Researching and Commissioning a New Arm Harness

Featured Image for the article Researching and Commissioning a New Arm Harness on the medieval living history and reenactment resource website The Turnip of Terror.

– 24 minute read, 4,800 words

As I design my dream armor and the elements I want to appear in it, as I suspect everyone does, I have dived into researching the armor, its components, and its features. Before I go further it is important to acknowledge the motivations behind a project such as this. If we, as medieval enthusiasts doing living history and reenactment are going to sink years of our lives in research and development and spend thousands of dollars on solid-steel dress up, we owe it to ourselves not to lose sight of the “why” behind doing it. A resounding love for history and interpreting it is my fundamental motivation to do reenactment and living history generally, and a variety of periods catch my interest. I got my start in 19th-century maritime living history, but I’ve also dabbled in and had exposure to SCA style medieval, 18th century British Fusiliers, WWI, and 16th-century colonialists.

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Settling vs. Good Enough for Now

Featured Image for the Settling vs. Good Enough for Now Article on the medieval reenactment and living history resource website The Turnip of Terror

In the pursuit of a high-quality commoner impression of an authentic, accurate, and gossip-worthy yeoman it is conservative to say one could spend many thousands of dollars to achieve the look, fit, and feel desired. From there it spirals when one looks into the costs of equipping one’s self in the martial accouterments of well-equipped archer or man at arms. Even barring the idea of filling up an entire encampment if one then looks into a minor gentry or even noble impression and the costs of custom harnesses made my preeminent armorers, horses and their tack, sumptuous soft kit with all the fur-trimmed and gilded extravagances imaginable the sum of tens of thousands of dollars can be spent in the reenactment of medieval living history. Some never spend this much. Few drop this much cash from the start. For most this is an investment accruing in smaller purchases over a lifetime of enjoyment in the hobby. Which means for most of us purchase decisions are either long saved for items, concessions, or placeholders for future upgrades. This article addresses the latter and to some extent its preceding, option.

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Cap-a-Pied Test Run – Summer 2017

Featured Image Cap-A-Pei for the Medieval Reenactment and Living History Resource The Turnip of Terror

So I finally got around to doing a test run of my hard kit. This is, sort of, the entirety of what I have as far as armor goes. I have gone in depth in various other places in the Turnip Territories about the goals of my impression, so I’m going to spare my regulars a long rehash. For those tl;dr people who don’t want to catch up, my end game is to portray an English knight of the late fourteenth, early fifteenth century. This trial run was to see if my gambeson worked with my plate to create a sort of, rich peasant or poor man-at-arms. Continue reading “Cap-a-Pied Test Run – Summer 2017”

Polishing Experiment

Polishing elbow cop mirror for the Medieval Reenactment and Living History Resource The Turnip of Terror

On the Armour Archive forums, on armoring blogs, in armor care articles and videos there’s a lot of talk about metal armor maintenance, polishing, and metal surface conditioning. When it comes to getting a finish on armor there’s discussions that range from period techniques with pumice or sand and olive oil, to modern abrasive practices.  Continue reading “Polishing Experiment”

Padding Over Mail

Featured Image Padding Article for the Medieval Reenactment and Living History Resource The Turnip of Terror

I’m a big fan of the “why” behind things. The historical record indicates that quite a bit of quilted/padded clothing was worn over mail. That seems weird to me; putting the padding on over the armor defeats the purpose, right? The gambeson or aketon is, as I understand it, the “foundation” supporting garment, but putting the cut vulnerable cushion over the cut resistant metal sounds like a great way to waste a lot of fustian to little benefit. What can’t be denied is that it did happen; both in visual and written sources; especially in the 12th and 13th centuries when mail was the predominant defense (before plate started to take over.)

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Perception vs. Reality

I love this resource. It’s an analysis of hundreds of effigies all laid out in an easy to read bar graph with bonus explanations as to what the bars on the graphs mean! Mr. Strong, aka “Talbot” really went above and beyond with this. I can’t imagine what it was like to do living history a generation ago before all this easy to access statistical data. I don’t even want to imagine. There are plenty in the community who lived through it, and I tip my hat to them. It’s like going through school without Google, or working at night without electricity*, or existing before the wheel: people did it; I’m just glad I don’t have to. While I’m focusing specifically on an English portrayal, the root site does provide data on other cultures as well as all recorded effigies combined. Pretty slick. Again, all the kudos to Talbot.

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General Research

My goal, as everyone’s goal should be, is to put together not only a rockin-sauce awesome suit of armor that would honor my ancestors; but to put together a suit of armor that is an accurate representation of the time period we are interpreting. That means ensuring that all the items in my kit are coherent and concurrent with themselves, the location, and the time period. The hard part, in general, is defining those perimeters narrowly enough to get some quality research done. I am lucky enough to have most of those things already laid out ahead of me. My ultimate goal is to portray an English gentleman and knight of Cheshire, England; 1396 to 1420. I will be using effigies, manuscripts, artwork, and extant pieces of armor as close to these exact dates and regions as possible, without re-creating any one individual person (more on that in a different post which I’ll link to whenever it’s written.) My primary source at this stage is effigies, at least to create the general feel of what I’m looking for. I think that will make it considerably easier to sift through other visual references and separate artifacts and images that compliment the look I’m going for and not distract from it.

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