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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Grist for the Mill » Chain Mail Class (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Chain Mail Class
Meredith
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In going through the listings of classes being offered by my city's Parks and Rec department this winter (I need to register for my dog agility class) I found this:

quote:
Workshop - Ancient Armor Chain Mail Bracelet

Learn basic and sophisticated chain mail techniques. Various metal working techniques will be introduced and students will make a one-of-a-kind bracelet using ancient armor techniques. Start with a small project and one day make your own chain mail suit of armor.

Hmm. I've written characters who wore chain mail, but never one that made it. Could be interesting.

[ February 24, 2013, 12:17 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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MattLeo
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My daughter makes jewelry, although not chain mail jewelry. Some of her books describe jewelry chain mail projects.

The process used in jewelry has similarities and differences with armor making; there are sites where you can read about the armor technique which is considerably more difficult. You're making more complex shapes, working with a more difficult material (steel rather than gold, silver or jewelry wire), and making an artifact that has to be more rugged (e.g. links are riveted or forge-welded closed in armor).

I encourage any writer to take up any craft that might be useful -- and jewelry-making is a both a convenient and practical craft. I'd definitely go for it, although it may tell you less about making a hauberk than you might hope.

I believe every epic fantasy writer ought to have done some basic background research on metalwork, blacksmithing and swordsmithing. At one point I started to write a primer on those topics, covering things like how pre-modern smiths refined and forged iron, and the difference between iron alloys and bronze or brass. Chiefly iron cannot be melted with pre-modern technology (unless you're in China). It can only be refined and worked because it has an unique plastic state where it is malleable but not liquid. That's why large pieces steel plate armor weren't available until just before the modern era. The Romans had bronze and even iron cuirasses but the iron ones would have been fabulously costly.

Making wire for mail itself is one of those low tech processes that's so amazingly labor intensive it beggars the imagination that anyone bothered with it.

Anyhow, I got the primer as far as bronze and basic iron working -- roughly the point where you could understand the process of making a horseshoe. Then I put it back on the shelf to work on actual writing projects.

On a side note, one of the coolest pieces of "chain armor" I've ever seen was a costume mail shirt made from paper clips. There used to be a company that made shiny silver, circular paper clips, so this guy bought a case of them and over the course of a few months pieced together a four on one mail shirt.

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Robert Nowall
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Both my high school and college had fencing swords around---but no course in it. I took archery instead.

I would've thought proper chain mail would have needed a blacksmith shop to make...

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Crystal Stevens
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Go for it, Meredith. Sounds like fun and something I'd like to try sometime [Smile] .

I talked to a guy at a renn fair that made his own chain mail. He didn't say much about making the actual links, but he did say that connecting them together to make the mail wasn't hard at all. Evidently, he didn't sodder the links closed and showed me a chain mail shirt he'd made. I couldn't believe the weight, but he said because the weight is evenly distributed over the body when worn, it doesn't feel near as heavy.

He also told me that the chain mail they wear in the movies is actually plastic. And that doesn't surprise me at all.

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LDWriter2
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Meredith I agree with you. It could be interesting. I would think very seriously about taking the class.

Speaking of a bracelet maybe that is where all the swordswomen get those chain mail bras and miniskirts. They took a class to and made them for it.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
Meredith I agree with you. It could be interesting. I would think very seriously about taking the class.

Speaking of a bracelet maybe that is where all the swordswomen get those chain mail bras and miniskirts. They took a class to and made them for it.

I suspect that's just some cover artist's fantasy.
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Meredith
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Just got back from this class. Very interesting.

I have decided if I ever do write a character who makes chain mail, I will make him an alcoholic. [Smile]

Actually, it was interesting and might even be something I might want to pursue as a hobby--not to make chain mail, but there are other crafty things that you can do with it. But we were using aluminum wire and some of the more basic patterns--I didn't even attempt dragon scale. (Even the instructor was struggling with that one. European four-in-one was hard enough, thank you.) Any character who was trying to do the same thing with iron or steel--and then have to either rivet or forge-weld the links! He's got to go straight from the workshop to the nearest alehouse. Or, maybe, he drinks mead, instead. [Big Grin]

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LDWriter2
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That could be an interesting story line especially if it is someone who has to make chain mail in our time.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
That could be an interesting story line especially if it is someone who has to make chain mail in our time.

Well, there actually are modern day machines that you feed wire stock and which spit out sheets of chainmail. If you are making more than a suit's worth of the stuff, and you're paying for labor, and you don't have be period accurate, this would be the way to go. You can use an electric resistance welder and weld link after link almost instantaneously.

Why are there chain mail machines? Well, chain mail is used in protective gloves and protective clothing in slaughterhouses and meat packing plants. It's also used in shark-proof diving suits.

Today you can make mail out of anything that can be purchased as wire, including titanium alloy. The use of automation and exotic materials would allow you to clothe a platoon in chain mail suits of inhuman fineness for not much more than it'd cost to make a single good suit the old fashioned way. Check out this fellow in his titanium shark suit. Granted it takes buoyancy compensation, but you can actually swim in the thing. And the thing is *shark* proof, which means it's probably pretty good against most edged weapons powered by human muscle.

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LDWriter2
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There is that alright but I was thinking more for Fairies, they would want it made the old fashion way.

And there used to be--maybe still is--a guy around here who did make it the original way. He may have made it for that group who like to dress in armor--I never can remember how to spell their name, they need a short version.

As I recall he was, or is, a blacksmith who made various items but chainmail was one.

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Crystal Stevens
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I was told by one renn fair weopons demo guy that many reinactors make their own or know of someone who make chain mail by hand. From what I saw of the guy making his own, it isn't that hard to do. Seems to me if it's custom made by hand that the mail will fit the wearer better too. JMO
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Crystal Stevens:
I was told by one renn fair weopons demo guy that many reinactors make their own or know of someone who make chain mail by hand. From what I saw of the guy making his own, it isn't that hard to do. Seems to me if it's custom made by hand that the mail will fit the wearer better too. JMO

Ah. Well, now, that depends on the material. Making chain mail out of aluminum isn't hard at all--once you learn the pattern. You don't even absolutely have to use tools with aluminum. Making real chain mail out of say, steel, would involve a lot more work. And that doesn't count the requirement for real armor to be either riveted (tiny little rivets) or forge welded. Of course, aluminum makes really lousy armor, unless you're just playing.

It also doesn't count playing with some of the more challenging patterns like dragonscale or kingscale, which require a lot of attention and probably very good lighting, too.

I have at least heard of people who are familiar with a pattern like European four-in-one who can work it while watching television or talking on the phone, but probably in a softer metal. European four-in-one is pretty easy--until you try to start the second or third row. Then, at least in aluminum, it tends to wad up and make it hard to tell top from bottom--or the middle. I haven't gotten that far yet, but I understand that it gets easier again once you get a few rows on.

Some aspects of this craft interest me and I will probably play with it some more. Not to make chain mail suits, though. One supplier actually sells special (non-brittle) plastic and rubber rings which could be fun to play with, too. Good for practicing, I suspect.

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aspirit
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For the record, chain mail bras and miniskirts are sold at certain speculative fiction conventions. They are made of metal and rubber links, and I'm told they are moderately comfortable.

A group that not only researches chain mail but re-creates historical patterns--then puts it on and actually fights in it--is the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). (Although, plastic plate armor is more popular than metal chain link for safety and time reasons.)

I've worked on chain mail in the S.C.A., when I was too weak for combative fencing. I'm a horrible seamstress and don't have to patience to sit in a hen's circle without anything to do. So, I sat by the heavy weapons fighters at practice and learned how to make basic chains. What surprised me most: (1) how much easier it is than fabric arts and (2) how much hand and wrist strength it requires. I had to frequently rest from twisting the links into place, because of the damage my hands have taken over the years.

We have only one regular chain mail maker in our local group, so my husband has been teaching himself how to make a certain pattern for his medieval Japanese armor. (Yes, the Japanese used chain mail, too!) What he's doing is complicated--but it's pretty!

Bookstores are now carrying tutorials on making chain mail, for people who can't or won't find someone to teach them how. It is an interesting hobby.

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rcmann
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I have tried it using things like coat hanger wire. Even with a decent set of tools, and a moderate amount of experience working metal, I had a devil of a time keeping the rings anything like uniform. No doubt that comes with practice.

If I needed to make something for actual use, I would be sorely tempted to go the route of fastening metal rings or strips to a leather armor base. Never tried it, but I suspect it would make life much easier.

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MattLeo
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Well, coat hanger wire is pretty soft, so short of jewelry wire it's about the easiest thing you could work with. How did you shape the rings?
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Robert Nowall
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I hate to rain on anyone's parade...but, really, I haven't seen a wire hanger in many years. All I ever see are plastic ones.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I hate to rain on anyone's parade...but, really, I haven't seen a wire hanger in many years. All I ever see are plastic ones.

Hmm. Maybe THAT'S my problem...
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rcmann
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LOL! Well, it was several years ago that I tried it. But you can still buy wire hangers at Dollar stores and other discount places, at least around here.

I tried different methods. Simply twisting a loop with pliers and then snipping it off. Not too successful. I tried measuring off regular intervals along the wire, then twisting them into loops, either with pliers, or by tapping them into shape around something round such as a punch.

In my case, my hand wasn't steady enough to do it freehand, and I didn't have any kind of template to work with. I also didn't have a clue about what I was doing at the time, making it up as I went along. I could make loops, and interlock them. That' simple enough. but it looked like crap.

But I am guessing my working conditions might have been a close approximation of the ones a primitive blacksmith would have worked under, with the difference that my tools were made of better steel.

And in most places, the best steel in medieval times wouldn't have been much tougher than coat hanger wire anyway. With rare exceptions for locations with unusually high standards of metal fabricating.

I make knives and swords for a hobby, usually from the stock removal method. Occasionally I have turned my hand to hammering out a blade at the forge, which I consider a royal pain in the backside. My father-in-law used to be a fairly adept journeyman blacksmith, back when he raised horses. He even had his own portable forge, and he taught me a few things. And I have done mechanic work and similar activities.

But even so, I shudder at the thought of making a full suit of mail by hand.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I hate to rain on anyone's parade...but, really, I haven't seen a wire hanger in many years. All I ever see are plastic ones.

Hmm. Maybe THAT'S my problem...
There are actually (non-brittle) plastic rings out there made for this purpose.

Mostly, you can just go to your local Joann's or equivalent and buy some aluminum jump rings in various sizes and colors. Aluminum is soft enough that you don't even really need to use tools, though it's better practice to use pliers. It's a good way to just play with it. And different colors, IME, help to see how the pattern goes together while you're first learning it.

And you can make your own rings fairly easily (just by wrapping the wire around something round, pulling the coil off, and then clipping along one side), but you'll probably need to file the ends to make a good closed joint. Instead of (mostly non-existent) coat hanger wire, copper wire is pretty easy to get at any hardware store and fairly flexible.

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MattLeo
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Well, I have learned one thing from this conversation: Robert doesn't wear anything that needs dry-cleaning. [Razz]
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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I hate to rain on anyone's parade...but, really, I haven't seen a wire hanger in many years. All I ever see are plastic ones.

Hmm. Maybe THAT'S my problem...
There are actually (non-brittle) plastic rings out there made for this purpose.

Mostly, you can just go to your local Joann's or equivalent and buy some aluminum jump rings in various sizes and colors. Aluminum is soft enough that you don't even really need to use tools, though it's better practice to use pliers. It's a good way to just play with it. And different colors, IME, help to see how the pattern goes together while you're first learning it.

And you can make your own rings fairly easily (just by wrapping the wire around something round, pulling the coil off, and then clipping along one side), but you'll probably need to file the ends to make a good closed joint. Instead of (mostly non-existent) coat hanger wire, copper wire is pretty easy to get at any hardware store and fairly flexible.

Aluminum and copper are great for practice and proof-of-concept. I am interested in hearing the results the first time you make the attempt with steel wire thick enough to stop a blade slice.
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Aluminum and copper are great for practice and proof-of-concept. I am interested in hearing the results the first time you make the attempt with steel wire thick enough to stop a blade slice.

LOL. I might have to do some upper-body strength exercises before I try that. [Razz]
I'm sure not going to try it until I'm sure I've got the pattern down.

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Grumpy old guy
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rcmann, chain mail was made with steel or iron wire. To make consistently sized metal rings you wrap the wire around a piece of wooden dowel, then cut the wire down the length of it. Then, you flatten each end of each ring and punch a small hole in each flattened end. Then simply cold rivet the ends together.

At least that's what my book on armour says.

Phil.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
rcmann, chain mail was made with steel or iron wire. To make consistently sized metal rings you wrap the wire around a piece of wooden dowel, then cut the wire down the length of it. Then, you flatten each end of each ring and punch a small hole in each flattened end. Then simply cold rivet the ends together.

At least that's what my book on armour says.

Phil.

The only part of that I disagree with is the "Simply". Also, the reason for flattening the ends is so that individual links can be riveted.
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rcmann
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I tried wrapping it around a pipe, and I tried wrapping it around a metal punch, and around a piece of round stock (perhaps a section of rebar, I don't recall exactly at this point).

The trouble was that controlling a piece of stiff steel wire freehand, when you are trying to figure out the technique yourself, is a bit challenging. Bending and cutting wire is simple. Bending and cutting wire to a specific length is fairly straightforward. Doing it so that you achieve neat, consistent results is a challenge. Or it was for me.

Re-sizing a horseshoe is a fairly straightforward operation too. But until I watched it done I would never have been able to do it. Making your own iron nails is even easier. Hewing out a square beam from a log using a broadaxe is also a straightforward proposition, although it hurts like hell. But again, it's a matter of knowing how. If you don't know how, you can spend all day fumbling around and not get very far. I didn't know how to make the rings consistent.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
I tried wrapping it around a pipe, and I tried wrapping it around a metal punch, and around a piece of round stock (perhaps a section of rebar, I don't recall exactly at this point).

The trouble was that controlling a piece of stiff steel wire freehand, when you are trying to figure out the technique yourself, is a bit challenging. Bending and cutting wire is simple. Bending and cutting wire to a specific length is fairly straightforward. Doing it so that you achieve neat, consistent results is a challenge. Or it was for me.

Re-sizing a horseshoe is a fairly straightforward operation too. But until I watched it done I would never have been able to do it. Making your own iron nails is even easier. Hewing out a square beam from a log using a broadaxe is also a straightforward proposition, although it hurts like hell. But again, it's a matter of knowing how. If you don't know how, you can spend all day fumbling around and not get very far. I didn't know how to make the rings consistent.

Sounds like a case for starting with something softer, like copper, until you get the technique down.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by aspirit:
I'm a horrible seamstress and don't have to patience to sit in a hen's circle without anything to do.

Sewing isn't the only thing you can do in a "hen's circle." What about knitting, crocheting, or even spinning? I'd much rather do those than sew anyway.

quote:
Originally posted by aspirit:
...my husband has been teaching himself how to make a certain pattern for his medieval Japanese armor. (Yes, the Japanese used chain mail, too!) What he's doing is complicated--but it's pretty!

Sounds interesting. Any chance you can post a link here in this topic to a photo of the result when he's done?

And if that's going to be too far down the line, a link to the pattern he's following or intends to follow?

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Well, I have learned one thing from this conversation: Robert doesn't wear anything that needs dry-cleaning. [Razz]

(Totally off-topic extension of this thought--but off-topic-ness is allowed in the Grist for the Mill topics.) There are ways to dryclean your stuff at home. Of course, drycleaners also do pressing (and I'd rather have one of my husband's suits pressed at a drycleaner than have to try doing it myself).
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Robert Nowall
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I've never had anything drycleaned in my life. I don't own a suit, and just wear jeans around. Lucky me, I've heard from other people. (I should really buy a suit one of these days.)
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I've never had anything drycleaned in my life. I don't own a suit, and just wear jeans around. Lucky me, I've heard from other people. (I should really buy a suit one of these days.)

[Mattleo does a little happy dance]

Yes!, I totally *am* Sherlock Holmes.

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aspirit
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
quote:
Originally posted by aspirit:
I'm a horrible seamstress and don't have to patience to sit in a hen's circle without anything to do.

Sewing isn't the only thing you can do in a "hen's circle." What about knitting, crocheting, or even spinning? I'd much rather do those than sew anyway.
Although I admire other people's projects, I'm afraid of knitting, horrible at crocheting, and lack the focus for spinning. Whenever I attempt anything with fabric or yarn, I have an urge to run away to find something stabby to play with. On the bright side, I'm talented at martial arts. Even better is that my daughter currently occupies my hands so that I can chat without growing impatient.

quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
quote:
Originally posted by aspirit:
...my husband has been teaching himself how to make a certain pattern for his medieval Japanese armor. (Yes, the Japanese used chain mail, too!) What he's doing is complicated--but it's pretty!

Sounds interesting. Any chance you can post a link here in this topic to a photo of the result when he's done?
With my husband's permission, I've posted photos and brief descriptions of his project on my blog site.

Chain Mail - Japanese Design

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aspirit
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With Japanese mail, notice that the rings are not welded together. Unlike European mail, which was primarily made for safety and strength, Japanese mail was made to show off. The rings were generally smaller than what my husband created, and they held in place with little more than tension and the lacquer coating.

Fortunately, rings that fly off in battle can be later replaced without dismantling the entire piece.

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Meredith
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Very cool, Asprit! Thanks for sharing.
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rcmann
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I have often been struck (slight threadjack here, but still not totally off-topic) by how much of later pre-industrial Japanese armor and weapons seemed to be focused more toward intimidating and/or executing the peasants, rather than facing off against equals in battle.

If you read the history books, there are accounts of the use of katanas during WWII. Despite the quasi-mystical awe with which many people regard them, in actual battle they were report to frequently be less effective than western style sabers.

I read a source several years ago, I'm sorry I can't dredge it up at the moment, about a guy who was in charge of distributing and maintaining the mass produced swords that were issued to imperial troops. He was flabbergasted by the number of them that kept getting damaged in battle due to the handles and guards being knocked loose. They finally ended up, if I recall, switching to a more western approach to fastening them on the tang.

I studied saber fencing in college, and I also own a katana. Of the two, if I had to fight someone in earnest, I would seriously rather have a modern saber. It's lighter, faster, better balanced, and the guard does a much better job of protecting your hand.

Considering that any sabers in use by Allied forces in WWII would have been in the hands of officers who were almost certainly untrained, I cannot be surprised that the samurai had issue with keeping out experienced European interlopers during the colonial age.

I also cannot help but wonder what would have happened - how well the Europeans would have fared - if they had squared off against the samurai back in the days when they were still facing invaders from them mainland on equal terms.

Just an interesting side note. But the details of real history, as opposed to the mythical version that gets repeated and reported a lot, has always fascinated me.

If there are any blade purists who disagree, feel free to crucify me.

Please forgive the diversion. But the remark above about Japanese mail being for show, rather than actually being designed for protection, brought all this bubbling up and spewing out.

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MattLeo
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Well, by "modern sabre", I think you probably mean 19th C cavalry sabre rather than a fencing sabre.

In any case you can't do apples-to-apples comparisons. The cavalry sabre, like it's close relative the Chinese *dao*, is designed to be deadly in the hands of novice as well as an expert. While high levels of proficiency can be achieved with the weapon, you could still hand it to a raw recruit and tell him to go forth and kill. It's basic operation would be entirely obvious. Not so with a Chinese *gim* or a European smallword. Oh, a novice *can* kill with such weapons of course, but he wouldn't stand up in a fight against another novice using a simpler weapon like a club. Sabre trumps club in the hands of novices.

As for Japanese chainmail being only ornamental, I always wonder about how accurate a basis we have for making such statements. It may well be that the *surviving* armor is particularly fine, and of a late date of manufacture (post-dating the introduction of firearms). Museum pieces might also be ceremonial in nature, like the uniforms used by the Pope's Swiss Guards.

Ornamentation is a common characteristic of many East Asian historical artifacts, so it wouldn't be surprising to find ornamental use of chain on functional a suit of armor. That said, I'd bet that any part of the armor that had to protect the wearer would be as strong as possible, and in the case of chain that almost certainly means riveted.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, aspirit. Please tell him I'm very impressed.
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rcmann
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Actually the last saber in use, by the American military at least, was the Patton saber. It was closely modeled I believe on the English and French sabers in use at the time. In appearance it resembles a broad-bladed rapier more than the traditional saber used during the nineteenth century.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_1913_Cavalry_Saber

Actually, there is an art to saber fighting that is at least equal to the use of the rapier. It is a more brutal approach, less precise perhaps, but just as dependent on the skill of the user. A saber in the hands of a novice is no more deadly than a katana.

When I mentioned the katana above, I was talking about the construction. It is ironic that swords with blades crafted from steel that has been called incredible, were fitted with grips and guards that were so pitifully easy to knock loose, and provided such poor protection to the user's hands.

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MattLeo
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Well, I don't know much about Japanese swords; my area of knowledge (such as it is) covers modern western fencing weapons and Chinese swords, so if you say that the sabre has no advantage over the katana in unskilled hands, I bow to your superior knowledge.

I certainly didn't mean to say there is no skill involved in sabre fencing, only that the results that troops not intensively trained in the use of a particular weapon don't necessarily tell you much about that weapon's potential capabilities. Some weapons like a sabre or a falchion, are particularly effective in the hands of a novice *in comparison to* a weapon that can *only* be wielded with finesse, like a smallsword. A novice is obviously not effective at all when matched against an expert armed with the same weapon.

If I had only a rifle (no bullets) with fixed bayonet, I'd rather face a novice with a rapier than a novice with a sabre. If you say that a katana is equally formdiable in the hands of someone untrained in kenjutsu, I'll take your word for it.

I'm aware of the M1913 Patton "saber", but as you say it's kind of an anomaly.

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rcmann
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A lot depends on what you're used to. Personally, I would prefer a rifle with bayonet over anybody's sword. Or a quarterstaff. Or a boar spear. But to each their own. I just prefer something that lets me hit him before he gets within range to hit me.

Back to mail. It's interesting that so many writers neglect to mention the importance of the padding that went beneath the chain. Without that padding, a fighter was essentially helpless against a large tree limb in the hands of a farmer.

I'm guessing a mixed approach, leather plus mail, with some small plates to supplement, might be the most give the most bang for the buck. For anyone who can't afford plate.

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MattLeo
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Speaking of mail, remember seeing an actual 19th C photograph of a very black Muslim African warrior carrying a scimitar and clad in a half-shirt of coarse mail.The man was almost naked except for the mail coif and the half-shirt. The shirt covered his right arm to the wrist, and the hem ran from his left shoulder to his right waist, revealing a *very* well developed torso. He wore nothing at all under the mail.

This is the kind of thing you'd laugh at if it appeared on the cover of a fantasy novel, but this was a legitimate ethnographic photo. It's possible though that the armor was ceremonial. If it was real armor, I'm guessing they probably donned it at the last minute to keep it from rusting away. I suppose that the danger of heat stroke outweighed the danger of crushing attacks, and such armor would give your attacking side significant protection from slashes and thrusts.

I tried to google for that photo but I can't find it at present, but I did find this. The lady in the second set of photos doesn't appear to be wearing any padding, either.

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rcmann
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CHAAAAAAA-FING!
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
CHAAAAAAA-FING!

Uncomfortable maybe, but women do seem to endure worse. High heels, for instance. BTW, the pattern used in the dress seems to resemble the decorative Japanese chainmail patterns linked above.
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Grumpy old guy
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The Japanese katana achieves its curve because of the differential cooling techniques used. A *real* katana (circa 1600) would, most likely, shatter a modern sword.

The katana is unique amongst swords in that it is designed to be both weapon and shield. The edges is possibly the hardest obtainable using carbon steel while the 'back' of the blade retains its flexibility. The katana's issued to officers in WW2 were mass produced and not the work of master craftsman.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I wonder if Western sensibilities can grasp the bushido code. Might samurai honor mean that technological superiority is a desecration? If a warrior's skills and strength and intelligence alone overtop an opponent's, can there be honor in crushing him with superior weaponry and armor? Milieu matters.
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rcmann
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Somehow this thread got well and truly highjacked. My apologies Meredith.

@Grumpy old guy - I wasn't denying the excellence of the steel in a classic katana. To the contrary, it always struck me as ironic that such a finely crafted piece of steel would be fitted with such a poorly designed grip and guard.

Ever take one apart? Two tiny bamboo pegs is the only thing holding it on there. And pressure form the pegs is the only thing holding the guard in place. The guard is frequently nothing more than a decorative collar.

A western saber has a bell shaped cover of solid steel to protect the hand, with another loop of solid steel passing beneath the grip to join the pommel. Watch a saber fencing match and you can hear them ringing like church bells on Christmas morning.

Theoretically, you aren't supposed to depend on the guard when blocking, usually. You are supposed to do it with the blade. But theory doesn't always hold water in the real world.

@ extrinsic - I never understood the bushido code at all. I recognize that this is a failing on my part, do to my ethnocentric conditioning into western cultural standards. But then, I don't understand the knightly code of Europe either.

In both case, the ruling warrior classes were bound by rigid rules of conduct when dealing with each other, but they were free to murder, pillage, rape, torture, and terrify the peasantry at their whims. This was called 'honor'. I will remain forever puzzled I fear.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Somehow this thread got well and truly highjacked. My apologies Meredith.


No apologies necessary. This discussion is fascinating. [Big Grin]
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
I never understood the bushido code at all. I recognize that this is a failing on my part, do to my ethnocentric conditioning into western cultural standards. But then, I don't understand the knightly code of Europe either.

In both case, the ruling warrior classes were bound by rigid rules of conduct when dealing with each other, but they were free to murder, pillage, rape, torture, and terrify the peasantry at their whims. This was called 'honor'. I will remain forever puzzled I fear.

Modern times milieu disconnect. Predetermination's philosophy forms a basis for understanding bushido and chivalry's "honor" in parallel perspective. Serfs are absolutely wicked, cannot redeem themselves, can only do evil if left unsupervised, and deserving of the suffering punishments they receive. High, free born men are faultlessly good, do not need redemption, can do no evil, and deserving of the luxuries and liberties they enjoy for keeping the peasantry in their preordained place. I am being sarcastic.
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MattLeo
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WRT "the bushido code", I think that things cultures write and say about their ideals have to be viewed with skepticism. In the west, for example, knights subscribed *in stories* to a code of chivalry. In practice they were little more semi-organized brigands (except when they weren't being bloodthirsty religious fanatics).

A code of ideals exists to direct a population to some direction it *isn't*. The Cluniac monks of France tried to tame the German barbarism of European knights with a code of ideals and behavior, and those knights adopted the *image* wholeheartedly while carrying on with their raping and pillaging.

In any case, the Japanese are the world's greatest geniuses at adopting foreign ideas and practices. This is *where* their obsession with maintaining indigenous traditions comes from. You don't need that kind of obsession in a culture where outside ideas don't take root. They adopted Chinese and Korean ideas about art and civil administration in the 8th Century CE. They adopted the gun enthusiastically during the warring states period. At no point did they actually turn their back on the gun while they were cut off from the West in the Edo period, it's just that the Tokugawa shoguns were so powerful there was little need on a day to day basis for guns.

Even Japanese swordsmanship in the Warring States period was influenced by Dutch two rapier fencing.

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Meredith
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There's a picture of my novice effort on my blog today.
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rcmann
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It's quite beautiful.
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