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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 6:24 am    Post subject: What did a mail coif really look and work like?         Reply with quote

With my gambeson ordered, it's time to move my attention to my next piece of kit: A nasal or kettle helmet. But since it needs to go over a mail coif I'll need to look at those first.

I have been looking at several coifs and at pictures from e.g. the Morgan bible, but it doesn't rhyme for me. Pretty much all the reproduction coifs I found are very loose fitting garments that leave a lot of the face exposed. I've attached one such example. Another example is the coif worn by Margot in the girl armour thread. But when I look at e.g. the Morgan Bible I see much closer fitting coifs that leave a lot less of the face exposed.

So, what did those kinds of coifs really look like? Did they have ventails like the coifs that KoA sells? It's hard to tell from the Morgan Bible pictures. How do they fit into them? I've read a remark somewhere that there was a slit in the back so that it would fit over their head. When it was on, they would close the slit with a leather lace (I don't remember where I read that though). Is that correct? Any pictures from extant coifs that have this?

I am also wondering how a coif would protect you. I intend to wear a helmet over mine and one of these padded arming caps underneath. But I think a blow to the side of the head or to the neck would still kill you outright. So, what value did a coif add over a helmet or secret? Or did they wear something else beneath it than just a standard arming cap?

My plan so far is to get a standard coif and tailor it into something more realistic. But I need to know what to make of it.

Thanks in advance!



 Attachment: 55.12 KB
ulfberth-coif.jpg
Example of a loose fitting reproduction coif. This specific one is from Ulfberth.

 Attachment: 112.88 KB
morgan-coif.gif
Morgan bible coif under a nasal helmet.

 Attachment: 180.06 KB
morgan-coif-2.jpg
Morgan bible coif, most likely with a secret underneath.

 Attachment: 8.38 KB
KoH-coif-ventail.jpg
Coif with ventail as seen in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Last edited by Sander Marechal on Sun 04 Apr, 2010 8:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 7:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good question. OK. Before you get the mail coif you need the padded hood or coif, or whatever you wish to call it. Most padded coifs for knights appear just to cover the head but the images from the Mac Bible indicate clearly it was padded. So get one of these first. You can likely make it on your own fairly easily. I think there is on on the Armour Archive patern gallery. Here is this as well.

http://www.virtue.to/articles/coif.html

Remember to leave extra fabric as padding will take up some space.

Next step is that mail, and yes for the most part they should be much tighter on the head than is often shown, but make sure you have padding. Many times it is very loose because they lack this. There are three possible solutions I have seen: Have it just tight enough to get on, have it lace/tie/buckle on the back or lace/tie on the front.

I made my 14th century coif fit by cutting a few rows along the back and reriveting a row shut. Looking back it may have been easier to just lace it close but I am very happy with how tight it is.

Good luck with that!

RPM
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Good question. OK. Before you get the mail coif you need the padded hood or coif, or whatever you wish to call it.


That would be the padded arming cap I referred to. I intend to buy one along with the mail coif.

Quote:

I made my 14th century coif fit by cutting a few rows along the back and reriveting a row shut. Looking back it may have been easier to just lace it close but I am very happy with how tight it is.


Have you got any pictures of you wearing your coif? I'd be interested to see that. Thanks.
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Felix R.




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 9:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a good link to get an idea of the fitting of maile armour. And with the pattern for the coif you will most probably get something tight fitting. http://homepage.ntlworld.com/trevor.barker/fa....htm#sect4
When I look at the Italian knight picture attached, the coif is really snug. You will make this work only buy closing it in the neck. This will be the type of coif I will do sometime.

When you say a direct blow to the neck will kill you outright. Yes, I could imagine it would be so. But on the other hand, any glancing blow will let you get away with not too much harm. Remember the close neck coif will give you good movability, while still saving the very vulnerable neck region, considering all the blood vessels and nerves.



 Attachment: 4.43 KB
Eisenhut ital. 2.jpg

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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 9:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Felix R. wrote:
This is a good link to get an idea of the fitting of maile armour. And with the pattern for the coif you will most probably get something tight fitting. http://homepage.ntlworld.com/trevor.barker/fa....htm#sect4


Thanks Felix. You seem to have a habit of being able to find stuff I've lost. That link is exactly where I read about the slit in the back, but I couldn't find it anymore.

Quote:
When you say a direct blow to the neck will kill you outright. Yes, I could imagine it would be so. But on the other hand, any glancing blow will let you get away with not too much harm.


Yes, good point.
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Quinn W.




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 6:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had been wondering about this, too. I just purchased my first mail coif and noticed that the fit could prove problematic in combat, as I have to occasionally readjust. Lacing it could definitely help that problem, as could simply using more padding than I currently do beneath it. Thanks for the help!
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Apr, 2010 7:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Under the coif one can wear a Cervelière that was a very tight fitting steel skull cap.

These where sometimes worn over the coif also and evolved into the Bascinet first worn under the Great Barrel Helm and with a visor worn instead of the Great Barrel helm.

Cervelières also are similar or related to later " Secrètes " ( French for Secret ) that could be worn under a soft hat so that one's head would be secretly protected. Oh, a maille shirt worn under civilian clothes could also be called a Secrète.

Size opening in the coif:

A) Wide opening are convenient as the coif can be pushed back over the back of the neck to cool down but the opening has to be bigger for this to be possible. Some form of closing, maybe simply lacing through the links below the chin would seem to be an easy fix to close the overlarge opening.

B) Close opening that must be removed completely to cool down. Might be more a problem with integral to a hauberk as then the whole Hauberk would have to be taken off for temporary cooling.

Historically I'm not sure if both options where used or both used for all periods or is it a Hollywood thing where a Coif that can be worn without hiding most of the face is preferred to not hide the actor's face ?

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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 1:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Historically I'm not sure if both options where used or both used for all periods or is it a Hollywood thing where a Coif that can be worn without hiding most of the face is preferred to not hide the actor's face ?


Option A was used for sure in the time period I'm interested in. The Morgan bible has plenty of images of people who have pulled their coif back over their head. The morgan bible also showed close fitting coifs, so I assume that most are laced and have ventails.

Are there any images of extant coifs with ventails and/or a laced slit? Google gives me plenty of images of reproduction coifs (the same ones over and over again) but I can't find any museum pieces or artwork that is more detailed than the Morgan bible. I'm especially interested in the shape of the ventail. The ventail in the Kingdom of Heaven shot looks quite different from the small triangular ventails I see in some reproduction pieces (like the GDFB coif, see attachment).



 Attachment: 6.54 KB
coif-gdfb.jpg
GDFB coif with vential. Somehow it does not look right in my opinion...
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Pekka Pasanen




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One original from Gotland:

www.actakonservering.se/acta/KonserveringTofta.html#grid
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 7:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander,

Something I should throw in before you decide on what to do that may or may not be important. Of the mail coifs remaining all but I think but one are solid links without lacing. I think off the top of my head the mail coif in the royal museum of scotland, is the only medieval example that has lacing.

RPM
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David Eason




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding of chainmail is that it requires freedom of movement in order to work properly. I've heard that hanging chain especially, acts like water - the higher the velocity the greater the stopping power. You can put your hand through water with ease, but jump off a high bridge and it can act like concrete.

Thus, I always thought loose coifs and aventails were a form of protection against arrows. A gorget would be worn beneath for real protection for that most vulnerable area.
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 10:00 am    Post subject: Re: What did a mail coif really look and work like?         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:

I am also wondering how a coif would protect you. I intend to wear a helmet over mine and one of these padded arming caps underneath. But I think a blow to the side of the head or to the neck would still kill you outright. So, what value did a coif add over a helmet or secret? Or did they wear something else beneath it than just a standard arming cap?


What value? Mass. It's not the best form of armour - but when used in addition to solid plate plus suspension - it helps.

It also creates versatility. When the fight cools down, or while traveling, you can take off the weight of the helmet and where just the coif.

Besides, layers increase penetration resistance.

So it seems like a good combo item. Note, though, that this is speculation on my part.

Cheers,
Steven

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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Years ago I used to fight with a different group than I do now. We weren't allowed to target the head, but helmets were required. I wore a simple nasal helm with a butted spring-steel coif that I made,and just a leather liner with no padding.

A few times I was hit on the head under unusual circumstances. Obviously my info is not scientific, but I very much felt that the coif gave me significant cushioning. I could literally feel the impact being dispersed along the weave of the links, as well as the links compressing and pulling together around the point of impact, absorbing some of the force.

Obviously the outer helmet helped with the effect, but any time I've been hit on just 'plate' armour with enough force to feel it, I could feel the isolated point of impact more clearly, sometimes with the energy dispersed to the specific points where the armour had the most contact with/support from the body.

I realize this just my unscientific anecdote, but I truly believe that the combination of coif and helmet has defensive value greater than the sum of its parts.

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pekka, is that the coiffe discovered 6 or seven years ago in if I recall a church tower?
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János Sibinger




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 12:12 pm    Post subject: Some pictures...         Reply with quote

Greetings!
Recently I am working on a coif, and I found a picture (please find it included) wich shows interesting, -and for me- a bit confusing detail. As you can see the lower part of the coif, with the mail collar (I don't know the correct word for it) is being attached to the upper parts by means of laces. The string, or thin strap seems to go all around the head, over the mail on the sides, than at the forehead it goes under the upper part of the coif.
I hope that I was able to help.
It is interesting to note in the Morgan Bible that the discussed pieces seems to be separated diagonally. This might be the representation of the occasionally occurring line of brass rings, by wich the coif was attached to the padding. The brass or bronze rings were mentioned in the book "Armour from the Battle of Wisby 1361" It was used in the cases of gauntlets too, where the outer tissue of mail was attached to the gloves. The softer and stainless metals might have its benefits from the cheaper iron.
Best wishes!
John



 Attachment: 35.14 KB
The picture about the mail coif, c. 1250 [ Download ]
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Shackleton wrote:
Obviously my info is not scientific,


Why "obviously"? You report an observation, make it more useful by comparing what it feels like to be hit on plate-over-mail and plate only. You don't "overinterpret" this or use this observation to provide support for a favourite theory.

Sounds scientific enough; you are being overly self-effacing. It's not quantitative, but that is far from the same as being not scientific.
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@Pekka: Interesting piece. It seems reasonably well fitted and doesn't show much face, but as far as I can see it's all one piece. No ventail.

Randall Moffett wrote:
I think off the top of my head the mail coif in the royal museum of scotland, is the only medieval example that has lacing.


Thanks. Unfortunately the museum website doesn't have any pictures of the piece online.

Janos Sibinger wrote:
As you can see the lower part of the coif, with the mail collar (I don't know the correct word for it) is being attached to the upper parts by means of laces. The string, or thin strap seems to go all around the head, over the mail on the sides, than at the forehead it goes under the upper part of the coif.


Interesting picture. It does indeed look like the entire throat part and left side are part of the ventail. I also see a string or line running horizontally across his left temple. When I look back at the pictures I posted from the Morgan bible in my original post, it does look very similar. It could suggest a very different design than a "modern" closed coif + triangular ventail. The throat part could be (nearly) open and covered by the big ventail. That would allow a snug looking fit and still let you pull it over your head (or pull backwards like the Morgan bible also shows).
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Pekka Pasanen




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 8:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan, it's the same.

No ventail, but it's a typical style for that period. Many of the coifs found in Wisby are tailored in similar way.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Apr, 2010 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What are the two ties on the coif from Gotland? Are they modern additions? It almost looks like they are intended to tie the back flap of the coif across the face, which is not inconsistent with some of the other images. But to me it doesn't look like there is enough to reach that far. Also, it does look to me like the ties must be newer than the coif itself.

I'm also curious that the lower part of the coif seems to be front and rear flaps, rather than an expanding circle, leaving the shoulders uncovered. Is that the design, or just the way the piece deteriorated over time?

It's a really interesting piece.

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Tue 06 Apr, 2010 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Allan, it's the same.

No ventail, but it's a typical style for that period. Many of the coifs found in Wisby are tailored in similar way.



From what I recall, this dates to around 1200 or so. At the time it was thought to be about the earliest find of a stand alone coiffe ( not made in one with the hauberk ) there was, is that correct?
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