The knuckle plate is a fairly complex piece, and it took me a number of tries to figure out a simple way of making these using the tools that I built for making the finger gadlings. The base pattern for this is a rectangular strip of steel 1 1/4″ in width roughly 6″ wide (38mm x 150mm) Mark the center line, and 2 lines on each side 1 1/8″ to either side, these delineate the outer edges of the knuckles. Mark the center of these since this is where they will be domed. I use a lead block for most of the shaping, but pewter or firm clay will also work, although the clay will not provide as clean an impression.
The “pattern” for the knuckle plate is a rectangle 1 1/4″ wide by 6″ (or a bit more) long. This will be trimmed later, so the length isn’t terribly important. the 1 1/4″ width is slightly wider than it needs to be, but it’s easier to grind down a bit of extra material than to have to make a new plate if your punch locations aren’t perfect. Mark the middle of the sheet and mark at 1 1/8″ intervals from this centerline. If your hands are large, you will need to increase this spacing, if they are small you can decrease it. this will give you 4 “squares”, and if you put a mark in the middle of each one you can use this to line it up on your dapping block. Below are a couple of pictures, one of the “marked” knuckle plate aligned on the striking block, the second showing the lines I used to align the punch depression. The hammer I use is a 24 oz ball pien, and it has an almost spherical “ball” which is why I chose it for this forming.
Once I have set the hammer I strike the ball pien hammer with an 8 lb (4kg) sledge hammer with a cut down handle to allow it to be swung with a single hand. Because the “alignment” punches are fairly “light” and relatively shallow (about 1/8″ deep) and supported by the rest of the lead block they leave the rest of the plate flat, and ready for the major forming operations to follow. The following pictures show the first punch, and the series of 4 demonstrating that the plate is still flat following the alignment punches.
Once I have the alignment punches set, I switch to a deeper depression on the lead block. Note that all of these depressions are made by taking the forming tool in question (in this case the 24 oz ball pien) and hammering it into the lead block to the desired depth. Centering the punch on the depression, and “dragging” the plate to the appropriate location using the alignment punch you then strike the punch (hammer) with the sledge. I tend to strike it twice with fairly heavy hits (about a 24″ / 60 cm drop) to set the dome to the appropriate depth. The photos below show setting the hammer, and the results after punching all four knuckles using the hammer. once this is done, the knuckle plate is embossed to a depth that is typical in most re-enactment gauntlets. this is not deep enough for the “pointy” knuckle guards (some of which reached ridiculous proportions) that were typical in gothic gauntlets.
The next two steps increase the depth of the punched areas, making them closer in shape to a cone than a dome. This is done by sequentially punching with a 3/4″ and then a 1/2″ diameter punch. A “pointier” ball on a ball pien hammer may work better, but my experience is that punching a series of smaller diameter balls works better than trying to do a single punch. Even with this technique I need to stress relieve (heat to bright orange to partially anneal) the shaped metal before completing the pyramid punching or the metal will crack or tear. Striking force on these punches is a single strike from about 18″ (30 cm) height. the first two pictures show the 3/4″ punch used and the resultant plate depth, while the second two show the 1/2″ punch and near-cone shape that results. The second punch adds just enough so that the pyramid punch works cleanly. You may not need to do this third punch, but I have found that this gives a better shape to form the pyramid from, and results in more consistent and better aligned shape than using only the ball pien and the 3/4″ punch.
The knuckle plate is now is a state where it can be embossed into the classical pyramidal shape seen on gothic gauntlets. These knuckles have also been formed into cones rather than pyramids, but almost all of my favorite gauntlets have a pyramidal shape, or at least embossed lines defining the knuckle lines, and a second set of embossed lines aligned with the direction of the fingers. Before proceeding I stress relieve the knuckle plates, bringing the center 3/4″ of these areas to a bright orange to relieve the work hardening. This may not be needed for mild steel, but for carbon or stainless steels the final stage of forming the pyramids will crack or tear the material. It is also important to point out that the edges and point of the pyramid punch are slightly rounded – if these are “sharp” this operation will cut through the metal and destroy the plate. As before the pyramidal depression is made by hammering the punch into the lead block, and before forming these plates I do so again to make sure that the impression is “crisp” since this will define the final shape. When punching the pyramid it is important to make sure that the plate is at a 45 degree angle to the pyramid, since you want one set of ridge lines to point down the fingers, and the second to be aligned across the back of the knuckles
Following the punching, you should have a series of rough pyramids defining the knuckle lines. this can be shaped to match your gauntlet back. While it may be tempting to “sharpen” the embossing, many medieval gauntlets have just enough shape to provide the illusion that they have sharp edges – many if not all have just enough shape to convince the eye that they are consistent.
Cleaning up the ripples is relatively straightforward: I use a small (8 oz) modified ball pien hammer to hammer these out on an anvil – the corner is useful to support without scarring the knuckle plate, although a hardwood block may be more useful for those with less experience to avoid marring the work. Once this is roughly cleaned up, the knuckle plate can be articulated onto the metacarpal plate. Note that the overall process is easier if the plate is articulated onto a “rounder” plate and then the metacarpal plates (back to the wrist plate) are embossed to match the knuckle. Note that my articulation points are too far forward: period examples have a slight projection at the back of the knuckle plate, and the articulation points are very close to being in line with the back of this plate. the articulation point is also somewhat higher, to increase the angle of articulation with the same amount of “swing”.
The inside of the gauntlet (articulated and compressed) can be seen here.
Once the knuckle plate articulates cleanly you can hammer the plate flush into the “depressions” in the embossed back. I have a tool made of 2 pieces of 3/4″ round stock welded together to make this easier, although blending this hot is the easiest way to manage a tight fit.