Black armour - right or wrong?

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Colin Middleton »

JG Elmslie wrote:And of course, then we've got the velvet/textile covered armours too....
Though, didn't this go in and out of fashion? IIRC Blair put if in fashion in the early 15th C and rarely done in the second half of the century.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Tod »

I should be collecting some of my armour on Sunday. So far the test peices haven't gone as well as I hoped I can still see what I think are pieces of pigment in the finished brushed surface. I think Early Tudor man would have been as irritated as I am by them. It may be I bought some old paint and it's not mixing well as I tried warming it up and it didn't help. However looking at the finish and ignoring the specs it looks like a high gloss bloom finish, which although I have zero evidence reminds me of the old oil based paints my grandad used (he restored old buildings). So I think Jorge is right with his recommendation. Maybe I'll buy another pot and try that just to see that happens. Or maybe mix some lamp black with some clear varnish.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Tod »

After a few tests using differnt paints and different brushes I've concluded that black polyurethane boat paint is the best. It leaves some brush marks and picks up dust easily but I'm painting armour not my motorbike. So thanks to Jorge for the recommendation and Griff for the advice. How long it will last is another matter and I'm not overly bothered. I've not seen any one with black painted armour at any of the events I've done so I'll be the one stood on my own.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

I've not seen any one with black painted armour at any of the events
Then you are very lucky! I've even seen a harness done in black hammerite.

And you are just painting the outside? Armour wasn't painted on the inside, that's a modern armorerism.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Tod »

Hammerite, nice I would hope it was the metalic finish. I'm going to leave the inside or paint it with red oxide :wink: (not).

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

;-) indeed.

Even armourers, when asked, say that they painted the insides. They didn't, simples.

The red oxide thing stems from some kind of modern urge to protect against rust or to protect soft kit from a bit of dirt. just give it a wipedown before and after, fine.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by VonSteuben »

who cares if it's acurate. It definitely looks awesome! :D
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Adam R »

Mark Griffin wrote:;-) indeed.

Even armourers, when asked, say that they painted the insides. They didn't, simples.

The red oxide thing stems from some kind of modern urge to protect against rust or to protect soft kit from a bit of dirt. just give it a wipedown before and after, fine.
Quite so!

But how does one best remove the bleeding stuff once one's armourer has kindly applied it? Grrr
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Tod »

Wire wool or paint stripper or both.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Flinty »

Tod wrote:After a few tests using differnt paints and different brushes I've concluded that black polyurethane boat paint is the best. It leaves some brush marks and picks up dust easily but I'm painting armour not my motorbike. So thanks to Jorge for the recommendation and Griff for the advice. How long it will last is another matter and I'm not overly bothered. I've not seen any one with black painted armour at any of the events I've done so I'll be the one stood on my own.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Tod »

I didn't take any and the samples are somewhere at the back of my lockup. As it was I didn't paint all of my armour as I ran out of time before the Flodden events.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

proving/disproving nothing I'm pretty sure that each item in the Mendlesham armoury is painted. When that was done of course is another matter.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Arma »

I had heard that blackening armour actually increases its strength, I may be wrong, but certain medieval fantasy franchises have picked up on it. If this is the case, it would make sense to blacken armour considering the negligible weight it would add compared to other strengthening methods.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

I had heard that blackening armour actually increases its strength, I may be wrong, but certain medieval fantasy franchises have picked up on it. If this is the case, it would make sense to blacken armour considering the negligible weight it would add compared to other strengthening methods.
Armour is black for 2 reasons. Its not been polished after being made in a carbon fueled heat source, or its been blackened by a variety of methods for decorative or ease of maintenance reasons. Strengthening armour is NEVER the reason for putting a black finish on the armour, although it might be a side effect in some instances.

Although armour is made with an eye to fashion, conspicuous consumption of wealth etc its main function is protection. If it was the case that black armour was stronger in whatever way surely it would all be? When you take a bit of steel and harden it and then polish it bright again its not weaker in anyway, the blacking does not penetrate much more than a few microns down whereas a good heat treatment goes a lot further.

The answers to this and many other debates/discussions re armour and swords can be found in the two books by Dr Alan Williams THE expert on the subject.

The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period... by Alan Williams ( Nov 2002)

The Sword and the Crucible: A History of the Metallurgy of European Swords Up to the 16th Century by Alan Williams ( May 2012)

After that, general historical metallurgy can be found in the various books and papers by Prof. R F Tylecoat.

get them from the library and have a look.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by andriesyertz »

I agree with what Matt Amt and others are trying to say, in that we just don't have enough physical evidence to say exactly what the finish of armor was

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

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Or people haven't looked.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

Oh and if you have a gas blued sallet and have some pretence of doing historical education rather than just having a bit of fun with your mates at events get rid of it, its fantasy b*ll*cks.

Unless you are portraying very eccentric nobleman of course who has taken a bog standard low class bit of armour and spent loads of money getting it to that state. You simply cannot afford it and would need a master armourer to get that finish. Once you have got it to mirror polish first of course, yet another expensive process.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by guthrie »

Mark Griffin wrote: The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period... by Alan Williams ( Nov 2002)

The Sword and the Crucible: A History of the Metallurgy of European Swords Up to the 16th Century by Alan Williams ( May 2012)

After that, general historical metallurgy can be found in the various books and papers by Prof. R F Tylecoat.

get them from the library and have a look.
NOt many libraries have them, but it's worth a try. University libraries often have them, especially if they have an archaeology department.
Your last source is spelt Tylecote, there's a wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_F._Tylecote

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

Your last source is spelt Tylecote
more typing when tired.

The more I look at wotr re-enactment armour the more I bang my head on walls. No idea why I'm so het up about it...
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Colin Middleton »

Mark Griffin wrote: The more I look at wotr re-enactment armour the more I bang my head on walls. No idea why I'm so het up about it...
Is that because the armourers aren't good enough, or just that so many people buy crap armour (or is it just that you look too closely at the WotR stuff :wink: )

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

all three. but on the later, I can see crap armour from 100 yards as well, doesn't have to be examined so closely I can see the milling marks on the rivets or the weld seam up the middle.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by guthrie »

I suppose it's a bit like trying to do WW2 with a jeep you fabricated out of sheet metal in your back garden, rather than an original. I did a quick search and a restored Bren carrier is, according to one site, going for 40k, which is surely what someone should be spending on a decent harness, the problem being that few people have that money, so representing Tewkesbury with 3 knights in shining armour and 400 assorted archers and billmen, hmm, might be a bit more accurate. :twisted:
But yes ideally we'd have more accurate armour.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

Hi Guthrie,

A decent harness will cost you about 1/4 of that (and if people had taken up Matt Finchens remarkable offer of last week, a heck of a lot less). The highest price paid for a top of the line harness in recent years was approx £32k and that was fine tuned and decorated to a high degree. For £10k you can get something pretty special and using the exchange rate you also get free flights to the USA if you count fittings into the bargain.

I don't really care if people want to buy crap kit for a hobby then fine. What gets me is the stuff trotted out as educational items, lack of research, dodgy interpretation, accepting of poor standards of work, and a simple misunderstanding of styles, forms, economics etc etc of armour in England in the middle ages. Oh and wrong finishes which is how we got here. And that's only cos its my main period of interest so have an attachment and, as shrinks would say, emotional ownership of the subject Other periods do it a lot better imho but there is dodgy stuff in all periods, its a economic reality. At Wrest park 2 weekends ago there was some pretty good medieval stuff and some truly appalling rubbish. EH rely on the groups to get it right and many just don't have the will, knowledge or structure to do so.

Its a hobby, I'll shut up.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by guthrie »

It's okay, some of us take our hobbies very seriously, and it is also with me, I hate things being advertised or said as "authentic historic combat techniques" or "this is what they would have worn (If they were blind and bought it from a dodgy peddlar)".

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

well here you go, a nice black armour... probably made by baking on oil after its been polished.

and a modern replica using the same method although on a less finished item. Jeff makes v nice stuff...
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Strafford »

I have often wondered about this. In loads of Peter Lely's paintings from the 17th Century, the subjects wore black. A few of them looked as if they were in the same suit of armour.
Thomas Wentworth had blackened armour as did Thomas Fairfax. Others might come to mind. I have a feeling that the blacking would be the same blacking as used on stoves and grates, namely, leading.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

No, no evidence of grate backing being used. Its not permanent for starters, would get everything utterly filthy and the two guys you mentioned were gentry so that's not on. Blackened armour was either by oil blacking above or paint. There are various mystical pickling processes mentioned too. But oil and paint stay black and are the methods we know were used.
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Colin Middleton »

By the 17th C there were black lacquering techniques used as well. Again it's a permanent colouring technique, but one that wasn't in use in the Middle Ages.

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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

Do you mean true lacquer, and in England Colin?
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Re: Black armour - right or wrong?

Post by Mark Griffin »

but yes, if you say pigmnents, carried in various medium, were used, spot on. But not 'lead' backing, which is graphite.
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