Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I convince my wife that I need a suit of armour?
- How much does a suit of armour cost?
- Why is armour so expensive?
- What is your "real" job?
- How long does it take to make a suit of armour?
- What is the wait time on an order?
- Do you accept deposits?
- Do you finance?
- What methods of payment do you accept?
- How do you make armour?
- Where do you get your patterns?
- May I have patterns for such and such item?
- Why are some of your items for sale unstrapped or unlined?
- I have some armour from another armourer... Could I have you modify it?
- Which material is best? Stainless steel, mild steel or aluminium?
- Do you work with titanium or spring steel?
- Will you make fantasy armour?
- What style of armour is the best?
- What are the thickness' of the different gauges and what is best for my application?
- Can you make armour for women?
- What measurements are needed?
- Do you make chainmail?
- Do you offer SCA bar grills?
- Do you offer a guarantee?
- May I stop by your shop?
- Do you have an 800 number?
- Are you hiring employees?
How do I convince my wife that I need a suit of armour?
How much does a suit of armour cost?
Happiness will come through understanding. Try explaining that steel is to men as diamonds are to women. Just as much as she desires that diamond necklace, you desire a suit of armour. And think of the bargain... For the price of one nice necklace you can get 65 pounds of armour! Swords, knives and tools would be more analogous to shoes ;)
Why is armour so expensive?
That is difficult to answer. There are a lot of variables to consider but here is a general idea...
Most of the full suits made from mild steel I have sold have ranged from $4,200 to $8,500. Most customers spend around $6,500 for a fairly historical suit. Now, the low end there was a number of years ago and I feel my skill has improved over that time so the bottom price may be higher but so will the quality.
The level of detail probably accounts most for the price. Many of these details will not be noticed by anyone without a keen eye. These details are things like hand made rivets, washers, hinges and buckles. Making a historical rivet and washer doesn't take too long but it adds up when I have to make 350 of them for a suit. Other details are more obvious like etching, chase repoussé work (embossing) and engraving. These techniques are very tedious and add significantly to the price. A full suit of high historical detail, fully etched with gold inlay could cost $35,000+
As a general rule earlier period style plate armour is less expensive than later period. For example a 14th century suit would be cheaper than a 16th century suit of the same quality. This is because earlier historical armour tended to be simpler in design and less decorated. There are of course exceptions.
Armour made from Stainless steel is about twice as expensive as the same armour made in mild steel. Stainless steel more difficult to form than mild steel, is evil and likes to break my tools hehe.
What is your "real" job?
I wish it weren't. Making historically inspired armour is a very time consuming process. Making custom armour one item at a time inherently has its drawbacks as each order requires new research and patterns. Most customers want something totally unique which doesn't allow for any mechanical method to be applied to speed up the process.
If every customer was the same size and wanted a 16th century peascod breastplate I could probably get the cost down to next to nothing. This isn't the case though so each piece is custom made, one at a time. Imagine something as simple as a plastic cigarette lighter... If you wanted to make a replica it would take forever to sculpt, make valves, carve flint pellets just the right size... But because millions are made exactly the same they can get the cost down to 50 cents.
I have been considering picking several commonly requested items and figuring out ways to make them faster so that I can offer them as less costly in stock items. These pieces won't lend them selves to personalization and would have some of the finer details omitted but would be priced much less than a custom piece.
Making armour is my sole profession. Well... armourer and all the things that go with it like webmaster for the site, accountant, etc. hehe. I do, very rarely, have related work like doing a stunt fall in armour for a TV show or as a fill in Knight at the Renaissance Faire.
How long does it take to make a suit of armour?
What is the Wait time on an order?
Forever!LOL it sometimes seems that way. It really depends on the level of detail. The fastest was 4 weeks but I had a lot of help from friends and family. I once made close to a full suit in aluminium for a TV show in 4 days but it wasn't pretty up close hehe. If all I work on is one suit, 50 hours a week, a moderately detailed suit would probably take 5 months. Then again I have made gorgets that have taken more than a month in and of them selves.
Do you take deposits?
The wait time varies a lot. Most of the time I have a 6 to 12 month wait before I can start on a new order. If the wait gets up to 12 months I stop taking orders all together until I am nearly completed with all my current commissions. Occasionally I can squeeze in a small order to work on as a side project. How that works is that I will work on my regular orders throughout my normal day then on the the side project after hours. If I end up having problems with an order I may have to set the side project down to spend extra time on my original order.
Do you finance?
No I don't. Since the wait time on an order is often very long I feel it is much better if you keep your money in savings and earn interest on it :) I also want the customers to see pictures of the finished piece, so they know exactly what they are buying, before they spend any money.
No I don't. One thing that can help break down the costs of a full suit is to buy one piece or a set of components (like a gorget, or helmet, or pair of arms) at a time. I think this works out well for both of us. Be sure to tell me that you do want a full suit over time so that I can insure that the design of each piece will work properly with future components. You won't be under any obligation if you decide later on to not buy further pieces.
What methods of payments do you accept?
How do you make armour?
Major credit cards and PayPal online. Personal checks, cashiers checks, money orders via mail are great too. I hold off shipping items until the payment has cleared my bank. Personal checks can take some time to clear so they are the slowest method. Most items ship out within a few business days of the payment clearing.
All checks should be made out to "William Hurt"
For the most part like they did hundreds of years ago. Nothing replicates the look of a hand made item better than making it by hand ;) When I first tried making armour I was working for a custom car manufacturer. I was allowed to work after hours in their shop and had access to all the neato modern tools... It wasn't long before I realized that these modern tools just couldn't help me to make armour and abandoned them for hammers, a wooden stump and anvils. I do have a few machines that help like a band saw for cutting out rough shapes and a sander for grinding and prepping hammered surfaces for polish. I have a welder but try to use it very sparingly. I also use an electric buffer but would gladly trade it in for a giant waterwheel powered buffer like ones I have seen in in some historical drawings.
I have been working on a book to better answer this question. It is slow going as I am not much of a writer and armouring has so many aspects I am having difficulty giving the book a good "flow." I will keep at it though and hope to have it available this decade :)
Until then, here is a link to some tutorials I have written for those interested in making armour.
Where do you get your patterns?
May I have patterns for such and such item?
I make my own. I find it is a bit of a Zen process and can be time consuming. I feel I have been a bit blessed by being able to envision 3 dimensional shapes flattened. Every once in a while I am humbled by "pattern block." That is what I call it when, for the life of me, I can't figure out a shape. I find that if I step away from it for a few days it will come to me. Other times I make a pattern that I know will need lots of adjustment, cut that shape out of steel and rough form it quickly so that I can see what modification is needed. I then refine my pattern and start on a new piece of steel. With practice, trial and error in time pattern making will come almost naturally.
Why are some of the items you have for sale unstrapped or unlined?
I wish it weren't so but I just can't afford to share patterns. I really DO want to help others get started in making armour but since most patterns must be made special for every customer and style it would literally be a full time job in and of itself. The other issue is that, unlike cloth patterns, pieces of armour can't just be cut out and sewn together to make a finished item. There is a lot of forming that needs to be done to the steel in order for the different pieces to match up. Since different forming techniques yield different results there would need to be a lot of instruction along with the patterns.
I have been considering making pattern kits along with step by step instructions and selling them on this website. I truly love helping others and hate having to charge but I do need to pay the bills in order to continue with such endeavours. I would probably sell them for around the same price as cloth patterns at the fabric store. If you feel this would be a good thing please email me so that I may better know the market.
I have some armour from another armourer... Could I have you modify it?
I don't strap many items because a customer may want custom buckles or coloured straps. I am perfectly willing to strap any item at an additional charge. Off the shelf buckles are inexpensive but custom hand made buckles can run $20 or more each. I have found that most customers are not too particular about buckles but I try to leave the option. Linings are something that most of my past customers have preferred to do themselves. Some prefer modern materials and others want to hand stitch elaborate works of art. I am willing to add linings on any piece I make for an additional charge.
Which material is best? Stainless steel, mild steel or aluminium?
I have found that, often times, modifying a finished piece can take almost as long as making a new one. It usually looks modified too. My suggestion is to discuss the modification with the original maker. He may also find it easier to remake the piece from scratch. In that case it may be best to sell the item and order what you truly want.
I am willing to make whole components to complete a suit though. For example if you had a suit form another armourer that was missing say... gauntlets, and they were out of business or too busy to make them, I have no problem making the missing pieces to match your other items.
This totally depends on the intended use and your personal tastes. Every metal has its pros and cons. I enjoy working with mild steel the most because it forms well and looks historical. But with that said I made my personal suit of armour that I used for jousting out of stainless steel.
I take a lot of criticism from some purists for working with stainless steel but I feel that it has too many good things about it to be ignored. It doesn't rust and it is stronger than mild steel. If not beaten up the suit should last for thousands of years. The down sides are that it is just as heavy as mild steel and it is much harder to form so armour made from stainless steel is more costly. Stainless also has a little different look. With the proper finish I often can't tell the difference between mild steel and stainless from a few feet away. I am partially colour blind so it may be more noticeable to others hehe. Viewed from the inside of the armour it is easily distinguished from mild steel. My personal opinion is that if you want armour that will be worn often, that can take a beating and you are comfortable with it not being totally historically accurate, then stainless is a good way to go.
Modern mild steel is not really the same as the steel used in the medieval or renaissance periods for armour. Some originals were made from iron which is softer than mild steel. Later period armours were sometimes made from either a medium carbon steel or treated by a process like case hardening. This steel would have a higher carbon content than mild steel and be harder. Mild steel does have the same look weight and feel as that used in original pieces. Mild steel doesn't work harden nearly as fast or as hard as stainless steel so is much easier to form. It is durable but does rust. If kept in a humid environment or worn often, armour made from mild steel will need to be oiled or waxed to prevent rust. If rust does appear then it may need to be repolished to remove it. With care, armour made from mild steel will last hundreds of years. Mild is good for costume pieces, collections, historical reenactment or sport combat.
Do you work with titanium or spring steel?
Aluminium comes in many alloys that have drastically different characteristics. This is just a generalization of the alloys commonly used to make armour. It is a very light weight metal. It is strong for its weight but few malleable alloys are as strong as the same thickness steel. Some types of aluminium are very easy to form. These alloys speed up the forming process for most styles of armour so the finished piece is normally less expensive than if it were made from mild steel. This isn't always true as sheet aluminium is much more expensive than steel and is also harder to polish the first time. Aluminium work hardens very quickly which can cause difficulty forming radical shapes without cracking. Aluminium can be annealed during forming to prevent this but its melting temperature is very near its annealing temperature. Every time I anneal a piece I risk melting it and destroying the work. The end result is armour that can be made from a soft alloy to have historical shapes but won't be very durable or from a hard alloy to make very strong armour that lacks a good, historical shape. Under most conditions aluminium doesn't look anything like steel to me. Aluminium does not rust but develops a hazy white oxidation over time. Though aluminium armour can be made to meet with regulations of sport groups like the SCA, I think it is best suited to fantasy, costume, TV and movie uses.
Will you make fantasy armour?
I have worked with both but in limited amounts. I have worked with a number of different alloys of spring steel making swords and daggers. I have found some that work really well for blades but am still undecided which alloy I feel works best for armour. Spring steel requires hardening and tempering in order to realize its full benefits. These processes are a bit touchy to get just right. If it is hardened too much or not tempered enough it can be brittle. I accidentally dropped a hardened piece on the shop floor before tempering and it shattered like glass. Another time I bent a small piece of armour made from spring steel and had it break sharply and cut my hand. These are just isolated incidences and NOT intended shy people away from spring steel. I just need to do some more experimentation before I feel comfortable selling armour made from spring steel. I really like the idea of deep casehardened and/or differential temper armour but those are messy and difficult processes that I fear would make the armour prohibitively expensive.
What style of armour is the best?
Sure will :) I like unique styles and making different things. I mostly make historically inspired armour because it appeals to the broadest audience. One problem with making armour inspired by anime or comic books is that it more designed with look in mind than with function. Sometimes these look awesome in drawings where muscles and body features are exaggerated but when formed to fit a real person look totally different. If you email me requesting I make a fantasy piece please understand if I say that the design would have to be changed to function or that I can't faithfully make such an item that is wearable.
What are the thickness' of the different gauges and what is best for my application?
Like with what metal is the best, the best design of the armour will be contingent on what it is used for. Before I got into making armour I didn't know that there were different variations of historical armour for individual purposes. On the historical battlefield one would see many different types of armour being worn by soldiers depending on their roll. Throughout history, militaries have had to constantly redesign their defensive clothing to adapt to new weapons developed by their enemies. Leather armour might work well to protect from a short sword so the enemy arms with a long sword. The armour develops into rigid plates the defend well against a long sword but then the enemy grabs a mace. Armour that protects from arrows may not be the best against a sword and so on. I feel that thing hardest to defend against is a lance or other heavy thrusting weapon. Well... ok, defending against a cannon or trebuchet is hard too ;) Humm... Now that I think about it, maces, flails and other crushing weapons are nearly impossible to protect against and maintain offensive manoeuvrability. Ok, forget I mentioned the lance thing. It is all hard to guard against.
If you are after armour purely for costume then just pick what you like. Of course for historical reenactment one should examine originals from the recreated time period that are fitting of the person you are portraying. I.E., it would probably be a faux pas to play William Shakespeare in siege armour or Napoleon in 16th century pikeman's armour ;)
If you are going to use your armour for sport I recommend looking at original armour form the period that was specifically used for a similar tournament sport. Please know that there is often a lot of difference between an historical armour for sport and its war counterpart. The nice part about using historical inspiration is that very wealthy noblemen paid large amounts of money to armouries, that had been in business for generations, to engineer armour that would keep them safe. We have the benefit of their research and development :)
Imagine yourself attacking a suit of armour with what ever weapon is appropriate. Visualize your weapon sliding off of rounded surfaces and catching on abrupt angles. This is pretty important when it comes to jousting armour. The armour may look "butch" but, under close observation, have glancing surfaces that funnel the tip of a lance into a bad place like your chin or armpit. Why I feel it is very crucial that this be applied to jousting is that when on a horse, moving very fast, there is little time for your opponent to react if he sees his lance slipping across your breastplate and headed toward your unarmoured armpit. If you look at historical armour designed specifically for jousting (particularly 16th century and later) you will see that they have made countermeasures for such things.
Can you make armour for women?
Ok this is a bit confusing because gauges are different for various types of metals. When I refer to a gauge on this site I will be referring to its steel gauge. If I ever state something like "18g aluminium" then I mean it is the same thickness as 18g steel. The higher the number the thinner the metal is. For instance 14g steel is thicker than 20g. To give you an idea of the thickness, the last car body metal I remember measuring was about 20g.
GAUGE Decimal in inches metric 20 0.0359 0.9119 18 0.0478 1.2141 16 0.0598 1.5189 14 0.0747 1.8974 12 0.1046 2.6568
When the metal is formed some parts are stretched and other areas are compressed. Sanding and polishing removes some of the surface material and thins the metal by a little bit. This makes for varying thickness' over the finished piece. Because it would be difficult to map all these various thickness' I just state what gauge material was used to make the item.
I use different gauge metals depending on the piece and how susceptible that part is to impact and deformation. I often make left gauntlets thicker than the right hand as the left is usually the defensive side. Some components of armour have overlapping layers of steel so can be made of thinner metal. A good example of this is how the lower lames of a 16th century close helm overlap the top of a gorget and a breastplate covers the base of a gorget therefore the gorget doesn't need to be very thick. The shape of a piece can often do more to add strength than the thickness of the material from which it is made. Things like fluting and rolled edges add a substantial amount of strength to a piece.
Historical armour tends to be thinner than is general thought. Movies seem to be the source of the misconceptions like armour being so heavy that, once fallen to the ground, a Knight could not stand back up. If there is any truth to this it is because the Knight was too exhausted or dizzy after being pounded on the noggin with a mace ;)
Most armour I make is from a mix of 14,16 and 18 gauge mild steel. I use 14g for most helmets and breastplates. 16g for elbows, knees, the main plates of shoulders and sometimes the thighs on the legs. 16 or 18g works well for backplates. 18g is generally suitable for connecting lames, tassets, greaves and gauntlets. Most of the time I use 14g or thicker steel on exchange pieces used in jousting. Of course since stainless steel is stronger than mild steel, pieces made from stainless can often be thinner to achieve the same protection. Conversely, I usually make aluminium armour from much thicker stock.
This may sound strange but I often use thicker steel on lower grade armour for stock. This is because I expect it to be more likely used in sport. With jousting armour I use historical pieces as a guideline but beef up some areas to cut down on maintenance... especially if I know the customer is going to be doing intentional falls in a show. Falling off a horse is harder on the armour than the lance hits.
I try to keep up on the regulations of most of the major fighter and reenactment groups and make armour that meets or exceeds those standards. If you are part of a sport combat group let me know if you have any special requirements and I will be sure to make armour to your specifications. I was once told by a potential customer that his fighter group required all armour must be at least 1/2" thick. I told him that he was much more likely to break his neck supporting that 75lb helmet than denting a 14g stainless helm. I didn't take the order hehe.
What measurements are needed?
Yes. I don't find it much different than making fitted armour for men. Some design elements may need to be changed in order to accommodate a "well endowed" woman just as changes may be needed to adjust for a very skinny man. In one particular circumstance fit can be difficult. That being if the armour is intended to look very feminine. Pronounced breastplates like early globose or peascod styles may look more flattering on men. If a flattering, feminine shape is desired then the fit may a bit tighter and more accurate measurements needed. Every other piece (save for the codpiece) would be, pretty much, the same process as custom fit piece made for a man.
Do you make chainmail?
I have a measurement guide located here. Of course leg measurements aren't needed if your only ordering a helmet but I do like to have height and weight on every order so that I can better judge build. Some measurements aren't very crucial and are only there to help me double check if there are apparent discrepancies. Some styles of armour allow for quite a range of adjustment and basic height and weight may be enough.
Do you offer SCA bar grills?
I got started in armour by making chainmail. I do it solely as a hobby. I don't sell chainmail as there are many other sources that sell it for a lower price than I can. I haven't purchased any chainmail so I am unsure who is best to do business with but if needed to complete a suit I don't mind asking around for referrals.
Do you offer a guarantee?
Yes and no... I don't like to make historically inspired helmets with non historically styled grills. I have no problem making helmets based on originals that had grills. Nor do I have any issues with making fantasy helmets with fantasy grills :)
May I stop by your shop?
Do you have an 800 number?
Yes you may :) Please email me with a week or so notice. My schedule changes as I commonly work until I can't stay awake anymore, sleep, work, rinse, repeat. This means that I may need a few days to adjust and be awake when it is most convenient for you. Also, please don't expect a giant operation with 1000 suits of armour in a museum like setting hehe. I have a small shop and, though I am a clean freak in my heart, you may have to step over a few tools to get in the door LOL.
Are you hiring employees?
I don't. Almost every order is conducted over the internet nowadays. It is a bit sad as I really enjoyed chatting with customers but I also tend to be long winded and never got off the phone so work was neglected. I did have an international 800 number for a while but it was VERY expensive (about 4 times my monthly income) and I was going broke fast hehe.
Unfortunately, I just can't afford it. My friend Josh volunteers to help out when I get too backed up or just need company to break the hammering monotony. Making armour is a funny business as there is more demand than I can handle but it is just not profitable enough for me to hire any help. There are ways to improve profits but may require sacrificing quality or personalized service and I am just not up for that. I make armour for a living because I love the art and the challenge.