16 December 2013

Metal on Metal

Given that I was once a Medieval Studies student, I am surprised that I have yet to post about medieval metal on this blog! Today that is remedied.  

During those medieval-ly days of mine yore, I happened to know two gents who built a blacksmithy and taught themselves to make armor.  The stuff they made was astounding and astoundingly beautiful.  

They were also member of the Society of Creative Anachronism; that lovely universe wherein the unofficial motto is "The Middle Ages as they should have been."  The issue of authenticity is keenly regarded in SCA. This piece from the Wikipedia article on SCA explains it:

"Tensions regarding the desirable degree of authenticity at SCA functions are highlighted by David Friedman in his articles "A Dying Dream" and "Concerning the C in SCA".

The accepted minimum standard for attendance at an SCA event is "an attempt at pre-17th century clothing", which leads to numerous discussions of the definition of "attempt". Some SCA events have been dedicated to particular historic events or have portions of their camping sectioned off for only strict reenactment, sometimes called "Enchanted Ground", in which much more strenuous attempts are made to keep anachronistic objects and actions out.

The distinction between the goals of fun and authenticity is an ongoing philosophical conflict within the Society. See, for example, the debates from rec.org.sca, the SCA newsgroup on USENET.

SCA members use modern elements when necessary for personal comfort or medical needs, or to promote safety. Unlike some other living history groups, most SCA gatherings do not reenact a specific time or place in history. Consequently, SCA events are more self-referential to individual members' personas where several cultures and historic periods are represented at an event. Thus the SCA may be more of a subculture than a reenactment group. For instance, the discussions of the Grand Council of the SCA, an advisory group to the Board of Directors, debated this at length.

One argument in the SCA is the meaning of "Creative Anachronism". An oft-quoted though unofficial SCA motto is "The Middle Ages as they should have been".

Despite such criticisms, there is some educational quality to the group's activities and they have helped to foster a good deal of valuable research, especially in the area of medieval crafts."

My Beloved Spousal Unit's beloved aunt & uncle are also members. Lady Aunt, whose SCA persona is an archer, is a specialist in manuscript calligraphy and gilding. Lord Uncle, whose persona is a medieval samurai warrior, in his mundane life actually owns a printing press or two and is a master craftsman.

I once attended a local fighting practice; they were held on a hill overlooking Lake Park near Lake Michigan.  I actually was permitted to try on a helmet and use a shield during the demo. Both were quite heavy! So, in addition to being impressed with the physical skill, I've always been fascinated by the kind of movement enforced by the wearing of armor.

Author, imagineer, utter fangirl, and gleeful champion of all things gustatory -- Diane Duane -- had a wonderful video on her Tumblr recently which shows the remarkable flexibility of movement an armored fighter is capable of.

For those interested in conducting their own experiments in the making and wearing of medieval armor (and who have access to a smithy!), here are links to some relevant YouTube videos! 


  1. That is quite a colorful gathering. I used to do my own blacksmithing, but I never made any armor. I was into black powder and mountain man things as well as primitive tools and implements. Maybe when I get back to Virginia I will once again build a forge.

    I imagine a full suit of armor is quite heavy and difficult to move in.

  2. If this video is true, then perhaps not. Though I suspect the gauge of the metal used matters.


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