Monday, December 24, 2007

Chain Mail Making

One of the advertised activies that we do as part of the Rec Centre programme is to actually MAKE armour. After all, we ARE the South Tower ARMOURING Guild, after all. However, the understandable difficulty in bringing in an anvil, a set of hammers and a few drill presses mean that our armouring consists of chain mail making. (I would like to add leatherwork to the next class actually, as well as knitting the chain mail.) Its not so robust a session as swinging swords, but its still a lot of fun. Look at the pile of pliers in the middle of the table! These all belong to Shayne (the big guy on the right) and he pretty much ram rods the chain mail portion of the class.

A good illustration of the balance between males and females in my class. "Girls just wanna kick butt......." Grin!

Darn, now that my hair is thinning, you can see all the scars on my noggin!

ip-location map zoom

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tim Willocks

It seemed appropriate to be reading Tim Willocks book "The Religion" in armour. This rattling good story is set in a very interesting period of Maltese history. It covers the Great Seige pretty thouroughly, and the back story is really well researched and solid.
I think the name "The Religion" might put people off...they may think it is about St. Thomas or some such person, rather than the lead character, who is about as different from the Gentle Thomas Aquinas as it is possible to get. This guy has a personal grudge against the Inquisition, and somehow stays alive to continue fighting it! He provides a very nice, three dimentional character with his own story, the result is excellent continuity through a very difficult and confusing battle.
I am glad to see a slightly different take on this famous battle than the usual military thinking....this was actually a grudge match against the moderate Islamic Ottoman Empire against some fanatical elements of the RC church. The Grand Harbour was held in an iron grip by the Knights of St. John, the last of the great "church militant" orders created by and for the crusades working more or less closely with the Spanish Inquisition, and though there were many better targets for Ottoman expansion, this one was a particularly tasty nut to crack.
As hard as Willocks tries to make his characters fully three dimentional, they keep getting upstaged by the fight that is going on all around them. The old emotional baggage between La Valette and the Inquisition which once excommunicated and jailed him might have provided fodder, but come to think of it, would have required a whole 'nother book! As well, the dealings with Dragut the old Barbary pirate, who had captured Vallette when he was young, only to have Vallette return the favor several years later after the a prisoner exchange could have been developed further, as a spice to Dragut's eventual death by sheer accident (if you can call being killed in an artillery barrage an accident!) during Dragut's assault on Fort St. Elmo.
And the fight! Oh my! What a battle! Willocks spares us no details of a horrid bloody desperate fight, his descriptions make us feel like we are actually THERE. He intentionally keeps the fog of war floating across the battle field, and that only adds to the realism. It is very rare in military battles to find units which literally did "fight to the death", but this is one case where it did happen, by men who were well trained, well fed, and sustained in their efforts by "The Religion".

ip-location map zoom

Saturday, December 15, 2007


This remarkable buckler is unique to the island nation of Malta, and generally speaking, it is considered to be a relic of the Great Seige. The centre boss is separate from the rest of the shield, and I believe if I were to look in behind, I would find a mounting for a "gonne", a little muzzle loading firearm. The brass strips are not just for decoration, but they would catch a rapier blade or dagger just fine, and hold it. The chances are this piece (or rather pieces) was originally spun to shape and then embossed, though thats not guaranteed. Spinning was not unknown in the renaissance, heck, even the Romans spun helmets on lathes, but as you can imagine, there were not really a lot of places where you would use large spinnings like this. A buckler would be one of them. Though I do admit that as an exercise in shrinking, this project would be hard to beat!

The armourer would have panel bashed those large triangular pieces into a mould cut into the end grain of a piece of firewood , though when I tried in on a piece of scrap here in the shop, I found it was pretty easy to get the effect over a standard English pattern anvil, so obviously, a German armourer's stake would work just fine.

The chain mail shirt in back is worth of a whole 'nother post!

ip-location map zoom

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Breastplate in the Palace Museum in Malta

click on the image to enlarge.

This particular breastplate has many important points of interest. From a distance, you can see that stylistically, it is meant for a foot soldier....though of course the narrow sides mean it can ride up high when you sit a horse. There is a total lack of lance rest, or even a place to mount a lance rest. It must have been grand with the leather picadills all around the arm holes and the bottom...and comfortable to wear as well! Note the fact that the beautiful rolled edges are not roped in any way.
On the front, there are two high shoulder rivets a hands width from the top...they are designed to hold a heavy placqart, a haute piece if you will, which will be much heavier and able to deflect a bullet. So this armour is not just a parade piece of armour, but rather, a serious battle armour. That it was used in parade is evident from the delightful repousee'd crucafix on the front. Repousee would not remove any metal,whereas engraving chisels metal away, weakening it. One sees both on this armour.
The armour was originally hammer welded in the belly, and due to heavy use (as indicated by the dents around the shoulder rivets as well) it cracked at the weld. It might have been that the armour was made from that new fangled steel instead of good old iron, and steel is notoriously difficult to weld on the hammer. So the armourer sunk 4 rivets on the belly to hold the two overlapping placquart pieces together, and a couple more to hold a backing plate to the flare below. This would have made the armour satisfactory for battle, and as long as the knight wore a nice wide sash around his waist over his armour, the repair would be nearly invisible.
There is no doubt much more about the provenance of this armour that we can deduce from the repairs, and the styles, and maybe there are even paintings showing a knight wearing exactly that armour. It would not be cheap armour, so a painting might exist!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Graduation class, Dec 2007, Plant Recreation Centre, Ottawa

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sam's armour.

This was the armour I made for Sam R. a month or so back. I put pictures of it up on this blog awhile ago. Now she got it, and she looks great in it! She is a jouster, and is looking forward to cracking lances in the coming season down in California and Texas.
above, Sam, modeling her new placqart and faulds.

From the front, she doesn't look too bad. The armour doesn't look too bad either.

And as you can see, the back needs a little bit of "tweaking". The back placqart needs to be pushed up against her body. We did that over the phone by having her tie the placart pieces over top the armour instead of underneath.

She is pretty good with leather, so we left it like this....I am hoping to be able to post better pictures once she gets dressed up and on her horse.