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SCA Armor

Spangen Helm

Five Piece Barrel Helm


Half Gauntlets

A Welded Basket Hilt



Spangen Helm


My third and fifth attempts at a good SCA-legal Germundbu style helmet in 14ga CRS.  My current helm is on the left; Rollo wore the one on the right at Pensic 30, and the enemy reverberated before him.  Did you know there's more than one kind of rust?



Your helm should be a similar shape to your head.  
Heads are generally not round!  The length vs width difference is obvious on the barrel helm,  but the dishing required for a round top helm tends to favor a spherical finished product.
For 3/16" rivets, 8/32 machine screws make a good temporary connection.  A helm top, coming along nicely.

The frame part can be one piece or several. A one piece frame eliminates three parts and helps hold the helm together during assembly, so it's an advantage if you're a first-timer. It's also more wasteful in terms of materials, and, for what it's worth, less period (if you ignore the full head helm aspect, the welded bar "face cage", the blatantly machined sheet metal raw material, etc etc). If you're rivetting the frame, remember to add overlapping material at the rivetted seam (this is not included in the pattern below, the pattern is for butted joints).

Cutting the frame in seperate pieces is cheaper, but a lot more work. In the completed helm above I riveted the four part frame to the skull panels; you can see one seam coming out of the central glare spot. In the incomplete helm above I cut the frame parts seperately and welded them together at the seams- hence the dark blotch on the bottom right.


Some period helms for inspiration:


Groningen, 9th c



Five Piece Barrel Helm


Patterns Like many, many others have done before me, I'm posting patterns for a five piece barrel helm. I made this for Mariotta, and in the end I hacked the whole front open and added a much larger barred grille (sorry, no photos available). There are four patterns below. Each shows half of a part, much like a sewing pattern. The "fold" line is where the mirror image of the pattern should be attached to get the full part. It's on the left side of each of these patterns. Notice that patterns for only four of the pieces are shown, but it's a five piece helm. The fifth part is the top; once you've got the uppers formed and rivited together, turn them over on the remaining sheet metal and trace around them to get the top.

    A front view:                                                       A side view:




Here's how to make a pretty good 4-piece gorget.


Fashioning the Gorget:

Double the patterns and lay them out. I'ts a rather “organic” design, so expect to waste some metal since the flat pieces don’t nestle very well. You're better off marking the five rivet hole locations in front and rear uppers while they're still flat. If you would like a sharp crease in the front upper, scribe a midpoint line down the inside of the front upper. Mark a single centering rivet hole location in each of the lowers to align the upper and lower parts.

Cut out the parts. Don’t hurt yourself. Dull the sharp metal edges you just made. Make holes for the rivets. Optionally, crease the centerline of the front upper on the edge of your anvil.

Next, bend the lowers to match the top curvature of your shoulders- ie the bend going across, not along, the line where the front of a shirt attaches to the back. These are fairly thin sections; I can bend them in my hands, but use gloves if you try this. Along with the padding you expect to use, check the parts against yourself in the mirror. Then bend both uppers into half circles/half ovals, trying to match the inside cut edge curvature of the lowers. You don’t have to be exact, because the next step will distort your effort considerably.

The next step is to provide a bend where the uppers will touch the lowers and rivets will pass through to hold the parts together. I’ll start with the front upper. The front upper gets a fairly uniform, nearly right angle bend all along the lower edge where the rivet holes went. I start in the middle (where the optional crease went) and work my way towards the ends (where the front meets the back). The corner of the crease has to be past the edge of the rivet hole or the rivet won’t go through the hole. You'll find as you add this right angle bend, the other curvature tries to flatten out. Bang it back into shape occasionally as you go, and check the fit to the lower.

The rear upper has a more complicated crease due to with the way shoulders are shaped. At the top edge of your shoulders, the rear upper is at nearly a right angle to the rear lower. However, in the very middle of your back the rear upper is at almost no angle to the lower. This is actually less work than the front part but requires some more attention. I suggest starting at the ends and working towards the middle, and check your work frequently. You only need to put about an inch of right angle crease on the lower edge of the rear upper, and the crease should blend to a zero angle in the middle.

Hopefully, your gorget parts now look something like this:


Now the small threaded screws come in handy, because you can put the uppers and lowers together through the center rivet holes to check again for fit. Coax the parts with your rubber hammer as required, and mark locations in the lower for the two rivets that flank the center rivets. Take the pieces apart, make two more holes, and - with three screws - put the pieces back together to repeat the process and find the locations for the last two rivets.

Once you’re satisfied the parts are going together as planned, rivet the pieces together. Then fold the top edges down to help prevent cuts and add more strength. Last, add a closure device. I put straps and buckles across the shoulder tops of both sides but really only one side needs a buckle. Pad inside the gorget, and you’re done! Congratulations.


A gorget by László from Pécs

Half Gauntlets

Two peice hourglass half gauntlets; the photo below shows one of leather over aluminum. "FOLD" indicates the line of symmetry for the cuff; cut two of these patterns and put them together to make a pattern for the entire peice. I recommend cutting both full peices from manila folder and taping them together into a gauntlet to see if they fit your hands. Here's a photo of my sword hand gauntlet and the leather shells for the new pair I'm making.


Relatively light gauge steel is plenty if you roll the edge of the cuff. Use a plastic hammer to avoid marks. Some 14ga wire inside the rolled edge prevents the roll from flattening while you're working it, like so:



Basket Hilt

After having my hand severely mashed in SCA combat, I decided to make a basket hilt. Here's how I made a globe-shaped basket about 6” in diameter, with rings at the “equator” between the “longitudes.” Here it is, sitting in my favorite mug:

This design needs two 48” lengths of ¼” steel rod and one 48” length of 3/16” steel rod, as well as some flat stock (1/8" thick by 1/2" wide seems to work). The minimum tool set required is a ball peen hammer, a big pair of pliers, a vise, a hacksaw, sections of 1” and 1¼” OD pipe, and a welder. Other good-but-not-required stuff includes sandpaper, files, paint, and a section of 5½” diameter steel tube.

First, make a coil out of the 3/16” rod by wrapping it around the the 1” pipe. Cut the the coil into rings- just like making mail links, but with thick rod. Next, using the ¼” rod and 1¼” pipe, make two links to be the braces that rest on the sword handle. Then cut seven ¼” rods 7.5” long to be the vertical “longitudes.” From the scrap, cut a 4” and a 12” section to protect the top of your wrist. Last, cut a ¾” wide by 1” long chunk from the heavy gauge stock or sheet metal. This is the part that holds the basket on your sword. Don't skimp, because it can take a pounding.

Bend the longitudes into 6” diameter arcs. A form is nice, but not required; I made my first basket hilt with just pliers, a hammer, and a vise. It's more important to make them all the same than to make them perfectly round. Bend the 4” section into a triangle 2” on a side. Bend the 12” section into a 6” diameter . Now you’re ready to weld.

Tack the first longitude to hold the 1¼” circles parallel to each other so a sword handle can slide through them. Once the alignment is good, weld the three together. Then center an equator ring, tack it in place and check for angle and position. It’s repetitive work after that, adding the long bars and rings one at a time. When the globe part of the basket was done, weld the triangle and half circle onto the top rear of the basket.

The flat stock tab sticking out provides a place to clamp the basket to the blade. This joint will take a pounding. Don't skimp on materials, and try not to make a brittle joint (by overheating the material for example). This is the weak spot of this design.

Remember to smooth any sharp parts. For looks I sprayed on a couple coats of flat black Rustoleum. All told, the design weighs a pound and a half and costs just a few bucks.



This is one of the easier pieces of armor to make, but there are still things to do wrong:

Here's my new vambraces. They're very similar to my old ones below, except they're not all beat up. Yet. I dished the plain cops (they're not permanent) and they're attached to the vambraces with some cast bronze "cows."

Here's my old vambraces. These are of incised leather trimmed in stamped brass over thin plastic- and then beaten ragged by my friends! Original art for the bendy beasty (loosely based on an Orkney thistle brooch) is on the left, help yourself.





Some greaves I made- they're very simple but since I've been asked for the pattern I thought I may as well post it here. Help yourself to the original art shown on the left.  Pattern shown is half the actual pattern.  Tooling was quick and dirty.