Since setting my mind on making armor, the focus of my project here in London, I’ve wanted to design my own suit/costume around my observations of English armor. Perhaps I would design my suit for a knight character. I wasn’t sure I’d actually use the design, so my goal shifted. From there, it dawned on me that I might just be able to create this gear for use at a Halloween party, convention or renaissance fest! Now, I’m designing my armor to actually make and wear it in real life, and I’ll even give some details on how to make it for yourself!

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Here’s my rough sketch of what my armor will look like. Pretty bad-ass, right?!

I’d like my suit of armor to have a lot of English influence, both in history and design, as well as some aspects from other western European countries, such as Germany. For example, in my initial concept, I’ll be using the great helm as my helmet. It’s relatively easy to make, it’s a classic helm from the 13th century and early into the 14th (soon replaced by the bascinet), and my personal favorite! So many designs have adapted it, whether it be real history or fiction. Though it excelled in protection, it suffered in peripheral vision and ventilation, the helm overheated the user if the model in question wasn’t vented adequately. Cosmetically, the helm can end up a bit large if made improperly (Though sometimes a larger helm is preferred). So, if mine turns out ridiculously large, I may switch to a sallet instead. The sallet is significantly more English, but not quite as cool as the great helm (for lack of a better word!). The rest of the costume will not feature a lot of metal, as making it would be quite difficult on a time crunch (I’m giving myself about a week). I’ll be using a lot of cloth and leather, with “metal” armor only on the hands, elbows, shoulders, head and knees.

Now, metalworking is far from easy. It requires a lot, such as a forge and actual metal (obviously). I have none of this, so making my armor out of metal is pretty much out of the question. Excluding the gauntlets, chainmail coif and replica sword, my armor pieces will be fiberglass! The chainmail isn’t really tough metalworking, you don’t even need a forge. One can just coil wire around a pen or pencil, cut it into rings, and then attach the rings according to a chainmail pattern. It’s a tedious process, but I’ll only be making a hood. Fiber glassing is even easier (if done properly). Using patterns of armor intended for metalworking, I’ll print them onto cardstock paper. This way I’ve got a durable base material, regular paper would crumple once fiberglass resin was painted over it. From there, I’ll cut out the patterns, folding and gluing accordingly, almost like a puzzle (with only a few pieces). From here I’ll have my paper model!

At this point, I’ll be able to assess my progress. If the piece of armor is too big or too small, doesn’t fit, or just isn’t what I wanted, I can scrap it and make a new one without wasting fiberglass. Once I’m happy with my model, I’ll coat the cardstock paper model in fiberglass resin at every angle, placing the fiberglass cloth on only the inside of the armor, so it doesn’t show, but the structural integrity is maintained. Once dried, I’ll sand and bondo (a type of putty used for exterior auto repairs that dries rock hard and can be sanded and painted) the now fiberglass model until it’s smoothed in all the right spots, and rough and tough in the rest. (Have to keep it looking super heavy metal and manly, of course!) Now comes the painting, which might be a bit tricky, as I’ll have to find the right kind of metallic paint and weather it according to the metal parts of the costume so they match. Next is padding, detailing, and making the according straps (likely out of elastic and faux leather, the latter for authenticity).

Last from not least come the non-metal/fiberglass parts, I’ll fashion a basic forest green tunic out of heavy cloth, a black undershirt and leggings from hide-like materials, a belt and leg padding of faux leather, and get heavy leather boots which I’ll adapt slightly to fit the medieval vibe. I’ll grab a rough and tattered looking scarf to match my tunic and give the get-up a grizzlier vibe and weather the whole suit a bit to make it look worn from intense combat (likely with scoundrels, dragons and snails). After some more detailing and whatnot, I may craft a coat of arms from basic materials to sow onto the chest, giving my knight a symbol to stand for! Finally, I’ll make myself a harness to keep the sheath (which I may also adapt) firmly on my back. A historically inaccurate detail that I’m including only because I like the look of it so much!

If all goes as planned, I’ll have my suit complete by late august when the Fall 2015 semester starts up, and it’ll be ready to go for all my snail-fighting and dragon-slaying adventures! TO BATTLE!

–Mitch Stanke

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