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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Mon 30 Aug, 2010 3:39 pm    Post subject: How effective was 14th century armour?         Reply with quote

Surviving later armour seems to be usually well crafted from heat treated steel, though what about earlier armour, like from the mid 14th century?
What would you estimate the thickness and metalurgy of such armour? It's tempting to think of it as mostly iron, though even some Roman armour has been measured as steel. Any thoughts/opinions?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Aug, 2010 10:01 pm    Post subject: Re: How effective was 14th century armour?         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:
Surviving later armour seems to be usually well crafted from heat treated steel, though what about earlier armour, like from the mid 14th century?
What would you estimate the thickness and metalurgy of such armour? It's tempting to think of it as mostly iron, though even some Roman armour has been measured as steel. Any thoughts/opinions?


Iron with maybe some deliberate or incidental case hardening from absorbed carbon while hot shaping ? But this is just total guesswork from me: Iron or very low carbon steel is more probable.

How effective was 14 th Century armour ? I would think very effective and heavy late in the transitional period where a full hauberk would be reinforced with plate with more or less coverage getting more extensive as we get closer to the full white harness of the late q4 th and early 15 th Centuries.

The multiple layers of arming clothes, hauberk, coat of plates or early breast plate would give very good protection but probably heavier armour than later plate worn with just maille voiders between the major gaps in the armour like the armpits, inside of elbows and behind the knees that can't be easily covered in plate.

I think that there is very little surviving early 14 th century plate armour, maybe a few helmets and fragments of coats of plates and some maille.

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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Mon 30 Aug, 2010 11:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To bad we don't have more surviving armour from this period, it'd be neat to see.
One thing I don't get is I heard modern mild steel is about 100 VPH, yet in The Knight and the Blast Furnace some pieces of armour called iron were listed as somewhat harder than this. (I think, not for sure.) Is it possible for iron to be harder than mild steel? Maybe it was work hardened?
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Mon 30 Aug, 2010 11:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:
To bad we don't have more surviving armour from this period, it'd be neat to see.
One thing I don't get is I heard modern mild steel is about 100 VPH, yet in The Knight and the Blast Furnace some pieces of armour called iron were listed as somewhat harder than this. (I think, not for sure.) Is it possible for iron to be harder than mild steel? Maybe it was work hardened?


Any piece of metal that has been forget will become work-hardened to some extent.
As for the remains of 14th century armour - sure, there is not nearly as much remaining as we would like to, yet there is a significant enough ammount of armour to let us make at least some conclusions about it - starting from the 25 suits of coat-of-plates from the mass graves near Visby to helmets and other surviving parts. Metalographic analysis, sadly, have not been a priority for most researchers, so we do not know nearly as much as we would like to.
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Augusto Boer Bront
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PostPosted: Tue 31 Aug, 2010 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But... don't we have tha armor from the Churburg castle?
And the harness from Chartres?

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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Aug, 2010 6:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Augusto Boer Bront wrote:
But... don't we have tha armor from the Churburg castle?
And the harness from Chartres?


Yes, where did this idea that there's only a few pieces of 14th century armor out there come from?

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Aug, 2010 10:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:
Augusto Boer Bront wrote:
But... don't we have tha armor from the Churburg castle?
And the harness from Chartres?


Yes, where did this idea that there's only a few pieces of 14th century armor out there come from?


Maybe just reading it here on " myArmoury ". Wink Razz Laughing Out Loud Cool

True, I really don't know how much armour we have from the 14 th Century and in what state most of it is, and probably little of it has been tested for hardness or carbon content.

There may be a lot more than we know in back storage room of museums since the later an better preserved pieces from the Renaissance and late medieval period is " prettier " i.e. armour of Princes and kings tending to be highly decorated and kept in decent storage conditions over many centuries. The less valuable armour would have tended to be recycled for materials or worn to a nub.

But maybe it would be more useful and less speculative if some of our members with more expertise and direct knowledge of Museum collections chimed in.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Aug, 2010 10:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doug Strong knows of enough 14th century European armour that he is working on a book with pictures of as many of them as he can get the rights to. There aren't many full suits, but there are a lot of individual pieces out there.

The best single resource on the metallurgy of 14th century European armour is an article "Great helms and their development into helmets" by David Edge and Alan Williams in the free online journal Gladius. (Click English, then Archives, then drill down to Vol. 24 .

Don't forget that into the early 15th century, plate defenses were normally worn over at least a haubergeon and often a hauberk and maille chausses. The combination would be very effective protection, but heavier and less convenient than wearing the plate directly over an arming doublet and maille voiders.
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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Tue 31 Aug, 2010 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the article link, interesting.
That's curious why they started used flat top helms for a while, despite conical spangenhelms being widely used.
Perhaps it made the helm easier to wear over a smaller helmet.
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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Sep, 2010 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:
Augusto Boer Bront wrote:
But... don't we have tha armor from the Churburg castle?
And the harness from Chartres?


Yes, where did this idea that there's only a few pieces of 14th century armor out there come from?


I suspect its a case that people are getting misled by the fact there are no surviving *complete* harnesses from that date.

plenty of parts, though.
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Sep, 2010 8:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It comes from the fact that there are very few, compared to later periods. Helms are the most abundant, with a sharp dive in numbers when it comes to anything else, with few of those helms in private hands. Most of what still exists is on display, with very little in museum reserve collections, unlike other armour, where the ratio can be as high as ten in reserve to one on display. Moreover, most of what survives dates close to 1400. It is a great pity that the development of plate in the 14th c. cannot be reconstructed from surviving examples. The only type of armour that is even more rare than 14th c. armour is that in the 'Kastenbrust' style, which has virtually been erased from history.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Sep, 2010 12:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the June, 1981 Journal of The Arms & Armour Society, there's an article by Alan R. Williams called "Four Helms of the Fourteenth Century Compared." It's applicable to this topic. Williams tested the material, heat treat, and hardness of 4 helms and compared them to 2 pieces of armour:

1) Great Helm of Richard Pembridge (before 1375):



Material: Case-carburised wrought iron
Heat Treat: quenched, resulting in martensitic outer layer
Hardness: 430 VPH (heat-treated layer), 110 VPH (the rest)

2) Very similar great helm on loan to the Royal Armouries (c. 1370):

Material: Low carbon steel
Heat Treat: yes, resulting in bainitic structure
Hardness: 290 VPH (bainite areas)

3) Great helm of Nicholas Hawberk (died 1407, helm dates to c. 1390):



Material: Medium carbon steel
Heat Treat: Kind of: allowed to cool slowly and perhaps formed of folded, case-carburised material
Hardness: 110 VPH (ferritic areas), 195 (pearlitic areas)

4) Helm of Sir Reginald Baybrook (died 1405, helm dates to c. 1390)

Material: Iron with less than .1% carbon
Heat Treat: ?
Hardness: Average 108 VPH (ranges from 75 to 135 VPH)

Armour:

1) Plate from coast of plates found at Castle of Kussnach (Swiss, before 1352)

Material: carburised iron, folded
Heat Treat: slack quench
Hardness: 390 VPH (average)

2) Milanese velvet-covered breastplate (Bavarian National Museum, c. 1380-1400)

Material Medium Carbon Steel
Heat Treat: yes, but perhaps cooled "in a moderate quenchant, e.g. boiling water or molted lead, forming a mixture of pearlite and bainite."
Hardness: 340 VPH (average)

I'll leave it up to others to explain these numbers and types of structures. To me, it seems that some of the heat treating efforts were guesses on the smith's part.

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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Sep, 2010 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Extremely interesting post, it seems that in some cases protection was seemingly hoped to achieve by hard outer layer, while in others armor was kept relatively soft.
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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Sat 04 Sep, 2010 8:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for that post.
What's carburised iron? Does that mean they case hardened it then folded it over?
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Sep, 2010 9:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just recently rechecked out the knight and the blast furnace, when I can get around to it I can read off some VPH's for you.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Sep, 2010 6:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:
Thanks for that post.
What's carburised iron? Does that mean they case hardened it then folded it over?


According to some dictionary websites, carburising is "to combine or impregnate (as metal) with carbon." Williams speculates the iron of the Pembridge helm may have been covered with some carbon-bearing material (I think he mentions guano) and heated drawing some carbon into the underlying metal. I'd guess the same is true for the other examples he calls "carburised." It's not enough carbon to call it steel and doesn't seem to be enough to do more than harden the outler layer of the metal.

A couple of the examples he cites seem to have been of carburised iron which was then forge folded on itself, helping to distribute the carbon a little bit.

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Sep, 2010 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is the related info from the Knight and the Blast Furnace-

Italian pre 1400
Page 62
CH13- Low Carbon, Attempted 180 VPH
H168gr- Medium Carbon, Attempted, ?
VPH
CH16- Low Carbon, Attempted?, 202 VPH
W195- Medium Carbon, Hardened, 374 VPH

2 low carbon, 2 medium- only one hardened
All his examples are marked. If this follows the 15th century pattern (or is worse) Then it is likely armour made by men other than masters would have been more low carbon and more patchy with heat treatment.

German pre 1400
Pages 331-332
SLM 13367- Medium Carbon, Hardened, VPH Unknown
SAng 869- Low Carbon, Air Cooled, 233 VPH
GNM W.2801- Iron, Air cooled, 175 VPN
MV 30-83- Iron, Air Cooled Unknown VPH
GNM 1271- Low carbon, Air, 220 VPH
GNW 1567-Iron, Air, Unknown VPH
GNM 1466- Medium, Hardened, 366 VPH
GNM 1614- Iron, Air cooled, 130 VPH
RA IV.467- Low carbon, Air Cooled, unknown VPH
RA IV.6- Low Carbon, Air Cooled, Unknown VPH
SWI 1628- Iron, Attempted Heat treatment, Unknown VPH
Plzen 3841- Iron, Air Cooled, Unknown VPH
MMA 04.3.238- Low Carbon, Air Cooled, Unknown VPH
MV 22-83- Iron, Air Cooled, Unknown VPH
MV 24-83- Low Carbon, Air Cooled, Unknown VPH
VC50- Iron, Air Cooled, Unknown VPH
GNM 1562- Iron, Air Cooled, ? VPH
GNM 1564- Iron, Air Cooled, ? VPH
HI773- Iron, Air Cooled, ? VPH
GNM 1018- Low Carbon, Air cooled, ? VPH
Koln W2- Medium, Air Cooled, ? VPH
SLM 1487- Iron, Air Cooled, ? VPH

12 iron, 7 of low-carbon, 3 medium carbon- only 2 were actually hardened

About 50% is iron and less than 2% hardened.

Thats the make up but I think in all reality this is not really the key factor in if is or is not effective as armour.

RPM
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