Historical reference for inlays in armor?
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Historical reference for inlays in armor?
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Posted on Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:42 pm
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Hi all. I did some (admittedly shallow) searches for historical reference of inlays in mail armor, and unsurprisingly didn't find any. Granted, limited plating and anodizing abilities in the olden days, but there were still different metal being used.

Does anyone know of any historical reference (pre 1600s) for inlays?

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Posted on Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:52 pm
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Hello and welcome.

Historically, mail was used as armor, and making an inlay on an actual armor is both pointless (regarding protection) and counter-productive (regarding inlay quality).

Sure anyone can make inlays with iron, brass, bronze and copper, but it limits the colors to grey, yellow and orange.
An obvious inlay choice for an actual armor would be the owner's coat of arms :
Problem #1: I don't think any coat of arms use only those colors (beside the Jerusalem cross, any only if you accept grey as white/silver), since putting two metallic colors together is ruled out by heraldic customs.
Problem #2: A more sensible way to wear a coat of arms or anything would be to embroidery it on a tabard. Not only you can use any color you want, but you can also use any shape and level of details you want.
Or/and having it painted on your shield, with the same benefits.

In conclusion:
With limited choices and much better alternatives, historical mail inlays would most probably be extremely rare, if anything at all.


however, I do remember having seen two old inlays:
- a dress/mantle with gold trimming.
Edit: There it is: full view, mantle, closer
- a butted mail with arabic(?) text, looking like it has been eaten by "metal moths" (certainly not an actual armor, and might not be historical).

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Posted on Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:43 pm
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its my understanding that the metal they used was not rust proof so they coated the maille in a black rust protecting resin. an inlay would not be visible under the rust protection. so if you want something that looks period spray paint it black.

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Posted on Wed Apr 20, 2016 1:11 am
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I read that one of the squire's duties was to periodically put the chain maille armor into a barrel with oiled sand & roll it around for a while to polish the rust off.


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Posted on Wed Apr 20, 2016 3:26 am
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There are a few notable medieval Islamic chainmail pieces with scripture worth looking at, fine link and real works of art.

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Posted on Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:11 pm
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djgm wrote:
its my understanding that the metal they used was not rust proof so they coated the maille in a black rust protecting resin. an inlay would not be visible under the rust protection. so if you want something that looks period spray paint it black.


Wonder where you got that understanding? Mail in wear polishes itself. That means protective coatings of all low-tech descriptions speedily wear off. Not to put too fine a point on it, on several counts your source was talking out his ass.

Very pure iron corrodes slowly, but the wire therefrom is also brittle and soft.

Low carbon steel wire or wire of very refined wrought-iron does rust, and quicker too -- yet steel mail has a working life of a century or better if stored dry, and a dry shelf life of roughly six hundred years for staying in recognizable shape. This adds up to about nil operational need for anything more for field care than a wipe with an oily rag. And for stowage only a little more as long as you can keep the mail dry enough, and bundle it up in more oiled cloth if you're not hanging the mail piece up anywhere.

For OP's question, mail in the mail era of Europe was very sparsely decorated -- running one to several rows of brass links along some or all of the hems, sleeve ends, and neckholes was really about it. Mail in Europe was otherwise a fabric of war, and about as commonplace as parkerized guns in the middle twentieth century's wars. All business, that is to say.

Get round to India and you find not so much "inlay" as allover patterns of links of contrasting metals woven into the iron fabric. The exact intended use of mail that ornate is not well understood: parade armor? -- defensive armament? Nobody's much saying. The last examples made of the stuff were well into the gunpowder era, and even the best mail is hopeless against bullets.

As lostie said, decoratively stamped links within the mail were more the ornamental thing, and such could be found as far north as Great Russia, during its post-Tatar-invasion centuries when Russian arms and armor gradually quit looking post-Viking and increasingly looked Turkish or Steppes style. They often term such mail "coined links," and searches on that ought to be productive of historical examples.

Inserting something pictorial in any shape intended to be visible into a shirt or other mail piece is strictly of the modern era. Nothing to do with history as we know it. Apart from that, it's fun.


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Posted on Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:58 pm
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While I don't know the speed of galvanic corrosion, I would think that mixing iron with brass or copper would not be good for armor that you want to survive.


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Posted on Thu Apr 21, 2016 2:10 pm
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I know that even with rust-killer spray coatings, no one brazes in patch panels for car body repair. Dissimilar metals (the brazing rod & the steel fender & patch) corrode even though sealed away from air & moisture in just a few years. Zlosk is quite correct in his assumption.


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Posted on Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:16 pm
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I agree with what others said: most maille was worn with a tabard over it (or some other covering--historic examples of maille put between layers of cloth exist), so designing an inlay would be pretty pointless.

I do recall seeing plate armor in the Austrian Imperial armory that was designed, not for battle, but rather for parties--the one that sticks out in my mind was the one made to look like a woman in a dress (intended to be worn by a rather large man). Obviously not intended for battle. It's not impossible that something similar could have been done in the era of maille armor, but I've seen no evidence of it in European armor at least.

djgm:
Quote:
its my understanding that the metal they used was not rust proof so they coated the maille in a black rust protecting resin.


Are you talking about Japanese armor? In that case, yeah, examples of lacquered maille exist. Of course, they typically used a lot less maille in their armor than Europeans, preferring to use it to attach plates while Western cultures made whole outfits out of rings.

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Posted on Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:17 pm
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This may clarify. Third page of an old, then revived, Armour Archive thread on tumbling and cleaning mail. Note the several times that just tumbling the mail about is mentioned as a successful polisher.

http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=153535&start=70

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Posted on Sun Apr 24, 2016 5:11 am
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Thanks all, just some edging it is. Tabard was planned anyway, so that that works out nicely.

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Posted on Mon Apr 25, 2016 6:23 pm
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With the hauberk, a complete -- and very drapey -- surcoat. A tabard is actually a different and particular garment.

Fortunately for the newb stitcher, surcoats are really no more difficult than a pop-top belted at the waist. The one bit that is actually tailored in the simpler sort of surcoat is that the shoulder seams should slant, to follow the shape of your shoulders, sloping downwards and not going straight out. The armholes are vast, reaching to the cinch belt or cord -- basically, the sides of the torso between top of shoulder and waistline are not sewn together. Things don't join until the sides of the skirts, which may reach to the ankles or stop rather higher.


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