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A Short, Informal History Of Chainmail

©2000
David H. Coder

Write for permission to copy.

Short History of Chainmail

And the methods and madness therein.

Chainmail has been used as a protective armor as far back 400 BC, and may have been used even earlier still. The oldest chainmail comes from Celtic graves. Rusty masses were found in these graves, and it is believed that they were chainmail. Historical accounts of chainmail can be found in many places, including the Bayeaux Tapestry. This tapestry depicts warriors Soldiers in Chainmail from Bayeaux Tapestrystripping the fallen enemies of their mail during battle. This not only serves as a window into the period in which chainmail was commonly used, it shows the great value inherent in even the common warrior's mail.

Chainmail was quickly phased out with the invention of plate mail and hardened steel. Plate mail was a better protector of the vital organs, and offered a different sort of design flexibility for the blacksmith. Beautiful details could be etched on the new plate mail, and many saw it as a way to showcase their artistic talents. Still many warriors chose to wear chainmail underneath their plate mail, as chainmail was comfortable and did not chafe.

We at Knotwork Links Chainmail try to preserve that level of perfection and great value with our modern chainmail pieces. Each is hand made, from the purchase of the wire up to and including the finishing polish. Wire is hand wound around a steel dowel, creating a sort of spring. This spring is the cut apart by hand, making the individual links, which are used in various patterns. These links are then closed by hand, using two pair of heavy duty or needle nose pliers. The final polish is applied after a vigorous machine driven scrub. The end product is one filled with much love and dedication.

The word chainmail is derived from the French word "maille", which means knitting, and the Latin word "macula", which means mesh. In the course of history, chainmail has been called many different things: linkmail, ringmail, meshmail, metal fabric, or simply mail. Chainmail has also been spelled many different ways: chainmail, chainmaille, chain-maille, and chain-mail. These examples show the worldliness of chainmail, and how far spread it was in its use.

machine made butcher's gloveChainmail is so versatile and functional that it is still widely used today as a protective shield. Butchers use chainmail and leather gloves to prevent deep gouges from stray blades. Shark divers use chainmail body suits and gloves to protect against a fatal shark bite. And Renaissance festival goers everywhere see chainmail as a way to show off good taste and high style, while still enjoying the comfort and flexibility of the renaissance lifestyle.


Further historical information concerning chainmail


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