A New Helm – Part 3, Finishing Up

After all the hammer work is done it comes time to start sanding. I start by using a 80 grit belt for the initial cut back. This is a bit aggressive but as I am working in reasonably thick metal I can afford to do this.

rough sanding done siderough sanding backsanding


I then go over it with a 120 grit belt looking to remove the previous sanding marks. After this I use greaseless compound. This is a paste that goes onto a buffing wheel and acts like a soft sanding belt. Again I work over the entire helm looking to get an even finish. I am not trying to get a perfect finish. Some sanding marks are OK.

sanding done side sanding done front


Before starting the polishing I put in the roll on the bottom edge and set the holes for the liner and chin grill.

ready for polish 1 ready for polish 2


Polishing is done first with maxicut on a sisal wheel. Then multishine on a stitch wheel. 

polishing in progress

The final polish is done with green chrome to bring out a deep finish.

polishing done polishing done2


The final bits are putting in the liner rivets. These were cast findings I have had for a while. Cast by Sir Felix from a master made by Sir Leofric. Added also was the chin grill. These grills are a SCA sport fix. They work well and give you excellent breathing, but are a modern tweak.

Finished side finished 1:3


So there is the new helm. I am not totally happy with this project. I am planning on doing it again later in the year using spring steel. But until then it will do nicely.

in action



A New Helm – Part 2, Shaping

The helm blank is now together and it is time to light up a hot torch and start hammering.

I am using a LPG/oxygen mix to get the material hot and just hammering it down onto a ball stake.

This technique is very fast once you get it going, as in “holy crap that was fast”. I managed two complete heating passes on the helm in the first session. The basic shape is already there. I should have been able to do a clean up pass under heat to have the main shaping done at this point…



A few issues emerged. I pulled up the keel as the first thing. This was a mistake and I should have waited until I had the basic shaping passes done. Pulling up the keel will ‘lock’ the from to a significant degree and make it very difficult to majorly change the shape after you have put it in. It also resulted in a major stuff up.

The other big issue I had was the helm was way too big. I am used to being able to size down a helm as I go. This is not that easy with this technique. I was going to spend a lot of time and effort working the helm down. As it was at this point, it was about one inch too big in the side and about two inches too much front to back.

Fortunately it is just a matter of working the form down to reduce the size.

I was also going through O2 at a furious rate, this is partly using too much heat in places and having to do extra passes.

Working it down on the big T-stake. Unfortunately I lost some of the nice shape in the skull.




Working it in. You can see where the keel is not coming down with the rest of the skull.




The black lines are me working out where the occularia will end up.




At this point it was time to work down the front and start pulling up the chin section. I have done this in some ways with the full visors on previous projects. As your work the visor (or front part in this case) down you end up pushing up a ‘wave’ of material as you go. So you just work it down to where you will have the occulaia and you have the basic form.





I then use a fluting stake to define the shelf.







Once I had the face looking OK I did an initial planishing run. The grid is so I can keep track of where I am up to.




I was having issues with the keel. As I mentioned, I brought this up too early and it hampered me in the sizing. In an effort to get it looking right (you can see in the photos it is way too tall) I managed to fold it over at the front. 



To fix this I decided to cut out the metal where I had folded it under, hammer in the remaining keel bits and weld it all back up. I was a bit disappointed that I needed to do this, but as the entire helm was welded anyway I should not be that bothered by this. I did not take a photo of the fix up. I also tidied up the keel over a fluting stake and a bit of heat.

So here is the helm in the process of being cleaned up/planished. (Before anyone asks, the red on the table is me making up some red leather belts, not a sacrifice to the armour gods.)


Planishing is one of the more tedious processes. It just takes time. You also need to be aware of getting to a point of diminishing returns. Yes you can hammer the piece to being very smooth, but you can also just cut things back with a sanding belt. 

That now is the primary work completed. I had to adjust and then square off the bottom edge. Cutting out the occularia was done with a angle grinder and jigsaw and then files to clean it up.

Now onto finishing!


A New Helm – Part 1, putting it together.

This post is all about making armour…

As many of you may know, I love sallets. I love the lines and shape of them and have in time modelled my kit and impression around the need to wear them. Anyway, my current sallet has been in service for about 15 or 17 years. I love that helm but it was getting time to replace it, as all things will wear out eventually.

I intended to replace it with basically the same thing. There would be a few small changes to things I got wrong all those years ago. I have been intending to get started on this for a long time, but always had other projects on the go. I have also been looking at some of the posts on Armour Archive about a raising technique that makes things very fast and I wanted to try this new method out.

Basically you make up the helm in flat sheet with only two dimensional bends. You weld it all up and then sand back the welds flush. Then, under heat, you work the form down to the desired shape. The technique was developed by Robert Macpherson, whose work is fantastic and I wish I had 1/10 of his eye and talent. The raising  involves compressing the metal and hammering the form from the outside rather than working the form from the inside as is common with a lot of modern armouring. I did a test run on a shield boss and it worked a treat. So I drafted up a pattern based on the old helm and off to the workshop!

Here is the pattern mock up next to the old helm.



I drafted the pattern over the old helm. This ended up being a big mistake. This technique requires you get the pattern spot on, as I will explain soon…

Cutting out the plates.



From here it is a straight forward job of bending the plates and welding it all together. The top portion of the helm is in 2.5mm mild and the bottom plates are 2mm.

Top of the helm welded up.



The front of the helm. Top welds have been sanded back.


Helm all welded up. I should have done the bottom plate in one piece. The weld there would cause problems latter on…


After this I sanded back the welds on the outside. I am supposed to do the same for the inside welds but these were relatively flush anyway (the bonus of doing with gas welding) so I did not spend too much time doing this.

The next step is to light up the torch and start hammering.