Sorry for the 10 day delay – real life intervened. I am now employed, so, that’s good; and I don’t think it should negatively affect how much I post. I’ve found in the past that I think more often and more critically about my hobbies when I’m in work, even if I actually work at the hobby less. The worst you’ll see is more theoretical posts, but that’s actually probably just as valuable.

I got to planishing Cop #2 (‘Righty’) this morning. It would have been sooner but I opted to take it back to the dish last weekend to enhance the dishing on it a little. I’ve found that something rudimentary really helps with seeing the blemishes in your work: Silvo. A bit of silver polish wadding to go over the steel and suddenly you see all the little high points and low points, and you see the piece better in general – like how it’s not actually quite as deep as you thought, and not as deep as its twin. This has to do with how the light falls on the respective pieces from the outside, and is much easier to see. It’s very plain to see intuitively, as opposed to looking at the inside or the edges to somehow gauge logically. This may seem like a small finding but it’s actually a revolutionary revelation (!).

And back to talking about actual planishing. Here are the tools:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe round bag is a sandbag; strong, supple leather filled with silver sand. I haven’t used it in its intended capacity yet, but will do at some point. For planishing purposes its simply there to stop the shot putt rolling away.

The red-and-flaky ball is, yes, a shot putt. 6kg unturned, bought on Amazon (school surplus I think) for about £6, plus £4 p&p. Quite the bargain for what it lets me do.

And the hammer is a Polishing Hammer, Light; taken from Cookson’s Value Range. Cookson’s are a lovely jeweller’s merchant based in Hatton Garden, London. A brief thank you to the assistant at that shop who happily sold me first one hammer, then another (cheaper) hammer whilst refunding (at length) the first which I suddenly thought was too expensive… you were saintly in your patience. She may never read this, but the thanks are still deserved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnlike my dishing hammer, this shiny little thing is very light. I haven’t checked, but I’d be surprised if it was more than 4oz. And at that weight it’s very much a finishing hammer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is its polishing head, designed for light work from the inside – bouging and so forth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this is the planishing head, seen head on. If the light was better and I’d bothered to run some Silvo over it before photographing it… well, you’d see the camera lens. It’s smooth like silk could never hope to be, and if ones strokes are proper (properly angled and kept light) it leaves no makers marks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd the same head seen from a slight angle just for contrast.

The process isn’t depicted, but largely doesn’t need to be; you polish the piece with compound to make it bright. You’ll see raised edges or nodes from the dishing process – these you will be beating out.

Place the piece over the shot putt or similar (you can use trailer hitches, and all manner of other round metal things) and press it so that the point you’ll be striking is flush with the face of your former (e.g. shot putt). Aim to strike lightly and directly (flat) down on to this mark – and let the hammer bounce up again after the strike. Then you bring it down, and let it bounce, and bring it down, and let it bounce. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s a very rhythmic process, and quite enjoyable. Once the blemish is gone, move to the next.

Remember to strike light and flat each time – weight or poor angle will embed the hard edge of the hammer’s face and put in more marks. You will get strikes wrong to begin with – I do, but less frequently with practice; as you’d expect.

The easiest way to tell if you’re striking properly will be the sound. If your piece is flush and you’re executing a proper, flat, light and bouncing strike you will make a keening ‘TING! sound – if the sound is even a little bit tinny you’re not getting it quite right.

N.B.: sometimes you can’t get it right; certain parts of these knee cops are more curved than the shot putt, so I can’t get a perfect strike. A way around this is to get a smaller form. Trailer hitches are good. A purpose-made ball stake is best, if you have the money.

Here are some photos from a couple of weeks back when I’d just planished the first cop, but not the second. You should see the contrast quite easily:

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Here Lefty is planished, Righty isn’t just yet. I can also see in hindsight – as you probably can too, perhaps easier than me – that the right cop is not as dished. They look a little bit more matched today; though, amusingly, Righty is probably even more dished than Lefty now. They’re close enough to uniform that you won’t notice the difference when I’m wearing them I think. Either way, pretty good for a first try.

I’ll get some photos up before too long. I want ideally to polish the cops right up to satin next. And then sometime before the year’s out I’m wanting to make my splint cuisses – which I’ll be running through here. Also I should be making a Coat of Plates for a friend soon (non-historical pattern unfortunately; his choice), which I’ll be documenting too. In amongst all this I might write up the chainmail aventail I’ve been making in dribs and drabs across the year (chainmail was my first armour hobby). I also have spaulders to dish and elbows to pattern. And there’s the possibility of conspiring on greathelms and spangenhelms with fellow SCAdians. We shall see!

Well, hello again. I am not actually dead, believe it or not. Sorry, it’s been nearly a fortnight hasn’t it?

I have actually been working on bits and pieces most of that time, but I found it tough to gussy up to this post. I wanted to leap into dishing the knees and that is what I did, but documenting it is a different matter. I have some photos, and they’re here, but it’s very difficult for me to run through the process even with those photos. It’s a mile-a-minute process, very intuitive, and still very experimental. At one point I noticed that the knee seemed off-balance in some way, and a little part of my brain just said ‘if you hit it there on the opposite quadrant it’ll straighten it out'; and I don’t know how I knew that, but that worked. I didn’t know it would though; and there were 100 tiny, tiny decisions like that just in dishing the one knee – and that just makes it unfeasible to photograph every little thing. I will endeavour to photograph as much as I can without excessively breaking up the process for myself, I’ll describe the steps between photos as well as I can; and, in time, as I start to understand more rules and the whole affair becomes less experimental, I should be able to convey finer steps to you – but for now it’s broad strokes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, dishing first. Here is the broad setup – which I think I’ve shown off before. Stump, dishing hammer, blank, and coffee. That last one is very important, but not as important as these:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimple foam earplugs that you squish and then stick in your ear; they expand and block the worst of the sound. I forgot to put these in (had them stowed in my back pocket and just totally forgot) and within 10 strokes my ears were ringing like they do in games and movies when some poor sod has a grenade or shell go off next to them. Please value your hearing as much as I value mine.

Here is the blank positioned over the dish:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUse your non-dominant hand to steady the piece. I’m still searching for a safer way to do this, one that involves a lower chance of ‘Ow, my bloody fingers!’ echoing around the neighbourhood at volume. Steadying may involve some odd-looking, ostensibly cack-handed grips, especially as the shock will run through your hand when you strike. Finally, though it may sound obvious, please make sure your fingers are not between the piece and the stump.

Once you’re content that it’s steady and your digits are safe, bring the hammer down firmly at the centre of the piece. If you have a heavy hammer and you aren’t tensing your arm then it will give quickly – to expand: if you are tensing you’ll absorb the force that should be going into moving the metal. Work outwards from that centre point and soon you’ll have something like this or better:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn doing this I had a number of crimps occur which I didn’t photograph for some god-awful reason. You will have to take these out as you go; just take the piece out of the dish, place the outside of the piece on the flat of the stump and hammer the kink out from the inside. Do this carefully so as to smooth it out; if you’re not careful you could end up hammering the folds over each other in which case I think you’ll end up cutting new blanks.

After this I continued dishing for a time – going back to the centre and spiralling outward again. After that I had the following:

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I bent the piece across its wider axis until the buckle holes were penpendicular to one another, at which point it fitted my knee like so:

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As you can see the shape was basically right, but it was also rather loose. I took it back to the dish again and worked the centre and sides of the piece on the steeper side of my stump to enhance the dish in the metal – trying to get the curvature to fairly closely follow the curve my knee has when I’m in something like my guard stance. Following that I had this:

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Which looks thusly in profile:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIncidentally the odd grip in the above photo is good for steadying the piece and not feeling the shock so much – that may not be the case for everyone, but it works for me.

And seen on the knee it looks so:

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I do worry that the pieces might not be dished enough; but at worst I’m going to have learned a lot and will have at least ended up with some placeholder armour until I make something better. We’ll see when I get to wearing them with padding, and to fight in. I am hopeful however.

I’ll write the planishing up soon. That bit… that bit is pretty exciting. Armour is as much about being shiny as it is a practical wear, and planishing and polishing is where it takes all that on. It’s fascinating, fun (for me), and much, much easier to describe!

Oh, but it’s been a hectic 9 days. I got to doing this a couple of days ago, punching and drilling holes in my basic knees – where straps, lace points, and rondels will be fixed (hopefully) before long.

Here was my set-up for most of this work – a nylon hammer, a steel punch, some iron weights to hold a pattern still (more on that shortly). The only tools used that aren’t seen here are a Sharpie, right-angled ruler, and my drill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, yes, you see a pattern there. I’d managed to misplace the pattern I used to originally draw out the plates, so below you see my method of figuring out where things needed to be.

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I opted to draw around the plate on a piece of A4 and cut out the pattern – to my mind the simplest way to backward-engineer from a flat blank. I then folded the piece into quarters as the original pattern had been, and redrew centrelines – then using a right-angled ruler to draw the lines that make up most of a rectangle (minus corners). These lines are 1 inch into the piece, which was too deep for most of the holes, but just right for the rondel – a circular plate which will attach to this to shield my leg; functionally the same as the fixed fan on the articulated knees I started a while ago, but perhaps aesthetically nicer.

Where the lines were too deep I redrew marks halfway between the present lines and the edge – so half an inch total into the piece. The two single points left and right are where straps will attach to buckle the piece behind my knee. To place the marks for the paired lace point holes (top and bottom) I then marked two points each a three-quarter inch from the half-inch-in marks. Through these I’ll put laces to hold the knee cops to the splint chausses I’ll be making, and greaves I’ve made already.

With luck that all makes sense!

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This is a steel punch, slightly worn on the tip, but still perfectly able to do its job. You place the pointy bit on the marked points, then hit it on the top with a nylon hammer. Simple!

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The marks you see above are quite small and dainty – the result of little more than a tap on the punch for each – but will adequately hold the drill bit and keep it from skipping across the steel and scratching everything.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here is the finished, drilled piece. The piece is leaning slightly away from the camera, which may make the top and bottom lace point holes seem unaligned, but I assure you they are.

That’s all for now – a small bit of the project, I know – but hopefully I’ll be in a position to run through some dishing tomorrow or Friday!

And now it’s time to file.

Here is my worktop as it appears this fine afternoon:

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One vice, one ‘bastard’ file, and two knee plates. I’ve chosen to work on just the knees this morning, as the spaulders I really can’t see getting done before next week owing to life obstructing my free time.

It may be quite subtle but the plates above should look – if inspected carefully (bear in mind these pictures link to their full size files) – cleaner than in the picture below which was taken just after cutting.

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The sharp points at the ends of each knee plate have been ground and the curve tidied up, and the top curve on the left knee and bottom curve on the right have been cleaned up too. I’m realising that they aren’t entirely symmetrical, though not anywhere near as bad as the wonky photo of the paper pattern from last week.

Whilst not symmetrical in themselves, they do mirror each other quite well. In the above photo if you take the right knee and invert it on both axes (i.e. turn it over so the bottom is the top and the left the right) they are almost mirror-perfect. The slightly pointier side will point outward where it will, in time, be covered by a rondel. And the more pronounced lengthways line will point upward. These are mostly aesthetic choices, though shadowed by a tad of practicality.

It’s worth noting that I’m writing this as I file the plates as opposed to after the fact, though I’ve taken the photos mostly up front. Below is the first knee in the vice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis photo doesn’t need much expanding on – you all know how vices work, right? There’s probably a bad joke about strict religion in there somewhere, but I’ll leave the punchline to imagination.

Introducing file:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not terribly genned up on files, but this is – I believe – a double-cut flat file, otherwise known as a cross-file or ‘bastard’ file. And here is how I’ll be using it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe file I’m placing at around between 20 and 30 degrees to the edge, with the handle in my dominant hand and the end of the file grasped in my off-hand. I’m then working the file back and forth across the edge until I’ve just taken the edge off. I then repeat on the other side.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrucially, you do not want to overdo this. You’re aiming to chamfer the edges into a geometry like so:

_
/   \

NOT

/\

One is safe, the other is a blade.

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The above is a bird’s eye view of the plate, and shows a handful of non-uniform geometries. The line of light you can see along the left hand edge at the top of the plate is where it’s been filed to a half-chamfer (not yet repeated on the ‘dark’ side).

Just above centre of the frame is an area that’s flat and unfiled, and slightly sharp on the right hand side – you can see where the burr is catching the light. That could cut if you drew skin across it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a top-down shot of the plate after a little filing. It’s not quite done, but you can’t cut yourself on what you see here.

After the piece has been polished at the very end (after dishing and so on) this will be a pleasantly round edge, with a geometry close to this:

That’s the day’s lesson, as it were. I’m off to finish the job, and may post later on if I opt to pattern the knees for their rivets today; in which case you get to learn a bit more about Patterning (or ‘The Fine Art Of Sharpie-ing’), as well as punching and drilling holes.

 

 

 

 

Right, so today I got some grinding done (yes, please giggle). I am also feeling a bit lazy after the fact, so there aren’t any photos of the finished plates. Where the cutting had run a little outside my Sharpie’d lines I’ve taken the excess off; in the very few places where the cutting ran slightly inside the drawn edge I’ve smoothed out the line. The edges are quite rough after the grinding, so they’ll need going over with a file sometime in the week – at which time I’ll take some before and after photos.

I’ll say in advance, I have a lot of awful life impinging on my time this week, so I may not get squat done between now and next weekend – though I hope to.

Now, introductions. These are quite vital to this work. Leather gloves (lovely flowery things) and a pair of plastic safety glasses. I also have some natural fibre masks and some foam earplugs not shown here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are all vital to this work, and of everything I’ve written so far I’d like you to heed the following:

Of all the tools I have, the grinders are the ones I have the most respect for. You do not work with something that boasts a 5-digit rpm without due respect – this should go for all power tools, but these most of all. They can strip you down to bone, and they can go through that too given a chance; they can wrench things from your hands and send them flying at potentially impaling speeds; they can put molten metal in your eyes; and the noise they make can permanently damage your hearing.

That last one is true of most of my power tools and I should have mentioned earlier that I wear plugs whilst working.

With these things in mind, I introduce my Black & Decker Bench Grinder:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the absence of an outside bench I sit this on the patio chocked with a substantial brick. It cannot not move.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe left wheel is a coarse wheel. It takes off material much faster, wears slower, and gives a coarse finish – as one would expect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe right wheel is a finer wheel, takes material off relatively slowly, wears faster (but still not noticeably in all the time I’ve used it) and gives a better finish – though one which, as mentioned, will still require some filing after the fact. It may be the case that in time I’ll improve my technique such that I don’t need to file afterwards, but for now I’m content to have to.

Now, apologies again for the lack of action shots – you should be able to follow what I’m saying between my description and the following photo:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe metal plates in front of the wheels are there to brace the piece against. With the piece braced on this and held firmly with both hands it’s fed into the path of the wheel and where material abrades away where contact is made – where the line you’re working on is wider than the wheel you work the piece back and forth across the point of contact. It’s as simple as that.

It’s a gradual process, and a forgiving one if you’re using the finer wheel. You have ample time to eye the piece up and determine where material needs to come off, where you need to change gradients on curves, and so on. It’s not difficult work, it’s not fraught work; nor is it tedious.

If, like I do, you choose to cut your plates on just the very outside of the Sharpie’d lines on your steel, then your aim here is to grind to the split-second you can no longer see that line.

Now, after you’ve gotten rid of the material you wanted gone you will probably find that there is a burr formed on the opposite side of the plate. I take this off with a feather-light split-second of contact, holding the piece very firmly at around 45 degrees to the wheel and not braced against the grinder’s plate. It’s very delicate, you’re not grinding so much as letting the wheel catch the burr and carry it off. Be warned: if you don’t have a good enough grip and you’re not expecting it the wheel can easily snatch your piece off you when you’re doing this – which will likely mean ruining the piece and a potential ugly ballistic incident. Be careful.

Letting the wheel take the burr off does result in an amount of sharpness that has to be filed off, but you’d likely be filing the plate anyway. As far as I can tell ‘my way’ here saves me a fraction of time and effort –  as and when I file it should only be a matter of a couple of minutes per plate instead of around 5, and I can afford to be less meticulous. I am very open to being proven wrong here however, and may even go so far as to prove myself wrong sometime soon. Experimentation is healthy.

All that said and done I am off enjoy an ale and the sound of drumming rain, content that my work today beat the weather again.

Right, cutting all done!

Word to the wise, if like myself you aren’t blessed enough to own a high-end DeWalt or Makita jigsaw built for cutting sheet metal… this can easily be the most exhausting part of all this. And it sneaks up on you. I more or less passed out once the body of the job was done and I was cleaning up. A good breakfast would have helped with that, but I skimped. A lunch of bacon, eggs, a cheese toastie, Bananas-not-quite-Foster (I didn’t have the rum or banana liqueur), and strong coffee is helping; but it’s closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Remember, big breakfast for big work.

Now, photos!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the empty bit of patio I told you about at one point. It’s not ideal. It’s tight, cramped, and the surface is usually damp which makes sweeping up a pain – but not as much as the lawn does…

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This is said bit of patio with a plastic sheet on it. I think it was a tablecloth in its first life. It’s something like thin linoleum – a roll of linoleum would probably be close to ideal for this if you happen to have one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the trusty Black & Decker Workmate. It’s old, but solid, and very good for these cutting jobs. I’ve tried using sawhorses in the past and you just don’t get the stability or the ease of clamping you get with these. They’re still made to pretty much the same pattern and, taking a quick look just now, it seems you can get them for as little as £20 on eBay.

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It stows flat like so if needed, and the feet fold away. You could sequester it any number of places in a house or flat – quite compact.

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Here is the piece of steel from earlier, now draped over the Workmate and about to be clamped. I use two 3″ G-clamps to clamp the piece down – you could use more, but I’ve never needed to.

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Here’s the piece clamped. The G-clamps should stand out enough to be seen in this photo. Yes, they’re bunched up; and, yes, it works better to put the clamps on opposing sides – but that’s not always possible, and moreover it isn’t necessary. Despite looks to the contrary this was quite stable!

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Here is my trusty old left hand holding the Nibbler attachment (linked here at MachineMart where I bought it). In my hand is the handle side, though you can put the handle on either side as it has two heads for some reason (it means I get twice as much use out of each cutting bit, so I’m not going to question it too much).

On the side opposite my hand you ought to be able to see the aperture for cutting, in the dip between the head narrowing and it ending – this can rotate allowing for cutting curves with a mere 12mm radius.

And at the centre you see the hub both heads are driven from – to the rear of which is a hex spindle that fits into a drill chuck. It’s tightened in with a chuck key like any drill bit is, and should be beyond familiar to most of you.

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Here’s the Nibbler attached to the 1050W Wickes Hammer Drill I use. I hold the drill upside-down to cut with, holding in my right hand the handle that mounts the trigger, and in my left hand the nibbler’s handle. It looks cackhanded as anything, but it’s more comfortable and more stable than any other position I’ve cut from. A single-handed drill might work better for handling, but there are caveats.

This drill is variable speed in line with how much pressure is on the switch, which has it’s uses; but you’ll generally want to have the drill running as fast as possible – this decreases the amount of reverb you get from the sheet when cutting with a tool like this – which means straighter, cleaner, and less exhausting cutting. It’s also just… you know, faster.

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Here is a picturesque snap of one spaulder mostly cut – that should give you an idea of how this thing handles curves. I could have managed still cleaner lines (the keen-eyed will see it’s not quite perfect) but I’ve not cut in some time, and stubbornly carried on cutting even when my elbow jammed the window next to me.

Tip: always set up with enough area to work in 360 degrees around your workbench if possible – this helps with not screwing up cuts by elbowing glass panes(!), and saves you time as you won’t need to declamp, rotate and reclamp the piece so much.

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This is the same spaulder cut out, though with a little bit more left to come off it. You may find it’s easier to just the pieces roughly out of the sheet and then work on finely cutting your lines – not having a massive sheet of steel to manoeuvre around makes things easier.

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Here is the sheet with all of the plates cut roughly from it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are 5 of the 6 lames waiting to be cut out in a ‘fine’ way. You can see how much less there is to work around as opposed to with the big sheet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are all the pieces cut out and laid out. Pretty much as they should be. A good jigsaw would probably cut better, but I don’t have a good jigsaw for this purpose. Based on research you need something with a very high wattage – with an underpowered jigsaw I find a load of the potential cutting energy gets dumped into the sheet and the sheet reverbs like crazy. Oh, and it takes all day.

Time is a good tangent to to go off on here. I cut all these pieces at – for me – a leisurely pace across one hour (don’t confuse pace with effort). When trying to cut a broadly equivalent amount in the past with a 350W jigsaw it took over 2 hours of non-stop to cut two-thirds of the plates, at which point I had to stop for the day because of the summer heat at the time.

Now, let’s talk cleanup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are the ‘nibbles’ the nibbler spits out. They are insidious, implacable foes, and will stop at nothing to embed themselves in your boots and get all around your carpet if you let them. I said before that they were more manageable than iron filings – this is true, but relative. It’s like comparing sawdust and sand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a close-up of maybe a twentieth of the cutting sheet after I’d finished. Yes, they are like inert steel locusts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe resolution is relatively low here, but you should be able to see the amount of spotty grey among the larger scraps. There are tens of thousands of them, and without good measures they will go everywhere. A sheet is a good measure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere the sheet fails I use a chain of Buckyballs – just drag them around until they’re covered in nibbles, then pull the worst off into a container and start over. A larger rare earth magnet would do the job better, an electromagnet better still – but I make do with what I have. Prevention is better, as you’d probably guess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI cleared enough nibbles to fill this mug around about to the cat’s backside. If only I had a use for them…

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And for no particular reason, here is George, a very handsome white pigeon who frequents our garden.

So, yes, a good day of cutting come to an end. The next post will probably see me tidying up those plates with a bench grinder, and after that we’ll get to a detailed run-through of a dishing process. I also have a fabulously shiny polishing and planishing hammer to introduce at some point…

 

 

 

 

So, the weather is glorious today, I have all this week’s serious and nasty things out of the way… which means it’s cutting day!

I’m heading off to set up the Workmate in a few minutes, but thought I’d upload some photos and a few comments on patterning things to steel first. I could have done one big post for the day, but I’m not sure that’s good for the blog or for me – nicer to break it down into bite-size chunks.

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Here, resting on my canary yellow sofa and a footstool, is the piece of steel I am planning to carve up. I have two more (slightly larger sheets) where that came from, and what you see here is probably about £12-worth. The size won’t be that clear, so for reference it’s around 38″ x 33″ (96.5cm x 93.2cm). Must stay in the habit of converting for you, mustn’t I?

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Here is a look at the back end of the sheet where I’ve patterned for my splint rerebraces and vambraces. I will probably be redrawing these though. I’ve found that while it spares metal to pattern like this, it’s not conducive to a good end product.

I’ll take the time to draw the plates out as they’ll be arranged in the end on their leather shells – i.e. plates 1-9 laid out adjoining one another in that order with all their top ends up, and all their bottom ends down. It’s faster to pattern that way, faster to cut that way, you get better cuts, and plates that you know will adjoin each other well. It may waste metal, but metal is cheap, and scraps are useful.

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Here is the first knee cop drawn to steel with Sharpie, and the second one about to be drawn – the pattern held down and relatively flush with some iron weights I have around the house. The knee cop pattern, I forgot to say in my previous post, is drawn on wallpaper lining. In many ways this is your best patterning material, as…

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…the fabric patterning paper used here for the spaulders has a poor edge to draw against to begin with, and ink does nothing to shore it up. It’s too soft and flyaway, it wears out, and generally piss-poor as a basis for a reusable pattern because of these things. I had it to use up, so I used it up. I’ll keep the pattern for reference, but I’ll have to redraw it on sturdier material if I need to draw the pattern to steel again in future.

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Here I’m starting to set the lames down – their straight edges butted. I’ll mention now that when you’re cutting with something like a nibbler, you lose material. It doesn’t cut a hairline like a jigsaw might, rather it eats away a channel. When working with a tool like that you have to keep in mind where on your pattern lines you cut. You can cut on the inside of them, the outside of them, or on them – all these work fine. But you have to be consistent in which one you use if you don’t want to find one plate 2mm narrower than the others, say.

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Here is the whole lot patterned. Two knee cops, two spaulders, six lames.

I’m off out to the Workmate now. Look forward to pictures of new (to you) and wonderful tools and some tidy new blanks.

Yes, I got to patterning today! I’d thought I’d be up to this later in the week, but with the weather forecast looking dire for the week I want to be sure I’m ready to cut as and when the ominous clouds part across these fair isles.

In addition to getting some simple knee cops patterned I have also patterned for a spaulder and lame for my shoulders.

I’ve found generally that it’s easy to find patterns, but hard to determine exactly what measurements go into them. A lot of smiths work to one-size-fits-all patterns, but I’ve always felt uneasy not knowing the numbers that get crunched into them. And so I’m actually going to break my patterning down into that, in the hope it proves useful to someone sometime.

For the knee cop I worked from the basis of my articulated knee blank, seen below on patterning paper, alongside the beginnings of the new pattern.

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I took the centrelines from the articulated pattern (for reference, the formula for that can be found linked in my previous post) and added an inch vertically and removed an inch horizontally to give me a 6.5″ by 11″ cross. The added inch to account for the knee needing to be deeper if not articulated, the subtracted inch to accommodate the articulated blank having proved slightly too large. These are educated but mostly intuitive changes to measurements on my part and may prove not-quite-right. I have good feelings though!

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Next I drew the line you see top left between the two centrelines – and it’s the most appropriate curve you see there. This was then folded four ways and cut out. The line didn’t come out perfectly mirrored on the other three sides though – which is why I cleared it up a bit:

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Believe it or not the pattern shown in the photo above is actually reasonably symmetrical – though it looks (frustratingly) left-heavy that is because the paper isn’t laying perfectly flat and I couldn’t be bothered going to get weights to pin it.

Next came spaulder patterning. I used a Sinric pattern from Armour Archive as my basis, replicating the rough look of his pattern using what I believe (read: ‘hope’) are the appropriate measurements.

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  • Measurement 1 is a measurement taken from where my gorget stops covering me, to just past where the leather I’ve patterned for my rerebraces will stop (i.e. it overlaps the next piece of armour slightly). It measures 5 inches.
  • Measurement ‘2’ is measured around my shoulder from front to back, and is 8 inches.
  • Measurement ‘3’ is 1.75 inches and is simply there to help me get the curve between 1 and 4 looking good. It’s also used later to measure the lames.
  • Measurement ‘4’ adds a 0.25 inch extension to the vertical centreline which I then use to form a very slight curve that proves relevant when you’re dishing (I’ll detail that when I *do* the dishing.
  • Line ‘5’ is a remarkably well-drawn (for me) freehand line forming the curve between 1 and 3.

The pattern was then cut out, folded, and cut into symmetry.

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Again, it would look more symmetrical if the edge wasn’t peaking up!

Next came the lame pattern – three or four of which will articulate down from the spaulder plate, and the last of which will be pointed (laced) on to the rerebrace.

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This was the first attempt at drawing the lame, and all the right lines are there… just… not necessarily in the right positions.

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Here is the original lame (above) in contrast to the fixed lame, which measures as follows:

Breaking down the measurements (and ignoring the squiggled out ‘bad’ line):

  • The breadth along the bottom is the same as the spaulder plate – 8 inches.
  • The invisible vertical centreline is the same as the line I used to assist with the curvature of the spaulder (‘3′) and is 1.75 inches.
  • The vertical ‘edge’ line is 1 inch.
  • The top curve was drawn freehand and is mirrored in the same fold-and-cut way as the other patterns.

And here we can see the spaulder, ‘bad’ lame and ‘fixed’ lame all in contrast:

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Weather permitting, I’ll be Sharpie-ing these on to steel in the next couple of days, and taking them off outside to be cut. If I can find a helper elf to take photos of me, then you get to enjoy some action shots of the nibbler – which is probably the best way to show off power tools and how they work, right?

In the coming week I’m hoping to put enough time aside to turn out some simple (read: non-articulated) knee cops – probably patterning, cutting, and shaping across two or three days. I’ll be keeping pretty close photos of each step on that occasion, but for now I thought I’d run through the process behind the articulated knees – flaws and all.

Material

The material I’m working with is simple 16 gauge cold-rolled steel from a local fabricator. Cheap, no-frills metal that is easy to work because of its low carbon content, but needs to be work-hardened if you don’t want it denting once it’s where you want.

Pattern

In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel I dug up a pattern from Armour Archive (http://bit.ly/GMMgmC) that forms articulated knees from a central ‘cop’/’poleyn’ from four ‘lames’ articulate – two up, two down. The pattern is all derived mathematically from the basis of one measurement (the ‘A’ measurement) taken horizontally around the knee from the creases that form either side of the joint when you crouch – it scales easily because of that, and is an easy pattern in general.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArticulated knee ‘blank’

Cutting

After the pattern had been drawn up and tweaked I drew it up on steel with a Sharpie (which, of all my tools, is the one most wont to make me curse by getting itself lost) and mounted the sheet of steel on my trusty Black & Decker Workmate with G-Clamps.

To cut, I use a Clarke Nibbler attachment for a drill – for any unfamiliar with nibblers, they function like machine-driven hole-punches for metal. They leave remarkably clean edges (once you’re used to the kick they have), can cut very tight curves, are safe as houses compared to angle grinders, and leave very manageable mess. That last bit is crucial for me as, having dogs and cats in the house, I have to be very careful about where iron filings from my work go – to the point of having to set up an enclosure to capture sparks and filings. Having to erect a temporary structure every time you want to grind gets to be a bit of a hassle, hence nibbler.

The cut blanks had a number of burrs and a couple of nicks where either I lost control of the nibbler for a second, or where the edge I was cutting against was imperfect – the former should stop being an issue with a bit more experience, and the latter won’t happen after I take the time to plane the edges of the Workmate a bit. These nicks and burrs I’d planned to remove with a Black & Decker bench grinder for the broad strokes, and my rotary tool (a Clarke CRT-40 with a tungsten carbide burr bit) for finer work in nooks and crannies. Of course, as I’ve said, I ended up opting to skip that step and get to bashing the metal.

Hammering

With any luck you haven’t been waiting for me to get to this bit of the post as I was waiting to get to it in real life. Yes, hammer work! Actual blacksmithing!

I positioned the blank with its centre roughly over the centre of the stump dish and brought the hammer down there. It gave immediately, denting hugely. I brought the hammer down in succession in a spiral working outward from the first ‘dent’ and within 10 blows the piece was dished at the centre, conforming to the stump’s dish. The edges of the piece had crimped a little here and there so I hammered these out against the dish.

I then turned the piece in the dish so that one side and then the other were in the centre of the dish, and dished each successively – taking crimps out as I went.

After all this I took the piece and put it over my knee to gauge fit, and found it actually had a little too much curvature on the horizontal axis, so I bent the edges outwards; the steel was soft enough to allow that with bare hands at that point, ahead of it becoming work-hardened.

The fit at that point was very close. I worked to enhance the dish on the piece by finding areas on the stump dish that would give a tighter curvature, and hammering the relevant areas of the piece into them. This meant having to bend the sides outwards again here and there to prevent it becoming too tight at the sides again, as before.

At this point I started to find that the piece was becoming work-hardened, and that the ‘fan’ intended to guard the outside leg of the cop’s wearer was getting in the way of my hammering the opposing side. I figured that I’d need a positive form such as a ball stake to get any more curvature, and to get to the area occluded by the fan. In line with that I opted to stop and feel very smug over a lager whilst starting this blog.

The next steps would be finding an improvised stake to work against and finishing the curves on that before also using it to planish. I’m told that trailer hitches for cars are very good improvised stakes, and have plans to acquire one from a scrap yard. I also need to but a planishing hammer. These two members of my tool box I hope to introduce very soon.

Flaws

Yes, it’s that time. Why have I opted not to finish this project now?

I mentioned that the pattern I was working from was very easy, and it is. It is also one that I managed to bungle. When patterning on paper I drew a vertical centreline, then drew outward to either side of that by the ‘A’ measurement instead of half the A measurement; so the piece came out at double the size. Compounding this, I didn’t realise how I bungled it until I’d cut the blanks. I’d realised of course that the pattern was too big, but not that I’d doubled. I reduced the pattern with an all-in-one printer to 60% of the original; whereas it needed to be 50%. The two blanks are a bit too large for me as a result, and that’s the larger part of why they won’t be the first pieces I finish. Let that be a cautionary tale.

Also, I’m told that getting the dishing matched on the cops and all four lames is challenging to say the least, which is the second reason I won’t be trying to finish them yet. It’s just a project that will have some pay off at some point, but I need to acknowledge that I don’t have the prerequisite skills to finish them now – and trying to work past that would probably entail ruining some potentially good work.

So, yes, two critical mistakes. I freely admit that I’m terrible when it comes to jumping in at the deep end. I do think it has some redeeming qualities as an approach – jumping in, yes, you make more mistakes; but you also learn from those mistakes.

Better, of course, is to learn from someone else’s mistakes. And that’s a big part of why I’m writing this I think.

I thought orientation would be a good idea for a second post, so more photos, and hopefully a better idea of the things I’m working with – apologies if this is slightly long!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a corner of my coffee-table-level workbench, situated in my lovely warm living room as opposed to out in a shed. Believe it or not this is it relatively tidy; it usually accommodates an ungodly number of unfinished projects. You can see paper and cloth patterns and the odds and sods that entail sewing a cotehardie and embroidering a cote, and my camera’s charge/sync cable you can see there too. Usually there is a mostly-finished riveted flat ring chainmail aventail, the blanks for the knees, and the leather shells for the splint armour I’ll be making in time (once I’ve made plate knees and elbows).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here is my lovely stump, nestled in amongst flower pots, slabs, and other garden tat. And propped up on some bricks and crazy paving because I’m still too scared of the chainsaw I own to actually cut it’s bottom flat.

I do a good deal of work on my stone patio as well, but as the ancient Black & Decker workmate I have isn’t actually set up at the moment, well… there’s nothing to photograph. Maybe some tat and some potted live herbs. At best.

To what tools I currently have… there are a lot of power tools I’ll introduce in time, but the big two players for now are just stump and hammer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is one close-up of stump’s dish – the adjacent pile of wood chips is what I excavated from the dish you can see, and that sits in the first failed dish. The first dish I’d tried burning and bludgeoning before trying to chisel, and by that point it was quite unchiselable. Thankfully there was room for a second attempt, and the wood doesn’t seem inclined to split despite having 1.5 dishes in its face – it remarkably hard wood, and looks something like the (live and quite fertile) cherry tree next door to it. Cherry remains my best guess for now, though I have my doubts.

Now, the actual dish, as you should be able to see, is far from smooth. It still has one hell of a lot of chisel marks, a bit that seems almost rotten, and it’s not symmetrical by any measure – one side is much steeper, the other shallower. I realised working the plates that these were almost non-issues though. The wood has left negligible marks on the steel of the cops, and has actually smoothed from having had metal worked in it (and smoothed faster than sandpaper was working). The biggest thing I’ve found is that an asymmetrical bowl seems actually advantageous, giving you a greater variety of curves you can beat the metal into.

I really hasten to add that these are things I think I’ve discerned so far. I’ll be a bit squirrelly about proclaiming my word as fact until I’ve learned more and verified what I think I know.

Now, to my hammer:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it me or does it look oddly expressive here? Almost like it’s cocking its head or arching an eyebrow. That’s its ball peen head, which I’d say is just a little too good at dishing from I’ve seen on other peoples work – it seems to leave dent-like dishes that I imagine make for a lot more planishing work down the line.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a head-on look at the dome face I started to work on a long time ago, and have not yet finished. It’s a functional hammer, but it does leave marks if you don’t hit very head on. And I’d imagine it would dish better if I finished doming it with my bench grinder. Which I will do in good time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a shot that gives a little more perspective. You can clearly see that the flat is a circle, thanks to the reflected light. What I need to do in finishing the doming is to mark a dot at the centre of that circle with a Sharpie, and draw around the circumference of the head around an inch back from the flat face, then grind away what’s between the dot and the line in a ’rounded way’ if that makes sense. Then I polish with coarse wet and dry, them medium, then fine, then finer, then Autosol and a bit of rag. In the end it should gleam. At that point it will dish much better, and it won’t leave really any marks on the steel. I will take care of that in time, but for now I’m having fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here it is from afar. It is/was a 3lb (possibly 3.5lb, I forget) Silverline Ball-peen, and was £5 from X-Tools if I recall rightly, with free p&p. This trumped buying a domed farrier’s hammer for £90 from a specialist I’d found.

So, yes, that’s it for introductions for now – if only because this feels like it will have been a lot for you to have taken in as is. But I will introduce other tools in time; ones I’ve used before, and ones I’ve bought and not used yet. The list includes:

  • A Black & Decker Workmate.
  • A Black & Decker Bench Grinder.
  • A Clarke 4.5″ angle grinder (with a handful of cutting, grinding, and sanding discs)
  • A Clarke Nibbler attachment for…
  • A Wickes Hammer Drill (and various bits of course).
  • A rotary tool of a mysterious brand I can’t remember.
  • And MORE! (mostly hand tools)

And now, the blogging forecast.

So, in posts to come I’m planning run through what I did to that knee cop to get it to the stage at which it is now, what’s wrong with it, and what happens next with it (which may be a little anticlimactic…).

At some point in the near future, I have plans to cut blanks for some pauldrons; which will probably be the first plate project I finish – and hopefully the first one I detail here from start to finish.

I may also post about my aventail when I decide to start finishing it.

may diversify what I post here, to account for the fact that I do a lot of medieval tailoring and cookery – but I may equally so make other blogs and just link them all. We shall see…

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