How to Make Armor – Tip #2 – Find A Good Space
The first thing you need, of course, is a shop! Let me say, right up front, as an apartment dweller myself, that if you live in an apartment most plate armor is going to be out of the question – you will not be producing suits of gothic armor. And if you live in an apartment where you can, let me know – I want to move there!
Seriously, though, an armor shop space needs to be pretty rugged and tolerant of dirt, grime, fire, and dust. You can liken an armor shop environment to that of an auto mechanic’s garage. An armour shop in full-tilt production probably ranks amongst the 10 dirtiest places on earth. It’s also generally a very noisy place. Not only that, but the hazard of fire is quite real. Trust me – as someone who has incinerated a patch of carpet (and very nearly his crotch) in front of his TV while playing with red-hot maille rings, armor work is not the sort of thing that lends itself to living quarters. So you can pretty much forget about using the corner of your dining room as an armor shop for making plate armor.
The ideal shop should have enough room for a workbench, a tool rack, and a chair. Even a small space can work, you just won’t be able to have all your toys out at once. The floor should ideally be hard-packed dirt. Cement floors are good, too, though some folks have cautioned me about allowing molten metal to drip onto cement. Supposedly, this causes water in the cement to flash into steam, potentially blowing craters in the floor. Whatever your floor is, you can count on the fact that you will have literally buckets of metallic dust strewn upon it, as well as numerous metal, wood, leather, and other bits. Likely as not, you’ll also have red-hot chunks of metal thrown on it, too. A garage makes an excellent armor shop.
A shop should also have adequate ventilation. Many of the jobs than an armorer does (acid etching, welding) results in the production of noxious fumes. Good lighting is also important.
I Live in an Apartment!
If you live in an apartment, don’t despair. Even though you may not be producing suits of gothic armor there are still many armor items that you can make. Apartment dwellers are limited by two major constraints: noise and dirt. These conspire against the armorer in that you basically cannot form sheet metal as needed to make armor without making copious amounts of both. However, if you are working relatively simple metal shapes, or better yet, you can get your plates cut somewhere else, you can do simple metal forming and riveting in an apartment. Riveting will still be noisy, but not too bad if you use a large chunk of metal to support the rivet.
Chainmail is ideally suited for the apartment dweller. Butted maille requires almost no more tools than a wire cutter and a couple of pairs of pliers. Armed with these and a spool of wire you can produce some of the most labor intensive and lusted-after armor available. With a few more tools and a small workbench you can even make authentic riveted maille, which is even more lusted after and even more labor intensive!
Leather armor can also be done in an apartment environment, though one needs to be careful because it can be messy. You may be playing with large containers of very hot water, molten wax, and leather dye. Carpets, furniture, and landlords don’t particularly like any of these.
Coats of plates are another style of armor that lend themselves to apartment armorers, and represent, as far as I am concerned, about as ambitious an armor project as should be undertaken in such an armour shop. Coats of plates require leather and/or cloth work, sewing, simple plate cutting (can be done with hand shears), simple plate forming (almost no dishing), and riveting. A relative of the coat of plates, splinted armour can also be made with an apartment shop. Splinted armor is a form of limb defense made of steel slats riveted to a heavy leather backing, and requires similar skills to build.
Play it Safe!
The second prerequisite to making armor is safety equipment. You will need, as a minimum, safety goggles; earplugs; a respirator that can filter metal particles; gloves; and a fire extinguisher. None of these are negotiable. Now, I know exactly what you are thinking… “Aw, I don’t need all that stuff.” Yup – I used to think I didn’t need safety glasses just for this quick little job until I ended up at the eye doctor letting her pick a rusted bit of metal out of my eye. Some of the injuries, like hearing loss and lung damage, you won’t even be aware of until it’s too late. Don’t take chances.
I will provide images of many tools to provide you with an example. These are for reference only, and are not suggestions or endorsements. That is not to say that they wouldn’t work just fine – just don’t come crying to me if you buy something and it doesn’t work for you. (The Arador Armor Library makes no direct claim to the fitness or suitability of any example pictured here) (see also: Finding Supplies for Armor and Hand Tools on the Cheap- A Scrounger’s Guide)
Now that you have a place to make armor, and the safety equipment, it’s time to decide on what kind of shop equipment you are going to need to start out with. This is going to depend largely on what kind of armor you want to make and what kind of shop space you have. Most types of armor will fall into one or more of these categories:
More properly called “maille”, or “mail”, chainmail is one of the least tool-intensive armors that can be made. It is also one of the most labor-intensive armors that can be made. At a very minimum, maille can be made with a couple of pairs of pliers, a pair of wire cutters, and a piece of round steel stock. However, most maille makers, especially those who make authentic, riveted maille, have a few more tools than that. (see also: Beginner’s Guide to Maille , Demystifying Chainmail and Ringmail)
Because of the minimal tool requirements, maille, especially butted maille, can be made almost anywhere, even in a college dorm room.