Part 47 - Scale Maille
by Lord Thomas the Black


Scale Maille

            Welcome back to another edition of “Blackmaille”!

            This month, I thought we’d take a look at a unique type of armor that merges lamellar with maille: scale maille.                 

            In our discussion of scale this month, it’s necessary to define a few terms. For the purposes of this article, scale armor refers to armor made of overlapping scales fastened either to a fabric or leather backing of some sort, or to each other (as in lamellar).

 Scale maille, on the other hand, refers to armor wherein the scales themselves replace a ring in the European 4-in-1 or similar weave.                                 

Also note that the majority of this month’s article was written by Steven Davis, a student of mine, and Journeyman member of the Black Oak Maille Guild. Steven spent the bulk of his time at last season’s demo at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival working on scale maille, so I asked him to fill in on this month’s article. Now, over to Steven...

Armor made with overlapping scales of rawhide, horn, bronze, or other such materials pre-dates maille by hundreds of years. This ancient armor was well-known to the Roman Empire, where it went by two names, depending on how it was made:

            Lorica Squamata – scales were sewn to a fabric or leather backing.

            Lorica Plumata – scales were woven onto a maille shirt.

In both cases, the scales in question were quite small, ranging in size from ” x 3/8” to 2” x 3”, with ” x 1” being common. They were made relatively thin as well, ranging from .020” to .032” in thickness.

There are a number of different materials available to modern-day maillers with which to make scale-maille, as well as a few different ways to construct it. The scales I use are all available from The Ring Lord (, and come in a variety of materials. The ones I use most often are (L - R, Fig. 1) stainless steel, hardened stainless, mild steel, and brass.

                                        Fig. 1

            There are a couple of ways these can be assembled into maille. Full 4-in-1 maille can be made, the scales added (Fig. 2), but this makes for extremely dense, inflexible maille. The more common method (and the one I use) involves essentially replacing the middle ring in a 4-in-1 set with the scale itself (Fig. 3). This isn't exactly how it's done, but it's a starting point.

                             Fig. 2                                                          Fig. 3 

            NOTE: Before we begin, throw out any ideas of "basic units". Scale-maille is a slightly different animal from chain maille, and must be constructed differently.

Constructing scale-maille, step-by-step:

Text Box: Step 1: Open a mess of rings
Step 2: Connect 2 scales onto 1 ring. Make sure scales are front-to-front (as shown).



Text Box: Step 3: Lay out as shown. NOTE: you may want to add a "keeper ring" to the top scale, to keep your place.


Text Box: Step 4: Thread open ring through scale and through center scale.


Text Box: Step 5: Thread scale onto ring, thread ring behind last scale added.



Text Box: Step 6: Repeat step 5 with left scale.



Text Box: Step 7: Thread ring through left scale, add new scale.



Text Box: Step 8: Add ring only. Ring will pass through holes in scales added in steps 4 and 6.



Text Box: Step 9: At this point, construct will stay together and can be picked up. Repeat steps 5-8 to continue. 
NOTE: When building rows on a garment, you'll work in two directions. Working right to left, you'll add scales, while left to right you'll add rings.



            In no time, you'll have a finished piece of scale-maille, like this halter-top!  

            That's really all there is to scale-maille. Get yourself a bundle of scales and experiment with them to see what can be made, and what works best for you.

                                                                                     - Steven Davis

            So there you have it: everything you need to know about scale-maille. As usual, any questions, comments, hate mail, or fan mail can (and should!) be sent to me at: 

                                                c/o Tom Beckett
                                                13628 Belmead Ave
, MO 64030

Or you can email me at:

            Thanks for joining us for another month of Blackmaille! Join us next month for our annual Q&A session! See you next month!


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