Thursday, May 21, 2020

Practical Armouring 101

Armoury Types

“Everyone has time, money, or a terrible lifestyle.” Bart Beswick, circa 1995.

Choosing the type of armoury you make means thinking deeply about which one you have more of - time, or money? Then, how much spare do you have of each?

Bare Bones $140

All the cheapest, highest labour options

Cutting - Cold chisel $15

Edge cleaning - A $20 file $10 sandpaper

Shaping Hammer, and Planishing - $25 ballpien

Shaping Dies - purchased sledgehammer head

Drilling $15 hand drill, $10 bits

Riveting - $20 gal nails

Welding & Heat - none

Leatherworking - one knife, rigged nail, needle and thread - $20

Wood Shaping - one crosscut saw and the same pack of riveting nails - $5

Electrical Theme $2 800

Cutting JigSaw and Angle Grinder $80

Edge cleaning Multitool $755

Shaping Hammer $220 multiple Thors

Shaping Dies Tree trunk project $400

Planishing - Planishing hammer $45

Drilling - both Electrical drills $300

Riveting - Hammer Riveting $25

Welding - any = $400

Heat - none

Leatherworking $100

Wood Shaping $300 - Multiple electrical versions of tools

Air Tool Fan $2 500

A good compressor - $1000

Cutting and Edge cleaning Multiple tools - $180

Shaping Hammer $220

Shaping Dies - Scuba plan - $500

Planishing - air planish tool - $300

Drilling - air drill $60

Riveting - air riveter - $200

Welding - none

Heat - none

Leatherworking $50

Wood Shaping $150

Rechargeable Battery User $1 500

Three good batteries $200

Cutting - $100 jigsaw

Edge cleaning - Angle grinder & polisher $200

Shaping Hammer - $220

Shaping Dies - Tree trunks - $400

Planishing - Hand - $50

Drilling - hand drill skin $100

Riveting - Hand $25

Welding - none

Heat - None

Leatherworking $50

Wood Shaping $150

Period As Possible $3 000

Cutting - $20 Cold Chisel and $300 straight cut shear

Edge cleaning - $200 files

Shaping Hammers - $500 various

Shaping Dies - $1000 specialty stakes

Planishing - $50 Hand hammer

Drilling - $50 Hand drill and punching

Riveting - $100 hammers and iron rivets

Welding and Heat - Forge and Borax $300

Leatherworking - $200

Wood Shaping - $300

Bart/Corny/Rob Style $6 300

Cutting - Shear, Jigsaw and Angle grinder - $600

Edge cleaning - Power Sander and files - $1000

Shaping Hammers -All listed and multiples $1000

Shaping Dies - Scuba and tree and dollies - $1000

Planishing - Hand Planishing - various hammers $100

Drilling - Hand, hand electric and Bench - $600

Riveting - $25

Welding and Heat - Oxy/Act and Electric $1200

Leatherworking - $400

Wood Shaping - $400

Hydraulics-R-US - $2 800

Cutting - Throatless - $300

Edge cleaning - Power Sander - $755

Shaping Hydraulic Press - $1000

Planishing - $45

Drilling - Hand Electric $40

Riveting - Hand $25

Welding - Mig - $400

Heat - none

Leatherworking - $50

Wood Shaping - $150

Moneybags $68 500

Cutting - All - $4000

Edge cleaning - Best of all - $1500

Shaping Hammers - Multiple of all - $20000

Shaping Dies - Best of all - $5000

Planishing - $22000

Drilling - $1000

Riveting - $2000

Welding - Best of All - $4000

Heat - Best of all - $5000

Leatherworking - $1000

Wood Shaping - $3000

Practical Armouring 101 Workshop Cost Benefit Analysis

Practical Armouring 101

Workshop Cost Benefit Analysis

This document has sufficient formatting that I am uninteresting in re-formatting it for my blog - please read it as a Google Document


Practical Armouring 101 - Overview

Practical Armouring 101


Booking form: Booklet:

“Lets see the big picture” Anon, circa 1904.

I will be teaching Practical Armouring 101 at the online SCA event “Politarchopolis Uni” using 2 hour Zoom lessons over six weeks in 2020. My aim is to give a person who was interested in making their own armour an introduction to the basic skills and techniques of armouring, with a focus on this student being able to attend every lesson, and at the end have the confidence to attempt their first kit of SCA sports armour.

Lesson Plan

Week One: Discussion held at my PC - Introduction and workshop setup. Students will advise on their intent and goal for the series so I can shape my examples and focus my examples. I will then look at workshops - types of workshops, advantages and disadvantages of each, and the cost benefit of the tools and techniques.

Link: Practical Armouring 101 - Tools and techniques cost benefit analysis

Link: Practical Armouring 101 - Armoury Type

Week Two: Practical skills demonstration based at my workshop. I will give a brief overview of obtaining patterns and using patterns. I will then demonstrate the various ways of cutting metal, and then cleaning up the resulting rough edge.

Week Three: Practical skills demonstration based at my workshop. I will demonstrate the various ways of shaping metal then I will show planishing. This will involve many different tools and methods.

Week Four: Practical skills demonstration based at my workshop. I will demonstrate the various ways of joining metal. There will be practical examples of riveting, Forge welding, Tig welding, and Oxy-Acetylene welding, and videos suggested on ARC and MIG. If time permits, I will go into final techniques such as painting or polishing.

Week Five: Discussion held at my PC - I will lead a discussion on medieval period practice, and how do move towards more a more period in your workshop, and when the period technique is the right choice.

Week Six: Discussion held at my PC - I will lead a discussion on shop practice. After you have made your first suit of SCA sports armour, where to from there? How will you talk to customers who might want you to make armour? What is, and how do I use Bart’s Armour Decision Point guide
What do I charge my client? How do I stay motivated? Why should I make someone else new armour when I could make yet another kit, and how can I use the excuse of “marketing”?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Thigh plate fitting and Chausses construction

Thigh plate fitting
 Chausses construction
Rattan Sport (SCA) armour

I am back making armour, and occasionally I get asked to explain how things are done so people can do things who are far from me and unable to visit.

I explain the inevitable Internet no fit guarantee (tm) means that giving exact dimensions is no guarantee of anything fitting, so I try and get the principles across. Getting principles across can be very hard to do in five minutes at an event, so I am making these blog posts to try and get the points written down at least.

Thigh plate

There are a few critical principles to the thigh plate.
1)The distance from the knee safety point to the thigh fold point
2) The conicality of the thigh
3) The roundness of the thigh.

The knee safety point is distance above the knee such that a plate firmly secure there does provide protection in conjunction with the knee armour. With my militia sport armour kit, this is approximately two inches (5cm) above the knee.

Te thigh fold point is the maximum height at which a thigh plate can extend which does not inhibit the user from touching their toes while the thigh plate is in place. The torso needs to be able to fold completely over the plate and allow complete range of movement. 

The conicality (the degree to which your thigh is more like a cone or a tube) is different on most people. Leonardo's drawing of  the man in the circles has 'standard' conicality - very fine taper with significant drop at the knee.

The roundness of the thigh can be defined with a measuring tape, but needs to have a profile - some legs are very circular, some legs are very oval.

The red lines are the three lines that show the distance from the knee to the top of thigh
The green line is the distance around the thigh, best measured at the bottom and the top of the shortest red line.


(fabric padding for under leg armour)

Chausses have a great deal of variance, but are essentially a tube of padding that matches the shape of the operators leg. 
Long chausses are essentially padded tights, and can go a foot covering all the way to the top of the thigh. Short chausses can cover to just under the knee to the top of the thigh plate. 

Chausses can be tubes of one shape only that the  operator steps into, or they can be affixed and adjusted by lacing at the back.

The example listed shown at Steel mastery is long one. It has lacing at the back of the calf to gain a tighter fit, but it is a tube over the thigh. It has a strap that goes under the foot, instead of being a full sock. I chose this example because it has a most excellent rear view.

Padding can be thick or thin by choice. I tend to use one layer of cotton-wool horse blanket all over the garment, and three layers from about two fingers above the knee to two fingers below the knee. This extra padding covers the front and sides of the knee, but does not extend to the back of the knee to allow easier bending. 

I find it takes me four hours to machine sew chausses. I make short chausses and my machine has an auto-eyelet setting so I make the type that is laced at the back.

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.