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.

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