Written by Sir Æthan dal Cais, KSCA


Putting your first kit of armor together can be pretty daunting.  We’ve had a bunch of new people joining our practice as of late, and the Poor Honorable Lord FinRis can only make so much plastic armor!

 

If you’ve decided that you love SCA combat and it’s time to invest in your own kit, but are unwilling or unable to utilize any local face-to-face resources to ensure it happens, I’ve written a basic guide to ordering your first suit online, along with some construction techniques.

 

                As an aside, I’d like to point out that the current incarnation of my own armor is far from my first, and definitely not my last.  In my fighting career (and pre-fighting career, when I was, literally, flirting with the SCA) I have owned 14 helmets, 7 suits of body armor, 3 arm harnesses, 7 leg harnesses, and more demi-gauntlets and gorgets than I even care to remember.  I have gone through at least a dozen fighting tunics, and am constantly looking at new ways to change the look and functionality of my armor.

 

                This is not to say that the stuff you make right now will not last; it probably will.  What will likely happen is, bit by bit, you’ll change/improve (although I’ve gone through some devolutions, so that’s a possibility, too) your harness to a look/function that you find more pleasing.  That stuff you get will see use throughout the age, I promise; I’ve seen some of my first kit on other fighters (some whom I don’t even know) at practices.

 

                This shopping guide is divided into 3 parts and is geared towards fighters emphasizing two aspects:

 

A)     (relatively) low budget and

 

B)      DIY (do-it-yourself) 

 

The parts are:

 

1.            Sword and Shield

 

2.            Body Essentials

 

3.            Inexpensive Helmets

 

                This guide will also be edited, and the author is more than open to any critique other fighters/members of/players in the Society may have.

 

Weapons and Shields!

 

                While loaner armor can usually be found within the Barony, swords and shields are in a much shorter supply.  They’re also a good, lower budget way to start out your kit and see if you feel comfortable making your own stuff!  It should be noted that, over time, swords (and shields) will get beat up and worn out, so this won’t be the last time you’ll be making these.

 

                Starting with a basic sword, you’ll need a stick of rattan and a cuphilt (or cross-guard, if you have full gauntlets… but since you’re on a budget, let’s stick with the cuphilt, okay?).

 

                Get rattan that is at least 1.25” in diameter.  A safe bet is to get it 1.5” in diameter, especially if you feel like planing it.  I buy 1.5” to 1.75” sticks.  2” is a little heavy for me (but some use them).

 

                Rattan suppliers:

 

http://hhperkins.com/index.php/cPath/15?osCsid=712ee66a37d23255144350d2530fcdf3

http://stores.homestead.com/mga/StoreFront.bok

 

                The second link takes you to an SCA fighter who is expertly trying to make our sport better; I recommend him.

 

                When making your sword, remember to use liberal amounts of spirally wrapped strapping tape (along the blade) to hold the sword together before you apply whatever cover tape (I suggest hockey tape) you’re going to use.  Remember to mark the edge.  I don’t suggest starting out with a thrusting tip, but if you do, ask at practice for some help in affixing them… and make sure those thrusting tips are at least as wide as the tip of the sword!

 

                You can shape the handle before or after you’ve applied your strapping tape.  I prefer to do it before, but I’m no expert in handle shape, and am continually trying out new things.

 

                The images at http://www.io.com/~caladin/sword.htm are very, very helpful.  While I don’t agree with everything he says about making a sword, these images are very helpful, and his article is awesome.  Go to the link and check out his pics of strapping tape around a sword and shaping a basic handle.

 

                Leave room in your shaped handle for the basket hilt.  Sites to purchase baskethilts:

 

http://houseasgard.com/BaldarBlunts/#cuphilt  ($30+shipping)

http://www.ashcraftbaker.com/basket%20hilts.htm  ($15+shipping)

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/BasketHilt.html  ($40+shipping)

 

                I recommend Baldar’s because they are light and never die, but A/B is if you’re really on the cheap.

 

                To attach the hilt to your sword, position it properly (after the sword has been taped/shaped), then take your fiber-full strapping tape and wrap all the way around one of the tabs 3 times.  Pull out a couple more feet of tape (you haven’t cut it off yet) and spin the tape roll so that you make a “rope” of the tape… get a really tight spiral.  Then wrap that “rope” around the tab reallllly tightly, spin out some more tape and cover it up.  Do the same to the bottom.  Cover it in a colored tape and you’re done!

 

Shields

 

                You have two options when choosing how you grip your shield: center-boss or strapped.  I started with a strapped shield, but in the past couple of years have gone to a center-boss because it suits my period much better.  Both methods existed throughout history, but I highly recommend you figure out the shield your persona would have used and mimic that.  Also, remember that shield bosses make for an ambidextrous shield.

 

                For wood, any plywood will do, but make sure you get something stout enough to take blows.  I highly recommend Baltic birch (which is expensive), and you can get it at Windsor Plywoods.  http://windsorplywood.com/. Take a trip over there with a couple of buddies and go in on a sheet… it’ll last longer and the cost is equitable if you’ve got another friend making a shield.  Get 3/8 or 1/2 inch.

 

                Cut out your desired shield shape with a jigsaw.

 

                Cut out the center boss hole (if that’s the way you’re going).

 

                The easiest way to edge your shield is with heater hose… you can get it at a local auto shop and cut a channel in the middle (this will require sharp scissors and a willingness to get a hand cramp).  Press it over the edge, drill holes along the outside edge and lace it in with parachute cord or a similar sturdy lacing material.  Instead of heater hose, if you’ve got a garden hose lying around, you can use that, too… but it’ll look more like doo-doo.

 

                My personal recommendation for cost/looks is Trim-Lok.  Windrose sells it for cheap.  Attach it the same way you would that big, clunky heater hose (without the hand cramps). You'll need a thin shield to do this, so if weight is what you're after, this might not be the best option. 

 

http://www.windrosearmoury.com/zc/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=95

 

                You can also take a piece of rope the same diameter as your plywood edge and tape it around the edge of the shield, then stretch rawhide over the edge for a more period appearance.  Ask for some help!  Most of us have used this method and it makes a very good shield edge.

 

                To get a shield boss:

 

http://houseasgard.com/BaldarBlunts/#shield (Tried and true, not period looking, has a smaller inside size than I like, will never get dented)

http://www.goldenboararmoury.com/id72.html ($40 and a perfect shield boss)

http://www.viking-shield.com/bosses.html  (economy boss is the cheapest I’ve found while still able to stand up to SCA combat)

You can also use a salad/camping bowl, but they look like poop and will get dented (and need to be replaced) quickly. (http://www.amazon.com/GSI-Outdoors-Glacier-Stainless-7-25-Inch/dp/B001LF3IAC)

 

                To get a shield basket (you can also use leather straps and a hockey glove on the inside, if you wish):

 

http://www.ashcraftbaker.com/shield%20hilts.htm ($15 and perfectly fine for beginners)

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/hands.html  ($30)

 

                Done!

 

TOTAL SWORD AND SHIELD BUDGET      SWORD AND SHIELD BUDGET Y BUDGET:

 

$10 : stick of rattan                                        $10:  stick of rattan

$15:  sword basket from A/B                          $15:  sword basket from A/B

$19:  shield boss from The Viking Shield         $5:  camping bowl or Goodwill hockey glove

$20:  Baltic birch for shield                             $10:  random 1/2” plywood

$10:  Trim-lok edging + lacing                        $free:  spare garden hose  

$10:  lag bolts, nuts, tape                              $10:  lag bolts, nuts, tape

$84 + shipping (approx. $100)               $50 + shipping (approx $60)

 

 

YOUR ARMOR

 

                Before we go over helmets (which is the most expensive and most important [maybe your gender protector] piece of hardware), let’s build a quick and easy suit of armor.  For this guide, I am assuming no construction on your part aside from strapping (leather and buckles to make sure your stuff stays on) pieces you purchase.

 

Neck (Gorget)

 

                Your best bet for a gorget, price-wise and purchasing is, I think:

http://baroness-ashley.livejournal.com/74917.html#cutid1 (Rolf Armory… if he’s in season, $30)

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/SimpleGorget.html ($40)

http://bokalosarmoury.com/express.htm#gorgets ($35)

 

Arms (elbows and forearms)

 

                Horsefriend is, again, your friend.  Rolf, if he’s in season, is your best bet for the Inlands, price and quality.

http://baroness-ashley.livejournal.com/74917.html#cutid1 (Rolf, $90)

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/SplintArms.html ($80)

 

Legs (knees and upper leg)

 

                While you’ve got the tried and true Horsefriend and Rolf, you can also try Bokalo and his shovel greaves (but, remember, these do not come with upper leg protection from Bokalo):

http://bokalosarmoury.com/express.htm#legs ($95)

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/SplintLegs.html ($120)

http://baroness-ashley.livejournal.com/74917.html#cutid1 (Rolf, $100)

 

Hands (demi-gauntlets)

 

                Rolf and HA, of course.  Also, consider Ashcraft/Baker as an alternative, especially if you have big hands.  Both HA and A/B will definitely need some foam cemented to the inside to pad them.

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/DemiGauntlet.html ($30/pair)

http://baroness-ashley.livejournal.com/74917.html#cutid1 ($30/pair – leather)

http://www.ashcraftbaker.com/ms%20half%20clams.htm ($45/pair)

 

Body

 

                I am a huge supporter of box lacrosse rib pads.  I think these are the best out-of-the box protection you need.  In our combat, we generally strike the silhouette (sides) of our opponents, right where these bad boys will keep you protected.  That said, you may want to modify yours with chest and/or other added protection.   It’s fairly easy, but Ask For Help!

http://www.sportstop.com/Mens-Lacrosse-Equipment/Box-Indoor-Rib-Pads (from $25 - $35)

 

                That said, there are other places to purchase good body protection:

http://www.ashcraftbaker.com/ms%20placard.htm ($80 for a rusting placard, PC*)

http://bokalosarmoury.com/body.htm ($95 for plastic)

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/body.html ($120 for wrapped churburg)

 

                This might also be a good time to try out your plastic skills!  A “four mirrors” armor out of plastic is protective, cheap, and easily PC*’d. 

http://web.archive.org/web/20030205120803/www.tssinc.net/~daniel/patterns/char-aina.html

 

PC*

 

                I’ve used this acronym a few times throughout this list.  It’s very important, and stands for something I feel very strongly regarding: PLEASE COVER ASTERISK.  Which means: basically, that appearance on the field is important not only to the pageantry and the onlookers of the combat you are recreating, but also to your own person when in armor, armed with a sword and a shield.  Remember, in our game, we are warriors; you should feel and look the part.  Even though you may be wearing plastic, or an athletic protective cup, or Underarmour to wick your sweat away ™, please remember that you should look like a medieval warrior.  Covering this armor is almost as important as getting it in the first place.  As such, sew to rectangles together, leaving room at the top for your arms and your neck by simply not sewing those parts.  Put on the big pillow case and cinch it closed at the waist with your belt.  You are now wearing an extremely period-in-design garment, and you look 1000 times better than having funky bits of funny colored armor splaying about.

 

                For even better "armor covering" (and even garb), check out:

http://www.linengarb.com/

http://www.housemorningstar.com/

 

                For awesome ways to “bling” your kit up (and even get a spiffy belt buckle) check out: http://www.quietpress.com/

 

Totals

 

                Remember, look good!  Covering your stuff works fine, and all you need is an old opaque sheet and a needle and thread, plus a little rope for a belt.  Remember, you’ll also need elbow and knee pads.  I’ve prepared a couple ways you can match your armor below, along with a price checkpoint (elbow/knee pads and strapping leather/buckles notincluded):

 

$30    Rolf Gorget              $40    HA Gorget                $35    Bokalo Gorget

$90    Rolf Arms                 $80    HA Arms                   $80    HA Arms

$100  Rolf Legs                  $120  HA Legs                    $95    Bokalo Shovel Greaves (wear old hockey thighs!)

$30    Rolf Demis                $30    HA Demis                  $30    HA Demis  

$36    Gait Box-X Ribs        $36    Gait Box-X Ribs         $36    Gait Box-X Ribs

 $286  Total + shipping    $306  Total + shipping    $276  Total + shipping (+ thigh protection)

 

HELMET

 

                The most important piece of equipment you will purchase is your helmet.  Not only does this make or break a suit of armor, it is the most visible piece of equipment you will have and the one you will (and want to) spend the most money on; this bad boy protects your noodle.  Although price is an issue and the below list reflects that, be sure to buy a helmet that is at least quasi-suitable for your persona.

 

                There are many helmets out there professing to be SCA-legal.  I would not trust anything just from what it’s descriptor says.  Talk to someone who has been fighting for a while before you lay down the money for these helmets.

 

                First and foremost, let me cover CAS Hanwei’s SCA helmet.  This helmet islegal.  It is also god-awful ugly, uncomfortable, and costly in comparison to its quality.  You can find it here: http://www.casiberia.com/prod_Detail.aspx?ID=AH2108 (as well as with many resellers)

 

                If you absolutely must purchase it, then do so… it is your money, and I can only offer advice.  But I highly advise against it.  Here are some less expensive armorers who do make helmets that I have either personally used (and, in many cases, owned one) or have observed and can vouch for their quality.  Please note this is a budget list of helmets, so I am not including Strawberry Fields, Windrose, Shamrock, Knotwolf or Icefalcon for a reason (but all of these guys make amazing helmets and, if you’ve got the money, you should should should buy from them).

 

http://baroness-ashley.livejournal.com/74917.html#cutid1 ($185-$205) Rolf Longbow Armory.  Inlands knight, and absolutely the best helm you can buy for your money, hands down.  If you see an Inlands knight wandering around and he’s not currently wearing a Rolf helmet, he has probably owned one in the past.  Duke Sven fights in a Rolf helmet!

 

http://www.horsefriendarmory.com/Helms.html ($80-$250) Sir Alail Horsefriend is an An Tiran, a Knight, a Laurel, and has a long history of making affordable armor.  I would ensure meeting Sir Alail in person to take measurements; one of my helms from him was rather large, but was purchased without even meeting in person (back when he was in CA) and I got the measurements wrong.  His Crusader helm is an especially awesome hat for the cost (hell, in spite of the cost).

 

http://www.ashcraftbaker.com/pricelist%20web.htm ($70-$150) These are only a step above the CAS Iberia helmets, but will protect you well, will fit you (will probably be too large), will be legal, and will ring like a gong when hit, right into your eardrums.  I highly recommend Alail before A/B, but, if price is a real touchy point, feel free to get an A/B hat and upgrade later.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/21215018@N07/ ($75-$160) Hjalmar used to offer stainless hats for under $100 that were reasonably presentable; a budget fighter’s dream.  Unfortunately, his wellspring of cheap stainless steel has dried up, but he can still offer a presentable hat at a reasonable price.  Buyer beware: I have only heard (firsthand, but still hearsay) about his helmets, and never bought or handled one.

 

http://bokalosarmoury.com/helms.htm ($345) For the Japanese helmet.  I’ve seen it, it’s awesome, it’s the least expensive one I’ve seen.  Still pricey.

 

http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=3 Troll this forum regularly!  If you act fast, you can pick up a great deal.

 

 

ARMOR TOTALS

 

                Both of these packages, using the above information (Rolf and HA), will get you a kit that looks better than the majority of the fighters currently on the field!

 

Early-Period Warrior                                       12th-14th Century Man At Arms

Sword/Centerboss: $100 (or $60)                 Sword/Shieldbasket:      $100 (or $60)

Rolf Armor:              $286                               HA Armor:                       $306

Rolf Helmet:             $195 (brass nasal)          HA Helmet:                     $150 (Crusader helmet)

Linengarb Tunic:      $49                                  Morningstar Surcoat:     $48

                                $640 ($600) + shipping                                   $604 ($564) + shipping