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One ring at a time: Gering businessman crafts medieval armor – York News-Times

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One local business owner has taken his passion for crafting back in time.
Randy Rice, co-owner of Hand Crafted in Gering, pieces together suits of chainmail armor one metal ring at a time.
Rice has been working with chainmail for over five years, and he said it all started with boredom and a video.
Randy Rice in the shop portion of his Gering business, Hand Crafted.
“I just started watching YouTube videos and came across somewhere people were making the chainmail and was like, that looks like something that’d be fun to try and do.”
After teaching himself the process and building some of his own equipment, Rice began to construct shirts, rings, bracelets and necklaces out of intricately woven steel rings. He said the process is time-consuming because every ring must be connected by hand.
A hauberk with more than 18,000 rings on display in his store has taken him over a year to complete.
Rice uses pliers to close a link of English 4 in 1 weave, just one of thousands required to complete a chainmail shirt.
“I’ve got well over 300 hours into it. That’s including rolling of the wire, cutting the rings, and assembling them all,” Rice said.
Rice said you can buy rings, but he prefers making them himself from steel wire to keep material prices low. This is accomplished using a homemade rig and an electric drill to wind the wire around an appropriately sized dowel to create what he calls a “spring,” which is then cut into identical rings.
There are many different ways to assemble the rings, and Rice has samples of various weave styles on display in his store. The different weaves will have different ring densities, and therefore different levels of protection.
A closeup view of Randy Rice’s current project, a chainmail hauberk commissioned by a customer who frequents Renaissance fairs. 
“The more rings that are in it, obviously, the denser the armor’s going to be.”
But density is not the only factor when choosing which weave to use for a project. Rice described the decision as a balance between protection and mobility.
“The more you stack on them (the rings), then there’s less area for stuff to get through. Also with that though, there’s less flexibility.”
The wide range of chainmail weaves used by Rice in his projects.
That tradeoff is important to balance for medieval armorers who made chainmail that was worn into battle.
“Chainmail is mostly good for if you’re in a sword battle,” Rice said. “If someone is shooting arrows at you, there’s still a good chance you’re going to get hit with those.”
Rice said that apart from the power tools he has access to, his process is very similar to how his historical predecessors would have made similar products.
“They would roll wire around something that was round to make the rings, then cut the rings off and put them together.”
The time-consuming nature of the process means that large products like a hauberk carry a price tag of around $500. Rice’s other chainmail products, such as necklaces and rings, range from $5 to $20 and can be made upon request, much like many of the other products available at Hand Crafted, which he co-owns with his wife, Kim.
Kim Rice describes the shop as a vendor market.
“We have different people who sell different items between handcrafted and antique items,” Kim Rice said.
A small portion of the products hand made by Kim Rice. 
The Rices opened their first shop under this model in Mitchell in January of 2020.
“Right before the pandemic,” Rice. “We fought through the pandemic and stayed open luckily.”
But they did more than survive. In their first two years of business, the Rices outgrew their store in Mitchell and relocated to the current location in Gering in October 2021. Rice said he credits the vendor market business model for much of that growth.
“From day one, it was crazy how many people were interested in doing it.”
A selection of rings on sale at Hand Crafted, including some made of chainmail. 
The store operates as a consignment shop, meaning the vendors rent space to display and sell their products. The result is a very diverse range of products that are all handmade by local crafters and artisans.
Kim Rice single-handedly makes a large number of items including sewn products, wind chimes, jewelry and car fresheners. She credits her mother, who sells quilts at Hand Crafted, for getting her started as a crafter at a young age.
She said the best part of running a vendor market is helping others.
“Some people can’t afford a storefront because it can be quite expensive,” Kim Rice said.
Giving local makers a place to display their work helps them get exposure, which is very important for those just starting out.
Randy Rice said that many of the new crafters in the area started making things during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to an increased presence in their store and at craft fairs.
He said that purchasing items from Hand Crafted is about more than the products themselves.
“You’re supporting several small businesses and keeping the money local to our community instead of buying something from somebody over in China or wherever.”
Hand Crafted currently houses work by 15 local vendors, and the Rices are always interested in adding to that number.
“Anything is acceptable as long as it’s quality work,” Kim Rice said.
Hand Crafted is at 1505 10th St. in Gering.
Marah’s Treasures is at 304 Broadway St. in Taylor in Loup County. The shop carries gift items and fragrances, plus life-sized plywood figures made to order, and is open Thursday and Friday afternoons.
The Most Unlikely Place, 205 Main St. in Lewellen, is just a short drive from Lake McConaughy and is open Wednesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It closes for the season from mid-November to mid-March.
The combination bistro/gallery serves breakfast and lunch as well as offering a wide variety of fine art. Sculptures, jewelry, paintings and more are available.
The Fort Cody Trading Post, 221 Halligan Drive in North Platte, has a variety of merchandise. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. “We have one of the best selection of western books anywhere, handmade Native American jewelry and arts, T-shirts, toys, Minnetonka Moccasins, retro soda pop, candy, hot sauces, cook books, Nebraska-made items and food, stuffed animals, souvenirs, cards and much, much more,” the store’s Facebook page boasts.
Marshall Custom Hats, 214 Staples St., in Arthur features handmade hats made by James Marshall. “It’s amazing that about 42 percent of my customers are repeat customers,” Marshall told Tri-State Livestock News last year. “Once I get them in once, they’re usually back for another one.”
Hollywood Candy is in Omaha’s Old Market at 1209 Jackson St. The store specializes in “hard-to-find retro and nostalgic candies of the past” and has modern-era candy as well. It has a large collection of PEZ dispensers and retro toys and novelties. 
The Brown Sheep Co. Mill Store, located at 100662 County Road 16 in Mitchell, is attached to the mill and sells the company’s yarn “seconds” and other crocheting/knitting supplies. The company’s yarn is known and sold worldwide. One benefit of the mill store is “seeing all the wonderful handpaints that our handpainter tries out when developing new color ways.  Because these hanks are one of a kind and generally not reproduced, they are not offered to our retail customers for purchase,” according to the company’s website.
The Cottage Inspirations shop in Cambridge, 710 Nasby St., features quilting supplies as well as home decor items, including antique furniture, Gooseberry Patch cookbooks and McCall’s Country Candles. The shop is owned by mother and daughter Melody Brown and Samantha Jones.
The Antiquarium and Bill Farmer Gallery, 309 Water St., is in Brownville and sells used, rare and out-of-print books. The store offers some 150,000 titles and is housed in a remodeled former grade school. It specializes in foreign language books, cinema titles and fiction. The store began to 1969 in Omaha, moving to Brownville in 2008.
Master’s Hand Candle Co. in Tekamah, 3599 County Road F, has more than candles — delectable chocolates, flowers, home decor, shopping, gifts, jewelry, purses and diva wear. The shop’s website declares it “every woman’s dream store.” The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The North Platte Art and Gift Gallery, 516 N. Dewey, is open Tuesday through Saturday and has local contemporary art in a variety of mediums. The enterprise began in 1987 when a group of local artists rented a vintage downtown storefront. One of the five galleries hosts monthly competitive art shows.
Park Avenue Antiques, 515 N. Park Ave. in Fremont, has furniture, dishes, linens, home decor and books, as well as a multitude of signs. The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Its website describes The Keeping Room as “a fusion of stylish antiques, unique holiday and home decor, unique fashion, food and drink and a friendly atmosphere.” The Nebraska City store is at 717 Central Ave. and is open Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 10-7 and Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Yesterday’s Lady, 113 N. Fifth St. in Beatrice, features vintage fashion in the restored 1887 Schmuck building. Proprietor Susan McLain has clothing from the 1800s to the 1960s.
Suite Child Aqua at 2304 Central Ave. in downtown Kearney has the latest baby and toddler fashions as well as helpful products for families with new babies. There is also a store in Elkhorn.
Tammy and Randy Obermier own York Boot ‘N Repair on the east side of the town square for 100 years. The business is a full-service leather repair store that also builds custom orthotics and sells boots and shoes.
Platte River Outdoors in Loup City sells a variety of hunting, fishing and archery gear and accessories. The store is open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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Randy Rice in the shop portion of his Gering business, Hand Crafted.
Rice uses pliers to close a link of English 4 in 1 weave, just one of thousands required to complete a chainmail shirt.
A closeup view of Randy Rice’s current project, a chainmail hauberk commissioned by a customer who frequents Renaissance fairs. 
The wide range of chainmail weaves used by Rice in his projects.
A small portion of the products hand made by Kim Rice. 
A selection of rings on sale at Hand Crafted, including some made of chainmail. 
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