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Muscled Cuirass- Prodromi Iron type & NEW Copper Alloy Type
Greetings all (I really have to learn how to say that in Greek)

All the positive commentary from my test presentation and my own quickly growing interest in things Hellenic got me motivated to spend a little free time on a real muscled cuirass, taking what I learned with that thin test piece from last year as well as the medieval armouring techniques I've picked up of late- and the really cool and unique iron cuirass from Prodromi was my subject. I've always liked it's look and of course steel is a whole lot easier to get and about 1/8 the cost of bronze :wink:

Since there doesn't seem to be a lot of physical data about the artifact, despite having been found 31 years ago, I've had to postulate about a few things- not the least of which is the thickness of the metal- but thanks to a couple of people (Alex and Giannis), a couple of the details I'd have had to otherwise guess about I can now do correctly (I'd have gotten one right and one wrong but still not unreasonable :wink: ). I've copied the epomides, and 'collar' from the original, and will do for the decorative discs of the tie rings, but the musculature is different- the original's form is very minimal and nothing is defined, and since I wanted to see if I could properly make a bronze version at some point, I decided to form the muscles in the style of the bronze cuirasses. And of course I won't be using gold for the discs and nipples since that's just a little costly :lol: I have brass mockup pieces in place, but intend to either use bronze or maybe silver since it would seem the original was a costly piece and thus demanded precious metal adornment.

Without any information, I've had to guess about the thickness of steel to use- but I figured since the known bronze examples seem to range from 1-1.7mm in thickness it would be reasonable that an iron version would only need be near the lower end of that. So I chose 1.2mm (18ga.).

Thus far I've only completed the main body of the breastplate, but it's the real hard part so it's enough to show I think. I made a mistake on my back pattern so need more steel for that (I cut before realizing my error) and can't get more for it until mid-next week, and at the same time I'll get some thinner metal to make the edge binding that I now believe surrounded the epomides, arm holes, side seam and even the main 'hem' at the bottom. And I have to order the bronze or silver for the discs, so that'll be to come as well.
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And here's a series of photos of the production to hopefully aid anyone who wishes to make one for him/herself one day- I'm always happy to help so if you do, feel free to contact me Big Grin

First I made a pattern to roughly fit me- it needed only be rough since the majority of fitting would be done as shaping progressed; I just made sure to overestimate sizes as it's no problem to trim but you can't add more so easily. Also since the collar is significant, I made sure to allow plenty of metal at the neck for that.

I used a combination of cold and hot work to form this cuirass- 1.2mm isn't terribly thick, but it's enough to make cold working the entire thing rather more difficult than doing some bits hot. My tools were a 3 1/2lb sledge hammer with a face ground to be quite domed, a smaller domed hammer I made myself in the style of an offset Japanese swordsmith hammer weighing about 2 1/2lbs, a 2 1/2lb raising hammer again I made myself, an 11oz ball pein hammer, and a 3 1/2lb blacksmith cross pein hammer with the face domed only slightly. I did the forming on a large pine block about 18" square by 2' tall, my 85lb anvil, a 4" square domed wooden form and a 2 1/2" diameter slightly domed steel cylinder for the raising work. Oh and an offset head bouging hammer I made myself for the finish work.

First I cut the steel to the pattern- you can see that I've allowed extra at the arms and neck and I've drawn roughly the placement of the major musculature and notes of which way each has to go. The large pine block has a dished section that I used to start the dishing of the pectoralis major muscles with the heavy domed hammer. I then refined it and extended the lower external portions with the ligher domed hammer (in the second photo) as well as beginning the upper section of the rectus abdominis and some of the obliquus externis (not love handles LOL). All these are done just with the two domed hammers on the pine block.
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Next I flipped the piece around and hammered the main abdominal section (the rectus abdominis muscles below the uppermost bit) from the front with my slightly domed blacksmithing hammer because, despite every other recreation I've ever seen anywhere, the real artifacts' abdominal sections are concave- actually tapering from the ribcage down and the lower hem up to meet roughly at the second 'pinch' of the rectus abdominus, above the umbilicus. Some are shaped more significantly than others, but all the anatomical muscle cuirasses are this way because it's anatomically-correct. The abdomen should never be in line with the chest- that's simply wrong for this type of armour.

I also begin bending the sides around here as well- since hammering the projecting bits significantly interferes with any lateral bending, it's necessary to to them more or less simultaneously- a bit of dishing a bit of bending, a bit more dishing and so on, so the lateral curve is 'built in'. I've also began introducing the linea alba- the indented line running vertically up the length of the torso as this too helps with the lateral bending and is easier to begin while the piece is flat.

In the second photo I'm already heating to allow easier increase in the projection of the pectoralis majors since they really do project significantly on real cuirasses and it's easy to mistakenly leave them too shallow since the sections below them will be dished out as well as the shaping progresses, and how they seem initially won't stay the same. I didn't photograph this since it was impossible to hold everything and the camera, but it's on the cylindrical steel form edge since obviously red hot steel wouldn't do well with a wooden form :wink: The other benefit of working hot is that less force is necessary meaning the cold areas that rest on the form wont' be distorted while the hot area is moved by lighter blows.

I've also done some work with the blacksmith hammer on the lower section of the abdomen since it's necessary to flare that out some to more easily create the convex section in the middle (the chest and lower hem are at least equal in 'height' or very often the latter projects even more). I did that just on the flat pine block since it needs not be significant dishing and the impact of a slightly domed hammer face will automatically stretch and dish the metal slightly when done on a 'soft' surface- a sand bag would probably do well also.
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Again it was impossible to photograph and hold everything to show the hot work but in next series you can see I've flattened the abdomen and refined the shapes including adding in the waist, as well as flared out the collar. I constantly re-drew the structural lines to be sure I kept things reasonably even, and in their proper place. I overdid some of the defining and realized that on the real artifacts some sections have rather smoother transitions, so I adjusted as I went along- hammering some things that were too deep back out using the edge of the pine block (so only that bit I wanted to move was flat on the surface, that way no nearby areas would be dented) or back in if too raised by using the domed wood form.
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All the small marks on the abdomen are from my raising hammer, illustrating just how much working properly shaping the abdominal section was; next time I'll be a bit more gentle though as removing all those hammer marks wasn't fun LOL

An initial sanding (second photo) shows just how much hammering went into shaping the piece and just how much bouging (hammering out imperfections from the back) and planishing (smoothing from the front) is necessary. The thing looks like it has some kind of weird camouflage pattern, no?

After an eternity of bouging and planishing, the surface was more-or-less smooth enough to allow for grinding that wouldn't have to remove half the metal's thickness to get good surface; the mor worked sections clearly have more deep spots from the hammer and are a real pain to work out. I used a flap sanding disc and a regular one on my angle grinder to do the primary and secondary grinding. I also made a test epomidis and test nipples in annealed brass (to look bronzy), and punched in the umbilicus using a shaped steel rod, hammering it on the front, then only at the top edge from the back to make the 'overhang' and then with a ball pein hammer struck the centre to make it very slightly convex. I also had to hammer out the perimeter a little with the heavy domed hammer since it took rather a lot of force to impress the initial shape and while there is a bit of concavity just around the umbilicus on many artifacts, it's easy to introduce more than is needed. Next time I'll make a shaped wooden form with a cutout make it easier.
See FABRICA ROMANORVM Recreations in the Marketplace for custom helmets, armour, swords and more!
After continuing with the grinding and repeated steps to remove the scratches, used a wire wheel on a bench grinder to even out the texture of the whole breastplate, then polished it again with a foam sanding pad to make it smooth and shiny but still a bit dull, since flat brushed isn't any more correct than mirror polished. I also realized that the arm hole shape was not quite right- initially I'd been unsure if the edges were all folded over or if they had a separate binding, so I left enough metal for the former; I've since realized they were bound so I could cut everything to the proper final shape. I've drawn in the binding on the epomides to get an idea of the final look, and the brass discs are there to further allow an idea of what the finished piece will look like. I realized too at this point the second section of the rectus abdominis was still projecting too much and the demarkation between it and the upper was too much, so I went back to the domed wooden form to flatten them some with the heavy smithing hammer (large face on a wooden form means gentle movement- no denting).

The last photo shows the adjustments of the arm hole and abdominal muscles. I've lost one of the mockup chest discs. What I still have to do is put on all the edge binding, and construct the hinges that must have been at the sides and on the edges of the epomides where they meet the back plate- and of course the back plate itself LOL I'll add to this little presentation as those things are completed.
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Holy s**t... Confusedhock:
It amazes me how quickly stupid people are out-breeding the smart ones.

"The greatest impediment of all is the square-jawed, flat-talking Tatum, who is so wooden he presents a fire hazard." - The Toronto Star on Channing Tatum in "The Eagle".

"I am on a drug. It\'s called Charlie Sheen. If you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body" - Charlie Sheen
Quote:Holy s**t... Confusedhock:
I'LL Say ! nice work Matt ,very interesting read as to how it is coming together 8)
Hannibal ad portas ! Dave Bartlett . " War produces many stories of fiction , some of which are told until they are believed to be true." U S Grant
Looks beautiful! I'm looking forward to seeing how you go about attaching front to back... (straps, pin-hinge, etc.)

Kelsey McLeod
Oh well the only method I've ever seen for the sides are either one long hinge or a pair of short ones- the latter may be a later adjustment so since this is probably what I'll use, and I'm thinking it unlikely there would be hinges under the epomides, so them just being tied down will likely be all the shoulders will need.
See FABRICA ROMANORVM Recreations in the Marketplace for custom helmets, armour, swords and more!
very nice work Matt Big Grin
Got to say, that looks pretty excellent, Matt. In fact, I think you deserve a Laudes!

BTW, I find that an angle grinder with an 80 grit sanding wheel rubbed away almost to nothing by use makes the best "scratch remover" when polishing heavy metal.

As for a polish--do you have a reason to say mirror polish is wrong? I've examined a few original pieces--they certainly COULD mirror polish, as they used pummice and they burnished with bone, as well as other methods (the level of their polish is best seen in ancient silver work--which could be polished like a mirror--as they used them for mirrors...)

Further--high polish via burnishing (universally beloved by 18th c. gunsmiths) is a great rust-proofer. All it takes is an hour per square inch.... Smile ) )
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
Yup I tried that old sanding disc idea and it does work rather well- today though I discovered Scotch Brite pads for the angle grinder, which work even better! Big Grin

I say mirror polishing is wrong because while burnishing is possible, surely it wouldn't be done for real battle-used armour; mirrors, silver, etc., sure- all one has to do is look at Tutankhamen's mask, etc. to see that it isn't impossible- but an average soldier isn't likely going to go spending huge amounts of time burnishing his armor, right?
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Matt--have you been in the military?


The better a finish is, the easier it is to maintain in the field. No--really.

True story--ten years ago, I stopped on my way to an event in the States and bought an original 1777 horse pistol (lucky find). It was mint--mirror bright burnished barrel (the gunsmith's original finish, i suspect) and lock.

I arrived at the event to find one of my best friends waiting for me--and of course I had to show him the pistol. Seconds later, his horse (he's a cavalry officer) freaked out inside its trailer. We dropped my pistol and ran for the horse.

Three days of rain and sun and cold mornings later, when packing up (immersion weekend) I found my pistol in the grass--mirror bright. My officer's fusil (carefully kept next to me when I slept) had rusted in odd areas. My sword, safe in its scabbard (original, 1770s) was unrusted, but all the repros were rusted.

That weekend I learned that the original finishes were PRACTICAL.

So then I spent several years trying to crack just how it was done. Finally a real metal smith--which you are and I'm not--showed me that it was done by burnishing.

I have a chainmail burnishing "mitt" issued to US cavalrymen in the 1900s for polishing sabers. I can do a steel gun barrel in about--well, about six times of two hours each. That seems labor intensive, but that's all soldier DO, in the field--patrol and maintain their gear. And now I train my recruits to do it with period materials--in front of the public. It's an authentic activity, and it very quickly puts the "correct" finish on their kit and gets it to be water-resistant.

In the East, I've read recently (getting interested in Rome) there were "armor covers." Sumner posits that they were for protecting the metal from moisture (as I remember) but I think it's more likely they were for keeping the metal from overheating in sunlight. Leather, no matter how carefully oiled, just traps moisture against your metal. That's why most real scabbards in most periods are wood-line leather, not just leather.
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
Oh yes, I know all about good finish being practical- but mirror is impractical to expect is all I'm saying. Polish with whatever in the field and you'll be bright and shiny, sure, but hardly mirror. Even a mild abrasive rubbed in circles will preclude a mirror finish. I'm an advocate of no forge scale and other silly ideas with respect to iron because of the value of a smooth surface in keeping corrosion down- hell, I live in one of the wettest places in the northern hemisphere and I don't have rust problems because I give my iron a good polish when I make it, and then just have to occasionally touch it up Smile I tried mirror polishing some steel once and found it not only a major pain to do in the first place, but it wasn't significantly better than just smooth but not mirror...
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