Frequently asked questions
Here I'll try to give answers to the questions most frequently asked - and also include any tips and ideas that have come to mind since I started the construction projects on the site. I'll try to keep this page up-dated from time to time.
If you have a question, the answer to which you feel others might be interested in, then me and I'll post the question and answer here.
Q: How long have you been making armour?
A: I started the first complete suit of armour about 12 years ago and it can be seen in the Gallery section. Although it has been re-worked from time to time it is still essentially much as it was originally. As with all things, ones' technique improves over time and I am now less than happy with earlier armour I have made - so much so that it no longer has house room.
Q: How long does it take to make a suit of armour?
A: Quite honestly I have never really kept a record of the time involved. It depends on the degree of accuracy one is trying to achieve. It also takes much longer when starting an armour 'from scratch' - i.e. having to first design the patterns, as there are inevitably many pieces that don't work out right first time - but that's what gives me pleasure, creating something from just an idea in my head. In fact there have been occasions when, after complaining that I just can't seem to get a piece right and that I'm beginning to get annoyed with it, that my wife has pointed out that I do this for fun and it's not compulsory!
Q: Do you sell the armour you make?
A: No. Making armour is just a hobby for me - one of many things that interests me. I get a lot of satisfaction out of making it and I think it looks good when displayed. I suppose if I keep making new armours there might come a time when I decide to sell some of the earlier ones. 'Watch this space' I think is the phrase!
Q: How many suits of armour do you have?
A: At the moment we give house room to seven suits of armour. My wife has commented that "there are only so many suits of armour a girl needs" and we built a gallery extending the dining room where five of them stand. The next project ( it is now May 2006 ) will involve re-working one of the earlier armours and so will not add to the number!
Q: Why do you use blind 'pop' rivets?
A: I use the blind rivets to articulate the pieces temporarily whilst the armour is being constructed. I find they are much easier to use for this than nuts and bolts and, being aluminium, they are very easy to remove by simply drilling out - which only takes a couple of seconds. The first time I make a piece from a pattern inevitably it is necessary to carry out a number of alterations to the shape of the various sections as assembly takes place. This necessitates having to dis-assemble sections of the piece, sometimes a number of times, before I'm happy with the final articulation. This task is made much quicker by using the blind 'pop' rivets initially - and only when I am quite satisfied that I have got the piece right do I substitute the blind rivets for conventional steel ones. Sometimes this is not until the whole armour is complete.
Q: What do you use to polish the armour?
A: Not all the armour I make is polished to a mirror finish. I do prefer the armour polished - but I must admit it is a very time-consuming look to achieve. A very satisfactory silk finish can be produced by rubbing with a mildly abrasive foam pad. The finish shown in the armour below, which is one of the earliest I made, is produced by using a black graphite-based compound - applied quite thinly with a cloth dampened with white spirit. This is allowed to dry and then buffed with wire wool.
The mirror finish is produced by first using a mild abrasive pad to form a smooth matt surface. Then a large stitched mop on a lathe with a polishing compound for steel is used ( this is the stage that takes the time ). The polishing compound I have found gives the best results is 'Zenith Pro-Fin' code 2/64 Grey.
Q: I'd like to make some armour - where do I start and where do I get the tools etc. that I'd need?
A: There is a list of tools on the Tools and Materials page - although this is by no means exhaustive. I have also included suppliers of steel, rivets, leather and buckles in the UK. My advice would be to start with something basic like the spaulder lames from Project 3. After making the lames and articulating them try making the shoulder cop. Don't expect to get it right first time and be patient! The definitive guide book to armouring is 'Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction' by Brian R. Price, which should be obtainable from Amazon.
Q: What thickness metal do you use?
A: It varies depending on the piece and what it is to be used for. Obviously an armour for purely decorative purposes can be made using thinner sheet steel than if it were to be worn. The more hammer work imparted to a piece the more it will be stretched and thinned in places so one would start with a thicker sectioned plate. I generally use 0.9 and 1.2mm. mild steel for decorative armour ( 20 gauge and 18 gauge ).
Q: How did you make the dishing depressions in the stump?
A: The mid-depth depression was made by initially cutting intersecting lines in a star shape using an angle grinder. Then a chisel was used to remove the ridges and finally a disk sander used to smooth it. The deepest depression was made in a similar way and then a blow torch used to burn out the ridges to the depth required. The shallowest depression was simply ground out with a disk sander.
Q: Will you be making the patterns for the mannequin available?
A: In that a number of people have shown an interest in obtaining the mannequin patterns, I decided to include them with the patterns for Project 1 and Project 2. The first page of Project 2 shows the construction of the mannequin ( or armour stand ) and there is a link on that page to line drawings of the patterns.
Q: What's your cat's name?
A: Our cat was Misty. Sadly she died at the end of last year ( 2005 ). She was 19 and we were privileged to have her company all that time. We miss her.
Q: Why are you making a small ruined castle in your garden?
A: We wanted one.
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