Thursday, 1 September 2011

Cottage Part 3: Tabs / Tie Rings!

Ok - it's time to connect some shoulders together!  That means slots and... something.  There has, at this time, not been any discovery of a Newstead-style breastplate or backplate with the male fitting in situ. 
There is, however, one plate found at Zugmantel which appears to have held a male fastener at some point - all that is known for certain is that whatever it was, it fit though a roughly punched hole of small diameter.  Therefore the exact nature of the historical connector has been a subject of some debate.

One proposal, that of turning pins, immediately struck me as having strong disadvantages and no discernable advantages for a practical piece of armour.  The nature of a turning pin is such that, as one would expect, it turns!  Therefore they will generally work themselves back to the "open" position when moving around in armour -- resulting in a dismaying tendency to cause armour to flop open unless held shut by a split pin of some sort. Not surprisingly, this has been borne out by the experience of re-enactors who have constructed armour with such fastenings.

While adding the split pin solves the issue of the armour springing open, it does not solve the issue of why a turning pin would be used instead of the tie rings known to have been used on girdle strips.

Once inserted through a slot and secured with a split pin, a turning key fastener patterned after known examples from sports armour is almost indistinguishable from a standard tie ring.  Therefore any claim that the turning keys were selected on some sort of aethestic grounds seems dubious at best.

Considering that the turning key would in fact be slower to use than a simple tie ring, (it adds the extra step of turning the key after inserting) it does not make the armour any faster to put on.

Lastly, the method of installing the turning key on the armour - cutting a wide slot into the plate to allow it to be inserted, and then hammering the metal back to close it.  This weakens the armour far more than punching a small hole and peening the tang of a tie ring, so again it seems an impractical choice for combat armour.

In short - I'm not making turning key fasteners - instead I will make tabs/tie rings.

I spent a very great deal of time thinking about how I could make my tie rings/tabs - my sketchbook is littered with ideas both good and bad.  The main issue is that I do not have the facilities to make them by casting, which would be historically correct.  I also don't have ready access to a piece of brass sheet thick enough to match my taste.

One idea, which I think I first read on Arik Greenberg's article about his own newstead seggie, was to start from a piece of rod or square stock and cut off "coins" which could be further shaped as needed.  Although I did purchase a 12" piece of 3/4" brass rod, I  now intend to use it for something else entirely -- I realized that without a bandsaw or similar apparatus, I would not only spend hours cutting it up, but I would also lose at least 50% of the metal as cutting waste.

I still didn't have a real solution when it came time to connect my two proto-shoulders together.  As a result, I picked something out of a hat and tried it.   It's basically a folded piece of mild steel pierced with a tapered punch, wrapped in a brass sleeve, similarly pierced.  I won't say much more about this other than it wasn't a good idea and I don't recommend it.

 You can also see that I got too carried away with hammering one of them without annealing - it cracked right along a fold line.  Also featured - rust! :'(

Anyways I was very disappointed with these -- even after installing the first one I knew that I would need something better.

Fortunately, the next day while I was climbing onto the dock, I had an idea - I could flatten some of the round stock I purchased to make hooks, and use those as tabs!  Pictured below - the proto-tabs for my first girdle band, with matching slots and a hook.  I'll talk about slots next time since this post is getting rather long.

Below - my friend JB very kindly brought a vise up to the cottage while I was up there.  Anyways, as you can see here, I stuck the business end of the tab in the vice and then dropped the pre-punched band on top of it.  I then nipped off some of the shank, and started whacking away on it with the ballpein hammer.

Below - the installed proto-tab.  Much better, but still room for improvement.  This one is too tall - the hole for the split pin is ridiculously far away from the plate.

Thinking about the time spent annealing, etc. I decided to try to speed the process up by doing four tabs at once instead of two on my next pass. First of all, this meant tying them into some sort of bundle so I could anneal them all at once.  Fortunately I had some brass wire handy - steel would have been better, though.  It was still rather fiddly, so maybe I'll buy a firebrick or two to simplify this next time.

Anyways, between annealings, there was hammering!  Since I had cut these so short, I had a hard time striking them while also holding them still with a vise grip.  Fortunately, I finally discovered that my swedish cross-pein hammer was good for something after all!

Tabs, flattened and punched.  Maybe I'll try a slightly larger hole next time.

Excess tab length trimmed off, and ready to be cleaned and installed.

So that concludes today's post - I wanted to talk about slots too, but this is already very long and I'm hungry. See you next time!

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