Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hi, Kids.
Just a bit of a change in topic, although not really, this time. I'm going to talk about Medieval arming gambesons and mail voiders.

To begin with, this is not in any way an historical research document. It is an attempt to bring a bit of historical accuracy to Live Action Role Play and armor creation. I have played, in one form or another, LARPs since the late 1980s in the United States. Some of these were a tad more realistic than others but all relied heavily on the game and armor statistics first found in Gary Gygax's D&D role playing game.

I started out in the LARPing world wearing a T-Tunic, wrap pants, moccasins, and a gambason made of a moving blanket. Slowly I built up my armor levels much the same way my D&D character built up his until currently I am 'plated out' with a mix of fantasy armor roughly depicting an 'English' Man at Arms during the War of the Roses, circa 1450-1480.
By about 1420, complete suits of plate armour had been developed. A full suit of plate armor would have consisted of a helmet, a  gorget  (or bevor),  pauldrons , besagews,  rondels,  couters,  vambraces, gauntlets, a cuirass (back and breastplate) with a fauld, tassets and a culet, a mail  skirt,  cuisses, poleyns, greaves, and sabatons.

What I have put together for LARP is not a complete suit of plates as this is overkill for most LARP game systems. This particular 'impression' is for the game at Biccoline where armor points are minimum and it is a simple "If's it's covered it counts" system.

I knew that I wanted to do a Heavy Infantry impression as that is where my persona is. For Biccoline, fighting in the shield wall as a spearman, this means as much protection as I can get on my upper body while allowing movement to respond to the tactical situation. This article focuses on the bottom layer of the armor with the thought that if enough people enjoy it I can continue to write about the rest of the impression.

The base layer of clothing worn is the shirt, hosen and shoes. For the game during combat I am wearing pants and ankle supporting boots and then a linen shirt. Out of combat the joined hose is worn with turn shoes and shirt under doublet.

The first piece of 'armor' is the arming doublet. This is a padded garment worn under metal armor. I have chosen to use Epic Armory's Imperial Gambeson as the starting point.
This is a very nice garment and has a great historic look to it. It has various arming points all over it. The sleeves are laced on in the event I want to remove them due to heat. It is machine washable and although it comes in black I did choose to purchase the tan version. This had more to do with the issue of heat than aesthetics.

The next step is to reinforce the gambeson to support the plate armor worn above it. This was done earlier in the 15th century with a mail shirt and later with patches of mail stitched to the gambeson to fill in the voids for armor protection.

In Dr. Tobias Capwell's book, "The Armour of the English Knight; 1400-1450" he discusses the need for this as weapon and armor advances has reduced the danger to the knight except in those areas needing articulation, in specific, the interior articulation points of the inner elbows, behind the knees and under the arms. Here the plate cannot cover and still provide movement that the knight needs to fight.

I have chosen to stitch the mail onto the gambeson with heavy waxed thread usually used to stitch leather together.
I laid out the gambeson on the table and them placed the mail voider into position, straightening out the mail and pinning it into place. Then, with a simple whip stitch, began to sew the mail down.
I attached the mail through the solid rings rather than the riveted rings for strength. The sewing went fast and soon I was at the elbow point.
For cost and for weight I did choose to use riveted aluminum chain mail purchased from Kult of Athena. I third reason was that if I totally screwed this up or I didn't like the outcome I would only be out a few dollars rather than several hundred. Also because this is LARP and not live steel, blunted steel or SCA stick fighting the lighter aluminum would serve its purpose (1 point of armor) as no one would be able to stick a latex bullock dagger through my armpit being so protected. Sure- it isn't 100% authentic but then again I could get killed by a fireball...
The aluminum mail did need to be cleaned first and I washed it in a solution of soap and bleach and dried off with a towel. It's still shiny but it won't rust and it looks good with the rest of the armor.
The mail skirt is mild steel and the standard, the neck collar protective armor, is of the same type of aluminum riveted mail as the voiders.
As I sewed I noticed the voiders went almost down to the wrist covering the bottom part of the sleeve. The plate arms will cover most of this lower area and the mail would be redundant.
At this point I decided to cut the mail off above the elbow as the rest of the mail would be used in another section.
This shorter mail covers the armpit area completely.
Now stitched onto the gambeson I placed in onto my armor rack to see how it looked.
I was surprised at how good it looked.

 I then placed the rest of the armor on in order to get an idea how it all fit together.
As you can see the void left in the elbow will need to be covered in the remaining mail peice to provide protection. The standard protects the neck and throat and could be reenforced with a bevor.
All in all I am very pleased with this project so far. 

The armor has been acquired over the last two years, usually as items came up for sale. The total shown above is the current prices of the items used.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to drop me a PM.



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