Hilts for Rattan Wasters

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.

Two of my “swords”. Just a couple options shown of the many available on the market.

Separate Aluminum Crossguard & Pommel – $75

Windrose Guard   Windrose Pommel

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
  • It’s metal
  • 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

(Optional) Pommel Taping Fork – $7.50

Windrose Fork

This may help with the pommel spinning or the bolt working loose from the rattan. It is on my list now.

Rubber Crossguard – $18

Fight Club Rubber Guard

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.


  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Medieval cruciform shape


  • Not useful for as a counterbalance
  • It looks like gray rubber once you get close enough
  • No matching pommel that I am aware of

One Piece Welded Hilt – $50-75

By My Hand Designs Facebook Page

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
  • It’s metal
  • 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.

Stainless Steel One Piece Handle – $300

Anshelm Handle

I’ve never used this one but it is desirable due to the appearance and the way it’s constructed. If anyone has one or has used one, I’d love to hear how it handles.


  • Custom options
  • It’s metal
  • Once piece construction means it’s not going to go anywhere


  • Very expensive
  • One size


Deed-Related Visuals


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:


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.

Deed of Arms

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

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.

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.

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.

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.
A dagger.
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.

On a field Gules, a firebrand Sable enflamed Or.

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.


Thoughts on Households (unofficial groups) in the SCA

What is a household?

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:

  • Socializing
  • Training together in a given art or multiple arts: fighting, sewing, brewing, etc.
  • Making stuff.
  • 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.
  • Matching outfits.
  • Guidance

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.

Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part XIII – Reflection

There is one specific phrase I repeat when asked about my contracts:

“It went as well as I expected and a million times better in ways I did not expect.”

I’ll start off by saying that this experiment was a ton of fun. I met countless new people and gained a deeper level of understanding with some established friends. Word of my “mercenary work” got around Pennsic as I was frequently asked about it throughout the week. Did I accomplish the goals I set at the beginning? Let’s find out.

I no longer felt like a generic fighter. No longer a cog in the great wheel. Signing those contracts held me accountable and increased my level of responsibility. I wasn’t simply fighting for the Midrealm. I was fighting for my local lord. I was earning my wages. I was fighting to meet the level of the bar I set in crafting those documents.

I lost a small amount of independence I’ve grown accustom to in the SCA. Usually, if I feel like “sitting this one out” that’s okay. I make my own schedule and change it as I please. When you make yourself someone’s servant, even for part of a day, it changes your perspective. This was not necessarily a bad thing. In fact I quite enjoyed having tasks; whether that be running around on Saturday trying to get all the seals done, or sitting down to a dinner with my commander as we settled our affairs. It gave me a tiny taste of what it might be like to serve as a squire or apprentice. Useful data indeed.

I certainly fought with all the different groups! I feel like I was respectful to my Kingdom in my choices. Each contract was fair, evenly distributed, and successfully completed.

I didn’t spend enough time with any one group to get a whole sense of the political climate or machinations of their household. I was, however, privy to some more of the high-level interactions. I witnessed how some things were done that I normally would not have. I’ll keep that in mind when connecting with people of stature in the future.

Only one person disapproved of my actions. They had valid reasons, but every man must forge his own path. This was mine and it became clear that it was a worthwhile endeavor, for every other person I interacted with thought very highly of my enterprise and wished for its success.

“You should do this every year!” No, probably not. The timing worked out perfectly this year. If I attend Pennsic in 2017 I’ll most likely fight with my region. There is also a chance I’ll be a dependent to a peer in the Society in which case I’ll fight for them. I encourage others interested in this kind of experience to adapt it to their own persona and try it out. I’d love to hear what it would be like with an earlier period soldier or at a different kind of event.

Two out of the four days I did not fight with the other man on the contract. Even when I did we were not necessarily side-by-side. It wasn’t something I put much thought into before I went but was keenly aware of while under martial service. This would have definitely been the case in history. Just because you are a soldier fighting for Edward, Prince of Wales, does not meet you are seated on a horse next to the Black Prince himself. You had to fight with whoever you were stuck next to. You were conscripted to fulfill a task. Nothing more and nothing less. It was cool to realize that. It felt authentic.

The other people I got involved with the project took it seriously. It was wonderful to see the care and consideration each commander put in. They were all sincere and generous men who I would not hesitate to fight for again. Each relationship had its own narrative but none less meaningful than the others.

Each fight was enhanced by the addition of the A&S element. This concept is universal. If you put time and effort into sewing a new surcoat, you’ll want your performance on the field to reflect the new image. When a tournament has ladies in the gallery you feel like giving your best; both in prowess and courtesy. Each day had purpose. I will strive to make every fight more than just a fight.

Arming on the last morning of war in front of my pavilion.

Links to all the previous posts related to this experience:
Drafting the Contracts
Making it Official
The Mother of All Battles
Five Bridges
Woods & Weather
Field Battle


Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part VII – Field Battle

Friday. My last contract.

Once again I was assigned a unit while the gentleman I made the agreement with had other obligations. Count Cellach was a champion and one of the King’s men. I lined up with the other fighters of the Lozengia household: a mix of black and white diamonds, blue and white diamonds, and oddballs like me in other colors and stripes. All too soon the first cannon fired and we were making our way across the field. We were to stick with another unit so we did our best to do that. Once the two armies met it was a little harder to stay in formation. Each of us would yell out and make our best attempt to reform. An opposing spear caught me and I was no longer able to shout out to my friends. We did it again but with a better understanding of our surroundings and goals. It went well as we folded in on the East. The next round was to be the last war point of the week, so I grabbed my polearm I had not yet fought with it this war. Cellach also joined us for the last pass and we ran out with the rest of the steam we had. Nothing epic, but solid fighting from both sides.

After field court His Excellency brought out the payment we agreed on. A particular case of ginger beer looked tasty to him and he insisted I share one of the four. Who was I to argue?

Count Cellach and I sharing a moment over drinks, which just so happened to be his payment for my services. Photo credit: Janis Hurst.

It was not that easy to be released from this contract however. Lozengia has an annual “Black & Blue” battle which pits Duke Edmund’s troops (black & white lozengy) against Count Cellach’s (blue & white lozengy). This year we had a new knight, Sir Gebhard, who wore blue and gold so we split up into three teams: Black, Blue, and Gold. Because I was a hired sword, and I happened to be wearing some gold on my surcoat that day, I fought with Gebhard’s forces. It was 4 on 4 against each of the other teams. Plenty of smiles and laughter. After that I was officially released of my duties and left to finish off Pennsic in peace.

My half of the Lozengia contract with a cup containing ginger beer from the last bottle His Excellency paid me.

The contract copy :

This indenture, made between the noble men Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer, on the one hand, and Count Cellach on the other hand, bears witness that the aforesaid Lord Arthur, along with his arms, armor, and shield, is to remain as a man-at-arms with the aforesaid Cellach, for one day, the twelfth day of August, to go with the said Cellach wherever he wishes to make war, receiving the customary wages at the choice of Cellach, which is to say for himself, a bottle of sensible drink. And the aforesaid Cellach promises that he will pay to the Lord Arthur, before his departure from service, in full, as specified above. And in case the said Count Cellach wishes that he shall have support at court, Lord Arthur, as is specified above, shall advise his lord and pay him the traditional feudal aids required on the knighting of the lord’s eldest son, the marriage of the lord’s eldest daughter, and the ransoming of the lord should he be held captive. And concerning the prisoners which may be taken by the aforesaid Cellach, or by his men, the aforesaid Arthur shall have additional wages drawn of the profits of their ransom. Written at Pennsic, the sixth day of August, anno societatis, the year LI under our great King Cameron.

 And as it was penned in French:

Cet acte, fait entre les hommes nobles Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer, d’une part, et le comte Cellach d’autre part, témoigne que le susdit Lord Arthur, avec ses armes, armures et bouclier, est de rester comme un homme d’armes avec le Cellach susdit, pour un jour, le douzième jour de Août, pour aller avec le dit Cellach partout où il veut faire la guerre, recevant les salaires usuels au choix du Cellach, ce qui veut dire pour lui-même, un bouteille de boisson sensible. Et le Cellach susdit promet qu’il versera au Lord Arthur, avant son départ du service, en totalité, comme indiqué ci-dessus. Et dans le cas où ledit Cellach comte souhaite qu’il aura le soutien à la cour, Lord Arthur, comme il est précisé ci-dessus, doit informer son seigneur et lui verser les aides féodales traditionnelles nécessaires à l’adoubement du fils aîné du seigneur, le mariage du seigneur de fille aînée et le rançonnement du seigneur doit-il être tenu captif. Et concernant les prisonniers qui peuvent être prises par le Cellach susdit, ou par ses hommes, Arthur susdit aura des salaires supplémentaires tirés des bénéfices de leur rançon. Rédigé à Pennsic, le sixième jour de Août, anno societatis, la LI année sous notre grand roi Cameron.

Friday ended up being the last day I was at Pennsic War XL. I have one more post after this one reflecting on my experiences with the martial contracts. Be on the lookout for the final piece of this story in Part XIII.

Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part VI – Woods & Weather

There is always uncertainty about the woods battle as it is literally people fighting in between a bunch of trees. Tuesday afternoon we received word that we would have to fight the alternate scenario on the battlefield. Some people were overjoyed not to fight in the woods. Others, like myself, were sad about the change. Then there was the threat of weather. This year’s Pennsic was hot. Not brutally hot but it bordered on uncomfortable and potentially unsafe if you weren’t careful. Rain was also forecast for Thursday. It wasn’t shaping up to be a great day but this was my Midlands day and I would not have missed it even if I was not bound by contract.

I arrived at their camp as the rest of the fighters were armoring up. Once again I was grateful for the group wagon to carry some of my things when we mustered under the field pavilion. The captains did their usual huddle to discuss rules and tactics while the rest of us relaxed and waited for orders. We get orders. And then changed orders. Then it was time to fight. That part I knew. Lining up with my Midlands pals was second nature. Take the flag in the center and hold it. It was a timed battle with no holds to check to see who controlled the flag. Another last minute change: there will be holds to check who controls the flag. Okay, go!

We dug in, stuck together, and did our work. Long story short, we had numerous holds and the original 90 minutes was dropped to 60 minutes then I think to just 35 minutes before they called the battle over due to a heat advisory. It wasn’t particularly fun and we all  went back to camp… and arrived just as the storm came in. We snacked, drank, and chatted until the rain ended then chatted a little more. It was good to socialize with those fine people.

My half of the Midlands contract with payment of spices.

Only Friday to go! Part XII – Field Battle

Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part V – Five Bridges

Tuesday morning started much like Monday morning. I woke up early, ate my granola bar and trail mix, slowly armored up, grabbed my sword and shield and marched out of camp. I was to fight for Constellation (Indiana), specifically under the command of Baron Fergus MacPherson. Having already tucked one battle under our belts, the veteran fighters were quick to muster and ready with arms for the day’s scenario. Before us lay five bridges, all parallel to one another, varying in width but spanning the same distance. Our army’s goal was to hold the majority. That meant we had to keep more soldiers on the bridges for as long as possible.

Unlike the previous day, my commander was in line with us, shouting commands and running the unit. I was set between two young men, Scipio and Torsten, on the front line. We were to run in as fast as we possibly could, gain as much of the bridge as we could for the rest of the army, crush into the opposing forces, and hold that line. It was a suicide mission. We knew it. Rush in, throw up our shields, hit as many people as we could, make room for some spears to poke through, and die valiantly.  But that’s exactly what we did.

Five times.

Third of five bridge skirmishes. You can find me in the front (white surcoat with black shield) about to slam into our enemies. Photo credit: Ursus of Anglesey.

When the battle was over we reset and moved down to the next bridge. Then when that one was through we moved to the next bridge. And the next. Until all five were fought, contested, and either won or lost. It was a ton of bloody fun fighting with the other fighters of my region. I never lasted terribly long but that’s how it goes being a hired hand.

Things can get tight on the narrow bridges. Here I am fending off attacks and clearing space for pole weapons to get through. Photo credit: Ursus of Anglesey.

Fergus, Sig and I retired the field together. I welcomed the use of their wagon to get most of the way back home. We chatted for a while and relaxed as His Excellency and I had already taken care of my wages. I had the evening to myself and thus soaked in all Pennsic had to offer for I knew I’d have to fulfill another contract the next morning.

My half of the Constellation contract with payment in the form of salts and handmade coin. Another set of cherished memories to take home.

The contract as written in French:

Cet acte a fait le sixième jour d’Août, dans le second règne du roi Cameron du Midrealm, témoin que Arthur Nathaniel Archer ne se lie lui-même, pour la période d’un jour, neuvième Août, au baron Fergus MacPherson, pour le soutien de notre Roi agressif desseins contre l’Orient. Son Excellence granteth lui quarts et d’entretien pour dit Arthur et de l’avoine et des écuries pour sa monture, pour être son homme d’armes et de lui faire le service mentionné ci tous les autres de la manière suivante; ledit Arthur, sur avertissement raisonnable, doit être prêt à tout moment quand il est que le dit Fergus lui ordonne de venir à sa présence et dans toutes les régions et lieux, à voir avec le service avec lui, et pour le séjour et rouler avec autant d’hommes que ledit Fergus est de céder ou de commande sous sa livrée. De plus, le dit Arthur ne se lie lui-même à cet acte et elle doit tenir le conseil de Fergus dans toutes sortes de choses qui sont légales et douce, et elle ne doit pas être libéré que par mot de Fergus, ou par l’accomplissement de ses fonctions, comme indiqué ci-dessus. Et le dit Arthur a de ladite Fergus le troisième d’un tiers de toutes sortes de prisonniers prix et les gains acquis par voie ou de la fortune ou de l’aventure de la guerre. En foi de quoi, les parties ci-dessus à ces présents actes ont mis à leur sceau à la guerre Pennsic le sixième jour de anno Août societatis LI.

And translated in English:

This indenture made the sixth day of August, in the second reign of King Cameron of the Midrealm, witness that Arthur Nathaniel Archer does bind himself, for the period of one day, August ninth, to Baron Fergus MacPherson, for the support our King’s aggressive designs against the East. His Excellency granteth him quarters and maintenance for said Arthur and oats and stabling for his mount, to be his man-at-arms and to do him service afore all other in manner following; the said Arthur, upon reasonable warning, shall be ready at all times when it shall like the said Fergus to command him to come to his presence to and in all parts and places, to do with service with him, and to sojourn and ride with as many men as the said Fergus is to assign or command under his livery. Also the said Arthur does bind himself to this indenture and she shall keep Fergus’s council in all manner of things that are lawful and gentle, and she shall not be released save by word of Fergus, or by fulfilment of his duties, as specified above. And the said Arthur shall have of the said Fergus the third of a third of all manner of prisoners prizes and winnings gotten by way or fortune or adventure of war. In witness whereof the parties above to these present indentures have put to their seals at the Pennsic War the sixth day of August anno societatis LI.

My Calligraphy Process

Many people have fonts memorized so when they pull out a pen or brush they can simply “go”. Others need assistance from time to time, whether that be looking at something for reference or tracing directly. In recreating the style of historical medieval manuscripts I have found it useful to create a virtual representation on the computer before committing more expensive media.

Find an image you like in a book or online.
Download the highest resolution image available. If it’s in a book, you can scan or take a picture with a digital camera or phone to get a digital file to work with.

King David playing a harp in the Luttrell Psalter, England c. 1320-1340

Find an appropriate typeface.
For this example, I searched online for “Luttrell Psalter typeface” and found it to be Gothic Textura Prescisus. The following search for “Gothic Textura Prescisus” resulted in a downloadable font called Textura Prescisus.

Bring picture into editing software program.
I use Adobe Illustrator.

Adjust artwork to correct size.
The Luttrell Psalter is 350mm x 245mm with a 253mm x 170mm text space. You can choose to size it differently to suit your project but realize that’s a departure from the source you are working from.

Recreate type on the page.
Medieval texts, especially Latin, can be difficult to read. In this particular case I found what Psalm 1 said in English then translated it back to Latin to figure out for certain which letters were which.

Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum et in via peccatorum non stetit , et in cathedra pestilentiae non sedit.
Sed in lege Domini voluntas ejus,et in lege ejus meditabitur die ac nocte.
Et erit tamquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo: et folium ejus non defluet; et omnia quæcumque faciet prosperabuntur.

Try to match the text as well as possible. The default font will almost never match what you are trying to emulate. You will need to adjust these things.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.59.31 AM.png
Default settings on the pasted text.

First adjust the leading, or the space between lines of text.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.00.24 AM.png
After leading has been adjusted.

Then adjust the kerning, or space between individual characters on a line. This can be applied to the entire copy and also between individual characters to best match the original calligraphy.

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After characters have been kerned.

Swap any characters that do not match. The medieval s often looks like an f. If the typeface is robust you may have choices for alternate characters and ligatures. You should now have an editable digital recreation of the example.

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Typed and adjusted text on the left compared with the original document on the right.

Note: The true benefit of this method is to give a convincing appearance to copy differing from the source material. If you are recreating not only the style but also the exact wording, or it is a very short passage, it would be easier to just copy or trace it directly.

Paste copy (award scroll, indenture, etc.)
Copy and paste the text into your modified text box. Feel free to fuss with the kerning and characters to best match the style you have so far been modeling after. This is where your creativity and eye for detail comes into play.

Know that we, in recognition of the honorable works & deeds of Serf, especially for reasons, are minded to make unto them and (note the spelling error. The website I pasted the text from contained the error) Award of Arms.
We bestow upon them the right to bear Arms as duly registered within the society and all responsibilities and rights conveyed by elevation to this rank without let or hindrance from any person from this day onward.  Done by our hands this day Anno Societatis LI from somewhere.

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Text from the manuscript (left). New scroll text pasted in and adjusted to match (right).

Print out
Black and white print on fairly thin white paper is best. Do not change the size to fit the paper. Print out at 100%.

Tape printout to light box then tape whatever media you are using on top of that.
I tend to use masking tape or painters tape to do as little damage and leave as little residue as possible. I use this same method whether I’m copying to heavier paper, Bristol board, parchment, or vellum.

Put pen and ink to paper using the printout as your guide. The style of pen and ink are up to you. Some prefer chisel point markers. Others use fountain pens or dip pens. Some even cut their own quills. Whatever you feel comfortable with and achieves the proper line weights.

India Ink on 9×12 Bristol paper. I saw an error on my copied text (double check your work!) and worked around it. I should have used a slightly wider nib, but it worked for the example.

Your calligraphy is done. Sometimes (as with my contracts) that’s the end of the artwork, but other times you will add illuminations and border artwork. I will likely finish this scroll in the style of artwork from the page in the Luttrell Psalter. I’ll post that blog when I get to the illumination.

Finished calligraphy. Missing letters will be added in color along with any additional artwork.




Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part IV – The Mother of All Battles

For the story up to now, please see parts I, II, and III

I awoke extra early Monday morning to arm myself. The other fighters in camp gave me some strange looks when I strolled out more than an hour before muster. When I arrived at the Brotherhood encampment I was informed that Savaric would not be fighting with us. He was to marshal the battle, leaving Roderick in charge. This was not a problem. I’m certain that when commissioned to fight with a company or under a particular lord’s banner in the middle ages you wouldn’t directly, or even indirectly, follow that individual. We were to fight as the King’s guard however. With that in mind the troops marched to Midrealm Royal camp to escort His Majesty. A grand entrance we made onto the field. At that point we settled to wait for final assembly and instructions to move out.

The Middle Kingdom was to defend the castle first. My place with the army was on the right flank in front. I was shield to Conri’s spear. It was fun but we were forced to retreat into the castle. From there we attempted to stop the enemy forces from coming around our far right but to no avail. The opposing army had taken the castle. We needed to get it back. It was now our turn to attack. Right up the center we ran, knocking back wave after wave. Dust got kicked up when we hit the road but we kept pushing all the way around and into the castle, eventually retaking it and ending the morning’s conflict. I had not exerted myself that hard for that long in some time. Cameron and Amelie held a field court as I hydrated, but immediately sought rest after and retired to my pavilion.

I was still under contract until Savaric released me so in the early evening I headed back to his camp. I had been invited back for dinner, which I was grateful for, and the night was full of merriment. I was able to socialize with the fine soldiers I had the pleasure to fight with earlier in the day. The night wore on and His Excellency asked for a table to be set. We all gathered around, including the King and Queen. With their Majesties came our contracts, freshly stamped with the kingdom seal.

On the back of the contract lies the signatures of the King and Queen and their seal.

Many kind words were spoken about our deeds. I was humbled and honored. It was time to conclude our affairs. Count Savaric spoke some special words to myself and the group before we shared a drink from his mug and payment was issued. He was not content with paying the 2 oxen yoke worth. No. I was compensated with a hand struck coin of solid gold. Savaric was generous in his gift, his praise, and his hospitality. I will cherish the memories as well as the tokens from our agreement.

My half of the Brotherhood contract beside a gold coin payment for my service.

Next… Part V – Five Bridges