This is an article outlining the process to add the gothic flutes and embossing to the main body of a gothic gauntlet. Another post will follow outlining how to build the gauntlet cuff (including fluting and embossing) since this is a significant amount of work as well. Once these are done they should move easily through their entire range of movement with minimal effort – just a flip of the wrist.
Video of the movement – sorry WordPress won’t allow a local video Embed anymore, so I may be looking for another alternative…
Before I get into the details, be aware that this is a non-trivial amount of effort – this work is on the order of a full day for a pair of gauntlets if you are fairly experienced in the techniques, and considerably more (and more frustration) if you are new to this kind of shaping. If you haven’t done fluting or embossing before I would STRONGLY recommend that you practice by making a pair of Besegews (link).
A big part of making gothic edge decoration, which are typically repeating fleur-de-lis or heart motifs (or both) is punching the holes in exactly the right spot. It’s fairly easy to get the distance from the edge consistent (by using a set of dividers) but getting the parallel spacing can be much more of a challenge. Since I was spending a lot of time doing this (I’ve been working on a number of gothic gauntlets trying to prove out a pattern and a build methodology) I thought that it was time to make this easier on myself. This is a pretty simple project, and presents 2 ways of making spacing punches from drill bits. One set of punches gives me the appropriate spacing for 3/32″ holes, the second gives appropriate spacing for 1/8″ holes.
A quick snapshot of the gauntlets that I have heat treated: the first ones required a rebuild of the main plate on the right hand, but are otherwise heat treated and polished, the current (black) set are somewhat more elaborate and modelled off a set by Lorenz Helmschmidt (Maximillian’s A 62 suit in Vienna)
I’ll need to update the gauntlet pattern to reflect some minor changes (like an extra few millimeters of overlap so that the pierced borders overlap onto steel) but I think that these are quite close to “good” patterns.
So I’ve been working off and on getting the pattern for these gauntlets, as well as the decorative elements. It’s been a bit of a slog, but I thought that I should share some progress pics of the latest set ready for heat treating. The knuckle plates are a real pain to get right, and I am in awe of the medieval masters who will often get these within a fraction of a millimeter tolerance. I’m below a mm, but not through the entire range of motion.
Photo quality isn’t awesome, but I think that I have the hang of the fleur-de-lis: note the change in style from the cuff to the knuckle pivot. While both of these are “correct’ the points on the pivot are more elegant.
Why hearts on the majority of the gauntlet and “ellipses” on the knuckle plates? Because the “points” of the hearts line up with the ridge plates. There is a pair of Maximillian’s gauntlets with the elegant “point” decoration that was on display in “The Last Knight” which was cracked almost all the way through, so I decided to go with rounded rather than pointed terminations. I was also fairly tight on space for the overlap, so the saved 1/8″ keeps metal coverage to full extension, while hearts would have exposed a number of small areas.
I’m aware that I need to get the full build instructions up, and I will be updating the pattern to reflect the (minor) changes made for this iteration. I should have the fingers on this weekend, and will provide dimensions in case folks want to start building these (other than Ilkka, who has already started). I anticipate at least one more iteration on the pattern (for the full “Helmschmidt” decoration including the extra overlap plates) but after ~20 years of tweaking I think that this pattern is almost ready.
Working with carbon steel has a few more steps that working in mild or stainless steels, since you need to heat treat to harden the material. In general this has two stages, the “quench” stage and the tempering stage. Of course once armour is heat treated it needs to be cleaned up (unless you are getting the heat treatment done in a vacuum kiln) and all of the work that you need to do to shape the metal really needs to be done before heat treatment – because once it is heat treated it will be very hard and difficult to move.
Here are a pair of gauntlets after heat treatment and tempering. Because we used a kiln with very good temperature control we have minimal scaling, and there was minimal plate deformation. To ensure that the gauntlets had minimal issues with deformation they were bolted together and heat treated as a unit, and their movement after heat treatment was “fair” – it should be back to full mobility once we clean up the scale, which is making the gauntlets more than a bit “stickier” than they were before treatment since the fire scale won’t allow plates to “slide”. This is also because we tightened the bolts before heat treatment, and will need to “loosen” the plates by a millimeter or so per joint so that they can freely slide on their slots, since the clamping of the bolts has pulled the plates tighter than we want them to be in actual use.
(To be continued as these gauntlets are cleaned up)
One of the things that many gauntlet reproductions don’t do (or do badly) is “droop” – the level of extension needed to break the wrist “down” toward the fingers. Wade Allen has a nice 1480 / 1490 gauntlet, and also has a nice photo showing what these should do:
It isn’t much, but it’s enough so that the gauntlet won’t bind, and the limit of movement may be enough to keep wrist locks (or for fans of Fiore “keys”) from working well. This post will go into how I build gauntlets to make sure that I have enough “droop” and also get into how I set the slotted rivets to allow lateral movement, since this style of gauntlet is extremely close fitting, and requires approximately 1″ (25mm) of compression so that movement is not hindered.
Layout and Patterning
While computer assisted laser and water-jet cutting optimizes the layout to minimize metal wastage, in general you will waste considerably less metal (and time) if you make sure to have at least 1/2″ of space around each piece. While closer spacing uses less material, it doesn’t take a lot of mistakes (cutting through and ruining other pieces) to offset the material savings, and tight tolerances here will require more cutting time – and time is probably the most valuable component of these gauntlets: my cost breakdown was roughly $2 for leather, $15 for gloves, $3 for rivets (7 dozen rivets, more than half of these brass) and $5 for steel (largely 0.040″ / 1 mm / 20 Ga stainless steel)
I thought that I’d put together a build list of all the pieces that I needed to cut out and shape for a pair of finger gauntlets. This is also a convenient listing of what order to cut the pieces in (particularly if heat treating) since there is a distinct order of operations to follow. Note that I generally build the fingers first and then attach to the body of the gauntlet, you can also build the body of the gauntlet first, but the knuckle plate fitting will depend on the fit of the plate that rivets the finger leathers into the knuckle, so you can’t finish this fit until the fingers are done – and if you are heat treating that means that this plate is the absolute last plate to get heat treated! I have also included the rivets, and based on this build list a pair of finger gauntlets will use 132 rivets (not including those to hold the glove to the gauntlet = likely another 6 per gauntlet) although the vast majority of these will be “arming nails” for attaching metal plates to leather.
This was actually a project that I started (and finished) today after trying to figure out a good “practice” exercise for gothic gauntlets, since the metacarpal plate shaping is “tricky”. Then it occurred to me that Besagews have the same “ridge and scallop” shaping, and should be something that I could teach an intermediate armourer in an afternoon. Instead of going into the historic background of these, I thought that I’d just put up the build. Even doing this as a quick post, the preparation of the post probably took more time than the Besagew, which I timed at 40 minutes (including the pattern)
I’m going to cheat and just include the gallery of photos at the bottom instead of embedding them inline, but they follow the order that I am outlining here. here are pics of the (rough finished) besagew, as well as the edge view showing the “scallop”. The center hole will be used to mount the attachment (probably a leather loop)
[Edit] – added a pair of videos at the end, one of shaping the besagews once the flute lines are roughed in, and a second showing the sanding (at 240 grit). I have also added some “fancier” Besagews, which are the second set of photos below
Here are a couple of alternate versions, which were made by spending a bit more time cleaning them up, and different grinding for the edges. This gives a more “floral” version and a “needs more umlauts!!” gothic version. For comparison, the floral version was made by Dean, who has been making armour very part time for about a year, and this was completed in about 2 hours in an afternoon with almost no input from me other than a demonstration of the technique
Let’s start with “what’s a gadling”. A gadling is the plate that covers a knuckle on a set of gauntlets that covers individual fingers. In practice, this is simply covering the “gap” between the plates along the finger bones, and with the exception of some early (14th century) gauntlets, these are invariably articulated by riveting them onto a leather (generally buff leather) backing. for a nice picture of a singer gauntlet, check out the A213 which is in the collection of Wade Allen – it is one of the few resources on the web that includes interior photos as well as exterior ones. compare and contrast to the A98 pair which are mitten gauntlets.
There is a common misconception about gauntlets, that finger gauntlets are more difficult to build than mitten gauntlets. While either type of gauntlet is time consuming, the main challenge to finger gauntlets is simply having the right tools. Gadlings are a particular challenge for most folks, particularly the pyramidal or conical types, as many people seem to think that these need to be shaped in the same way you would make a poleyn or couter (knee or elbow protection). As with many pieces of armour,the first question you should ask yourself is “what is the easiest possible way to make this” – that is generally how these pieces were made, because a medieval armourer had bills to pay and mouths to feed, and didn’t get a bonus for doing things the hard way.