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As I prepare to make my first helmet (a spectacled spangenhelm with mail aventail), I have been researching patterns and techniques, and I notice it is exceedingly common, if not virtually universal, for helmet-makers, even those who are sticklers for period accuracy on the design, to use modern welding, particularly to join halves of a dome. 

Am I missing something? Did medieval armorers have TIG and MIG welders?

Clearly they didn't, and while forge welding was a common general smithing technique, it doesn't seem appropriate for helm construction. Therefore, I am left to surmise that period helmet domes probably were either of one-piece construction (a serious exercise in dishing), or simply riveted. If riveted, I wonder if the crest joint was overlapped or were the two halves simply butted and joined by riveting them independently to the strip of steel that would follow the crest of the helm. 

I'd pose this over at armour archives, but their forums seem to be down, and this has been bugging me long enough that I feel the need to ask the question. 

What question is that? Well in addition to those raised above, I just have to wonder why welding is so commonly practiced in helmet construction when it is clearly not an accurate historical construction technique?

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How many helmets do you see being made from real wrought iron?  I've seen *1* in 39 years of being in the SCA. Mild Steel dates to the mid 19th century with the Bessemer/Kelly process so you are already totally ahistorical using it.   Armour was generally hot worked so most modern armour work done cold with uniform thickness metal is ahistorical.

Basically most folks are only interested in how the item looks on the surface as far as authenticity. Trying to figure out how things Were Done by how they are done know is like trying to push modern medical treatments to the medieval period.  It just didn't happen that way.

So may I commend to your attention "The Knight and the Blast Furnace" as the best *modern* book on the Metallurgy of Armour.

And why would you assume that things like the sugarloaf helms were dished rather than raised? (as dishing thins the metal and raising can do it all; thicken, thin or leave the same)

Things like a comb morion I have seen some reference to forge welding and even brazing!

Considering that to just make the plates to be forged into armour would require repeated forge welding, (which was nicely shown in in the recent NOVA program!) not using it later in the process would be a puzzlement.

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15 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

So may I commend to your attention "The Knight and the Blast Furnace" as the best *modern* book on the Metallurgy of Armour.

Funny you should mention; look what just came by InterLibrary Loan!

IMG_3586.JPG

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I'm not suggesting that there isn't plenty of anachronism in modern attempts to "replicate" medieval armoring. To suggest otherwise would be like saying we should work in a shop without electricity. 

If course we work with the materials we have, and modern steel is very different (better, more consistent) than medieval steel. 

I also understand there a point at which it is significantly more efficient to use modern techniques like welding than traditional techniques.

That said, there are a great many smiths who seem to go to great lengths to use historical methods where possible, except where domed helms come into play. I know smiths that use only coal forges and hand tools - no power tools, etc - I'm sure you do too. But I haven't seen a single template or pattern that doesn't use modern welding to put domes together. I'm not knocking anyone for their choice of techniques, I just find it curious that in a field where so many practitioners are sticklers for the APPEARANCE of historical accuracy (armoring), why there isn't more attempt to build helmets using the historical methods. 

So my curiosity is in how DID they do it historically? Knowing this might answer my question as to why nobody does it  maybe welding is just so much simpler that it's not even worth doing it the "old way".

 

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They were generally not using coal forges to make armour in medieval and renaissance times. Please try to check your preconceptions at the door and do the research! (Like what is the effect on steel of the sulfur in coal)

Real wrought iron is MUCH easier to forge weld than modern steels. It tolerates higher heats well. Many blacksmiths avoid forge welding wherever possible nowadays where it would have been the common method back in real wrought iron days.

Most patterns were developed for people using modern techniques as that is where the market was. Shoot most armourers didn't know about real wrought iron a couple of decades ago---I made myself a real pest on a couple of armour forums pointing that out. (Arador and Armourarchive)  Now the knowledge base is there. Are you going to make patterns for the 99% of the armourers working cold out of their garages or the lucky few working hot? (Who probably don't need patterns by that stage...) Unfortunately most people will not pay a couple of hundred dollars extra to buy a helm made using period techniques especially when it may not be as "flashy" as one done with modern ones.

May I suggest you start digging out the sources I have referenced and find out how they did it?  "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" is an easily found and easy read book discussing Medieval Technology.  Are you going to any of the conferences where they discuss this sort of things?  Getting any of the academic Journals? One the Archeological Metallurgy mailing list? Visit museums and learn to see the presence of welds in the patination.  (Much easier if you get permission to go in the back rooms and actually handle stuff---bring your white cotton gloves!) Some small museums may even allow a great deal of latitude IF YOU ASK. I still remember getting permission to lie on the floor and take a picture of the inside of a breast and back on display at a small college museum in Shawnee OK.

A couple of posts on a website is NOT going to cover it all.  You may want to contact the people mentioned in the NOVA program. Asking experts is generally a better idea than asking the world at random. Sources are *everywhere* I was just reading an article by Ann Feuerbach on the Type A  ULFBERHT swords :  ULFBERHT BLADES: NEW ANSWERS TO OLD QUESTIONS that was uploaded to the Academia.edu site---you can register for free as an independent scholar! (Dr Feuerbach's thesis on Crucible steel in Central Asia covering the research she did at Merv was fascinating too. One of the other people here just recently mentioned getting "The Knight and the Blast Furnace" on ILL And to really knock your socks off "Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance: Filippo Negroli and his Contemporaries" The chasing and repousse on their stuff is Awe inspiring!  And they were working with medium carbon steels!

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You make some excellent points and provide some outstanding references. 

Im actually watching the Nova show as we speak. 

I know I have a great deal to learn, and I am nowhere near ready to start being a stickler for traditional technique, but you have to start somewhere, and education via reading and the experience of those who have been there and done that will inform the experience I gain through practice. 

Your comments on the simple economics of the construction practices make sense. I would, however, expect to see more people making the more expensive and more authentic pieces for their own collections. 

Amyway, thanks for the responses. Expect more questions. Armourarchive is using MIRC chat and while I can go back a few centuries in my armor making techniques, I simply can't bring myself to use 15-year old chat technology. 

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Andy Phillips of Oak Hill Iron has been doing a youTube video blog (vlog) every week for over a year now about the business of moving metal. He recently made the point that the amount of traditional forge welding done in a 'modern' shop is inversely proportional to the output. You can do anything you want as research or a hobby, but clients pay the bills in a business setting.

Even making your own pattern welded steel, a mainstay of bladesmiths, slows production waaaayyy down, and makes the item's cost go up proportionally. And they are using welders on the parts that the client never sees: sealing canisters, tacking layers together in billets, attaching billets to rod handles instead of using tongs, etc. And using power hammers and presses, but not by rushlights and oil lamps.

A museum demo is just that, a demonstration of how it used to be, hopefully as historically correct as you can make it. Business is something that runs by efficiency, or it is a very short run.

If you are aiming for that elite 1% clientele to whom money is no object, you are passing up 99% of your potential client base.

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8 hours ago, Cavpilot2k said:

Armourarchive is using MIRC chat and while I can go back a few centuries in my armor making techniques, I simply can't bring myself to use 15-year old chat technology. 

We all have our standards.

2 hours ago, John McPherson said:

If you are aiming for that elite 1% clientele to whom money is no object, you are passing up 99% of your potential client base.

Or as we used to say in the retail business, "Sell to the classes, live with the masses; sell to the masses, live with the classes.

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ON the subject of helmet building though, I did come across an interesting note in one source that said the main reason spangenhelms and their ilk went the way of the dodo (I'm paraphrasing) was that they gave way to the sturdier, superior construction techniques of the one-piece domes, leading me to believe that the domes of period spangenhelms were, in fact, separate pieces connected only by rivets to the framework, and not forge welded or otherwise made into a single piece. 

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Yes spangens were multi-piece construction; there is even "basketwork ones" found in the historical context.  Actually the great helms that came after the spangen helms tended to be multi-piece constructions too. Interesting as a lot of the greek helmets were one piece tops...so the progression is not clear cut.

In Jest: I guess books are out then as their technology is several thousand years old...trying to remember my elfsperanto to get away from this old language too.

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