Saturday, 31 December 2011

Helmet Blackening Update: Goodbye 2011

New Year's Eve and just enough time to put up some pics of my Elizabethan Burgonet and how the blackening is getting on.

Yesterday Jon T came round to do the next bits for my brig that I am making (Hmm going to need some articles about that too) and we just had a little time to do some more on the burgonet. So with blow torch and paint brush in hand. The main part of the helmet needed all its brass fitting stripping off and the chin strap too. We then went about heating the helmet and applying the oil.

This is an extremely smelly task and needs to be done outside. Unfortunately we had left it rather late and the darkness came down and then it started to rain, which eventually drove us indoors and forced work to stop.

Blackening the neckguard. you can see the rain on Jon's van, hence why we had to stop.

Friday afternoon's progress

So Saturday came about and as luck would have it a couple of spare hours. Now I could either cut out new plates for my brig or get the blowtorch out again. Blowtorch won, and I decided to take advantage of the reasonable weather. (It wasn't raining)

I got quite a way with it before I lost the light again. Most of the helmet now is black, to some degree or another. The oil in several places still requires some more cooking off. Then it will need another coat or two, at least. Some places are proving quite tricky, like the ridge of the comb and the roundest part of the crown of the helmet as the oil needs cook on it immediately or it flows away. Even so I am delighted with how it is going and I am looking forward to putting the whole thing back together and adding all the brass fittings.

What I am really pleased about is that if I can do this helmet successfully I should have far less problem with the helmet I really want to blacken which is my 15th century Barbute, the helmet I do most of my medieval combat in.

This one. Can't wait to give it a go. Next will be the finishing of the burgonet and polishing it, then the leather work for its web to make the whole thing fit better. But that will all have to wait until next year. See you in 2012:0)

Friday, 23 December 2011

Well that was 2011

I started to write a review of my year. It included a round up of most stuff and then it was going to have my top five things I was most chuffed with. However it started to become a mammoth task and I decided to start from scratch, so here goes...

From a Conflicting Interests point of view 2011 has been ace! We roamed up and down the country, went to (not in order) Kenilworth Castle (Smashing) Dover Castle, twice, (Fantastic) Bodiam Castle (Very satisfying) Herstmonceux Castle (Brill) Kentwell Hall (Always a pleasure) Tewkesbury, Bosworth, Hatfield, Kelmarsh, Weald, Collchester, Bentley, Wellwyn, Hadleigh Round House, Mannington Hall. We fought in battles, skirmishes, tourneys; from 1 on1 crest melees with the Knights Tourney of Foote (Thanks Mark Vance et al) to 1000 a side dust ups like Tewkes (thanks the Tyrrels) and everything in between. We have enjoyed a wide range of Living History activities and displays. I have become the MSS Script Writer's Guild and have written and co-written several scripts for our battle displays, which is a very satisfying thing to do. We met some great new friends and reaffirmed old friendships. In fact reenactment this year has proved itself to be everything I got into for and more. I can't wait for next season.

In the wargaming world, I have completed projects, started new ones. I have had two more articles in print in Wargames Illustrated (that's five now) I had a photo shoot for some more articles for next year (F&IW) and was asked to write a special article for the 300th anniversary edition for next September too. I have managed to get a wide variety of games played, and found some new opponents with whom I hope to play more. Our Very British Civil War campaign is off and running and there are lots of new models to paint and play with. So on that front all is good too.

There were a couple of moments that haven't really got a mention on this blog this year and I am slightly remiss for this so here are a couple...

Our season always starts with the Suffolks' COW (Council Of War) our household gathers together in the spring to discuss the forthcoming season and which events we are aiming to go to. The calender discussion is usually fairly brief, we then focus on the main part of the COW, dinner! This takes the form of a medieval banquet usually cooked by Francis, Bess and Mirabel. Everyone else strips our livingroom and redecorates it with suitable medieval kit. We all dress for dinner and then have a slap meal. The highlight of this year's COW was the bird within a bird, within a bird, within a bird. Partridge, in pheasant, in duck, in chicken nom nom!

Already looking forward to the COW 2012.

Another highlight was when five of us went down to the Bentley Wildfowl trust in Sussex for an MSS event. We only went for one day, so went light. The highlight of the day (Aside from fighting for our friends the Ap Harrys) was the walk in. We kitted up in the car park and then marched into camp with all of our kit, just as we would have on campaign. It looked pretty good. One day I will do an event where I literally take just what I can wear and carry... one day.

Right at the end of the season I was called to do something I don't usually do, Victorians. Again new friends made, this time Daisy and Alex Richardson of Past to Present Historical. We spent a weekend at Audley End, in North Essex, entertaining the masses who queued to see Father Christmas. I went essentially as a 'Dodgy Victorian pub dwelling cove' not too tricky you would think for me. We cobbled kit together for me, thanks for all the loans guys, and off I went with a pocket full Victorian pennies and some cards to find the lady. In the end very little lady finding occurred but a great time was had, the highlight of which was getting several hundred queuing folk to do a Cockerney wave, ( Just like a Mexican Wave, just with more Dick Van Dyke) you had to be there. and we certainly will be next year:0)

So what was the best moment of the year? I thought it would be really hard to select, but as it turns out it was a piece of cake. It happened at Kentwell Hall during the Grand Recreation of Tudor life. On the third weekend of the event the military types put on a Tudor Pageant to celebrate the Master's natal day (birthday) the pageant took the form of the Battle of Azincourt. Now this essentially was a ruse to get a handful of fully armoured Men At Arms to be shot at close range by English archers, always great fun for those taking part and those watching. The rest of the 'battle' included combat between the French and English: The French and English Kings going toe to toe: The French cavalry, played by 9 and 10 year old lads on hobby horses assaulting the English lines and lots of other silliness. On the whole it was great success. The battle ended with heavily armoured and French and English knights fighting to the inevitable defeat of the French.

So was that it then? The best bit of your year? NO...

The best bit came moments later. Usually a 'battle' like this ends with the dead coming back to life and the combatants all indulge in some self congratulatory back slapping, but on this occasion it was a little different. Our pageant in 1553 had been hijacked to celebrate the accession of Lady Jane Grey and we just happened to have her eight year old sister Lady Mary Grey on the manor. At the end of the battle, in a flash of genius of whom I do not know, the Queen's sister took the field to accept a Royal Bow. In one moment our show and my season was topped off by an eight year old girl nervously walking amongst a collection of sweaty, armoured warriors who all fell to one knee in deep reverence, heads down and eyes averted in silent tribute.

I know it was all pretend but it was just a perfect moment on an English Summer's day. For those of us lucky enough to have been there it will stick with us forever. For those of you not lucky enough to be there I suggest you get out to some historical locations next summer in case some thing as cool as that happens again.

Thanks to all who have been on the road with us this year.
Roll on 2012. I'll see you in the 15th or 16th centuries.

Swallowtail Ted
Pollet Virtus

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Helmet update

Quick update on the helmet blackening... I thought I would have a crack at blackening without Jon holding my hand this afternoon. It turned out pretty well. Brass fittings stripped off first and all put into Coke to clean them. Then same process as the other day. I think I need to replace my blowtorch as I had difficulty getting the metal hot enough to start with however it looks like it turned out in the end.

Next I need to make the web to go inside the helmet, so I can drill any hole required before blackening the main part of the helm. I have also started on the gorget. As you can see it is a well loved piece of kit that has been extremely well looked after. Hoping the blackening will vastly improve its appearance.

So keep coming back to see how I get on. New blowtorch then I should be in business:0)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Another winter project

Now I know some of you will be thinking that I already have a lot to be getting on with this winter, but it will also probably come as no surprise when you read I have another project to be getting on with too. One of the problems with being a medieval reenactor is looking after the kit, especially the armour. I believe that it was unlikely that there would have been many really shiny harnesses of armour on the battlefield. In many campaigns there just wouldn't have been the time to keep armour in shiny condition and only the wealthy men who had servants with them would have had their armour regularly cleaned. Well that is certainly my excuse for why my armour is allowed to tarnish.

So what did they do? Armour was often left to 'brown' get a slight tarnish which was then rubbed down and this prevents further rust issues. In some cases armour was painted. This protected the metal and added a certain degree of indiviuality. Armour could also be 'blued' or 'blackened'.
Let's face it black armour is cool! Ever since I started playing wargames I have painted men in black armour. There are many images of black armour in medieval paintings and the 'Black Knight' often appears in stories. We all know he can carry on fighting when he has lost both arms and legs, they are just flesh wounds.

So blackening is what I aim to do to some of my armour this winter.
Now I have never done this before and I don't want to ruin my medieval stuff that I fight in so I am going to start on something I don't worry about as much. It looks like 2012 might see my group going out and doing more Elizabethan soldiery type events and I will probably end up being out the front swanking around being the bloke in charge, mostly due to my Playground Voice which is good for commentaries. Being a commander type then, I want some swanky kit. Knocking around in my garage is a, rather cheap, burgonet helmet and gorget. And something that would definitely improve the look would be making them black.

The look we are going for is the same as this Warhammer Pistolier from my Empire army.

Now technically this is a fantasy army, but it was designed by a Perry and they are spot on correct. There are many examples of black burgonets worn by reiters and others so this will be my guinea pig piece.

First what you need is a friend who is an armourer and then he might talk you through it. (Cheers Jon) The process will involve taking all the brass fittings off the helmet; then taking a blow torch to it. you heat the metal until it's jolly warm (this is technical term), you then apply a liberal coating of oil (I am using used non synthetic engine oil) which you then heat up until it is also jolly warm it then dries out leaving a hardened black coating. In the medieval period they were most likely to use a paste made from oil and lamp black (soot). While the metal is still hot you add a layer of beeswax which allows you to polish to a bit of a shine. This is all done outside as the fumes are pretty pungent.

Then all the brass fittings will need to be replaced. I also intend to add a web inside the helmet as as the pictures show there is currently no padding or web inside at the moment and it just perches on several arming caps, which is very unsatisfactory.

This cheek piece is my first attempt and I am pretty pleased, going to do the rest over the holiday, I will keep you posted.

Come back and check out how I am getting on. Good Yule everyone!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Norfolk Living History Fair Mannington Hall

The Norfolk Living History Fair was back in October. The Suffolks went in Tudor kit. Usually we will be quite specific about which year we are recreating and therefore what clothes we should wear. However at this event we all chose different kit (our favourite outfits) so we could represent a living timeline of Tudor fashions.

Ant and me in Elizabethan kit, (there were several other Suffolks present, but we were the only Elizabethans, hence why there is only two of us in the photos. There are other photos of the Suffolks on Adrian's website, follow the link at the bottom of this article.)

Two fantastic shots of my musket in action. We did this several times over to get the flash but it was well worth it.

Sword action. The sword of choice at the time was the Sidesword a transitional weapon, evolved from the arming sword of old but not a full rapier as it has two cutting blades. The English couldn't give up hacking at each other.

I have only recently received these photos from a photographer who attended the event: the very excellent Adrian Buck of Adrian Buck's Photography and I am so pleased with them I wanted to post them here. Thanks for the great pictures Adrian.

We are already looking forward to getting out next season to start developing our company of Elizabethan musketeers.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

More Pirate buildings

As promised here are some more concept sketches for the next few buildings in my 40mm pirate project The shipwrights will be a similar size to the smithy I have already built (See Sunday 13th November) This will be one large building and a walled courtyard. Living space and workshop in the building. Living space on two floors. No self respecting Piratical retreat would be without a tavern and this is the one I will build. The Flying Fishe will be a large model in several parts which will hopefully be the location of more than its fair share of bar brawls. A series of three houses with walled back gardens. Different heights and roof alignments should make for an interesting skyline. Like everything else these will come apart in several parts. The ground floors will be modeled to the bases with the back gardens in place too. The ground floor, then will be one big model. I am starting on this one first.

A detached house with a shop on the ground floor. This one has a wedge shaped back garden, which will be across the road from the rear of the tavern. There is a map of the whole harbour which I will get round to posting soon. There is a lot of work to be done here, and I reckon I will be glad that I am not aiming to take this to Salute 2012 now but Salute 2013 instead.

Finished Medieval Eating Knife

Click on the photos to get a bigger view

Sod it! On this occasion I am going to have to concede that someone else is right. It looks that Tod's claim that 'Anyone can do anything' certainly applies to making a knife. With only a minimal amount of basic tools I have assembled the knife, made the sheath and decorated it. And I have to say I am extremely pleased with the result.

The above image is of the back of the sheath, showing the tight seam running down the back. you can also see the grain in the handle. I am particularly pleased with the choice of Lacewood for the handle. I had to research Lacewood on the net before making my choice and I thought it looked quite unusual. It is a very delicate looking wood with a very pleasing pattern in the grain. By carefully selecting the best part of the scales provided for the handle I have managed to get a pretty handle, which I hope the photos here do justice to. It's even better in your hand.

The front of the sheath showing the tooling, a repeating pattern of diagonal lines and crosses made up of five rectangles. The tooling adds a nice touch and helps to make the sheath unique. The sheath has been dyed with red leather dye, some pretty evil stuff, but worth using. This photo shows the handle clearly with the brass bolster and the two brass rivets through the handle. The brass bolster is held in place by a brass rivet which is filed down to the point where it is almost invisible. The circular mark on the blade is Tod's mark.

The finished knife in the sheath. It is a tight fit, which is good news as I would be gutted if it drops out and I lose it.

So with only the use of some files, a vice, sandpaper, a hacksaw, coping saw, hammer and the kit supplied by Tod I have managed to construct my own eating knife. This is not a way of saving money; it is only three or four pounds more to get one made by Tod, but it is deeply satisfying to do and I will be very pleased to wear this next season. Thanks Tod.

BTW if I wouldn't say no to winning the big prize:0)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Knife Progress

OK so it wasn't quite done in a weekend, but here are some photos of the progress made on the knife project. I am rather chuffed with the results so far.

Knife with wooden scales cut rough shape and brass bolsters rough shaped too.

Two shots of the handle in different light. The handle is made from Lacewood, which has a pretty and subtle pattern to it, which is proving hard to photograph well. This is the handle mostly finished with the brass rivets in.

Knife and sheath. The sheath is double layered, and needs to be as the blade is ferociously sharp. It just awaits dying now. So project nearly complete, and as I said I am really pleased how this has gone so far. If I don't win Tod's main prize I won't mind too much as I will have a really nice knife that I made myself. However, Tod if you are reading this...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A weekend project

A little packet arrived for my last week, special delivery. The contents are below.

Some of you will know what they are looking at and others will be wondering what the hell is that lot? Well it's pretty straightforward really. It is a kit for making a medieval eating knife from Tod of Tod's Stuff and The English Cutler . I won a the first round of a competition and this was the prize. Now the deal is, assemble the knife and sheath, and send Tod photos of the completed project to win this...

Belt, turned bollock pouch and a Burgundian Rondel (that's the knife) and jolly sharp too. I am going to take photos as i make it. I have never done anything like this before so we shall see how it turns out. Tod's axiom is that with a bit of application anyone can do anything. Let's see if he is right. Right I am off to the garage to get working.

Cheers for now:0)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Piratical Progress - 1st building

Right then, first model finished. This is the one I started last month and I am rather pleased with it:0) This is the front elevation with balcony for extra swashbuckling action.

This has turned out quite well, and a lot like the sketches, see last Piratical Progress entry. The roofs on this model are cardboard slates. Many of the other buildings will be pantiles but I like this style.

Back yard with stairs from 1st floor. Two gates in the yard to encourage players to go through one side to the other.

Side elevation. One long wall with gate to backyard. Creeper on wall is from the GW plastic trees. the foliage on the trees looks pants but on flat walls it really works. It breaks up the white wall well and adds a splash of colour.

Other side elevation with front of smithy and doors to house visible. You can clearly see the horizontal lines which show where the model comes apart for access for models going indoors.

A peglegged fellow leaves by the back door.

The whole building in its constituent parts. Just like all my buildings for skirmishing this comes apart so those swabie dogs can get inside.

So there you go. A rather pleasing first effort at a 40mm building for my piratatical games, plenty more to come. But probably won't be featuring at a show next year as it I may well be officiating at a friend's wedding on the day of Salute2012. So I might have more time to produce stuff before it all makes a public appearance.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Battle on Ryde Esplanade

Second game of the week was a larger affair. Played between myself, Edward and El Hoggo. With the Princess Beatrice Rifles, The Peoples' Socialist Republic of the Isle Of Wight, and the Anglican League, repectively. This was played on a 6x4 foot board using plenty of scenery. The following is the report from my commanding officer to his CO. There may be other reports from the other factions to follow. Send them in chaps:0)


On receiving orders from Colonel Templeton Smyth to investigate the presence of Communist agitators in Ryde, I ordered my senior NCOs to have the men assemble on the parade ground. The whole platoon mounted up in the vehicles available and we headed immediately to Ryde. We were joined by a section of riflemen from the Royal Yacht Squadron who were also mounted in a truck.

Number one section led by Sergeant Hoskins was sent into the town first to scout the situation. Hoskins quickly met a local Police Constable who was able to report that Agitators had been present in the town for a number of days and many of the local working men and women had declared Ryde as the capital of the Peoples’ Socialist Republic of the Isle Of Wight. The constable went on to explain that the Communists had thrown up barricades around the Western end of the Esplanade and had made their headquarters on the pier.

Hoskins immediately returned to the column and we proceeded to the Eastern end of the Esplanade. My column of vehicles made its way on to the Esplanade from Seaview Road. It became immediately apparent that the Reds had indeed erected barricades to create a stronghold.

The Platoon advanced onto the Esplanade and immediately came under fire from the barricades. I believe the Reds had mounted a Pom Pom on the back of a truck to give them extra support. Number one section disembarked from their armoured truck which then headed towards the Reds to give covering fire with its Vickers.

Number Two section led by Sergeant Elphinstone also disembarked his men. Both sections came under fire, both rifle and machine gun, from a Seamen’s mission on the seawall. Both sections took casualties but were able to suppress the fire from the mission and its environs. The RYS troops took up position a little to the west of One and Two sections and engaged in a rifle battle with what appeared to be Naval troops behind a dry stone wall which surrounds Esplanade park.

The Reds’ Pom Pom was causing a great deal of concern as was the threat of Heavy Machine Gun fire from the Mission. Number One section’s Armoured truck and Number two sections Bulldog were able to little else than head towards the barricades. Number Two section’s Bulldog was crippled by machine gun fire and slid to a halt blocking much fire from the Socialists.

Corporal Sedgwick’s number three section disembarked closest to the barricades and were the only section to engage in hand to hand combat with the enemy. His men moved forward and engaged a unit of Reds which had come over the barricade. Sedgwick’s men went forwards with bayonets. At first they had some success, killing a man with a Lewis, however they were driven back when they came under attack by socialists hurling petrol bombs. The socialists lost heart and retired behind the barricades.

Sergeant Butcher’s Four section made good progress. They were first able to support One and Two sections with fire on the Mission. With concentrated fire they were able to drive off the sailors in the mission, except for a curious looking armoured vehicle. It appeared slow and cumbersome. It was as if a fellow had managed to mount a pillbox on wheels.

Butcher then took his men forward towards the Red barricades. It was Butcher’s men who disabled an enemy machine gun and the sailors behind the dry stone wall. Butcher then survived the last rounds fired by the enemy pom pom which then took no further part in the action.

My Platoon had taken several casualties, mostly in One and Two sections and the RYS men. We had two vehicles damaged and my Vickers team had all been wounded. We halted our advance to regroup, at this point it was apparent that the Socialists had withdrawn from their first line of barricades. The Red machine gunner wounded by Sedgwick’s men was taken prisoner. He informed us that the Reds would have only retired to a second line of barricades. It also appears that the militia attacking us from the Sailor's Misson were from the Anglican League not the Socialist's commune. I decided that a continued assault would require a greater force than I had at my disposal. I then followed orders given over the telephone to return to barracks in Carisbrooke.

It is hard to tell how many enemy casualties were inflicted, my estimate is somewhere between thirty or forty. Privates Wilson, Smith G, Smith R and Davies were killed. As were three men from the RYS. We also had three other men badly wounded and a dozen men with light wounds.

Lt T WCooper Commanding

3rd Platoon, 1st Company, 1st Battalion Princess Beatrice Rifles