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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2009 11:09 am    Post subject: The chronology of mail?         Reply with quote

Can anybody provide me with a brief overview of what type(s) was most commonly used in what period?

I guess the La Tene Celts started with round, rivetted mail, but did they also use solid rings, like the Romans?

When did the Roman-type mail change to an all rivetted pattern?

When did flattened rings become popular? When wedged rivets?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2009 9:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isn't most of this in the Mail Unchained article?
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2009 10:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, Dan, I think what he is looking for would be easy to use chart of sorts where you would see when certain types of mail first appear and when they disappear?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 3:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are three generalities that are all covered in the article:

Mail made of alternating rows of round riveted and solid links is by the most common regardless of the period or region - Celtic, Roman, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc - doesn't matter.
All-riveted mail doesn't become common in Europe until the the end of the Middle Ages and even later in the Middle East.
Flat wedge riveted mail seems to be exclusive to Germany between the 13th and 16th centuries.

Something not covered:

All examples of mail that were initially described as butted in archaeological reports have turned out to be riveted after better analysis (i.e. x-ray).
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
There are three generalities that are all covered in the article:

Mail made of alternating rows of round riveted and solid links is by the most common regardless of the period or region - Celtic, Roman, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc - doesn't matter.
All-riveted mail doesn't become common in Europe until the the end of the Middle Ages and even later in the Middle East.
Flat wedge riveted mail seems to be exclusive to Germany between the 13th and 16th centuries.

Something not covered:

All examples of mail that were initially described as butted in archaeological reports have turned out to be riveted after better analysis (i.e. x-ray).


Just to clarify, are you saying mail period was not common until the end of the Middle Ages? or that before that time the norm was alternating rows of riveted and solid links?

What is the advantage, if any, of flat-wedge riveted mail?

J

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:

All examples of mail that were initially described as butted in archaeological reports have turned out to be riveted after better analysis (i.e. x-ray).


How common is this? Roman/contemporary? Seems odd, to not check more carefully before making a claim like this, given that almost all mail was not butted.

Does this include the butted ring repairs in Mary Rose mail (brass borders)?

Does this include archaeological reports of butted non-European mail? I don't know if there are any such reports, but there is non-European mail described as butted.

And while I'm asking butted mail questions, what would you call Japanese "butted" mail that has links of key-ring type contruction? That is, each ring is a double ring, with a lot of overlap, as in approximately 360 degrees of overlap. Clearly very different from what is more properly described as butted mail, but is still usually described as butted.

As a more general comment on the combat value of butted mail, I don't know of any butted mail shirts intended for combat (not counting modern combat re-enactment as combat). The only butted full mail shirts/armours I know of are Persian/Indo-Persian parade armours - the ones with fancy patterns in brass or copper rings. The mail intended for fighting was riveted or alternating solid-riveted. The Japanese mail was not intended as the primary armour, was not butted in the usual sense the term is used, and was often plate-reinforced. Moro plate and mail armours are usually described as butted, and, from photos, do contain butted rings, but are more plates than mail. Middle-Eastern mail-and-plate was riveted.

Why would anybody think that mail intended as a primary defence in real combat would be butted? These days, butted mail makes sense for re-enactors and players since (a) they can buy cheap wire, which converts most of the labour of authentic mail into a small financial outlay, (b) welding/riveting is high-skill and time-consuming compared to what else is left after buying the wire, and (c) it isn't going to be used in real combat. If you can't buy wire, then what fraction of the total expense would go into the riveting?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:

Just to clarify, are you saying mail period was not common until the end of the Middle Ages? or that before that time the norm was alternating rows of riveted and solid links?


Until the end of the Middle Ages, most European mail consisted of alternating rows of riveted and solid rings. After that, all-riveted mail was more common.

Quote:
What is the advantage, if any, of flat-wedge riveted mail?


No idea. Erik might have some ideas.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
How common is this? Roman/contemporary? Seems odd, to not check more carefully before making a claim like this, given that almost all mail was not butted.

It is very common in examples that have undergone x-ray analysis. There are many that have not been thoroughly examined though so there are still plenty of reports for extant butted mail.

Quote:
Does this include the butted ring repairs in Mary Rose mail (brass borders)?

There are examples of mail being repaired with butted links, or with a piece of wire wrapped around a gap to close it. My comment was not intended to include decorative mail.

Quote:
Does this include archaeological reports of butted non-European mail? I don't know if there are any such reports, but there is non-European mail described as butted.
19th century mail from Sudan seems to be butted but by that time threats were from swords and firearms, not spears and arrows.

Quote:
And while I'm asking butted mail questions, what would you call Japanese "butted" mail that has links of key-ring type contruction? That is, each ring is a double ring, with a lot of overlap, as in approximately 360 degrees of overlap. Clearly very different from what is more properly described as butted mail, but is still usually described as butted.

Japanese mail is an exception in many instances.

Quote:
As a more general comment on the combat value of butted mail, I don't know of any butted mail shirts intended for combat (not counting modern combat re-enactment as combat).

The 19th c Sudanese ones previously mentioned were intended for combat

Quote:
The only butted full mail shirts/armours I know of are Persian/Indo-Persian parade armours - the ones with fancy patterns in brass or copper rings. The mail intended for fighting was riveted or alternating solid-riveted.

Phillipino mail and plates constructions use butted mail but the primary defense is the plates, not the links joining them together.


Last edited by Dan Howard on Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Antonio Lamadrid





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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Something not covered:

All examples of mail that were initially described as butted in archaeological reports have turned out to be riveted after better analysis (i.e. x-ray).



Does this include the one found in Kirkburn? I have always thought that it was the exception that proves the rule that all European mail is riveted.

http://www.vicus.org.uk/documents/britishmail.htm


Last edited by Antonio Lamadrid on Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC Kirkburn hasn't been x-rayed.

Regarding the table at the bottom. None of the solid links in those exmaples have been demonstrated to have been welded. Roman solid links were punched.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,
Maybe some further generalizations about when and how European mail coverage increased would also be appreciated. I have never been quite sure when relatively sleeveless loricas changed (or if they did) to having short upper arm coverage. Expansion in length of hauberks to cover lower sections, of the body, and how low they covered is also something I am also not sure about. About when do we first see several examples of head coverage... Etc.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 2:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
As a more general comment on the combat value of butted mail, I don't know of any butted mail shirts intended for combat (not counting modern combat re-enactment as combat).

The 19th c Sudanese ones previously mentioned were intended for combat


IIRC (don't have the book to check), Robinson "Oriental Armour" has a description of a Sudanese armourer making a mail shirt, in the old style, except butted rather than riveted. In this case, the butted shirt would be a non-combat replica of older riveted mail. Must check book.

Thanks for replies.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2009 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Why would one abandon less labor intensive half and half for an all riveted construction method?

M.

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Eric S




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PostPosted: Tue 22 Dec, 2009 12:22 am    Post subject: Butted chainmail         Reply with quote

I have seen many examples of 19th century Japanese chainmail that was completely butted....not just connecting armor plates but full chainmail armor.
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 22 Dec, 2009 7:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Why would one abandon less labor intensive half and half for an all riveted construction method?

M.


[speculation]Because low quality iron sources and refinement mean that the punched rings are actually weaker as they are more likely to have slag inclusions. One advantage to drawing wire is that it breaks at the bad inclusions - so the end result already has the bad slag discarded. This method of 'improving' the wire is more labor intensive and wasteful of materials so it doesn't become common until economic and tech changes make it less of an issue. [/speculation]

I could speculate more but would rather someone with knowledge of the relevant metallurgy answer.

Cheers,
Steven

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 22 Dec, 2009 1:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Butted chainmail         Reply with quote

Eric S wrote:
I have seen many examples of 19th century Japanese chainmail that was completely butted....not just connecting armor plates but full chainmail armor.

I doubt that any armour the Japanese made in the 19th century was intended to be a practical defense on the battlefield
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 22 Dec, 2009 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Artis Aboltins wrote:
Hmm, Dan, I think what he is looking for would be easy to use chart of sorts where you would see when certain types of mail first appear and when they disappear?


Yes, exactly. As good as the Mail Unchained article is, it takes a somewhat close reading to find the answers to my original post.

Now that I've read it again, it seems that:
- Solid rings were used from the beginning up to the late middle ages
- Flattened and round rivetted rings could be used interchangably in just about any time period
- Wedged rivets were only popular in Germany in the late middle ages

But on the other hand, there are obviously differences between Roman Lorica Hamata and early medieval mail. Mostly in style (double shoulders), but perhaps also in construction?
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 22 Dec, 2009 6:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Because low quality iron sources and refinement mean that the punched rings are actually weaker as they are more likely to have slag inclusions. One advantage to drawing wire is that it breaks at the bad inclusions - so the end result already has the bad slag discarded. This method of 'improving' the wire is more labor intensive and wasteful of materials so it doesn't become common until economic and tech changes make it less of an issue. [/speculation]

I could speculate more but would rather someone with knowledge of the relevant metallurgy answer.

Cheers,
Steven


I don't currently try to replicate the historical mail making process, but, do interact with the theoretical metallurgy indirectly through engineering of weld and forming procedures as well as a small amount of hobby level blacksmithing.

Making mail from modern mild steel pre-made wire is completely different in terms of fabrication challenges that would have been faced from period mail makers using appropriately low carbon content wire. More modern steel mail was probably replicated much more easily than the earlier mostly pure iron mail making process. My logic follows.

Manual forging refinement does not remove most impurities that cause the more serious problems in iron wire drawing. Traditional charcoal and coal forging practiced with basic competence should not reduce the carbon content to the low levels that we see in actual mail fragment rings either. Slag is somewhat independent of the ore chemistry, method based, and should not be lightly dismissed as a skill based tradition in making wire by hand craftsmanship either. Many of the premier archeological examples of well preserved pre Renaissance mail ring fragments over a span of roughly one Millenium exhibit near perfect chemistry for nearly pure iron wire drawing as would be compared to Renaissance musical instrument wire drawn of fairly pure iron. (Ideal range of carbon near 0.1%, moderate phosphorus, very little of other undesirable impurities.) Appropriate raw ores having corresponding period chemistry originate historically only from a small geographic region overlapping Northern Germany and the adjacent region of Czech Replublic. No other period category of blade, axe, tool, or common household iron utility item that I am aware of from period artifacts that have been sampled for chemical composition exhibit such near perfect chemistry for A specific process as mail does for wire drawing. It could just be a coincidence, but I am skeptical until seeing period based proof that the wire was fabricated in some other manner.

I am presently baffled with personal hypotheses that period, quality, mail may have been made in a correspondingly small geographical region as the ores existed over a large fraction of European mail history. Or we could just accept that the knowledge of suitable source materials, workmanship, and trade of the uncommon but required ores existed. Some of the historical repair attempt examples (Sutton Hoo) exhibit no attempt at replicating original materials or original quality. Others (Burka garrison) seem to exhibit complete incompetence (overheating and oxidizing of all recovered fragments in close proximity to a work area identified as a forge, explained as a result of a fire that destroyed the garrison, although such a fire would be extremely rare outside of a forge) in reworking the materials through what I would interpret as a failed forging attempt. As of yet, I have not seen a single example of field repair analyzed that matches original parent ring manufacture quality from a purely metallurgical point of view.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Dec, 2009 4:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Butted chainmail         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Eric S wrote:
I have seen many examples of 19th century Japanese chainmail that was completely butted....not just connecting armor plates but full chainmail armor.

I doubt that any armour the Japanese made in the 19th century was intended to be a practical defense on the battlefield
For whatever the purpose it was made, the Japanese produced fully butted chainmail armor that was made to be used in combat of some type, it was not for show or parade purposes but was made as a defence from attack by the weapons of the time.


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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Dec, 2009 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
As a more general comment on the combat value of butted mail, I don't know of any butted mail shirts intended for combat (not counting modern combat re-enactment as combat).

The 19th c Sudanese ones previously mentioned were intended for combat


IIRC (don't have the book to check), Robinson "Oriental Armour" has a description of a Sudanese armourer making a mail shirt, in the old style, except butted rather than riveted. In this case, the butted shirt would be a non-combat replica of older riveted mail. Must check book.


Robinson discusses this pg 86. Also mentions Egyptian butted mail (pg 85), made in England, for "the Khedive of Egypt's regiment of 'Iron Men' ". This appears to have been hardened steel, but brittle, with unfortunate consequences when hit by bullets. The Sudanese did not use those they captured.

C. Spring, "African Arms and Armour" only mentions butted mail as ceremonial (and relatively recent). This exhausts my African sources.

Robinson also discusses the Moro butted mail (and plate) armour we both mentioned.
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