How to make a Hand Mandrel
Most modern maille makers that wind their own coils make use of a coil winder of some kind to speed up the creation of wire coils. It's likely that in the early days of maille, before long lengths of wire were available by the spool, maille was wound on a small, hand-held mandrel.
I got tired of going to events, demos, and classes and trying to describe what a medieval maille maker's hand mandrel might have looked like:
"Well, you see, er...it looks sort of like a screwdriver, ya see, except, well, er, it doesn't have a head on it. You know? The end that you put into the screw? Well, it's gone. And instead, uh, there's this slot thing..."
So I decided to make one. I got the idea of the hand mandrel after reading E.M. Burgess' paper on his experiments with making riveted maille. Here's Mr. Burgess' hand mandrel (still available for viewing at the Royal Armories):
To make the handle, I took a #8 file holding handle and cut the end off, like so:
The piece originally did not have the slit in the metal sleeve that you see in the picture. At first, I thought I would try and cut the sleeve off, to keep the handle longer. I used a Dremel cut-off wheel to carefully cut open the sleeve (hence the slit) and remove it from the handle. Problem was, though, the threaded nut they have jammed down in the handle is in there really good. So I ended up cutting the end off of the handle anyway. I put the sleeve back on for this picture.
As it turns out, a 7/16" diameter mandrel works well for making 3/8" ID rings. This assumes that you are going to cut the rings from the 7/16" ID spring "butted", and then manually force the overlap, thus making the ID of the ring smaller - approximately 3/8" ID. Also, as luck would have it, the hole in the file handle was exactly 7/16" in diameter.
I roughed up the end of the 7/16" diameter shaft with a grinder, squirted some wood glue down the handle hole, and carefully tapped the shaft into the handle.
Finally, I used two cut-off wheels back-to-back with a Dremel to cut the slot in the end of the mandrel. This is used to hold the start of the spring.
I put a slot in the end of mine, instead of the hole in the end of Mr. Burgess' tool. I figured a slot would be easier to manufacture than a hole. As it turns out, I think a hole would work better for winding, as the coil tends to want to slip out of the slot. I may cut off the very end of this tool and replace the slot with a hole.
(Note: I have since cut off the slit end and replaced the slit with a hole. It works much better.)
To read more about the winding of maille rings, click here.