Living in Chains, Hardware
  I've spent long periods chained in various ways.  I dream of living in chains for the rest of my life.  Here are my thoughts on the hardware needed for a life in chains.  This essay is the Hardware Primer.  I'm posted a companion essay discussing the social aspects.
    We start with the collar and cuffs.  As a minimum, we'll need wrist cuffs, ankle cuffs and a collar.  My preferred material is brushed stainless steel for longevity and easy maintenance.  The cuffs and collar must fit well.  They most likely must be custom made.  I like the feel of metal against my skin, so the cuffs must be smooth with no sharp edges or protruding parts next to the skin.  A leather or neoprene lining would eliminate the need to polish the cuffs but steel just feels so good on your skin, especially when you know it will be there a long, long time.  Ideally, the cuffs and  collar will be permanent with a convenient way to lock various chains to the cuffs.  I'm working on several designs and will post them when I get the drawings done.  My designs so far focus on bolting the cuff halves together with various non-removable bolts.  The chains then attach with a simple locking mechanism built into the cuff.  You slip the end link of any chain into the cuff, engage the lock, mail the key to your Aunt Matilda in East Somewhere and you're stuck until she sends the key back.  ("Oh dear, was the key supposed to go in the safe deposit box and the papers mailed back or the other way round.  Oh well, no matter.  Now where'd I put that cookie recipe?")  I'm also trying for either a smooth looking cuff or an ornate one.  In either case the idea is that cuffs can remain on, with or without chains, in public.  If the cuffs exhibit quality construction, pleasing lines and an interesting design, I think our friends and family will be slightly more accepting than if we simply wrap some chain around our wrists and hammer it in place.  I don't believe we can win acceptance of this new lifestyle with hardware design alone but it will help. 
    All these design considerations go triple for genital hardware.  I have worn a scrotum collar for six months and the only acceptable finish for metal that touches your genitals is Mirror Smooth.  Any imperfection will eat a hole in your skin in a day or so.  These wounds, once started, are almost impossible to heal, given the close fit of genital hardware.  Conversely, a well-fitted scrotum collar worn permanently is a pleasure that must be experienced to be believed.  I am no expert on female genital hardware but I assume the same specification, Mirror Smooth, would apply there as well.
    As an aside, when I say "permanently installed cuffs," I mean as permanently as I can make them.  If I can design a cuff that is difficult to remove, someone else can design a way to get it off easily with the right tools.  "With the right tools" is the operative phrase here.  Anything metal can be removed with a die grinder and enough patience.  My objective is to build cuffs that you can't remove without destroying their artistic flair and structural integrity.  In short, the cuffs will become worthless if you remove them.  Hopefully, the cuffs and collar will become so much a part of our lives, we would no more ask someone to cut them off that we would ask someone to cut off our arms.  Hmm, that would be one way to remove the cuffs without damaging them but you could only do it once!
     I have posted some permanent cuff designs in another essay,
Permanent Cuff Designs.  Take a look and see what you think.
    Wrists and ankles fastened together at all times seems a reasonable, indeed necessary, situation for full-time bondage.  Both connecting chains should be restrictive yet allow daily chores.  For the ankles, I've found about 18" a good maximum length for mobility.  I am 6'2" so an 18" leg iron reduces my normal stride to about two-third its normal length.  I wouldn't use one longer than this except maybe for outdoor hiking.  I've spent time in leg irons considerably shorter and, all things considered, shorter is better.  Size does matter.  Things to consider when choosing the leg iron are:
    Can I step over the edge of the tub to get in the bath?  For a normal sized American built-in tub, 18" just allows me to step directly in the tub.  If your tub is higher, you can step onto the edge of the tub then down in but you need a firm hand grip to keep your balance.  An OSHA-certified grab bar would be nice but anything that will take your entire weight will work.  I've climbed into hotel tubs using only the shower rail as a hand hold but I'm going to bust my ass one day doing it.  There, you've been warned.  Alternatively, you can sit on the edge of the tub, swing your feet in then slide down into the tub but this method also needs a hand grip or enough freedom in your hands to support yourself on the edge of the tub.  The sitting method takes longer but you'll fall only a fraction as far when you slip.
    Can I climb my step stool or kitchen ladder?  This is especially important if you restrict arm movement, as you'll be climbing  to get to things you can no longer reach directly.  Depending on your kitchen ladder, you can probably get by with an ankle chain as short as 6 inches or so.  Other steps you must climb are the stairs in a two-story or apartment building, the ladder to the attic, the fire escape and the step into your car.  Yes, you can drive wearing leg irons.  If you have a clutch, make sure you can reach all the pedals in all the necessary combinations.  While I'm discussing driving, you can't use the shoulder strap with wrist cuffs on.  You either must unlock the wrist chain to get the shoulder strap between your arms or you must slide the shoulder strap under your left armpit (British drivers: right armpit).  The first chains you to the car if you relock the wrist chain after putting on the shoulder strap.  The second leaves you with no upper body restraint as a shoulder strap under your armpit does no good at all.  Some older cars have the shoulder strap separate from the lap belt but I'm unaware of any new cars with this feature in the front seats.
    Believe it or not, a very long leg iron can be almost as restrictive as a short one.  Put several feet of chain between your ankles without a support chain in the middle and try walking around.  The chain drags on the floor, wraps around chair legs, gets caught under foot and generally makes things very difficult.  Outdoors, the chain catches on everything, including the grass if not recently mowed.  Try running with a long leg iron and the links try to whipsaw your ankles off. 
    What I call a support chain is a chain (or rope or cord or whatever) that attaches to the center of the leg iron and goes to a belt or other point up the body.  For best mobility, it should hold the entire leg iron a few inches off the floor.  Be careful walking with an unsupported leg iron other than very short ones.  You can easily step on the chain and send yourself sprawling.  Not good if it happens atop the stairs.
    The support chain can attach almost any where.  Belts or waist cuffs are good either front or back.  Attaching the support chain to the back of a belt makes using the toilet a bit more challenging.  Fastening the support chain to your wrist chain limits your hand movements and also requires you hold the support chain while walking to keep the leg iron off the floor - all which adds delightful complexity to an otherwise simple life.  You can attach the support chain to your collar with wrist chains attached in the middle, thereby creating a sirik. You can give your hands more movement in a sirik by attaching a ring to your wrist chain and running the leg iron-to-collar support chain through the ring.  Now your wrists can slide along the chain but cannot go higher than your head.  Sirik is a term from the Gor books, I think.  I've attached the leg iron support chain to my scrotum collar on numerous occasions.  The feel of the chains slapping your thighs and tugging on your privates is absolutely delicious.
    Finally, you can add weights to the leg irons.  I've not used a ball and chain much, just enough to know it severely restricts your movement.  I enjoy having a big ring in the middle of the leg iron.  It allows easy attachment of other chains and makes the chains tinkle wonderfully.  Any weight, including a heavy support chain, will slow you up as it will bang you in the skins whenever you move rapidly.
    Wrist chains should meet the same criteria as the leg irons: restrictive but allowing you to perform your daily routine.  I've found 15 inches allows me to do almost anything I can do unbound.  I've built cabinets, repaired my car, mowed the lawn, laid large floor tiles, done the dishes and the laundry, cleaned house, in short, performed all the tasks in a normal life.  Each situation requires adaptation but once you've figured it out, life can move along at an almost normal pace.  The hardest thing is folding bed sheets.  Unless your wrist chain is measured in numerous feet or meters, you must lay the things out on the floor and pull the corners across one at a time.  With a 10-to-12 inch wrist chain, I can do most household chores but building things and picking up large objects (boxes of Christmas decorations come to  mind) becomes more difficult.  Obviously, you can go as far as bolting the two cuffs together and still function in some manner.  Part of the fun of living in chains is modifying your habits to accommodate the chains.
    Doing the dishes provides an extra challenge.  Unless you cheat and use a dishwasher, you hold the dish in one hand and wash with the other.  If your wrist chain is only a few inches long, you can't reach all the plate in one swipe, so you must constantly change your grip to get the whole plate clean.  If you chains are somewhat looser, you'll find opportunities to bang the chains against the glassware, chipping or breaking them.  Nobody said it was easy.  You can also chip the edges of countertops, especially tile ones, while doing dishes or just vigorously wiping down the countertop, especially if you have a dangling chain going from your wrists to your waist.
    An essential piece of "hardware" for a life in chains is clothing.  Ordinary clothing requires unlocking and relocking the chains to dress and undress.  Besides, while a shackled man in a business suit or a woman in an evening gown may get more hits on your website, we are looking for a practical life, not an award-winning photo.  For below the waist, a slave rag is the trick.  You take a cloth, suitably sized, wrap it around your waist and tie the upper corners together at a hip.  You can go with dirty and thread-bare for that dungeon-slave look or nicely sewn in a floral print for the sarong look.  Indeed, a nicely sewn slave rag in a floral print is a sarong.  For above the waist, a simple tunic will suffice.  If you don't normally have a chain to your collar, the tunic can be made like a very large T-shirt with a neck hole but with the sides split all the way up.  Put your head through the hole, lay the front side down the front, the back side down the back and tie the bottom corners together for a bare midriff.  Or you can belt it in place with a wide leather bondage belt.  Make it so it hangs to your thighs and you can go without the slave rag.  (OK, make it hang to your knees if you're modest.  ???  You're kidding, right?  You're contemplating living in public in bondage and you're modest?)  If you wear a neck chain regularly, you'll need to either unlock that one chain when dressing or split the tunic up the front as well.  Then you have three knots to tie.  I'm wearing one now and it looks fabulous as a semi-bare chest vest.  If you use warm material and make the tunic really huge so it covers your arms and falls to your ankles, you've got a nice cloak for cold weather.  The Mexicans call this a serape but we're going to call it a slave cloak.  Shoes should probably be a sandal of some variety although a rough leather ankle boot might be needed in some climes for winter.  In place of socks, we can use wide strips of cloth wound round and round the lower legs.  Nicely tailored and made in a several fabrics and lengths, the slave rag and slave tunic/cloak should cover all our fashion needs from slaving in the hot summer sun to taking in a hockey game in the dead of winter. 
    I'll also mention my ideas on housing since that's hardware in some sense.  Assuming you live in a dwelling (see the
companion essay for one way not to), my personal preference would dispense with the bedroom and bath, making them part of the dungeon.  A blanket in the corner under the big iron ring should make a dandy bed after we're used to it.  Or we can wallow in the lap of luxury with a futon on the rack.  Toilet and shower can just sit there as part of the furniture.  The point being, sleeping and toilet are bondage activities not public ones.  I'd have a public area with eat-in kitchen and a sitting area for company.  Books and computer would go somewhere in the sitting area.  The garage would include a shop with metal working tools so I can supply all you fine people with updated hardware as the experiment unfolds.  We'll talk more in the other essay about where to build this dream house.
    Beyond the wrist and ankle chains, the possible combinations become endless.  All the more reason for permanent cuffs with easily switched chains so we can explore this new world in all its wonderful complexity.  Chains will do several things to you however.  You will move slower (duh!).  This means you will take longer to perform any given function so you won't be able to do as many things as before.  Life will be simpler.  This is a good thing.  You will also be clumsier.  Until you get used to them (even after you're used to them), the chains will pull you up short when you aren't ready.  You'll drop things, tip over things, break things.  At some point you will tip over a waste basket, or worse, by trying to step around it.  The left foot will go left, the right one right and the chain will take out the basket.  I've warned you but it will still happen.  Hopefully, your "or worse" will not be a full paint bucket.  All this will frustrate you no end until you look down at your wrists and see the cuffs and chains attached there.  You will realize those chains will still be there when you die.  Your heart will surge, you will hug the chains to your breast and be glad.

P.S.  I'm writing this essay sitting in my backyard in the gazebo.  I'm wearing a slave rag and tunic (both made from old t-shirts).  I have a collar and cuffs, all connected with chains.  (Fourteen inches on the wrists and sixteen on the ankles, since you asked.)  I set up my laptop in the gazebo and rigged an ice cube sock to drop the keys after a couple hours.  I chained my wrists and ankles to the gazebo with just enough slack to sit down and handle the laptop.  This isn't quite as daring as it may seem as the back yard is surrounded by a privacy fence.
    I wasn't finished writing when the keys fell, so I refilled the sock with more ice and kept writing.  The keys fell a second time about thirty minutes ago but I haven't retrieved them yet.  It's a nice day, sunny and warm.  I've been chained here for about five and a half hours now.  I've got this essay ready to post, so I think I'll sit back and watch the birds for a while.  I hope you have as much fun reading the essay as I did writing it!

dungeonmouse, August 31, 2005

P.P.S.  After posting this essay, I got dressed and went out for lunch.  I kept my manacles on and went to a drive-in.  When the girl brought my burger, she looked at the manacles for a moment, smiled and said:  "I like your shackles."  I could see her talking to the cooks and other car hops inside.  They all had to peek at me, of course.  I wore the manacles for the rest of the afternoon and didn't get shot at or arrested.  Maybe this idea can work.  Stay tuned.

dungeonmouse, September 4, 2005

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