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Malcolm Hughes




Location: North Wales
Joined: 31 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Tue 15 Jul, 2008 9:28 am    Post subject: How was maille made from wrought/bloom iron originally?         Reply with quote

bassically i was on one of my jaunts of random research, namely on the forging of iron in the age of maille (i'm in a 12th century norman group, so if you can use analogies to that, that'd help)

As i understand it, being before the invention of the blast furnace, the iron was refined in a 'bloomery' which i understand well enough, but it produces a 'bloom' or blob of iron mixed with the charcoal/coal that it was fired with.

And so my question is/are; how would they have made maille from this bloom? be it flat section rings which i guess could be cut from a flattened sheet, or round section from wire (making wire from bloom iron i definitely can't see very easily.

P.S. Although i have a fairly practical mind, my actual solid and backed up knowledge is severely lacking, plus i'm rather new to the forum, so my apologies if it's a stupid question.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 15 Jul, 2008 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wire was created by pulling it through a draw plate. It was a piece of iron or stone with a series of tapered holes - each one smaller than the last. A piece of the bloom is pulled through the successively smaller holes getting thinner and longer each time. There are problems with this since bloomery iron has slag inclusions that will cause the material to snap as it is drawn. This is solved by breaking up the inclusions so that they are small and evenly distributed. Thus only good quality iron could be used for making mail.

A cruder method involved snipping off an edge of plate and twisting the flat-section into an elongated spiral.

Solid rings were most often created by punching "washers" out of a flat plate. Even the earliest Roman mail seems to have been made of alternating rows of riveted and punched links. David Sim's "Iron for the Eagles" has a few pages on this subject.
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Malcolm Hughes




Location: North Wales
Joined: 31 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Tue 15 Jul, 2008 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, thanks a lot!
that makes sense, but how would you gain enough force to pull the iron through? i imagine even greatly heated iron would put up significant resistance.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 419

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jul, 2008 9:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Malcolm Hughes wrote:
Ah, thanks a lot!
that makes sense, but how would you gain enough force to pull the iron through? i imagine even greatly heated iron would put up significant resistance.

Pliers, I think.
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Malcolm Hughes




Location: North Wales
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 2:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

good old fashioned elbow grease then eh? Razz
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Nathan Gilleland





Joined: 25 Apr 2008

Posts: 199

PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have no knowledge on this subject, but have seen several blacksmiths working, and have since come up with a possible theory.

Could you not hammer the iron into a long, square edged wire or bar, which would then be pulled/forced through the draw plate? To me it seems that this would reduce the amount of stress on the metal (as it is already in a "wire") but pulling it through the draw plate would give a more uniform shape and thickness.

If I am horribly wrong on any points, please correct me.

Seek Honor before Wealth,
Truth before Honor,
God Before all
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, the idea is that the piece you are pulling through the drawplate isn't THAT much bigger than the hole! So you take a piece of your bloom and hammer it down to a rod, as thin as possible, with one end tapered to fit through the hole. Anneal the heck out of the rod (or maybe just try it red-hot?), stick the narrow end through the drawplate, grab with pliers, and heave. Repeat with each smaller hole to reach the diameter you want.

Matthew
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a journal article describing attempts to reproduce ancient Roman solid rings using a punch, die and sheet of iron. I don't recall if those rings were used as the "one," as in "four-in-one," or were split and used for all the rings in a mail garment. Maybe some of our Roman friends will chime in here.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
I have a journal article describing attempts to reproduce ancient Roman solid rings using a punch, die and sheet of iron. I don't recall if those rings were used as the "one," as in "four-in-one," or were split and used for all the rings in a mail garment. Maybe some of our Roman friends will chime in here.


You're referring to the article in Britannia, right?

The punched rings are actually the "four" - in other words, you would take four punched rings and connect them with a single overlapped and riveted ring.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

C. Gadda wrote:


You're referring to the article in Britannia, right?

The punched rings are actually the "four" - in other words, you would take four punched rings and connect them with a single overlapped and riveted ring.


Ahh...that makes more sense. I don't recall the journal, but I'd be surprised if we're not talking about the same article.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 19 Jul, 2008 3:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The article has some major problems. It seems that Dr Sim thinks that there is a ratio of four solid links for every riveted one. Anyone who has made mail will soon discover that the ratio is 1:1. You add ONE solid link for every riveted link you insert. His manufacturing times are also grossly overestimated. Ask Erik Schmid and he will tell you that you could conservatively reduce Sim's estimate from 1.3 years to around 6 weeks. One reasonably experienced person could easily rivet around 1,000 links per day. If a supply of solid links is available then he could be inserting a total of 2,000 links per day. A 100,000-link hauberk would take 50 days - and that is assuming that a single person is working alone which would rarely, if ever, have occurred historically. Division of labour would improve efficiency a fair amount.
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