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I Forge Iron

looking for info on metal thickness


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I have procured an anvil and forge over the past year and have been interested in blacksmithing. But my son would like to start making re-enactment and SCA type armour. What kind of shop space and tool investment just for starting out as a hobby?

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Space wise as much as you can get.. really. You will build up piles of scrape, tools, and random stuff as fast as you can buy it.
As for tools and Equipment here's a list of things I can think of off hand. most of these will cross over to blacksmithing. Now you don't need all this just to start out, but the more you do it the more you will want/need. Get a copy of ToMAR (Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction) this will help a lot!
Safety gear : eys's, ears, gloves, and a blacksmith's apron. Safety First!
Hammer's : various size/weight ball pens, cross pens, Dishing, Planishing, Ball End, Long Head, Raising, Doghead, Slash pen, Raw Hide, Dead Weight, Fuller, Mallets(teardrop,rubber).
Stakes : Raising, Mushroom, Ball, Saddle, Fluting, Kettle, Dogleg(there nice but you can use a normal ball).
Stumps or dishing forms, shot bags.
Rivet seat.
Lead Bar - I use several different sizes, you can also use a shot bag but for some thing's I've found a lead bar works better though. can be used in place of a rivet seat as well.
3 Pin roller's.
Metal cutting/hole making : Beverly shear, and hand shears, aviation shears, tin snips, chisels(cold and hot), hand punches, hole punch(like a leather punch but for metal)
Vice's
Power tools : Drill, Angle Grinder, tabletop belt sander, Buffer. You don't 'need' them but they are nice to have, and make things a lot easier.
Some sort of Wielder and wielding hood, Flux Core wire feed type are fairly easy to learn the basics, and don't require gas. not as good as one with gas shielding, but there cheaper. I use a Autodark hood, but that's preference more than anything.
English Wheel( don't skimp on this one, the cheap one suck and most are not rated for the gauge steals you will be working in)
Duck Tape, you'll know it when you need it.... (tip: you can use it with a piece 1/8 - 1/4th inch of round wire stock to start a flute)
Propane or MAPP gas torch, to heat certain alloys with lots of memory.


You will find over time that you prefer to use some things over others, and may alter some things to fit you needs.
I have found that instead of the common/traditional Dishing hammers, I use a 3lbs sledge hammer with an 4 1/2" industrial ball baring wielded to one end. It's about $50 or more cheaper to make then to buy a traditional dishing hammer which start at around $80, and I think it works better, IMO.
You can make the stakes and chisels to save on cost. like for a ball stake get an industrial ball baring of the size you want for the stake from about 3" and up to like 6" depending on your needs , and wield it to some heavy bar stock.
You can also you just about every hammer, avail stake, etc.. that is used for Auto body work. where do you think the design for these tools came from? But you will want to re-face/polish most of it, but you will most likely have to re-face and polish just about any hammer you get.
For the buffer you want 3/4ths horse power and both cotton and muslin wheels. With rouge grit ranging from 300 up to like 650( I use 350,450,550,650. and ebony rouge when I need more of abrasion) . Blending rouge, and polishing compound. I like the stuff you "paint" on and let dry, less mess and goes farther but cost more. The stick type is less expensive, but messy and needs to be refrigerated or it gets hard and can't use it.
Ummmm that's all I got for the moment, don't forget to check http://www.armourarchive.org/ for tips, patterns, etc.. Also check with your local SCA group and at SCA event's and find a local to you armourer and try and get with them and learn!

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Thanks for the info, I already have a lot of the tools you mentioned. The specialty tools I will have to start shopping for or making. And I will google metal gauge thickness I should be good to go. My son has already started on a set of spaulders.

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Your most welcome. most of the stakes you can make your self, just find some pictures and you should be able to figure it out. I just made a small spoon head stake out of a RR spike and another fluting stake out of the point end of a RR spike, all in about 15 minutes from grinding to polishing. my other fluting stake is a 12" cold steal chisel from the hardware store that I modified. You will use a Ball and Fluting stakes the most.

You should have your son post some pictures of his work, if not here then on Armour Archive. We can give him all the help that can be given over the internet, If he needs it.

Thought if I related about my apprenticeship a little it may help you in some way. I hope it this helps.
When I started my apprenticeship (it was 6 years total), it was a almost 6 months before I started to actually make anything. At first I was learning how care for the tools and what they all where, before even using them. At first it was frustrating not being able to do much more then to hold stuff and catch & fetch, etc.. but after the first few weeks of that I got to learn how to do it. First things I learned to do was rivet, cut, edge, and polish. over time and after a few years when other apprentices came into the shop, I found out why. Because in a shop until you get to that point your a burden, once you learn how to rivet, cut, edge, and polish you become useful. One of the first skills I learn was to round a square bar and square a round bar it seem pointless when your learning it, but later you will see why it's a useful skill. After about the year and a half of hand holding I was give a pile of scrap and a pattern, and was told to make it only asking for help when I got stuck or I knew something was wrong. About 8 hours into the project I figured out the pattern was bad with. It was a sort of test. first was to see if I saw that it was bad, and how it was wrong. Second part was how long it took to figure that out. He said normally his apprentices don't figure it out till they try to put it together. When I got to about the 5th year, I was given the same pattern and a pile of scrap again. when I asked why I already knew the pattern was bad, my master said this time that's not the point. This time I want you to fix it, and make it work anyway. I worked on the piece for almost 2 weeks, with my master chuckling every time he checked my progress, then one afternoon I had a eureka moment and figured out the problem. Also I learn during that if I had stepped back and looked at it from other angles and asked the RIGHT questions I could have fixed it on the 2nd day.... It was exercise in learning that even after years of doing it sometimes you still need help. And the difference between and apprentice and a journeymen is not just what skills you have, and how long you've been doing it. But it's also how you problem solve.

When you get stuck keep in mind the end product and what it's supposed to look like, take a step back (put it down and come back later if you need to) look at it from all angles, compare what you have to what it should be, If you need to ask for help, Did you skip a step? did you do something wrong? maybe it's not wrong you just don't see how it's supposed to go together.

If you need anything just ask! you can send me a PM for help/advice anytime. I know I would have given up if I hadn't done an apprenticeship, and I don't want to see someone give up just because they get stuck and can't find a solution to the problem.

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Note that each re-enactment group will have their own requirements on thickness so you need to ask each group.

Note too that what is required and what is standard usage can be quite different! (I know in the SCA helmets are typically several gauges *thicker* than the minimum requirements!)

Note 3 that true medieval armour was worked a lot *hot* and so thickness is rather an odd measurement as every part may be different in thickness in different places---one plate may have a thicker area where it might be impacted in use and then thinner edges where it will overlap. The front of armour may be quite thick compared to the rear, etc.

Basic tools:
Something to cut sheetmetal with: jig saw, HF shears, B2 BEVERLY SHEARS
Something to make holes in sheetmetal: electric drill, HF punch, WHITNEY PUNCH jr or larger
Something to pound on sheet metal with: various hammers properly dressed, heavy duty rawhide hammers
Something to pound on sheetmetal on: STUMPS, METAL DISHING FORMS, STAKES
Something to smooth cut edges with: good FILES


Flea markets are your friends! Buy most of your hammers for a dollar or two, find good stake making materials, etc.

If you are anywhere near central NM give me a shout and I can load you up with some dishing hammers (I forge them from Ballpeens and RR bolts) and a metal dishing form and a ball for a ball stake.

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Note that each re-enactment group will have their own requirements on thickness so you need to ask each group.

Note too that what is required and what is standard usage can be quite different! (I know in the SCA helmets are typically several gauges *thicker* than the minimum requirements!)

Note 3 that true medieval armour was worked a lot *hot* and so thickness is rather an odd measurement as every part may be different in thickness in different places---one plate may have a thicker area where it might be impacted in use and then thinner edges where it will overlap. The front of armour may be quite thick compared to the rear, etc.

Basic tools:
Something to cut sheetmetal with: jig saw, HF shears, B2 BEVERLY SHEARS
Something to make holes in sheetmetal: electric drill, HF punch, WHITNEY PUNCH jr or larger
Something to pound on sheet metal with: various hammers properly dressed, heavy duty rawhide hammers
Something to pound on sheetmetal on: STUMPS, METAL DISHING FORMS, STAKES
Something to smooth cut edges with: good FILES


Flea markets are your friends! Buy most of your hammers for a dollar or two, find good stake making materials, etc.

If you are anywhere near central NM give me a shout and I can load you up with some dishing hammers (I forge them from Ballpeens and RR bolts) and a metal dishing form and a ball for a ball stake.
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I appreciate all the knowledgable replies received. Hitting the public libraries for historical background.I love history. And attended a local renaissance festival and hooked up with a local SCA group at Jeff City , Mo. I told them I really didn't want to go to get pounded on but I would love to make armour for them.I'll hopefully update you on progress. It is nice to have online mentors.

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I've been in the SCA for 32 years come this fall; *never* fought. Why hit people with sticks when you can hit hot metal!

ToMAR: Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction is a good start; also armourarchive.org and yes they use the pretentious english spelling of armour is the place you should be hanging out! (and yes you will see me over there too)

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