LORICA SEGMENTATA          3/14/11   
Click here for full-sized patterns

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      "Lorica" is Latin for "armor"; "segmentata" is a modern term applied to the classic Roman iron cuirass of bands or hoops, introduced by the late first century BC.  Its origins are unknown.  Recent finds at the Teutoberg Forest and other sites make it clear that the Corbridge lorica which we and most other Roman groups use was not the first type of segmented armor used by the Romans.  It is, however, the only style which we can reproduce with complete accuracy.  Click here for notes on the earlier Kalkriese lorica.  In the second century AD the Newstead style of lorica came into use; it is too late for most Legio XX activities but there is a page of notes for it as well.  (Photo above copyright Jane Walker.)

       Lorica Segmentata Volume I by Mike Bishop and Volume 2 by Mike Thomas are both available online,

Mike Bishop also has a website on the lorica segmentata at www.loricasegmentata.org.

       The following patterns and guidelines are for a Corbridge type A cuirass, followed by options for the type B lorica.  (Be aware of the subtle differences in detail.)   Complete drawings are found in Excavations at Roman Corbridge: The Hoard. 

Photos of the Corbridge pieces by Mike Bishop, http://www.flickr.com/photos/thearmaturapress/sets/72157594508673169/
The Roman Hideout site, http://www.romanhideout.com/armamentarium.asp
The Online Collection of Roman Artifacts, http://www.roman-artifacts.com/

       The names of the various parts of the armor, and of the types of cuirasses, are purely convenient modern terms and should not be tossed out to the public as if the Romans used the same wording.

       The lorica is built in four sections: right and left collar sections (with shoulder guards), and right and left girdle sections.  On each collar section the breastplate is hinged to the mid-collar plate, which in turn is hinged to the top back plate, and below that the middle and bottom back plates hang on internal leathers.  Attached to these plates by three more leathers are the upper shoulder guard (front, rear, and center plates hinged together), and four lesser or outer shoulder guards.  The girdle sections are laced together at front and back, and are suspended from the collar sections by means of straps and buckles--4 at the inside back (2 each side), and 2 at the front on the outside.  (On the type B cuirass hooks and eyes are used instead.)  The collar sections connect to each other with a horizontal strap and buckle at front and back.  The lorica is best put on like a jacket, with all the back closures tied and buckled, then the front fastened.  It helps to have someone hold the cuirass for you while putting it on!

       Construction of a full-scale cardboard mock-up (at least of the collar plates and one pair of girdle plates) is HIGHLY recommended to assure a good fit.

       Click here for full-sized patterns

       Also see the page on Armoring Hints.

       Left, Corbridge type A by Tom Kolb.  The lobed hinges are more of a type B shape, and the rivets are brass whereas now we use copper.  Otherwise a very nice lorica, weighing about 15 pounds. 

       At right, back view of two Corbridge type A loricae owned by Legio XXX Ulpia Victrix.  Note the difference in the mounting of the three backplates, the taller man's having minimal overlap to compensate for his height, but gaps can result.  Widening the plates (top to bottom) would help.  Also note that it is nearly impossible to prevent a slight vertical gap between the left and right backplates, for some reason!  (Photos copyright Jane Walker.)

Before you start--
        Make your subarmalis before you make your lorica!   Padding on the shoulders is necessary to make the collar plates hang correctly, vertically instead of at an angle.  Padding also makes armor VASTLY more comfortable to wear!  It is not necessary to pad the body of the subarmalis, but you will want to protect your tunic from the armor.   Then spend a few days studying the patterns and making cardboard mockups.  YouTube videos on making a lorica segmentata by G. Horvath, http://www.youtube.com/user/gabber700 

       The basic material is 18-guage mild steel, NOT glavanized or stainless.  The outside should be scoured to a satin finish with medium-fine sandpaper and/or green "Scotchbrite" pot-scrubber pads before any fittings are attached.  Your armor MUST be oiled to prevent rust!   Oils like 3-in-One, gun oil, or even WD-40 are fine, but don't use olive oil or linseed oil as they will make a sticky yellow coating.  Some people use car wax, which seems to be effective though it may leave distinctive deposits around the fittings.  ALWAYS wipe off your armor after wearing it, and check it frequently for signs of rust.
       The insides of the plates originally would have been black from the forge, so either heat blacken it or paint black with a rust-inhibiting paint.  Alternatively, hot-rolled steel can be used instead of cold-rolled, the former being left blackened from the forming process.  This black coating must be removed from the outsides of the plates before assembly--soaking in vinegar should remove much of it, then finish with fine sandpaper and Scotchbrite pads as normal.  There is no evidence that the outside of the armor was ever blued or blackened; on the contrary, the Roman habit of tinning or silvering their brass and bronze suggests that they preferred a silvery finish.  In fact, iron lorica plates from Carnuntum and other sites seem to be tinned as well.  Frescoes and mosaics always show armor as either white/gray, for silvery or bright metal, or yellowish for brass or bronze.  There are also literary references to shining armor.

       In general, the girdle plates are 2-1/4" wide, or a little narrower.  The outer (or "lesser") shoulder guards are 2" wide--they are SHOULDER guards, not arm guards!   It is very helpful to have a sheet metal shop cut strips of these widths for you, so that you only need to cut them to length.  There are 8 pairs of girdle plates, and 4 outer shoulder guards on each side (typically 2 long and 2 short, but see "Additional Notes" below and the Patterns for other options).  The girdle plates overlap about a quarter-inch, though this can be increased slightly, or one pair of plates omitted, for people with shorter torsos.  If more length is needed, the girdle plates may be widened a little.  The shoulder guard plates also overlap c. 1/4".

       The length of the left-hand girdle plates is one-half of your circumference (wearing tunic and subarmalis).  The right-hand plates are about an inch and a half longer than that, to allow for c. 3/4" of overlap at front and back.  All of the plates on each side are the same length, unless your torso is significantly wider at the top than at the bottom, in which case you must figure out how much to shorten each succeeding plate.

       Click here for full-sized patterns

       The edges of the collar plates where they lie against the neck, the upper girdle plates under the arms, and the entire bottom edge of the bottom girdle plate can be rolled, folded, flanged or turned out, or "upset" or thickened.  Upsetting is hammering into the edge of the plate to create a thickened sort of lip--it may take some practice and is probably best done at a red heat.  Rolling or folding edges is easier:   simply bend over the edge (c. 1/4" width) with a large pair of pliers, little by little, working back and forth along the piece.  When the bend approaches 90 degrees, pound it over the rest of the way with a hammer.  For a turned out or flanged edge, use the same method but simply stop when the desired angle is reached (anywhere from 30 to 90 degrees).  Some edges were both upset and turned out, or folded and turned out.  The outer edge of the outermost lesser shoulder guard plate can also be upset, rolled under, and/or flanged upwards.

       Fittings are (and were) made of brass.  Metal snips or shears, small chisels, or a Dremel tool can all be used for cutting, and small files are needed for finishing the edges.  Be careful when using steel tools on brass, as they can leave permanent marks in the metal.
       Folding the hinges can be made easier by annealing the brass:  heat it red hot in a gas flame and quench it in water.  (Never work the brass while it is hot.) This wil discolor the metal, but a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water with a little salt will brighten it in minutes ("pickling").  Buffing or polishing will restore a mirror polish.  Brass that is not annealed should be buffed to remove any modern coating.  All brass fittings may be tinned or silvered.

       HINGES are made from .020" to .032" brass--3 sheets of 4"x10" hobby brass will suffice.  (.015" brass can be used for the upper shoulder guard hinges, but may be too fragile for the collar plates and strap hinges.)  For 8 hinges cut out 16 halves as shown--a finished hinge is a double layer.  Fold each piece in half with a 1/8" rod at the fold, and strike with a square edge or clamp in a vise to form the "tube".
       Alternatively, cut out rectangles of the appropriate size, fold in the middle, and then cut out the hinge shape (both layers at once) using a jeweler's saw.  This will assure that the halves line up, and less filing may be necessary.

       Cut away alternating sections of the tubes, or "saw" away with a coarse file, to mate 2 halves together.  Remember that  the top half will overhang the edge of its plate, and the lower will sit flat about 1/4" back from the edge of its plate.  At right, you can see that the tubes of the upper half hang down over the plate edge, while those on the lower half stick up from the face of the plate.  File well to make the edges even.

       Use c. 1/8" brass rod for the hinge pins, peening or flattening the ends to keep them from slipping out.  This can be tricky, since the rod will want to bend in the middle.   Use careful, light taps from a number of angles.  It might help to clamp the hinge between two blocks of wood, grooved to fit the hinge tubes, allowing only the ends of the pin to project.  Trying to anneal the ends of the pin without softening the middle probably will not help.

       Punch or drill the rivet holes in the hinges, then assign each hinge to a specific place on the armor and mark it accordingly.  Trace the holes of each hinge onto its appropriate plate, and drill or punch carefully.  Remember, the hinges are all a little different, and their hole patterns might not be interchangeable.

       These double-layer hinges are very distinctive, and incorrectly-made hinges are easy to spot.  Hinges that are cast, or made like a modern hinge with only a single thick layer that is rolled to form the hinge tube, are not permitted.

       The stap and buckle hinges are made in a similar fashion.  The buckles can be made from strips of sheet or from rod, the ends flattened and drilled for a 1/16"pin.  The tongues are also made from strip.  Make 4 hinged strap and buckle sets, plus 4 buckles with plates but without hinges for the inside back--these were actually iron on at least one of the originals, so may be steel or brass.

       LACING LOOPS are most easily made from a strip of fairly thin brass,  .015" to .020" thick, 2-3/4" to 3" long by 3/8" to 1/2" wide.   To form the tongue, fold the sides inward to overlap each other for half the length of the strip (making a triple layer), then curl the tongue to form the loop.  This is shown at right (click for larger view).  At top is the blank; next the edges have been bent up using the wide-jawed plyers shown (made for siding and gutter work).  Regular plyers will work fine, but beware of tool marks.  Next, the edges have been folded in, one over the other, and flattened carefully with a small hammer.  This becomes the BACK of the piece, so flip it over before curling the loop, as shown at bottom.  The seam is visible on the outside of the loop.  The entire operation takes about 2 minutes, and the finished loop is quite strong.

       A YouTube video on How to Make a Lacing Loop, http://youtube.com/watch?v=EbI9_o49XT4&feature=related   There's also a RAT discussion on the subject, http://www.ancient-warfare.org/index.php?option=com_kunena&func=view&catid=55&id=281884&Itemid=40 

       Most original lacing loops seem to have been made from rod which was flattened for half its length to form the base.   The rod will need to be thicker than 1/8" in order to spread out enough to form the base.  You will need to anneal it several times while flattening.  The rest of the rod will need to be thinned, however, before curling it into the loop, so this method is rather labor-intensive.

       Lacing loops may also be cut from 18-guage brass, as shown on the fitting patterns.

       Twenty-four loops are needed, and they are riveted at the bottom edges of the girdle plates.  On the left side plates, the loops overhang the ends slightly, front and back; on the right they are set back about 3/4" from each end.  There are no lacing loops on the bottom 2 pairs of girdle plates.

Top, type A lobed hinge; below, buckle and strap fittings with fancier hinge bases.  Most strap and buckle hinges were simply rectangular, though some had concentric circles stamped around the rivet holes. Front and back of collar and shoulder guard section. The white tape shows the paths of the internal leathers.  The main hinges are more of a type B shape than type A. Detail of strap and buckle fittings.  This lorica and that at center both by Joe Piela, Lonely Mountain Forge.

       BOSSES are stamped out of thin brass (.010"), and are available from the CO.  Typical examples are shown below at left and right, one inch in  diameter; some were fancier but others were plainer.  The one at right is shown with a 3/16" domed copper rivet, while that at left does not yet have a rivet hole.

       The center photo shows the tools for making bosses.  The brass is annealed, pickled, and polished, and discs are cut out with the 1" leather punch at right.  Then the design is embossed using the die at left and the lead block, striking with a 3-pound sledge hammer.  The die was cast from brass by lost wax technique.

       The die for the (older) boss at right is shown at the top of the center photo, and was made from a piece of 3/4" round brass rod.  There was a screw hole in one end, and the edges were rounded off a little with a file.  Then cuts were made across it with a file or hacksaw to make the radial "floral" design.  The discs were first stamped with a 1" metal ring to raise the edge, then stamped with the die.  The stamping was done with heavy scrap leather under the brass.

       Some solid brass cabinet knobs have a similar floral pattern and might be used as dies.

       Two very nice styles of stamped boss are now offered by Geoffrey Withcliff, geoffreywi AT comcast DOT net.  La Wren's Nest (and possibly other Deepeeka vendors) also sells Deepeeka stamped brass lorica bosses which are quite good.

Photo by Richard Campbell of original lorica segmentata fittings in the British Museum.  These were not necessarily found together.  Strap and buckle fittings found in situ on their plates are always mounted 90 degrees to each other, as shown on the reproduction above, rather than at the wider angle seen in this display.  The discs might not be from armor, either, since they are half again the usual diameter of such bosses.

       Three types of rivets are used: flat-headed, small domed, and large domed.  The flat-headed type (1/8" diameter shank) is used for riveting the girdle plates and lesser shoulder guards to their internal leather straps, and about 130 are needed.  They are put in place from the inside, first through the leather and then the metal, and hammered flat outside the steel--no washers are used.
       About 160 small domed rivets (1/8" diam. shank) are needed for the hinges and loops.  24 large ones (3/16" shank) are used for attaching the upper shoulder guards and back plates to their leathers--some of these also secure the stamped bosses.  (Optionally, small domed rivets may be used in place of the larger ones.)

       The zinc content of Roman rivets was apparently quite low (5 to 10%), so plain copper is recommended but brass is acceptable.  (The commonly-found copper rivets with 1/2" diameter heads with concentric circles should be avoided; copper roofing nails or carpet tacks are actually more authentic.)  Rivets may be purchased from RJ Leahy Co. and other sources on the Suppliers page.
       Since the large domed rivets must be peened (flattened) over leather, about 24 washers are needed.  Draw a grid of 1/2" squares on .015"-.032" brass, put a hole through each square, and cut along the lines.  (Don't try to be too neat about this!)

       Drill all holes no larger than necessary for the rivets to go through.  Remove burrs with a file or small grinder.  Put each rivet in place and cut off the excess shaft close to the surface of the metal or washer--about 1/16", plus any "peak" left by the cutters.
       Flat-head rivets being peened are simply rested on a convenient hard surface, but for dome-heads, a riveting tool is essential.  This is just a chunk of metal with a couple shallow holes drilled into it, in which the rivet heads can rest so that they stay domed.  Washers can be held with masking tape to prevent them from jumping off while their rivets are peened (see Armoring Hints).

       The best leather to use is 5-ounce tooling leather with a good coat of neatsfoot or similar oil.  Anything thicker will reduce the flexibility of your lorica.  Waxed or chrome-tanned leathers may be stretchy--beware.  Also see the Leather Tips page.
       The 6 girdle plate leathers are c.1-1/2" wide by c. 14" long.  The pairs of holes are 1-5/8" to 2" apart (depending on your height), except that the uppermost pair on the middle leather for each side is a little lower (because of the rolled edge at the middle of the top plate).
       Each trio of backplates is riveted to a pair of leather strips 7" to 8" long by 3/4" wide.  These extend below the bottom back plate to reach the buckles inside the top girdle plate.  The shoulder guard leathers (3 on each side) are also 3/4" wide.  The back ones are roughly 10" long, the front and middle about 8-1/2".
       At left, inside back of a Corbridge Type A collar section (by Joe Piela).  The two leathers which connect the three backplates extend downwards to go through the buckles inside the top girdle plate.  The top rivet on the outer one also secures the rear leather of the shoulder guards.  The top shoulder guaard leather is also visible at upper left.  At bottom is the rear girdle plate leather with its pairs of rivets--it has been trimmed away to fit around the buckle!  A little adjustment in placement can avoid this problem, or the leather can be riveted below the buckle rather than next to it.  Note folded edges of collar plates, and square washers used only where rivets are placed from outside. 

       Below, inside of a Corbridge type B collar section, with a better view of the shoulder guard leathers.  The folded edges of the collar plates are also visible.  This was our very first lorica, so the plates have not been blackened and brass rivets were used instead of copper.   Note that the backplates are fastened to a single rectangular leather, though the paired leathers used on type A are also an option.  The large copper rivet at middle left on that leather is a repair.  (Also see photo of same piece in "Type B Lorica" section below).

       The best way to build a lorica is to start with the HINGES.  Once you conquer those and the strap and buckle fittings, the rest is downhill!  When all the brass fittings are done, cut out the plates, file the edges, paint or heat blacken the backs, fold the edges where necessary, and curve them to shape.

      The upper shoulder guards, mid-collar plates, and tops of the breastplates must be curved to fit the shoulders before they are connected by their hinges.  Assemble the collar units with the backplates, and put all the strap and buckle sets in place.  The lesser shoulder guards are curved to fit, then riveted to their leathers, starting with the outermost one.  They are next attached to the collar units, and the upper shoulder guards are riveted on last.
       The girdle plates are all the same length, and the rivet holes for the leathers are all in the same place on each plate.  Do not attempt to "compensate" for the slight offset of the plates as they nest together by moving the rivet holes or making the upper plates longer than the lower ones.

       The lacing loops and buckles can be riveted on before the girdle plates are curved, but it may be easier to curve the plates without the fittings in place.  The girdle plates are more U-shaped than semi-circular--shape the bottom plate first and make each plate fit the one below it.  Then check the fit of the top plates.  They must not stick out and press against the insides of your upper arms (this can cause discomfort and numbness!).  If the girdle plates are slightly too long it is better to reshape them so that any looseness of fit is at front and back rather than at the sides.  Finally, assemble the girdle sections, again working from bottom to top.  It is best to punch only one hole of each pair in the vertical girdle leathers before assembly, since the distance between the rivet holes in the plates may vary.  Mark and punch the second hole of each pair as the plate is being riveted in place.
       The cuirass is tied shut front and back with leather thongs about a foot long each.  The back of a type B girdle section is shown at left, half laced.  To keep from losing the laces, tie them by their middles to the loops on one side, with a simple half-hitch.  Then just stick one end of each lace through the opposite loop and tie in a bow or square knot.
       The two vertical hooks at left are replacements, the left-hand one being made from rod with a flattened end.  I always use different metals and rivets on repairs, to make them more visible!

       Seperate patterns for the type B lorica are provided, but type A patterns can be adapted, if you prefer.
--HOOKS & EYES connect the collar unit to the girdle plates.  Cut 6 hooks out of heavy brass (18-ga), matching the lacing loops but with tongues 1/2" longer.  The hooks can also be made from brass rod with one end flattened (annealing frequently!) for the base.  Also cut 6 eyes, 18-guage for the 2 front ones but thinner for the 4 in back.  (On the type C cuirass the back eyes hung below the plate like those at front, and all were made of iron.) Place the hooks and eyes however they best align--symmetry is not crucial.
--HINGES are a less refined shape than type A
--There are only 7 pairs of girdle plates (though another pair may be added if more length is needed), so only 20 lacing loops are needed.  Loops are NOT mounted flush with the bottom edges of the girdle plates as usually shown, but 3/8" up.
--Backplate leathers can be 1/2" strips, or a single 4" square.
--Upper shoulder guard center plate is pentagonal, with the point towards the neck, simply because the front and rear plates are tapered.

       On Matthew Amt's lorica at right, the mid-collar plates have been riveted to the breast- and backplates because the hinges broke from long use.  The rear buckle is a replacement, as are several of the larger rivets.

       The finds at Corbridge, on which these plans and instructions are based, included six collar sections, numbered as cuirasses 1 through 6.  The first four are type A, while cuirass 5 is type B and cuirass 6 is type C.  There were also six girdle sections, labeled as cuirasses i through vi, again with the last two being type B or C.  A number of the assemblies are missing one or more plates.  There are the proper number of right and left halves to assemble three more or less complete loricae, but this is probably by chance since it is clear that no two of the shoulder sections match.

       The type A collar plate and lesser shoulder guard patterns on this site are copied from cuirass 1, though the upper shoulder guard is taken from cuirasses 2, 3, and 4.  Cuirass 1's upper shoulder guard was clearly a retrofitted type B, presumably as a repair.  The hinges and bosses are very different from those on the collar plates, but they matched those on cuirasses 5 and 6 (type B).  Cuirasses 1 and 5 have four outer shoulder guards, two long and two short, and virtually every modern reconstruction is built that way.  On cuirass 3, however, all four plates are short, and there doesn't seem to be any suggestion that two of these are simply longer plates with the ends broken off.  Cuirass 4 has only three plates, and cuirass 2 has only two (though rather wide at 2-3/8"), but it is very difficult to say if this was how they were made or if plates have been lost.

       Wearing a lorica segmentata does NOT mean that you are limited to wearing an Imperial Gallic helmet!  This is a modern stereotype.  Any acceptable helmet that is appropriate to the impression is an option, including Coolus and Montefortino types.

       There is no evidence that the lorica was ever made of anything other than iron.  While there are a couple surviving pieces of rawhide lamellar armor from the third century AD, and one or two literary references from that period or later, the many finds of leather objects from the Republic or early Empire have never included armor parts.  On the other hand, brass lorica fittings are common finds all over the Empire, and they are often still riveted to pieces of iron or rust.  There are also a number of literary references to armor shining in the sunlight.

       Likewise, there is really nothing to suggest that the famous muscled cuirass was ever made of leather, but rather polished or silvered bronze, or possibly iron (ditto for the accompanying greaves).  (See the page on Organization and Officers.)  Color depictions of body armor are not common, but they consistently show it as yellow/gold or silver/gray, never as brown or black.  Metal was more protective than leather, and did not get soft when wet.  The higher officers such as tribunes and legati were aristocrats who would have wanted to be as shiny as possible, and the cost of the armor would have been irrelevant.

       Leather was definitely used at least sometimes for the subarmalis, worn between tunic and armor.  The pteruges or flaps often seen in Roman artwork would have been attached to the subarmalis, and could certainly have been leather.  The Romans did dye leather sometimes, but what colors might have been used for pteruges is unknown.

       Beware of Hollywood!  Movie-makers continue to put their "Romans" in black or brown armor, which flies in the face of all evidence and common sense.  Even some modern artists or writers show or refer to "leather" armor, apparently just because they don't know any better.

Click here for full-sized patterns

Click here for Armoring Hints

Click here for notes on the earlier Kalkriese lorica.

Click here for notes on the 2nd-century Newstead lorica.

Click here for notes on the Manica or segmented Armguard.

--Lorica Segmentata Volumes 1 and 2 are available online:  http://www.armatura.co.uk/

       The Corbridge lorica from Albion Swords came in several sizes and was quite good, but does not seem to be offered any more.   Also see Jared Fleury's how-to page at http://www.florentius.com/segmentata.htm

       The latest version of Deepeeka's lorica is vastly improved from their earlier attempts, and is acceptable.  The main problem is that it comes in only one size, and very little adjustment is possible without rebuilding most of the armor.  Be aware that some vendors might have older versions in stock, and might not know (or care) what the differences are.  Deepeeka may be working on further improvements, but we don't know when these might appear.

       Custom armorers are an option--Matt Lukes in Canada (panzerknacker AT shaw DOT ca) does excellent custom work including a lorica segmentata for c. $650 (US) or loose fittings.

       Also check the Suppliers page for sources of metal, rivets, and lobed hinge blanks.

       Don't even bother with Museum Replicas/Windlass Steelcrafts.   Aside from being a bad copy of the outdated version of the Newstead lorica, it is too long, too heavy, and does not fit well.  There are many other places to get a bad lorica, so please check with the Commander before ordering.

       See also the page on Things to Avoid.

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