Friday, February 27, 2009

Susanna's armour progress report

Clearly I have been busy making bayonettes, but now that they are done and out of the way, I can get back to Susanna's armour. As usual, click on the images to enlarge. Since the picture above was taken, we have had new information about how big she is ( this armour as shown is just ten centimeters too short...doggone it!) so I had to add a third section to the armour. The back is all done, but I somehow failed to get a picture of the finished product...this was just an intermediate stage to show work in progress. I think it looks great, in fact, much better than the short placquart in the above picture. I know, she wanted the two piece armour. Well, she will get the two piece in front well enough. Above are the tassetts. I had a notion to try out a new fluting technique. In fact, I heavily documented the technique and will post the "how to" instructions tomorrow. However, this is just to show Susanna where we are at with her armour. The buckles still need to be added.

The faulds, all ready to be riveted together. They have a 12 foot radius in their width...with four fauld lames I had to go with a much straighter compound curve. Since Susanna, like all women, has a very high waist, four lames will work. If I am wrong about that (I don't have even a photograph to work from after all, just her measurements) well, it is easier to take a lame out than to add one. Just in case though, I will have to make it removable so that if she does have to send it back for adjustment, she won't have to send back the whole armour. (I am very interested in seeing if this fits...its my best guess, and may still be too short.)

This is the breastplate. We filled it up a bit more and gave it just a "hint" of cleavage. Just enough that when the light is right (as in the above picture) you can see a bit of the girl under there. That being said, clearly this would fit a guy just fine and not look out of place.

And here is the plaquart. Susanna is an athlete, and therefore the flat belly and deeper chest will fit her better and look better on her than the admittedly more period peascod placquart. That flange at the bottom actually sits pretty vertical, the placquart angles outward.

Tomorrow, I will post the whole interesting story of how I made those tassetts. If for some reason, Susanna does not want them, thats okay....I will put them on MY armour. Right now, I have to go out and pick up a shipment of swords, and swing by the auction to see if there is a dining room table coming up. (and maybe get a picture of that cool that it is all finished and ready to go.)

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


These look pretty cool when you enlarge them. These bayonettes are pretty easy....just a clean up and light plating of the steel, and a long cleaning job. The scabbards however....that was another story.
The Regiment wanted three covers to protect the flags from getting snagged on the sharp bayonettes, and a chrome plated one to use for funeral services. Chrome is very difficult and dangerous (remember the Erin Brockovitch movie?) but nickel is pretty tame, and is stronger than chrome. Looks nicer in my opinion.

It was a bit of a trick to get a bit of texture on the bayonette. Finally, after, what....twelve or so coats of nickel, it turned out not too bad. Its still pretty thin in the centre though....and if they polish it with brasso, it will show through. In which case, its a fairly quick job to re-plate. (now that the difficult and time consuming part is all done.)

Here is what it looks like when it is all done. There is a space in the front already cut out for the fourth bayonette when they decide to get it done. Doesn't look like 120 hours worth of work does it?
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


click to enlarge.
This dirk was fairly straightforward, Wulf in Toronto wanted me to make his some dirks for his "Rob Roy" production. I made this one just to show him what I can do.

This dirk is carved from very rough spruce intentionally pulled from the burn pile. After carving and mounting a roughly shaped file, I gave it a really heavy wire brushing. An opaque stain, and when that dried, I scraped the surface to bring out the underlying colour.
The idea was to make a dirk which would be really really rough looking, and look rough but still "knife like" from the sixth row.

I think the final scraping to bring out the grain did the trick. Looks great. I installed a little keeper inside the scabbard to keep the blade from just sliding out. That is the little brass bit you can just see at the mouth.
Does it ever look good on the dark green Rob Roy hunting tartan!

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Knights of Columbus Sword

The drag
The back of the sword.

The front of the sword. Hmmm...should have rotated that looks kind of odd upside down like that.

This is what it looked like the process of being put together.

A closeup of the quillions. So much imagery...the dove flying over the world, the broad arrow and acanthus leaves. Very pretty. All that detail was a devil to plate since the high spots would capture all the molecules in the solution, and the only way to get in deep was to overplate it, and polish off the frosted high spots, and replate. Not easy, especially since this entailed at least three and sometimes four successive electroplatings, polishings, electrocleanings, and replates. Nickel plate is really sensitive to voltage....but temperature does not seem to matter as much as it does with gold. Gold, ya gotta have a special preheated bath of hot distilled water to get the workpiece up to temperature....nickel just needs the right voltage. Of course, that voltage changes as the solution evaporates and gets stronger.....what works fine on day one is over kill on day eight. It took by estimate around forty five hours to strip all that plating off the pieces, polish, electroclean, repolish, re-electroclean, electroplate, re-polish, re-electroclean, re-plate and repeat as necessary. I think there are still some thin spots in the plating still. Oh well...gotta call it "done" sometime.
Oh well, if it was easy, anybody could do it.

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Really simple plastic shields. Well, simple until you try to figure out how to make a perfect oval. Then that experiment back in grade school with dual locii and a piece of string chimed a dim bell. Didn't turn out too bad. Pity about my poor jig saw...the plastic was more than it could handle, and it flew apart. Oh well. It didn't owe me anything, being, what, 35 years old or so?


Seriously though, plastic is really hard on the tools since it binds the blade so much. These are just shield blanks, cut out and the holes are marked but not drilled since the customer may yet want to modify the shape a bit. The inside brace is designed to keep the plastic spread out, otherwise it will default into a tight little cylinder. Always a problem, thats how you fix it. Customer will install edging, and a handle, unless he makes a note down below that he wants ME to do that for him. Otherwise, it is good to go. Very inexpensive, very quick to make and modify. Virtually indestuctible. Whats not to like? I mean besides the fact that it is blatantly non period?

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Romanian Poetry

Until I get around to posting some pics of my plating successes (such as they are) I figured this would be a good time to post a selection from a blog entitled "Romanian Poetry".

I don't often share poetry, but this is kind of martial and eclectic and I think is properly sung in a mead hall. I don't know if it suffers in translation, but if it has, it hasn't suffered much! For your enjoyment, I present

Nichita Stanescu

On horseback at dawn

Silence strikes the tree trunks, upon itself retracing,
turns to distance, turns to sand.
I have turned my only face toward the sun,
my shoulders scatter leaves in this racing.
Cutting through the field - up on two shoes
my horse leaps, steaming, from the clay.

I am turning to you,
I, Ave!
The sun has burst across the heavens, crying.
Stone drums are sounding,

the sun grows,
the vault of heaven, alive with eagles, before him,
collapses into steps of air, and glows.
Silence turns to blue wind,

the spur of my shadow grows
in the ribs of the field.
The sun snaps the horizon in two.
The vault of heaven pulls down its dying prison cells.

Blue spears, with no returning,
I discard my visions, both of them
they meet him, sweet and grave.
My horse rises on two shoes.

Ave, tide of light, ave!
The sun ascends from objects, crying,
shakes the borders, voiceless and grave.

My soul meets Him,
My horse rises on two shoes.
My pale mane burns on the wind.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bayonettes part 4

Tinning the metal. I like to leave a lot of silver on the bottom half. When it melts, it will squeeze out and fill up the gap between the two sections.
This is how it is supposed to look.

A sideways closeup of the clamping arrangements.

You try to not use too many clamps, and also as light as you can get. Sometimes those cheap Chinese clamps are really heavy....dont use those. The heavy metal will suck all the heat away from the assembly. You see that little chunk of metal on the top? That's a scrap of solder. When it melts, I know the whole thing is warm enough to fuse together.
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Friday, February 6, 2009

bayonettes part 2 preparing to solder

Here we take the components above, and make the open part perfectly flat. I use a file...others might use a stone or a rotating flat sanding belt. Sandpaper on the workbench, if its a really flat workbench, might work as well.

Also you need to rough sand the mating surface of the flat joining plate. I rough sand in order to give it a "tooth". Not sure if that is really required, but ever since I started doing that, I have had a lot fewer failures. This was a really coarse (60 grit) sandpaper, and you can really see the roughness in the picture above, especially compared to the untouched piece above. The real reason is to take off the oxide coating which covers all metal which has been exposed to the air, and if more than a few days were to go by before I could solder the pieces, I would need to do the sanding again. Don't get any fingerprints on the sanded part from this point forward, fingerprints will prevent the solder from adhering and forming the cupric-argent alloy with makes the joint stronger than just the solder alone.

Above, I have placed the workpieces onto a steel soldering surface. You never heat the workpiece directly, you only heat the soldering surface. Pretty simple, a chunk of steel. I use steel because the solder won't stick to it. Because the torch is under the workpiece, you need to be careful of any drips of solder or flux. I had a tiny drop of molten silver hit the centre of my thumbnail yeasterday. Burnt a divot in the thumbnail, and stung like a bee sting! The lessons I learn the hard way!
I have smeared the sanded surfaces with soldering flux. This is a resin based flux....the resin carries some interesting chemicals which when heated, form a powerful acid. This acid will strip off any oxide which might interfear with the joining of the workpiece sections.
For solder, I am using pure silver, mostly because I will be able to electroplate over the silver later on, and most lead solders are a royal pain to plate over. Silver is more expensive, and heats at a much higher temperature than lead, but it is pretty nice to work with.
The solder actually forms an alloy with the copper in the brass, it doesn't just glue the pieces together. Therefore you need to "tin" it first, then clamp it very tightly so that there is a very thin layer of cupric-argent alloy. Any extra sqeeze out will be pure silver of course, and we use that to fill in gaps and holes as required.

This is the solder paste. It is important you use a solder paste which is compatable with silver....they all look and smell alike of course, the resin is just a binder for the zinc oxides which will actually form the acid. Since zinc oxide is really poisonous when it is in smoke form (but harmless otherwise) a good ventilation system is essential. I always get massive headaches whenever this stuff is smoking off.....and the mask only seems to help a bit. A fume hood would be a good idea I suppose.... Normally, I just ventilate the area really well, and stand back.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bayonette scabbards part 1

The picture below shows some of the stages in the process of making a scabbard for a bayonette suitable for plating. There are so many stages...and they all have to be done perfectly or the result will suck. The first step is to find a piece of scrap steel a bit larger than the bayonette blade, and fashion it into a shape around which you beat the brass. In the picture below, you can see that mandrel, and you can also see that it has undergone considerable pounding in the process of getting the blessed thing out of the tight confines of the brass.

There is no great mystery to this, just fold the metal over to trap the mandrel inside, then beat on it, heating the brass from time to time to soften it again, and gradually work the brass around the difficult point. If you do this, you will ruin more than two for every one which might be considered good enough. Well, at least I did. Each one will take you about 4 hours to get to the stage you see in the middle of the picture below. Not counting the failures which end up flying across the room in disgust. The scabbard on the right is almost finished...that is, it has been soldered, shaped, sanded, and rough polished. I once had a scabbard fail on me during the rough polishing, but that was my fault...I had inadvertently allowed the metal to become too hot under the buffing wheel, melting the solder. From our mistakes we learn....grin!
Above are four of the better ones. The surface of the top scabbard shows fire scale. Thats the mark left by the torch that I used to soften the metal.

Above is another angle of the same scene. This time I flopped the right hand scabbard to show the underside. Yup, still lots of polishing to do yet! Its not like auto body work where you can just slather in a little body putty and paint over the defects, here all the defects show. Its sort of a case where we need to decide when to stop seeking perfection....the client won't pay for that search! Mind you, I give as good as I am capable of, and every scabbard is (I hope) a little better than the last one.

The brass is nicely cut out and ready to be clamped onto the soldering plates. That'll be a post for later in the day....

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Oh the inanity, humanity or maybe rhodenanity

Taking a bit of a break while the solder cools. The smoke which was coming off was a little too much for comfort, and possibly for my smoke detectors, so I hooked up the air extraction system. It had been sitting sort of idle for a few months, sucking the air out of the "dirty" area of the workshop. That is, the sanding, polishing and grinding area. To get it sucking air from all the way from the other end of the shop requires that I shove a four inch pipe into the opening.

Well, suddenly, there was NO suction. Hmmm, I thought...possibly a rag or a paper towel got sucked into it. So I stumped through the snow to the outside shack where my air extractor is located, and undid the clamps. Lo and behold, a great big bundle of fiberglass insulation. That smelled like mouse piss. A quick glance at the pipe showed the rest of the mouse house.

No mice though. Possibly they are diced by the impellers, or frantically burrowing out of the pile of dust only to face a Canadian winter. I prefer to believe the latter possibility. The former promps thoughts like "Oh the humanity!" Or is that "rhodenanity". Or is that just inanity in general?

Dumb rhodents.

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