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Suganuma

Leather edged, fabric lined chainmail shirt

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I recently acquired a riveted chainmail shirt. I want to alter it to fit a bit tighter on the arms and be able to put it on/tank it off without doing the "shimmy". 

My idea, albeit completely non traditional, is to: A- split it in the front,

B- line it with a linen vest, 

C- edge the whole thing in leather

D- fasten 6 buckles in the front

E- taper the sleeves from elbow to wrist.

 

Not necessarily in that order. 

My questions are: if anyone has ever lined a chainmail shirt, what did they think of it, did it last, and do you have any tips/tricks?

And: if anyone has altered a chain shirt to buckle instead of pulling over, what did you think of it, did it last, and do you have any tips and tricks?

 

I'm a complete novice with chainmail. But I like to tinker so I think I can figure out how to re-peen some little rivets on the rings where I split them. However, I've never tried to fasten any metal(aside from buckles to a strap) to leather or cloth. Y'all are the experts, where am I going wrong before I ruin my newest toy?

 

Thanks in advance!

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Welcome and well come!  Yeah, you're a beginner -- looks like you're after a costume piece.

Thing is, what you've started with is a piece of high-performance, probably Indian, mail armor.  Frankly I wouldn't care to use it any other way.  It can stop a knife.  The way to tell it's Indian work is if the rivets are round, and the riveted overlaps are very flat and large, the rivet hole having been punched open, not drifted open.  A serious protective shirt of most sorts is a pullover so no chinks in your armor, and you take it off doing the shimmy.  In SCA contexts, doing the shimmy may attract some favorable attention -- nice if you're single, whether you tinker or don't tinker!

Item B:  Linen's excellent for padded, quilted comfort in summer sun -- and I'd wear it completely separate under the mail like an undershirt, thus not messing with its motion or expansive capacity.  Mail conforms around you if allowed to. It moves well if you don't restrain it arbitrarily.  Again, an excellent choice of fabric.  Rides cooler.  Heat and ventilation are always a question with armor.

Item C:  same effect as if you laced a lining into the shirt -- though where a leather edging is no problem is up at the neckhole, where expansion and flex aren't a big thing.  You could even fasten a standing leather collar up there if you like to tinker and you enjoy tooling leather decoratively -- coloring it too.  If you go that route, first dye, then seal, or it'll rub color off on your neck too.  Neutral shoe polish can seal it about as well as a sealer product, and polish over a coat of sealer is perfectly fine.  You might like to line such a collar with something softer than tooling leather.  It can be rather  stiff.

Item D:  I've really got only a little comment -- you can fasten straps and buckles into the fabric of the mail with leather thong. Easier than trying to rivet, very strong, and after you knot the thong you can wet the knot and mallet it quite flat, so no lumps.  The flat kind of nylon artificial sinew is also good for this job and for fastening leather edging or a collar -- and comes in several colors.

Item E:  is the biggie.  This will involve the most surgery, making what is known somewhat oddly as the "whole row contraction." Try a site search on the term.  You're having to cut rows out of there to get the forearm taper.  You should also determine if  your shirt will truly need to be longsleeved, in which case cutting it back to half sleeved may become an option, sidestepping the fuss entirely.  Can you see if your shirt sleeves  have an elbow pocket, making the sleeve hang, empty, like a sock with a heel to it if you hold it up?  It will have a bump there at elbow height and a bend to it.

If it does not have that elbow pocket, you've got yet more tinkering to do.  I suspect it doesn't if it's Indian work -- that the sleeve is a straight, unvarying tube all the way down from the shoulder. (These guys don't necessarily wear the mail they make.) You'd need that easing at the elbows' points if you taper the forearm to fit it closely, and not like bellbottom pants.

Edited by Konstantin the Red

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Thanks for the info! It is indian made, and does not have an elbow pocket. 😕

I'm using it currently as armor for Amtgard/Dagorhir. But I may use it for some steel reenactment fighting later on if it lasts through dagorhir hits.

I'm glad to hear the linen should breathe well, down here in Texas it's very hot this time of year. I was trying to avoid wearing much under it, but didnt want the steel directly against my skin if avoidable some other way.(ouch. Pulled belly/chest/etc. hairs.) 

That was also my thought on the buckles for the front, to avoid it grabbing at my hair putting it on and off. I guess just use a shirt or something to cap my head would be smarter?

 

About the collar, would it be best done in full expansion of the rings, or compressed to a more fitting neckline to allow flex to it?

I'll post some pictures of it when I get home.

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It may surprise you to learn that the method of construction you propose is traditional in Japan. It's referred to as nanban kusari(or gusari) and came about from Japanese armorers importing european mail and modifying it to Japanese tastes. It was fairly common from about the mid 16th century to the mid 19th century.

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13 hours ago, lorenzo said:

It may surprise you to learn that the method of construction you propose is traditional in Japan. It's referred to as nanban kusari(or gusari) and came about from Japanese armorers importing european mail and modifying it to Japanese tastes. It was fairly common from about the mid 16th century to the mid 19th century.

So, not completely a waste of time?

I just really hate taking that thing over my head every on and off, and figure itd be more comfortable with a thin lining and edge of leather.

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Easy solution?

Never take it off! There problems solved.

Thenk Yew Thenk Yew...

BJ

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Well, the smartness of Bjorn's @$$ is exceeded only by the wisdom  of his acreage! :P  Wise Acres is not a housing development in Connecticut...

Go ahead, cap up, to keep from disarranging your hair.  If I still had the hair to disarrange, that's how I'd do it.  Complete with tie-strings under my chin.  Linen again.  I know -- one more dang thing to put on and take off, although a splash of water from a water bottle into this armyng-coif is cooling and refreshing, if drippy.  Cotton breathes, but once it's wetted, the fibers swell and it gets watertight.  Terrific for old-school canvas waterbags and collapsible camp buckets, vexing for sweaty armor guys.

Lorenzo's describing an interesting bit of lateish-period (Edo?) Japanese concealed armor disguised as just another Japanese jacket; it closes Japanese style like a gi and is lined throughout with either J4-1 or what amounts to E4-1 in open hang.  It would armor the wearer long enough to get his katana out and settle his ambushers' hash for them. The sort of thing a lord who had reason to suspect he'd get ambushed the second he stepped out of the Emperor's court -- visible armor being altogether uncouth and also forbidden -- would wear.

It would really involve constructing the beast from scratch to really make it right -- consider just how much overlap that thing has in front, and where's the material to come from then?  Ordering more mail patches from India might be possible -- and take a while too.  Salvage-modifying tends to end up being a kluge and looking like one.  I'd advise against that road for that reason.  Style is not without importance in armor.  Looking good in your tin suit is fun, and inspirational -- Dagorhir I think can get away with wearing a couple-three sweatshirts for body protection, what with their foamy weapons.

Nambangusari -- literally "southern barbarian chain" since European ships came up at Japan from southerly waters -- could by not much of a stretch also be translated as "European chain."  It looked very different from the several weaves of Japan-chain, especially J4-1 (very square) and J6-1 (decidedly hexagonal patterned) which primarily was used not just as a shirt or a modular pair of mail sleeves but was deployed as a component of armoring the arms, woven in with numerous small iron plates in any arrangement they cared to think up, all put together as the kote, or sleeve, attached to a fabric or light buckskin lining. Often enough each link might be of as many as three turns, and not riveted. As mentioned, the Euro approach to "chain" armor was one they found very intriguing, and one not wholly unsuited to Japanese combat tactics.  I'm not sure if Japan undertook to make E4-1 complete with riveted-shut links or if they simply contented themselves with importing the European product.  It stayed rare and I suppose remarkable.

Edited by Konstantin the Red

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On 06/26/2020 at 3:28 PM, Suganuma said:

About the collar, would it be best done in full expansion of the rings, or compressed to a more fitting neckline to allow flex to it?

The mail right there is possibly already extended about as far as it will stretch, so I guess keeping it at full stretch or nearly so will serve well for just the back of the neckhole and maybe the front, if the front is not already made as a slit to be laced up to the throat after putting on the shirt. On either side of the neck, this has no relevance, since that part of the shirt is columnwise anyway, neither expanding nor contracting.  You can observe this by tugging on the mail there -- doesn't move.

I'm assuming it's made as a European square shoulder/modified or unmodified rectangle, with the linkrows just going right up to the top of your own shoulder-line.  Not, that is, as a yoketop of four or more trapezoids joined with 45 degree joins like the Bladeturner pattern by the time it's all gotten together.

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Sniff sniff... I think thats the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me....

Suganama as a complete n00b here is the shimmy really the only reason you want to split it? A nice gambeson will add to the ease of sliding it on and off.

BJ

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Sorry I havent posted pics yet. I promise I'll get to it. 

I still havent decided if I'm going to split it or not, after hearing yalls input, but I'll likely chop the arms down to about elbow length. I'm not sure if I remember if it has a split at the neck or not for lacing, but this brings up a different idea. Potentially the forarms/wrist could be laced to hold tighter?

 

I'll try to remember to get some pictures tonight.

 

On a side note, isnt j4-1 done with oval links? Like you put on fish hooks with?

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10 hours ago, bjorn said:

Sniff sniff... I think thats the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me....

Suganama as a complete n00b here is the shimmy really the only reason you want to split it? A nice gambeson will add to the ease of sliding it on and off.

BJ

Dreaded hair gets caught in it pretty sick. Trying to keep my hair.

 

Gambeson is hot. Maybe a linen one would be more cool? What I have is pretty hot. Its texas, even the rain is hot. Lol

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14 hours ago, Suganuma said:

Sorry I havent posted pics yet. I promise I'll get to it. 

I still havent decided if I'm going to split it or not, after hearing yalls input, but I'll likely chop the arms down to about elbow length. I'm not sure if I remember if it has a split at the neck or not for lacing, but this brings up a different idea. Potentially the forarms/wrist could be laced to hold tighter?

 

I'll try to remember to get some pictures tonight.

 

On a side note, isnt j4-1 done with oval links? Like you put on fish hooks with?

Japanese 4-in-1 and 6-in-1 may look like the joining rings are oval, because they're perpendicular to the lie of the main rings, but they're round.

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Check it out!  Those Indians, with plenty good sense, are using spacer rings for half the links of the mailshirt -- every other row.  Saves lots of weave time, as I said.  And whaddaya know, there is even a phrase in armor (not so much in mailler) parlance for this recipe for mail:  demi-clouée, or "half riveted."  Term's found in household inventories when they got round to  pawing through the armoire -- the armor closet.  A rather bulky piece of furniture because plate armor only folds up so tight, and they wanted to keep an eye on how it was doing stored.  No WD-40 in those times, and barely any oil anyway.  Much of that being olive, or oil of cloves.

Wetted linen and a breeze -- the breeze is a must -- can cool a man even in Texas.  The rest of the job is two swigs of Gatorade for the electrolytes chased with a pint-plus of water for the rest of it.

Potentially you might drawstring the sleeve cuffs tighter -- you'd want a way to do it onehanded, and most of those ways involve modern camping hold-downs.  You'd still have the weight and inertia flopping the mail around; these things slow your sword hand, so anything you can do that reduces weight out there by your hand and wrist improves your combat ability.

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