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Jaxadus

How to get the cleanest chainmail

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What tools and/or techniques do you use to get the cleanest chainmail? In my novice experience, it feels like a tradeoff between how easily you can manipulate a rings, vs the blemishes a tool will cause. 

Having a heavy duty set of pliers makes moving the metal relatively easy, but inevitably leaves tool marks. Rounded jewelry pliers avoid leaving such noticeable blemishes, but they're too dainty to easily move metal. Any advice is appreciated.  

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It's mostly practice.  There's a sweet spot between the two extremes, and every ring size/material/weave combination will have an ideal pliers size and type for your hands. If a tool isn't working for you, try a different one.

Don't use your pinkies if you are leaving tool marks. Pinkies add a lot of leverage, but they don't have the motor control the other fingers have. Get as much contact with the ring's surface as you can. Use adduction/abduction of the wrist (stroking fur) and try to avoid flexion/extension (revving a motorcycle) Fine control is the key to clean rings.

Tool Magic/Plasti-dip helps, but it doesn't last long and needs regular reapplication.  I use Vetwrap on my pliers' handles to shape them to my hand.

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Another safeguard is filing the plier teeth -- either with a small flat mill-file, or wear out a coarse nailboard.  Doesn't take a lot; just break the points off the teeth.  It's very easy if  you can use a bench vise, harder if you have to hold the pliers by hand, but either way you'll manage.

Linesmen's pliers tend not to be as textured as slipjoints, but being rather massive things, they suit larger rings better than small.

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I try to go easy on the pressure, when using toothed pliers. Just enough to get the job done. I've also been experimenting with toothless parallel action pliers; kind to rings, not so kind to hands.

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Take a good pair of heavy duty pliers and shorten the jaws to the minimum you need for your largest rings to get better leverage. A decent hacksaw should do the trick. Grind the surface of the jaws smooth, parallel and smooth any sharp edges.  Any rotary tool should work fine to accomplish that.

I like to modify the Knipex 20-160 pliers this way for larger rings. Here's a picture of my first set that are still going strong a decade later.

http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/gallerydisplay.php?key=5515

For smaller rings you can do essentially the same mods to a smaller pair of pliers like the Knipex 35-12-115.

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In galvy steel shirts, merely wearing the shirt in the course of doing mail-armored things takes care of plier gouges in the zinc coating.  Zinc is a soft metal, and the mail self-polishes with the wearer's motions -- flattens gouged zinc right down.  Note this is specific to galvy.

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