About Forth Armoury

Having fun in the Middle Ages! Forth Armoury was a business dedicated primarily to riveted maille armour.  From 1998 until 2007 we sold some of the finest riveted maille mass produced for the commercial market. 

We no longer sell armour as a regular commercial venture.

How it all began...
In 1998 I began looking for a more authentic way to make maille than the "butted" maille I had been making prior to then.  I knew that authentic maille armour had historically been "riveted", but I had no idea how to go about it.  Published information about maille was very difficult to come by, and my early readings centered on the works of Burgess, Smith, and Osterstrom.  My goal was to come up with a technique for making authentic-looking riveted maille that anyone could follow.  After several months of experimentation, I finally came up with a process that could be easily duplicated and mass produced, and yet provided a highly authentic replica.

Why riveted maille?
Well, you see, maille has always been something of a disappointment in the SCA community. It is the one armour that nearly everyone should be wearing, but hardly anyone does. The reason is that butted maille, the variety most commonly found today, is too heavy for the protection it affords in SCA combat. Aside from the fact that it is more authentic, and it is more challenging to make, riveted maille is light. This is due to the fact that the rings are all riveted shut, making them effectively solid.  Because of this, one can use much thinner wire without risking the rings pulling apart under their own weight - a common problem with butted maille. So one of my main inspirations for making riveted maille and teaching others to do so is to get more maille on the SCA combat fields. It is my dream that some day butted maille will be as uncommon as riveted maille is today.

A word about authenticity
Many of the processes we use actually do mirror true medieval processes involved with the manufacture of riveted maille. However, I have always been a big proponent of "the ends justify the means". This means that I will use modern techniques so long as the impact on the finished product is, in my estimation, minimal.

This actually turns into somewhat of a paradox, because as it turns out riveted maille is one of those things that just about any deviation from the hand-crafted techniques of making authentic riveted maille will show up in the finished product. Thus I have had to add a caveat to my "the ends justify the means" ideology. And that caveat is this: The ends justify the means so long as you can demonstrate that you can actually do it the right way if you had to. You can take short-cuts as long as you know the long way.

Authentic wedge-riveted ring Forth Armoury riveted ring

Left: Authentic riveted maille. Right: Forth Armoury reproduction
Click on either image for a larger version.

For example, in the above pictures, the image on the left is an authentic riveted ring, whereas the image on the right is one of my reproductions. Notice how the authentic ring end tapers as it ends. It is almost like a fish or snake head in appearance. My ring, on the other hand, is very blunt where the wire ends. This is a result of the manufacturing process used to cut my rings.  Now I certainly can (and have) cut my own rings to reproduce the original look However, in the interests of speeding the manufacturing process of a product that is still very time consuming, I have taken a modern shortcut to produce the rings.  I am satisfied that the impact on the finished product is minimal.

Another difference between my riveted rings and authentic riveted rings is the shape of the ring. Notice how perfectly round the ID and OD of my ring is, compared to the authentic rings which are all slightly "D" or oval shaped. Again, my rings are cut directly off of a mandrel with the overlap built-in, which keeps them perfectly round. It is possible that the authentic rings were overlapped by hand, which results in their uniform out-of-round condition. The end result is that my rings look slightly different from authentic ones.

My solid rings, when I produce works with alternating rows of solid and riveted rings, are punched from sheet metal.  Most published documentation supports my impression that generally when solid rings are encountered in maille garments they are usually made by forge welding small coils of wire, similar to a keychain ring, into a solid ring.  However, there is also a growing body of published research to support rings punched from sheet metal.  Often it requires very close, even microscopic, examination to determine a welded ring from a punched one.  Because of this, and the time savings, we use modern punched washers when solid rings are required.

Contact Steven Sheldon

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