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How I Came to Maille


Okay, here goes...

I got interesting in everything medieval or renaissance at a very early age, as long as I can remember it played some part in my life. I always liked the knight in shining armor fantasy. Of course I was always the knight. What little kid doesn't like the medieval? I don't know what drew me to armor itself, let alone chainmail, but I think I liked the look of chainmail much more than plate mail, and it was also a lot more accessible.

About 6 years ago I tried making chainmail myself. I used some wire I had hanging around and wrapped it around a pencil to make a spring. Trust me, at this point in my career it was a spring, not a coil. A coil entails a neatness and tightness which just wasn't there in the beginning. The wire itself was a horribly oxidized galvanized steel, probably around 18 or 20 gauge. The spring was about 2 inches long, with about half an inch of that length being taken up by gaps in the spring where I made coiling mistakes. After I was finished coiling, I cut it with some wire snips my dad had. Of course the cuts were horrible, burred, and overall very poor. But nonetheless they were...

My first links. 

I tried linking them up to make a cool piece of chainmail, but had no idea what I was doing. None at all. I ended up making a basic 2in1 chain, and attempted to attach that to another chain. In retrospect, I almost stumbled upon the basic Japanese 4in1 pattern. Even if I had successfully completed the pattern, I wouldn't have known it. I was that lost. So, not knowing where to look, I stopped. 

****Musical Interlude****

About 4 years later I went up to Stratford, Canada with my beautiful then-girlfriend Robyn. We Stayed in Stratford for a weekend or so with her sister and her sister's husband, and walked around town a lot. Stratford is a very medieval/renaissance town, taking it's inspiration from Stratford England. Everywhere there were kilt shops, armor shops, weapon shops, dress shops, art shops, you name it, they probably had it. There was also a chainmail shop up there, a small single room place with some beautiful chainmail on the walls. There were dresses, suits of armor, necklaces, bags, etc. I was amazed. Someone still did this stuff! I looked around at the thousands upon thousands of individual links assembled into masterpieces of craftsmanship. There was gold, silver, galvanized steel, brass, copper, and even some aluminum. It was heaven...

In the corner of the shop was a small table selling loose links and books about how to make chainmail. The books were obviously homemade, printed on a crappy dot matrix printer. There were 10 pages to each book, with card stock covers. A small start for a big idea. But it still thrilled me to have a source of direction for making chainmail.

I bought one of the books for about $12, and learned the basic European 4in1 pattern. The method taught in the book was very effective, but meant having to open and close most of the links 2-4 times. This seemed ridiculous. So I set about figuring out the pattern in a more in depth way, and eventually taught myself how to assemble maille link by link. I was ready for my first project.

Of course I chose a shirt. I was still new to the art, and didn't realize how much work this really was. Almost a year later I had completed my first project out of chainmail. The links were 16 gauge galvanized steel, and I still wear that shirt to this day. I'm going to keep it for as long as it'll last. It's my baby. I guess the rest is history, and I now have taught myself about 40 or so different patterns, and use 5 different ring sizes. I also use about 7 or so different wire sizes. My curiosity has turned into a full fledged obsession, more than that actually, a love. A love for something I can make by myself using a few simple tools and a lot of time, something which is mine and mine alone, until I share it with the world.

David H. F. Coder 2001


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