Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chink in the Armor

David & Goliath - Sheva Apelbaum

A few weeks ago, I went to visit a  Renaissance fair at the Sands Point Preserve. As we were walking around I spotted a man hammering a steel rod.  It turned out that he was a blacksmith making hooks, so we stopped and watched for a while. By the time he was finished with one hook my impatient sister was practically dragging my mom over to watch a dance.  A group of woman and girls in flowery period dresses danced individually and in a group.  The performance and music was very pretty. 

We continued to walk around looking at the different events and stopping briefly at the jousting and at a puppet show. Then we came upon a booth that really interested me - the Medieval Armor maker. I watched the man there make chain mail armor.  He was seated on a stool. In front of him was an anvil and to his left was a bucket filled with metal rings. Every few seconds he would take a ring from the bucket and add it to the netting.  Once the ring was connected, he would insert a tiny little metal wedge into a small hole in the ring and then crimp it with special pliers. 

I watched him slowly add rings to the suit.  He would stop periodically and demonstrate to those listening what he was doing.  On his next break, I asked him how long it takes him to make a suit and he said several months. He explained that this was because everything was handmade.

He then he described how he does it.  First, he said, he takes a mandrel and wraps metal wire around it. Then he cuts a section from the looped metal wire to produce a ring and finishes each one by hammering it flat to create the riveted ring.

After his explanation, he asked me if I wanted to hammer a ring shut. I said I would, and so he took the hammer and showed me how to insert the rivet, crimp the ring and hammer it. When I was done hammering, he took the ring and connected it to the piece of armor which he then put on my sisters head.

Avital in armor - Sheva Apelbaum

I went to my dad and told him that it takes months to finish an armor suit because every single ring was hand produced and making each one took a tremendous amount of time and effort. But dad was skeptical. So I suggested we buy some rings and examine them closely.  My dad went back to the man and bought 3 rings and gave them to me.

Later that evening I took my stereo microscope and the rings and went to work.  If the rings were handmade, then there would be some variation in ring size and shape.  On the other hand if the ring were made by machine, there should be little variation of any kind.

After examining the rings on both side (Image 1) I determined that they were identical (the only difference being the discoloration). 

chain mail 1 - Sheva Apelbaum chain mail 2 - Sheva Apelbaum  chain mail 3 - Sheva Apelbaum
Image 1

I also found that the rivet hole was perfectly shaped (Image 2), something that would have been almost impossible to do by hand.  This clearly indicated that they were in fact mass produced.

Chain mail rivet 1 - Sheva Apelbaum  Chain mail rivet 2 - Sheva Apelbaum
Image 2

I then got to thinking about my conversation with the armor maker and how he insisted that he handmade the armor rings himself. 

My dad thought that he was just inflating the value of his work because some people consider artistic and handmade items to be more valuable than ones made by a machine.

I, on the other hand, was disappointed.  What he told me wasn’t simply a tall tale (like exaggerating the speed in which he assembling the chain mail), he was in fact deliberately misleading. 

The lesson I learned from this is that even the most beautiful shining armor can have chinks in it.  Although a story may appear believable and true (even if you witness it with your own eyes like I did), you should always check  and verify all the facts yourself. 

1 comment:

  1. That's so true (that has the ring of truth to it!)--ha, I had a chance to be clever, and you put me up to it with your marvelous blogpost! There is always a certain thrill upon opening your blog, because not only will I be informed on something, making me a little less ignorant, I will be grandly entertained! Thank you so much!