Friday, April 6, 2012
spadler with fence
This German armour from 1530 at the Tower of London Armoury in Leeds is spectacular in its fit and finish, yet fairly straightforward in basic design and funtion. The fairly standard "Italian" style shoulders were now being made in Germany (and German style armours were now being made in Italy...leading to the tremendous confusion. We know this is German because of the radial fluting. Italian armours would be plain, or decorated in bands and panels of detailed etching. When you consider how much work went into fluting this armour, one wonders why the armourer stuck to this overall form instead of coming up with one of his own. My "theory" is that the panel basher who fluted this armour started from a standard off-the-rack set of pieces rather than starting from scratch. Its just a theory though, but it suits my admittedly unstudied concept of guilds and their jealously guarded fields of expertise. (I think this was originally an armour that had been fluted...the bottom of the flutes retain the curve of the original armour)
Anybody who has ever done fluting will tell you that although the fluting is fairly straightforward, you just have to file a stake to the correct shape to allow the shape to be bashed in, at first with a rawhide hammer, and then with a hard hammer, and then lastly with a swage. The hard part of course is to make the flutes straight and even. That would have given the armour maker a few unquiet nights! One unthinking random hit with the hammer, and two weeks down the drain!
If you click on these pictures you can see some interesting battle damage. The lance has clearly torn the fence right through its rivets, and even cracked the corner of the spadler. The three dimentional compound curves have proved to be stronger than the steel they were made from. An interesting engineering study.
The rivets along the edge of the spadler are clearly replacements...likely they held an underlying layer of leather in place to prevent scratches...and as we all know, leather does not have a long lifestyle. This armour then was in use for at least one cycle of leather replacement. Say five or six years. Maybe longer. This closeup (above) also clearly shows the underlying shape of the original armour. Not only did the panel basher make the flutes, but he also kept the underlying gentle swell of the shoulder. This is what makes me think that some guildsman (say a plate maker's guild) decortated an armour made by the harness maker's guild. Again, only speculation. Probably a lot to build upon a gleam of light in the bottom of the flutes...
For some time, the leather was not there to protect the breastplate from the spadler. Those scratches must an annoyed at least one owner! What is interesting is that they have dipped down into the bottoms of the grooves....which means it was a bit of flimsy springy metal dragging across the breastplate at that place. From such evidence are stories developed.
I included this pic because it was a good overview of the nice fence. Gently pointed at the top, beautifully rolled and finished. The centre line which looks so clean and crisp is an illusion however, it is just a reflection of the corner of the display case. This spadler is articulated, but all the articulation is on the helm side of the fence. And the fence is gently curved, but it does NOT follow the fluting. This leads me to another possibly unwarranted assumption....the fence was mounted AFTER the fluting was done. Which means it went back to the harness maker. Maybe not right away. This armour does not usually have a fence, so it might have been a modification. One can almost see the marshal shaking his head and saying..."good lookin' armour m'lord, but we use fences in th' joust now, so you gots t'get fences nailed on hmmm".
And from the side, we see that the fence is surprisingly enough, only on the front half of the spadler. Unless you see the armour from the side or the back, you would never know this! In fact, it does not even come up to the centre line, but rather, a couple of centimeters to the front of the centre line.