Part 103 - An SCA "Standard" of Maille?
by Lord Thomas the Black
An SCA “Standard” of Maille?
Welcome back to another edition of Blackmaille!
For several seasons now, a former student of
mine and I had debated heavily on what the “standard” was for maille used by
fighters in the Society for Creative Anachronism. He held that 14 gauge, 5/16”
rings were the standard, while in my experience, I'd seen mostly 14g, 3/8”
rings. Growing tired of my crew giving two different answers at demos, and
wanting to settle things once and for all, I decided to do some research.
To research this, I turned to three publications available to all members of the SCA:
1.) The SCA Marshall's Handbook
2.) The Kingdom of Calontir Marrshall's Handbook (specific to my area; your kingdom handbook may read differently)
3.) The SCA Known World Handbook (3rd ed, 1995)
The SCA Marshall's Handbook1 lists no specific criteria for maille armor. Thinking I might have missed something, I emailed the SCA Knight Marshall, asking him “Is there a 'standard' for maille in the SCA?”. I received a rather curt reply consisting of “The armor standards can be found in the handbook on the Marshall's site online”. No help there, thanks.
The Kingdom Marshall's handbook lists armor standards on page 42. This lists no specific standards for maille armor either, and in fact, frequently refers readers to the SCA Marshall's Handbook for further details. An email to the Kingdom Earl Marshall, Sir Aleksander, yielded this response:
“I am not aware of any official standard for mail. You can pretty much use what you want as long as it does not pose a hazard to you or anyone else. The only place the rules talk about mail is when talking about what a fighter is considered to be wearing when calling blows and in the area about neck protection. At no point does it say anything about what gauge to use or what method needs to be used in the construction.”
Good to know. Equally helpful was Akitsuki Yoshimitsu, Deputy Earl Marshall of Calontir, who wrote:
“Simply put, there
is not a maille standard in Calontir, or in any SCA kingdom that I am aware of.
SCA combat armor standards are first around safety (what parts of the body are
to be covered, by what kinds of materials, and rules governing acceptable
materials – like the gauge of steel required for helmets). Maille usually
doesn't meet minimum armoring requirements by itself because we are frequently
looking for rigidity over fragile body structures – elbows, knees, neck, hands,
kidneys, groin, head. Maille, then, for the SCA is largely ornamental
(emphasis mine). Many kingdoms do
have some degree of authenticity requirements, some formal and some informal.
For example, green aluminum maille would be discouraged. Fregular 6-in-1 of
uncolored aluminum rings would be OK, but might be discouraged due largely to
the high amount of maintenance required by such a hauberk/etc. So, again, SCA
armor regulations are around safety first, and to some degree appearance because
of our emphasis on historical re-enactment.”
Excellent responses, both! Thank you, gentlemen, for your immense help.
Finally, I checked the Known World Handbook, a publication available to every member, and a massively valuable reference for new members. Armor requirements can be found on pages 190-191. There is also a section specifically on making maille on pages 211-212, but this has more to do with how to construct it, than specific for combat. The Known World Handbook also lists no specific requirements for maille armor, and suggests readers consult either the SCA Earl Marshall, or their Kingdom or local Deputy Marshall.
Not finding anything of use in the literature available, I finally turned to my local Knight's Marshall (the official in charge of enforcing armor standards at SCA fighting events). In this case, His Lordship Hanskreiger told me pretty much the same thing the others had, that there were no set standards for maille armor, it's just aa personal aesthetic choice based on your persona3. I found this odd, as the SCA fights under the assumption that ALL fighters are wearing a full suit of maille armor (in order to avoid D&D-isms like “armor class” and “armor bonuses”). I was told any set rules for maille (be it authenticity or otherwise) would vary kingdom-to-kingdom.
So, having finally settled that there IS NO SET STANDARD FOR MAILLE, I set about seeing if there is a “de facto” standard by virtue of use. In other words, is there one particular ring size/weave that SCA fighters seem to prefer over another? This took quite a bit more time to research, and involved many trips to fighter practice, where I harangued as many fighters about measuring their maille as I could. Using an IP 54 brand digital caliper and the ring measurement forms from the Mail Research Society (used to be online, but is now sadly defunct), I set about measuring as much maille as I could get the fighters to part with for a few minutes. Here are my results...
NOTE: All measurements are in millimeters (mm)4
So there you have it! Not only was my former student wrong, but so was I! In measuring the maille of as many fighters as I could, I discovered that butted maille, by and large, has fallen by the wayside in favor of more authentic (or authentic-looking) flat-ring riveted (both wedge- and pin-riveted) or welded maille. With inexpensive riveted maille being made in India and otheroverseas countries, more fighters are adding maille to their kits, and they've never looked better! As a wise man5 once said, “Maille goes with everything! It's the Little Black Dress of armor!”
And so ends another edition of Blackmaille; Thanks for joining us! As usual, any questions, comments, fan mail or hate mail can (and should) be sent to me at:
13628 Belmead Ave
Grandview, Mo 64030
Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you next month!
2Calontir Marshall's Handbook, 2007 online edition, http://www.calontir.sca.org/earlmarshall/Articles/Calontir_Marshalls_Handbook_10-25-07.doc
3Personal conversation with HL Hanskreiger, held at BFS fighter practice, 4/14/10
4Special thanks to Colin, Byron Logansson, Sir Halidar, Sir Gavin, Sir Toen, Sir William, and especially Sir Richard at Knotwolf Armory for their invaluable contributions to my research, and for patiently putting up with me while I measured their maille!
5Bob H., Armor Archive Forums
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