Period Maille

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Sir George of Evreux
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Period Maille

Postby Sir George of Evreux » Sat May 22, 2010 12:02 am

Hello all

Does anyone have any idea where I could get some info on 12th, 13th and/or 14th C maille? I'm interested in finding out how much dome riveted and wedge riveted was used/has survived from the periods and the size of links used (and if they are a solid and riveted mix or otherwise). I've heard that wedge riveted flat rings are right but havn't found any evidence for it yet.

I've only ever seen round rivet, roundish rings in the flesh, in pics (that show detail) or read about in articles but they may be 14th and 15th C possibly.

I've found details of one shirt (in an osprey) from 14th C from the museum of london with what looks like round-ish section links and using 1.3cm welded and riveted links (don't know what the rivets are like from the pic tho).

Anyone got any more info?

Thanks :)



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Phil the Grips » Sat May 22, 2010 12:05 am



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Re: Period Maille

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Re: Period Maille

Postby Bittersweet » Sun May 23, 2010 5:30 am

Try asking Mark at http://www.capapie.co.uk/index.html

He's done lots of research and talked to lots of people in the know about maille.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby zauberdachs » Mon May 24, 2010 12:55 pm

I've handled a fair bit of British maille (Kelvin Grove, National Museum of Scotland) and seen some very close up (Royal Armoury, Leeds). I Observed that throughout the earlier period maille was without exception dome riveted or dome/solid rings mixed. I've only ever seen wedge maille dated from the very late medieval.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Phil the Grips » Mon May 24, 2010 2:21 pm

Erik Schmidt, last I heard, puts the earliest wedge rivetted mail to be German and mid-1270s at the very earliest. It takes a lot of time for it to become prevalent seemingly.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Langley » Mon May 24, 2010 2:46 pm

Visit the Wallace collection and take a look at their current exhibition. http://www.wallacecollection.org/collec ... ibition/81
If you can, talk to Nick Checksfield who looks after their maille. He is not only very knowlegeable but from a re-enactor background, ehtusiastic and helpful and very approachable.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Sir George of Evreux » Mon May 24, 2010 4:28 pm

Thank you all for your replies; they are a great help! :D

@zauberdachs – That’s really interesting, the main reason I’m looking into this is that I’ve heard theories about the mail in the period but often only seen evidence from later periods. Dating is often a problem of course but I am keen to build up a picture from any extant finds from the periods. I have since come across a 12th C German shirt, thanks to Phil’s link :thumbup:, of oval section links and wedge rivets but would be very interested in finding more about these early dome riveted shirts you mention. Do you have any photos, details and/or museum numbers for the shirts which you mention which I could use to look into this further?

@Langley – thanks for the advice; I’ll look into getting along to the exhibition and hopefully organise to have a chat with Nick Checksfield, as you advise, if I can!

Again many thanks to all of you for your help, it is much appreciated!



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Re: Period Maille

Postby matilda » Tue May 25, 2010 9:14 am

regarding the mail exhibit at the wallace collection - we were a little disappointed. Just one or two original shirts, several modern reproductions. Didn't tell us anything we didn't know. Sounds like it would be good to talk to the chap that Langley mentioned, but I wouldn't go just for the mail exhibit. The arms and armour collection was great though! and no doubt the rest of the house - we only ended up with about and hour and a half there.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue May 25, 2010 12:47 pm

I managed to loose 2 hours in the arms and armour sections (yes, just 3 rooms) of the Wallace Colletcion. I understand that there are some paintings in there too, but I never got that far...


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Re: Period Maille

Postby zauberdachs » Tue May 25, 2010 1:02 pm

Sir George of Evreux wrote:@zauberdachs – That’s really interesting, the main reason I’m looking into this is that I’ve heard theories about the mail in the period but often only seen evidence from later periods. Dating is often a problem of course but I am keen to build up a picture from any extant finds from the periods. I have since come across a 12th C German shirt, thanks to Phil’s link :thumbup:, of oval section links and wedge rivets but would be very interested in finding more about these early dome riveted shirts you mention. Do you have any photos, details and/or museum numbers for the shirts which you mention which I could use to look into this further?


I'll see what I can do when I have a minute. PM me your direct email and I'll forward it directly to you.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Cap-a-pie » Tue May 25, 2010 2:50 pm

Colin Middleton wrote:I managed to loose 2 hours in the arms and armour sections (yes, just 3 rooms) of the Wallace Colletcion. I understand that there are some paintings in there too, but I never got that far...


What there is more than three rooms :o - Yeah I went for another visit yesterday as the first trip last month wasn't enough, actually Colin, there is also a small room in addition to the three others, this has a section of collectors items - much drooling on my part and a good hour in that room. Took an image of a Brayette for you Colin, i think you mentioned about making one. Was kicked out in the end LOL. The subtle hints of we close at five didn't seem to work with me. :lol: Mind you I did get to pick up and examine a maille shirt up close which was great, almost a perfect fit as well.

Agree with Langley, Nick is certainly a mind of information and given the fact that he does a great deal of restoration work helps as he has a fantastic insight into the whole construction/tailoring side of things. Certainly answered a number of questions and added to many more. They currently have a student with them who has literally counted and documented all the rings in a lot of the work. Looking forward to when his PhD is a published.

As to time frames, general consensus from Nick and others in that area now, is that wedge reared its head around the 11thC and then it wasn't till around the 15thC that the round pin came back. But as many will point out when someone tries to put a firm date on something, sooner or later someone will come up with something else to totally blow that out of the water. In fact im in the process of following something up which if correct shows a good examaple of wedge maille in use in the 16thC. Certainly would see no reason why if its still functional that various types would not have continued to be used through quite a wide time period, plenty of examples around with items containing a mix of gauges / types etc.

As to the solid rings, which seem to be in most cases forge welded rather than punched this is an interesting one. When you think of the construction in terms of stress points (less stress points compared to fully riveted). So question is why move into the fully riveted. Was it faster to forge weld shut a ring than construct one with a rivet, (own experiments in progress on this one), it is certainly faster to make sections when you only have one rivet to four rings to worry about thats for sure. Was it a case of one upmanship with regards having a fully riveted shirt as opposed to partial. given that plate was becoming more prominent and therfore area required to cover would typically be less perhaps?

Certainly would recommend a trip to the Wallace and also worth looking out for when they do various talks, although Nick is due to get married soon so not much chance of finding him over the next few days.

Also have a look to see if you can find one section of maille displayed wrong

Image of Brayette for you Colin, perhaps one for Tewks this year
Brayette-1500.jpg
Brayette circa 1500


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Hobbitstomper » Tue May 25, 2010 3:51 pm

I think it could be to do with the amount of wasted metal you get with punched rings. To make a 12mm outside diameter punched ring (1*2mm section) you need 210mm^3 of material if you make them in offset rows with a couple of mm between rings. To make a 11mm outside diameter forged or riveted round ring from 1.5mm wire you need about 60mm^3 if you include an overlap. That is about one third of the metal.

The waste from punched rings can be melted down again but this is going to involve loads of oxidation and waste by the time you have turned it back in to a 1mm sheet.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Cap-a-pie » Tue May 25, 2010 3:54 pm

now thats a thought.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue May 25, 2010 7:59 pm

I suspect that the riveted mail was easier to make than the hammer welded (hammer welding is tricky, and probably doubly so on something so small). As we move into the 15th C, the mail is a less important armour (the plate being the important bit), so there's less emphasis on it's quality and less willingness to pay a higher price?


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Re: Period Maille

Postby guthrie » Tue May 25, 2010 9:38 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:I think it could be to do with the amount of wasted metal you get with punched rings. To make a 12mm outside diameter punched ring (1*2mm section) you need 210mm^3 of material if you make them in offset rows with a couple of mm between rings. To make a 11mm outside diameter forged or riveted round ring from 1.5mm wire you need about 60mm^3 if you include an overlap. That is about one third of the metal.

The waste from punched rings can be melted down again but this is going to involve loads of oxidation and waste by the time you have turned it back in to a 1mm sheet.

Hang on a minute, I, and it seems the Wallace collection people, are not convinced the rings were ever made by punching out of sheet metal in the first place. They reckon it was wire, annealed and drawn as appropriate, and earlier academic studies of maille suggest that the type of drawplate used was more letter box shaped than circular, which would give you the desired flat cross section. See third photo down for the actual manufacturing display in their maille display (Which has now ended). http://calcinations.livejournal.com/138802.html
Or the ring was hammered flat and welded at the same time. The problem being that we can tell metallurgically what was done to it, but only back as far as its last annealing, which means we can't really tell ultimately how it was formed into a ring. Why is hammer welding so much harder than punching holes and placing a rivet in then hammering the rivet over? Do we see a change in who is making the maille and why? Both processes involve having a hot fire available, so it is unclear what advantage either might have in terms of farming the work out to other people. Or is it easier to punch lots of holes, anneal lots of rings en masse, then rivet them at your leisure? i.e. a change in production process associated with more specialised mass production? Versus earlier bespoke production by a multi-skilled craftsman.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Colin Middleton » Wed May 26, 2010 12:42 pm

guthrie wrote:Why is hammer welding so much harder than punching holes and placing a rivet in then hammering the rivet over?

To be honest, I don't even know that it is. It's just the impression that I've got from listening to people is that hammer welding is a bit of an art. Would you also not need to handle a small, hot mail link to close it that way? According to Burgess and Schmit, the rivit is usually closed with special pliers, which is pretty simple once you've put the rivit in (I was talking to some-one at Boot Camp, who put the link in the pliers and smaked them on a solid bench, link closed).

guthrie wrote:Do we see a change in who is making the maille and why? Both processes involve having a hot fire available, so it is unclear what advantage either might have in terms of farming the work out to other people. Or is it easier to punch lots of holes, anneal lots of rings en masse, then rivet them at your leisure? i.e. a change in production process associated with more specialised mass production? Versus earlier bespoke production by a multi-skilled craftsman.

The general impression that I've received is that one person made the wire, then passed it to another to form the ring, a third punched them, then a final person assembled them into a garment. The impression that I'd been given was that this last step was the skilled stage, everything else being done by apprentices or 'lackies'. If the hammer welding required skill, that would explain it's abandonment.
I personally think the above a sensible structure for early mail making also. The quantities of mail being produced would necessitate the 'easy' jobs being passed to 'mass production', or you'd never complete enough harnesses of mail to make yourself a reputation.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby guthrie » Wed May 26, 2010 1:20 pm

Annealing also requires some skill with the heat applied for how long. My proposed changes may indeed have occured earlier, note people up thread suggesting wedge rivetted as early as 11th, but it took a while to get going. Clearly we need a little more experimentation with the time and skill required. Of course the other point is that you might think that hammer welding is a skilful job, but not if you've been learning for the last 5 years how to be a smith. Also it can take some time to come up with cunning pliars to do the job right. Medieval craftsmen were quite conservative (Not totally though, there were some interesting changes throughout the period) and ultimately we probably don't have enough evidence. Has anyone found any records of a maille making shop suggesting who was employed and for how much money? That would be extremely valuable.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Cap-a-pie » Wed May 26, 2010 1:24 pm

I think the production line approach and the level of skill involved at the various stages certainly makes a great deal of sense. Certainly from what Nick said at the Wallace in terms of the analysis of the rings, in his opinion 99% are most probably welded rings as opposed to punched. I'm not sure if its in the documentation you leant me Colin but have read somewhere that electron microscope images have shown a clear join which kind of knocks the punched rings out of the equation, for that sample at least. Whilst one might assume that a correctly hammer welded ring would have stronger properties than the riveted approach, perhaps when it comes down to it, it was felt this wasn't a significant enough saving in time/quality or what ever... Im currently playing around with making various ring types, wedge and round pin in a number of different sizes. Working on some 4mm riveted last night :crazy: Have dabbled a little with the welding but need to work on that a lot more before I do anything serious.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby zauberdachs » Wed May 26, 2010 1:43 pm

Forge welding little rings would be an art. Riveting is probably much easier and could be done cold? Certainly most of the pictures you see of mail makers have them working it with big pliers on a desk not on an anvil by the forge.

Guthrie, I suggest we give it a shot at the next event? I have most of the necessary tools and can make the rest so we could try making it from first principles, i.e. from a block of iron.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby guthrie » Wed May 26, 2010 2:15 pm

Sure, we can give it a go. You might want to think about making sure you have the right sort of iron, but off hand I can't recall what level of carbon we're talking about.
The specific rivetting could be done cold, but punching the holes causes quite a lot of stress on the iron, hence the annealling. And if the annealing was done in batches ( I don'tknow, stick them on an iron rod and leave in the fire until the correct colour?) thats not as visually interesting as showing all the tools as well.

I've just remembered as well, that sometimes you may be able to tell what has happened to the iron because of small bits of slag smeared across or around the ring.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby zauberdachs » Wed May 26, 2010 2:25 pm

guthrie wrote:Sure, we can give it a go. You might want to think about making sure you have the right sort of iron, but off hand I can't recall what level of carbon we're talking about.
The specific rivetting could be done cold, but punching the holes causes quite a lot of stress on the iron, hence the annealling. And if the annealing was done in batches ( I don'tknow, stick them on an iron rod and leave in the fire until the correct colour?) thats not as visually interesting as showing all the tools as well.

I've just remembered as well, that sometimes you may be able to tell what has happened to the iron because of small bits of slag smeared across or around the ring.


I've got sources with analysis of rings and it's iron rather than any variety of steel as I recall, which makes sense as it's much more flexible to work, but will check beforehand.

Annealling will be the easy part. Much like you said, poke it in the fire till it's red hot and let it cool slowly in the ashes.

We can try all the different types of varieties of the above and see what happens.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby Hobbitstomper » Wed May 26, 2010 3:18 pm

Hammer welding needs very accurate temperature control. Too hot and the metal disappears in sparkles, too cold and it doesn’t happen. A wire ring is a reasonable conductor but has a miniscule heat capacity. There will be at most seconds between taking the ring out of the heat and getting a single hammer blow in. Too long and the metal cools down and won’t weld. If I was trying it I would use jewelley making gear: dipping a ring in flux, heating it to temperature in a blow lamp/small forge then hammering ASAP to try and get it to join. It would all take perhaps 30 seconds a piece which is a reasonable rate if you use cheap child labour. Success rate with practice could be pretty high.

There is one study of period mail that looked at slag inclusions and found they went across the ring, not in line with the circumference. This is a strong indicator that the rings studied were punched from something solid. I can’t be sure of the period of the mail but I think it might have been Viking.

I think making and forge welding wire would be much more difficult than thinning down a sheet and punching. That certainly doesn’t mean it wasn’t a viable way of making solid rings, particularly when metal was expensive or wire drawing became cheap.

I’ve not tried making solid links but I have riveted lots from made up rings. The flattening and punching operations do stress mild steel to such an extent that it becomes a brittle weak point. You will get this on most of the commercially made galvanised riveted shirts as they don’t stress relieve the links after they are made up. Annealing stops the brittleness- I did it with a barbeque, holding the links in tin cans.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby narvek » Wed May 26, 2010 6:21 pm

here you people go: http://curiavitkov.cz/clanek1.html It's in czech, but has pictures:) This guy spent some time experimenting with maille making:) his email for further queries: wothan@curiavitkov.cz

Or lad at Image has his share of knowledge of maille (including spectral analysis of finds etc.)


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Re: Period Maille

Postby guthrie » Wed May 26, 2010 6:36 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:There is one study of period mail that looked at slag inclusions and found they went across the ring, not in line with the circumference. This is a strong indicator that the rings studied were punched from something solid. I can’t be sure of the period of the mail but I think it might have been Viking.

I think making and forge welding wire would be much more difficult than thinning down a sheet and punching. That certainly doesn’t mean it wasn’t a viable way of making solid rings, particularly when metal was expensive or wire drawing became cheap.

Can you recall which study/ journal/ author, off the top of your head? I havn't had much luck in finding studies.

Thinning down a sheet could be done with a lot of hammering, and would become cheaper with the use of water powered tilt hammers, which were spreading across Europe I think by the 1200's. However the same use of water power also made wire drawing a bit easier, although the earliest illustration I've seen was from the 16th century. It used to be thought* that maille was punched out of sheet because they couldn't draw iron wire without water power, but the reality is a bit more complex than that.

*By some people who wrote some books. Not necessarily by everyone in the field.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Malvoisin » Wed May 26, 2010 8:03 pm

guthrie wrote:Can you recall which study/ journal/ author, off the top of your head? I havn't had much luck in finding studies.

Early iron pdf
"Pieces from five different mail-shirts have
been examined, all dating to the Late
pre-Roman Iron Age and the Roman Iron
Age. These finds include one from a Late
pre-Roman burial at Hedegaard in central
Jutland, two bog finds from Vimose in
Funen, and from Thorsbjerg in south
Jutland, and from a find in Brokaer near
Ribe in western Jutland"

I've seen a pdf report like to this before on this forum (many years ago) but with photos of the same slag structures as in the fig 3 rings, seeming to suggest rings punched from iron sheet but I just can't find it. :(


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Re: Period Maille

Postby guthrie » Wed May 26, 2010 8:21 pm

INteresting, thanks.
HOwever it would not be entirely sensible to base statements about high/ late medieval maille on Roman/ apres roman maille. So that caveat aside, we have...
Almost completely carbon free iron, which would make it softer than steel so more easily drawn. So that would make it easier to punch the rings out, and I've seen reference to the Romans having quench hardened steel tools, at least in specific applications. So that is very possible. We know from Theophilus that they could also case harden and quench tools in the 12th century, so it does seem very likely that they could do it at that time. Now we need to persuade them to let us cross section original maille rings.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby Hobbitstomper » Thu May 27, 2010 9:00 am

Try Vegard Vike's paper called Ringweave. Copy on Eric Schmidt's site.

http://www.themailresearchsociety.erikd ... pdf_11.pdf

Low carbon metal is usually cheaper. They were making steely iron with some pretty high carbon contents from Roman times onwards (but pre-roman iron iron might have been rubbish).

If you are trying to make mail then try either cheap mild steel fencing wire (acid strip the galvanising off first!) or cheap garden tie wire from a garden centre.



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Re: Period Maille

Postby zauberdachs » Thu May 27, 2010 9:25 am

narvek wrote:here you people go: http://curiavitkov.cz/clanek1.html It's in czech, but has pictures:) This guy spent some time experimenting with maille making:) his email for further queries: wothan@curiavitkov.cz

Or lad at Image has his share of knowledge of maille (including spectral analysis of finds etc.)


Intriguing. Thanks for this.


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Re: Period Maille

Postby guthrie » Thu May 27, 2010 10:40 am

Hobbitstomper - that link is defaulting back to the main page and not giving me the pdf. Plus Schmid's site says
"Check back soon for more updates.

2-26-2010"




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