Using the prepared working drawings, I like to construct a wooden framework to be used as a template as the breastplate is raised. This gives me a good frame of reference (literally). Once the frame is made, a flat pattern is drawn out onto a sheet of 12 ga. mild steel. The pattern is left deliberately oversized to allow for error. The upper portion of the breastplate nearest the neck is given an extra three inches extension. This will allow for the large folded edge which will strengthen the breastplate and provide a stopping ‘ledge’ to prevent sword thrusts from traveling up into the throat.

Many modern armoursmiths choose to create their forms using dishing or sinking. While this is a valid method in metalsmithing, it isn’t perfectly applicable for all situations. Sinking has a tendency to stretch the metal, particularly at the apex of the desired curve. This is the opposite of what’s needed in armour. Historical smiths would have raised as much as possible because it allows for a variation of thickness within the same sheet of metal. Careful manipulation of the hammer in relation to the stake allows an armourer to deliberately thin the metal during the raising process. For a breastplate, the front of the piece would need to be thicker at the front and thinner along the sides. I will attempt to duplicate this process as I raise over a series of mushroom stakes.

The first raising course is the most challenging because it requires the most movement of material. I use an oxy-acetylene torch fitted with a rosebud tip that spreads the flame out into a wider area. The gas lines are fed through a device called a “gas-saver” which allows me to re-light the torch without adjusting the gas flow. After heating an area up, I simply hang the torch onto an extended arm which shuts off the supply of gas. Upon lifting the torch from the arm, the flow of gas resumes and I touch off the torch to a pilot light.  The whole allows me to precisely heat an area and work it sequentially and is perfect for hot raising thick sheets of steel.

to be continued…

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