Part 6 - Mandrels and Coiling
by Lord Thomas the Black



             Welcome back to Blackmaille! Let's get started…

             So, now that you've chosen your materials, and you know something about the tools you'll be using, let's start coiling some rings! The first thing you'll need is a mandrel. As I said last month, the mandrel is the device you coil your wire on. There are lots of different plans for mandrels on the 'net, and nearly every mailler has their own preference. Most mandrels can be placed into one of three categories: machine-assisted, crank, or hand mandrels.

             Machine-Assisted - These involve the use of a power drill connected to your turner to turn the wire. These are very easy and very fast, but can be dangerous if you're not extremely careful.


              Crank - These are by far the most common, and can be found in a lot of different configurations, from small, one-turner tabletop cranks to large, multi-turner racks with wire spool storage, that have to have a built-in dolly to wheel them around.


             Hand Mandrels - These are the most period types, being in use from ancient times all the way up to the 13th Century. They can be made as simply as putting a short length of round steel bar stock into a file handle, and cutting a notch in the end for the wire. Depending on the type and size of wire, these can take a lot of hand strength to work, though. They're best for 16 gauge and smaller wire, and can be invaluable for making smaller rings.


          Whichever type of mandrel you choose, it's important to keep a few things in mind. First, find a mandrel type that suits your needs best. If you don't do a lot of demos, or intend on making a living at mail, you can use a machine-assisted mandrel. If you're part of a living-history encampment, then maybe a hand mandrel is better for you. Second, regardless what type you choose, WEAR GLOVES! I can't stress this enough. On the hand mandrels and cranks, the stress of turning the mandrel will take it's toll on your hands, and depending on the speed at which the wire's being wound on a machine-assisted one, it's easy to get your hand caught up in the coil. If you don't wear gloves, the result can be disastrous. Third, take your time. If you try to coil too fast, the wire can bind up or double back on itself, and it's a mess to fix when that happens.

          Using a mandrel is a relatively simple process. The end of the wire is inserted through the hole in one end of the turner (or into the notch in the case of hand mandrels), and then the turner is rotated, winding the wire around it in a straight coil. If you're using a machine-assisted or crank mandrel, you'll want to leave a little "bump" of wire sticking up from the hole end, to make cutting the coil free easier. The turns of the coil should be kept close together, since too much space between turns can result in warped rings. When you've coiled as much as you need (or at least as much as your mandrel allows), simply clip the end of the coil off of the wire, then snip the coil free from the turner.

             Some maillers like to work in different sizes of rings. For those of you using hand mandrels, this is easy. Simply make more hand mandrels with different-sized round bar stock. For those using machine-assisted or crank mandrels, it's much the same, but in these cases you'll want to make sure that the wood frame holding your turner steady has holes the size of the turners you're using. Too small a hole and the turner won't fit. Too large a hole and the turner won't hold steady, resulting in bad coils.

             Several different designs of mandrels exist on the net. None are very complicated, and most can be built for less than $20.00 and some work. The hand mandrels I've made were put together for less than $5.00 each. Anyone who's interested in the designs for my personal mandrel (a free-standing, multi-turner, collapsible design) is welcome to write or ask at the monthly Baronial meetings.

             Well, that wraps it up (no pun intended) for another edition of Blackmaille! As always, any mail-related questions should be sent to:


                                    c/o Tom Beckett
                                    6522 E 125th St, Apt 2
                                    Grandview, MO 64030

Next month: Cutters!

See you next month!

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