Tuesday, April 02, 2019

English Longbow

With an apparent early Spring and some unseasonal warm weather of late I had the opportunity to test my latest bow acquisition - a hickory longbow purchased from EBay vendor KP Archery this past winter. With an eye for reenactment I wanted a ELB that looked medieval traditional but was also functional. This simple but well made bow fit the bill perfectly. A self bow of American hickory it is 72 inches in length pulling #45@28 and came unfinished with a simp!e Flemish twist string.

I was familiar with KP Archery's products as my first bow was a flatbow purchased several years ago which I still possess and continue to use. It has been bomb proof so I had no doubt the ELB would not disappoint but I was anxious to loose some arrows as soon as the weather permitted.

A sanding and several coats of marine urethane later the bow was ready to shoot. I added a simple jute twine grip to complete the look and then waited for Spring.

This is a very nice basic D bow that complies to the specifications of the ELB society, albeit more of a Victorian style longbow due to its low poundage. It is certainly not a war bow but does look the part quite nicely when matched with medieval style arrows. Not just looks though....the bow shoots nicely with very little hand shock. It draws well with no stacking at 28 inches and it only began to get difficult at about 31 inches of draw. Sends the arrows down range at a decent velocity. This is a fun bow to shoot, perfect in it's simplicity, and affordable at $68 USD. If you are looking to get into traditional "off the knuckle" instinctive archery or want to participate in historical reenactment or larping this is a great economical option.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Chain Maile Chausses

Received the last piece of maile required for my replica 12th century medieval kit this week and was curious but also anxious of the fit. Therein lies the issue with modern armor recreations bought off the internet as items are usually produced in Asia and sizing can be hit or miss. They are mass produced and usually tagged with the "one size all" label which can be problematic. There is a reason why hardcore re-inactors or HEMA participants spend the coin for custom pieces.

My suspicions were confirmed with the first attempt to suspend the chausses. The upper legs were snug but there was more than enough maile around the back of the knee and lower legs. Length was also an issue. You know what that means.......DIY modifications!

Before I proceeded with the modifications I removed most of the foot maile to make the chausses a rough serviceable length as I had no intent on covering all the foot or creating an integral shoe.I also removed the maile belt hoops. Not only did they just add extra weight but the design did not facilitate the fit I was looking for. Not quite sure they are historically accurate anyway...not that it really matters.

Next step was weaving the upper edge of maile and the inside of the thighs with a leather strap in anticipation of adding the ties for durability and protection of the string. I opted for the belt method of suspension rather than attaching direct to braies or the use of a lendener - a wide girdle like under garment. I suspect the lendener would perform the best with distributing the weight of the maile much like a modern day tool belt that sits firmly on the hips.


Took some trial and error but I got the points in place to best support the weight using a rather sturdy black leather belt. It's OK but I think the lendener would feel better with less chance of binding.In hindsight some of the excess maile on the mid leg might be a good thing for adding padded gambeson style leg protection but I may have to remove some inner thigh links to have enough room on the quads.

Lower leg definitely needed a taper. The stove pipe design meant there was too much unnecessary material and weight. First step was to remove what was left of the foot mail except for enough to cover the top of the foot. It could remain loose, or depending on the footware used, be secured by the use of straps or points.

The next step was tapering the lower leg. I removed a section of maile from ankle to mid calf, lined the edge with with leather weaving then added ties that could be pulled tight. The length of the tie also meant I could loop it around the lower leg to offer more weight support. Finally another strap was temporarily added just below the knee that helped facilitate less weight on the hips and belt suspension. I will add a permanent one eventually though it appears small belts were/are the preferred option but a leather strap should be period authentic.

Weight support belts

Seems to have worked fairly well. Mobility was good and suspension was comfortable. Looks rough but effective and remember it will all be covered by a gambeson, hauberk , tunic or surcoat.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Maile Shirt in European Tradition

The hauberk is a shirt of maile, commonly known as chain mail. Usually reaching to the mid thigh it had sleeves of varying length. A shorter version was referred to as a haubergeon but either terms are applicable to a wide assortment of variants found around the world used by most iron using cultures.European maile was created by interlocking riveted rings of mild steel. In the western tradition it was fabricated using the 4 in 1 pattern.

History attributes the Celts as the originators of chain mail as documented by the Romans when they expanded their empire north into Europe. The Romans adopted their version of maile armor called the lorica hamata that remained in active use with the legions and auxiliaries for at least six hundred years. It was the empire that spread the use of maile throughout the Mediterranean basin and central Asia.

The earliest surviving example of maile was found in present day Romania and was dated to the 4th/5th century BC. It is a testament to the efficiency of maile that it remained in service for so long only being supplanted by the advancement of plate armor in the 15th century and the use of gunpowder by the 16th century. As a defense against slashing and cutting weapons maile was extremely effective, did not hinder movement despite its weight and was durable. If links were broken they could be replaced easily. Maile, like swords, became legacy items passed down generations.

It is perhaps the Normans who are mostly associated with the resurgence of maile in the 11th century as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. During the migration period after the fall of the Roman empire much of the infrastructure to create maile, (which was laborious, tedious and expensive), was abandoned to all but the wealthy or nobility. Not only did the Normans issue maile to their soldiers but they also modified the traditional dark aged byrnie maile shirt by adding fuller sleeves, additional length to protect the upper legs of cavalry and began the use of mail coifs under helmets for additional neck and head protection. Thus began the second golden age of maile in Western Europe.