25 August 2009

Maille as Armour.

Yeah, now we're talkin'

First off though, I want to apologize for not being able to either assemble, or locate a tutorial on earwires like I had planned. This weekend got stupid, and now it's late, which means I'm stuck with taking photographs indoors... and you'd probably prefer I just went outside and took them in the dark. It would be less painful for the eyes.

Wha... oh right, armour. Maille armour is the oldest known form of metal armouring in the world. Carbon dating places early celtic examples at 2000 years old. Samples of surviving Etruscan maille may be 3000 years old. Staggering to think that you're engaging in a practice virtually unchanged since 1000 B.C.E isn't it? In most of the world, that's late Bronze age or early Iron age. It survived as a form of protection on the battlefield until the 17th century in europe, and in Japan continued battlefield use until the end of the 19th century.

Here, a distinction should be drawn between the uses of European and Japanese forms of maille.

In Europe it was common to encounter armour elements such as a hauberk, chausses, or coif composed solely of chain. They would be worn over thick quilted clothing such as a gambeson which helped absorb some of the impact from a blow. While you find that it's incredibly difficult to cut through maille, it isn't rigid. Youtube, the wasteland of stupidity on video that it can be, can produce quite a few videos of people "testing" their new maille shirt, by smacking their dumb as dirt friends with a piece of bar stock. It isn't youtube if someone doesn't get hurt... right? Commonly the ends of each ring were cut to overlap, hammered flat, then punched and riveted. Some maille armorers will still craft riveted maille; the form most of us use today without rivets is called butted, or butt-joined. I just like saying butt-joined...

Japanese maille was used primarily as a way to add a flexible joint or connection between two pieces of lacquered scale; rather than as an entire garment. It was a compromise in having some protection and durability under use while still allowing range of motion.

Another aspect to be very, very aware of with maille, is that it isn't very resistant to piercing. An arrow or a weapon thrust is likely to force rings open. Yes, this means the heartbreaking news is coming, so never ask me... Maille is not bullet proof. No "what if you wrap it in kevlar?" "how many layers..." "if you use titanium/awesomanium/mithril/adamantium" questions. You'll get one of two questions in response. "Are you willing to wear about 150lbs of steel?" or, "How stupid are you, exactly?" depending on my mood. Seriously, think about it, if it could stop a bullet, why aren't we putting it to that use today?

Don't let that stop you from buying 40lbs of stainless or galvanized steel wire, weaving up a shirt, and displaying a skill that's survived for millenia. Look up the SCA if you're not already a member and I'll put money on you finding somone who's willing to trade sword swings with you against your new toy. If you really, really have to use it the way it was intended, there's no better or safer group for such a thing.

For what my opinion's worth, make one out of 5356 alloy aluminium just to wear while you're sitting at a coffee house at 3:30AM hoping the wi-fi doesn't crap out just so you can read over a few more blogs before dawn.

Have fun


Holly said...

I'm prepared to wear 150lbs of steel, where do I sign up?!

Charon said...

Right after the non-disclosure agreement, these insurance and liability forms, and I get out of range of anything you could possibly throw at me. Because I'll be laughing alot while you're pinned to the ground. ;>

Heather said...

I may learn this just for the historical aspect!

Seriously though, you should copy this and send it to Kimberly for the HAF Blog, she's always looking for interesting articles and you've got a great sense of humor - it makes the reading enjoyable - even for those not interested in maille.

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