is NOT required for fighting!
Most soldiers and warriors in the middle ages had no body armor, since
that was a very expensive commodity. The vast majority of men
to war with a spear and a shield, and thought nothing of it.
are numerous examples of laws requiring men eligible for military duty
with spear and shield, and many contemporary illustrations show
equipped in that way.
Armor was worn by the wealthy and by their retainers, and the most common armor of the time was mail. Also known today as maille or chainmail, it is made of thousands of interlinked iron rings, forming a completely flexible metal fabric. Typically, half the links in a shirt of mail (hauberk or byrnie) were solid (either punched from sheet iron or wound from wire and forge-welded shut) while the rest were riveted shut with a tiny rivet. That's what made it so expensive that only the upper classes could afford it. In about the 13th century, mail began to be made with all riveted rings.
Most modern reproduction mail is made from regular steel wire (16-gauge being typical), and the rings simply butted shut, not riveted. It requires only a couple simple tools to make, and quite a bit of time! Mail can also be purchased, and riveted mail is becoming more available if you are looking for the best. Below is a list of websites showing how to make mail.
made into a shirt or tunic called a hauberk or byrnie. In the
century it reached almost to the knees and the sleeves were about
The front and back were split to allow riding. Often a hood or
was attached. That square "reinforcement" seen on some hauberks
the Bayeaux Tapestry is certainly permitted, though exactly what it
be is still debated (but see http://www.geocities.com/egfrothos/Bib1.html
). A few of the highest-ranking men on the Bayeux Tapestry are
with separate pieces of mail covering their forearms and legs.
Above left, a sample of mail made by Erik D. Schmid
and graciously donated by Arthur Hendrick. The
punched rings are about 7/16" outer diameter and 5/16" inner diameter,
and are about 1/16" thick. The riveted rings are made from iron
of about 1 mm diameter, and the rivets are round. This would be
very typical of mail from the early middle ages, into the 13th century.
Below is a section of typical butted mail by Matthew Amt, made of 16-gauge wire. The rings are just under 1/2" outside diameter, and the inside diameter is c. 3/8" (the wire was coiled on a 5/16" steel rod).
Mail was much more resistant to weapons than was once thought! It is becoming clear that the weapons of the day were simply not capable of breaking open any significant number of rings under normal combat circumstances. Now, the body under the mail can still be smashed even if the mail itself is not penetrated! So padding is definitely required to absorb impact. But mail was impervious to all sorts of cuts and jabs that would badly wound or kill an unarmored man. See this link for a brief test: http://www.forth-armoury.com/photo_gallery/Damage_Test/damage.htm
on medieval mail:
Excellent page on tools (for sale!) for making
riveted mail, with instructions, http://home.tiscali.be/klauwaer/malien/
The Gjerermundbu Mailshirt--http://www.angelfire.com/wy/svenskildbiter/armsandarmour/mailshrt.html
The Construction and Metallurgy of Mail Armour
in the Wallace Collection, by David Edge
Scale, lamellar, and any other form of armor will be judged case-by-case (you will want to get some documentation ahead of time).
See the Suppliers page for places to buy mail, or rings for making it. More links below.
The padded garment worn under mail (or without mail by later medieval commoners) was called a gambeson or acketon. Oddly enough, there is almost no evidence for the existence of padding under mail until about the 12th century. Its use (and certainly its form) before then is hotly debated. It might have been as simple as a thick tunic, or it might have been a lining attached to the mail, and therefore not though of as a separate garment. For our purposes, padding may be worn with pre-12th century mail, but it should be generally tunic-shaped. It may be sleeveless, shortsleeved, or longsleeved.
fascinating heavy leather item dated to approximately the 9th century
found in a Scottish bog.
At first interpreted as a tunic or jerkin, it is now thought to have
been a bag, possibly for books: http://www.travels-in-time.net/e/scotland20moneng.htm.
|The gambeson shown at right (36 K) is a 13th century style--earlier types probably lacked the high buttoned collar. It is made of two layers of linen with cotton batting between (four layers in the body and two layers in the sleeves). All the quilting was done by hand, and the edging is red wool. Avoid polyester movers' pads, they are too obviously modern. Other materials used for padding included felt, horsehair, tow (fibers leftover from flax processing), rags, and multiple layers of linen (20 to 30). Those worn alone by soldiers who could not afford mail were apparently quite stout and stiff, very resistant to arrows and blows from hand weapons.|
|Helmets are required by safety rules, though they were certainly not worn by all warriors. The typical helmet in the 11th century was somewhat conical and had a nasal or noseguard. It could be made from a single piece of iron-- modern replicas are typically welded from two or more pieces of steel (center), with the welds ground smooth on the outside. Others were riveted from four panels (the one at left also has a band around the rim) or constructed as a "spangenhelm", meaning a framework of bands with the openings filled by iron or leather panels (right).|
earlier periods are more rounded in shape and are usually
Up until about the 8th century they sometimes had earflaps and/or
(suspended iron plates or strips, or mail), and a few very early
helmets have face masks or eyeguards called oculars. These
earlier styles should be avoided for later reenactments such as
and Stamford Bridge, though an ocular can be useful for concealing
(if you need them to fight with).
is worn over a padded cap, your helmet will need a lining. Both
these are shaped in four triangular sections, joined at the top by a
That at far left is a padded linen, stitched through the metal
There is also a drawstring at the rim, the bow for which is visible to
the left of the buckle. The buckle is for the chinstrap.
The right-hand lining is leather. It was riveted in place while hanging down out of the helmet, then folded into place over the rivet ends. There is a folded strip of wool around the brim between the leather and the rivets as padding. The chinstrap is a simple leather thong.
Have some pride in your helmet! If it is rusty brown, grab a piece of fine sandpaper, steel wool, or Scotchbrite and shine it up!
Links to more Helmet information:
Halvgrimr's Helmet Pages--http://www.vikingsna.org/HelmResearch/home.htm
Spangenhelm patterns and how-to links:
Any other protection that you feel you need, such as a cup or kidney belt, must be concealed beneath your clothing.
Butted Mail: A Mailmaker's Guide
ChainFire Maille and Armor Construction
Sara's Chainmail Connection
And some links on armoring:
Some Aspects of the Metallurgy and Production
European Armor, by Craig Johnson
An Armourer's Basic Safety Guidelines, by Eric
Basic Spangenhelm construction
The making of a nasal helmet on the Anvilfire
Raising a Kettle Helm, by Jacob Selmer
The Pioneer Anglo-Saxon Helmet
Ultuna helmet reconstruction
The Armour Archive--Patterns, essays, and
The Arador Armour Library--Patterns, essays,
Also see the Links page!