Gamers with Hobbies: Chainmail (image heavy)

Tamren wrote:
Yonder wrote:

We'll have to see how long I can stick with it, but right now I'm pretty enthusiastic about it.

Sweet, what mandrel sizes did you pick up? I have the basic armouring sizes of 3/16 to 1/2 inch. Did you get the aluminium or galvy wire? When practicing I prefer to use alum for 3/16 and 1/4 because trying to work with small rings made of tough metals is excruciating. Especially at the start when your muscles are not yet used to the strain.

I got the basic 6 set armourer Mandrel set. At first I wasn't sure whether it was a good idea to get all six, but I decided that since I only had one gauge of wire if I wanted to experiment with differetn ARs I would need multiple mandrel's, also this really is a cheap hobby in general. I actually got the mandrel's in metric (7 - 12mm) because my University days taught me to hate the Imperial system with a passion. Unfortunately it seems like must of the stuff I find on the internet is in inches, but what can you do. I'll just need to keep a little conversion cheat sheet notecard near me.

For the wire I went with 16 Gauge Galvanized Steel. I knew I didn't want to start with stainless steel, and Galvanized was significantly cheaper than Aluminum. I was debating going with 18 Ga. instead, but finally went with the larger size, we'll have to see how it goes.

All of my practice and experimentation is done with the hand cut galvy rings. Right now the tightest AR I use is 3, which is either 3/16 in 16gauge or 1/4 in 14 gauge. I've found that galvy rings of that AR are super tough to close, and since the weaves tend to be tight you can't get a good grip on them. As well 3/16 rings are almost impossible to cut with shears, you will spend a lot of time reshaping deformed rings. Instead I have started to buy them in aluminium instead, lot easier on the hands and makes for less table gouging.

The first thing to consider when making a mantle shirt is the collar. I have to decide what kind of shirt collar to make and there are a lot of choices:

1. No collar. This is the simple and easy method, you just leave a hole on the top of the shirt big enough to fit around your head like a t-shirt.
2. Tight collar. Flat, but snug to the neck. Needs some sort of clasp. May be rough on neck.
3. Raised collar. Same as tight but with a tube that extends up the neck.
4. V-neck. If you add flaps this is just like a suit jacket. Easier to fit head.
5. Mantle. Same as no collar, only you make another mantle that fits overtop the whole thing. The second mantle would then need a clasp.
6. Overlapped. One edge of the collar lays over the other to hide the seam, may not stay in place without help.
7. Asymmetric: The collar does not have to close directly beneath the neck.

In order for the shirt to stay closed you would need some sort of closing mechanism. This could be things like:

1. Zipper. It would work but good luck attaching that.
2. Buttons. Needs a rather hefty button, maybe a bottle cap?
3. Clasp. The simplest would be a piece of bent wire, like cloak pin. Jewelry in general has lots of types, but few that would be suitable.
4. Lacing. Easy to buy a shoelace somewhere, but harder to make the collar edges meet flush when you tighten them together.
5. Snap buttons. Most jeans have these. Hard to attach to mail instead of denim. Maybe too weak?
6. Rare Earth Magnets. The shirt is not magnetic, but it would be easy to add a few ferrous rings. A disk or magnet would not be hard to hide inside the weave.
7. Quick release. Ive seen these before, they look like little barrels that have an inner and outer piece. At the push of a button they pop apart but can be reattached easily. If you don't get what I mean these are popular on keychains.
8. None. It may not need one, depending on the design.

If you can think of any other options let me know. The last step is to pick the shape of the collar. On a tube shirt the shape of the collar depends on how many rings you remove. Its like adding and removing pixels, just keep working until the hole is the right shape. On a 90 degree seam shirt the collar is always a rounded square, but can be further modified with trim.

When making a mantle shirt the collar can be all sorts of shapes and sizes. In no particular order they are:
- Round. Circular or Oval.
- Pentagon. Point up or point down.
- Hexagon. Doesn't have to be symmetrical, it could be more of a diamond shape.
- Diamond.
- Square.
- Hack job. If the shoe fits...

There are variations of these shapes. They can be symmetrical or offset. The lines can be tight and straight or you can leave them loose and allow gravity to shape the collar into a rounder shape. Again, any ideas? Let me know.

If I have time later I can come back and draw this out.

Lastly I discovered something today. Score and Break is a lot faster if you work on both ends of a coil at once. Instead of cut, snap, cut, snap. The rhythm doubles and switching tools only occurs half as often.

After some brief experimentation it seems that a pentagon or hexagon shaped mantle will work the best. The biggest reason is that both shapes are easy to make from 60 degree seams. I don't know of any joints that could produce a diamond or square shaped mantle. A round mantle is by far the worst in regards to those weird connections and seams I am trying to avoid.

Remember that really big sheet of elfweave I posted back on page one? That will be sectioned into ribbons and those ribbons joined together to form some test mantles. The end shape has to fit around the shoulders and be wide enough to fit over my head so I can take the shirt on and off. For now the design is going to have no clasp.

My notes, if you can understand my chicken scratches:
The two pentagons pictured are different as the lower one has more of a rounded shape. Adding expansions to the strips will make the outer edge longer and curve the strip outwards. If these are left out the angles and lines will be straight, resulting in a perfect hexagon or other shape. This may or may not be desirable, well see.

Started over. The back side of the pentagon is now complete. Its too early to say if this is the right size, I would have to make it a complete loop or else it will just slip off my shoulders.
Also I figured out the detail picture setting for my camera. Here are some snazzy close ups.

This setting allows the camera to focus on something very small. Anything else you would like to see?

haha did not expect really to see this on this site, but makes sense really and is cool to see. Got into amouring early probably because my familiy works in the metal build industry, so I had pretty much an endless exposure/supply.

Personally i have never done much with mail, but I have done about 4 years of work with plate armour, my best works so far have been with roman Lorica Segmentata, and 14-15th cent germanic and frank plate. Will dig some pics up off other pc. I still have plenty of the patterns, info ect ive used if anybody is looking for some.

I have done some experimenting with sword smithing, still lacking skills there but have been side tracked by working better furnace (melts iron fine, too bad the spouts were lacking, so refactory need work) and forge design + being at univ atm... yeah lame thats something I hate about living in rez in a city now.

I have a nice little propane forge but I need to find another anvil now. Seems like people think they're made out of gold though.

LiquidMantis wrote:

I have a nice little propane forge but I need to find another anvil now. Seems like people think they're made out of gold though.

I know, right? I was pricing some out a few years back and was astounded by the pricing.

Very cool work, Tamren!

I've found that taking measurements and building from there doesn't work out. The problem is stretch. When I make a strip of mail that is 3 rows high and 10 columns long, it forms a certain shape and length. However once I extend that strip and make it 5 rows instead, the whole piece becomes tighter. There is less allowance for stretching horizontally, and suddenly the piece becomes a lot shorter than originally planned. So once I start to extend a collar that I think works right, suddenly the whole thing is too small to fit over my head.

So far it looks like the pentagon is winning out over the hexagon. Imagine a pentagon with one point facing down. The two angles on the top curve the collar around the back of my neck. The two points below that *should* point directly down the centre of each shoulder, but this is harder than it sounds. The last point forms the v-neck. Ideally the mail that covers the chest should all hang evenly in horizontal rows. The challenge there is to gradually change the mail orientation from a valley to a flat plane. Since the back starts from a flat plane this is not needed on the rear face.

Currently I am experimenting with the galvanized rings only. My plan is to construct a piece that fits right. Replace it gradually with stainless steel, then reuse the galvy again for further design work. This should give me just enough rings to make a hexagonal collar as well and compare the two.

No pictures for now. Nothing interesting to see anyway, I'm busy dismantling that huge sheet of elfweave shown on page 1. Two strips are going towards this pentagon I am making. The last piece is 5 rows tall and its going to be used for my horizontal expansion test. I know how to do a single horizontal expansion, but there are some things I still need to figure out.

A horizontal expansion in elfweave or european weaves looks like this:
The three tows on the left side combine into one row. As a result the vertical width of the mail contracts by two rows. On the centre row, do you see how the row direction is reversed? This is where it gets tricky.

The rows in elfweave and european weaves in general slant in one direction or another. This means that any expansion joint will be flanked by rings leaning towards it or away. This has a big impact on what the expansion will look like, especially if you do two of them facing the same direction right beside each other. I tested this in european and the joint works both ways. However I don't yet know if I can do the same thing in elfweave and then on to tiffany. Hence the test I have planned.

What I am going to do is make a long piece of mail with expansions in this pattern:
< > > < < >
If you think of each expansion as an I for inward and an O for outward the row directions look like this:
This covers all the possible combinations.
- Inward flanked by inward slanting rings.
- Inward flanked by outward facing rings.
- Two consecutive inward expansions
And ditto for outwards.

EDIT: Okay I lied :P, before I forget here is the demo for stretch.
I forgot to take this picture earlier so the sheet you see here is missing 3 rows. Otherwise the sheet would be a foot square in that picture. On the left you see the sheet "relaxed". This is as compressed as it can get while remaining flat. Beside that on the right you see it at full vertical stretch. This is the "correct" way to hang, but does not have as much play.
As you can see in this picture the horizontal stretch is considerable. Even more than basic Euro 4-1. Most shirts flex this way. When the rows are properly oriented the body tube and sleeves of a shirt can become wider at the cost of length. So a properly shaped shirt can fit many body types at once, only the coverage will vary. As well part of the shirt that is more narrow than the rest (such as the cuff) can expand to let your hand through, but still hang flush and unstretched at the wrist.

Although most weaves follow this tall OR wide restriction there are a few odd ones such as japanese weaves which are more geometric. And depending on the AR of the rings you use stretch can vary greatly from lots to none at all.

Went back to the original post and added in some lists of stuff I could show. Its pretty rough but I should meander my way through all of the topics eventually.

The pentagon is 4 sides complete. I just have to attach the pieces together. But man, saying that chainmail is a labour intensive hobby is like saying "wait a little while and the sun will burn out".

But one thing that sets it apart from all but a select few hobbies (like lego) is that if you have 5 seconds of free time you can accomplish something. Whenever I respawn in L4D I do a little work, drop the pliars and pick up the mouse so I can charge someone. Then pick up the pliars to close a few rings. Slow but steady.

Well the pentagon is complete and surprise! It doesn't fit. The front and back are far too wide and the shoulders too short. So I'm going to get that fixed.

Pictures to come as soon as I can figure out how to take a picture of myself without a tripod.

Sorry no pictures yet, but I had an idea. I was walking down the street near my house and I came across a square mirror leaning against somebody's trash can. People do this all the time in Vancouver and from what I hear, the rest of Canada too. Its called freecycling and its a great way to reuse junk. I tried simply propping the camera on some books but I could never get the angle or focus right. However with a mirror I can take a picture of myself without holding the camera backwards at arms reach.

So hopefully pics to come soon. This time the delay is my SD to USB adaptor that got lent away to someone. But it should be back soon. The mantle is now a complete pentagon, and I think it "hangs" the correct shape. But from here the process gets tougher. The connections between the mantle and the rest of the shirt are going to be a pain in the ass. Not to mention the task of keeping all 4 sides at the proper scale to each other.

What I think I will do is work on the chest first. This would create a sort of "apron". I would then work on the back of the shirt creating a really small tabard. Then these will be connected on the sides to form a loose vest. People use this "tube and strap" method to make tube and 90d shirts all the time. The difference in my case is that I have a mantle instead of suspenders.

I have something neat planned for the chest, but I won't know if it will work until I finish that expansion test I was talking about earlier. Its now in progress and it has me stumped. More experimenting required. If only we didn't play so much left 4 dead 2!

Tamren wrote:

Sorry no pictures yet, but I had an idea. I was walking down the street near my house and I came across a square mirror leaning against somebody's trash can. People do this all the time in Vancouver and from what I hear, the rest of Canada too. Its called freecycling and its a great way to reuse junk. I tried simply propping the camera on some books but I could never get the angle or focus right. However with a mirror I can take a picture of myself without holding the camera backwards at arms reach.

Your house is so medieval that you don't have any mirrors? Maybe you'll luck out and one of your neighbors will put a stove out next that way you can stop using that cauldron in the fireplace.

So my wire and Mandrels should arrive today, which is pretty sweet. Yesterday I went to Home Depot to pick up some odds and ends that I still needed. I need to make a mount for the drill and Mandrels, so I bought some wood. I then started wandering the aisles at random.

I had been hoping to further reinforce the connection between the mounts and the Mandrel, in pictures I've seen online the wood in the area has taken a big beating and I am hoping to keep a consistent, flush opening to support the drill a little more. I wasn't sure exactly what I could use. The image I had was of something like a roller blade wheel (the rubber part removed) glued into the wood for a very smooth rotation, with rubber stoppers on each Mandrel to fit it to the size of the inside of the wheel. Looking online it looks like the ball bearings are in the center of the wheels, not around the edge, so that wouldn't work out, but that is the sort of thing I was envisioning.

The only thing in the store that seemed to fit the bill was the plumbing section. I bought a handful of small sections of metal piping in the 1/4" and 3/8" sizes. I also bought connecting nipples and compression sleeves, which are smaller than the pipes they fit into. That might not be the same as some sort of connection that rotates on ball bearings, but it should be more than sufficient for my purposes.

I am starting to regret getting metric Mandrels, because it means that the piping won't fit very flush, but it's not bothering me too much. For one thing I think that the inch sizes are for the outside of the pipe, not the inside, and even if they weren't that's just a flush fit for 2 of my 6 sizes, so either way most of them wouldn't be perfect. I'll just have to see what I can rig up with my odds and ends. Worst case scenario I don't secure the hole and the wood very slowly wears down.

Another thing that I saw at Home Depot was spring! I searched their wire a couple weeks ago and didn't see anything suitable, but I didn't search the store exhaustively. They had various types of springs, some thick ones that were for trampolines, some smaller ones for screen doors, various other things. At this point I only had a day to wait for my wire but I decided to buy two long coils anyways.

It was $4.17 for each coil, and I weighed them in at 5.2 oz. That's around 3 times more expensive than buying wire online (before shipping) but still not bad. Now I have some rings I can mess with and I can wait until the weekend to build my Mandrel mount.

LiquidMantis wrote:

Your house is so medieval that you don't have any mirrors? Maybe you'll luck out and one of your neighbors will put a stove out next that way you can stop using that cauldron in the fireplace.

I'd love to have a fireplace. But I do all my cooking on a hotplate, which is medieval enough... Anyway I have the big mirror in the bathroom but the room lighting is horrible in there, and far too yellow even after correction since it doesn't get supplemented by sunlight. The smaller mirror is about 2ft square so I can take it outside while the sun is out. That or I could probably find another light source, I have this halogen worklight that is hot enough to start a fire, but it might be a bit much.

I don't know why Yonder but the local home depot used to stock a TON of galvanized wire. They had a whole bookshelf thing with enough 18-14 gauge wire to build 100 shirts. The wire was actually thicker than 16g and it was rather softer than the stuff I have now, but it was perfect for learning. These days whenever I go back all they have is very thin copper and stainless wire for hanging pictures and the like.

I actually started out using giant 3/4" 16gauge rings that were made out of rebar wire. Dirty as all hell but the rings were soft enough to close by hand.

Cutting apart springs didn't occur to me. You might have some trouble with them while making and using the rings though.

Tamren wrote:

I don't know why Yonder but the local home depot used to stock a TON of galvanized wire. They had a whole bookshelf thing with enough 18-14 gauge wire to build 100 shirts. That is how I started out, the wire was actually thicker than 16g and it was rather softer than the stuff I have now, but it was perfect for learning. These days whenever I go back all they have is very thin copper and stainless wire for hanging pictures and the like.

Galvanized steel is the same wire they make many types of fencing out of. If you are in an area where they have a lot of agricultural stuff, especially with livestock, then that would explain it.

That makes sense. The store I usually went to was in Richmond which is just to the south. Richmond and the surrounding areas are packed the gills with farms. Apples, pumpkins, cranberries, anything that grows in this climate we've got it. Its quite a long trip to get out there and I usually go to the newer Home Depot outlets in the city. But these new ones feel a lot more "urbanized". And not just because they are built under condos.

So I've been at this for two days now and it's rough. Cutting the springs (16 Gauge turns out, probably Stainless steel but maybe Galvanized) is quite hard, I'm actually getting faint bruising on the base of my right thumb from squeezing the bolt cutters so hard. I haven't even cut that many rings out yet, maybe 50-60? Hopefully I'll get used to it soon, in the mean time I'll try to remember to change hands more.

Wild Blue has been helping out a bit, but her hands aren't strong enough to cut the wire, she has been taking the rings I make and opening/closing them from time to time, which has been pretty helpful.

My first day was pretty slow. It took much longer than it should have to for me to start up a chain of Inverted Roundmail (an extraordinarily simple design.) Then I went over to make a small sheet of European 4 in 1 (another very very simple piece) and started to get lost in it. The rings at the edges of the pattern are free to shift and flop around a bit, and at first when they did so they would confuse me and make me think that I had added them in wrong. Add in the fact that some of them were being added in wrong and I got a little confused.

Yesterday I decided to start a new European 4 in 1 from scratch, watching out for some of the mistakes I made before. It was slow going at first. The beginning of the pattern seems to be a lot harder, pretty much everything is a loose floppy edge piece at that time, so if you slip or something to mess up the pattern it can be hard to find it again (at first anyways, I am sure that you get better at finding the weave again quickly). Once it got to a decent size then it is much easier to see what is going on, and if you drop it (causing the edge rings to flop around) the center is still fine and you can smooth it out. I think what was happening the first day was I would drop it, smooth the different sides into different slants of the E 4-1, and build from there, in general making a sort of patchwork cross between E 4-1 and Gridlock/Corduroy.

I may slow down a bit over the next couple of days, I have been neglecting Mass Effect, Spore, and L4D2, and I may need to give my hands a bit of a break before I start cutting again. In the short term I am planning on finishing up my E 4-1 patch, possibly lengthening my Inverted Round Mail chain, as well as making an E 6-1 patch and a Roundmaille Chain. Maybe an E 8-2 (King's Maille) patch too.

I cut around 150 rings today. I wonder how much my hand will hurt when I wake up.

Tamren is probably laughing at me.

I'm going to go with "the worst is yet to come" If your hand hurts you are not using the rest of your arm enough. Cutting rings is a lot easier if you rest the cutters on one thigh and push down with the rest of your arm.

What I consider "mastery" of a particular weave is when you can add rings one by one. No matter what direction the weave is going. If you can add a ring even if the sheet is crumpled and upside down then you know it pretty well. A little trick for working with european weaves is to remove the rings at the corner of square pieces. Since they are only attached at one point they tend to flop around and flip over when you put the piece down. Really annoying, so just nix em. If you need them later they are easy to put back.

Made good progress on the expansions.
This is what an expansion looks like in Euro 4-1. This is using 14gauge rings for a clearer picture. Elfweave and tiffany are different from basic european because if you flip the piece over the rings in a particular row still lean in the same direction. So when making contractions in elfweave you can not simply make a mirror image of the basic expansion.
This was my first attempt at making an elfweave expansion. The wider side is a the top. Second picture shows the rear side. Later when I learned tiffany I attached all of the connecting rings together and it turned out to work with tiffany as well.

Now the problem I have is that an expansion on the same row with the same pattern will not work. The rings running down the centre slant inwards. if I were to create a second expansion on the same row the rings would slant in the opposite direction. What I could do is put the expansion on the row above, but this would result in a lopsided sheet.

Instead I had to make this:
The picture on the right is again the reverse side. This pattern is not as neat as the other one, but performs as its counterpart. It seems to be a lot more "squashed" and there are more overlapping rings. If a shirt required expansions to become longer in places these two patterns would be used in pairs.

The experiment I am doing requires me to make another 4 of these. Both to test these existing patterns to see how they hold up, and to see if I can create anything new.

My word, I would be all thumbs and cross-eyed after trying to get even the Euro 4-1 weave right for two minutes. Don't know how you do this.

Well my hand is in pretty good shape today, still a very mild bruise on the palm. It doesn't hurt from the muscles working too hard, but purely from the pressure required.

Yesterday was sort of an annoying day, ring-wise. I was still going through 1 of the 2 springs I bought at Home Depot. At the end of it was a sticker wrapped around the spring with the barcode and other random information. I ripped off the sticker and went cutting on my merry way. The end result was 90 rings that had a gunky paper/glue residue. Right now I'm just making patterns for practice so it may not matter much, but they still stick together and are unpleasant to handle.

I put these rings in a plastic bottle (is there a reason you use Glass instead Tamren?) and soaked and shook them in Isopropyl alcohol for 20 minutes. There was a lot of glue residue that came off in the alcohol, so I thought I was golden. After that I went to hot water and soap, then to Rice. The rice really wasn't necessary (the springs don't have the sort of residue that the wire coils have, and they are already pretty polished). I had forgotten to dry them before this, so at this point I had rice residue all over them and went back to soapy water.

At the end of this process I found out the other reason they were all covered with rice powder. They were still sticky! If anything I think that this whole process made them stickier then ever.

At this point I may just give them up as lost, I'm certainly not going to try for the coils under the sticker on the second spring.

Tamren wrote:

It might be more effort that its worth but as a last resort for removing adhesive you could try paint thinner.

My goto solvent is odorless charcoal starter fluid. Basically the same thing as odorless mineral spirits and a lot cheaper.

I would liken it to learning how to translate ASCII symbols into a dwarf fortress gameworld. In the beginning all you see is matrix code that is essentially meaningless to you. But eventually you come to recognize a jumble of green and blue punctuation with a grey "d" in the middle as a field of grass with a deer drinking from a pond. If a big green "D" shows up you also understand it to be a dragon about to have dinner. Once you learn enough symbols you brain can dissect a single picture into its component parts. And once you know how those components interact with each other, you cease to see a picture at all. It IS ASCII, but all I see is a dwarf fortress.

Learning a chainmail weave is the same way. If you imagine the weave as white pixels for rings and black pixels for empty space, you would end up with something of a 1-bit rorschach print. Entirely meaningless until your brain recognizes a pattern. It can take a long while but once you comprehend the pattern you can then replicate it with rings. But having a pattern in mind and teaching your fingers to craft that pattern is another matter. These two steps are what Yonder is currently struggling with from the sound of it.

European weaves are easier to visualize than most of the other "families". The rings line up in recognizable rows and columns like so:
These are easy to comprehend because you can think of them as the scales on a fish. Tifanny on the other hand looks more like this:
Instead of just connecting rows of rings, you also have rows of interweaved rings between them. But when you break it down, you still have the underlying basic european pattern in the weave. Which is why a lot of the same methods like expansions and 60d joints work the same way on both of them.

Hmm, as far as preference goes I don't think it matters Yonder. I used glass because I didn't have any plastic. That said clear glass makes it easy to look inside and my jar is still getting scratched. Plastic would probably wear out sooner and leave more particles that end up killing fish, or whatever.

It might be more effort than its worth but as a last resort for removing adhesive you could try paint thinner.

Interesting. I should try that sometime. I don't have a barbecue and those I have used in the past were all propane so I have no knowledge of lighter fluids. Are they labelled a specific way? Presumably they don't all work as solvent.\

Work on the expansion test has slowed down. But this is because I am trying my best to make something new, instead of repeating the above patterns.

Tamren wrote:

Interesting. I should try that sometime. I don't have a barbecue and those I have used in the past were all propane so I have no knowledge of lighter fluids. Are they labelled a specific way? Presumably they don't all work as solvent.

They're all going to be a petroleum distillate. I just buy the cheapest stuff labeled odorless solely for solvent use as that stuff doesn't go anywhere near my grill. I have really sensitive eyes and sinuses and the stuff isn't bad at all to use. Don't hotbox it in your bathroom or anything, but with ventilation it's mild on you.

Did some more work on the expansions. The first one is 7/8" square. The second one is 11/16" wide 7/8" tall. So while they might not be the exact same size they are very close. And the difference isn't enough to affect the look of the weave. Both of my first attempts were cobbled together through trial and error. But going back and trying them again I have since discovered how easy they are to make. Works well, fits right, easy. No real reason to spend time looking for variations. These will work fine for what comes next.

Now I have to extend that mantle and turn it into more of an apron. This will probably take a while, but it should be quite neat when I am done. Progress pics to come next week at the latest.

So I started running low on my spring rings and coiled up some of my 16 gauge galvanized wire. It is like cutting through string cheese. Tamren is stainless steel that much tougher than Galvanized wire? (Same gauge) I expect that they were actually made of highly tempered steel.

Closing and opening the rings is super easy too. It's great. I don't have small enough Mandrels to get a good looking Japanese 4-1 going so I'm doing some Dragon Scale.

Depends on how used to a particular metal you are. The bulk galvy is pretty tough but after struggling with spring steel (which has a bout twice the tensile strength) its a non-issue by comparison. Unless I am working with 14 gauge, that stuff is quite a workout. Going back to aluminium feels like air. In fact if I grip too hard I can actually crush the alum rings and destroy them, really irritating when using small rings because it can be hard to get a grip on them.

Far as cutting goes it depends on what you use. Didn't you mention bolt cutters a while ago? I use tin snips so they would handle differently. How good a cut do they leave on the wire? Those would be pinch cut instead of the shear cut I am used to.

Now that the expansion test is complete the next step is the shirt front:
Times like this I wish I could draw. This picture represents the chest and shoulders of a "mannequin". Green shows what is complete. That is the mantle which is probably the wrong size, but can't be corrected yet. The yellow part shows what comes next.

As I probably mentioned before I could start building a simple tube shirt and be done in a week or two. But I would rather do something more fancy and complicated as a learning experience. This particular shirt has a V-neck and that has a great affect on the design of the chest. If the V pattern is continued all the way to the hem, the whole front of the shirt will bend into a stack of chevrons. I have seen shirts with this exact shape before, but I would rather do something different. The plan is to transition the rows of mail from the V-neck collar back into a flat horizontal orientation.

There are a number of ways I can do this. I could make the rows wider on one side and have them curve into the right shape. I could put a second 60 degree joint on the end in the reverse direction. The current method I have in mind involves those expansions I showed you earlier. When you add a new row of mail between two diagonal rows, the top row stays diagonal, but the bottom one would bend downwards. What I think will happen is the bottom row would end up roughly horizontal if I correctly set the position and number of expansions. This method can then be repeated in a big V resulting in the pattern you see in the picture.

At least thats what I think will happen. The next stage of the project is to complete the upper "slope" of the shirt front. Specifically everything that doesn't hang straight down. Everything else is considered the "body tube" and will be worked on last.