The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Maille making

 

The making of maille using traditional methods, patterns, tailoring and tools from scratch, not from imported rings (see also armour and helmet making).

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance Greenwich
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK The earliest finds date from the 4th century BC but almost certainly earlier.
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-5
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1-10
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Maille developed all over Europe and the East (a lot of mail was exported there). The main (and possibly the best) makers where from Nuremburg but it was also made in Britain. Maille was used in the UK on and off until recent times where it was used by tank crews in WWI and by butchers.

 

Techniques

  • Wire drawing
  • Winding
  • Cutting
  • Annealing
  • Forming
  • Drifting
  • Rivet making
  • Riveting
  • Setting
  • Shaping
  • Tailoring
  • Forge welding

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Each part of the maille making process was traditionally made by different trades:

  • Wire drawing
  • Drifting
  • Ring making
  • Rivet making

The master mail maker and his apprentices would actually make the mail.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Imported maille has affected the craft. Most people are happy to forego authenticity, accuracy, quality and fit for a much cheaper price. People are now used to paying very little for something that was traditionally very expensive.
  • There are many people using imported rings, but few who are making maille from scratch. Many re-enactors have a go but almost all use imported rings.
  • A great deal of patience or time is needed in order to become proficient.
  • It has taken many years to rediscover the techniques. Without passing it on, the same mistakes will be re-made and advancement in our understanding will be lost.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Simon Metcalf (The Royal Armourer)
  • Nick Checksfield

 

Other information

As of the beginning of 2019 Simon Metcalfe is planning a meeting of like minded people to share their knowledge and views on the craft. The Wallace Collection (David Edge) has also done a lot of work to advance knowledge about the craft.

 

References

Most information is gained by experimentation and experience. Some Victorian sources exist, notably by Burgess, but a lot of written sources are based on conjecture and assumption rather the practical application.

There are many books on arms and armour that reference maille (usually calling it chainmail) but little understanding. Nick Checksfield assisted in the study of the Wenceslaus Armour in Prague with David Edge, Alan Williams and Tobias Capwell after which an article was written for the Acta militaria mediavalia volume VIII.