Gamers with Hobbies: Chainmail (image heavy)

Been doing more work on the tube portion of the fedora. I haven't posted very many pictures of it. When I make even a small change to the design or add a "small" piece it can take me days because the project is so large.

Recently I finished putting a row of trim on the bottom edge. This trim may be temporary as I might replace it with something else. Certainly the design will change a lot when it comes time to add the hat brim. As well I had to extend it a bit to make it fit on my head. The tube is now 55 units long if you count the links of tiffany. I'm not sure how wide that is because its hard to measure a tube like this.

Its the right size to fit on my head like a headband and not slip down over my eyes. The next task is to extend the tube to make it about twice as tall.

As you can see in this not-so-great paint drawing. Most hats have straight sides and the inside rim sits on your head keeping the hat in place. Fedoras are much the same. But they tend to be a bit taller to make room for the indents on the side.

Picture time! Updates have been slow lately. Its mostly because of the volume of work I have to do. Not so much the complexity. There are more than twice the number of rings to deal with this time around.

Been putting a lot of work into my second belt to get it ready for the contest. I ordered the rest of the rings I needed and they will get here within a week. So in the meantime I am concentrating on finishing both ends of the belt and getting them into shape. When I get resupplied I can just fill in the missing middle portion until the belt is the correct length.

This here is the tip of the belt. Finding a way to taper the end wasn't easy. This one is about twice as wide as the original, with a lot more rings. This is the best configuration I could come up with. Its kind of messy and the rings tend to jumble up, but none of them appear loose from a distance and that is all I need.

These here are the new hooks. Instead of a single row there are now two of them. This hopefully will make the buckle more stable. But I won't know until I finish the belt and wear it around.

This here is the other end of the belt. The piece of european weave in the middle is used to reverse the direction of the elfweave. This time around its 4 rows wider and twice as tall. I made it bigger because this time I want to use two straps.

And here is the buckle. The reason I decided to use dual straps is the ring size. When I dropped the wire gauge by one notch it caused the overall size of the rings to shrink by about a third overall. A single strap just looks far too small. Its also doesn't provide enough support to hold everything in place.

And finally, both ends of the belt hooked together. The overall thickness of the assembly is just under one inch. This is quite an improvement over the original version, which measured and inch and a quarter.

Also, there was something I wanted to ask all of you.

To date I have sunk a lot of money into my hobby. Probably less than 1000$, but not by much. And to date I have yet to profit from any of it, or gift it away. Apart from just one lanyard the only practical items I have ever made are my belts and a set of juggling balls. Everything else has been done as practice and invention.

This years donation drive got me thinking. If I could come up with an item with broad enough appeal I could donate that to GWJ in lieu of just sending some cash. The idea is to increase the appeal of entering the prize draw. Hopefully generating more revenue for the site than I could provide out of my pocket.

Now this is just an idea at this point and I haven't asked Certis yet. But I was thinking of something like this. Instead of just throwing them in the pot with the other prizes, there could be a separate draw for people who want a shot at winning one of my items.

The minimum donation required to get into the draw is 10$. Lets say you also had the option of donating another 5$ to be eligible for the second draw. That would change the "minimum" donation from 10 to 15$ (which happens to be what I donated myself this year) This would be an opt-in process. So unless you specifically stated you wanted to enter, all of your donation will go towards the main draw.

As far as what I could donate, I had a couple ideas:
- Lanyards (for PAX and otherwise)
- Wallet chains
- Belt pouches (camera/cellphone etc)
- Dice bags (the drawstring kind)
- Dice (lots of work, but would be cool)
- Custom item voucher (chainmail can make almost anything)

None of this would come cheaply. Chainmail as a whole is quite expensive because of the materials and many man hours required to make anything. But I would be willing to soak up both of those costs and consider them my donation.

So if you like this idea. Or thought of something I could make. Do tell me what you think!

Of those options the dice appeal to me the most.

The only dice I don't have a plan for are the cube D6 and the D10. The D10 could probably be made out of triangles, so the same method used for the D4/8/20 would work as well. But the cube is another matter.

I did some research and I found that there are not many weaves that can form a hollow cube. Most methods of making a cube shape are to stack layers of chainmail on top of each other into a dense solid block. But this doesn't strike me as very efficient. I would like to make it hollow, in part to save on the number of rings. But more importantly reduce the weight. Anything too heavy and it might damage your table.

I found article picture that demonstrates this pretty well. I don't own the pictures however so I'm going to link it instead:

The other option is using a triangular bypiramid. But that would require a very creative number scheme.

Lanyard, wallet chain, and dice bag sound the coolest to me. If I still played D&D, I would feel like the cоck of the walk busting out a chainmail dice bag.

Been laying some groundwork, figuring out what I need to do what and how.

In terms of complexity lanyards are the easiest. Its just a length of chain, although the exact design of the chain can be very complicated. I don't think they need a clasp, but it might be better to add a safety snap fastener just in case it catches on something. Or instead I could just intentionally leave a replaceable weak link somewhere tucked away. The only other piece of hardware required is a small clip so you can fasten a badge onto it. The clip could be detachable, so you could wear the lanyard as a necklace as well.

Wallet chains are similar. But they need extra hardware. There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to using these things. I've never used one before so I don't know for sure. Is the chain mostly an "oops my wallet fell out" sort of thing. Or more of a theft deterrent? Either way, short length of steel chain, split ring on one end, small karabiner on the other end. Done!

Belt pouches are pretty complicated things. I was thinking of making it rectangular so it could fit a variety of items. Upright with a flap on top. Maybe velcro to secure it. Small loops on the back so you can wear it with any standard size belt. Sort of like something a wizard would keep his components in.

But the biggest winner seems to be the dice bags. Not to kick dirt onto anyones talent. (especially since I have never made one myself) But 95% of the chainmail dice bags you see for sale are simple things. Little more than a partially complete hackysack with a shoestring to close the open end. That being said, the remaining 5% is some amazing stuff. If I make one of these for the GWJ donation drive. I would certainly want to make a masterwork. I've learned a lot of things while crafting all of those juggling balls. And the knowledge can be easily applied to make something larger.

With that over, its time for pictures! My order of rings arrived yesterday and I immediately opened one of the bags and started practising some Captive Orbital Hex Weave. My main objective is to find the optimal aspect ratio for that weave. I tried using rings with an AR of 6.6 and it ended up a bit tight. Things didn't fit together the way they should. So when I made the order I got a variety of rings with ARs of 6.6-6.8.

The first size I tried was 1/2 inch 14 gauge rings in stainless steel. These have an AR of 6.7 and I seem to have found a winner. I was off and running for about 30 minutes before I remembered to take any pictures. One quirk of working with large rings is that you can assemble a large object in little time.

Here is a closer look. At this point I am in the process of putting links around the edges of the top triangle. This would allow me to attach 3 more triangles then bend them all upward to form a tetrahedron.

And here is my work a couple hours later.

Its quite hard to see in these pictures. But everything fits together nicely. The last time I tried to make this with AR 6.6 rings some of the orbitals were bending out of shape. The ends of the rings would separate and leave an ugly gap. But luckily none of that is happening here.

But as it turns out it didn't quite work. First of all I ran out of rings. By my calculation a tetrahedron of this size would need 222 rings, and I only have one bag of 200. Secondly in order to shape the chainmail like this I had to force it into shape and stretch a few of the rings. Panels of COHC are attached in a way that hinges them together. They will bend up to a 90 degree angle. But I had to push them farther than that to form the tetrahedron.
To give you a sense of scale. The tetrahedron stands just over 3 inches tall. The Icosahedron I showed awhile back was about 3.5 inches. I'm not sure it will even be practical to roll such a large dice. But again, I'll have to wait until I make one to know for sure.

After I took the above pictures I reworked everything into the shape of a pyramid. This time I came up short by about 10 rings. But I still had enough to make it pretty for the camera. One of the biggest innovations I came up with was how to fill in the gaps between the stacks of 3 "hinge" rings. Without them the large gaps are kind of ugly.

But my most favourite piece of work is where all 4 panels come together at the apex of the pyramid. Its hard for me to express just how... perfect this turned out. Love it.

All in all, about 4 hours of work total. I learned a lot of good things. Mostly that I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and time if I had attached the panels together one at a time. But also a lot of little tricks and tweaks that will be useful in the future.

I did find one issue however. In the last picture its easy to see how blunt the top of the pyramid is. Instead of all the edges meeting in a sharp point they end prematurely. This creates a flat face. It would be pretty annoying if the dice kept landing cocked. An Icosahedron would have 20 of these flat corners, resulting in a major problem. I need to find some way to bring the flat panels closer together, OR fill in the gap to make a sharper point.

I'm still deciding on what to work on next. The belt contest deadline is over three weeks away. So no rush there. And as much as I would like to there is no way I can get the fedora done by the 23rd.

So that being said I really feel like making a dice bag.

I win!

I started work on the dice bag. I'm using one of my old designs, the elfweave hex rosette. Its fairly opaque, so you wouldn't be able to see the dice inside. But I hate loose weaves with a lot of empty gaps. I'm a little OCD that way...

But anyway, while I was working I kept looking back to the pyramid I made earlier. I made an attempt to fill in that blunt corner. This is the best design I could come up with. Unfortunately that captive ring in the centre doesn't have anything to hold it down. I couldn't find a way to add more rings without making a mess.

I don't know what made me think of the idea. But I decided to take out the captive ring and put in a marble I had lying around. It fits perfectly.

I thought it would fall out. In fact if you just poke it with a finger it pops right out. But after 10 minutes of hard shaking I was unable to get the marble to fall out on its own. I even threw the whole thing against the floor a couple times but it stayed put.

Perhaps ball bearings could be used the same way if I made one out of smaller rings?

Hmm, with the D4 at least you could use different color marbles to show which side landed up.

As far as the lanyard goes any time you make chainmail clothing or something like that it's a good idea to leave a weak link that will break off in the event that that's necessary. I wasn't planning on messing with any latches or anything like that, I was just going to use thinner, weaker metal for one line of rings in the structure.

Curious about the dice bag: do you build the mail around a cloth bag to protect the dice, or is that even necessary?

For the lanyards I was thinking of replacing one solid link with a bunch of little thin ones. But instead of attaching all of the, at once I would just link one. This way that single ring will snap if the lanyard catches on something. And if that happens the owner can take a pair of pliers and attach one of the spares to fix it.

About the dice bag. I suppose I could line it with something, but I don't know if the metal would pose a problem to begin with. I doubt the rings would scratch your dice unless you really shook the bag around like a salt shaker. Or dropped it on the ground from a good height.

My current progress is this. If you have been following the thread for a while this should look familiar. This is the elfweave hex rosette I first showed waaaay back on page 4. The idea with this design is to make a hollow sphere shape as if I was wrapping another juggling ball. But instead of having the ends meet at another rosette, I would leave the other end open. This would form the opening of the bag which would then be closed with a drawstring.
I tried a variety of different panel designs for the 6 sections and my current favourite is at the bottom right. I won't know how well they perform until the rest of the bag is complete.

Last minute midnight update! This is what I have done so far.

The reason I'm extending this panel is to shape the bag. If made the panel into a diamond this bag would end up ball shaped when I attached all six panels together. But I want a more tapered shape, with the opening crimped together by a string.

To do this I had to put a bunch of expansions in the panel. The sides of the panel slope inwards, eventually terminating in a point. With the expansions in there, both of them cancel out. This results in a more rectangular shape. But with the rings at a slant.

Its about time to start tapering the ends again. I don't usually like loose meshes but I probably need to use one around the mouth of the bag. If the rings are too dense they will not fold together and allow the bag to close.

There has been a lot of stuff happening lately. Not the least of which being International Goodjer Day. My projects have been a little sidetracked.

The MAIL belt contest ends today at 12pm. I have 10 hours left and 12 inches of belt to construct.

Not gonna give up!

Phew. Managed to finish my belt just in time. For this contest I am entering both belts as a single entry. These are the pictures I sent in:

To check out the rest of the cool entries, here is the thread for contest submissions:

My entry is in the very very last post. I beat the deadline by about 20 minutes.

My second belt design is a refinement of the first one. Its lighter, thinner and wider.

Final Stats:

Length: 42 inches
Weight: .5 pounds (a big improvement over 2 pounds, 1 ounce.
Total ring count: 3148 (more than double the previous total)

Good luck on the contest, Tamren!

The...orbital hex weave? (I have no idea what I'm saying here) that you used to make the D4 is stunning. I agree, it's perfect.

Well it looks like I concede defeat. The pool of voters isn't very large, so the contests tend to be decided quickly. It looks like the winner this time around is BrassAnvil with this amazing entry. Grats to him.

I'm not in any way a sore loser about this, but allow me to be snarky for a second. I entered the contest because it would be a fun chance to discover new things. Which I certainly did. And I DID get two votes, so someone out there does like my entry :D. But I found it somewhat annoying how the "chainmail belt" contest kind of transitioned into an "oooh look at my shiny belt buckle" contest. In a perfect world we would be scored on things like technical complexity. And the rules state that at least 2/3 of the ring work has to be done within the contest period. So its kind of irritating to slave away for weeks. And then watch people attach a shiny doodad to their entry that counts for half the vote.

But anyhow its by hobbyists for hobbyists so eh, whatever. Plus I did get to see a lot of cool stuff so that all works out. I wasn't the only one who went the purist route and made belts out of exclusively maille. Extra props to those people.

Next up, dice bags.

My first attempt at a dice bag turned out pretty well I think.


The bag laces up using a drawstring. Apparently most people use shoelaces when making these bags. I didn't like the idea because most laces are far too long and you would have to cut them shorter. The cut ends would eventually unravel into a fuzzy mess. Well I happened to walk into a shoe repair store and one of the things they had for sale were leather laces. They work well and can be cut to any size

The design of the bag is the same design I used to make my juggling balls. The rings are bigger but the original pattern is based off the same rosette.

I needed to see how much the bag could hold. But I don't own nearly enough dice to fill this bag. So I dug around the house a bit and found some marbles. The bag is big enough to fit everything shown here, plus the golf ball I painted black for some reason I can't recall.

If you go to a Joann's Fabric or similar craft store you'll find thinner cords that would be easier to tie and work with given the short length you'll have.

hey, i have been following this thread since about page 2 or so.... tell me, did you ever finish your shirt? i thought it was coming along quite nicely and then u quit posting pics of it... i don't mean to sound pushy but a couple of shirt update pics would be awesome.

I found the cheapest way to buy rings....I get my wire from the local farm equipment/feed store.... 1/4 mile of wire for $18!!! a half mile is like $30.

Yeah I buy wire and make my own rings too, significantly cheaper than buying the rings all by themselves.

Come to think of it the last time I worked on my shirt was before Xmas. I took a break from working over the holiday and when I got back I sort of got distracted with all sorts of other fun stuff. I don't have as much free time these days which is why my focus has shifted to smaller stuff.

That said, I still want to make a shirt.. But more than that, see if I can improve the design any. When you think about it, maille and plate armour are pretty heavy and awkward by todays standards. But that is only because we stopped improving it hundreds of years ago. Medieval smiths sure didn't have titanium, most of them didn't even have access to steel. Its fun to imagine what we could accomplish if we applied modern science and materials to old technology.

In any case right now I just don't have enough material. Steel rings are fairly cheap, but not if you need 30 pounds of them. I have enough material to assemble 1 or 2 square feet of maille. I'm not a large guy, I wear medium t-shirts. But most average shirts need about 9 square feet, maybe more if you include sleeves. So its a considerable investment. I'm going to have to save up a bit before I can tackle a project that big.


In the meantime I just finished something neat. I've been doing a lot of experimentation with Captive Orbital Hex Weave. The rings I used before were big, most people could wear them as a pinkie ring. But when I bought them I also chose a number of other sizes to see if they would be suitable. 20gauge 3/16" rings have a slightly bigger AR, but they work quite well at making COHW.

I only have 1000 of these smaller rings, which is not enough to make a full Icosahedron. But I calculated it would be enough to make a complete octohedron.

The weave looks very complicated. The tough part is just starting out when all you have is a bunch of rings flopping about. But once you have a solid piece to build upon the work goes quickly. A little too quickly in fact. I was almost done when I realized that I forgot to put the centre rings in each vertex! Whups.

Here I am taking one of the corners apart to fix the error.

And here is the finished octohedron. The lighting could be better, I'll try taking a picture outside tomorrow if the day is sunny.

This thing is awesome! There are 498 rings. Measuring from flat faces it is exactly 1.5 inches wide. Its a little squishy because the AR is 0.1 too big. I really want to make a bigger one now.

I used to make my own rings but these days I'm using so many different ring sizes and metals it would be inconvenient to store all that wire. Plus I have less spare time in general and cutting rings is very time consuming.

Well I had so much fun making the octahedron I decided to make another. This one is made of slightly larger rings using wire that is one gauge higher. 19g 1/4" rings. Here it is with one side done:

I figured out a good consistent method of weaving this shape. So this one didn't take nearly as long as the first time.

Here they are beside each other. Measuring from the flat faces, the new octahedron is just shy of 2 inches tall. Minus one 1/8th. The original is 1.5 inches. Both of them are a bit soft. "Squishy" isn't the right word for it, but the side panels and can bend inwards and the points are not rigid.

Now I really want to make an icosahedron dammit. I'll have to get some more rings.