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efreysson
12-14-2009, 05:04 PM
I'm doing the last touch-ups on my fantasy manuscript, and need to have some little technical details figured out.

My warriors are mostly armored with hardened leather, or the occasional chainmail shirt, and I need some general information on both. And yes, I know there were of course various makes of armor from various periods, but any information from any period would be helpful.

1) How much does a leather-shirt or chainshirt weigh, and what's the minimum encumbrance one can expect to agility and stamina?
2) What kind of maintenance is required?
3) How long does it take to make one of either?
4) Really, just how good a protection did those things offer? What did it take to injure or kill someone in boiled leather/chain
5) . . . just anything else I might want/need to know.

Thanks.

PeterL
12-14-2009, 06:09 PM
I don't know about the leather, bu it would depend on how many layers. A chain mail shirt weighs a lot, but it depends on the size. You can expect it to weigh more than twenty pounds, and it could be fifty pounds. It takes a minute, or so, for each weld of a ring, so a single row around the chest of a good sized man would take more than an hour.
For its weight, chain mail is fairly comfortable, because it is supported over a fairly large area. If it was made correctly, than it does not encumber movement enough to notice. The comfort was one of the advantages of chain mail over scale mail and plate.
Chain mail provides decent protection against swords, but it isn't helpful against projectile weapons. Plate armor is much better for projectiles.
The maintenance is fairly easy. It has to be kept oiled.

Sarpedon
12-14-2009, 06:39 PM
For its weight, chain mail is fairly comfortable, because it is supported over a fairly large area. If it was made correctly, than it does not encumber movement enough to notice. The comfort was one of the advantages of chain mail over scale mail and plate.

This is contrary to everything I've read about armor, and from my own experience wearing a chainmail shirt. (I've not had the opportunity (ie, money) to wear plate) Chainmail hangs entirely from the shoulders. Its like heavy cloth; it doesn't have any structure of its own to distribute the weight. Chainmail was never an alternative to plate: People made chainmail because metallurgy was not sophisticated enough at the time to make plate. Once the technique was developed, plate totally replaced chainmail: it is more comfortable, because its rigidity allows it to be supported from various places, it is better protection, and requires less time to make. In the plate era, chainmail was only used for joints. This happened twice: once in the roman era, where chainmail was replaced in the legions with a reticulated plates, and then in the middle ages, when the superior metallurgy was rediscovered in around the 12-13th centuries.

If you remember the movie gladiator, you will recall Maximus' armor that Proximo gives him. That's leather. What can be said about it except that its lighter and weaker than steel, and has a stronger tensile strength than compressive strength? Unlike steel plate, a fighter wouldn't deliberately take hits on his armor, but would try to avoid strokes, and the armor would only be a last resort.

WriteKnight
12-14-2009, 06:40 PM
Depending on the size of links, and type of pattern, and length of sleeves, etc. a chain hauberk (shirt) can weigh any wear from twenty to forty pounds. If it is a full length hauberk, then much of the weight in the lower half is held 'up' by gathering a bit of it above the sword belt. Otherwise the entire weight rests on the shoulders.

It's fexible, so no encumberance in movement - but it is heavy. A veteran who wears it daily will be more used to the weight then someone who puts it on for the first time.

It's typically worn over a gambeson - a padded garment - not only for comfort, but additional protection. The chain protects from cuts - but not from 'mass' weapons. In other words, it does precious little to keep your arms or ribs from breaking if someone hits you with a mace. Special 'bodkin' point arrows are designed to penetrate and break the welded links. Broadheads would not usually penetrate.

Care and maintenance - keep it cleaned keep it oiled - keep it covered. The surcoats for the crusades were as much about keeping the sun and elements off the mail as displaying heraldry.

It gets REALLY HOT in the sun. And it's awfully cold to wear in the winter.

Polishing rusted mail was accomplished by placing it in a barrel of sand, and 'tumbling' it by rolling it back and forth. It was also sewn into a leather 'sac' with sand - and tossed back and forth between the squires - for the same effect and good excercise. (Medicine ball anyone?)

Boiled leather is fairly good for edge protection as well. Again - typically worn over padded garments. Easier to make then chain - less expensive - subject to faster wear and tear - the elements can wreak havoc - especially the sun which melts the impermeated wax, and just plain mildew.

Hope that helps. I've spent a LOT of time in both chain and plate harness... on and off horse... in all kinds of weather.

Richard White
12-14-2009, 06:46 PM
I've woven chain before and while it definitely takes some time, people who do it for a living can crank out a chain shirt pretty quickly.

The guys I saw doing it had a special metal rod that they wound the wire onto, that had a preset groove in it. As soon as the rod was filled, they could take their shears right down the groove and cut out the individual links. This gave them the conformity they needed to make the "knitting" easier.

And it also depends on the style of chain you're doing. Obviously double link takes longer than single linked, but it provides much more protection.

Now, when it comes to weight, I never used chain when I fought in the SCA, but I had knee-length scale armor, a padded shirt beneath the scale for my torso, full metal arms (14 gauge steel), full metal legs (14 gauge steel), a Turkish style helmet (10 gauge steel) and a kite shield (reenforced plywood - no sense using oak against ratan weapons). All told, I think it weighed in at 75 lbs. Considering I only weighed 160 at the time, it was tiring to wear. That's why fighter practice was "manditory". You had to build up endurance to wear that stuff, much less actually fight in it. Luckily, I did most of my fighting in Monterey rather than someplace like Phoenix.

Chain was good against swords, as Peter said. Not so good against crushing weapons like a hammer or a mace. That's why most people wore padding beneath the chain to keep the individual links from being driven into their bodies from a hit. (Of course, the internal damage from a mace was still pretty bad without the extra annoyance of metal fragments *grin*)

Leather, even boiled in honey, didn't provide as much protection as metal armor, but it had two advantages - weight and cost. Much cheaper to outfit your archers, pikemen, etc. in leather and your assault force in metal.

BillPatt
12-14-2009, 06:48 PM
I seem to recall that the leather/chain mail combination would be proof against regular bows. Against longbows, I am not sure. I'd doublecheck the battle of Agincourt. It wasn't until you had crossbows could you reliably pierce that armor.

WriteKnight
12-14-2009, 06:49 PM
Weaving chain is fairly fast. Rivetting it takes more time. For those who have woven 'butted' mail - the type typically worn in today's re-enactments - figure that actually rivetting each link closed doubled the length of time to make a garment.

hammerklavier
12-14-2009, 08:18 PM
Chainmail was not good protection against swords, at least not against the larger better made sort. It was only to offer protection against ill aimed and lighter blows. A good solid hit and a knight could cut a chainmail armored foe completely in half. There are many examples of this in the chronicles of the crusades. Put the knight on a horse, with all that extra momentum behind him, and the armor becomes even less effective.

Plate armor, which was developed later, was good protection against swords. That's when the mace and morning star became popular as they could still do damage through the plates. Also, the long bow was developed about that time and the crossbow became more popular.

Incidentally, plate armor was known to the world, the ancient greeks used it in the bronze version, and the Romans had versions of it, but it wasn't popular among the early knights due to weight, poor technology, and (perhaps) their barbarian mindset or machismo.

PeterL
12-14-2009, 08:59 PM
This is contrary to everything I've read about armor, and from my own experience wearing a chainmail shirt. (I've not had the opportunity (ie, money) to wear plate) Chainmail hangs entirely from the shoulders. Its like heavy cloth; it doesn't have any structure of its own to distribute the weight. Chainmail was never an alternative to plate: People made chainmail because metallurgy was not sophisticated enough at the time to make plate. Once the technique was developed, plate totally replaced chainmail: it is more comfortable, because its rigidity allows it to be supported from various places, it is better protection, and requires less time to make. In the plate era, chainmail was only used for joints. This happened twice: once in the roman era, where chainmail was replaced in the legions with a reticulated plates, and then in the middle ages, when the superior metallurgy was rediscovered in around the 12-13th centuries.



I have to disagree on a couple of points. Metal armor is heavy and uncomfortable, because it is heavy. Plate armor is better protection against arrows than is chain mail. Chain mail doesn't have as many opening, so it is more difficult to get a sword through than is the case with
plate armor.

As to metallurgy and fabrication techniques, making chain mail is relatively low tech. Scale mail is cheaper to make, but it has the disadvantages of both and few advantages. Plate armor required making fairly large pieces of flat iron or steel, which was difficult and expensive.

Which kind of armor was better depended on the ability of someone to pay and the circumstances in which it would be used.

If I had to choose pre-modern armor to wear all day, the I would go for a sleeveless boiled leather shirt; it wouldn't help much, but it would be bearably uncomfortable.

If I were looking for something to wear in battle against swordsmen, then I would go with chain mail.

If I were going to be involved in a cavalry chage against a mixture of infantry and cavalry that would include bowmen, then I would go with plate.

These days I would go with Kevlar.

Mr Flibble
12-14-2009, 10:41 PM
Just a point ( cos I watched QI last night, and if Stephen Fry says it's true...)

Average weight of plate armour 55lbs

Average weight of gear carried into modern combat by soldier 100lbs plus.

Sarpedon
12-15-2009, 12:19 AM
Well, I'll defer to WriteKnight's opinion as to the comfort, as he's probably the only one here who's worn both. So please tell us, O WriteKnight, which is more comfortable? Chain or Plate?

I also think that my position that chain and plate did not coexist, and that plate replaced chain is well supported. If you would dispute this, please show me a historical piece of artwork which has people dressed in both kinds of armor at the same time, which is not during the transitional period, or due to differing tech levels or due to the people depicted being of differing social class.

Furthermore, I dispute your assertion that plate armor has more openings for swords to slip in. I would certainly go with plate armor for any hand to hand encounter (on dry land, that is), regardless of what my enemy was wielding. And I wouldn't hesitate to use a longsword against someone with chainmail. The force of the blows could break bones and cripple muscles, even if the chainmail was not cut. Furthermore, the point of a sword could easily pierce chainmail. Just as in boxing, fighting an armored opponent with a sword often uses a quick blow to shock or knock him off balance, with the finishing blow being slower and more powerful.

PeterL
12-15-2009, 12:33 AM
Well, I'll defer to WriteKnight's opinion as to the comfort, as he's probably the only one here who's worn both. So please tell us, O WriteKnight, which is more comfortable? Chain or Plate?

I also think that my position that chain and plate did not coexist, and that plate replaced chain is well supported. If you would dispute this, please show me a historical piece of artwork which has people dressed in both kinds of armor at the same time, which is not during the transitional period, or due to differing tech levels or due to the people depicted being of differing social class.

Furthermore, I dispute your assertion that plate armor has more openings for swords to slip in. I would certainly go with plate armor for any hand to hand encounter (on dry land, that is), regardless of what my enemy was wielding. And I wouldn't hesitate to use a longsword against someone with chainmail. The force of the blows could break bones and cripple muscles, even if the chainmail was not cut. Furthermore, the point of a sword could easily pierce chainmail. Just as in boxing, fighting an armored opponent with a sword often uses a quick blow to shock or knock him off balance, with the finishing blow being slower and more powerful.

"These were chain mail armor and plate armor. Often both of these types were used in conjunction to achieve the best features of each." http://stormshock.com/archive/articles/development.html
You probably should read the whole article.

Sarpedon
12-15-2009, 01:37 AM
Maybe you ought to read the whole article. The last section talks about how plate completely replaced chain.


Plate armor was a much more complicated type of armor because it was not as flexible as chain mail. I described chain mail in detail earlier because most plate armor is based on chain mail. For most of the Middle Ages, plate armor simply meant chain mail with iron plates covering vulnerable areas. At the height medieval armor, plate armor had little or no chain mail parts


The last remnants of chain mail was still in use in the form of mail skirts and aventail, but was going out of style. Later advances in head protection and reinforcing iron soon produced full plate armor in its full glory.

The entire article seems to support my thesis that plate replaced chain, and only coexisted during the transitional period. I'm sorry if it seemed I was saying that this happened overnight, I didn't mean to make any such assertion.

Furthermore, I find this whole article of dubious credibility. For example:
Though heavy armor was exclusively used among the wealthy, some rulers were wealthy enough to amass fairly large armies of heavy calvary.

One of my pet peeves.

Also its unsupported assertion that a sword blow 'just glances off chainmail.' I do not dispute that a sword will generally not cut chainmail, but I doubt that blows from the sword can just be shrugged off. Even though there is a list of citations, it bothers me that individual assertions, such as that one, are not directly supported with a citation. All the works cited also seem to be secondary sources, and webpages too, alas. And when I go to the main stormshock page, I notice it has a dice rolling utility. Is this a roleplaying website? I mean, I think he gets a lot of things right, but this is hardly a credible source to base an argument on.

Among the primary sources that I have studied include medieval fencing manuals, which do indeed tell one how to use the sword effectively against armored opponents. Developments in armor also led to equivalent developments in swords. The swords that chainmail made obsolete were replaced by new swords that were more effective. Your author's assumption that all swords are more or less the same, which seems to underlie his argument, shows how shallow his scholarship is. I have no doubt that a viking style sword would have been largely ineffective against chainmail. A late period longsword? Not so ineffective. For a comprehensive view of the types and development of the medieval sword, I recommend the works of Ewert Oakshotte.

I also find his flippant dismissal of medieval art as a valid source for information to be not worthy of consideration. The fact that medieval artists sometimes depicted historical figures in armor not appropriate to the period does not mean that the armor depicted is not an accurate representation of armor that existed at the time the painting was made.

Sir Valeq
12-15-2009, 01:53 AM
1. Go to youtube.
2. Search things like "armor", "test", "leather", "chain", "plate" etc.
3. Watch and profit. :)
Among all the trash in videotube services, there are a lot of pearls to find.

WriteKnight
12-15-2009, 04:36 AM
Yes, I've worn both chain and plate, and usualy joust in early -mid 14th century harness - which falls within the 'transitional period - which arguably lasted nearly a century.

"More comfortable" is a subjective - relative term. Much depends on the task required. It is easier to fall and roll wearing chain than full plate - easier to break your back if you fall in a full cuirass - so there are benefits to chain, or the transitional era where one might be wearing a chain hauberk and a 'coat of plates' on top - probably the heaviest combination of all.

I weigh 197 dripping wet. I usually wear about forty pounds of harness - plate and chain - with saddle shield and weapons - figure I weigh just about 275.

A horse can carry and work with 1/3 of it's body weight - so I need to ride a horse that weighs in at appx 850 -900 lbs. Any decent sized quarter horse or event horse will top that.

The development of armor was a convulted affair. Fashions came and went. Armor excavated on battle fields ranged from the latest to pieces we considered 'out of date' by a century - but obviously not 'out of use'. Records in the Royal Arms talks about shipping out (Getting rid of) old amor - sending it off to the colonies in the 17th century - so it's not like today's I-pod - when the new model comes out everyone dumps the old one to get in line for the new ones.

Chain and gambeson do a LOT to stop a cut. The chain spreads the impact of the edge, and the gambeson dampens it. It takes a hell of a cut to slice a man in half with a broadsword, if he's wearing chain and gambeson. It's more efficient to pierce it. Hence the develoment of the more pointed blades. Pushing through, splitting the links and driving the point home.

It's damn hard work - even 'faking' it in full armor in the sun or snow. Most of the modern movies now wear some excellent plastic/fibreglass chain and plate. Looks terrific, weighs nothing - easy on actors and crews alike.

But there's something satisfying about swinging back up into a saddle, after winning a joust. Feeling your harness sitting properly on your body - your horse still dancing under you - and riding out to the sounds of the crowds cheering your name.

Richard White
12-15-2009, 04:59 AM
Knight,

Where all do you joust?

<-- remembers coming off the field of battle after competing in the 7th fight of the day (round robin) and not being able to take my armor off. Thank goodness for good friends with stuffy noses. *grin*

That's why I usually heralded at tourneys rather than fighting. The herald's hauberk is a lot easier to wear for a six hour event.

GeorgeK
12-15-2009, 09:19 AM
My chain shirt took me 200 hours to make (there was a bit of a learning curve, and I didn't have power tools, but I did start with a spool of wire). It basically covers the same as a short sleeved V-neck T-shirt that extends to my upper thigh. It's a 4 into 1 butted pattern and weighs 30 pounds (10 guage steel). The Viking pattern of 6 into 1 would weigh 50% more. Walking and running (if you are in shape) isn't that big of a problem, but climbing, especially leaning to one side or another can make you topple. wearing a belt over it helps with that but not completely.

Other considerations: You can have a variety of people inheriting and wearing chain. Plate however, is a different story. If dad was 5 foot 6 inches and 160 pounds, his 5 foot 9 inch, 180 pound son probably won't fit into his armor, and you can't just bop down to the tailor and "let it out a bit".

WriteKnight
12-15-2009, 09:16 PM
Plate can be 'let out' or even 'taken in' a bit - not much, but a bit. Depending on the era and the style - arms and leg harness are adjustable. The cuise and greaves and sometimes cops are all seperate elements that overlap - and can be adjusted to fit. I've purchased 'company armor' that can be fitted to various individuals. There's not much you can do between a 5'3 145 and 6'4" 210 fit - but between a 5'6" 160 and 5'9 180 - yeah, I could make it fit. Breastplates can be spread and compressed a bit - chainmail lengthed or shortened - it's possible. (Helms can have a bit of padding added or removed, but if there is a LARGE difference - that's a problem.)

The last time I was in harness jousting - was in 2006 - in Texas, in a snowstorm in April. I'm getting too old for that sort of thing, but I was filling in for a Knight who had been recalled to Iraq. He's home now - God bless him.

JoshEllingson
12-22-2009, 06:21 PM
Well, I'll defer to WriteKnight's opinion as to the comfort, as he's probably the only one here who's worn both. So please tell us, O WriteKnight, which is more comfortable? Chain or Plate?

I also think that my position that chain and plate did not coexist, and that plate replaced chain is well supported. If you would dispute this, please show me a historical piece of artwork which has people dressed in both kinds of armor at the same time, which is not during the transitional period, or due to differing tech levels or due to the people depicted being of differing social class.

Furthermore, I dispute your assertion that plate armor has more openings for swords to slip in. I would certainly go with plate armor for any hand to hand encounter (on dry land, that is), regardless of what my enemy was wielding. And I wouldn't hesitate to use a longsword against someone with chainmail. The force of the blows could break bones and cripple muscles, even if the chainmail was not cut. Furthermore, the point of a sword could easily pierce chainmail. Just as in boxing, fighting an armored opponent with a sword often uses a quick blow to shock or knock him off balance, with the finishing blow being slower and more powerful.


While I tend to agree with most of what you said, i do disagree with the WriteKnight being the only one of us that has worn both styles of armor. I have worn, and tested several forms of armor, including chain, plate, boiled leather plate, scale, lamelar (both leather and steel) and on occassion combinations thereof.

as to comfort, i personally found all forms to be comfortable to a certain degree. it does take some getting used to, but a properly made kit is hugely more comfortable than an ill-made, or improperly fitting one.

in regards to efficiency, chain is almost entirely useless against anything other than slashes. I have personally cut chain, shot through it with a shortbow, a longbow, and a crossbow. I have also penetrated steel plate(made using only period technology) with a broad head from a Welsh styled longbow (7 foot yew bow), as well as a crossbow. While the arrow from the longbow did puncture the armor it did not penetrate deep enough to kill on its own, but it would have left a wound capable of becoming infected, even moreso if the wearer was out in the elements and not able to keep the armor rust free (like most people who were actually fighting during a campaign.

Sarpedon
12-22-2009, 06:29 PM
ah, well Josh, I only said that because we weren't yet acquainted.

RJK
12-22-2009, 07:16 PM
On the History Channel the other day, they had a whole series on armor. The Chinese were the most advanced. they used laminated paper, scaled armor. it was much lighter, and would stop a crossbow bolt. They wore it similar to modern vests today, protecting vital organs.
Their Calvary also used a silk cape, tied at the end to billow out like a parachute behind them. The silk would stop (entangle) over 70% of the arrows striking it. the remainder were slowed down appreciably.

Sarpedon
12-22-2009, 08:11 PM
cavalry

GeorgeK
12-24-2009, 11:51 PM
On the History Channel the other day, they had a whole series on armor. The Chinese were the most advanced. they used laminated paper, scaled armor. it was much lighter, and would stop a crossbow bolt. They wore it similar to modern vests today, protecting vital organs.
Their Calvary also used a silk cape, tied at the end to billow out like a parachute behind them. The silk would stop (entangle) over 70% of the arrows striking it. the remainder were slowed down appreciably.

2 Questions:

If the armor was so much better why did it not catch on like every other new tech that quickly spread across to globe? Was it only wearable in the desert, and rain would make it fall apart? I'm not being sarcastic, I just have never heard about a useful form of this.

With regard to the cape, wouldn't that only help block arrows that you were running away from?

bylinebree
12-28-2009, 04:05 PM
I'm doing the last touch-ups on my fantasy manuscript, and need to have some little technical details figured out.
Thanks.

Key word: FANTASY manuscript.
Not HISTORICAL. You of course may know this...but you are not required to base your leather, or armor, or anything else on THIS world only. Right?

Does your worldbuilding include earth-type cows for leather? The ingredients for making steel plate?
Does it "have" to? No. It can be a jumping-off place, sure.

I know you asked for "technical" help and I don't mean to be totally off-base, but hope you won't get too bogged-down in details such as how long it takes to make chain mail.

Since it's a Fantasy, don't let "this reality" limit you too much : - )

Good luck with it!