Thursday, July 15, 2010

Measured Drawings

During the winter of 2009, I had the honour to be a guest at the Palace Armouries in Malta. I took this opportunity to measure a shoulder armour. I felt that my shoulder armours were sorta good in that they "worked", but they looked like imposters. I needed to see and hold a real one for me to understand what details I was missing.
Mr. Cassar, the curator, found me a couple of fairly standard general issue shoulder armours, made in Milan around the time of the Great Siege of Malta. These shoulders were probably worn during that siege...they show all the signs of being made quick and while under pressure in a very competent shop.

Above is a close up of the upper cannon. Noteworthy points would be the stepped join at the inside of the arm, the flush rivets, the raw inside edges and the rolled edges everywhere which made the relatively light gauge bearable. The gauge of this particular armour was very my estimate, in the region of 18 gauge, and maybe a bit less where the sander has taken off the hammer marks.
There seems to be a large number of people who feel that the light armour like this must have had a lot of heat treating to allow it to withstand combat. This material has been assayed, and the results pretty much throw such suppositions into a cocked hat. This is not high carbon steel, this material is low carbon enough to be considered iron, and it does not rely on heat treating to make it stiff, but rather on rolled edges and stepped fluting to do that job. Makes sense, a dented armour can still provide protection, heck, it even absorbed energy in the process of deforming, and if it is fairly malleable metal, it can be hammered back into place.
I have heard fans of the "alloy steel" camp state that the steel must have been alloyed with silicon in its manufacture, which would leave it stiff. Sorry dudes, nice idea but thanks for playing. You can tell in an assay whether the material under discussion is heat treated, or has ever been heat treated by the percentage of marstenite and cementite in the crystals. Fact is, these, these have been made as soft as possible by annealing, they were rolled, dished, and shaped, then issued to the troops. They seem to have very few stress fractures, and bullet holes deform as if the metal was made from 55 gallon oil drums.

I especially wanted to look closely at the buckles. Obviously leather has never lasted, but if you look closely, the centre bars of the buckles are attached to the armour by steel straps. Fairly straightforward one inch centre bar buckles.

Noteworthy point...the person doing the strap work used scraps of steel, and cast buckles. He did not bother to round the edges off, or otherwise worry about aesthetics. That being said, look at the beautiful articulation in the lames!

The word "spaulder" AND the word "spaudler" are NOT in the Oxford English Dictionary. If somebody can tell me the derivation, and provenance of this word, I will use it. Until then, I shall continue to just call it "shoulder armour". No, a dungeons and dragons concordance is not good enough!

ip-location map zoom


Ars.Gladius said...

This is what I can came up with...


Origin: earlier spauld [shoulder] (Middle English spald, spalde < Old French espalde, espalle < Latin spatula spatula)


Origin: earlier paleron, poleron, (Middle English polron, pollerons (pl.) < Middle French espalleron [shoulder])

STAG said...


STAG said...

Its not an English word if its not in the OED. I found the word spauld, but not the word spaulder. Or for that matter the word spaudler. Can't seem to find that in the OED either.

Possibly American usage? Century dictionary is on line. Webster never heard of it.

(shoulder. Not shoulder armour.)

A spalder is listed as a person who spalds stone...sort of like a flint knapper I guess.


Ars.Gladius said...

"spaulder." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 15 Jul. 2010. .

"pauldron." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 15 Jul. 2010. .

Bear in mind that both words have French roots referring to the shoulder: the old French "espalde", "espalle" and the middle French "espalleron".

Also consider that the spaulder evolved into the pauldron as more protection was needed for the shoulder area.

At the time that spaulders would have been common it overlaps old French usage (~9th century to ~14th century) and when pauldrons started coming into use (~15th century?) it overlaps middle French usage (~14th century to ~17th century).

It is also quite possible that over time (14th to 20th century, some 600 years) that "spaulder" simply was replaced by "pauldron" in general usage and was never included in the OED.

STAG said...

Interesting. Not in Webster's. Not in the OED.

Mr. Edge in his book about Knights calls it a "spaudler". That word was not in the OED, or Webster's either. has never heard of "spaudler", but surprisingly enough, has a listing for "Spaulder".

Its not in any of the standard French dictionaries. Say, the Royal Phrase etc...

ffoulks calls it a pauldron
and he refers to the fence as a "passe guarde", on page fifty in the above link yet annoyingly, he uses the same word in a different context on page 57.

Starkie Gardner, who wrote "foreign armour in England in 1898 has heard of Pauldrons, but not Spaulders.

And Ashdown's 1909 "British and Foreign Armour"
mentions the French word Espaulier, , and in fact on page 228, he states clearly that the pauldrons grew larger to cover the espauliers. So at least according to Ashdown, Pauldrons were supplementary armour pieces which would cover underlying armour, rather like a Grande Guarde. I wonder out loud when it became fashionable to dispense with the espaulier in favor of the Pauldron. If if it ever did.

George Cameron Stone has never heard of either a Spaulder, a Spaudler, or a Pauldron.

Nor has John Hewitt.

or August Demmin, curator of the South Kensington Museum.

And finally, Guy Francis Laking's magnificient book on armour reflects a lifetime looking after the tower of london museum...and he uses pauldrons all the time, but never breathes the word "Spaulder" or "Spaudler". in the entire five volumes.

So this begs the question, where do the Random house folks get THEIR information?

I lean to the idea that it is possibly a very recent "i-pod" or "Groovy", and may actually be an example of the evolution of the English language, an invented word which was invented within the last forty years or so.

Ars.Gladius said...


I did some poking around and asked a few people.

There are apparently references to "spaulder" or its variations, such as "espauliers" in historical documents.

I'd like to state that I don't have direct access to these sources myself to confirm, but...

There is supposedly a reference in Fawkes de Breaute's inventory, circa 1224.

Also there are supposedly several references in the Rule of the Templars, of which there are a few different 13th century versions which include espauliers.



BTW, Since you are blog author, you should be able to delete the spam / multiposts if you so choose.

STAG said...

I'm okay with just calling them shoulder cops.

(ducks and runs)

Ars.Gladius said...

lol, to each his own.

I only did the digging because you asked if "...somebody can tell me the derivation, and provenance of this word..." in the original post and I was interested in it as well.