I decided to talk about armor, though I realize there armor interesting things to discuss. Still, I don’t want to metal with them. Ahem. Needless to say, I really wanted to have cool armor, if I was going to have any at all. So, after consulting some friends who know about this sort of thing and the book The Medieval Knight, by David Edge and John Miles Paddock, I decided to fashion my armor after the armor on page 103 owned by the Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol, c 1480. I had no idea how much I had bit off.
I bought all the materials I thought I needed and made a massive error. Always keep in mind that your friends and acquaintances might have more resources than you. It never occurred to me to ask my jeweler friend to buy silver AT COST. No, I decided to find that out later. Sigh. Anyhow, I got the supplies. I wanted to make it to fit the Lord. I did a fairly good job of approximating, but it’s a tad bit tiny, so I claim he wore it as a young man.
I made the decision not to make the armor workable. It was hard enough as it was. A friend consulted some references and found that armor would have been either melted down to be re-used or stored in a cupboard. Sorry, but I decided to go for the non-period modern free standing display of armor. Even though I wanted the armor to be as gorgeous as the stuff in the book, I realized that was beyond my abilities. There would be no gold chasing or anything else trim-wise. Basically, I followed the following procedure. I made a pattern on contact paper, put it on the metal, cut each piece, filed the edges, banged it into shape, swore a lot, banged it further into shape, learned new and interesting swear words, banged some more, polished it (which turned out much easier than I expected, because any dents I couldn’t remove easily, I claimed were scars from battle) and then I was ready for putting it all together. No problem, I’ve soldered for years in my stained glass work.
First, you take a piece of solder about the size of a grain of salt. Then you balance it in a pool of flux on the edge of a piece of silver. Then, you take this torch and theoretically melt it to just the right temperature. I had it explained to me: one could easily tell by the look of it, though to protect my eyes, I wore glasses which keep you unable to tell if it’s day or night. Guessing was about all I could do. Then, you bring the other piece over and join them together. If it all works right, you then put it in some solution called pickle for a while and then the villagers rejoice. This happened correctly for maybe two out of 100 seams. The rest of the time, I spent trying desperately to figure out what I was doing wrong. (I need to take a moment here to compliment one of the finest teachers I have ever known. Jean was without a doubt one of the nicest people you could meet. She was desperately trying to cope with my ever increasing frustration and trying to find some ways to make it all right. One evening, I sat there after turning one of the gauntlets into a pile of molten slag and she in a cheerful voice said something about the fact that we could hammer it out or find something else to do with it. I did find something to do with it. I scrapped it. She also made a point of opening up the metals workshop for me a couple of extra evenings during the week, because for some reason it was taking longer than I intended.)
Eventually I had most of the pieces together. I then realized that I needed straps to hold the silly stuff on the poor knight. I took very thin leather and cut strips about a 1/8th of an inch wide. I drilled holes in the legs and arms and then had to figure out how to attach them. (I had been happy to glue them on, but my teacher with her guilt-producing puppy dog eyes had said it would be sooo much better to do it right. Sigh.) I tried doll house nails, but they were too awkward to work with and I couldn’t hook them around. I ended up using straight pins and the bending them back and clipping them off. I made buckles by bending wire around the tips of a set of tweezers.
There’s a lot of chain mail that goes with this armor. I must have been temporarily insane because I really tried to make miniature chain mail. I do know some people who can do this and I know it gets done, but that was a bit much, even for me. I decided to crochet silver thread instead. Of course, I had to learn to crochet first. It’s not so hard, but finding a tiny enough hook was a challenge. Eventually, I made a piece that hangs down under the torso and a coif.
For the stand, I made a wire armature and then loosely covered it in black silk. I put everything on that and ta-da! The only problem with it is his gloves keep falling off. I’ll keep working on it.