BLACKMAILLE
Part 24 - Questions and Answers II
by Lord Thomas the Black
 


BLACKMAILLE

 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS II

             Alright, I had planned to do another question-and-answer article based on the mail I got about my past articles, but no one took the hints from my last Q & A, because YOU’RE STILL NOT WRITING TO ME! Not having any mail to answer makes writing a Q&A article kinda difficult, you know?

             Just for the record, my address is:   Blackmaille

                                                                     c/o Tom Beckett
                                                                     13628 Belmead Ave
                                                                     Grandview, MO 64030

Hint, hint!

            Anyway, since I didn’t have another article planned for this month, and this is the last Blackmaille article ever, I’m stuck with the Q&A slot on my schedule. So, I’ve decided to use this forum to answer more questions that I get at least two or three times a day during my demos.

            By the way, did I mention my address is: Blackmaille

                                                                               c/o Tom Beckett
                                                                              13628 Belmead Ave
                                                                              Grandview, MO 64030

Just checking. On with the Q&A!

1.)    How does what you do differ from the way it was done in the Middle Ages?   Most of what I do now is riveted maille, which IS how it was done in the Middle Ages. However, my techniques differ from the period methods mostly in the tools used. The crank-operated mandrel I use I can only document back as far as the 14th century, and I can’t document the punch tongs or ring flattener I use at all. I use punch tongs instead of a drift punch for the convenience of not having to carry around an anvil (or modify the one I have), and for the consistency of the results. I use a ring flattener instead of just mashing the rings flat on the anvil with a hammer because I find I waste less rings this way. Having not started as an apprentice mailler when I was a young’un (as was done in period), I had to make some “convenience” choices to make up for the lost years.

2.) How do I write documentation?   I covered this in my last Q & A, but I still get asked a lot. The best way I’ve found is to take notes as you work on your project. You have to do a mess of research before you even begin, right? So, you might as well keep those notes handy, and note everything you do while making your piece, too. When it’s time to write documentation for the finished project, if you kept notes the whole way through, you’ll find your documentation is practically written for you. You just need to review your Kingdom’s criteria for the Arts & Sciences, and see what they require for documentation, and clean up (or just re-write) your notes to match what the judges want. For better info on documentation, my dear friend Master Modar has a webpage with some great links to all sorts of articles, both about documentation, and everything else medieval! His page can be found at: http://www2.kumc.edu/itc/staff/rknight/Research.htm

3.) How do you have the patience for that?   I’ve found the key to having the patience for long hours of mailling is to have a really boring real-life job. For example, I’m a file clerk for the Federal Government. A student of mine is an aircraft polisher. Another is a mechanic at a bowling alley. In the immortal words of Stan Lee, ‘nuff said.

4.) Why do you bother, when maille isn’t used in the SCA?   Well, I started out in the SCA doing leatherwork. I worked hard and got pretty good at it. But, in my area at least, there are at least half-a dozen boot-makers, and more leatherworkers than you can shake a stick at. So, it’s a little difficult to get recognized for that. I decided this wouldn’t do, so I tried my hand at maille (which I had done before, but several years ago), and found I was still pretty decent at it. I soon found out that while there’s still more maillers than I could shake a stick at (and I can SHAKE a STICK, mind you!) there weren’t a whole lot doing it well (most were high-school kids who’d give it up after a month), and there was only one other person making riveted maille. So, I began doing riveted maille, just to stand out from the crowd. Now I do it because it’s fun, and because despite not being used in SCA combat, it’s still an important part of the middle ages.

5.) Do you plan to do another Q&A article like this?  Not really. Like I said, this is the last Blackmaille article ever. However, I do love getting fan mail, so feel free to send all you want. Fan mail can be sent to:

Blackmaille
            c/o Tom Beckett
           13628 Belmead Ave
           Grandview, MO 64030

6.) Can you tell me what I did wrong here?   I get at least half-a-dozen people asking me this at my demos. They’ll bring some horribly-mangled piece to my table, and want my “professional opinion”. Truth be told, most aren’t that bad. The thing about maille is, if you make a mistake, it will be obvious almost instantly. You may not know how to fix it right away, but you can see where it doesn’t “look right”. The best way to fix it when this happens is to stop working on it, and just step back for a moment. Take a few deep breaths, then study the piece in question. Look at where it does “look right”, and look at where your mistake is. What looks different between the two? Is there a ring missing? Is there a ring not going through all the others it’s supposed to? Is a ring bent, broken, or not closed right? Once you identify what the problem is, then it becomes easier to fix it.

7.) Isn’t this like the stuff they had in “The Lord of the Rings”?   Uh, kind of! The stuff used in LOTR was made by several maillers, and is actually several different kinds of maille and materials. The stuff you see up-close on the principle actors is real (i.e. steel) maille. The stuff a little farther off on the extras was really PVC pipe, sliced thin and spray-painted to look like metal. Frodo’s “Mithril” shirt was a diver’s shark shirt painted with pearlescent paint, and trimmed in cast pieces. It looks smaller because of the camera tricks used in making 5’ 10” tall Elija Wood look like a 3’ tall hobbit. The stuff the orcs wore was just thicker-cut PVC pipe painted like metal, and treated with anything from paprika, cinnamon, or curry to simulate rust.

8.) How do I do the 4-in-1 or 6-in-1 patterns?   You know, I hadn’t originally planned on having any instructions for these on the Blackmaille site, because there’s already dozens of sites out there that will teach you how to do these basic maille weaves. However, since I’ve gotten enough requests for it, and I have decent instructions written up for them, here you go:

 

9.) Why doesn’t your maille look like the stuff worn in <insert old black-and-white movie here>?   For a couple of reasons. 1.) At the time these black-and-white movies were made, the research of maille armor was still very much in it’s infancy, with only a few medievalists like Cyrill Stanley Smith doing any real work on how it was made. 2.) At the time, maille wasn’t being made on anywhere near the scale that it’s being made now. In fact, for the longest time, only a few remote villages in India were still making maille at all. 3.) Black-and-white movies were never meant to be viewed on a high-definition TV (which obviously weren’t around back then), so they’re grainy and indistinct, and the maille can be hard to recognize. And most importantly, 4.) The stuff you see in the old movies wasn’t really maille! It’s knit shirts, like sweaters, painted silver, meant to look like maille. Like I said, it just wasn’t available back then in the quantities it is nowadays. The stuff I work with is real steel, made as close as I can to the way it was actually made hundreds of years ago.

10.) How can I learn more, oh Guru of the Galvanized?  “Guru of…”? What the…? Freak! Aaaaaaaaanyway, to find out more about maille armor, see my past articles for a list of books, magazines, journal articles, and websites that will teach you everything you need to know. If you live in the Kansas City area, come find me at any of the monthly meetings of the SCA (Barony of Forgotten Sea), and I’ll teach you what you want to know in person. Or, as the old Public Service Announcements used to say, “Your local librarian will help you Read More About It!”

11.) Will maille stop a bullet?   NO! No, no, no. Don’t even try to test it on that. Your death will end up on the evening news, and heartless people like me will laugh at you for weeks. Seriously. Even well-made maille won’t stop a bodkin-tipped arrow, let alone any kind of bullet. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you their maille (and yes, I’ve seen maille online advertised as “bulletproof”, and have sent angry-grams to the sellers because of it!).

Well, that wraps it up for this final Q&A session of “Blackmaille”. Thank you for joining me for this last month. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have. Thanks to Baron Malachi von Uri of the Barony of Forgotten Sea for suggesting these articles. Thanks to my good friend Master Modar Neznanich for providing the webspace to host the articles, and thanks to everyone who took the time to read these missives as they were posted. It’s been a fun two years working on this project, and I appreciate being given the opportunity to do this. As usual, any mail-related questions (or fan mail) should be sent to:

                                    Blackmaille
                                    c/o Tom Beckett
                                    13628 Belmead Ave
                                    Grandview, MO 64030

            Thanks again!

Without Wax,    

                                                                                    Lord Thomas the Black
                                                                                    of House Leatherwolf
                                                                                    Mailler, Leathersmith
                                                                                    Rogue #693, Merc #373

    



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Articles: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006  Thomas Becket/Lord Thomas the Black
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