EarthWorks Designs - How-To - Know Your Maille Project Plan
Know Your Maille Project Plan

by Blaise Hartley

When planning a maille project, one must address five key issues: wire diameter, ring diameter, aspect ratio, material, and weave. These issues are all interrelated, as we will discuss below. A mailler who grasps these relationships will be able to plan any project, big or small.

Wire diameter:
Wire diameter is important to a project owing to the part it plays in the aspect ratio of the rings used. Identifying the diameter of wire can be confusing, given that there any number of Guage systems (along with metric and decimal inch systems) available to the person doing the measuring. If you use AWG, and the supplier uses SWG, you could get the completely wrong wire for the job. There is an excellent examination of the various measurement systems in an article posted to M.A.I.L. by Spyderbeak.

Ring diameter:
Ring Diameter is the other piece needed to build the aspect ratio of a ring. The accepted standard in the mailling community is to use the INNER diameter of a ring, rather than the outer. Generally speaking, this is because most rings are produced by winding wire around a cylindrical mandrel, whose diameter is generally easy to measure.
Ring diameter is obliquely related to material choice, in that every material will have a certain degree of "springback" owing to it's hardness. Because of this, a ring made of copper wrapped around a 1/4 inch mandrel will have an actual inner diameter of just about 1/4 inch, while a ring made of spring stainless steel wrapped around the same mandrel might have an inner diameter of 3/8 inch. Be certain to account for springback, and actual inner diameter, when planning the rings you will use.

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect ratio is the mathematical ratio between the diameter of a ring, and the diameter of the wire it is made from. It is critical for two reasons, strength and weave possibilities.
Aspect ratio affects the strength of the finished product, since with a given material, a smaller ratio will be stronger than a larger one. Note that Not all aspect ratios will be possible for a given material, as the bending process to produce a ring will damage the internal structure of the material below a certain ratio.
It also affects weave choices, owing to the density of the weave chosen. Every weave has a certain minimum ratio below which it cannot physically be made, and a maximum ratio above which it will not maintain its structure well enough to be recognizable or useful.

The material used for a project is a central concern for two reasons. First, it affects the overall appearance of a project in the areas of color, and finish. Second, it affects the physical characteristics of a project in the areas of weight and strength.
The appearance of a project is important for obvious reasons. It is generally the most important concern to the 'end customer'. The right metal makes a piece look better than it has any right to, while the wrong metal makes it look awkward and even ugly. Also, inlays will only work if the right materials are chosen to provide pleasant color contrast.
The weight of a project can be a major issue, especially with larger wearables. Making a headpiece that weighs 10 pounds will simply dismay the end-customer, while armor that weighs 78 pounds might well kill someone. This concern is interrelated with ring diameter, as smaller rings mean more actual material in the finished product.
Material strength concerns affect both aspect ratio and weave choices. For a given aspect ratio and weave, some metals will be strong enough to hold themselves together, while others will not.

The weave used in a project is often THE paramount concern. Many plans start out with only the notion of what weave will be used, and proceed from there. The weave is primarily what one sees when examining a piece, so it is always important to appearance. As discussed above, because of its density, the weave used directly controls the range of possibilities available for both aspect ratio and material(weight).


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