Making chainmail rings

Ok, so you now have a big stack of bare copper 12 gauge wire.

Let’s make some rings out of it.

The secret to this step is a dowel the size of the opening that you want in your circle.

For my chainmail, I chose a 3/8″ diameter rod. I chose aluminum.

dowel

dowel

So, I bought a 12″ long piece of 3/8″ diameter aluminum. You could probably use wood if you wanted. I figured aluminum was pretty cheap, and would last forever.

You have to drill a hole pretty close to one end that is big enough for the wire to slip through. The rod will be chucked into a cordless drill so leave enough metal to fit into the drill chuck then drill the hole.

drilled hole

drilled hole

chucked up

chucked up

The rod is placed in the drill with the hole end close to the drill. Put the end of the bare wire through the drilled hole. Leave a small bit sticking out.

slowly

slowly

Slowly and very carefully turn the drill. It should begin to wrap the wire around the rod. Guide the wire so it coils around the rod right beside the last coil.

nice and neat

nice and neat

See how we are making coils of wire around the rod? Be careful of the little piece of wire that is sticking out so it doesn’t cut you. Hold the long end of the wire with enough tension to keep it straight. Your first time will feel strange. Once you do a few it gets a lot easier. Keep coiling the wire onto the rod until you run out of wire. Once you get close the end it is easier to leave about 6″ and not coil it. The end gets a little dangerous as it spins around. Just coil until you think you are losing control of the wire a little bit, then stop and just cut off the waste. It is better to waste a little bit rather than get hurt.

finished piece

finished piece

If you left any wire sticking out, cut that off. It will look like the image above, a piece of bare wire neatly wrapped around a dowel.

Take your wire cutters (diagonal cutters) and cut the wire where it goes through the drilled hole.

cut

cut

Once you cut this, the coil is free to slide off of the dowel.

one coil

one coil

You end up with a nice little spring looking coil.

trim

trim

Take your cutters and cut off any end piece that is still on to form a perfect little coil from end to end. Now the fun part, cutting the rings.

Take your cutters and cut one wire at a time as your progress down the coil.

cut the rings

cut the rings

And like magic, rings will appear. Keep cutting one coil at a time. Each cut will make one ring. For a chainmail shirt, you will need 10,000 rings. Yes, 10,000 rings.

rings

rings

I use diagonal cutters (wire cutters) to cut my rings. It is quick, easy, but leaves a pinched end. I have also tried using a dremel tool with a spinning cut off blade to the cut the coils. The dremel tool makes really nice cuts but makes tons of copper dust, and takes a lot longer.

cutters

cutters

Save your rings for later.

11 done

11 done

So, this is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. I found it best to strip some wire for awhile, coil some wire for awhile, cut some rings for awhile, and mix it up. If you do any one task too long at a time, it feels boring and your muscles get tired.

Go ahead, make a few rings, have some fun.

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