I can teach you what I know, in my private shop. It takes time so plan to spend most of a day on your first project. You can use my tools as long as you follow my exact instruction. If you do not, I’ll send you home.
If you receive instruction well though, I will watch over your every move and offer my best corrective advice as you make your first medieval plate armor!
Project 1: Munitions Spaulders. This will include 8 plates, 4 per shoulder. This is a pair of basic shoulder protectors. We should be able to complete this first project inside of 6 hours. It does not take this long to make a pair of spaulders, but I’ll be doing a lot of talking and explaining in this first class, starting with basic shop safety. I charge $100 for this class, which includes my best efforts to instruct you well, use of my private shop and tools, plus the sheet metal and all necessary materials. Yes, you get to keep your project; it’s yours.
In the first class, you will learn these basic but irreplaceable skills:
- How to use a throatless lever shear to cut out pieces of sheet metal according to patterns that I will provide.
- How to manually file the edges of the metal pieces you cut out, in order to condition them for craft-work.
- Rolling edges, with a modern plastic-head hammer.
- Dishing: how to form the main plate with a rawhide mallet.
- How to punch holes for the rivets, with a hand-held tapered punch.
- How to cut straps from a sheet of leather using a hand-held strap cutter.
- Pre-assembly: use nuts and bolts to get the pieces to fit properly with no gaps, prior to setting rivets.
- How to set solid rivets: steel-to-steel, steel-to-leather, washers.
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If you like making your first set of spaulders, you can come back for more lessons. Subsequent projects include the following:
Project 2: Horseman’s Pauldrons. This will include 12 plates, 6 per shoulder. Again, we make basic shoulder protection, but these will be larger pieces meant to cover more area of the shoulder, for more protection. Like the spaulders, there is a main plate that requires the most work (mainly dishing), and some lower lames that hang down to protect the bicep area of the upper arms. But unlike the spaulders, these pauldrons also have upper lames that protect the collarbone and do slightly articulate (collapse and expand) against the neck, as you raise and lower your arms.
Project 2 will repeat much of what you learned in Project 1, but requires more work as there are more and larger pieces, plus the articulation that must be worked out in pre-assembly. This slight work in articulation might get you fired up about the clam-shell articulation in project 3. Having two sets of shoulder protectors will also allow you to cross them, for a mismatched result that some fighters prefer both for appearance and functionality (spaulder on sword arm, pauldron on shield arm).
Project 3: Munitions Legs. This will include 12 plates, 6 per leg. This set will cover the front and sides of both legs, including fully articulating knees with small fans, and demi-greaves. Welcome to clam-shell articulation! This is a more advanced skill. An armorer who constructs articulating plate armor joints really well, is always in much higher demand. This skill was one particular point of mastery by the armorer who taught me, and thus he was able to show me well.
Project 4: Munitions Arms. 14 plates, 7 per arm. This set of armor arms includes fully articulating elbows with small fans, upper arm “canon”, and hinged vambraces that fully enclose the forearm down to the wrist. To save time, we’ll use store-bought hinges for now, but we’ll make our own hinges in later projects.
Project 5a: Munitions Breastplate. 7 plates. This is a 2-piece breastplate, which means the front torso area is 2 main plates that attach together, but also has faulds and tassets. If however, you prefer a different style, this project could be a 1-piece or 3-piece version of the same project.
Project 5b: 5-Piece Breastplate. 5 plates. This style is popular in live combat groups because it assembles horizontally rather than vertically like other breastplates. This difference allows more side-to-side movement. The plates are simpler to form and make use of long horizontal straps behind the plates that span the entire width of the piece which includes left and right kidney plates. Other breastplate styles have a single bottom edge which gets flared out to receive faulds, but a 5-piece assembles differently, rendering a bottom edge that is not singular, thus faulds are not used. Still, some attach tassets anyway. If you’re going to try making armor for people who use it, you’ll be glad you learned how to make a 5-piece breastplate.
Project 6: Munitions Gorget. 4 plates. This is plate armor neck protection, done properly. I add this qualification because so many neck guards are not done properly. The neck is difficult to armor in plate, and thus many people use leather gorgets, or some leather-plate hybrid. Those can work well too. Whatever way you protect the neck, the gorget offers an ideal way to affix spaulders and pauldrons.
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Notice these first projects step you towards your first full harness.
More advanced projects include gauntlets, fluting, guards, helms, greaves, and sabatons.
In particular, I am eager to teach you how to do fluting. Some of these advanced projects require heat. Firing up the forge complicates a shop day. Meanwhile, all of my best work is due to fluting, which is done cold. For example, a standard horseman’s pauldron set, as made in project 2 above, might sell for $120 if done well. The same project done though as gothic fluted pauldrons, might sell for $500 a set. This is not only because the fluted look is so attractive, but because fluting adds tremendous strength to the piece.
Guarded pauldrons are also vastly stronger because the guard, if done properly, is a complex curve which forces the metal to do things it normally does not do. Sometimes you see guarded pauldrons that are not done properly, where the guard is a separate piece, attached to the main plate. Simply said, that is wrong. A proper guarded pauldron is one where the guard and the main plate are the same piece of metal, and the armorer had to labor to form it that way.
Let’s get this far first. Then we can talk more!