Saturday, March 24, 2018

Airport Armour - Coat of Plates

While I wait on my ANCA full armoury, I am learning to sew, and using the items I make to investigate Airport Armour designs. Airport Armour is designed to be as light as possible, and can be slightly less sturdy, in order to facilitate making the weight restrictions of travel by aeroplane. The impressive distances travelled by Australian medievalists occasionally requires temporary weight compromises.

This coat of plates is designed to be worn over a padded garment such as a gambeson/ ackerton.

Airport Armour can also be modified with more protection to move to become ultralight armour for the lighter or less strong combatant. In this example I am making airport armour coat of plates - with the addition of further rows of plates you could move the same design to become an Ultralight Armour.

I currently have a half workshop, but in this case each of the more elaborate or electrical tools for this job was available. I will outline what I used, and will outline in italics other options.


First I sewed a basic vest. The pattern is essentially the same as a waistcoat pattern, with larger and lower. For attachments I use a sewn in shoelaces as a tape that is alternatively disconnected and reconnected to the garment in either side of the front attachment. A third lace is then used to thread the garment together. 
You can hand sew the whole lot, and you could also use cloth buttons, toggle or dozens of eyelets to thread the vest together

I measured and cut my plates. I  used speed rivets (two part hammer joined rivets) and flattened ABS plastic garden edging I found from our local green shed/ recycling centre.
You could use Kydex or Blue Barrel or another plastic and speed rivets, or you could use steel or stainless steel and real rivets. Thanks @RL - found it at Bunnings

The garden edging came in a roll, so needed to be de-curved. I used the horn of my anvil, and hand pressed the pieces flat. 
You could use a pipe, or any hard, curved surface. 

I smoothed the edges of each plate using a motorised linisher.
  You could use files, or sandpaper, or in the case of plastics even aircraft snips.
Another great manual tool is a leather edge beveller. Thanks @AP

Each of the 14 plates needs five holes, so I set my drill press and cut the 70 holes.
You could use a handheld power drill, or a hand drill  

My Chief Distraction Officer needed some attention and forced a break at this point.
You can use a computer game or caffeine addiction, or a task for your partner. 

Line us the plate and push the awl through the fabric.
The job of the awl can be done by a pointed piece of anything, I have seen bamboo skewers and sharpened nails used at a pinch. Do not use a knife. You are pushing through the fabric, not cutting. Halfway through the process I discovered that the rivet alone and finger force could get through the fabric.

Seat the bottom half of the rivet on the railway track anvil
Anything sufficiently dense and heavy can be used. Steel gives the best response.

Poke the base through the fabric with enough base protruding...

In order to place the cap of the rivet onto the base.
Then hit the cap squarely and firmly with a hammer.
There is a specialist tool with a curved base that gets a better result. I find the tool too cumbersome to use when I only have myself working. Having a second person to help with setting looks slightly better, and doubles the labour cost... Also, if you want longer wear, at this point you could add a leather washer to each rivet. Thanks @PK

Many plates set.

The final view.

I hope you liked this quick tutorial. My aim is develop a series of quick guides to develop the simplest and easiest way to make Airport Armour. I will document and release all these guides as I want more people travelling and making their own light armour to do so. I believe more people able to fight will end up with more work for me to do. Also, there will be a type of person who has more money than time, and they will want me to make things for them at a reasonable recompense. There will also be the person who wants to do medieval activities who has more spare time that money who can use these guide to make the pool of armoured combatants bigger!

Price guide (All prices in AUD)

2 Metres Corduroy Spotlight $24
Thread $4
Shoelaces $5
Speed Rivets 100 pack Lefflers $17
1/2 packet Garden Edging ABS  $10

Total Parts Cost  - $60

Labour- cutting, measuring sewing - 2.0
Plate Prep- 1.0
Attaching plates - 2.0

Total Labour - 5 hours @ $50 workshop rate = $250

Labour $250 + parts $60 = $310.

My labour cost is sufficient that you could buy a hand drill, awl, and some steel track yourself to do the project. If you are short of cash, do it yourself! If you have no time but money, come find me.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Class Notes - Armour Maintenance

Class Notes - Armour Maintenance

Balmoral TAFE notes (DRAFT)

Bench grinder kit:

Friday, June 16, 2017

ADP: Geographical Area

Choosing a Geographical Area

(Part of the ADP: Armour Decision Points series)

Geography includes political borders such as Empires, Kingdoms, Provinces and Baronies. It can be or it can be collections "The European Lowlands", "The Iberian Peninsula", "The Italian City States". It can be a city such as Paris or Prague. Broader areas allow the use of more references, narrowing down a geography too far can leave you with almost now remaining objects and more speculation.

Geographical area for armour is easiest to pin down when it is linked to specific objects that exist from that time period, it drifts to complexity when it is an impression from multiple objects and secondary items, and is harder still when it comes from feelings and stories. 

Time period needs to be chosen before geographical area in general terms, because of the massive difference between a bronze age spearman and a renaissance gunner. This article is written from the perspective that time period has been chosen first. That is not compulsory, but one of the perspectives had to be chosen. 
A Tudor Archer or Solider impression is made easier by all the study done on the Mary Rose

Easy mode would be to choose something like Gottland soldier of 1360; or English seaman of 1545. The Wisby finds  means that we have actual surviving armour taken from the ground, with known providence, from known men, who fought in Gottland. The recovery of the English warship The Mary Rose from the bottom of the sea reveals a massive amount about those men and their equipment and lifestyle.

Choosing a general area causes issues once you have researched enough to know the questions you will need to ask yourself. French from around 1460, which was my initial persona, offers more challenges. France was not a driver of armour production at the time, so I have to choose a German or Italian influence to my armour. The French armour maker's marks from the period are not currently tracked, so did I go with a unknown local or did I fully import. Modern France does not equal the 1460 Kingdom of France - was I in that area, or in the different areas? My persona happened to French as the name was from the Parisian Rolls of 1421, so that helped me zero in and answer that question. Are there extant works of art from that period? Are they realistic or biblical analogies?  Once your general area and time has been chosen, this can simply be the starting point for a research project.
The Battle of Gottland is well known because of the exceptional quality of the armour pulled from the ground.

Hard mode comes from a general piece of information. "My Grandad was Scottish, I want to be Scottish." is such a general statement that a lot of research is coming your way, and likely a lot of myth busting. If you are a lowland noble, you are importing armour from the same German and Italian armour merchants as the rest of Europe, and likely look indistinguishable from a French or English, or German noble. If you are thinking you want to be an impressive highland noble, you have some enlightening reading to be done. 

 Think about your research skills when you choose your geography. Picking an area based on specific existing objects or artworks, from areas with plenty of examples makes things easier, straying from this makes the journey harder.

Once you have chosen your geography, it will help drive your further choices, and clearly guides a lot of armour decisions.

Monday, June 12, 2017

ADP Example- My SCA COTT kit

ADP Example

Part of the ADP armour series - My SCA Lochac Combat of the Thirty kit 

This kit is an attempt to make a kit for the SCA combat safety rule set, with an attempt to get close to the armour used at the historical event "The Combat of the Thirty" on the 26th March 1351.  

Armour Decision Point Worksheet

  • Silhouette - Transition Period
  • Time period - 1351
  • Geographical Area - Brittany (France) 
  • Historical Example - Gunther von Schwarzburg 1349 Effigy
  • Social Status - French Knight
  • Leg suspension - C-belt
  • Correct layers V your layers - Short by hose and mail on the legs.
  • Weapon Fitout - SCA rule set compliant rattan long sword and rattan dagger
  • My Compromises - incorrect great helm shape; mail coif instead of skullcap helm; wrong cut of surcoat; undersized coat of plates; incorrect shape of elbows, fore arm and upper arm splints different pattern;  leather gauntlets instead of rule set illegal finger gauntlets; solid legs and sabatons modern shoes under sabatons; sabatons too long,  wrong belt knots.

Compromises History and Improvement plan

Incorrect great helm shape - I did not have the time or funds to order a new helm. This was hand made before I had my workshop set up with dishing stumps, stake or anvil. Straight shaped using a hammer and a pipe. Correct curves and piecing pattern was known, but tools unavailable. Plan to replace helm with a purchased bascinet and will make a faceplate.

Mail coif instead of skullcap helm - I was able to order a reasonably priced riveted mail coif, I did not have time, resources or tools to execute a steel skullcap with mail, in order to place the greathelm over that.

Wrong cut of surcoat - available surcoat used. Needs proper cut, proper arms and a fuller skirt.

Undersized coat of plates - I am wearing a fabric garment with riveted plates between the shirt and arming coat, rather than between the mail and surcoat.

Incorrect shape of elbows - I believe mine are too modern.
Fore arm and upper arm splints of different pattern - While my forearms and uppers are of rivet and stay construction, they are do not resemble the pattern in the effigy  

Leather gauntlets instead of rule set illegal finger gauntlets - I used available leather and steel plate gauntlets of no fixed period rather than the correct finger gauntlets. Historical finger gauntlets would not meet the SCA ruleset. I will investigate the 'faux individual finger' gauntlets.

Leg layers - I have attached the leg layer poorly. I have researched different methods and I have an excellent plan for my next COTT, which will likely be 2019 due to scheduling conflicts.

Solid legs and sabatons - are acceptable for the period, they simply do not match my effigy, however...

Sabatons too long - they are too long for my feet (and I suspect any feet) due to the uniformed construction.

Modern shoes under sabatons - I have suffered multiple slip injuries with period shoes and cannot sustain another one.

Wrong belt knots - needs a complete replacement on length, tie, and shape.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Leg Armour Support - Pressure Bands

Leg Armour Support - Pressure Bands

Pressure and support principles behind the fabric or leather garments that support leg armour, hose or even modern stockings.

The best way for the human body to carry medium to light weights on the legs is to use pressure bands on the midrift. It allows full range of motion of the arms and the legs when done correctly.

The pressure bands need to be of ever decreasing pressure in order to provide comfort and movement. The downwards pressure of the borne weight is held mainly at the bottom, and then gradually lightened off as it gets higher. Weight on the shoulders reduces range of movement and the ability to raise the arms high above the shoulders, so should be at best zero, or the least amount possible.

In the diagram below, red and orange hold most pressure, yellow less pressure, and green (or above) significantly less pressure. The white line indicates the angle of a fitted garment. This white line is the edge of the 'cone segment' that holds the weight in place by shape.  

Anatomy man shows pressure bands with colour coding with ROYGBIV colour coding

This gentleman is wearing a light fitted sleeveless garment that has points to hold up his padded leg armour and likely also a steel over armour. The method by which the pressure is regulated is by the tightness of the lacing. at the bottom the lacing will be firmed, and it will gradually have less pressure as it goes upwards. Clever tailoring provides the angle in, and then an angle outwards - the point where these angles change is visible as the spacing of the laces, and a small fabric bulge. The upper section of the garment above the green zone is clearly holding less pressure, and this is acknowledged by the garment maker as the time consuming lacing has been abandoned for simple ties, which can easily take the lowered pressure and are easier to construct. 
Common usage terms for my group is purpoint for the sleeveless unpadded body garment and chausses for the padded leg armour garments.

The quilted hip hugging garment below skips the green pressure bands entirely and sits on and just above the hips. The lacing points are again used to to provide tightness at the bottom, less in the middle, and even less on the top. Two pairs of two suspension points spreads the lifting load across the garment.  Quilting provides more comfort that a single layer of cloth or leather. Lacing points are not the only options, straight one to one ties or strap and buckle can be used. 
This is a lendenier or armoured girdle. When done in one layer of cloth or leather, the common usage term for my contemporaries is a c-belt.

 This next garment is unpadded or lightly padded full jacket to be used under full plate armour. This was given as an example of that jacket, and also to show a few interesting points regarding fit and construction. I believe this garment will cause the operator discomfort, back pain, and lowered range of movement with the arms. I recognise that the wearer only has one piece of leg armour, but principles are displayed here that will hold even when the next leg is added. The red band of pressure is pulling the fabric out of shape, and causing a 'bunch up' of fabric. The necessary pressure banding of less and less pressure has not been achieved. there will be a narrow band of pressure causing a load on one specific vertebrae on the back. The band does not take the strain, so it will be shared by the shoulders. This can be seen by the blue circled bunching of fabric. If the banding was done correctly, the bunching would have been much lesser, and would have conformed with the circle seams around the shoulder. The white arrow indicate the straight up and down nature of the line of force. Even on the other side, the line of force is too up and down - it needs to be steeper and this needs to be achieved by more tightness at the lower points, and less while working upwards.

This garment is called and arming doublet by my  contemporaries.
This next garment is shown to illustrate that the principle have not changed into the modern era. The bands still exist, comfort will be gained by better usage of the pressure principles. This garment has the advantage of being constructed of modern stretch materials and having very little weight to support. The garment forms the same inverted cone section as all the other garments. It also allows free range of motion of the arms and legs.
This is called a modern garter belt.

ADP: Choosing Time Period

Choosing a Time Period

(Part of the ADP: Armour Decision Points series)

Time period

The choice you must make regarding time period is one of the most binding as it will choose who you can interact with in the re-enactment world. One of the most strong criteria for group participation is time period of the kit. It is a major point that will bring into conflict your vision of your armour and those with whom you would like to re-enact. 

The most powerful driver of picking your time period is the strength of your vision of how you should look in armour. For simplicity, I will divide people into no particular vision, a vague vision, or a very specific vision.

I suggest that if you do not have a particular vision of how you should be, don't shop around for a time period, shop around and choose people. Get out to multiple groups and see who you interact best with, and then choose to share their vision. From the group and the people you choose, take on their time period and learn all you can about this time.  I personally went group shopping in Brisbane in the early 1990's, and visited metal weapon groups, combat game groups, fencing groups, and craft groups. I joined the SCA for the madrigal singing, and later was convinced to play their combat sport. I have kits that are roughly late roman/ early migration; 1350 exactly, and 1420-1470.

If you have a partial vision, such as a silhouette (Link: Understanding silhouette) or a time range, this is enough to proceed. My strong suggestion for you would be to best express your vision in clear words, find someone knowledgable about this time period, and talk with them for a while to ensure your vision does not include impossible or fantastical notions that will require a change of plans once you get to execution. A partial vision means research or consultation.

If you have a strong vision, congratulations, your battle here is mostly done. Now you have a driver to focus your further research and armour creation.


If you have succeed here, you can now fill in the Time Period section of the ADP Worksheet with a silhouette, an era, or specific time.

Silhouette: Migration period (I want to be a viking!)
Time era: 1420-1470
A specific year or event: I want 1350 Combat of the Thirty Armour; or I want armour from Agincourt, Friday 25th October 1415.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ADP: The Armour Decision Point guide

Armour Decision Point - The Guide

(Part of the ADP: Armour Decision Point series)

This article is aimed as a guide to help you work your way through the decisions regarding acquiring a new kit of armour.

Making the decisions regarding a new or upgraded kit of armour requires due diligence. You will need to make irreversible promises to commit large amounts of time and/or considerable amounts of money.  You will need to study a considerable amount of material, gain an understanding of multiple concepts, communicate these concepts to other people, and make decisions based on limited information. It is almost inevitable you will need to make compromises, and you will need to understand that you are doing them in order to minimize issues.

Once this guide has succeeded, you will be able to fill out the worksheet. This can be used to help you focus on your creation if you are a maker, or help you communicate your desires if you are project managing the creation of your kit with other collaborators.

Below the guide is a series of fast explanations of each of the points in the worksheet, which also has a link off to a more complete article on that topic.

At the bottom are links to examples where this ADP method has been used to describe a specific kit of armour. Each example has a filled out worksheet, and a expanded version of the My Compromises section.

Armour Decision Point Worksheet

  • Silhouette ___________________________________________________
  • Time Period _________________________________________________
  • Geographical Area  ___________________________________________
  • Historical Example  ___________________________________________
  • Social Status  ________________________________________________
  • Leg Suspension  ______________________________________________
  • Correct Layers V Your Layers  ___________________________________
  • Weapon Fitout  ________________________________________________
  • My Compromises  _____________________________________________


The first decision point is to decide on your silhouette. When you are seen across the field, what will people think? The most common silhouettes are Migration period("viking"); Transition (1350); Age of plate (1450); and Sports Armour (Ahistorical hodgepodge). Less common silhouettes are Greek, Roman, Rus, Middle Eastern, and Japanese. 

My article helps you understand the concept, and gives examples of the change of silhouettes using the rough examples 1250, 1350, 1450 and 1550. 

LINK:Gambeson-ackerton-hackbutt and resulting silhouettes

Time period

The next decision point is to pick a specific time period. This can narrow down to a rough period like a silhouette (Transition); a time range (1340-1360), or a specific year or event (1350 Combat of the Thirty).

LINK: Choosing a time period 

Geographical Area

Italians of the same year looked significantly different from Germans who looked unlike the English for most of our time periods. Hone in on a specific Geographic area and you will be able to make better armour decisions. 

LINK: Choosing a geographical area 

Historical Example

Narrowing again to help you make clearer decisions regarding your armour. Effigies, tombstone tracings, and carefully chosen paintings are good sources. 

Social Status

Choosing the armour of the king, the knight or the commoner is another branch of decisions that will have a significant impact on your armour.

Leg suspension

The leg armour is generally a heavy part of your kit, and keeping them suspended, on your legs, safe and comfortable is a reasonable feat of fabric engineering.

LINK: Choosing a leg suspension.
EXTRA LINK: Leg pressure bands

Correct layers V your layers

Really this is a subset of compromises, but  needs stating. Each kit of armour likely need a skilled worker in steel, cloth and leather. This can be difficult to co-ordinate, and often you will use the skills of one of these people to make up for the lack of another. Maybe you will choose commercial ready made armour and cover failings with a tailors hand. Maybe you  work wonders with a needle and so hiding armour inside your garments is the way forward. Decisions can be made to move different skills to the fore in your kit.

Weapon Fitout

As much time could be spent on weapon selection as armour, but I will limit the decisions to bare hands, gloves, gauntlets or 'one job' hand protection.

My Compromises

Dr Tobias Capwell finished his PHD on it and spent five years and spent tens of thousands of dollars and learnt multiple skills to make his kit. I suspect you will not have that amount of time or those resources for your kit, so compromises will need to be made.
Where will you make yours? Money, time, skills, materials, heat, safety of the hands, kidneys, throat or skull? Do you need to conform to a rule set such as those or  SCA or BOTTN? Gauntlets instead of bare hands? Are you too large or too small to get the silhouette? Are you not strong enough to wear all the mail? Do you have a bust and want a man's kit? Do you not care about historical aims and just want to sports fight? Do you fight in  an antipodean sweat box of a country rather than cooler Europe? Understanding what 'right' should be, then own the compromises you are making.

Examples of kits described/ planned using this method

(to be written)
Bart's standard 1450 kit

Bart's Tranisitiony/ Norman really dodgy kit