Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
The plackart is a challenging piece of armour. Historically, plackarts formed a larger portion of a full cuirass. But with the German Transitional style (and later subsequent Maximillian style) the plackart’s role changed. Instead of being mounted in front of the breastplate like on the Milanese armour shown on the left
from ca. 1445, the von Hellingen cuirass used a smaller plackart mounted underneath the breastplate. The flair of the plackart would provide a smooth uninterrupted line from the bulge of the breastplate into the graceful flair of the fauld (area protecting the hips). So, as with the careful shape of the breastplate, the angle of flair given to the plackart is important in creating the overall profile of the armour.
Unlike the breastplate, which is a synclastic form, the plackart will be made using anticlastic techniques. The process involves hammering the form into a sinusoidal (snake-like) stake to move the metal upon two divergent axes resulting
in a kind of ‘potato chip’ shape. Once the metal is moved into the rough approximation of where it needs to be, it’s refined along the middle axis to create a sharp crease. The top and bottom sections are then refined into divergent smooth curves. The result is a smooth even flared section that has extremely good strength from a relatively small amount of metal.
With the plackart formed, it’s time to move onto the faulds which protect the lower abdominal and hips. This will be composed of overlapping plates which, when finished, will have strips of leather underneath that allow for the whole section to accordion into itself. This articulation allows the wearer to have full range of motion in the waist and hip area.
Patterning the plates is relatively simple. I start with strips of 2” wide painter’s tape and I simply layer out each plate off of the previous strip. I then trim the tape into the form needed and transfer it to a piece of card stock. By only cutting out half of each plate and then ‘butterflying’ it onto the sheet of steel, I insure each plate is exactly symmetrical.
Through this process, I work my way down to the base of the tassets which should come to just right at the groin. Each plate is first lightly dished and then refined over a shallow mushroom stake. As each plate is made, I clamp it onto the previously formed piece with vise grips and then heat the plate with my torch. The plate is then tapped into its final shape, insuring that each piece fits precisely with the curvature of the previous piece.
With the conclusion of the rough-formed fauld, the project has hit the “point of no return”. Essentially, if there were any major changes needed for the project, they would have to be made now. At this point, it’s time to do a test-fitting with the client. The piece is packed up and I take it to the client. These are moments of truth where all of my hard work and attention to detail should pay off. It’s also a moment of excitement and (hopefully) validation for the client. All of the plates are temporarily bolted together, so there’s no articulation at this point, but the objective is to insure that the client’s body actually fits into and matches the shape of the armour.
After a moment’s hesitation, the rough armour is placed on the client…and is a near perfect fit. A few notes are made to trim the underarm by 1/8” and to note where the top of the breastplate needs to rest. Now I can take a bit of a break before bringing this armour to its hopefully happy conclusion!
To be continued….