Monday, August 31, 2009

Armour at the show

much of this armour on this post is made from copyright designs, so I must ask readers to treat all these pictures as copyright pics. You can see the inspiration of a lot of this armour at, and of course, on the preceeding posts.
Some of the armour I had for sale at the show. This bracer design is taken totally from "The Red Sea" . It is good for guys as well as gals. I made that steel coif years ago.

The delightful Janika posing in the armour. She made the bracers, I made the steel stuff, and the chain mail. Brenda made the chain mail necklace. The tell me it is vampire proof. Good thing. This is a bit of a mix of "The Red Sea" for the bottom because, well "The Leopard and the Serpent" top didn't really have one.

The armour garnered tremendous interest. How can you go wrong when gorgeous women ask to try on your armour. Must be doing "something" right. (Clyde Caldwell's art book makes a great prop, and is used by permission. Copyright Clyde Caldwell 2009)

Oh dear.

This is the only picture I think I have of this particular armour. It is based on "The Worm Has Turned" however there are a lot of flaws in it. Too long in the body, too much modeling in the breast cups. Ah well.. it IS a prototype after all. The best thing I can say about it is that the models tell me that it is very comfortable. Now SHE looks like a warrior! (and in fact, she is....Elaine has been fighting in armour for nearly as many years as I have!)

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

client's armour

Not quite sure if this is what the client wanted. He asked for a gothic arch in the front and squareish tassets with a centre line. You can see the fauld piece in back which has yet to be rolled, when it eventually gets rolled, there will be a little arch in the bottom fauld. I may change this yet...lop off an inch off the top of the arch, tilt the tassets more sideways, and maybe reshape the line afterwards. Or not. (this is where some communication is valuable) Minor changes, if any....

Below you can see some of the pieces, all bouged, shaped, rolled and finish sanded. The client is slim and will have a flatter belly armour (that would be the piece at the far left in the picture)so all the blowing out had to be done to the breastplate. This involves a combination of dishing and shrinking. Considering this is ALL in heavy battle grade sixteen gauge steel, this is a remarkable achievement in only six hours.

Below you can see the plaquart (belly section) and the overlapping faulds. I don't like pointy faulds, but this is what he wanted. The reason I don't like them is because the centre lines have to be so perfectly lined up all the time...a quarter centimeter out in straight faulds hardly even show, but pointy ones require a LOT more care. grrrr. Oh well...if it was easy, anybody could do it.
As you can see, in this picture we have got around to shaping the faulds to 12 inch radius wheel, and rolled the arch into the bottom fauld. The faulds need the larger radius because they have to match up to the back faulds. Its okay I guess...and it is perfectly period, but I don't like them as much for SCA activities because the faulds are more delicate the larger the radius. Tight radius faulds are less period, but they are sword proof...Erin's coloured armour a few posts back shows the tight radius faulds. In this case, I made them wider so that they would have more of an overlap, and therefore would hopefully self support better.
The above placquart is actually shaped to a 12 inch radius...the same as the fauld sections....though you really can't see it in this "head on" picture. Items made on the 12 inch ball looks almost flat, but it's not "quite" flat...there is enough radius to allow it to be pretty tough still. The flare was about two inches from the bottom, and it needs to be that wide because of the points on the fauld lames. You can see in the photograph how the flare was made, then rolled as flat as we could get it with the flat wheel. It was a pretty heavy weight on the wheel, as you can see it polished the surface. The wheel was pushing pretty heavily to result in that much polish. Of course, by now the polish has been all sanded away like the rest of the armour...which is sitting at an 80, non reflective grit.

Here is the back plate...the sides all rolled and ready to have the neck roll done. The creation of a back plate is a post all in itself...there is every difficulty one can encounter involved in making a back plate. Fortunately, I know most ways the steel can play tricks on me!

These are the back faulds...again, possibly a little too pointy for my tastes. And I'll be darned if I know how he will ever sit down! But, they make a nice completer piece for the armour. I think I will need to make a fourth lame at the top which will fit more neatly into the body armour.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Artist inspired armour.

Below is a magnetically latched collar, such as you might see in "Slither"

although Dirdre and Selene seem to have picked up a couple as well. (I'll let you search them try Clyde Caldwell gallery at

above is the background done in "points", and below is the same design done in "crescents". What do you think is better?

Below is a buckled version of the bracers the human woman is wearing in "the Rose Sea". The client will of course cut the straps after they are fitted to her...or him. These were a little more difficult to do because the tops were pointier than usual, and as any armourer can tell you, the outside curves are always the most difficult. These came out better than I thought they would. The apparent simplicity is just that...apparent.

I like the blue straps. Maybe should have been green to match the green silk shirt the subject is clashes a bit. Oh well, if you examine the painting, and the styles of armour, you can see that the elf and the human have exchanged kit in any case. How many would pick up on that???

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cobra Bracers

These are the snake bracers I have been making this week. Well, lets give him his due....Mark has built these with the new fancy foot operated punch we made last week. Brenda has done up some eyes in different colours. These are all laced up, but we "could" have made them to work with buckles and straps easily enough. These are all impressed into standard eighteen gauge steel bracers with various shopmade chisels and spoons. Then a judicious hammering with the soft hammer into a rubber mat "pushes" the whole thing out, giving it a three dimentional effect. (Mark says that my "judicious hammering" is a bit of a laugh, he calls it a "bloody great whacking". )

The eighteen gauge steel is armour grade, barely. You don't want much heavier on your arms in any case....but eighteen gauge will dent rather quickly under the stress of combat unless you stiffen it up. Still, it would be a bit of a shame to have these bits smashed in. (and they would be the very devil to pop them back out...though of course, not impossible.)

I did not bother to install a bale inside the rolled edges. I figure these are more decorative than otherwise, so a bale would just add needlessly to the price. The top edges (the big end) are a large outside roll that needed a special tool to enable me to roll it neatly. Special tool, hah! Just a heel dolly mounted on the workbench. Seems to have done the trick though. The english wheel cleaned up the inside edges pretty neatly.
So these bracers would be just fine for archery, and of course, would stand up to most any form of combat. If you wanted to use them for live steel, well then, we would need to do something a little different...I suspect two of these would need to "clamshell" together to make a proper vambrace. Traditionally, a hinge would be installed on the outside edge to make this work, although we tried a tricky bit t'other day with Bengt's armour where we were in an ungodly hurry, and used four of these vambraces which were already made up, (two per arm of course) and installed a couple of pivot rivets at the top. They opened up like a post hole digger so he could get his hands in, then clicked neatly closed. A simple strap kept it closed. A neat trick, and probably not period. But...a neat trick.
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Grad class, summer 09

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Thursday, August 20, 2009


This is a stained glass window, and of course, there is plenty of artistic licence going on here.

Details I really like on the left hand picture of St. George...the chain mail covering the gorget, the fancy straps on the legs, the gold arming points which hold the shoulder armour in place. The two piece greaves which are pinned at the front.

The right hand picture of the angel spearing demons like a fisherman spearing octopus...really cool features would include the chains which are designed to prevent weapons from getting lost, and the blue armour with gold detailing. One might feel that the armour is rather limited until you realize that in fact the armour is all there, just inside that nice robe.

This artist was working from real originals.

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Friday, August 14, 2009


This is some more of the repousse that I have been doing all week. I don't think it looks too shabby at all, considering that I really have not done any repousee before. (its a French word, it means "to press out". In reality, it looks more like leatherwork such as you would find on a western cowboy's saddle rather than anything actually made from steel. Please click on the images to enlarge.

Properly speaking, these are not armour at all, but rather costume pieces. Just fun for a change, and of course, a real departure from the deep metallurgical discussions and the uphill struggle for authenticity we have been having this last few weeks.
But, it is metalwork same as any "real" armour, and tricky metalwork at that. Not hardly the same quality as, say, Wignacourt's armour in Malta, but that is a labour of a lifetime...this is just a few hours of fun. ( for a REAL good looking bit of repousee. Someday...........)

Below is the belted loin cloth which I am making to support this costume.

And a close up of the same....

This is a back plate, in aid of supporting this costume....

Below, this one was incomplete when I took the goes with the "Rose Sea" costume above. Lots of nice leatherwork. The hardest part (I think) was getting the rivets to line up and look nice.

Below, a vambrace with a snake peeking over the edge. Hammered into eighteen gauge steel with a cold chisel. Just a concept piece to see how it would turn out. Its not so bad, but again, hardly a "period" piece.

There were a lot more things made this week, a foot operated punch to do the above kind of work, the punches themselves which I made from some tool steel bits lying about, and a lot more layouts and work on saleable items like Iron Crosses. Snakes and dragons on the vambraces, that sort of thing. I'll show them off here if they end up looking either decent or at least, interesting.

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Assay of armour in Malta

In 2002, an assay was done on some of the armour in the Palace Museum in Malta. This was carried out by D. Vella and C. Degringny, of the Diagnostic Science Laboratories of the Malta Centre for Restoration; M. Grech of the University of Malta, faculty of Engineering, and A. Williams of the Conservation Department at the Wallace Collection in London.

Most of the armour was northern Italian in provenance, and the purpose of the survey was to determine what form of corrossion control would be most applicable to protect this armour. The pdf file is quite long, several megabytes of download, and can be found in its entirety here...
attachments/publications/metal_04_proceedings/section_2_better_knowledge_of_objects/files/ 7837/NMA_metals_s2_p12_metallurgy.pdf

I have taken a bit of the summary from this assay because it is pertinent to the knowledge of how to make armour...which of course, is what this blog is all about. This is only a summary, mind you, and you should go to the above link for the whole story. I am reasonably certain that this abstract falls under the "fair use in publishing" and of course, I am attempting to give all credit where credit is due.

The first part is a table of the results of the assay.

This was table #2 in the study. They had surveyed ten separate armours, and discovered that all but one item were all 0.1% to 0.3% carbon. Of those, three are considered to be "wrought iron", and six of the remaining items were "low carbon steel", nearly iron. They had all been "hot forged", and were either "air cooled" or "rapid air cooled". None had been quenched in either the traditional water quench or in a "slack" quench, in which the item would be quenched in oil or molten lead.

One item, a pauldron was "hot short" due to phosphorus in the alloy...such an armour should not have passed a "proof" test. Dr. Williams points out that although metal containing phosphorus is fairly common in the day, it was almost never found in armour because it would fail in combat. He feels that the armourer must not have been aware that the armour was "hot short" or he never would have gone to the trouble to make it.

One of the pauldrons was made from not bad steel, .06% carbon by weight, which is similar to modern spring steel. Interestingly enough, even with the better quality of steel which went into it, they did not harden-temper the steel to take advantage of the high carbon. Instead, the armour maker let the steel cool in air. We know this because it was pearlitic steel. Fast quenching would have produced Martensite.

All the armour was laced with slag inclusions...likely from the ore (bog iron?) and from the elongation of the glassy slag, we know it was forged hot. Not like the armour I make here in this shop, which is universally worked cold, with some annealing from time to time to keep it from work hardening. These slag inclusions will instantly identify the armour as old, as opposed to, say, a Victorian era reproduction.

Out of the ten pieces, seven were what we would call "steel" and three were "wrought iron". The wrought iron was the most brittle, and it follows that brittle armour is inferior.

So there you have assay of ten of the armours on display at the Palace Museum in Malta. Seven were steel, three were wrought iron, all were forged out while red hot, and none were quenched in water, lead, or oil.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Temperature versus colours

Erin emailed me this chart of colours which a fellow enthusiast had sent him. Mild steel sitting in an oven for a half hour.... this is what he found...

degrees color of steel
430 very pale yellow
440 light yellow
450 pale straw yellow
460 straw yellow
470 deep straw yellow
480 dark yellow
490 yellow brown
500 brown yellow
510 spotted brown
520 brown purple
530 light purple
540 full purple
550 dark purple
560 full blue
570 dark blue
640 light blue

My results varied a fair amount...I found that the steel I used did not really start to change colours until fifty minutes had gone by, then it was very quick after that. The actual temperature of the oven was not necessarily as important as the length of time it sat in there changing colours. I needed an oven cooking at a fairly high temperature...around 550 get good results.

Different sheets of steel will behave differently, and the colours vary quite a bit. Like dye lots in seamstress would make each side of a cote hardie from different bolts of cloth, and no armour maker should make complex coloured armours from different sheets of steel. Modern steel is made largely from melted scrap, the content of which varies remarkably from smelt to smelt.

My well thumbed copy of Bealer's "The Art of Blacksmithing" mentions these colours, but of course to be used to create the combination of hardness and toughness which make for a good chisel, knife, or sword. He suggests that the smith should forge out a thin piece of the chosen steel, and quench it properly, (that word "properly" involves a huge testing procedure itself!) then laying the metal on a hot block of metal, watch the colours as they progressed back from the hot spot. Then with files and "try" stones, he would see how tough or soft or brittle the metal would be at each colour. In the days of very inconsistent metallurgy, this was the only way he could create a tool which had the desired characteristics.

Armour in its own way has all the need for consistency, albeit different requirements make for different treatments and materials. I have seen the assays of metal from various armouries, and believe that medieval steel was so different from modern steel that almost nothing is the same. Well, maybe its tendency to rust....

Mr Edge from the Wallace Collection in London tells us that late period armour had a high carbon content, which allowed it to be hardened, and that very expensive armours were layered with high carbon steel on the outside backed up with low carbon steel. I can only presume these were made by forge welding two plates together, possibly right at the ingot level.... two ingots, one relatively high carbon and a second cheaper low carbon ingot would be forge weled into one single ingot, and then said ingot would then be hammered out by water powered hammers into a plate. (Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight, Edge and Paddock, page 134)

That being said, I do not believe that very late period medieval armour was made from high carbon steel in order to make it lighter and more effective. I will, however conceed that a better steel gradually replaced the dirty iron over the 15th and 16th centuries. By better, I mean a bit more carbon content, a bit less slag inclusions, better over all. Armour which was too hard would be in danger of cracking. I have never seen a broken armour nor have I heard of a broken armour. Therefore I will go out on a limb and state that they ("they" being Milanese armourers, the ones I am passing familiar with) usually did not make armour from metal which would break. I have however, seen several breastplates with holes in them from various impliments of destruction....the ones which were holed by British muskets in Malta for instance (during trials in the 18th century) show holes consistent with a composition of pretty much pure iron.

Obviously there are broken armours out there, because lets face it, anything in time will break. I am referring to armours which will have broken in use because they were made from steel which, like a sword, will break before bending.

The use of malleable steel or wrought iron would also allow for two things....easy repair of holes and dents, a reduction of cracks and stress fractures, and something like a crumble zone. That is to say, the creation of a dent will absorb an impact to a surprisingly large extent. I remember a couple of fights I walked away from because the people didn't feel the impact of my (simulated) sword, and on one occassion a fella came up to me later to apologise for not accepting my blow because his helm had caved in. The crumpling of his helmet absorbed so much energy that he felt it was "light". Since this happens with modern simulated combat, and quite frequently too, then I am certain that it happened in real combat, and that an armourer would pick and choose his materials to allow this life saving phenomon to occur. That material is not high carbon steel.

Thanks Erin for sending me that chart.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

crocodile armour

click on images to enlarge These pics are of an armour made from crocodile skin. They were Roman armour, and as far as I know, unique. They were on display in the British Museum, and date from fourth century Roman Egypt.
Just thought my readers would like to see the incredible range of materials and designs which have been turned into body armour over the years.

I suspect that a standard spun bronze infantry helm was fitted under that.
So who would wear such an armour? An actual Roman legionaire? Unlikely a regular soldier. Possibly a special say, a Chief Warrant Officer (Centurion). They generally wore a lion skin cloak with the head of the lion mounted on the helmet and the feet wrapped around the shoulders and tied in front. We know this from bas reliefs of the time. I would not for an instant put it past a creative commander to think to himself...."these crocs are pretty cool! Wonder if a croc skin could replace that musty moth eaten lion skin I was issued."
Personally I could see that happening with an auxiliary troup...say a small regiment of Egyptians who wanted to retain their distinctivness. Later in the forth and fifth centuries, such troups were allowed to retain portions of their distinct regional iconic dress...the Persian troops were allowed to retain their phyringian caps for instance.
Well, this is only speculation. Isn't it amazing how the mind runs wild with speculation when all you have is a suit in a glass case?

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