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.