Any tips on making PVC chainmail? - PAINTED!!


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Thinking about a Halloween costume(s) which incorporate chainmail.
Thinking about using my chop-saw and 1/2" PVC sprinkler pipe as a shortcut.
Anyone done this? Have tips or advice? (up to and including "Don't!")

Have an idea for a real handy wood tool to clean the PVC cuts or debris, same as a metal pipe reamer.
Have shears to cut the rings.

Reading a lot of armor / chainmail sites, about 4-in-1 weaves, etc.

Wondering how to paint / make it silver. Particularly a way that would let me dip / soak a finished suit en toto.

Might go with the real wire method, think I have a source for some really inexpensive aluminum wire, found it just in passing, wasn't paying attention, will have to go back and price it.

And does anyone have any quick-and-dirty formulae for calculating the number of rings needed per square foot of weave?
Hey Rich!

I would use 3/4 inch. Really. Itlooks just as good, and saves you TONS of time.

As to coloring... the stuff that I made I mixed one part leather dye to four parts alcohol, and dipped it. Brushing with a large brush would probably do it too. It gave it a "gunmetal" look. It actually looked pretty good once I was done.

Let me know if I can be of any other help!

Beorn, Ravensmoon Replicas
You should talk to TK818, if I remember correctly he made some for the LOTR premier and had some good pointers.

THAT's the kind of info I'm lookin' for!

Silver leather dye (I'm presuming), that'll work GREAT!

3/4" might work for me, I'm pretty tall/big. Might look oversized on kids, have to try both sizes I guess.

Any other tips would be helpful.

I have seen anything on other sites, but it occurs to me that some kind of loom or framework to hang the sheet from as you add rings to the trailing edge would be useful - any comments or leads on this?
To go the real wire method get a spool of welding wire and use a piece of dowel the size you want the ring to be, chuck it into a drill and wind a bunch of coils about 10 to 12" long, take these coils and cut to around 2 to 3" in length turn sideways and cut them apart on the bandsaw being carefull not to cut yourself. After cuting several thousand rings start with 2 pairs of needle nose pliars and spread them open, put the proper number of rings for the style you want and close it. Be advised the little gap when closed loves to catch hair from all over the body and is an exelent way to defoliate onself. And by the way if you start tonight you work steady 8 to 10 hrs a day 7 days a week you may have enough for a shirt. But you will also loose the use of both hands for a few weeks or so. I have seen a nice stainless cooks apron type of guard that has suspenders and hangs from just under the arms to waist length for about $50.00, just don' remember where at the moment.
We used pvc pipe for our Orc chain mail.
It works great!


I did a collar for the opening of LOTR and I'm working on a full shirt for the Tow Towers.

Here's the size we used:


We tried the larger and smaller size pipe but this was the best looking and simplest to work with.

We cut it on a band saw with a thin blade.
The blade should have about 15 teeth per inch.
Less than that and the blade grabs the pipe and can shatter it.
We made a jig and stop so we could feed pipe through fast.
Wrap tape around 3 to 5 pipes so you can cut a bunch at once.

Cut half of the rings with sheers:


They just snap together.


and that cowl(?) does look super.
how did you paint it? spray? dip?
what about cutting slag on the rings, or was that a non-issue with a band saw?

I was thinking bundle of 10, and rigging a stop-block/jig on my 10" chop saw. Same thing, feed it in. Though I think I'll have to rig something close to the blade to prevent the pipe slices from dropping under / against the blade after they are cut off.
I dipped the finished coif in black leather die and then painted it with black primer.
I then hit it with a metallic gray and some rust red primmer.

Next time I'll skip the die bath.
I think it looks good enough just painting it and the die was a mess.

I'd be worried that a chop saw blade would be to thick.
Can't hurt to try I guess.

I did have trouble with the rings slipping between the blade and wedging.
I just put a piece of duck tape up to either side of the blade so the rings couldn't slip into the slot.
I don't know if that would work with a chop saw.

I know the WETTA workshop used band saws for LOTR so that's what we did.

Edit: Yes, slag was an issue.
We had to clean each ring by hand.
I just used a wedge of scrap wood and my finger nails.
It's not to bad if you do it while you watch TV : )
Your chainmail looks awesome. I love your Orc costumes but the could be dirtier.

Are your armor and helmets plastic as well?

Oh don't worry, they'll be PLENTY nasty for the Two Towers!
The armor is all vac formed ABS.
I'm going to reinforce my legs and shield with fiberglass and rubber so I can bash into things : )
Were also working on new Orc masks, arm and leg appliances and better weapons.

Here I am with Tam at Comic Con:

Now there's something I never thought would work. That kicks ass!!! Beats the heck out of my 40 pound galvanized sweater.

If you've got about $200 to toss about there's an eBay seller that makes aluminum chain shirts that weigh in only at 7 or 8 pounds.
greatwazoo42 wrote:
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If you've got about $200 to toss about there's an eBay seller that makes aluminum chain shirts that weigh in only at 7 or 8 pounds.
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We're going to have to make maile for our High Elven Armor costumes and I must say I'd rather buy it than make it. That will be the last thing we do on the costume so we've got a few months.

GW, who is the Ebay seller? $200 isn't bad.

Yes, the guys Orc's rock! I'm still trying to convince them to come to LA for the TTT premier. *hint hint*
Check out this site:

Before we found out about the PVC method we were going to go with this guy.

Even if you end up making your own, you should check out the site.

They have patterns, how to pages and a chain mail discussion
i dont know jack about actuay making it, but if you want to paint it, i can help you, for a shiny yet weathered look, use black pvc and drybrush a steel or silver paint on it, in some places even do a couple of coats, for a very old, used look, do the previous step and then paint over in a very watered down dark brown paint to simulate rust.
Very interesting, never thought about using PVC to do chainmail before.

I cant tell ya much about making the rings using PVC like that, but if you need any construction tips on how to actually put different weaves together let me know, I make chainmail and know a bunch of different weaves.

been pretty busy, but finally going to dice up some PVC tomorrow afternoon.
And bonus points for Noir - BLACK pvc!! Thinking polyvinyl tubing, NOW
Gonna have to check that out.

Aeryk / all - on the weave patterns - is it a stylistic choice, are are you supposed to use different weaves for different panels / pieces / uses? It 6in1 stiffer than 4in1? Much more complicated to produce?

Back to reading how-to sites, thanks for the added info everyone.
I'm the very rusty orc on the far left of the picture
Sitting in front of the Idiot Box (TV) and working on this stuff is a great idea. It's what I did

For de-burring, I had two buckets, raw and "de-burred". I had a section of sched 40 PVC pipe that just fit over my middle finger from the main knuckle out, with the end cut at around a 60 degree angle or so. I'd sit there watching the boob tube, grab a raw ring, ream the inside edges of it a couple of times with the outside of my PVC tool, then ream the outside edges with the *inside* edges of the tool. This worked great for the orc mail, as it didn't have to be perfect. I had to replace the tool every 1/3 bucket of rings or so (1 gallon bucket).

When linking the rings, I made a lap board to work on it. The board had a row of finishing nails evenly spaced at the top. These were far enough apart to make it easy to link the following rows, but not so far apart as to be at maximum stretch.

For coloring, I'd forgoe the dye. Nearly a year later and I'm still rubbing dye off of my coif. Take a week and shoot light coats of a base color (like cheap OSH [Orchard Supply Hardware]) flat black), jumbling the rings between coats until you get complete coverage. Then, if you're doing orc armor, shoot sploctchy rust brown several times. Finish with several drybrushed coats of bronze, gunmetal, and maybe a touch of silver as a finishing touch.

Rich & Tammy - Damn, I wish I coulda' made it to ComicCon

Hi Jesse!
You best make it to CC next year!
(Especially since we'll probably skip Anime Expo)

Re the black PVC,
Do they make it in that size?
We tried the dark gray stuff but the walls were to thick.

And yes, the weave does matter!
We used a 4 in 1 weave which is the simplest and covers the most area.
It also lays the flattest.
Jesse tried 6 in 1 but it didn't lay as flat and was MUCH more work.

I think the 4 in 1 pattern is your best bet for PVC.
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