Monday, October 14, 2019

Cheapest make your own SCA armour 2019


make your own 

SCA armour 2019

This is an economic and engineering thought experiment to try and calculate the cheapest price at which a relative newcomer could make their own armour. This assumes 2019 prices and parts availability for my home town of Canberra, Australia. As I move through the parts, tools and skills I will asterisk them and add them to the lists at the bottom.


The helmet would be a riveted construction spangen style helmet. This would involve jigsawing* some helmet grade 2.0 mm mild steel* and shaping* with a heavy ballpein hammer*, then some basic planishing* with a small ballpein*. This would be done using a stump hallowed with a chisel, or a sledgehammer head* with one face hollowed and one face domed with an angle grinder* and set into a vice* on a workbench*. The shaped pieces will be drilled for riveted* with soft iron galvanised nails* and clipped with snips*. The shaped peices will need to be filed* smooth. The helmet will need padding*, a chin-strap made from leather*, and lacing*.


Thinner steel would need to be shaped and have a top rolled edge* on a brick bolster*. It would then need to be padded*, and strapped. Strapping* involves punching holes* in leather* and sewing* in buckles* with linen thread* and riveting these leather pieces.

Elbows, Knees, Forearms and Thighs

All of these pieces would be made from thinner steel. Elbows and knees would be fold and rivet construction*. Padded and strapped.

Body Armour

The cheapest would be sandwich construction. Purchase two non stretch shirts*, and rivet 'sandwiches' of cloth, padding and plates.

Steel and leather Finish

Steel and leather need to have a finish to stop it rusting or breaking rapidly. This finish might either be high hand sanding*  or painting*. Leather and sanded steel needs oiling*.

Soft kit 

With judicious padding with foam no soft kit is required. Hose* and a cotton shirt* are an 
utter minimum.


Your first armour is likely to be basic, and best covered by a commercial tabbard, or you could sew* it yourself. 



steel for the helmet, 2.0 mm mild steel, Herzogs steel, $50
Thinner steel choice of 1.6 mm or 1.2 mm steel, Herzogs steel, $75
leather, Leflers Melbourne, $50
foam mat for padding, K-Mart, $15
drill bits set, Bunnings, $15
galvanised roofing nails for riveting, $25
gaffer tape for padding, K-Mart, $10
shoe laces - K-Mart - $20 for various
buckles, Lelflers Melbourne, $40
linen thread, Leflers Melbourne, $10
two non-stretch shirts, K-Mart, $20
Hose and shirt, K-Mart, $20
sewing machine oil, K-Mart, $10
sand papers set, Bunnings, $20
spray Paint, Bunnings, $10
cloth for tabbard, Spotlight (or Aldi drop cloths) - $20

Parts Total = $410


jigsaw and metal blades, Bunnings, $50
large ballpein hammer*, Bunnings, $30
small ballpein hammer*, Bunnings, $15
stump - tree stump found item by forage $50?
chisel for wood removal, Bunnings, $10
sledgehammer, Bunnings, $40
angle grinder, Bunnings, $40
Vice, Bunnings, $35
workbench, Green Shed, $30
hand drill, Bunnings, $25
snips, Bunnings, $20
craft Scissors, K-Mart, $5
brick bolster, Bunnings, $15
sharpie metal marking pen, K-Mart - $5
leather workers needles, Leflers, $5
punch - sharpen a nail
file, Bunnings, $10
sewing needles and thread, K-Mart, $10

Tools Total = $395


shaping = curving metal with a hammer
planishing = removing larger dints by hammering with a smaller hammer
chiselling = hitting a chisel into wood to remove wood. Normally not done with a ball pien, but this is the lost cost case.
angle grinding = grinding and cutting steel with this powerful rotational disc tool.
drilling = using a hand drill to drill small holes in metal or wood.
riveting = joining plates of metal by placing a nail or rivet and clipping and doming the head.
rolled edge = putting approximately 2 mm of steel over a sharp edge and hammering it over flat to increase the strength of the steel
strapping = the skill of cutting leather and attaching buckles, then attaching these straps to armour.
fold and rivet constructions = this method allows deeper dishing by bringing large movements around and riveting the edges together
sewing = attaching fabric together with needle and thread
hand sanding = you can polish your armour to a very high level by hand sanding. Gently work your way through the grits while gently rubbing the steel. Oil at the end.


It seems that you might be able to put together armour for about $400 if you have a decent workshop, and about $800 if you need to fit out a workshop. I would also guess you would need about four hours watching YouTube, Four hours being taught by an armourer, and I would hazard forty hours of construction (thank you for the suggestions of others, edited up from my initial guess of twenty five hours).

Monday, September 30, 2019

Hashtag Bascinet

Hashtag Bascinet

 Hashtag Cut and Weld

I was taken through the process of creating a cut and weld bascinet by my good friend and long time teacher Cornelius. He ran Von Becke Armour and Costume (VBA), and his most popular helmet was the cut and weld Bascinet. He has made over 100. When I worked in this armoury part time for a decade, and full time for several months, I helped with almost every process, but when it came to a decade between making them, I needed a refresher. This blog post is notes from my refresher day!

This is not a comprehensive guide, just my notes to hopefully allow me to construct my own if my memory blips again!

First of all, make a pattern. This is an exceptionally difficult skill in and of itself, so I will just give it this throw away line :)

Then cut the pattern twice and mark the heaviest dishing points. The circle with perpendicular lines is an mistake. If you make a marking mistake with a pen that doesn't come off,  the perpendicular lines indicate your error. Another indicator is a wave through the line.

Dish the half. As you can tell, this is a number three Thor's hammer being taken above the head and brought down with significant force. These are not light blows. Not everyone can even deliver these blows, and aiming them takes considerable skill and practice.

You will need a helmet jig. This is simply a hash shaped pieces of wood screwed together.

The helmet sits in the jig and the curve comes from the half falling into the negative space between the wooden beams. 

The splits begin to come together a little, then a lot. At this point the curve is in the neck end of the piece, and more shape is being put into the piece near the head.

Not all the shaping is dishing. The Bascinet halves are put over the larger ball stake at various times. On the day we did not have ball stakes in the swage block, we had them in a purpose built stake plate.


Once the tips are brought around to welding tightness, the welding begins. Due to the difficulties of photographing the welding process, I did not do so. Here you see dishing continuing after the weld has been made.

No pattern ever survives contact with reality, and if you can get the halves to match up first time, good luck to you. Here Mark One eyeball is being used in combination with a sharpie and the flat surface of the table. The sharpie draws a line of its thickness to indicate where the metal touches to prevent flatness, then the marked bits are trimmed. within a few passes of this method, a flat half down the middle of the head is achieved, and with much adjustment, the two halves will match to welding tolerance.   

Taking advantage of the fact the the helmet is still in two pieces, planishing is done. Smaller hammers are used on the flat of the anvil and the various stakes to take the major flat spots and bumps out of the helmet. 

At this point the first lot of surface cleaning is done. This was done with a combination of a sanding belt and a grinding disk on an angle grinder.

Corny was in a strange workshop set up by someone else, with a lot of stopping to explain steps, and including the building of the helmet jig, to get the helmet this far took about five hours. When VBA was at full production, the whole helmet including face plate could take seven hours. 

Next session the two halves will be welded together, final shaping will be done, and the polishing stages will be completed.

Monday, September 23, 2019

What Type of Armourer

What Type of Armourer?

As an armourer, I often get asked 'So how do I get into armouring?' It is a big field, so firstly I'll try to break down and classify the various types of armourer. Later, (maybe another post), I'll discuss a few ways to develop these skills.

Traditional Armourer

When one visualises an armourer, we generally think of someone who shapes plates of metal heated over an open fire with hammers on anvils and stakes. This classic armourer was in the centre of a string of professions.

Workshop - a specifically designed space centred around the fire.
Workflow - receive metal from a platener; cut with a manual shear; clean edges with a file; heat with coal/coke fire; shape with hammers over stakes and square anvils; weld with heat and flux; rivet with iron rivets and nails from a blacksmith; hammer planish and hand off work for polishing to a frobisher.

Sheet Metal Worker Armourer

This armourer uses all of the advantages and machines of the modern age to aid their armour production. This can simulate the results of a traditional armourer; however the different methods often create a unique and distinctive shape.

Workshop - a garage; shed or industrial area.
Workflow - receives metal from an industrial metal supplier; cuts with a Beverly shear/ nibbler/ jigsaw/ plasma cutter; cleans edges with a belt grinder; heats from oxy acetylene torch or a sheet forge ; shapes with a power hammer/ shrinker-stretcher/ English wheel; welds with Stick/MIG/ TIG/ or an oxy acetylene torch; rivets with hot rivet gun, soft steel rivets or soft iron rivets; hammers with a power hammer; polishes with bench grinder or angle grinder attachments.

Leatherworking Armourer

This armourer uses leather and rawhide to protect the body.

Workshop - a smaller area required, main need is a large table, waxing areas, dye area
Workflow - receives leather hides; cuts with knives or jigsaw; cleans edges with knives and sharp tools; heats wax or oil to harden leather; shapes with cunning cuts and stitch work; does not weld, but will often sew with waxed linen thread; rivets with copper rivets more often than iron; hammers rivets; does not polish but will treat and clean - decorates with dyes/paints and stamped tools.

Sewing  Armourer

This armourer works by obtaining or creating hard plates and cunningly attaching them or enveloping them in sewn fabric or leather.

Workshop - sewing room with a large table for the sewing machine and patterning.
Workflow - receives pre-made plates (metal, leather or plastic); cuts with scissors and drills plates; cleans edges by sewing them over; heat not generally used; shapes with cunning tailoring; does not need to weld; may rivet with copper iron rivets; will not need to hammer with; will not polish, but will decorate.

Plastics Armourer

This armourer will use modern plastics to create armour.

Workshop - smaller garage or shed, needs top ventilation.
Workflow - receives plastic sheets; cuts with a jigsaw; cleans edges with a file or bench grinder; heats with a hot air gun; shapes with low heat, cunning cuts or hammers; does not weld, may use industrial glues, plastics can be sewn with thick threads; rivets with copper or metal rivets or sewing; hammers with soft large hammers; does not polish but covers plastic with sewn garments of glued fabric or dress grade leathers.

Hybrid Armourer

This armourer uses a combination of all of the techniques used above, depending on the job in front of them, the skills they possess and the budget of the client. I am a hybrid armourer.

Workshop - a garage; shed or industrial area.
Workflow - will use all of the workflows above

Further Sub Types of Armourer and Associated Trades

Helm Smith - This armourer specialises in the thicker and heavier gauges of metal needed to make helms.

Mail Maker - One who specialise in making mail (aka “Chain Maille”)

Scutenier - The crafts person who makes shields (AFAIK I made up that word and am waiting for people who don’t read things properly to write angry responses.)

Frobisher - This craft involves polishing armour - a very involved subset of skills.

Platener - “One who makes plates” - the craft of those who prepare plates of metal for the armourer.

Decorators of Armour

Jeweller - Decorations for armour might be done by the armourer, and they might be subcontracted out to the many sub type of jeweller - Silversmith, Goldsmith, Enameller, etc.
Engraver - One who engraves metal can certainly help decorate metal and this technique was extensively used throughout history.

Monday, June 24, 2019

2019 Knights School Link Collection

2019 Knights School Link Collection

I taught a class about armour construction, economics, making armour fit, and the reasons why almost all SCA armour is sports armour. There were also lots of great conversations and requests for tips and hints.

Below are links that were requested during the weekend.

Gib and Bart's questions to prompt thinking about fighting:

How do I set a speed rivet?
What I call a speed rivet is called a 'double set rivet' in this Youtube. 

Where do I buy speed rivets and what size?
I like Lefflers in Melbourne.
For fabric and Bunnings Garden edging I would suggest 8mm or 10mm shank.
Lefflers call speed rivets "Rivet Self Piercing"
This price is low and temporary, the nickel (silver) ones seemed to be closer to $80 per thousand.
If you do order, in the comments write "Hi Checkers Sir Bart sent me" :)
I don't get a kickback, it's just funny.

You make armour, do you have a website?

What do you make?
Currently I am practised at making basic SCA sports kits and 1350 kits appropriate for Combat of the Thirty. I am expert with the SCA combat rule set. I am familiar with about 6 LARP rule sets, 5 metal weapon rule sets, and the main three metal contact rule sets. I have basic blacksmithing skills, but am limited by the 100 mm throat on my propane forge. 

Making decisions about armour is really hard! I need a guide!
I know, so I wrote a series of blog posts.

Um, how do you make that armoured singlet thing?

Duchess Sir Liadan (Rachel) taught a war commanding class, and said parts were based off your class. Got Notes?

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.