Cutting the Rings
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Now that you have your coils, it is time to cut them into rings*.
(*If you want to get technical, the rings you are making are known as jump rings.)

First we will take a quick look at some of the methods one can use to cut rings:

A ring cut with wire cutters.
Wire Cutters:

The most obvious method to use when cutting wire, but not really a good one for cutting rings.

Wire cutters cut by pinching through the metal.  This produces distinct chisel shaped ends, like those in the example to the left.  These ends are impossible to close tightly, and rings cut using wire cutters often slip apart.

Wire cutters are much slower to use than aviation snips, and require a lot of hand pressure to pinch through the wire.  The first time I cut rings with wire cutters, my hand was aching after cutting only two coils.

If you plan to cut a large number of rings for your armour project, I definitely recommend that you do not use wire cutters.

A ring cut with aviation snips.
Aviation Snips:

This is the method of choice for most butted maille makers.  It is the fastest way to cut steel rings up to 16 gauge (Standard Wire Gauge) or 14 gauge (American Wire Gauge), and produces good clean ends for a good butt, though not quite as clean as those produced by a rotary tool.  There is nothing more satisfying than the rapid “pop-pop-pop-pop” of a pair of snips cutting through a coil.

The major drawback I find with snips is that the shearing action pushes one end of the ring up, and the other end of the ring down, distorting the rings as in the example to the left.  This tends to make it more difficult to close the rings during the knitting process, since each ring must be pushed back into shape.


A ring cut with a rotary tool.
Rotary Tool (Dremmel Tool):

Produces the best finished product of all the methods described here.  The cleanly polished ends butt so neatly and tightly together that the joints are virtually invisible at a few paces away, and only a fine line is visible up close.

This is my cutting method of choice, but it is not without its problems:

The most noticeable problem is speed.  Of the three methods described here, the rotary tool is by far the slowest.  It is possible to increase the rate at which a rotary tool cuts rings by using oil, however.  (See below.)

Another noticeable problem is that a rotary tool tends to turn rings into projectiles as it cuts through!  A couple of simple methods (described below) can be used to eliminate this problem.

The last problem is rather minor.  Because the rotary tool cuts the rings by the use of friction, a small amount of material is removed from each ring.  This leaves a gap of roughly 1mm in the ring, as in the example to the left.  When closed, the diameter of the ring is reduced by about 0.3mm.  This is negligible for most ring sizes, but can be a problem with very small rings.

Cutting Rings with Wire Cutters or Aviation Snips:

Aviation snips cutting a coil

Cutting rings is dead simple with both wire cutters and aviation snips.  Just stick the bottom jaw of your cutter into the coil and squeeze.  Of course aviation snips are much easier to use.  Wire cutters require more hand pressure, and can only cut one or two rings at a time, whereas a good pair of snips will cut three or four rings at once with only minor effort.

Cutting Rings with a Rotary Tool:

The first thing to address when cutting rings with a rotary tool is the issue of safety.  As mentioned above, rings tend to be thrown as projectiles as the rotary tool cuts through.  This, of course, is not acceptable.  It is possible to virtually eliminate this problem, however, using one of two simple techniques:

The easiest technique is simply to slip a rod or thick wire down inside your coils while you are cutting (Do NOT use your mandrel for this!).  As each ring is cut free, the rod or wire will be able to catch it before it becomes a projectile*.

The primary disadvantage I have found with this technique is the need to frequently stop and remove loose rings from the wire.  Progress using this method also becomes more difficult as the coils become shorter and more difficult to handle.

The second technique for cutting coils without airborne projectile rings involves creating a set of brackets to enclose the coils while they are being cut. The brackets are made using decorative alluminum angles, which are available at many hardware and building supply stores (i.e. Canadian Tire or Home Depot).

Cut two lengths of the decorative angle that are equal in length to, or slightly longer than, the length of your longest coils.  Your angle pieces should be of a size that allows them to fit around your entire coil, but still be able to hold the coil firmly, without alowing it to move.

Remove approximately 2mm of material from one edge of each bracket.  This is to create a channel you can run the rotary tool down in order to cut the rings.

Place the brackets around each coil, and clamp them at one end with a spring clamp (You may need to file a notch in the end of the spring clamp to allow it to hold better.).  While cutting, hold the brackets and clamp with the clamp closest to your body, and pinch the other end of brackets tight with your fingers. Slowly run the cutting wheel towards yourself in the channel you created in your brackets, with as little pressure as possible to reduce wear on the cutting wheel.

With this technique, the rings will rarely, if ever, fly off*, and in addition, each ring as it is cut off will slide down between the brackets like a chute.  If you place a container on the floor in front of you as you are working, it will collect the rings neatly and easily.

And if everything goes well, you should eventually have a whole lot of these:

*One more note regarding safety:


Although the techniques outlined above reduce the number of flying rings to almost zero, rings and small pieces of wire can still be thrown from time to time. 


Two more problems that need to be addressed when using a rotary tool to cut rings are the speed at which the tool cuts, and the length of time each cutting wheel lasts before wearing out.

Luckily, both of these problems can be alleviated to some degree by the applying oil the coils as they are being cut.  Canola oil seems to work best.  In my experience, adding Canola oil to my coils as I am cutting more than doubles the number of rings I can cut per hour, and extends the longevity of the cutting wheels by three to five times.

The one disadvantage of using oil, however, is that the finished rings are coated in oil.  This oily coating can be removed by placing the rings in a strainer in small batches and spraying them with a strong jet of water from a hose.

How many rings are you going to need?

Let’s put it this way:

So far in my armour project, I managed to fill a 4 Litre container three times with rings.  That is roughly 3 American gallons!  If you are planning to make something as large as a hauberk, expect to be producing a similar volume of rings.

Oh bugger!
“Oh Damn!  I knew we weren't ready for this. The darned page isn't finished yet.”

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