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The blueprint of... is an article serie where we’re taking a closer look on an Artisan Crafts deviation and how it's made.


Today we are dissecting Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour



Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour Gothic Gauntlet by Ageofarmour Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour


First off, please introduce yourself?


My name is William Hurt. I am a (need to do the math)... 30 something... armourer from a small town in the hills above Palm Springs, California.

William in Gothic armour by Ageofarmour

I started avidly making armour in the early 90's as I wanted to have something to wear when I proposed to my, then, girlfriend. We never ended up marrying but I did find a new love in making armour :)


Please explain what we are viewing.


This is a suit of armour made from 20 to 14 gauge 1018 steel, brass and leather in the German Gothic style of the late 1400s. Articulated and wearable, the armour stands a little over 6 foot tall and weighs approximately 65lbs.


Can you describe for a layman how it’s made?


I gather as many photos of the antique inspiration as I can find. Then I start making patterns of the larger pieces based on what I see in the photos. Patterning is difficult to explain and is a bit of a “Zen” process. The patterns are fairly basic and often need to be trimmed and refined during the project.

I rough form the steel using various hammers, stakes, anvils and wooden stumps. Once the largest plates have the correct, overall shape I planish the entire surface with a light, polished, flat faced hammer to even out any undulation and smooth away the rough hammer marks. I then pattern and form the pieces that connect to the main plates.

Forming armour by Ageofarmour

After all the plates in a component (for example: a breastplate/backplate and waist area assembly) are formed, I start working on the decorative elements. I place the plates on top of a large, blunted chisel then hammer recesses on either side of the chisel to form the fluting. The piercing is done by punching small starter holes in the armour then carving away designs in the steel using jeweler's files.

Fluting Armour by Ageofarmour Decorative armour piercework by Ageofarmour

When all the parts have been formed, fit and decorated I sand away any surface imperfections then polish the armour. At this point the armour can be assembled using rivets at pivoting points and internal leather strips for articulation. The last stage is to make the spring latches, grommets, buckles and other hardware that is needed to make the armour wearable.

Gothic Vambrace by Ageofarmour

Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour Gothic Gauntlet by Ageofarmour Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour

What tools did you use?


I have a very small work area about the size of a single car garage. Though it is a little cramped, the shop offers me enough room for all the tools I use regularly.

I try to use historical tools (or their historical approximate) whenever practical with a few exceptions. I cut the basic shape of the steel using a band saw, rather than a shear, as I find it a little easier. I use power sanders and buffers for the finishing and polishing. I would much rather use the giant, waterwheel powered buffers that appear illustrated in medieval manuscripts but, living in the desert, I don't have a good water source near by hehe.

Armour tools by Ageofarmour

Those power tools aside, the bulk of my work involves using a few anvils, stakes and various hammers. One of my most useful tools is simply a wooden stump. It can serve as a table or a surface to hammer on like a semi-soft anvil.


What was your inspiration in creating this?


When I first tried making armour many years ago I had very little to draw from. There were fantasy paintings and movies but, while they may look good on film, they were not very comfortable or effective designs when put into practice. In addition, I had original designs of my own however, they also lacked real world functionality.

Fantasy Armour by Ageofarmour

One day a friend brought over a book about arms and armour from his library. I thumbed through a few pages and, while I was impressed with some of the designs, they seemed odd to me because my only previous exposure to armour was from movies and fantasy art. Then a picture caught my eye... A photo of the armour of Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol. The armour was spikey yet conforming. It was absolutely covered from head to toe in fluting and piercing. The armour was very ornate and regal but also gave off a sinister look of seriousness. I think my comment was “That's the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life!” I looked to my friend and said “I'm going to make that someday.” to which we both laughed.


How long time did it take you to make this?


It was probably a few years after seeing that photo that I started on this suit. I worked on it as I had free time between custom orders and after hours. If I remember correctly I started making the suit in 1995 and it was finished in 2006.

Only a few years after I began the project the armour was wearable but I continued to refine and remake portions of it as my skill improved and I saw ways of improving it. Even after it was sold I remade a few of the parts while waiting for the customers check to clear.

Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour Gothic Gauntlet by Ageofarmour Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour

Did you run into anything unexpected while creating?


In the beginning I was intimidated by the decoration. I wasn't too concerned about my ability to get the general shape correct. As it turns out I should have reversed my focus. The decoration, while very time consuming, was not as hard as I had feared and I am fairly pleased by how that aspect turned out. I look at the photos now and cringe at the lack of subtle refinement in the shape.


Are you happy with the result?


Yes and no... I am very happy I did it. The challenge taught me a lot but I know I can do better. Some things I knew I should have done better early on but instead I decided to sacrifice them to keep the cost from becoming prohibitively expensive.


Where have you learnt your skills in this area?


Lots and lots of trial and error hehe. When I started making armour, prior to the modern Internet, there was essentially no information available about historical armour making. Once the armour making websites began forming, like the Armour Archive (armourarchive.org), enthusiasts were able to share and compare their findings with others. Now new armourers can spend less time with trial and error on the basic techniques giving them more time to experiment with advanced challenges.

It is exciting to see such a revival of the art. Many new, very talented armourers are emerging to help rediscover lost techniques and bring history to life.

Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour Gothic Gauntlet by Ageofarmour Gothic Armour - Full View. by Ageofarmour

Do you take your own photos? Any tips you want to share for presenting your work?


Yes. Taking photos of the finished armour is something I look forward to through the whole project. As I am forming, ideas come about how I would like to light and photograph the armour. I have always loved the photography in Architectural Digest and often visualize product shots as if they were for a piece of jewelry or fine furniture. Unfortunately I am not nearly as skilled as the photographers who inspire me so I always miss the mark.

Photographing Armour by Ageofarmour

I once had a visit from a photographer who specialized in automobile advertising. He said the trick to photographing shiny things was to avoid any direct lighting and to rely only on reflections. He showed me a few of his sets, built in aircraft hangers, which had giant screens all around the cars. Onto these screens he projected landscapes or psychedelic patterns that the car's paint, chrome and glass would reflect. His advice was truly impressive and insightful.


What is the best tip you can give to others wanting to test this craft/material/technique?


The best tip I can offer is to have confidence and patience. By confidence I don't mean to be egotistical but rather to understand that it can be done and be done by you. I assume that is true for any art form.

I believe what stops many from making armour is that steel is very intimidating at first. It seems so unyielding. If you're confident enough to try forming metal and are patient enough to see the first project through to the end you will find a whole new world of possibilities. After that the rest is just refinement of that skill.


Are you selling your work?


Yes, I have been working as a full time armourer for about a decade and a half. It is a very meager living because of the time involved in each project, but what it lacks in money it more than makes up for in enjoyment. I am compelled to extend my thanks to the wonderful and patient customers around the world who have so kindly provided me the opportunity to work as an artist.

Embossed Gorget by Ageofarmour 17th Century Gorget by Ageofarmour Burgonet Details by Ageofarmour Burgonet and Buff by Ageofarmour

Thank you Ageofarmour for participating and taking the time to answer my question!

//Myana

I'd love to recive suggestions for next "victim" to interview! Note me with a link to the deviation you'd like to know more about and I'll contact the deviant.





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Add a Comment:
 
:iconcl2007:
cl2007 Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2009  Student Artisan Crafter
another excellent interview with an awesome craftsman! :clap:
Reply
:iconkingtut98:
kingtut98 Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Having just started experimenting with a little plate armour myself, it's very encouraging to see a project as large and ornate as this broken down and explained. :-)
Reply
:iconinkibus:
InKibus Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2009  Professional General Artist
Magnificent, I have admired his work for so long. :love:
Reply
:iconcrazed-fangirl:
crazed-fangirl Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2009  Professional Artisan Crafter
I've been oogling the work myself for a while. So pretty...
Reply
:icongenella:
Genella Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2009
Willliam - I love that black gorget (spelling?) I don't think I've seen that piece before.

Great article!
:)
G.
Reply
:iconessiesjewels:
EssiesJewels Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2009  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
what a brilliant interview!!!!!!!!1 i love all the nitty gritty detail. amazing what people can make!
Reply
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