Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Knee cops

These are a little more elaborate knees...they are "three up and four down" archer's knees. Lots of articulation. One quickly gets fed up with these lames. They are all alike...and my mind wanders from sheer boredom as I cut, sand, finish, and grind fourteen lames. If I were to get any single piece made professionally by a water jet cutter or some such factory device, it would be these lames.

On the other hand, they are really good for using up odd bits of scrap metal which would be heading to the recycling bin other wise.
We are looking right here at about, oh....three hours per side to this point. Maybe a bit more when you figure I have to root out the pieces from the scrap pile and clean off any rust. The finish here is a hundred grit finish, with lacquer on it, rolled on a two inch diameter ball.
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Monday, April 13, 2009


Andrea (pictured), Lorne and Jeff) spent a couple of days making shields under my jaundiced eye. Here are the most basic and least expensive shields...they are made from barrel plastic and of course, need some finishing yet. However, they are ready to go. All they need is some edges and some handles. The black plastic does not "look" like plastic from more than a few feet away. It is really tough, nearly indestructible, and you can even paint it. (You use that "fusion" paint you can buy for painting lawn chairs.) What more can you ask of a material like this?

The plastic is not suitable for regular armour...though I "have" seen it used in simulated suits from time to time, the curve which exists in the material is unpredictable, and almost impossible to modify. Even heating the stuff up and bending it around a form won't work for long...it retains a sort of memory, which causes it to curl up after a year or so. The curve which exists in the material is almost perfect for shields, and installing a smaller inside piece "back to back" will countercurve the material, keeping it where it belongs indefinately.

The basic shield blank as shown costs only 25 dollars, and to do it all up with the edges and handles and so forth will push the price up to 65 dollars. This client has students who will happily do all of the finishing, which of course, helps him to save a small fortune. Pretty inexpensive way to get shields for the training floor which will pretty much last forever.
There are six shown here, I have another four ready to finish for MY classes, and I have a half dozen shields from my classes whose heater hose edges really need to be re-laced. About time, after three years of the abuse we give them, they are a little scratched, and need some new laces around the edge. Damn, these are tough shields.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thigh Armour

The problem I face with armour all the time is "how do you make it look like steel"? One way is to use hot rolled steel. Hot rolled is steel which is quite literally hot off the roller...no dipping in acid and then cleaning up with the polishing rollers. The mill scale is driven into the steel, and like the grain in wood, the surface colour is irregular and sometimes spotty. Oh, its nice and smooth all right, but unlike cold rolled steel, the hot rolled stuff seems more "blacksmithy" and more "real" than the stuff I usually use for armour making. Though I recognize that the look may not be for everyone.
I made these yesterday for Daniel, and if he doesn't like them, thats okay, I certainly do! I will use them in my "black knight" armour and re-make them in shiny stuff. Above you can see how the rich colour goes in waves from the top to the bottom. There is even some jaguar spotting across the left cuisse. Nobody would confuse these for plastic! And the colour does not crack off like paint would...these will soak up hundreds of blows from swords in the coming years. The surface finish is "from the anvil" and there are two layers of clear, high gloss lacquer on them. Easy to fix a scratch on the surface....just wipe down with a rag made wet with lacquer thinner, and the scratches all melt together and five minutes later, it dries and looks like new.

The inside shows off the rolled edges. Not too bad. The leather straps are just laced on...the buckles at the top should be under his tunic, up at the side. They should go through his arming belt just abaft of the point of his hip. With the tunic protecting them, they should not get driven into his skin. If his tunic won't protect them, then he will have to re-jig the suspension....easy to do even in a dorm. For instance, he could replace the side straps with shoe laces...thats what I did for years with mine...grin!
The cuisse is tightened against his thigh with a leather strap which is laced on. The laces are tough, easy to replace as needed, and dont' have buckles to bother the horse or to scar the saddle. Laces down there are better...they don't get mangled by heavy blows, or hook against each other when you are running. And if Daniel wants an extra piece in back, it is easy to add one with either a steel or a leather hinge.
There you go Dan, all ready for you to add your knee cops.

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The helmet, all finished. Not the prettiest helmet in the world, it looks really hand made...with lots and lots of proud rivets. The trickiest part of course was to ensure that the eye slots were less than 7/8 in size. The helm is designed to be used within the SCA world of combat, and their weapons are essentially clubs, with a minimum of 1.5 inches. The eye slots are therefore a maximum of 1 inch, and of course that means that just in case one of the bars gets knocked a little out of position, I place them one inch apart on centre. The bars are also heavier than the SCA minimum, a full 5/16 across...they won't bend appreciably. (Though I dunno...I have gone up against some pretty hard hitting individuals...)
The steel used here is a full fourteen gauge, hot rolled. I prefer hot rolled steel since it has a lot fewer stresses in the metal. It is not as "stiff" as cold rolled, and will dent a tiny bit easier, but then I have never had a crack start working its way from rivet hole to rivet hole in hot rolled like I have with the c.r. steel. (Like I said....those SCA guys really work out a helmet!) All welds are at least an inch long, both on the front and on the sides. The clean up of all that weld spelter takes a lot of time, and is hard to do right.
The little chin plate is designed to be drilled to hang a curtain of chain maille. Always a problem with grill face helms....how DO you hang chain maille in the front? Well, this is how. The above helmet as shown is not quite finished...I installed eyeletted holes for a chin strap and flared the bottom edge out a bit to make it more comfortable to put on. The top has been chemically blued to help match it to the rest of the hot rolled helm, and the grill has been torched, again, purely to help it all blend in.
The lion was just a "notion". My idea to decorate up a fairly plain and functional helm. After it was all coloured with torches, a coat of high gloss spray lacquer is laid on the inhibit rust. Lacquer scratches pretty easily, but on the other hand, it is really easy to repair scratches with a swipe of a thinner soaked rag. Got to love the 1 minute repair!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Colouring the metal...an experiment

Every once in a while, somebody asks me to colour metal. Steel is funny stuff, it actually colours fairly easily, providing you stick to some fairly straightforward colours. The breastplate in the picture below was baked in order to colour it. I was curious as to how it would look, so I picked out a really ugly old breastplate...one which had rust spots on it, and a weld line up the centre. The results were interesting. A lovely plum colour came out. If I had allowed it to continue baking for another 20 minutes, I suspect it would be almost perfectly "evening sky blue".

The colour is easily visible on the picture above. No paint or anything has been added in any way, just a judicious application of heat.

The heat treatment didn't help the discoloured metal seam up the front. I was wondering if it would disguise it. No such luck. Oh well, it just means I will have to do a good job of sanding off any existing stuff before baking the metal. In the above pic, you can see the slight surface rust, on the right breast. The colour was the same, but the texture sort of gives it away...its not as shiny as the rest of the steel.

This above picture is just from a different angle...the colour really came up nicely. I will give it a coat of lacquer which should keep the colour nice for years. I think the light is reflecting a little more off the top centre ridge which makes it look a little brighter. This could be used to create an effect.

The traditional way this colouring method is used is to create a relief pattern in the metal with punches...and then heat treat it just as I did here. Then sand off the high spots, leaving shiny surface with a dark background.

Any paint left on it will discolour differently than the background, including any oil, wax, and especially finger prints. The usual flaw in these jobs is that there is often a very slight residue on the metal surface caused by a tiny bit of oil left on the rag when you clean it. Results in swirly patterns on the surface instead of a nice even colouring. Nothing to do when that happens except bring it back in and sand it again. I prefer electric sanders for this purpose since air powered equipment spits out a fog of oil which puts paid to any possibillity of keeping it clean. All varnishes and laquers must be cleaned off as well. You can't even use the old armour's standby cleaning fluid (lacquer thinner) because it frequently has some oil dissolved in it which deposits when the thinner flashes off.

To make this job even more nasty, you have to clean with super flammable fluids, then heat treat them in a very hot oven. The potential for a flare up moves from "possible" to "likely" when you have hot ovens in the same room. I like to do this job on rainy days just to limit the possibility for static electricity. And I still use long sleeved cotton shirts, long cuffed gloves and face shields when I do it. As long as you are ready for it, the panic factor goes way down.

I wonder if the clients will accept hazard pay billing?

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