I have been researching medieval floor tiles for a while. It’s been fun creating modern works based on those designs. I will post more about the details soon, but I wanted to share the Etsy shop link here to show you all what I’m talking about.
The end results are framed mosaic tiles and coaster sets. https://www.etsy.com/shop/AerrowDesign?ref=profile_shopicon
In a previous blog post I mentioned a deed of arms. Since then I have researched, designed, punched dies for, and struck tokens related to said deed. I found jetons to be more desirable than replica coins of the period since I am not “paying” people that partake in my enterprise; I am gifting them a token of my appreciation. With that in mind, I used the following historical examples as inspiration.
“Many varieties, mostly of sterling penny size, are known, always copper or brass, with or without king’s effigy. Some pieces can be considerably larger: especially the type with a bust resembling the radiate portrait of the Roman Emperor Postumus (up to 32mm). All English jettons seem to be pierced, either completely or partially. This is the best way of distinguishing between English and French jettons which can be very similar. The last major series of English jettons seems to be late 14th century.”
The three examples I used are copper alloy and around 20mm in diameter. They have all been pierced in the center to mark them as jetons. I wanted to make tokens in all three colors (silver, brass, and copper) to represent each article of my deed (sword & shield, sword at the barrier, and joust on foot). It also made the most sense to keep the work “penny” sized at 3/4″ diameter as that is close to the historical size and, more practically, is the size most of the moneyers in my hobby use.
Once I got my hands on the one inch diameter steel rod segments to use as the dies I redrew my design to scale using the punch designs I knew were fairly common. I still had the entire motto IGNE NATURA RENOVATUR INTEGRA spelled out but this was naive hopefulness on my part. The process from this point followed along the path presented in this pdf written Derian le Breton. He also assisted me through a number of these steps.
• Smooth the surface of the 1″ diameter dies.
• Mark and score lines where the dotted lines will go.
• Punch the dots.
• Transfer the remainder of the design onto the die. I used a felt tip marker.
• Punch or engrave the remaining elements. Most of my dies were punched though some engraving was used to clean up the large cross.
These are my final dies. It was my second time doing punch work like this. You can see the differences between the concept and the outcome. Notable changes include the lack of sexfoil, truncation of motto to IGNE NAT REN NT, fewer roundels and simplified bends. I used these dies to strike jetons out of 3/4″ diameter metal discs. Improvements could be made but I am happy with how things turned out for this application.
I made just a few pewter and silver jetons for fun. They will not be used as prizes for my deed. You may have noticed that none of the finished pieces are pierced. I will probably do that as I hand them out but I have not committed fully quite yet.
My good friend, who goes by Edyth Miller in the SCA, was put on vigil for the Order of the Laurel in early September. She asked me if I would make the award scroll for her. Yes, of course. She was to be entered into the order 2 weeks later, so that was my timeline.
The first thing to do was order parchment. Normally I would go to Pergamena to purchase a full skin but that would have been a custom order and taken too long. After some poking around on Amazon with little luck I found David Bianco on Etsy. The reviews were positive, the price was right, and he could ship quickly. I received my parchment 3 days later with plenty of time to write the scroll text.
I was not idle in the days awaiting my shipment. Edyth asked for a style of an early 15th century charter or grant. This meant fewer frills and decoration than a typical SCA award scroll. Before I decided on what kind of lettering to use, I had to figure out what it should say. Edyth is a tailor so I started there.
British History Online catalogs all manner of documents. I was looking a a bunch from the 15th century, where I found a handful grants, mandates, and so forth. The most useful information came from a book on English Guilds. English Gilds: The Original Ordinances of More Than 100 Early English Gilds. It contains a wealth of information including a chapter all about tailors. The tailor charter and oath (translated from Middle English) as well as some official-sounding introductions and declarations from the British History documents and the traditional SCA Laurel ceremony combined to form appropriately late medieval award text. I ran it by Edyth who made just a couple minor changes. Once I had their Majesties approval it was time to figure out just how I wanted to get these words on the page.
By Letters Patent, the King, His Queen, Their heirs and successors, so far as They have power, enable a Master of the Order of the Laurel in the Kingdom of the Middle to establish, maintain and increase their craft; to choose and train apprentices; to wear the badge of the order, a laurel wreath; and to attend meetings and feasts as befitting their station. To all true and faithful subjects to whom these presents shall come, know that We, Vukasin, Queen and Patroness of the Arts and Sciences, and Cellach, King by Right of Arms, in consideration of the skills, excellence, and expertise in the Research of Late Medieval Garments and the Craft of Tailoring, as well as the spirited generosity with which she has shared her craft with our Society, do create and advance Edyth Miller to the title and degree of Master and a Companion of Our most noble Order of the Laurel; to be good and true in her office as belongs to her, according to this ordinance that is made by the Crown, to teach all such skills pertaining to the craft of tailors that come to her mind, to give good attendance and counsel, and not for love, favor, friendship, nor hatred or any other malice, be fairer more to one than to another for as long as she holds the office. In witness whereof, we have created the aforesaid Patent, considering Edyth Miller to be in all places of honor numbered a Peer of our Realm, with all rights, privileges, insignia, precedence, and responsibilities thereto appertaining, to be entered this 23rd day of September, Anno Societatis LII, in our Barony of White Waters in testimony whereof We have set Our hand and seal.
So, what did the handwriting look like at that time? Well, it’s an official document so it had to cleaner and more legible than a personal missive. It is a patent from the Crown so it should look a little more decorative an elegant than other, run-of-the-mill government documents. Medieval Writing is full of information all about paleography; suggested page layouts, character styles, and decoration examples including papal bulls, letters patent, charters, and indentured contracts. This page also has some wonderful examples of the period along with descriptions. My primary inspiration for the lettering was an early 15th century English chancery hand. It has two different styles of s, two different styles of r, and dots over the y. I figured it was a good balance between elegant and official.
I went back to my favorite place for medieval fonts, Pia Frauss, and grabbed Et Boemie Rex, which I felt was a solid starting place. I then made some notes to myself for modifying the typeface. Modify the d smaller loop, b k l x more closed loops, r at end of word different, fall s like f , end of word s styled loop s kind of like a small 6, v like u, tall ascender on beginning of w (could add something similar on v), straight descender on p and y with dot over y. It was time to paste my copy into Illustrator.
Once I was happy with the look of the type I printed it out full size on a sheet of copy paper and taped it to my light box. I taped my 11″x14″ parchment on top and used the print out as a guide for the calligraphy. I used a dip pen and oak galls ink. Some characters were modified on the fly. I cropped short the descender on each y and g, pulled down the end of an n if it landed at the end of a word, connected some flourishes and made sure others didn’t run into each other. This all in an effort to pull the design back to the source material and give it a personal touch. I left room at the bottom for signatures and a wax seal. She wanted the seal affixed to the face of the document so that is where we put it.
I was thankful I did not smear, smudge, or spill any ink. I was pleased with the end result and I think it looks like a believable medieval patent. My friend now has, along with a new official title, a custom piece of artwork to hang on her wall.
Last fall my dad and I made a 15th century Gothic style bench out of walnut. It has been a welcome addition to my medieval encampment and a vast improvement over my 3 1/2 legged Cabela’s folding camp chair. While the walnut seat works perfectly well for me, I was lacking furniture for guests, so I went to the hardware store and purchased a board to fix that.
1×10, 8 ft. long (I used “premium” pine from Lowe’s)
3/8 maple dowel, 1 ft.
8 wood screws, at least 1 in.
Poster board or paper for patterns
Handsaw or tablesaw
Jigsaw or bandsaw
Rasps and files
Sandpaper of various grits
Skim (Fat Free) Milk, 4 cups
Vinegar, 1/2 cup
Hydrated Lime, 28g
Wax finish (I used Roman Beeswax Polish)
Bowl for milk & vinegar
Separate small containers for lime mix and pigment mix
Container (preferably plastic with lid) to hold final paint mixture
Something to stir with
Soft cloth to apply wax finish
The first thing I did was draw my patterns. The pieces couldn’t be more than 9 1/4″ wide so I designed with that in mind. I had enough board to get a 30″ long bench out of it so that’s what I did.
Once I was happy with the pattern I traced them onto the 1×10 and marked where the top would go as well. It didn’t need a pattern because it’s just a rectangle.
10 minutes with a jigsaw took me from an 8 foot piece of lumber to elements of a medieval bench.
It was all hand tools from this point forward. A chisel squared out the leg and rail slots. I used a wood rasp and files to get to the pencil lines. 100, 150, and 400 grit sandpaper for clean up and rounding sharp edges.
To affix the rails to the seat I used 8 screws, positioned near slots. The rails were stood up on the underside of the seat and lines were traced where they would be. I used these lines to mark where I wanted the screw holes. Once the smaller holes were drilled I flipped the seat over and drilled 3/8″ diameter holes half way into the seat for the maple dowels. The pieces are glued, screwed, and clamped until dry.
At this point you have a complete bench you could finish in a number of ways: stain, shellac, linseed or tung oil, or paint. I chose a traditional milk paint for a few reasons. First, I have never worked with milk paint before so that had me curious. Secondly, an application that could have existed in the middle ages and provides a color that could have been achieved back then was appealing. And lastly, because medieval people were known to decorate furniture with paint. Fairly often. With bold, bright colors.
The milk paint ingredients and instructions are from Earth Pigments. I quartered the recipe but otherwise followed the directions on their webpage. It was a very enjoyable process as it felt half like a science project and the other half like a fine art project. The first step was to mix up the milk and vinegar and let it sit overnight.
The lime was mixed with water into a paste and the pigment was mixed into a different container with just enough water to remove the grit. I am using red iron oxide for my color but I encourage you to choose one that catches your eye or suits your project best. Once the three separate mixtures were ready it all came together quickly.
Drain the curds and rinse with water
Transfer the drained curds into the paint bucket
Mix in lime paste and stir until uniform
Drain again if necessary (I thought there was way too much water in my paint so I drained a lot of it out. Looking back, I think it would have been okay to be rather thin.)
Mix in pigment
Congratulations, you have paint!
Milk paint, like milk, is perishable, so it is recommended you use it immediately. So I did. And WOW, was I surprised by the results. Everything I had read suggested that the first coat would be unsightly, uneven, and washed out. That was definitely not what I experienced. The first coat went on fire engine red and promptly dried to a pleasant brick color.
As impressed as I was, things only improved when I sanded down the first coat. I ended up with a gorgeous, uniformly matte, rusty red finish. I loved it. One coat and that would have been enough for me. But I had paint left in the bucket, and I knew that this bench would not be ready for outdoor use in this state, so I hit it with another coat of paint and sanded it again with the 400 grit paper.
Unlike being able to work linseed oil into the grain to finish and protect unpainted projects, I needed a protective finish that suited the natural milk paint. I picked Roman Beeswax Polish because it was suggested and available on the Earth Pigments site and I had heard positive things about beeswax finishes before. Once again, after just one coat the results were amazing.
Like the painting however, I knew I needed this to be durable for rough use outdoors in a medieval camp so I put on a second coat and buffed that smooth. The final product is something I am proud of and I believe would compliment any lord or lady in their encampment, on the field, or in their home.
I consider this a basic woodworking project. With a few tools and a trained eye, most crafty people could handle this bench. It was enjoyable and entertaining for me from patterning, through woodworking, and into mixing and applying the paint. It took me about a week and a half of casual weekend and after work hours. I hope this entry is interesting and gives you ideas of your own.
My original plans for a break-down medieval trestle table were made from 2x4s and pegged together. After some consideration and consultation with my father, who has worked with wood far longer than I have, I decided to switch to 1x3s and slotted joinery.
As you can see in the illustration, the overall effect is lighter and airy. Other changes of note were trimming the depth of the table top from 34″ to 30″ by buying a prefabricated 30″x60″ board, adding quatrefoil cutouts to the design, and straightening the front leg to be perpendicular to the ground.
I have priced cherry wood for the trestle lumber and should purchase the required boards I need in the upcoming weeks.
As I add the finishing touches on a new medieval bench (you’ll get a post about that soon enough) I wondered how many projects I skipped ahead in line to sneak this little one in. I’ve kept hand-written or typed up lists of current projects over the years but never with much detail; a note here about what color fabric or a sketch there to help me visualize the final product. Today I compiled a master list of all the medieval projects I have planned. This is not a dream list for future projects, for all of them have already been started in some manner. For the majority, it’s gathering raw materials and a drawing or pattern has been created. For others, I have almost everything done but final assembly. I won’t show you the chaos that is the spreadsheet, but here’s a list of projects on my to-do list:
Green wool cote for Cut & Thrust – Herjolfness #63
Blue wool hood for Cut & Thrust
Romance of Alexander half sleeve cote w/ tippets
Romance of Alexander cotehardie
Red wood half sleeve cote w/ tippets
Slate blue wool cotehardie
Square hood using Edyth’s pattern
Linen braies and chausses for James Edgarson
Short Cloak – Buttoned at collar
Fighting boots based on old ones
Tall front lace boots
Vegetable tanned turnshoes
Romance of Alexander Pouch
Romance of Alexander Belt
Romance of Alexander Shoes
Black riding boots for Cut & Thrust
Leather archery bracer
Blank heater shield
Heater shield w/ Firebrand
Deed of Arms guest book
Deed of Arms tokens/jetons
Red wool hood with rayonney dags
2 Matching Longswords
2 Matching 6′ Spears
2 Matching Arming Swords
2 dozen turkey fletched arrows
Sword for Cut & Thrust
Romance of Alexander Baselard
Coining punch dies
Coining dies, top and bottom
Steel base for coining
Gawain and the Green Knight book
Redo lanterns with horn pane or waterproofed vellum
So I was not discouraged from the length of that list, I wrote down all the projects I had done over the last 12 months. It helped.
Moira’s round viking shield
Buckler for C&T
4 pairs of wool chausses
Wool hood – heather
Man at arms belt
Tooled sheath for bollock dagger
Buckler for personal deed of arms
Firebrand escutcheon for aventail
Firebrand silk banner
Heart of the Midlands banner
Martial contracts for Pennsic
Sara’s Royal Vanguard scroll
Amber rosary with buffalo horn cross
Coral bead tasseled rosary
Medieval tiles for Cecil, William, Savaric & Julianna
Medieval tile mosiac based on 14c. Nottingham
Canvas shade for deed of arms
Walnut gothic bench
Pine gothic bench
Coin die, one side
Black belt with pewter mounts
I’m still unsure if writing lists is just another form of procrastination or if it aids in completing projects. Either way, I have shown my ability to get things done so that’s what I’ll continue to do. Medieval events make fantastic “deadlines” and we are at the beginning of the summer camping season so I expect to get a lot done. Stay tuned for details on some of these projects as I knock them off the list.
I most often fight with a sword and shield when doing armored combat in the SCA. The majority of fighters use what we call a basket hilt. It is a cup over the handle that completely covers your hand. There are solid steel and aluminum basket hilts, welded steel openwork ones, and even solid molded plastic. Once I got full finger gauntlets I no longer required a basket hilt for hand protection so I sought out options. Below are a handful (no pun intended!) of styles available to the fighter who wants a more medieval looking stick.
This is what I primarily fight with. Shave down your rattan grip to shape, drill a hole in the end of the handle, slip the crossguard on, pop the pommel on and bolt it in place. I’ve also drilled a hole in the guard and set a screw to help hold it in place. Looks as close to a medieval sword as the SCA allows.
Stylish medieval shape
Separate components allow for different grip lengths and shapes
Reliance on rattan for structural support
Pommel mount is a circle so it spins around easily
If you like the shape, size, and style of the aluminum crossguard from Windrose but don’t like the hassle of shaving your rattan to just the right size, this one is for you. Get it close enough and shove this onto the blade. I’ve used it a couple times and it works well.
Medieval cruciform shape
Not useful for as a counterbalance
It looks like gray rubber once you get close enough
The “Tea Cosy” model is my new favorite rattan accessory. I used it at practice this week and I have zero complaints. Shave the handle section to wedge between the bars, tape it up and you are good to go.
Once piece construction means it’s not going to go anywhere
Due to the shape and spacing of the side bars, I have a profile which helps me throw shots properly on edge
Great weight for sword balance
One piece means limited options for grip girth and only one option for length
Fairly snub nosed quillons make for a less than perfect medieval profile. Great for earlier periods though
Note: It would appear they offer separate crossguards and pommels with welded forks. You will sacrifice a little rigidity for a much greater gain in versatility. Definitely an option.
In my previous post I mentioned a Trial By Fire theme for my Deed of Arms. Along with the firebrand badge I have a Latin motto:
IGNE NATURA RENOVATUR INTEGRA
INRI initials as an alternative to Jesus, King of the Jews with a very interesting story of its own. For me, what it comes down to is the translation; All nature will be renewed by fire, or Through fire, nature is reborn whole.
Carrying this theme into my presentation, in addition to an embroidered badge to wear on my clothing I will require the following.
Shield, red with black firebrand.
Banner, red with black firebrand and motto.
2-4 small triangular flags, red with black firebrand.
Sunshade, 9’x12’ canvas with decorative valence and four poles.
Weapons rack with 2 long swords, 2 arming swords, 2 daggers, 2 6’ spears, 2 shields, 2 bucklers
Wooden, break-down barrier for fighting
Trestle table and tablecloth
Guestbook with pen and ink
It should be quite an impressive display once everything is prepared. I can only hope others are interested and wish to partake in this type of fun.
A highlight of chivalric combat in the high middle ages was that the pas d’armes, or passage of arms. These challenges of peace were issued by knights and man-at-arms in order to showcase their skills and virtues and were often an open invitation for a fight. Popular in the 14th and 15th centuries, these deeds grew increasingly elaborate into jousts and other grand tournaments but the idea remained the same; a noble enterprise of courtesy, pageantry, chivalry and sport. With that in mind, and having researched pas of the period and some modern recreations for inspiration, I wish to host a personal deed of arms within the SCA.
Deed of Arms for Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer
Introduction: In the worship and in the name of God our blessed lady Virgin Mary and my lord Saint George I, Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer of the Realm of the Middle, bearing the verdant and gilded badge of the fox bendy, wish to make it known to all gentle folk, who are not banished or enemies of our Lord and King, and in accordance with the county constable and the desires of the hearts of all bold men, that from this day, the ___ of day of ___, Anno Societatis ___ to one year hence, shall host a deed of arms and accomplish these said arms at various tournaments wherein the lord would so graciously permit me erect my pavilion for this enterprise.
Until the last hour of the last day of this appointed time I shall bear upon my person a richly embroidered device about my left arm, which binds me to my solemn commitment to this endeavor. I bid any worthy, and with no reproach, neither fearing God nor the cries of modest people seek my standard; sable, a chief raguly bendy or and vert.
Tournament: First Article [The Barrier] To be met at the barrier, armed as seems best to them, having their dagger and sword upon their body as they wish. Ten strokes to be done with the sword, one or two handed, no longer than spaulder to sabaton, without intermission. When these ten strokes shall have been adequately performed, ten strokes with the dagger will be given, without intermission, or parting from each other, or changing harness.
Second Article [The Joust on Foot] We shall be without any shield or vantage and either to be armed as seems best for to break the other in twain. Engagement with blunted lances, as long as each combatant stands tall or as judged appropriate for the match. Ten passes, and of such greatness as either may bear at their pleasure with allowance for one opportunity to retreat and reenter the combat during the ten blows struck on either side.
Third Article [Sword on Foot] Enter the lists on foot, ready to exchange another ten strokes with those who had wished to do so; armed to their pleasure with sword and shield. All blows, both from myself and those that shall have engaged himself to fight with me, to be struck to the lower edge of the coat of plates or higher.
How prizes are to be won: He, who strikes the agreed upon number upon his foe, in the sight of God and Saint George, shall have the prize.
He, who bears a man down with stroke of a sword or lance, shall have the prize.
How prizes at Tourney, and Barriers, are to be lost:
He that giveth a stroke downward under the barrier shall win no prize.
He that stays his hand in fight on the barrier shall win no prize.
He that so strike a man, his back turned or helpless in position, shall have no prize.
Prizes: For success in combat at the barrier a round medallion with depiction of a sword.
For winning the joust on foot the image of a lance in trefoil.
For triumph with sword on foot a quatrefoil token with sword and shield upon its face.
A small token will be presented to any brave enough to take part in the deed.
A medallion with my badge of a fox passant bendy or and vert shall be presented to those I find most worthy.
Now really, what does this all mean? I have to iron out a number more details and preparations but in plain English, this is how it should go:
For one full year I will be hosting a personal tournament at various events that allow me to do so. I’ll give as much advanced notice as possible and make my location readily visible (likely on a part of or very near the battlefield). I will be wearing an embroidered badge on my left arm during this time as a reminder to myself and others.
Tournament: Part One Enter with sword in hand (one or two handed) and a dagger on you. Fight at the barrier to ten counted blows with sword followed immediately by ten counted blows with dagger (20 total). When the blows with sword are completed by either person the combat pauses and they both take up the next weapon.
Part Two Six foot spears to ten counted blows.
Part Three Sword and shield to ten counted blows. Only blows above the waist count. Winner is first to ten good blows. If you wish to fight with bucklers instead of full sized shields, I will be pleased to match you.
Pageantry, chivalry, and heraldry are encouraged. Bring banners, pennants, and shields showing your device. Come by yourself or with a retinue. Make a grand entrance or just come on over and fight me.
Armor may be made of any period. All kits must be SCA legal and inspected by the event marshal before being allowed on the lists. Aims toward authenticity are encouraged but not required.
The weapons allowed are as follows:
A sword (one or two handed for the first part) no longer than armpit to the ground.
A spear up to six feet.
A single sword.
If you do not have these weapons, I’ll have a pair available and you may choose which one you’d like.
Do not act out blows, but call them out clearly.
Thrusts to plate helmet visors or face plates count as one good blow. Thrust against open faced helms (barred visors) are disabling (i.e. you win that bout).
If either fighter places a hand or knee on the ground during the combat they are considered bested.
I will give my opponents tokens upon their accomplishments.
In order to properly present myself I need to erect a pavilion or day shade, fly banners and standards, upgrade my fighting harness, and create an atmosphere that is both entertaining and fitting for a pas d’armes. To that end I have devised a theme “Trial By Fire.” This theme allows me to be colorful and pursue a slightly different goal than usual at SCA events.
First I came up with a heraldic badge, or emblem for my deed. Much like Edward, the Black Prince had his “shield of peace” which differed from his royal arms, I decided on a device separate from my registered arms and badge.
This is the badge I will present on my person in an obvious way to hold myself accountable and advertise to others what I am doing. It will be worn during the year of the deed, and only for that purpose. I need to work on other accoutrements before I send out missives and begin this enterprise but I feel I have a fairly sturdy foundation set.
A group of like-minded individuals in the Society who have decided to name themselves as a group. This can take the form of a camp, guild, fighting or fencing unit, and more. At times these households are based on historical models, but many are simply a group of people that share similar interests or goals. They exist in no official capacity within the SCA but that is not to suggest they can’t or don’t have a significant impact. For simplicity’s sake, I consider all non-official groups as “households”.
What is its function?
A household can accomplish a surprising variety of things by filling roles such as:
Training together in a given art or multiple arts: fighting, sewing, brewing, etc.
Offering someone a sense of belonging or a feeling of “my people”.
Mutual internal support for the growth of their members.
Providing physical labor for local events to ease the burden of the staff, to staff an event from their own ranks, or offer general help to the crown and populace.
To promote a certain lifestyle.
Why join a household?
You may find yourself intrigued, interested, or asked to participate as a member of a household. It is entirely your decision how involved you wish to be. While each individual’s experience is personal, there are some common reasons why one would want to be in a household.
You get to hang out with your friends.
You want to do more things in the SCA that you enjoy.
An ease of access to resources relevant to your interests in the Society.
Why not join a household?
If you are brand new to the SCA. Look around. See how things work. Then dig in deeper.
If they “lock” you in or discourage activity in other groups or households.
If you are uncomfortable with the responsibility that comes with being part of such a group. Your actions will be a representation of your group.
Don’t join just because you want to “be somebody”. You aren’t a nobody if you aren’t in a household.
If you think of it as a fast track or short cut to a peerage. Being in a household may, in fact, help you get recognized. But it should be your own merits that distinguish you.
Should you create your own household?
While that is entirely up to you, ask yourself some questions:
What are your reasons for wanting a household? If there are other, easier ways of attaining those goals, then there is no need.
Is there a household you could join that already accomplishes what you desire?
Is this important enough to validate forming a group?
Are its goals fun or worthy?
Alternatives to households.
Participate in your local group be it Shire, Barony, or Region. Socialize, learn, and teach at weekly or monthly practices. Find personal growth on your own and seek your own path through self-reflection and self-evaluation. Keep in mind these things can be done in addition to being a member of a household.