Part 29 - "Theta" Rings, Part Two
by Lord Thomas the Black



            Welcome back to another edition of Blackmaille!

            Last month, I discussed the history behind one of the oddities of medieval maille: the “Theta” ring. Besides the history, we also discussed a possible theory behind the reason for its existence and appearance, and detailed the first part of an experiment to prove our theory. As promised, this month’s article will cover the results of this experiment.

            When last we left our experiment, we’d created a plausible theta ring using the end of a coil turned on a hand mandrel. Attempts to flatten this ring using first a ring flattener and then a ball-pien hammer proved fruitless, as the ends of the ring skipped off each other. It was decided that a flat-faced baby sledgehammer was needed, so the experiment was put off until one could be obtained.

            Now that the required hammer has been located, the experiment continues…

            As with the previous examples, our would-be theta ring was turned on a hand-mandrel, cut from the coil, and annealed (see last month’s article for these steps). Next, we placed the ring on the anvil (Fig 1), then placed one side of the baby sledgehammer over the ring and struck the flat backside with our cross-pien hammer (Fig. 2).


            Fig. 1                                                                           Fig. 2
        Ring on anvil                                                            Hammer-flattening ring

            As you can see, this resulted in a nicely flattened, useable ring with a bar through the middle, as in historical examples  (Our sample has been punched for a rivet already) (Fig. 3). Our ring differs from historic examples in that the entire ring is flattened, and looking back at the period examples (Fig. 4), this is not the case.


            Fig. 3                                                                           Fig. 4
     Resultant ring                                                             Period theta ring 

I believe it may only be necessary to flatten the area requiring the rivet. Oh, well. Live and learn. This doesn’t change the basic proof of our theory, and merely illustrates the necessity of keeping your research materials at hand while performing such “experimental archaeology”.

Now that we have our theta ring, what do we do with it? At the time of this experiment, I was working on a riveted maille coif. This project was already intended to be a showcase of many of the processes involved in making medieval maille (such as different types of tailoring, leather trim, brass trim, oil blackening, etc), so why not add another? First, the theta ring was riveted to match the rest of the rings (Fig. 5), then it was added to a basic unit, which will then be added to the next row of maille being made (Fig. 6).


            Fig. 5                                                                           Fig.6
     Riveted theta ring                                              Theta ring unit in basic unit

            When completed, this theta ring will be found on the lower right side (as worn) of the face opening, where the ventail attaches.

Analysis and conclusion:

            Our original theory, that theta rings were the leftover ends of hand-turned coils, seems to have been supported by the experiment. Practical application resulted in a ring that closely resembles period examples, and functions similar to period examples, as well.

            Future attempts to produce theta rings should take into account the difference in appearance between period examples and ours. Lesson learned: flattening the entire ring is unnecessary, as only the overlap to be riveted need be flat.

            So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen! Another adventure in mailling, and another edition of Blackmaille is behind us. Thank you for joining us again. As usual, any comments, complaints, rebuttals, questions, or fan mail should be sent to:

                                    Thomas Beckett
                                    Attn: Blackmaille
                                    13628 Belmead Ave
                                    Grandview, MO 64030 


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