13th SC(E) NCO Indulges in Ancient Craft
Story and Photos by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson
13th SC(E) Public Affairs Office
FORT HOOD, Texas — A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) noncommissioned officer likes to put chain mail together.
Not the kind of chain mail that involves forwarding to 10 friends within 15 seconds or you’ll fall off of a cliff.
The chain mail Sgt. 1st Class Adam Rothas, the G3 Schools noncommissioned officer in charge of the 13th SC(E), is interested in is based on the armor ancient Soldiers wore to protect themselves from slashing attacks.
“I went to a renaissance fair and saw chain mail for the first time and I thought it was really cool, so I wanted to learn how to make it,” he said.
The artisans and craftsmen were less than forthcoming with information on the topic Rothas said, “They wouldn’t tell me how to make it, and this was 1979, well before the internet became as useful as it is today.”
“So I went to the library and studied up on the topic,” he continued, “I started with coat hanger wires, I would buy them by the gross.”
Rothas said he started just to see how the chain mail went together, but he liked the finished product so much that he just continued the hobby.
Once internet auctions became popular, he had a much wider market to sell his handcrafted armor.
“I’ve sold everything from key chains to full suits of chain mail,” said Rothas.
Evolving a significant amount since his hand-wound straightened coat hanger days; the schools NCO has perfected his technique over the course of 28 years experience.
He starts with a certain gauge of wire depending on the project.
For standard chain mail, he selects a rod from his collection. The diameter of the rod he uses will determine the diameter of each ring he creates. The inside diameter of each ring will be slightly larger than the diameter of the rod he uses.
Rothas puts the end of his spooled wire through a hole in the end of the rod and connects a power drill to the other end of the rod. He then suspends the rod on a wooden mount and slowly coils the wire around the rod using the torque of the power drill.
After he coils the wire, he snips the end of the wire to release it from the rod and is left with what resembles a spring about two feet in length.
He then takes the coil and uses aviation snips to cut rings from the coil two to three rings at a time.
When he finishes cutting the rings, he bends roughly half of them so the ends are flush with each other, and he bends the other half so the ends are further apart.
At this point, he is ready to begin “knitting” them together in whatever pattern is necessary for his current project.
Rothas says chain mail armor is not just part of ancient history.
“I did my (Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course) military history presentation on chain mail,” Rothas said.
“World War I tankers actually used chain mail as veils to protect from flakes of metal that flew through the interior of the vehicle when it was hit by enemy fire, sort of a primitive ballistic eyewear,” Rothas said.
Rothas also talked about modern day shark enthusiasts and English law enforcement officials using chain mail to protect themselves from bites and knives respectively.
He plans on using it in his post-retirement career as a teacher, “If I’m a history teacher, I’ll integrate it into my lessons.”
Before he goes medieval on schoolchildren, he’s going to continue to hone his craft, “I’m just going to keep working on it, nothing full time,” said Rothas, “It’s an interesting hobby, not everybody does it, so that’s part of the mystique.”
Sgt. 1st Class Adam Rothas, the G3 schools noncommissioned officer for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), coils wire around a rod in the first step of producing chain mail armor.
An example of a partially finished coif and mantle created from stainless steel and copper by Sgt. 1st Class Adam Rothas, the G3 schools noncommissioned officer for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).