Hi there, aspiring armorsmith with a few questions.
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Joined: September 02, 2010
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Hi there, aspiring armorsmith with a few questions.
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Posted on Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:50 am
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Greetings.

I'm a nerdcore rapper and music producer residing in Cleveland, Ohio.

I have a passion for making chainmail. I've sold a few sets to my friends. I would like to learn more about becoming an apprentice armorsmith.

My goal is to set up a website, and sell chainmail, breastplates, and the like. I understand that it is a niche market, but I have a serious passion for it.

My problem is that I don't know where to begin. All that google searches lead me to is World of Warcraft armorsmithing sites and guides. This forum was recommended to me by the metal artist forum.

So, I have a few questions ;


What classes do I need to take at university?
Are there any armorsmithing apprenticeship programs that I can join? Also, what amount of experience do I need to be accepted into such a program?
What equipment do I need, and how much does it cost? Making chainmail is relatively inexpensive, I can spend 40 dollars on materials and create a suit that would probably fetch up to $250. I have moderate experience, but only with creating chainmail.

I'd upload an example of my work, but unfortunately my house burned down and I'm currently residing in a hotel courtesy of insurance. And with that, my laptop melted, as did all of my pictures. I have some 16 gauge steel wire and a pair of bolt cutters, so I'll pick up a 5/16ths inch metal dowel and get to work on a new suit and post my progress in this thread. I'm thinking about doing an 8 in 2 weave, but I only have 400 feet of wire left, so I might have to settle for 4 in 1.

Any advice, links, or armorsmithing tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

ck

Joined: May 07, 2008
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Posted on Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:03 am
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Hmm. I can give no advice on study courses or so. But I may tell you that with given wire/mandrel combo your wire length of 400ft will result in shy of 4,000 rings (estimated), what's a 'little bit' too few for making even a byrnie - even using only 4in1 - you will maybe achieve to make a very short tank top with that amount of material. That's no criticism, just a heads-up for you, for avoiding to begin a project with limited amount of raw material, that should maybe finished using material from one batch.

-ZiLi-


Maille Code V2.0 T7.1 R5.6 Ep Fper Mfe.s Ws$ Cpbsw$ G0.3-6.4 I1.0-30.0 N28.25 Pj Dacdejst Xagtw S08 Hi

Human societies are like chain mail.
A single link will be worth nothing.
A chain is of use, but will break at the weakest link.
A weak weave will have the need to replace weak links.
A strong weave will survive even with weak links included.
-'me

Joined: March 27, 2002
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Posted on Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:13 pm || Last edited by Konstantin the Red on Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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Armoring apprenticeship -- the short answer is "no."

In the main, plate-armorers are self taught. A formidable resource, about $40 and change from Amazon, w/free delivery for an order that size, is Techniques Of Medieval Armour Reproduction: the Fourteenth Century, by Brian Price.

Mailshirt makers are also self taught, since the process is slow enough anyway that you can catch and rectify any errors before they could conspire to render the piece useless. Id est, butted mail ain't tough to fix. I highly recommend Trevor Barker's Butted Mail: A Mailmakers' Guide. Hands down this is the best online guide.

In lieu of apprenticeship, what really goes on with armorers is likely to be weekend get-togethers where you learn techniques, or work on a project, some piece of plate armor. In the Society for Creative Anachronism context, this is often building one's first helm. It can be an extremely simple affair, well suited to very amateur and inexperienced metalwork.

Selling plate armor pieces to people who actually use the stuff generally means being in the abovementioned Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA for short. There ain't a great big living in it; nobody gets rich making medieval armor except the Indians, whose idea of 'rich' just might be smaller than yours or mine. In America, most armorsmithing is done on a self-sustaining hobby basis.

Take a good read all over The Armour Archive to get a feel for what's being done and what the state of knowledge is. The movement in mail is now firmly toward riveted stuff for armor. There is still a lot of round-wire butted stuff out there, being made by individuals. But among the armor-jockeys, the market for butted mailshirts is about like the market for used toothbrushes. Indian-made entry-level riveted mail is taking over, bit by bit. It is not, as riveted goes, frightfully expensive. Flat-ring, wedge-riveted circa-1350-1450 mail is the next step up, in both authenticity, particularly to that period in Europe, and in cost. For The Mail Research Society, see the index of http://www.erikds.com/index.php. Major mail scholarship goes on there.

Edited to fix bad link.


'The Minstrel Boy to the War is gone...'

Joined: March 3, 2002
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Location: tres piedras, new mexico

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Posted on Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:19 pm
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i would suggest 1/4" or 9/32" mandrel instead of 5/16" for 16ga wire. it will take a little longer, but you will be more proud of the result.

if you want to learn, make things for children, or stuffed animal gifts.. start small for the first couple, while you get a feel for it. expect a substantial time investment for a shirt to fit you. 50-100 hours depending on what you do and how quickly you get the hang of it, body size, etc.

another bit of advice is to make it first, decide to be a business later. it is very difficult to make any money or any sort of reasonable wage as an armorer. some people on here have managed it, but very few. you gave us some numbers. and you can make a profit, but is it worth your time to make such a small amount? really, the money is in jewelry.

do you have any .mp3s available for d/l?


PSA: remember to stretch.
3.o is fixing everything.

Joined: September 02, 2010
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Posted on Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:30 pm
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Currently keeping my album under wraps, however, you can check out one of my beats.

http://www.tindeck.com/listen/cqov

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Posted on Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:57 am
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<Note> I am in no way, shape or form, an armorer. </Note>
Is your passion for maille, or armor? If you just like making larger pieces, you might get away with clothing as well. It goes together faster and, if you find the right community, you can charge more for it than armor. I've heard of clubbers and fetishists being into this. You may also want to look into fet-circles for ideas of what you'd really be making (A lot of them like outfits, undergarments, even shackles with a bit of weight.) Though you've missed it this year, there's a mailler's gathering called Northeast Maillefest. For learning techniques, that may be a place to look into going. Many of the more knowledgeable maillers end up there at some point or another (From what I've heard, at least) and I'm sure at least one person would be willing to sit down for a few and teach you something. If you're going to try to sell butted maille as armor, you'll likely want to invest in a welder. I've heard that TRL (The ring lord) has a few that are pretty decent, just for welding rings. Otherwise, I have no input here either. Chances are you're not going to find any useful classes, aside from maybe a history class. For plate armor, I've heard that a ball hammer is useful for rounding the plates out. I'd start with a cheap sheet of metal for learning and figure techniques out that way. Chances are, your first several pieces won't be fetching top prices. You may not even be able to sell them until you've practiced quite a bit. Don't get discouraged, it happens. If you're set on learning from someone else (Whose technique won't necessarily work for you) then you may want to look into conventions, renfaires, anywhere you might see something "Fantasy" or "medeval" related. Talk to everyone. Even if it's just someone in a junky costume, chances are they'll at least know someone who knows something. I'd also suggest a 1/4 inch mandrel, it's a nicer look. I personally enjoy 3.x AR(Aspect Ratio) for e-4. If you don't know about AR, read up on it http://mailleartisans.org/search/search.cgi there. As a mailler, you'll need to know AR. And, what kind of steel wire are you using? Not all steels are the same! This is VERY important, especially if you plan on selling something as armor. I'm sorry if I haven't been very helpful, but as I said, I'm not really an armorer, and prefer to do clothing and jewelry. Best of luck, and welcome to the forum! =]

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Posted on Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:12 am
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Konstantin the Red wrote:


Take a good read all over The Armour Archive to get a feel for what's being done and what the state of knowledge is.


Fixed your link.


http://www.mailletec.com

Y'know, that might just be crazy enough to work!

Joined: March 3, 2002
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Re: Hi there, aspiring armorsmith with a few questions.
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Posted on Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:22 am
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ck161elite wrote:

My problem is that I don't know where to begin. All that google searches lead me to is World of Warcraft armorsmithing sites and guides.


There's your first problem, we don't refer to ourselves as armorsmiths, you need better search terms.

People who make armour are just called armourers.

People who make maille specifically are usually called maillers, but that's not really a useful search term either.


http://www.mailletec.com

Y'know, that might just be crazy enough to work!

Joined: July 25, 2008
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Posted on Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:55 am
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going pro is a hard task.
realize you are compeating on a global scale.
Pakistan and India are making 95% of the chainmail armour currently on the market. usualy the other 5 % are high end reproductions or reinactors/larpers clearing out old bits.
I can order and have a full haulburk in flat ring riveted for under 600 and delivery about two weeks unless its on back order.

There is still a market but its very competitive armour in general is more about building a quality reputation for customer service and quality gear then anything else. LARPS's, SCA, and renfair/convention, S&M, and steam punk comunity usualy are looking for small pieces Some have message boards or tradeing areas to move your stuff as you develop your skills.Start networking with other reinactment groups that may expand your market. Often its being known and knowing the right people yeald the larger priced orders.

I would advise learning what you can and persue this as a hobby untill you have a solid busness plan and understanding on production schedual/market value. Untill then learn a trade or skill that will cover your costs and leave you the time to persue your intrests.

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Posted on Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:34 pm
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Lostie's advice is every bit as good as his spelling is terrible. One day I will succeed at getting him to stop writing "hauberk" with an L, which it has not had since about the tenth century. Coif Cool Smiley That being roughly when the last native speaker of Old German finally kicked off...

Lostie, it's "haw-berk," not U-Haul Berk, not in English. And it's U-Haul, not U-Haw.


'The Minstrel Boy to the War is gone...'

Joined: September 26, 2009
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Posted on Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:58 pm
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Quote:
Chances are, your first several pieces won't be fetching top prices. You may not even be able to sell them until you've practiced quite a bit.
If you go the route of working with the SCA a great deal, you may consider donating your first pieces to a local group as loner armor. That stuff is by design and intention crappy looking, with pinch points and other annoying (but not unsafe) angles, articulations, etc., and just in general sub-par. It's supposed to be that way because 1) it encourages people to get their own gear, and 2) it's all donated, so it's been....well-used. Very Happy Any group would gladly take a few pieces of safe armor as loner gear, even if it's not pretty. This won't get you any money, but it'll get your name out as a guy who people can trust, and who looks out for the community. Very important qualities when you're selling yourself as much as the product.

Quote:
another bit of advice is to make it first, decide to be a business later.
This is very good advice as well. If the hobby becomes self-sustaining, great! But you should do it because you love it. Working metal is a labor of love, and always has been. While a blacksmith was one of the more respected members of the community, no one ever portrayed them as particularly rich, even back when everyone went to the blacksmiths.

Quote:
What classes do I need to take at university?
Anything that relates to metalworking. A lot of the same techniques in silversmithing are used in armor making. Same with machining (welding, fabrication, etc).

Quote:
What equipment do I need, and how much does it cost?
Depends. Better equipment yields better results, but for someone just starting out the high-end stuff is WAY too expensive. I'd suggest googling "back yard blacksmith" and the like. Maybe look into the Foxfire Project--some really good information (on EVERYTHING) in those books.

Joined: July 14, 2010
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Posted on Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:32 am
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The Society for Creative Anchronism,s would be your best bet. If you want a teacher. About every place has one of thease groups. Type it in and see where it takes you. Other than that teach yourself I did. I had a full forge and made it all, swords, knifes, armor. You just have to look in your town their should be a group or some one to put you on track. I will warn you it is hell on the body and it takes a lot of time to get were you want to be. If your hearts in it you will be find, but the work it not for the weak at heart. You will hurt and you will bleed.


You are only limited by ones self, for trying is never failure. You may have just hit your limitations.
You can tell some one a 1000 times how to do some thing or show them once and they can do it a 1000 times over.

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Posted on Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:57 pm
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As for specialty equipment it all depends on the project.
The number one piece of equipment is a PC with a reliable internet conection and a webhost for your work. networking with others and look at market prices for the same quality of product will help set prices as well learn from other artisans.

Number two is a library card. Books on armour and history/art can be expencive. Usualy they have decent computers with internet acess.
If your library does not have the books your looking for use interlibrary loan.
Three is a camera to take pictures of your work.

After that it all depends on the project.

leather tools are useless for makeing chainmail
and blacksmithing or bladesmithing are useless for leather work.

Learn quality tools often craigslist, Ebay, and assorted sales can save you a ton.
Crap tools usualy work but they don't last or take longer to do the same job.
Learn to take care of your tools. Just like a rifle the tools work best when clean.
Make sure the tools have a home keeping the shop clean increases production.

The last good point I have is to keep track of everything.

Materials, Tools, Time, Orders, deadlines and comunication.
Find out about small busness or hobby level work and when you need to start declairing income on your taxes or file for a busness licence with insurance.

If you can't deliver the product on schedual be honest with your costomer and give them up dates as you go.

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Posted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 5:35 am
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losthelm wrote:

Learn quality tools often craigslist, Ebay, and assorted sales can save you a ton.
Crap tools usualy work but they don't last or take longer to do the same job.


This is true, but on the other hand the most expensive tools are often just gingerbread. Tools of reasonable quality can be had at reasonable prices. Those $60 pliers just aren't worth it in the same way that buying a bugatti veyron isn't worth it to commute to work.


http://www.mailletec.com

Y'know, that might just be crazy enough to work!

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Posted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 7:05 am
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You can check around at your local flea markets (swap meets, or whatever you call them) as well. I was able to find a working Freedom S dremel there for $25. Which is a massive price difference from a brad new SR (appox. $250-$300).

As other people have stated go to your local library and read, or look things up on the net.

I dont know if anyone has said this yet, but practice in combination with trial and error turn you into a craftsperson. Try looking up what other people use when they make their projects. Many of the people here have their tool lists posted in the articles section under the library. There you will find a lot of information to do with many different subjects from tuts to material comparisons to what tools you need for various projects. I think there is a tut on a plate helm in there somewhere.

Your basic tool list is going to vary from project to project.


we all walk to the same end, no matter what path we follow

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