Jerry used 16 gauge fence wire to make the rings. First he made a little machine with a stick and a handle that turned the stick. He wrapped the wire around the stick and then turned the handle and turned the handle until the whole stick was wrapped in wire.
Then he took his wire cutters and snipped them all off the stick. They fell into a little pile of rings, ready to be woven into mail. Mail was a sort of armor knights of old wore. It was supple, it moved when you moved and wasn’t as constricting as solid metal armor (plate armor). Mail protected the knight pretty well from the weapons of the day.
An SCA friend, Gary Fowler, was our teacher. I did a lot of the weaving of the rings together; I pressed the ends together in a fashion know as “butted mail” as opposed to “riveted mail”. Our tools were needle-nose pliers and my daddy’s electrician’s pliers.
First we made a shirt of mail, using the four-rings-in-one weave. It was like a tunic, straight down the front and back to mid-thigh. It had long loose sleeves. Being made out of metal (the wire is metal, right?) it was a lot heavier than your cloth or leather coats. To help carry the weight, the knight would put a belt around his waist to hold up the bottom part of the mail shirt and take some weight off his shoulders.
I just did the flat weaving; Gary put the pieces together and added a gusset under the arms so they could move freely. Gary also started on the coif, above. He wove the rings together in a circle, bigger and bigger, until time to decrease and weave the sides and back of the coif. Then it came together in front over the chin and was woven in rows around and round, adding rings in each row so it would lay out over his shoulders until it was enough. I added a row of brass rings around the bottom edge and around the face opening, for decoration.
It took us all winter long, working every night.
(As nearly as we can remember, we made this in the late 1970′s)