Making welded chainmail
I've always wanted to make truly tough mail. that can stand up to serious abuse. With the use of standard butted mail, you are relying on the material's elastic limit -- the amount of stress a piece of metal can take and still return to its original state. This is not bad, but it requires a ring aspect ratio, the inner diameter of the ring divided by the wire gauge, of about 5.5 or greater, or the ring will pull apart fairly quickly under normal usage.
Traditionally, mail was rivetted closed -- each ring was overlapped by driving it through a funnel-shaped die, then the overlapping ends were flattened against each other by a pair of swaging dies, and a hole was pierced through the thinner, overlapped ends. A piece of wire was hammered flat, then cut into triangles, and a triangle's point was forced through the hole in the ring and the tip hammered over on the back side. As you can imagine, this was labor-intensive.
I've built a little bit of rivetted mail and will build more at some point, when I have the time to make a complete set of tooling for the process, using carbide drills to drill the holes, and copper wire and swaging dies to form the rivet heads, but right now, I'm working on a different method for making strong rings: spot welding.

I built a spotwelder out of scrap materials and made some stainless steel rings with overlapped ends, and shoved one in. BZZZOWNT! It did a fairly nice job of welding. After some practice and some adjustments to the system, I can do semi-precision welds that compress the overlapped metal to perhaps 1.3x the thickness of a piece of wire. The rings, once welded, can be clamped in a vice and twisted repeatedly without giving, and can support over 100 kilos without breaking. So I'd call it a success.
It does not work very well at all with galvanized steel rings -- the galvanization blows off and the welds are quite inferior. Stainless steel works beautifully. So far I haven't had much success in making welds in titanium, but believe me, that's in progress.
I have a couple future projects. I need to write some software for the computer that controls the weld timing, to increase the repeatability of the welds. I also would like to experiment with cutting the rings helically rather than axially, so that the ring, when closed, has a long scarf joint. My hope is that this will allow me welded mail that approaches the graceful appearance of butted mail rather than an obvious, bulky weldjoint.
This page created 3/15/02, last modified 3/23/02

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