Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Low Cost Armor, yet again

I recently updated my article on Low Cost Armor yet again (the last update was 2008, wow!). The cost for a period looking suit of armor has crept up, but it can still be had for right around $300, and less if you want to get creative. Here are the high lights:

The two armorers I use most often are both armoring laurels who make affordable mutions grade armor at good prices: Master Alail Horsefriend and Master Cett Donegal. (Among other things, Alail made the helm I wear using Rough from the Hammer parts made by Ronald Wilmot, and then Cet put the bar cage on it: so three armoring laurels worked on my helm, which in the end cost me less than $100).

Cet Donegal now owns Rough From The Hammer (http://roughfromthehammer.com). This is the place to go to REALLY keep the prices down. Cet’s stuff comes rough finished and un-strapped—he sells parts to other armorers who finish the products and resell them. Elbow cops from this shop are $12 a pair. Spaulders are $20 a pair. He makes very affordable helmets, but only as custom orders.

Alail’s website is located at http://www.horsefriendarmoury.com. Like Cet, he has some great prices on munition grade armor: a sugarloaf helm for $100 in 14ga mild, splint legs for $120, splint arms for $80 and stainless for only 150% of his base price. Here is a basic suit put together from his old price list:

Great Helm, $80
Elbows, $20
Knees, $25
Churburg Breast plate (w/ Kidney Protection)$120
Simple Gorget, $30
Spaulders, $20

That totals out to $295. We still need a few pieces. We have to make cuises and vambraces and we don’t have hand protection. Some scrap leather to make vambraces and cuisses out of, the basket hilt and shield basket from Ashcraft Baker, and you’ll have a suit of armor most of which came from an armoring laurel within our target price. Not too shabby. Then add a gambeson and a nice surcoat and you will look very knightly.

A few armorers have beginner’s kits for sale in the right price range. Ashcraft Baker (www.ashcraftbaker.com) has a beginner kit that includes helmet, gorget, basket hilt, shield basket, and articulated elbows and knees for $220--a great price! Add some kidney and lumbar protection and you’re SCA legal. If that’s what you can afford go for it. However, the helmet is a spun top and I’m looking for something a little more period in style.

To complete the project you have to pick and choose pieces. Some armorers have expensive helms but reasonable legs. One has the best price on bascinets but their gorgets are expensive. In every case to keep prices down avoid buying cuises and vambraces. Those are easy to make. I want to put together not just SCA armor, but a knightly kit that, if not historically accurate, is at least evocative of a single time period. Below are a few more kits which fit the bill.

Crusader Kit:
From True Hearth Armory (http://www.truehearth.com)
• Teardrop Helm $80
• Standard gorget $40

From Bokalo’s Armoury (www.bokalosarmoury.com)
• Demi Gauntlet $25

From Rough From The Hammer (http://roughfromthehammer.com)
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Spaulder A $12
• Kidney Plates $20

From Ashcraft Baker (www.ashcraftbaker.com)
• Basket Hilt
• Shield Basket $25 (set)

That’s $227. Now invest in Period Patterns #101, available from several SCA merchants (try http://camelot-treasures.com/patterns/index.htm) for $21. Make the long, short sleeved crusader gambeson, reinforced with some of the plates from Rough from the Hammer. Make the gamboized cuisses, also included in the pattern, and attach to those the kneecops using leather lacing or cord. Use an inexpensive canvass and cotton batting, and materials for this should be about $40. They are not required under SCA rules, but some kingdoms require vambraces, and they are really a good idea. You will need to make some out of scrap metal or heavy leather, but the elbow cop is the hard part and you bought that.

We are now SCA legal. Total for this project before shipping is $288, including the cost of the pattern, which really shouldn’t count towards our total since it will be used several times over. Note: I didn’t include materials for a shield, but my first several shields were free anyway—scrap plywood, discarded garden hose and an old belt for straps.

14th Century Suit #1
One variation is to turn this into a Wisby suit. Do everything as above, except don’t get the helm or the kidney. Instead, you need to get hold of a sheet of 18 gauge steel and a way to cut it (with GAA out of business I could no longer find a metal Visby kit. I hear Alchemy has a plastic one, but I’m trying to avoid plactic in this exercise—however, cutting your own keep the price down. I used to use a jig saw with a hack saw blade). Go to the armor archive wisby coat page and download the patterns. You can also buy Period Patterns #102 (see below), which has a Wisby coat pattern in it. Then add From Boldo’s Armory (http://www.boldo.com/armory/index.html) the “Classic Pembridge” greathelm for $100. This will take you a bit over our budget when all is said and done, but still very affordable and it will look sharp.

Now for the hard one:

14th century suit #2

From Illusion Armory (http://www.illusionarmoring.com/)
• 14 ga. Bascinet (don’t get the 16 ga). $110

From Bokalo’s Armoury
• Pinned dog collar gorget $35
• Demi Gauntlet $25

From Rough From The Hammer
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Globose Breastplate $60

From Ashcraft Baker
• Basket Hilt
• Shield Basket $25 (set)

That comes to $280. NOW: get both Period Patterns #101 and #102 ($21 each). Make the gamboized cuisses from pattern #101 and the jupon (short, long sleeved gambeson) from pattern #102. Materials for the jupon and cuisses, again, are about $40. Use some sole leather for vambraces. Note that this suit doesn’t have shoulder protection.

Really, the secret is to get a good looking helmet. The rest of your hard points can be armored fairly inexpensively. Then cover it up with a good surcotte and you won't look like a schlub.


Geoff Engel said...

I will mention that Alail is currently working for FEMA, and is on the East Coast a lot. He's still taking orders as far as I know, but the wait may be longer than usual.

STAG said...

Geez. So all it takes to get a recommendation is to keep the price insanely low? Now I remember what I didn't like about the SCA.

Cheap b. who have not left the University poverty mindset behind.

Ah well. Love 'em anyway. CAS Hanwei is now bringing in armour from India which should under cut those armour makers, kick them out of their comfortable bottom feeder mode, and allow them to grow in skill and development like you are growing in fighting skill.

Anonymous said...

Is rough from the hammer still in business?

Anonymous said...

I really do not understand what your problem is. Not everyone can afford to spend a large amount for armor. I rather thought that it was made pretty clear that this blog post was intended to provide options for people who can't afford to spend alot. In light of that, of course he only mentioned less expensive options, that was the purpose of the post.

M.A. Cramer/Valgard said...

Stag is an armorer and makes high quality reproductions that are priced accordingly, so I get where he is coming from. It opens up a larger debate about authenticity and how it effects new members, whether we are a reenactment group or a recreation group, etc. He objects to the fact that the only recommendation I make for armor is for cheap armor, which I also get. However, he should be pleased to know that at least two of the armorers I mentioned received the order of the laurel, the SCA's highest award for artistry, for their armorimg, and do quality work, for which they charge accordingly.

M.A. Cramer/Valgard said...