I have gotten several questions on how I do scalemail. I am very very far from professional, I am self taught and I only have been scaling for less than 2 years. Everything in this article is my opinion. It is probably wrong, but it is how I do it.
But I do know how to start, and that is what I think people need. Here are all of the resources I used to get started!
First, I want to let you know, scaling is MUCH easier than chainmail. So of you want to start with one, I suggest scalemail. It allows you to have different materials to work with that makes seeing patterns easier.
What materials do you need?
To start, the things you need are pretty basic. There are two main things.
Scales and rings
I’m going to break down what I know about each of these items.
Scales and Rings
The first thing you will need is obviously scales and rings. There are several things to consider when you are looking at scales and rings
Be aware that every different size scale will need to have different size rings to attach them.
TYPES of Scales
There are many different materials that scales are made of and different ways they are painted. The main thing scales are made of is metal and plastic. It is important to make sure you have matching scales (unless you want it mismatching).
The two things you should consider when thinking about materials is durability and weight. Plastic scales are lighter, but they are less durable.
Types of rings
Rings are made out of different materials as well. The two main ones are aluminum and steel. There are also two different types of rings, regular and jump rings.
The two things you should consider when deciding on the ring material is the strength of the ring verses how are they are to work with. Aluminum rings are a LOT easier to work with, but they can’t take as much weight and tend to need to be repaired a lot more often. Steel rings are a lot harder to work with, but they hold up a lot better.
The difference between regular and jump rings is pretty self explanatory. A regular ring looks like a single circle. A jump ring looks like a keychain ring. This makes them a lot more difficult to work with (you need a special type of pliers), but also a lot more durable than a regular ring.
When in doubt, guess. Just kidding. Read a lot. Research to make sure you have the right sizes or you will get really frustrated.
Believe it or not, the pliers make a huge difference, especially when working with bigger ring sizes and thicker ring sizes.
You don’t need any special pliers, with the exception of working with jump rings (more about that in a minute). If you are going to be working with smaller rings (the kind most people use) you can use basically any snub nosed or round end pliers.
A lot of people recommend getting silacone or rubber covered tips to protect your rings. I never have used them, I just try to be careful not to get pliers with any sort of grooves that will make obvious marks on the rings.
I got all my pliers for a couple of bucks a piece at a gun show. They sell them online and in the jewelry section of most stores, but they cost a little more.
When working with the BIG rings, all bets were off. I didn’t realize how tough they were going to be. So I found the only set of real pliers I had (much bigger and had distinctive grooves) and went to town. I looked at other types of pliers and they were $10 or more…so I stuck with the ones from my toolbox. After all, they were working just fine.
For jump rings, you have to get the specific pliers to open them. I thought it was a hoax when The Ring Lord said that on their website. Fortunately, I “fell for” the hoax and got the pliers with the rings. It makes it so much easier! I’ve been in a rush and tried to use other pliers and methods on jump rings and it DOES NOT work. At all. If you want to work with jump rings, it is the only way to go.
Where to get materials?
There are a few places to get scales and rings. You can make the scales yourself (good luck). But I am going to cut to chase.
If you want affordable materials, go to TheRingLord.com. They have all the materials and information you need to get started. I don’t work for them, at the time of writing I am not an affiliate for them. I just use their stuff and it is very affordable. Not to mention great quality.
Simple answer. TheRingLord.com.
Where to find Tutorials
This is an obvious answer. Youtube. I’m not even going to attempt a tutorial because there are so many amazing ones online.
The Ring Lord has the best one, in my opinion. You can check out the video here.
Another one of my favorites is a chainmail tutorial. This is the easiest type chainmail and it is the first one I learned. It also makes really pretty jewelry. Check out the video here.
Also, I highly recommend the videos of Yvonne Williams. I utterly failed at chainmail until I met Yvonne at Archon. She explains things so clearly and simply, I was able to actually able to get the hang of it. Check out her channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/yvonne007bgu
Tips and Tricks
I have a bunch of projects that I have done in the last year and a half. Mostly for one set of armor. I have learned a lot through trial and error. Here are just a few of my most painful lessons. I’m sharing them with you in hopes that I can save you some of the frustration and pain I went through.
My Epic Fail
Do not do this! If you flip the scales the wrong way when you are putting scales over the top of each other, the rings will be on the outside and the scales will be on the inside. This makes the scalemail ugly and useless. (See the picture).
I fixed it by detaching the rows of scales and then re-attaching them the right way out. About a 3 hour mistake on this particular mistake.
Listen for the click
Yvonne Williams taught me this trick. To know that your scales are as sealed as possible, you should hear a click as they close. You do not want gaps in your rings, especially with scales. Not only does it weaken your piece, but it will allow your scales to slip out. A few rings with tiny gaps are no big deal, but sometimes rings just won’t close. Those should just be tossed.
Get the right grip
Sometimes after I have been scaling for a while I get sloppy. On occasion I don’t get a good grip on the ring. Sometimes when this happens, my pliers slip and the scales or pliers scratch me. I’ve bled myself before, so be careful.
I love scalemail. I love making beautiful, fierce pieces. I hope that this artice has helped you get started. If it did, leave a comment or message me on my social media! I would love to see what you are working on.