Friday, 27 June 2014

How to Hardened Leather for Armor (Water and Wax Hardening Leather Methods)




Some several years, I was looking out for the perfect method for hardening leather, and even wrote an article about this subject. The following are the methods I use got them for a leather supplier :

Hardened Leather - The Water Method


Take a piece of vegetable tanned leather. Immerse it in water long enough to get it soaked--ten minutes will do. Heat a pot of water to 180°. Immerse the leather in the hot water. Watch it.

In about a minute, the leather will begin to darken, go limp, and curl up. If you pull it out at that point, it will have shrunk a little, thickened a little, and be stretchy, like a thick sheet of rubber; at this point it can be stretched and formed. In a minute or two the sketchiness will go away, but the leather will still be flexible. Over the course of the next few hours it will become increasingly stiff. You will end up with a piece a little thicker and a little harder than what you started with.

The longer you leave the leather in the hot water after the process has started, the more it shrinks, the more it darkens, the thicker it gets--and the harder the final piece will be. A sufficiently long immersion gives you something that feels like wood. Unfortunately, when the piece gets harder and stiffer it also gets more brittle. If I were making lamellar armor to defend myself against real weapons, I would use a long immersion--and plan on replacing a few cracked lamellae after each fight. For SCA purposes, I normally leave the leather in the hot water for about thirty seconds after the process starts. This gives me, very roughly, shrinkage to about 7/8 of the original dimensions, an increase in thickness of about 25%, and a piece that is hard but not totally inflexible.

The process is very sensitive to the temperature of the water, so you will want an accurate thermometer. The timing and the result also depend to some degree on the particular piece of leather. Instead of trying to work entirely by the clock, experiment with pieces of scrap until you have a reasonably good idea of how the leather looks at various stages in the process and how it comes out when finished, then judge the progress of your piece in part by time and in part by appearance.

You can also harden leather in in boiling water--considerably faster. In my experience, about a twenty second boil gives shrinkage to 7/8ths, about a forty second gives you a shrinkage to 2/3 and roughly doubles the thickness. That has the advantage of not requiring a thermometer.

It has two disadvantages. First, the faster process is harder to control precisely. Second, the hotter water produces a less uniform hardening--you tend to get pieces where the surface is harder and more brittle than the interior, eventually producing surface cracks. I therefore prefer the lower temperature process. I have not done any extensive experimentation on what happens at intermediate temperatures.

Cuirboulli can also serve a variety of more peaceful purposes. Think of it as a medieval plastic-literally true, if you take "plastic" in its general sense and consider the condition of the leather immediately after it comes out of the water.Hardened Leather - The Wax Method


Hardened leather was used for armor from classical antiquity through the end of the Elizabethan era. Its popularity can be trace to its strength, weight, and relative ease of manufacture.

For this method of hardening you will need a good sized double boiler, a large supply of wax (paraffin works very well), candle wax hardener, candle wax dye (both are available at a good hobby shop), and, of course, a supply of leather.

The minimum thickness of leather you should use is about 8 oz. (1/8") to 11 oz. (3/16"). Sole leather, which is about 10-14 oz. (1/4") thick, is very efficient and has great stopping power. Very heavy leather (such as bulls throat) is superlative.

For small plates, the simple immersion method is best; I will deal with hardening larger plates later on in the article.

Always use a double boiler to melt wax. The boiler I use is a large kettle that I no longer love, which rests on three legs inside a larger kettle which is filled halfway with water.

Put in your wax: after it melts, add about half again as much hardener as the manufacturer recommends. Since you are going to be inside this leather, you want it very rigid.
If you want to dye the leather, add the dye at this point. You can use either Zelikovitz Professional waterbased dye or Fiebing's dye. Make certain that you have enough wax to complete the job at one sitting. If you run out halfway through you will have a wretched time mixing a new batch that matches the original. Always use a test piece of leather, and let it dry completely before you decide you like it. If you don't use dye, the leather will usually turn a very rich, dark brown, which I personally prefer to dyed leather.


Now, the actual mechanics of the hardening. Take about five or ten plates and drop them into the wax.

About fifteen seconds after you immerse the plates, you will see a stream of air bubbles rising from the leather. Wait until these bubbles have completely stopped rising, and remove the leather. This will take anywhere from two to ten minutes, depending on your leather. Place the plates smooth (grain) side up, on waxed paper or foil. Don't use newspaper, the plates willl stick to it. Once you have the process down, you can produce an unbelievable number of plates in an evening.

For any plate too large to fit into your boiler you will have to take a few risks and do the hardening in your oven. I can hear your castle's cook screaming already.

Melt a good quantity of wax in your double boiler, as you would for small plates. Use a brush to coat the plates completely with wax. The wax should be about 1/4 of an inch thick. Put the plates onto an old cookie sheet, and then pour on more liquid wax.

Set your oven to bake at about 150 degrees. Don't use broil; you'll ruin an expensive piece of leather and create a stench that must be smelled to be believed.

Place your leather into the oven and watch it carefully. "Baste" the leather with liquid wax at least once a minute. If necessary be sloppy, just never let the leather dry.
When your leather is quite saturated with wax, remove it and start shaping. The sane way is to put on work gloves, hold the leather in your hands. and shape it. This method only produces and approximate fit. A second method (practiced by our local shire's Armorsmiths and Masochists Guild) calls for putting on a heavy garment, finding someone who doesn't like you very much. and having him strap the plate onto you, molding it to an exact fit. This method is only moderately painful. (Make sure that you really don't like the clothing very much. No matter what you do, you will always have a ghost image of your harness.)

Addendum
I. Do all of your cutting, and punch any rivet holes before hardening the leather. This is armor: it was intended to be hard to cut.

2. If the harness becomes deformed by being crammed into a car trunk for several hours, you can usually repair it by laying it on a dark cloth in the sun for about half an hour. It will become just barely pliable enough and from there can be fitted back onto your person.

3. Don't attach straps to your harness until after you have hardened it. Wax will get into the thin leather and make it just stiff enough to be maddeningly uncomfortable.

4. Couir Boulli is an ideal medium for other craftsmen. The Metropolitan Museum has many cups, cases, and chests made from hardened leather.

S. Couir Boulli is ideal for articulated armor. This style uses square or rectangular plates riveted or sewn to a leather or canvas tunic, in a brickwork pattern. This armor is most effective if you use very thick plates and cut the edges to a good right angle. The plates will lock, and become very rigid when struck.


Hardened Leather - The Wax Method


Hardened leather was used for armor from classical antiquity through the end of the Elizabethan era. Its popularity can be trace to its strength, weight, and relative ease of manufacture.

For this method of hardening you will need a good sized double boiler, a large supply of wax (paraffin works very well), candle wax hardener, candle wax dye (both are available at a good hobby shop), and, of course, a supply of leather.

The minimum thickness of leather you should use is about 8 oz. (1/8") to 11 oz. (3/16"). Sole leather, which is about 10-14 oz. (1/4") thick, is very efficient and has great stopping power. Very heavy leather (such as bulls throat) is superlative.

For small plates, the simple immersion method is best; I will deal with hardening larger plates later on in the article.

Always use a double boiler to melt wax. The boiler I use is a large kettle that I no longer love, which rests on three legs inside a larger kettle which is filled halfway with water.

Put in your wax: after it melts, add about half again as much hardener as the manufacturer recommends. Since you are going to be inside this leather, you want it very rigid.
If you want to dye the leather, add the dye at this point. You can use either Zelikovitz Professional waterbased dye or Fiebing's dye. Make certain that you have enough wax to complete the job at one sitting. If you run out halfway through you will have a wretched time mixing a new batch that matches the original. Always use a test piece of leather, and let it dry completely before you decide you like it. If you don't use dye, the leather will usually turn a very rich, dark brown, which I personally prefer to dyed leather.


Now, the actual mechanics of the hardening. Take about five or ten plates and drop them into the wax.

About fifteen seconds after you immerse the plates, you will see a stream of air bubbles rising from the leather. Wait until these bubbles have completely stopped rising, and remove the leather. This will take anywhere from two to ten minutes, depending on your leather. Place the plates smooth (grain) side up, on waxed paper or foil. Don't use newspaper, the plates willl stick to it. Once you have the process down, you can produce an unbelievable number of plates in an evening.

For any plate too large to fit into your boiler you will have to take a few risks and do the hardening in your oven. I can hear your castle's cook screaming already.

Melt a good quantity of wax in your double boiler, as you would for small plates. Use a brush to coat the plates completely with wax. The wax should be about 1/4 of an inch thick. Put the plates onto an old cookie sheet, and then pour on more liquid wax.

Set your oven to bake at about 150 degrees. Don't use broil; you'll ruin an expensive piece of leather and create a stench that must be smelled to be believed.

Place your leather into the oven and watch it carefully. "Baste" the leather with liquid wax at least once a minute. If necessary be sloppy, just never let the leather dry.
When your leather is quite saturated with wax, remove it and start shaping. The sane way is to put on work gloves, hold the leather in your hands. and shape it. This method only produces and approximate fit. A second method (practiced by our local shire's Armorsmiths and Masochists Guild) calls for putting on a heavy garment, finding someone who doesn't like you very much. and having him strap the plate onto you, molding it to an exact fit. This method is only moderately painful. (Make sure that you really don't like the clothing very much. No matter what you do, you will always have a ghost image of your harness.)

Addendum
I. Do all of your cutting, and punch any rivet holes before hardening the leather. This is armor: it was intended to be hard to cut.

2. If the harness becomes deformed by being crammed into a car trunk for several hours, you can usually repair it by laying it on a dark cloth in the sun for about half an hour. It will become just barely pliable enough and from there can be fitted back onto your person.

3. Don't attach straps to your harness until after you have hardened it. Wax will get into the thin leather and make it just stiff enough to be maddeningly uncomfortable.

4. Couir Boulli is an ideal medium for other craftsmen. The Metropolitan Museum has many cups, cases, and chests made from hardened leather.

S. Couir Boulli is ideal for articulated armor. This style uses square or rectangular plates riveted or sewn to a leather or canvas tunic, in a brickwork pattern. This armor is most effective if you use very thick plates and cut the edges to a good right angle. The plates will lock, and become very rigid when struck.

Thanks to Zelikovitz for the article
http://www.zelikovitz.com/
http://www.ebay.com/usr/zelikovitzleathers



Friday, 28 March 2014

Making a reproduction of a closed German Armet helmet of the late XVth




The model chosen has all the appeal of German fabrication at the end of the 15th century. It is quite distinct from its Italian equivalents. The system of joints on the sides is no longer horizontal, but vertical. The back of the skull (crown of the helmet) is separate and wide, and the visor comes with multiple openings with snap-locks for fixing. The absence of an axial ridge is another important characteristic that distinguishes it from the Lombard style.
Executing this helmet type using heat permits an 'authentic' approach to medieval work, although it is better to modestly assume that we are working with metal of a different nature. Likewise it would be very adventurous to claim that the method presented here is "historical", even though examination of museum pieces allows us to think that this work may be considered as experimental archaeology...

(1) Iron sheet at the beginning 

(2) Hammering out cold 

The work begins with the crown at the centre of the helmet. The form seems to be based on a disk as for so many helmets of the period, the diameter varying with the type of the helmet (1). Everything begins with cold working of the sheet, easing the moulding.

(3) First heating 

(4) Cold flattening 

(5) Hot forming 

Hot forming can now begin. The "secret" of this long and fastidious work is a question of patience and regularity, applying heat initially at the centre and rotating regularly around the axis, heating small areas (10cm² at a time (3).
The metal is hammered out on a round anvil. Heat is now applied in concentric circles working outwards to the edge (5).

Thursday, 30 January 2014

16th Century Gorget includes photos from the inside showing the gorget articulates.


Special thanks goes to Mr William Hurt of www.ageofarmour.com for the following article. He is a one of a kind person plus a master craftsman.

Several years ago I was commissioned to repair a 16th century black and white armour. The harness is a mix of components manufactured throughout the second half of the 16th century by several different armouries.

While repairing the armour I took many photos and notes. Because finding measurements and detailed photos of historical armour is so difficult, I thought I should share this information with other armourers and enthusiasts. My hope is that these photos can help answer some of the same questions about armour design and construction I struggled with when I first started making armour.

As time permits I hope to create more photo galleries like this one covering the other pieces of the armour.

About The Gorget

This is an articulated gorget is from the mid 16th century. Its thickness varies between 0.031 and 0.054 inch and weighs approximately 1.75 lbs.

Note that when the gorget was made it did not likely have the two leather straps for hanging pauldrons or spaudlers. There were straps when the gorget arrived at my shop but they were likely added in the 19th or 20th centuries. The keyhole slot on the front-right of the main plate of the gorget, and the additional rivet holes along the edges are evidence that the gorget originally had either additional small lames that would extend partially over the shoulders or fully integrated spaudlers which are now missing.


Those who are new to armour making may want to examine how the articulation works and note the use of decorative, filler rivets. Many of the rivets do not actually connect to anything. These are particularly deceptive to those getting started in making armour because, if you were to connect some of these rivets to the underlapping lames, the gorget would no longer articulate.

The articulation of the neck is actually handled solely by leather straps which are blind riveted on the inside of the collar and lames then visibly riveted onto the main plates of the gorget.

Another interesting detail that is commonly missed on modern reproductions is how the rear lame has notches removed at the ends where it is overlapped by the front lame. This allows the two plates to still overlap for stability but, by removing a portion near the top allows the front lame to sit closer to the collar plates, creating a tighter, cleaner appearance.See this image illustrating what I mean.

The Photos - Click on any image to see it full size.







Friday, 15 November 2013

Amour Rolling Edges Technique




This tutorial was written in response to emails I have received asking "How do I Roll an Edge?" My hope is that this will help teach and instill confidence in those who are new to the art of historical armour reproduction.

In this tutorial I focus on rolled edges of the style seen on pre circa 1500 originals where the edge is rolled outward. Most armour crafted after 1500 had its edges rolled inward. This is not a rule but seems to be the general practice of these respective eras.

What Not To Do


When I first started working with metal I was amazed to see the perfectly formed rolled edges on Medieval and Renaissance armour. I thought it would take such immense skill to shape a roll so evenly that I would never have the ability.

Trying to achieve this look I experimented with a lot of crazy methods. I even once tried cutting a slit in steel automobile break line then welding it to the edge of a piece of armour. This was very difficult and the end result looked far worse than if I had just left the plate with a raw edge hehe.

It's Easier Than It Looks.


Finally I decided to just try forming a rolled edge using a hammer. To my surprise it was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined. While far from profound, I had a few revelations in my early years of making armour which I feel greatly contributed to my skill improving. One realization was that original armour was made by normal people with hand tools and if I just had confidence and patience I could make armour too.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Making old style armoursmith / blacksmith tones


Published in ABANA'S "Hammer's Blow" magazine Summer 2001 Vol. 9, #3 under title of "Bow Tongs for Small Stock" and with line drawings by Editor Brian Gilbert instead of these photo's.

HOW TO MAKE LIGHTWEIGHT, OLD STYLE, HOLLOW BIT TONGS FOR HOLDING 3/8" SQUARE OR ROUND:

These tongs are similar to a pair of versatile tongs made by Toby Hickman as he was video taped when at Joe Pehoski's Shop in 1991. That video is available for rent from ABANA. These instructions differ from that video primarily in that these are designed to be made using a hand hammer. They can also be made using a power hammer as did Toby Hickman.

To make these tongs several blacksmith processes are used: i.e. conceptualizing the final product, marking the stock, isolating the different parts, drawing out the shank and reins, upsetting the bit, slitting the bit, bending the shank, punching the rivet hole, riveting, and putting on a finish, if desired.

A good tong steel, particularly for beginning tong makers, is the common mild steel called A36 that typically has a maximum of .29% carbon. More experienced tong makers sometimes like to use a medium carbon steel such as 1045, 4140, 8640 for a stronger tong. An advantage of mild steel is that if at a red heat and then cooled in the quench tank, they are not as susceptible to cracking as they might if made of a higher carbon steel. A36 is also inexpensive and easy to work. A36 is slightly stronger than 1018/1020 (the typical cold rolled) which will also work for tongs. Remember that the stronger the steel, the lighter can be the tongs and vice versa. With this style of tongs, which hold both round and square stock in a very satisfactory manner, it is often not necessary to own tongs which only hold round bar stock.

The dimensions given in this article are for tongs made from bar stock 1/4" by 3/4" by 11". This size is suitable for tongs designed to hold 3/8" material. The same 1/4" by 3/4" bar can be used to make tongs that will hold from 1/4" up to 1/2" material, although these tongs are a little lightweight to be holding 1/2" iron. For this size tong a bit of approx. 1" in length (marked at 3/4" on blank bar before forging) and a boss length of 7/8" to 1" is typical Since the reins and the shank (space between the boss and bit) will be drawn out, their final length will be approximately 2 times as long as the original marked distance. The shank on these tongs is marked at 1 1/2" and will stretch with drawing out to approximately 3". Once familiar with the steps in this process, the size of the tongs can be altered depending on the dimensional characteristics you desire in the tong. Larger tongs can be made using larger bar stock with the same approximate dimensional relationships such as 5/16" by 1", 3/8" by 1", 1/2" by 1 1/4" etc. The key factor in determining the size of stock to use for a particular pair of tongs is to determine a suitable size for the boss. The boss does not change in thickness or width during the process of making the tong. An approximation for determining how long a piece of bar stock is needed is to simply use 1/2 the length of the desired finished product. Keep in mind that the shorter the shank the greater the holding power, but at the expense of versatility. Rivet size is not critical except that generally the bigger the tongs the bigger the rivet. A simple guide is to use a rivet at least as thick as the boss on the tong blank.

Both tong halves are made exactly the same. There is not a left and right half except if and when punching the hole, as later explained. Blacksmiths often make tongs to be used either in the left hand or right hand depending on which rein falls in the palm of the hand when the tong is opened. Another consideration sometimes discussed is whether, when in use, torque is applied counter clockwise or clockwise. There are a good number of blacksmiths that don't worry about left or right hand and this article doesn't either. An easy solution if right or left handed is of concern, and the tongs seem to be for the wrong hand, is to bend a jog in each rein near the boss. Make the bend so that one rein is directly on top of the other allowing equal fit for either right or left hand.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Blacken armor mild steel and steel without using paint




To blacken steel, with oil there are a lot of things that are on the net that are old BS passed down from the days the smith was next to a tar pit.

First: is DO NOT USE USED MOTOR OIL! In the last 25 years or so the material in the engines that the oil is used in are a lot of exotic stuff. Cadmium and all the other heavy type metals that wear away and are collected in the oil.

When you heat up and burn the oil the heavy metals can become airborne and you inhale them.

Second: there is no advantage to using used oil with the high carbon in it. You will not transfer more carbon to the surface skin of the metal. The heated oil layers a very thin coating of carbon on the surface.

Third: Don't use old oil as it might be a synthetic blended oil with the natural oils. The higher priced oils that are sold as specialty oils will say so the regular oils use it as an extender, to make the natural oil go longer therefore make a cheaper product.