Heritage 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).
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Greenwich & Nottingham
Area practiced currently
Origin in the UK
The earliest finds date from the 4th century BC but almost certainly earlier.
Current No. of professionals (Main income)
Current No. of professionals (Side income)
Current No. of trainees
Current total No. of serious amateur makers
Current No. of leisure makers
not known


Maille developed all over Europe and the East (a lot of maille 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.


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


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

  • 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.

Craftspeople currently known

Other information

As of 2022 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.

Training providers:

  • Short courses are available in historic maille making with skilled makers Nick Checksfield and Phil Parkes on request. Details of courses with Phil can be found on the Craft Courses website.
  • There are no formal education opportunities specifically for maille making


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.

A video on Nick Checksfield making maille can be found here.

National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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