Sunday, June 21, 2009

Building the Home Armory

Ok, so I haven't blogged since sometime in May--and even then it was a bunch of odd limericks.

But, things haven't been slow around the house. We have in fact been busy with a bunch of other stuff--everything from lawn work, to new exercise and diet stuff (which I might blog about, if another bout of blog ennui doesn't set in), to dress-making, to...

Yup, my new (and rather expensive) hobby:
Dressing my toddler in maille.

What you see in the above photo is my little kid wearing his hauberk for the first time. It wasn't actually the first time I'd tried to get him in it; this was just the first time he actually cooperated. And let me tell you, you think it's hard getting an uncooperative toddler in his PJs? PJs are a cinch next to that thing. If he doesn't want to wear it, it ain't going on.

Well, I actually got him in it, and took a few pictures, and was feeling very, very happy. So! I pulled down one of the helmets and one of the swords I'd made way back in late 2007, and got them on him. Let me tell you, he was noble, he was gallant, he was cute as a button! So I tried to take another picture, and the camera chose that exact moment to tell me that the battery was dead. Figures. Immediately after that, he pulled off the helmet, dropped the mighty blade Årþørsgrößtetüðpik, and ran off to go do one of those things that toddlers are always running off to go do. The moment was lost. Sigh. I've never since been able to get him back in the whole get-up.

But! Some time after the camera's battery was re-charged, I corralled his four-year-old sister and dressed her up in the whole getup. Behold my midget valkyrie:

With pineapples on her PJs. Very apropos.

Hm... That's very nice and all, but at some point I'm going to have to make a coif with mantle. That neck looks pretty vulnerable.

Ok. Well, one thing about making maille is that you never know in advance how it's going to turn out; and when I tried it on the kids, I discovered that it needed a fair amount of adjustment. The seams under the arms pulled a lot of slack out of the chain pattern, and made the armholes too tight. And the neck was too big. The trouble with toddlers (one trouble with toddlers, actually) is that they have really big heads (proportionately), and really narrow shoulders. Any neckhole that's big enough to go around their heads, is also big enough to slip off their shoulders and make it look as if they're wearing strapless gowns. And let me tell you, strapless gowns would be a big hit on a medieval battlefield.

But one other thing about making maille is that you can always go back and change it after the fact. It's not like cutting cloth, where after the cloth is cut you can never put it back the way it was; with chain, you just add more until you have what you want. So, I started doing ad-hoc modifications until I had it the way I wanted it. I added some width to the arms, I built up the neck, and I added a slit in back (with clasps) so that the head could make it through the newer, tighter neck-hole.
And here the little knight is, doing something a little more studious than his normal dragon-slaying maiden-chasing routine.
And here he is looking for dragons under the dining room table. Nope, no dragons here, but there are some maidens lurking about in the shadows...
And here's the full get-up by itself.
I've actually added a few rows to the torso since this picture was taken, so it's a bit longer now. I'm thinking I'll keep adding a little at a time for now, until it gets to just above the knee, or until I run out of rings. Gotta protect the family jewels, and all.

And in case you're wondering, it's made out of "bright" aluminum--it's an aluminum alloy that contains some magnesium and some other stuff to slow it's tarnish rate. It's very shiny. The shirt weighs something less than four pounds. If it were made of stainless steel instead, it would weigh three times as much, and my little knight would be pinned to the floor.


Ok, so that project is pretty much done, aside from the constant after-tweaking that we arteests can never seem to resist doing to our works. Now what?


That picture of the mighty blade Årþørsgrößtetüðpik? Well... it's not looking like it's in too-good of a shape anymore. After all, blades made of cardboard don't last very long. Årþørsgrößtetüðpik and her sister blade Uncalibur-ated are more than a year-and-a-half old, which for cardboard blades is something like 173 in dog-years. It was time to get some new swords.

But the thing is, you don't want your kids injuring each other, so you need to find something either really lightweight, or really foam-like. Now, there are various piratey-looking swords out there, but they don't actually look right with chainmaille. You want straight swords for that kind of work--nice long ones, so the combatants can swing at each other while yelling taunts from Monty Python ("Tis but a flesh wound!" "What are you going to do, bleed on me?") (Which reminds me of another bit of our cultural corpus I'm going to have to introduce them to someday....) Now, Nerf has a few foam swords out, and they are long, straight ones... but they have neon yellow and blue hilts, and look like they are straight out of some Manga comic (which they probably are).

Nor could I find anything online that looked right.


So I took a trip to the local hardware store, followed by the local fabric store, then came home, and....

Is it just me, or does my wife look more enticing than usual tonight? There's just something about a woman with a big-ol' honkin' sword....

(Now, if I could just get her in maille, well... I'd be in absolute Valhalla.)

Basically, I got a length of half-inch PVC pipe for the core, which I cut down to a decent length for blade-plus-hilt. I also got a length of wood with a square cross-section of 1.25", and cut that into pieces for the hand-guards and pommels. To make the blade, I wrapped the PVC pipe in thick foam padding, then wrapped the padding in duct tape; I inserted the hand guards and bolted them in place; then I wrapped the hilt in duct tape, put the pommel on the bottom, and bolted that on.

The first sword I wrapped a bit too tightly. The foam is a wee bit too compressed, so it hits a bit harder than the other two. Somehow, the Pillowfight Fairy figured this out, and now, of the three swords, she wants to use that one all the time. Go figure. We don't let her.

(Incidentally, that's the one that Tonya is wielding in that picture above, with that smile on her face that says "The Beatings Will Now Begin". No wonder I think it's so sexy....)

Ahem. Anyhoo, these swords are an absolute blast to play with. The two girls and I had them outside earlier today, and they ganged up on me. You know, I may be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than they are, but there are two of them; and when they figured out that "We can attack him from opposite directions, at the same time!" I really had to do some scrambling.

I also showed them how to do a decent parry. Now, that's a good Fathers' Day activity.

Tonight as I was taking the pictures that follow, the girls were smacking each other silly--including one instance where the girls simultaneously raised their swords high up in the air, and then whapped each other clean on top of each other's heads. It was almost as though they'd choreographed it....
Obviously, they have to treat them as two-handed swords. The swords are a little too heavy for them to use one-handed. I suspect, if they keep playing with them like this, that will change pretty quickly....

It was rather funny. At one point the conversation sounded like this:
Fairy (echoing Daddy from earlier in the day): "You need to learn how to parry."


Somehow I can't see this last picture without thinking to myself: "Luke... I am your father."


Ok, so what's next?

Well, I still have a few (hundred, maybe thousand) rings to add to the torso of the Happy Boy's hauberk. After that, I have a new shipment of rings coming from The Ring Lord with which to make an outfit for the Adrenaline Junkie. I've got this cute little idea planned out for a wood-elf outfit for her, to be made from aluminum rings that have been anodized to look like bronze (but weigh only about three-tenths the amount), and from overlapping metallic scales of green anodized aluminum.

And as I said, this is a very expensive hobby. I need the Junkie's outfit to take a long time to make... so that our finances can recover before I start making the Fairy's outfit. She's actually wanting something in pink.

Did Valkyries ever wear pink?

I think not. (Gag.)


Arby said...

He's alive! Glad to read that the maille is adjustable. Up until I read that I was wondering just who would buy that shirt in a garage sale once the toddler out-grows it.

Timothy Power said...

Yes, it is adjustable.

Step one: open up a column of rings on the front and back, and add several more columns in their places before closing them back up.

Step two: open up a column of rings on the top of each sleeve, and add several more columns in their places before closing them back up.

Step three: the neck will be much looser now, so add several rows of rings to tighten it up.

Step four: add several rows to lengthen the sleeves.

Step five: add several rows to lengthen the torso.

That's it! With a little bit of work each year, the Happy Boy will be able to wear this hauberk clean into college. That is, unless he wants to get dates by then....


Theocentrica said...

I would buy it in a garage sale... now, how many people at a garage sale would actually know what it was, is the question.

B. Durbin said...

Foam swords reminds me of those days in college, when Amtgard went around bashing each other with weapons that were very similar.

Jarrod J. Williamson, Ph.D. said...

Tim, I'm guessing you haven't had any thoughts since June?

Jane said...

I hope to hear from your blog again soon. Since your're doing a great job here. By the way, these best gifts that you could give your better-half might interest you too. Thanks and have a nice and fulfilling day.

Arby said...

Dude, how are you doing? Everything okay? It's been kinda quiet over here. I hope that all is well.

Timothy Power said...

Hey, Arby. Yes, we're still here, and actually doing well. I suppose what happened is that I stopped feeling guilty about not posting.

Life is much better without the guilt, I might add. I suppose it means that my former readers miss me, but it does open up a whole lot more hours in the evening to do other stuff--like all the armor-crafting I've been doing.

By the way, I thought your backyard golf-tee-launcher was totally awesome. If I had unlimited budget, unlimited time, and a really, really forgiving wife, our backyard would be entirely filled with odd medieval artillery, I'm afraid. And some of them would be triggered by motion detectors in the front yard....

By the way, you look much better as Cary Grant than you did as the grumpy old guy in the bowler. And after seeing that video you shot, I have to say I really like your voice.

No, this isn't one of those obsequious hindquarter-osculating kind of things; I used to do opera, and I'm an occasional music director at our church, and I'm always listening for people's voices to see where they'd fit in some kind of hypothetical chorus. And the world needs more good basses....

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Angie Phipps said...

I love it! My hubby bought some metal to do the same for our sons. Hasn't gotten around to it yet. Any ideas on how to start to make a chain maille shirt?

Hubby has, however, fabricated real metal swords with his welder, grinder and other shop tools. Perhaps I should photograph them and send you samples of insanity on our end. Oh, what we do for our children!!!

Next project...solid metal armor. No kidding, he already has the metal cut out and ready to hammer and shape into real armor!

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