Pull Tab Lamellar

Pull tab lamellar is probably the stupidest armor project I've ever taken on. Oddly enough, it was also one of the most sucessful. The supply of raw materials is quite plentiful, virtually free, and a really fun project in itself to collect. Other than that, you need lots and lots of cord, which does constitute some looking around to minimise the expense.

The end result is a pretty light, flexible, durable, and cool suit of armor that looks unexpectedly spiffy to boot. It gets 2 or 3 armor points, most often 2. Remember, some cosmetic studs on 4 layers of cloth or thin leather will get you that much, so I don't see that as cheese by any means using the Amtgard scale. Some people get a full 3 points for some pretty weak chainmail, after all.

The Benefits of Such Nonsense

All aluminum beverage cans are actually lacquered aluminum. As long as you stay away from dull-colored tabs found on the ground, you'll have a suit that will not only never rust, it won't rub off the gray oxide finish that happens with some aluminum chainmail. There's enough air through the layers that it breathes well. Aluminum is also a good heat conductor and that helps transfer heat away from your skin.

Technically, the pattern is lamellar, not chainmail. Chainmail is interlinked rings, which they are not. Lamellar is plates laced together with cord, which they are. Lamellar is one of the most prominent forms of armor in all of history, and consequently took on a fantastic number of variations in the patterns of plates and lacings used, some of them using very small plates. Although these "plates" have pretty sizable holes, the pattern does always have another tab beneath the hole, and in most areas it's 2 tabs thick. The rough edge where it was pulled off the can doesn't come into contact with you except on the very bottom row because of the lacing pattern.

Common Types of Pull Tabs

There are lots of different types of pull tabs out there, but only a few are common enough to get the estimated 3000 needed for a shirt. The standard rounded small-ring type A comes on most coke and beer cans, and is very easy to pull off. The background GIF is composed of this type. The angular types C and D are also common, but difficult to remove and may be difficult to lace. The type B is similar to type A but has a slightly larger ring. Type B's are found on some beer cans (Shiner Bock) but great care must be taken not to mix them up with type A's, as it screws up your pattern completely. Mountain Dew comes with a green tab, and Coke occasionally did promotions using red tabs. I've seen a few gold and blue ones too. These are highly prized for color accents, note since the red Cokes have no top opening, they can only fit on the top edge of the pattern.

Acquiring Raw Materials

A fun job in itself. I had everyone I knew collecting these things for me, the group effort made it all the more special. Some recycling centers may also allow you to go through their uncrushed stock for a minimal price. Recycling centers are also a good source for hunting down those colored tabs. There was an old piece of urban mythology that led people to believe a milk jug of pull tabs was worth $80. While that had no basis in fact, many recycling centers have jugs carefully filled by hardworking entrepreneurs who left them in frustration at a recycling center after they discovered they were worthless, despite all attempts to convince the confused employee to the contrary. The new owners seem happy to unload them for a suprisingly reasonable amount.

Getting Cord

You'll need a sturdy cord about 1/8" diameter for lacing, and a lot of it. I used some 100% polyester that resembled shoelace. Yarn or maxicord, cheap as it may be, is probably not a good idea. The fibers aren't very tight, and unraveling could be a problem as the cord does lie against the rough edge where the tab was torn off the can. Leather lace is also an option. The suede lace from Wal-Mart may be good, but a top grain or latigo may work better. A strap cutter can be used to cut lace from any stiff leather you may have lying around. When working with leather,. remember the lace has to be long enough to go all the way around or you'll be tying big knots in the middle of each row.

Removing tabs

You don't want the little ring around the rivet that holds the tab on the can. Just get them off by flexing back and forth till the bit snaps off.


The pattern is very simple, so this is going to be a short section in that regard.
Put a piece of Scotch tape tightly around the area to be cut on the cord. Leave that tape on after cutting.
Just lace each tab on as in the background GIF. There's no secret on the backside, it doesn't knot or double back on itself.

The following are the necessary pointers, some of which I found out the hard way:
1. Wash your tabs thoroughly first, or the ants will find it tasty.
2. While the pattern has good stretch in the up-and-down direction, its side is pretty unstretchable. It can't go over your head like a suit of chainmail, it MUST have a seam down one side that buckles closed.
3. Allow some extra lace on the ends in case you need to tailor more girth into it later. It is impractical to tie on a new piece onto every row if you want it just an inch or two wider.
4. Start in the center of a row and work to either side. That way you only have to pull half the lace through each time you pull it tight.
5. Tie off EVERY row as soon as it is done to prevent loosening.
6. Put some thought into what type of knot you're going to use before you tie 100 of them and find it loosens easily.

The construction saga continues with the advent of DOUBLE-TAB armor!! Keep saving them tabs!

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