chain-mail armor can transport them to the days of shining knights, if only for one fun afternoon. Here’s how you can join them.

You’ll Need:

• two 500-foot rolls of 14-gauge copper wire

• electric drill with 3⁄4-inch bit and 1⁄8-inch bit

• wire cutters

• hammer and nails (long enough to secure wood together)

• wood saw

• wood glue

• 3-foot-long wooden dowel, 3⁄4-inch in diameter

• 7 feet of lumber

• adult’s help and/or permission

armor_step1_2.jpgSTEP ONE: Build a Wooden Rack

A rack or frame will make it easier to produce the many rings needed in a shirt of chain mail.

1. Cut the lumber into three 1-foot-long pieces and two 2-foot-long pieces. Set one 1-foot piece aside.

2. Through the center of two 1-foot pieces, drill a 3⁄4-inch hole. Move the drill bit around to make the holes slightly larger, so the 3⁄4-inch dowel easily slides through.

3. Build the rectangular rack with the two 2-foot pieces and two 1-foot pieces with holes.

4. Slide the dowel through both holes.

STEP TWO: Add a Crank

1. Cut 6 inches off the wooden dowel.

2. Drill two 3⁄4-inch holes into the 1-foot piece of lumber set aside in Step One. Drill the first hole about 2 inches from one end, the other hole about 4 inches from the other end.

3. Take the longer dowel piece and glue into the hole drilled 2 inches from one end.

4. Take the 6-inch dowel piece and glue it into the hole drilled 4 inches from the end, on the opposite side of the lumber. This will be your crank handle.

5. Insert the crank fully into the rack. It should turn easily. About 1 inch from the inside edge of the rack, drill a 1⁄8-inch hole through the center of the dowel.

6. Set aside to let glue dry.

STEP THREE: Ring, Ring, Ring

armor_step3_1.jpg1. Insert one end of the wire into the hole in the dowel and begin turning the crank. Keep turning until the entire length of the dowel has a single layer of tight wire coil. Cut the wire from the roll.

armor_step3_2.jpg2. Cut the piece of wire that was inserted into the hole to begin the coil. Now you should be able to slide out the crank from the coil and the rack, leaving you with a coil of wire. Slightly stretch the coil.

armor_step3_3.jpg3. Cut the rings from the coil. This should leave you a pile of rings that are just barely open. Make more coils and cut more rings.

armor_step3_41.jpg4. Take 4 rings and twist the 2 ends together to make a closed ring. Put these 4 solid rings onto a fifth ring and close this fifth ring so you have a group of 5, four rings on one. This “fiver” is the basic building block for the chain mail armor.

5. Make a large pile of fivers. Also keep a large group of slightly open single rings. When you have a good pile of each, it’s time to begin building the armor.

STEP FOUR: Knitting the Shirt

armor_step4_1.jpg1. Take a fiver and lay it flat, moving 2 rings to the top of the center ring and 2 rings to the bottom. Do the same with another fiver and position it below the first fiver.

armor_step4_2.jpg2. Take a single open ring and link the bottom 2 rings of the top fiver to the bottom 2 rings of the bottom fiver. This single ring now links 4 other rings, just like the fivers you have already made. Close this open ring. Even at this early point the rings should

show a pattern, tilted up and tilted down as they rest upon each other. Add 2 more fivers to form a strip of four fivers. Make another strip of 4 fivers.

armor_step4_3.jpg3. Lay a fiver strip flat to the right side of the first fiver strip. Take a single open ring to link the right 2 rings of the top left hand fiver in the strip to the left 2 rings of the top fiver in the right-hand strip. Continue to link the fivers as shown.

4. Hold up the linked fabric. You can “scrunch” the fabric easily in only one direction. Continue to build a large rectangular fabric. The direction of “scrunchiness” goes about the waist.

5. Once the fabric can comfortably circle your torso, with some slack, attach the 2 edges to form a cylinder.

6. Make two strips, at least 3 groups wide, that will attach to the top of the shirt. These will go over your shoulders. When you are done you should be able to put the shirt of chain mail over your head and have adequate area for your arms.

7. Small cylinders of links can be added to make sleeves. Links can also be added to lengthen the shirt, or different colored metal links can be added to decorate the bottom edge of the shirt.

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50 Comments on Make a suit of chain-mail armor

  1. little eagle // October 15, 2007 at 7:12 pm // Reply

    Challenging but fun!

  2. we are making it out of key chain wire so we dont have to bend wire

  3. ill love to try this im only11. me and my dad are really instrested in midevle time stuff so we are working on it

  4. Gary The Great!! // October 3, 2007 at 1:40 pm // Reply

    Another presintaion of greatness

  5. i wanna tryit but i dont have any wire like that.

    i am working on some that is made out of paper clips

  6. try to make chian gloves or a helm

  7. do you know how much copper is i hope we get a title like lord or king

  8. it makes me look like King Arthor from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

  9. When you are making the chain mail try hanging it from string . This helps alot.

  10. sounds much less complicated than the other sites i tried

  11. JarJarTheSith // August 30, 2007 at 5:50 pm // Reply

    King K. Rule Kool! 😀

  12. I love it! I like knights and other things to do with knights. My brother is also working with my dad to make a wooden sword. That reminds me…




    P.S. I don’t remember making the smiley face message.

    P.P.S. I also don’t remember making the Eagle Scout message.

  13. Scout of NY // August 28, 2007 at 6:10 pm // Reply

    this is a great idea=] Ill have to try it soon




  14. i’d recommend using galvanized steel wire instead, it’s easier to get a hold of and 3/4 inch rings are way too big. 5/8 or 1/2 at the most.

    also you can make jewelry out of maile as well. It can be masculine or delicate and suitable for giving to your lady.

  15. Does the instructions come with a “title” as in Sir, or Lord of….. and BTW do you know the cost of a 500 foot roll of copper wire? Heaps …Oh well we can only wish

  16. does anyone remember what month magazine had the Eagle scout prjects in it?

    It was like… four pages I think.

    If anyone can tell me what month or what the cover looked like I would REALLY appreciate it.


  17. i want his sword not really lol

  18. I love medieval armor and weapons I might try it

  19. mitchellea4 // August 5, 2007 at 11:03 pm // Reply

    ive seen better instructions

  20. It looks pretty neat I might try it.

  21. dudetron 9000 // August 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm // Reply

    looks good, but it would take way too long. also, i think there could be a better way to make the coils, say, wrap it around your fingers.

    P.S. Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines! 🙂

  22. Marylandmama // August 2, 2007 at 11:23 am // Reply

    This is great. I know people who would buy these for the Renaisance festival in their state. What a money maker for a scout who got good at making these. Thanks for the wonderful idea.

  23. I think you should be knighted for this Mark

  24. chrysaetos // August 1, 2007 at 7:59 pm // Reply

    i mean it works, but you need pliers.

  25. that sounds cool but would take a while

  26. i dont agree with karl any chanmail would ave not broken but if you were a knight and you only had chain armor if you got stabed you were a goner

  27. troop 17 champs // August 1, 2007 at 10:25 am // Reply

    thats sweet

    im deffinatly gonna try it this summer

  28. karl franz // July 31, 2007 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    i love anything to do with medievel armour and weopons. this is a great idea! i just dont have the time or meterials to make the chainmail. oh and sadly most chainmail was not biult strongly enought to withstand a full on blow like the story says.

  29. Sweet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is cool!! 🙂

  30. it looks cool! mayby i will do it! =]

  31. if my parents let me i will try it

  32. I think it looks sort of dorky and it takes to long

  33. i don’t think thats very fun!

  34. im gonna try it even though it takes 2 long:

  35. is this what knights used to wear?

  36. Da random kid // July 28, 2007 at 4:10 pm // Reply

    Sounds like fun

  37. only someone as cool as NIVEK // July 28, 2007 at 2:29 pm // Reply

    I agree w/ practically everyone else. It looks AWESOME! but I don’t have the time.

  38. looks fun and cool, is it strong?

  39. Dwight Eisen // July 26, 2007 at 3:13 pm // Reply


  40. Derrick, Age 10, Florida // July 26, 2007 at 11:41 am // Reply

    I did this with my dad, over a week! It does take a long time, but once you have it, it’s really cool and makes a great Halloween costume. There was no way I could have done this by myself, and I’m 10 years old. If it was easier, I bet other boys would try it too! 🙂 😉 🙁 ;(

  41. it would take long becus // July 26, 2007 at 7:35 am // Reply

    it would take long

  42. I think this sounds great but I think I will try it with paper clips!

  43. tight!!

  44. Riley Caplin // July 24, 2007 at 9:39 am // Reply

    its must take i long time to do it 🙁

  45. wow that sounds REALLY cool

  46. Trevty1995 // July 24, 2007 at 7:40 am // Reply

    Looks like fun but I don’t have enough time to do it.

  47. awesome person // July 23, 2007 at 11:40 pm // Reply

    it would b 2 time consuming although it would b cool 2 have one

  48. looks fun

  49. takes 2 longggggggggggggggg!!!!!!!!!!!

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