Monday, August 9, 2010

Lamellar options

The following is re-printed from the Bryn Gwlad e-mail list:

Historical and archeological evidence is available for lamellar scales of brass/bronze, wrought iron, leather, rawhide, horn and (in some Chinese examples) stone. Ridged, fluted or embossed examples exist in both brass/bronze and iron. Iron lamellar is known to have been tinned or bronzed in some cases, including some where bronze leaf has been applied with a bituminous glue. Lacing materials include brass or bronze staples, leather and silk cord. While linen or hemp cord makes sense to me I don't remember seeing any evidence that it was used.

It is important to realize that making hundreds of scales by hand is a project for fanatics (Hi Aeddan!) and not recommended in this case. So we are down to commercial sources of scales which at present includes 2 sources for stamped plates in stainless steel, a couple of sources for mass-produced aluminum plates in a variety of finishes, a few sources for custom designed laser-cut plates in a variety of materials, one source for leather plates and one for plastic in a couple of sizes/styles and a variety of colors.

Considering cost, maintainability, durability, weight, ease of ordering, authenticity of materials and authenticity of appearance I recommend 20 gauge stainless with a central flute down each scale, laced with paracord and edged with chrome-tawed leather. These fluted scales are only commercially available from one source to the best of my knowledge. This will do an excellent job of representing an authentic wrought-iron lamellar laced with silk cord and edged with alum-tawed leather. After a single week of use, this will appear MORE authentic than an armour of perfectly authentic materials because we beat up our armour far more than our ancestors ever did, we persist in working or going to school rather than spending our off-time polishing armour like a legionary or a steppes nomad, and we lack the servants of an upper class cavalryman or officer of the classical or medieval periods.

On a chemical level stainless steel and modern mild steel are both quite a ways from wrought iron, but it would take advanced instrumentation and a highly trained eye to spot this difference on the field. When you add in the effects of various heat-coloring and finishing techniques it is simply not possible to tell the difference between these materials by eye. While many people (some of them Laurels) have claimed to be able to spot this difference, experiments have shown that they are mistaken. On the other hand, if you mirror-polish your stainless and then expose your unwaxed mild steel to some humidity the difference is obvious.

Some day I'd love to make some wrought iron scales and experiment with tinning and bronzing methods, but that would be an arts and sciences project rather than practical armour for on the field.

My closest second choice for a practical recommendation would be a mass-produced aluminum scale, either acid etched or annodized for a desired finish. The added thickness of this material catches my eye but it does not bother most observers, and it has the benefit of being easier on the lacing material. This makes an assembled lamellar more durable. It really comes down to cost and aesthetic preferences. See:

I fought for years in the plastic lamellar and now my son wears it. I feel that it does a reasonable job of simulating a hardened leather armour if made from appropriate colors, but the "metal" colored plates look a bit off and look far too thick to be realistic simulations of metal. Given the comparative cost and availability of metal and leather lamellar plates I no longer recommend purchasing plastic lamellar for adult fighters, but if I was given some I would certainly put it to use.

I'd need to run some tests to be sure, but I'm not convinced that the plastic or aluminum plates are any lighter weight than the 20 gauge stainless. Both steel and aluminum provide far better heat transfer than leather or plastic.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Hello's been a while.

After my last post came the rush to get ready for Gulf War, then to get ready for Lysts, then to get my house on the I've only gotten back to armouring fairly recently.

Failure to Blog
I've hosted sessions for Marita to work on a new shield, Martel to make a helm liner, Jens to collect and begin strapping some donated gear that would only fit him, Katrina and Artorius to assemble 3 boffer-legal rattan-core swords, Alfred to help sort out some donated loaner gear and work on his curie (leather breast-and-back plate), and Nicola to refurbish a borrowed helm and begin work on a 14th cent. curie for his early 14th century Italian kit. I've taught a class at Tuesday fighter practice on making linen helm liners and at least one student has finished one. Thanks Tivar! I also went over to Rachel's place for a war company surcoat/tunic sewing session that included Helene, Nicola and Artorius as well.

Current Events
Last night Avery came over to work on a helm liner for his new spring-steel 16th cent. Burgeonet for cut-and-thrust fighting. He got the pattern made and the fabric cut out, and took a bag of wool with him so that he can finish it at home.

Nicola worked on beveling the edges of his curie and also cut out a helm liner using fabric I had available. Buying all those "doggie bag" specials from has really paid off!

Josh also came over to discuss an armour plan (mid-14th cent. Welsh) and get started on a coat of plates. Again I was able to provide materials from what I had on hand. His CoP shell will be a sturdy blue cotton velvet with a heavy white linen lining, The plates will be white plastic barrel or "faux horn" riveted on with roofing nails. We got a pattern drafted, linen cut, and plates cut out. It will be very similar to the ones Helene and Rachel made previously.

Hrethric and his daughter Caitlin came over to work on an 11th century Saxon armour and hang out with my son Artorius, respectively. :) Hrethric bought himself a strap end cutter and brought along a 10-12oz. hide which he is cutting into 1 5/8" wide strips and then 2 5/8" long scales. We will glue-soak and bake the scales after they are all cut and the edges burnished.

Artorius removed some broken straps from his gauntlets and worked with me on plans to re-strap them and keep his fingers safer, but then he seemed to get distracted for some reason. He will need to finish them up this weekend if he wants to use them next Tuesday.

This weekend I hope to straighten up my work areas, put the rawhide edging on a linen-covered birch shield for Duke Kein, wax-seal a pair of light leather vambraces for me so that they are ready for me to rivet on the spring steel splints, and post some pictures of all of this to this blog.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New gorget design

Please pardon the poor image quality, but you can see my new gorget design. I used some old scrap suede leather, about 6"x15" of 18g. stainless and 2 strips of 1/8" thick felt. A 1.5" band of stainless goes around the neck with a hinge of latigo on the right side and a latigo strap with a buckle on the left. Glued under it there are two strips of felt and a layer of leather that folds over the top and is glued down with ShoeGoo. The scales are roughly 2"x3" and are sewn down with linen cord. This one is for a fighter with a 13" neck.

This was inspired by the Carlisle collar but is not a replica of any particular piece.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Old post on Franchise

I can across this old post from the Armour Archive and decided to share it again here.

Posted: Tue Nov 29, 2005

In my understanding, franchise is to rights much as prowess is to weapons. All men of arms have weapons, but worthy men of prowess use their weapons regularly and to great effect. All men of rank and station have rights, but worthy men of franchise exercise their rights regularly and to great effect. The knight who possesses the virtue of franchise metes out justice within his domain, drives out evil-doers, travels to meet with and counsel his Liege, attends his Liege at feast and otherwise gives full exercise to each of his rights.

I believe one of the best measures of franchise is the ability to give one's superiors counsel that they need but do not want to hear. If a person is seeking to improve their practice of the virtue of Franchise, I encourage them to examine their existing rights and their exercise thereof. Do they have the right to petition for entrance into Crown tournament, and do they exercise that right? Do they have the right and duty to counsel some liege (baron, prince, king, household leader) by virtue of any office or title or membership in some order? Have they done so lately? What other rights do they have? Why would anyone ever expect a candidate to exercise the rights of Knightly station if they do not exercise the rights they currently enjoy?

Franchise must be tempered with justice and courtesy and mercy and other chivalric virtues lest it over-reach itself into arrogance or greed. NO virtue stands alone, and a true knight should have each and every chivalric virtue in good measure.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Open Shop Sunday

We had a great open shop day on Sunday. Mary and Gracie drove up from St. Edward's University. Aeddan and Grimolfr (Joe) came over as well.

Aeddan put a last coat of gesso on his curved birch plywood shield and made a steel grip for it. I will post instructions for these grips sometime soon, based on the Dura Europos archaeology evidence. He also cleaned some old paint off of his aluminum oval shield to prepare it for re-painting.

Grimólfr had pre-assembled a set of Tandy leather lamellar plates to see how they would fit. He dis-assembled them, soaked them in my bucket of glue solution, and low-temperature baked them in batches of 12, keeping the oven going all afternoon.

Mary sewed up the second gamboised cuise for her leg armour and began dishing some better elbow cops. She also put edging on an old aluminum shield from the loaner gear so it is ready for her to use.

I helped here and there with several projects, ground down some lumpy welds on a loaner helm, drilled out some old rivits on Mary's vambraces, drilled holes in Mary's current aluminum elbows so they are ready to be tied to the vambraces and rerebraces, and added ties (shoestrings) to Mary's gamboised cuises so they are ready to wear.

Aeddan has loaned his old helm to Mary and offered to bring his old aluminum lamellar out to practice on Tuesday. With that Mary should be able to armour up using only a half-gauntlet and a gorget from the loaner gear. Progress!


PS Here is an excellent article on covering ugly armour with good period clothing:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Helm progress

I've been home for 2 days with a respiratory virus, so I've used the time to make some progress on my helm.

I've mounted the ridge to the brow band and trimmed the ridge to the correct length, then dished and punched holes and added the side bands.

I spent some time with a wooden hammer, adjusting the fit of the side bands so the fit tightly with the brow and the ridge. Then I drafted a pattern for the panels, made a prototype out of 18g. mild steel, tweaked the pattern a bit, and marked out the 4 panels on my remaining metal.

I'm going to need some more 16g. 410 alloy steel to finish this project because the pattern pieces do not nest as well as I had planned in my original layout, and it was always going to be tight getting both of the cheek pieces out of the available metal.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Helm Padding

A linen helm liner stuffed with natural fibers (wool, linen, cotton, bamboo) provides a nice progressively resilient padding, wicks sweat away from your face, allows for air flow, and resembles historical examples. Foam does not.

I like to sew channels 1.5" wide so that when stuffed more-or-less round and uncompressed it is about 1" thick. Compressed between my head and the helm this provides about .75" of padding which means the helm circumference needs to be 4.71" (2*pi*0.75") larger than my head circumference. Note that the unstuffed liner will need to be about 1.5 times the circumference of your head so that it will fit when the channels are stuffed.

SCA minimun is 0.5" of padding, which is only recommended if you have too many brain cells and you want to kill some off through repeated concussions.

Some bascinet helms have holes drilled along the edge for sewing in the liner, but for other helm designs I like to sew a strip of leather along the brow line of the liner and then glue it into the helm with shoegoo. I use c-clamps to hold the leather in place until the glue dries. This gives a strong but resilient bond that will not let the liner get into my eyes, but still allows me to peel it out and wash the liner from time to time.

These pictures show a loaner helm with a new liner. The blue foam has been added to make this spun-dome helm begin to fit a human head which is typically more oval than round.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Helm progress

My lovely fiance got me some new swage blocks for Christmas, which I have used to complete the ridge for my new ridge helm. Now I need to set the final size of the brow band and begin marking and punching or drilling holes. I'm not sure how well the .062 inch thick 410 alloy steel will work with a hand punch, but I am about to find out.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Late Roman Shields

By the 5th century nearly all Roman shields appear to have been oval in shape. The earlier ones found at Dura Europos and seen in the mosaics at Piazza Armentaria seem to be a bit larger than the one I use. See also the Wikipedia article on Scutum Shields which I will quote here:

The 5th century writer Vegetius added that scuta helped in identification: "Lest the soldiers in the confusion of battle should be separated from their comrades, every cohort had its shields painted in a manner peculiar to itself. The name of each soldier was also written on his shield, together with the number of the cohort and century to which he belonged."

The surviving shields seem to include both plank and plywood examples with linen facings and rawhide edging. Unit insiginia like those depicted in the Notitia Dignitatum is painted on the front of the shield while the back is painted with more personalized depictions of saints, nude women, or other inspirational images along with floral and geometric design elements.

I have a photocopy of some shield images from the Dura Europos report in my collection if anyone would like to take a closer look. The full citation for that report is:

James, Simon (2004). Excavations at Dura-Europos 1928—1937. Final Report VII. The Arms and Armour and Other Military Equipment. London: British Museum Press. ISBN 0-7141-2248-3.