Leather Armor: Aesthetic Creativity

Many types of armor have been used throughout the millenia. Maille of many types worldwide, leather armor, lamellar of metal or of leather, brigandine, plate, etc. Each was labor intensive and quite expensive, though for richer customers, armorers could make quite beautiful decorative armor.

Today I will be discussing modern leather armor. As we know, leather armor is not currently used in the modern world, but many reenactors have begun to create leather armor suits to substitute plate steel suits for reasons of weight, cost, and artistry.

Here are some examples of beautiful leather armor suits and pieces:

 

Leather_Armor_and_Helm_by_random_soul orckish_leather_armor_by_zapan99-d30gkjn fantasy__leather_armor_by_i_tavaron_i-d4xpsnf leatherdarkelfarmor5 Elf-Leather-Cuirass-brown1 Lamellar_leather_armour 104328-drachenreiter-lederruestung-gruen-dragon-rider-leather-armour-green

I fully intend to make my own leather armor similar to these pieces someday!

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The Katana: What NOT to Buy

In the past I wrote a blog stating in detail about how often, European swords were higher quality than katana, but that in this modern age, most swords which are well made are equals due to a lack of armor. Despite that post, I still love the katana. It is a nice sword to handle and it is also quite aesthetically pleasing.

As the title suggests, this post is about what NOT to buy when looking for a katana. It is important to be careful because the katana has reached a level of popularity beyond any other sword, including fantasy blades. This has led to millions of cheap wallhanger decorations that people buy thinking, “Wow! A cheap, real sword!” I felt much the same way when I was very young. At the age of thirteen, I learned from experience the difference between a real sword and a sword-like object (SLO). I bought a cheap set of “swords” at a flea market at that age and, even though I knew they were decorative, I still liked to play around with them. Pretty early on, the wakizashi and the katana came very loose. I learned that they had welded on rod tangs which were held into the handles by a nut and bolt. That is obviously not what you want.

 

 

Upcycled Long Tunic

Alright, so this post is a bit off topc as it is not arms, armor, or smithing, but it is still related! I have been trying to make medieval and renaissance-styled tunics for some time now, but honestly they are quite difficult with no patterns! I have been drawing styles I could create by upcycling old t-shirts and will be making one soon! I have, however, created a tunic as of last night by upcycling two old button-down dress shirts. The tunic with a red sash belt actually looks quite nice!

button tunic

     Forgive me for the low quality picture, but I only had my phone for taking pictures at the moment. I enjoyed creating this tunic and it actually fits quite comfortably! I am considering the additions of colored sleeve extension panels, maybe red or brown in order to give my arms freedom of motion. I am also considering adding colored panels which hang down the front for added decoration.

     I hope this has helped to give a few ideas for projects!

Affordable Basic Forge!

As I have said a few times, once I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in May, I will start my own forge and begin practicing and working. At first, I was worried I would have to go through the semi-complicated process of building a brake drum forge, one of the most simple, least expensive methods of building a standing forge.

brakedrum

     Don’t get me wrong, the brake drum forge really isn’t all that complicated, but I have been trying to avoid having to do any welding. I can weld, but I have no welder and I haven’t done any welding in about four years. I have also been a bit curious about how easy it would be to find old brake drums in scrap and junk yards. It was then that I someone informed me of something someone had told me once before: I can make an adequate forge out of a hole in the ground!

ground forge

     A tutorial I found suggested having the end of a pipe just down at the base of the sire, but I had the idea to do mine the same way is in the picture–Using a plumbing pipe with an endcap on one end with holes drilled along the length to allow even airflow. This allows for even heating. I can then attach a hose to the other end of the pipe and attach any form of air source to the other end of the hose, whether a crank blower, a hair dryer, a bellows, or a shop vac.

     Now, as for an anvil, I do not have either an anvil or a piece of railroad track, but I have something that may work better for me! I have two small, old bulldozer blades which are heavy enough to be used as anvils. They will be perfect if I mount them to a stump which has been partially buried. Once I have that set up, I can then sit on the ground to heat and forge my steel!

Wish me luck!

Philosophy of a Warrior: Aikido and My Inward Reflections

moriheiueshiba

Aikido is a Japanese Martial Art founded by Morihei Ueshiba. In his younger years, Ueshiba served in the Russo-Japanese War and was an avid martial artist. He studied Jujutsu, sword arts, spear arts, bayonet fighting, and many more. However, Ueshiba was more than just a fighter. He was also a very religious man with deep faith and philosophical thought. Ueshiba studied Shingon Buddhism, Zen, and Shintoism. Ueshiba also became a devotee to the religion known as Oomoto-Kyo, which was a religion founded after the Meiji Restoration which taught that their religion would bring about world peace. At least, that was their later doctrine. They believed in living in the old feudal style village system with rigorous farming, religious practice, and martial arts. During this time, Ueshiba taught Jujutsu to the group.

Forgive me for cutting my explanations short, but much further explanation would require referring back to my Bachelor’s Thesis and my research. However, I always encourage that one conducts one’s own research and forms one’s own opinions but feel free to ask me any questions and I will answer to the best of my ability!

Cutting to the chase, Ueshiba created Aikido as a means to create world peace through love and harmony. Aikido was more than just a nonviolent self defense system, it was a way of life and a religion for many. Ueshiba always felt that Aikido, even in instances of self defense should always be executed like a father benevolently, yet firmly, leading his child to the right path. Aikido as taught by Ueshiba, also referred to as O-Sensei (Great Teacher), consisted of martial arts, weapons practice (though none of the weapons were intended to harm, merely to defend against a weapon), prayer, learning, and ritual.

At this point, I will no what no student of philosophy should ever do: For the sake of the readers of this blog, I will reduce Ueshiba’s philosophies to the very basics.

Basically: War is Hell! Humans are filled with strife and constantly harm one another. We must stop this. By worshiping the gods (or God) and loving others, we can create within ourselves a heart which does not strive against others, but wishes to aid others. When we practice martial arts which harm others, we hurt ourselves. There will be times when others attack us and we can only defend ourselves, but we must never harm another living thing! Hence Aikido was born: A method to create peace, harmony, and love by ending conflict without violence.

     ueshibacircle

     As for my inward reflections on Ueshiba’s philosophy, I largely agree with him. Though I am a Christian and Ueshiba was a devout follower of Oomoto-Kyo, there is still much I have learned from him and much anyone can learn. I am a firm believer in settling conflict without harming others, even when it comes to defending oneself. However, as much as I would love to be able to wrestle someone to the ground without hurting them and make them no longer want to fight, that is not a very realistic view of the world. Someone who genuinely wishes to hurt me may come at me again with a weapon when I let them go. It is to that ends that, unarmed or with a weapon, I never want to hurt any person, but the day may come when I have to in order to defend my loved ones or myself.

     It is obvious that in this modern age, guns are the standard for self defense weapons and I love guns, but I am not so paranoid that I rely on a gun to feel safe. I hope someday to get back into martial arts so I can defend myself unarmed or with a weapon that is not a firearm because while guns are needed when someone is aiming a gun at me, but guns run out of ammo. Blades and clubs, however, do not. That is one of the many reasons I like swords. I can still defend myself with a sword or even just a wooden pole used like a sword.

     Many people find my outlook a bit crazy, but think about it: In a survival situation, would you want five guns and no bullets, or two guns and a sword or axe for backup?

swisssaber

I also love swords for their aesthetic beauty. This and the fact that I see them as a symbol of honor and skill are all reasons I love swords. My practice of the sword takes on a spiritual quality and I see my sword practice as a spiritual and character building practice. It’s also just a whole world of fun!

“Damascus Steel”-What is it? “Damascus” Armor

What is damascus steel? There are many examples of pieces claiming to be damascus steel, but that is false. This is not due to some plot to deceive, but it is a mistake made either by ignorance of true damascus, or the person knows, but they continue calling the piece damascus due to conventions.

Now, vague statements aside, this is what we now call Damascus steel:

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     Now, whenever one sees this type of pattern, generally on a blade, jewelry, or decorational accents, one generally thinks, “That is some beautiful damascus steel!” This is actually pattern weld! The process is to layer together different types of steel and forge weld them together by heating, folding, hammering, twisting, etc.

     Real Damascus steel is this:

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     True damascus steel, more properly known as Wootz, was invented in India during the late Iron Age. During this time, smelters in India were making steel by smelting iron with such a high carbon content that the carbon tended to separate and create carbon banding. Due to the high carbon content, cementite and dendrites form in the steel. When forged and folded, these dendrites and cementite are forged into layers of the blade, causing the grain pattern. The fascinating thing about Wootz is that the wootz sword blades which have been found have been analyzed and found to contain carbon nanotubes and nanofibers! Imagine, nanotech during the Iron Age!

     This being the case, there are many examples of Wootz armor:

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     Here we see that Damascus armor exists, but I had an idea. I have never seen Damascus armor that was Pattern Weld. Yes, it seems that the weld joints may be weak points and is no better than modern steel. In fact, modern steel is more pure and stronger, but I would love to make an armor piece or two out of pattern welded steel, just for the artistic beauty of it.

hrisoulas - serpent damascus