(About): Flawless Presentation Maille for a Huge Variety of Impressions and Outfits
The chainmail hauberk remained the supreme form of personal defense from the withdrawal of the Roman Empire, right the way up to the rise of plate armor in the 14th-century. This 800-year supremacy is rare in that the basic design of chainmail remained virtually unchanged: although they might have varied greatly in quality depending on the availability of materials, a hauberk of maille made by a pre-Viking Vendel smith in Northern Europe in 500 CE would have been pretty similar to a haubergeon made by a Spanish Moor in the Emirate of Granada in 1200 CE. The principle of interlinking metallic rings to form a flexible, wearable cloth is an ancient one, stemming back at least as far as the Celtic Iron Age – and this enormous breadth of time is a godsend for roleplayers and re-enactors. A single piece of chainmail such as our Butted Chainmail Hauberk can represent vast swathes of history, providing you with a piece of high-quality armor that you will incorporate into costumes and outfits again and again, year after year.
Our manufacturing partner House of Warfare has married modern materials with traditional construction methods, rather than painstakingly recreating the iron chainmail that predominated for the majority of the medieval period, in order to make it a rugged, practical piece of armor that is free from the many drawbacks of historical medieval chainmail.
The expert chainmail-makers who have constructed our Butted Chainmail Hauberk have retained all of the elements of classic, historically-authentic chainmail design. The rings are 10mm in diameter, a size seen throughout the medieval period which provided a good balance between weight, flexibility and protection. The gauge of the wire used to make the steel rings is 16-gauge – metal rings of this gauge would have been at the top-end of medieval chainmails, being able to turn aside slashing weapons with impunity, and even providing some defense against the heavy crushing weapons that emerged in the High Medieval period. The design of our Butted Chainmail Hauberk is absolutely authentic to the Late-Viking and High Medieval periods: the hauberk extends to mid-thigh, with generous slits at the front and rear to maximise mobility. It is long-sleeved, ending at the wrist – in the Early Middle Ages, this would have signified the greater wealth and status of the wearer, since chainmail was expensive and time-consuming to make under conditions with little division of labour, an item consisting of more maille links represented a greater investment. Into the High Middle Ages, for example during the Crusades, a long-sleeved chainmail hauberk became standard fair for knights and many rank-and-file soldiers.
However, this is where the similarities to historical medieval European chainmail end! The Butted Chainmail Hauberk is made from zinc-plated mild steel. For the majority of the medieval period, iron was the material of choice for chainmail – this material was comparatively soft, and thus could be dented and bent, and it was prone to corrosion. For a wealthy knight or lord, this was a mere trifle; his retainers would keep his armor in perfect shape, repairing any dents, replacing burst or bent rings, keeping it well-protected with animal fat or grease. However, this is not an option available to most modern roleplayers, re-enactors and chainmail enthusiasts!
House of Warfare’s selection of material is an enormous boon. Mild steel is significantly harder than iron, and is far less likely to bend and stretch under the strains of physical activity. As well, it has been zinc-plated – electroplating was obviously not a method available to medieval smiths, and if you’d tried to suggest it they’d probably have asked you what electricity is, and then tried you for witchcraft. In our more enlightened times, zinc-plated steel is much more corrosion-resistant than raw steel, meaning that your Butted Chainmail Hauberk will stand up to capricious conditions far better than a similar untreated hauberk. That said, it is highly recommended that you keep your Butted Chainmail Hauberk dry, especially when storing it – and you should give it a good coat of machine oil when not in use.
The method of construction is also different to that of an historical chainmail hauberk. Medieval chainmail was usually made from alternating rows of solid rings (like small washers which had been punched out of flat sheets of metal) and round-wire rings (threaded into place and riveted closed). This method of construction was incredibly time-consuming – when you take into account that a hauberk usually contains somewhere around 25,000 individual rings, more than half of which had to be individually riveted shut, even division of labour between a master-maker and a handful of apprentices still presented an enormous investment of time and labor. Thus, House of Warfare have chosen to finish their maille rings by closing them and ‘butting’ the wire ends together. Although this won’t create chainmail that is capable of standing up to full-contact combat, it enormously reduces the cost of the hauberk when comparing butted chainmail to fully-riveted construction. This makes it an absolutely perfect choice for roleplayers, Renn Faire folk and people of the stage who are seeking a chainmail outfit that will look, feel and move exactly like medieval chainmail, without the additional costs involved with constructing it for full battle-functionality.
Our Butted Chainmail Hauberk is a peerlessly flexible item of armor: when worn as a sole item of chainmail over a rough tunic or sturdy shirt, it is perfect to portray a wealthy Viking Jarl whose chainmail is more extensive than a mere waist-length short-sleeved byrnie. Or it could be the central part of a Crusader-knight outfit, worn over a padded gambeson and matched with other items of chainmail, such as our Chainmail Coif and our chainmail chausses. Depicting hundreds of years of history is at your fingertips with this chainmail hauberk – let your imagination soar!
(History): Chainmail – Between Rome and Renaissance
For the eight centuries-or-so between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, chainmail armor was mostly produced on a small scale by individual artisans or small workshops of no more than half a dozen workers. There were of course some exceptions – for example, the seafaring Vikings coveted Frankish chainmail to such an extent that Charlemagne banned the sale of armor and weaponry to the hairy Northerners! But that was the exception rather than the rule – the vast majority was made with materials that hadn’t travelled more than a few dozen miles.
A reasonably competent craftsman could produce iron from local materials with comparatively little difficulty: scavenged bog iron, clay for a bloomery furnace, and wood for charcoal. The iron produced in this method was generally fairly impure and would not have produced high-quality armor – but it was cheap and available. The artisan would have made his armor from alternating rows of stamped-out flat washers and round-wire riveted rings. The flat rings were stamped whole from a sheet of iron that had been hammered flat; either the centre was punched out and they were trimmed out with cutters, or a second larger tool was used to punch out the outer edge. The wire rings were created by drawing a small iron bar through a series of narrowing holes in a ‘draw plate’ to get the right gauge of wire, and this was then spiralled around a ‘mandrill’ to create a series of rings that could be nipped apart. These processes were all done cold, and so by this stage they had become stiff and unworkable as a result of ‘work-hardening’, so they had to be ‘annealed’ – heated up again and left to cool. The overlapping ring ends were then flattened to accept the rivets, the ring is threaded into place, and then it was riveted closed and peened securely. Rinse, lather and repeat for 25,000 rings! It seems intuitive that artisans would have worked to some kind of pattern to drop rings and contour the armor, but sadly none seem to have survived. As the medieval period progressed, examples of steel chainmail begin to appear. It seems that a popular method for creating this was a process called ‘case-hardening’. An item of finished iron chainmail would be heated in a hearth until red-hot, and then it would be removed and rolled in powdered charcoal. It was then returned to the hearth – this caused the carbon from the charcoal to suffuse into the surface of the iron, turning it into steel and resulting in a much harder, more resilient armor fabric.
Perhaps now you might have a slightly greater understanding of the enormously complex and laborious process of chainmail manufacture – and you will feel that weight of history when you don our Butted Chainmail Hauberk!
Complete the kit! Check out this selection of tabards to go above your chainmail:
- Material: Mild steel
- Finish: Zinc plated
- Ring type: Round
- Rivet type: Butted
- Ring diameter: 10mm
- Configuration: 4-in-1
- Weight: Various; see Sizing
Length: 38.5 Inches, Chest: Up to 48 Inches, Sleeve Length: 22 Inches, Weight: 20.5 lbs.
Length: 40 Inches, Chest: Up to 54 Inches, Sleeve Length: 22 Inches, Weight: 23.5 lbs.
Length: 41 Inches, Chest: Up to 56 Inches, Sleeve Length: 25 Inches, Weight: 25.5 lbs.
Length: 44 Inches, Chest: Up to 65 Inches, Sleeve Length: 22 Inches, Weight: 30.5 lbs.
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