Part Six: Is it Live or is it Mammorex?

Last modified:
Sunday, December 1, 2002 3:45 PM


11/30/02- Making your own chainmail puts a very high quality touch on a customizing project and there's no cheap mass production substitute for it. Although sheets of it can be produced by machine, it's still expensive. Sheets don't solve problems like the circular construction pattern of a coif. And turning sheets into actual tailored articles requires quite a lot of dickering. For example, adding an expansion ring isn't simply a local effect: It should ripple throughout each subsequent row of the fabric.

Is real chainmail the ultimate in accuracy and realism? Yes and no. From my experiments with different sized rings, it's clear that making accurately sized 1:6 chainmail would be extremely difficult. No matter. Chainmail looks neat because it's chainmail -- Besides its interesting appearance and authentic pattern, it has an inimitable tactile quality-- it's made of metal and drapes like it.

Indeed, one could argue that if you're doing it for yourself, why would you settle for less? From my recent experience, I'd answer: "Time, Mortality and Sanity". Obviously, the time you spend hand making chainmail is time you're not spending doing other things. While it can be a focal point all by itself, in the bigger picture, it's just one of many ways you can make a figure look kewl. Maybe in the Infernal Whereafter we'll have an eternity to knit fabulous suits of maile?

Because of this sad truth, I haven't abandoned my search to find a fabric which passably mimics the overall look. The idea is that a material might convey the look of chainmail from a distance, even if it doesn't have the correct patterning or authentic tactile quality. This touches on the "toy versus model" schism at the heart of our hobby. The ideal is a tactile-centered toy approach (working parts, authentic materials) when it's made to look realistic (correctly scaled). However, it's a hobby of compromises and absolute perfection is elusive, if not unattainable.

As I've mentioned, the fabric approach has been tried before with Takara's Shadow figure (metallic dot lycra) and with Sideshow Toy's Monty Python figures (a woven metallic foil). Neither of these look terribly convincing to me (I've even used the adjective "cheesy", meant in a Kraft cheese spread kinda way). Part of the problem with these materials is that they look too clean and bland-- the patterns are too regular and the silver foil is too shiny. They have no drape, or what I'd call the bigger picture texture. The Lord of the Rings figure, "Gimli" has a better rendition that's somewhat hidden under its costuming--it's like the SST fabric, but more dishevelled. My own version, painted polishing cloth, has some problems too (although since I made it, I don't call it "cheesy"): The weave is too fuzzy and doesn't have any shine at all.

A material I recently procured (left) seems to have some potential. It's very similar to the SST (center-top) cloth's composition (silver foil weaved in black stretch fabric), but has a different weave. (Right: painted polishing cloth) Closeup, the unremarkable horizontal-vertical weave of the fabric is less similar to chainmail than SST's diagonal pattern, but at a distance, the weave produces horizontal lines across the fabric (albeit, at a smaller scale than it should be). This better mimics the pattern of rows in real chainmail, which you can see in my 1:1 mannequin. When you step back from real chainmail, the detailed pattern of links isn't discernable, but the row pattern is. Ideally, the fabric should be stressed so that the rows aren't perfectly laid out, to simulate the weight and draping of real chainmail. The tricky part is shaping the row pattern since cutting and stretching is the only way to introduce reductions and expansions. Additionally, the material should be painted so that it isn't quite as uniformly colored and to tone down some of the glitter of the metallic foil.

It's a hard pill to swallow after you've mucked around with the real metal McCoy, and there's no denying what it is: A less satisfying but practical substitute for the real thing. Kinda like gravity-defying silicone inflated tits.

Part 5   Part 7