Thursday, October 30, 2008

A random pic from Malta

The picture below is, well, not quite random. It was taken to include a lot of historical facts and representations. You should click on it to enlarge. But before you do, lets get a feeling of where we are and what we are doing. At first, it looks like a jumble of honey coloured stone buildings, and after a bit, you see what is going on. This picture is taken from the land entrance and outerworks served by Fort St. Angelo, at the west end of the city of Vittoriosa looking South. You can see the vantage point in the map above, and you should remember that North is at the bottom.
Below is another map, you might want to compare it to the one above. Decide which is better...grin!

If it had a drawbridge, we would be standing on it, but what we have instead is a causeway over the dry moat. The fortified gateway is to our left, the main entrance is to the right. There are cannons facing us over our shoulders, and loopholes in the looming walls overhead. Down below is the dry moat, which has been filled with tinned steel covered sheds acting as warehouses. The roadway is not has just been paved over the roadway that existed back then, though admittedly it was blocked by a string of fortified gates which have all vanished by now. Back at the time of the great Seige, we would expect much the same junk in the moat...and a lot of garbage and trash. This made the moats even harder to cross. To the right you can see the defences of Vittoriosa, which get lower as you go down towards the water. Tempting to an attacker, way too tempting. Those defences go in steps towards the waterline, and each step is swept with small arms and carronades loaded with grapeshot. There were several attacks in this moat, and around to the right, none succeeded. The honey coloured stone is sandstone, which is easy to cut, easy to transport, and soaks up cannon shot like a pillow soaks up an uppercut. The distinctive half round mouldings mark the top of the wall, the part above that is a firing step. As you can see, the firing step is easily ten feet across. Good luck knocking that down with a cannon!

To the front, is the creek. It is actually named "Dockyard Creek", and it isn't actually a creek, is actually an inlet deep enough to take ocean going ships, and opposite the creek is the site of the former Castelle St. Michael. The ottomans did so much damage to it that they tore it down, and turned the foundations into warehouses and customs buildings, which accounts for the straight (military, shipshape and bristol fashion) streets, and renamed it Senglea. In the background, farther south, you can see the cranes for the next creek down (French Creek)...there is a dockyard there, and those cranes are massive! And over to the left about midway up the pic, you can see the gateway to Castelle St. Michael. All that is left of the poor Castelle St. Michael are the walls, out of site on the other side of all the building that was done in Senglea.

In the front, across the creek, is the "great crane". Actually, the roots of the great crane....those buttresses on either side of the doorway in the building with the battered (sloping) walls right at the water line form the base of a bifurcated derrick which would reach out out over the ship, and install heavy cannons in the galleys. It was made of timber, so has not survived, but the huge steel bases are still in place. One wonders what motive power they used...I suspect it was treadmills. Old technology, but good technology.
I found another map, a beautiful engraving by Stockwell here.... They call Dockyard Creek by a different name..."Galley Harbour".

ip-location map zoom

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mr. Bourland's armour...reprised

Mr. Bourland had vanished for half a year or more (It turned out he had been deployed) and his armour was stored fairly neatly up in the showroom. Except for one had been stored under the air conditioner. It got rusty. Darned if I was going to ship a rusty armour. So I tossed the ratty old faulds and tassets and made new ones. This is what I came up with.
They are sitting on the pic-nic table, letting the lacquer dry. Then I had to duck out, and by the time I got back to them, it was next morning. The armour is all covered in frost! Oh no, (I thought) I just made his second set of faulds rusty too. But no, it was all good. The sun came out, the frost flashed off, and the armour is all assembled now, and ready to ship.

Above is a closeup of the new tassets I will be making. I stole the design from an armour I had made a few months ago, and put my personal spin on it.

ip-location map zoom

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This week in armour

A bit of a rush job, but not so bad all in all. This is an articulated left arm with hinged vambrace. Kind of a nice bit of kit. I probably made the hinged wrist section too short...but better short than too long.

This is a left shoulder. Actually, it is a beta version that I had made, then discarded when I had learned all that could be learned from it. I went back to it because a customer wanted one but didn't want to pay for a really good one. So I went with this and he payed half price.

The six lames in the rerebrace make this armour quite distinctive. Actually, they were not designed to even BE rerebrace lames, but were rather, cut out originally for use as lames in an articulated knee or elbow cop. You can see the similarities in the lames here and in the lames in the elbow cop at the top of the page. I don't think that they look all that bad, but the lesson learned is to use larger and fewer lames...these just make the armour look busy.

These bottom two pictures show how much articulation you get by using lots of lames! I used a king post attachment this seems to be very effective. In this case, for the king post, I used one of my handy dandy lions. They dress up even the plainest of armours!

ip-location map zoom

Monday, October 6, 2008


click on the pic below to enlarge.

This appears to be drawings from the period...possibly Durer or a student of his. These are clearly "studies", that is to say, not meant to be finished paintings, but rather detail elements that can be presented to a patron for approval. It looks like a broken up portfolio, and is hanging on the wall in Prague Castle. Knowing the European way of doing things, these are probable originals.
Items of particular note include the stunning sword knot shown third from the bottom on the right hand side. Its a fancy enough knot that the artist really got into the details of it. He shows the finished knot, and then details of how it must have been made.
(That the artist has an eye for detail can be seen by the studies of the forshortened heads of the horses second from the bottom, left hand column.)

ip-location map zoom

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

And the back plate of Mr. Merz armour

closeup of the buckle. They are solid brass centre bar buckles. Very workmanlike. Nuthin fancy.

Here is the view from the back, with the person wearing it standing straight up. That two piece design makes for a long placquart! Oh well...if for some reason is doesn't fit, I can go to a standard three piece easily enough. They always fit.

The above view is from the back, with the person bending over. This shows maximum reveal. Not too bad. Again, if for some reason, the owner slouches a lot, I can always add in a middle piece, and cut that long placquart down. You can see the space for the shoulders really well in the above pic.

A three quarter view of it...the side straps are one inch, the over the shoulder straps are inch and a quarter.

And the view directly from the side. The back plate slides under the breastplate, so the buckles are spaced well back, to allow for movement. I built a considerable amount of "growing room" into this armour since the wearer is likely to get at least one more growth spurt before the next couple of years goes by.

There we go...a nice armour. Now all we need is the gorget, shoulders and arm harness.

What do you think Charlie?