Monday, December 24, 2012


 I will let these pictures of a set of stirrups in the Vienna Armour Museum speak for themselves.

 As usual, click on the picture to make it bigger

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


 Vienna Armour Museum, 2012.  The spangenhelms shown here are the finest I have ever seen.
Who wears spangenhelms?  Well, these ones were worn by migration period celts rather than the Romans. More information on Spangenhelms may be found here...this post is a short one designed to show the beautiful helms on display at the Vienna Armour Museum. 

Focusing closely on this magnificent gold plated steel helm, one is struck by the beauty of the symmetry, the incised decoration and the  careful use of precious iron.   This is the sixth century, the period in which the Romans are on the wane (in some places!), and young kingdoms are struggling to establish their personal image in a cultural vacuum. 
          The use of triangular shaped "spangens" is well known and to an armour maker, they look like they are better forged than chiseled out of flat steel.  The ones in the above example even look to a hasty eye to be cast, say, out of brass, but of course, they are not.  The rivets are all beautifully set round and proud, and of course the bottom row of rivets exist solely to attach the padding inside. 
            A more common type of helmet, one which is easier to make and in fact, creates less waste in production is the single wide strip which goes front to back, with a minimum of dishing.  A material like bog iron won't stand for much dishing or three dimentional deformation, so you find the below style to be more popular than the spangenhelm throughout the period from the 500 to 1100 AD.  The coppergate helm, for instance is built on the below pattern.  It looks much prettier, but the fundamental lines are the same.

These two sets are of the same helms, just from different angles.  They have been subject to a very interesting process which involves electrical rust removal.  I have done a little of that, the results always look interesting.  Folded steels will benefit most from this process, and you should pick pieces which are so rusty that there is simply no other way to clean the rust off.  

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Books, reference material

 Books.  There are so many.  Many are copyright...Brian Price's armour making volume, or Stone's Glossary are in print.  I recommend them.  It seems that nowadays anybody with a little bit of skill or knowledge seems to say to himself...gee, I could self publish this stuff.  And that is excellent, but lets face it, your book can get lost in the Amazon Noise!  Many of them are just picture books, coffee table books which look good but are not really very valuable if you want to really get into making armour.  Stylistic variations are often more the perview of antique dealers or artists rather than armourers, such books are excellent and beautiful.  David Edge's book about the Knight in the Middle Ages, for instance, is THE go-to book to make sense of all the styles and types of armour which were used throughout Europe, but good luck finding results of an assay on the metal, or a decent picture of the strap work which holds it all together inside!

    Many of the older ones are treasures from old bookshops,many were written by curators, and include catalogues of collections.  Some catalogues are VERY boring...I swear Mr. Edge wrote his fine book after he went cross eyed studying the un-illustrated catalogue of the Wallace Collection.  A phone book would be more interesting!

The Internet Archive is the finest resource I know for old, out of print, out of copyright books.  It is like the most wonderful library up the road!

 These have mostly all been scanned in, photograph by photograph.  There are a few missing or damaged pages, a few dog ears, a few coffee rings and bits of cigarette ash on the page when they photographed them.   I personally think this does not detract in the slightest from their value.

The internet archive is free.  Knowledge is priceless.  These are the books I downloaded onto my Kindle before I traveled to Europe to study the subject matter in the museums. 

There are lots more than this small sampling!  But if any of my readers get through even a fraction of this list, they will have a better handle on the subect than even Gary Gigax!

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Making armour

The picture says it all.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Costume Armour

Two hours develping the pattern from client's sketch, (another two still to go to modify them to be useful in the future) two hours on the buffing wheel, and three hours to cut out and mount them.
    And a happy costume shop customer in Toronto.
           Now to get paid.  I hate rush jobs before halloween....little things like cheques and client approval letters get neglected.   Almost always to my detriment. 

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vienna wotsthisthen?

Click on these pictures to enlarge them and see if you can figure out what they are.

Pretty cool hmmmm?   Check out the knuckle spikes! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I have seriously GOT to get here someday
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quinn's Armour....redux

Clearly Quinn has found some admirers.  This armour was featured here a few months back.
    I didn't make the shoulders or leg armour though.

Please, go and check out Quinn's Deviant Art page.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Music Video!

Why can we not do a music video like this one?

One of the many fights at the Osgoode Medieval Festival.  Thats me on the left, and Jeff, pretty much destroying Mark.

This little battle is a VERY good example of the South Tower fighting style...the "Glass Sword" style.  Watch it a couple of times, you will see how and why it works so well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Traveling in the Deviant Art universe

J.... asked me if I could make her a nice sexy armour.    She linked me to a Deviant Art site which illustrated what she had in mind...and on the way, I visited several other sites.
     The mind boggles at how many ways there are to enclose the female form in steel.
    Well, the least I can do is to send my readers out to check out some of these links.  So please, spend a half hour surfing and let me know what you think!
     Please note that I have intentionally kept these AS links, rather than thumbnails.  As anyone who knows me well is aware, I am very fussy about copyright.  Links ain't copyright...grin!

     But I would be honoured to make ANY of these designs in my shop!

In Leather...

One of me....

I like all the jewelry here...

moulded plastic?  ...

I could SO see a lady in this....

I like the way the chain comes down in the back of this...

This one shows an innovative way to use a little cloth modesty top.  But its not very viking...

More along my usual line...

And just for fun....

Thursday, May 31, 2012

metalworker's test

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

advertising copy

I have a chance to advertise in some fairly high profile places...and I needed some advertising copy.  Well, I suppose there could be worse ways to spend a Sunday evening after five hours of standing and teaching class.  

I have played with some of my pictures and tried to get some advertising copy built up.  What do you think of these ones?    Too busy?  Too cutsey?   Too weird? Missing the point?   Or perhaps something different.  

What do you think is the best one?  Which one should I trash?
(Oh, and is my French  okay?  Its been awhile....I am thinking "armours" is spelled "les armeures...but I'm not sure.)

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer armouring schedules

Formal armour making classes.

So many people have asked me for them.  As I observe the people who make armour in my shop on Saturdays, I am struck by a couple of things...mostly that though the spirit is always willing

(and boy is it ever willing!), the knowledge base of how to make a good looking armour is simply not there.  Drill bits spin in their chucks, and rivets rattle. Breastplates are lumpy and

mis-shapen and sharp edges abrade skin.   Making armour is a skill, like typing or learning to drive, and what one person can do another person can learn how to do as well.

    I have never felt that by training people, I would be training my competition.  Far from it.  I would be training my collegues, and those who will be taking over from me, taking this art

to the next level and on to the next generation.  To this end, I have decided to schedule some formal classes. They are not cheap, nothing important ever is.  Yet they are not out of reach


 I have built up a curriculum based on two day blocks, and I always add on an optional practice day on the end of it for you to finish off whatever project you started.  So you can expect two

hours of lecture to start each day, then its all On-Job-Training "hands on" after that.  The courses will be held in my shop in Metcalfe.  I am not on a bus route, so if there is need for a

shuttle bus, let me know. I don't mind the drive to Tim Horton's at Findley Creek in the morning.   Courses start at 9o'clock sharp, and go for a pretty solid day which ends at around five. 

Depending on the heat levels, I may start it much earlier.

The first block assumes you know NOTHING about metalworking of any kind, and will cover steel gauge sizes,  how to change tool bits and blades, the tools involved in armour making, and how

they are used. That being said, to avoid wasting all of our precious time,

You should already know:
        how to use a file, a hacksaw, a jig saw, a hand held power drill, a drill press, bench grinder and a bench vise.
        the metric system, the awg system, the sae system, and standard fastening systems.
        the use of safety equipment...eye, ear, fire fighting
        the names of various armour pieces

    At the end of the two days, you will know all the parts of the armour, anvil and what hammer to use, and when and on what.   You will become very knowledgable about safety equipment.   

You will know how to roll an edge, an introduction to the English wheel, and how to make a simple breastplate.  You will become familiar with shears, drills, and leathering of armour.  You

will be able to mount buckles on belts, and learn how to tie a ring buckle.  The third day is a practice day, in which you get to finish the projects embarked upon.  Since this last is only a

practice day, you can safely skip it, and do your practicing at home.  You will go home with a breastplate which is made to fit you.  Perhaps a back plate as well.

    The first block is required to go on to the second and third blocks. Some folks have an existing shop knowledge, and don't really need that basic course.  You can challenge my eqivalancy

exam if you like. email me at and I will send you the list of questions. You either breeze through them, or you gulp and realize (as I did!) that there is a huge body
of knowledge you didn't even know you don't know.

The second block is also two days, and will deal with more complicated tasks such as articulating joints, finishing of metal, and hinge riveting.  You will learn tuck pointing, shrinking,

finishing with a surface plate, raising and dishing.  You will go home with a pair of knee cops.  You will learn how to colour leather, and mount different styles of buckles, and learn how to

make them. Eyeletting of both steel and leather are demonstrated. The basic armour making class is required, or equivalent.

The third block is the tool making block, where we will introduce you to multi metals such as brass, aluminum and stainless steel. Some work will be done with different leathers and furs. 

There will be an introduction to repousse, and a segment on how to make tools with which you can push the metal out.  Tool preparation, polishing and modification is explained succintly.

Polishing of brass and hardend steel tools is explained, with particular emphasis on how to make your own polishing station.   Colouring of metals, and texturing the surface is covered.  The

basic armour making class is required, or equivalent. You will go home with a pair of vambraces with your coat of arms embossed upon them.

2012 block 1  Thursday and Friday  May 31 and  June 1
     block 2  Thursday and Friday  June 14 and June 15
     block 3  Thursday and Friday  June 21 and June 22
     block 1  Monday, Tuesday 25,26 June.  (An optional date if there is considerable demand)
     block 1  Thursday and Friday  June 28 and June 29
     block 2  Thursday and Friday  July 12 and July 13
     block 3  Thursday and Friday  July 19 and July 20

Monday and Tuesday middle of June are available for block 1 (basic armouring) if there is demand.
Book your time slot now.  email, or
I accept VISA, Mastercard, and American Express.

Cost for the basic two day block is $220.80
($80.00 ($10.00/hr) + $10.40hst + $20.00 (materials) per day)

I will also accept TradeBank dollars, One World Barter Dollars, Canadian Tire Money and South Tower Dollars
A paid reservation is a confirmed reservation.
I limit attendance to three minimum, six maximum
Crash space is available if needed. 
Safety boots are required...likely your own safety glasses will be more comfortable than my old beat up ones.
Phone 613-821-1846, or fax 613-821-9947

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The armour used by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in Malta gradually moved away from the personal armours which were brought by the members to a sort of uniform armour, "loaner armour" if you will.  When the Grand Master demanded that any armour that came to Malta must stay in Malta even if the member was to leave the order, the supply of really pretty gold plated custom made armour suddenly dried up.

Since of course the order was made up of young gentry, fourth sons mainly who were forced into the church even though they preferred the excitement of tournament and the danger of battle, the Order was rather more attractive than so many other paths.  At home they would just get into trouble, in Malta, the Grand Master would find a place and a use for them.  So one could imagine some young tearaway arriving in Valetta with a dozen trunks of clothes, chests of wine, panopolies of armour  and some spending money pressed upon him by indulgent aunts.  The discovery that Jean deValette had forbidden women in the city would have been a great shock, amelorated by the martial tasks he would be put to straight away! 

So the young fellow would learn from experienced knights, be kept out of the worst of the trouble that young scions can get into, kept away from his loser friends, and taught how to handle a galley, deal with slaves, meet Jews, Muslims, and various flavors of Christians, and learn to deal with multiple languages and princes (they were ALL princes) of what can only be described as a United Nations of the time.   Sort of a residential finishing school for Chivalry. 

When the young knight would be called back home because his older brothers had been taken out of the picture, the fancy armours stayed behind, and I suspect were probably turned into cash.  Certainly there are very few of them left in the Palace Museum in Malta.  (Though many were given away over the years by various governors) An armoury in Milan started making the armours, so there is a whole regiment of very plain, utilitarian Italian armours lining the corridors to the legislative assembly chambers.  These were even more plain than usual, NEVER had a cod piece, were very roughly made to fit anybody.  To the military eye (like mine), the armours have a very comforting "general issue" feel to them.  Most have battle damage of some kind, all show their age.  As GI as they were, they were all decorated, mobile, light, and did their job.  After all, they WERE made for princes whose parents were often very wealthy.   So the elaborate spadlers I have photographed here are what they wore during the "great seige" and later.  Absolutely stunning, they look good, gleam in the sun in the approved fashion, the edges are roped (which puts them a little later than the great siege).  Check out the gothic arch shape they make in the above picture.  This arch was repeated in the elbows, knees and visor.  And no doubt in the windows behind him. 

The shouder is quite actually uses more steel than the breastplate!  

I personally love the little centre line notch, and the scribed decorative line a quarter inch back from the edge.  One can almost imagine the armour maker wondering how to pretty it up on a budget.  A problem which I have faced many times myself.  

The lower cannons fit neatly into the elbow cops.  This might even be an articulated elbow cop, but very simple floating cops were common as well.  The cannon works perfectly even after all these years.  Look at how much it has been battered, yet the lower cannon rotates smoothly through 360 degrees.  I think the severe shaping required to form the sliding joint is so strong that most battle damage just glances off it. 

From the inside, you can see how they rushed the job.  

And the back gaps open for no reason that I can figure. Don't think I want that scissoring my gambeson back there.

The articulation is from slotted rivets.  The random holes are from when the armour was mounted on an iron frame to be a statue.  (brings tears to my eyes....)  

The rough cut lames (clearly cut with a chisel) that you cannot see contrast sharply with the rolled and roped edgeswhich you can see.  I found it kind of interesting that the person doing the roping did it totally by eye...the irregular spacing of the chisel marks is kind of neat. 

The entire inside is a mass of huge hammer marks.  

 Its okay, the rusty inside is a stabilized rust, and in fact, is more ancient axel grease and soap than actual rust. 

The above collection is of this same spadler from angles you don't normally see them at.  And below is a picture of me, enjoying myself doing all those measurements.

And the question WILL arise...why do I call them Spadlers instead of Spaulders.  The answer is simple....the Oxford English Dictionary calls them Spadlers, and there is NO entry for Spaulder.  What do YOU make of that?

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