Q: How long will it take me to get my order?
A: If the item is listed as a "Stock" item that means I usually have shelves of them and I do a shipping run once or twice a week. So, your order will usually ship out in 1-4 days and it usually arrives 2 days after it ships. So, approx 1 week. If the item is out of stock it may be a bit longer for me to make another batch. If there is to be a longer than 1 week delay I'll e-mail you with the relevent info.
If the item is listed as "Made to Order" then take a peak at the production queue page. Multi-month waits are to be expected.
Q: What on earth is 1050 Medium-Carbon steel and what does Spring Steel actually mean?
A: Most reproduction armour over the years has been made of mild steel (1018), which is a low-carbon steel alloy that doesn't contain a sufficiently large percentage of carbon to permit hardening or heat-treatment. In fact, modern mild steel is fairly close to iron (its about %98-%99 iron) Many knife makers and other folks to whom a very hard, very sharp edge is important use high-carbon steels such as 1095. For armour, we are more concerned with durability and toughness than with pure hardness so 1050 is an excellent compromise. It has both enough carbon to respond to heat-treatment but doesn't risk as much brittleness by going overboard. These 3 alloys have .18%, .50% and .95% carbon content respectively, so a small variation in carbon content can make quite a difference in the end product. You generlaly need at least .030% for heat-treatment to be at all effective. Just for refenence, stainless steels attain their additional inherent hardness (or strength) not by carbon content but because they contain significant (up to 40% for some alloys) of chromium and nickel, which is why they have that whiter color to them.
Spring steel is a catch-all term that in the armour world is applied to any steel that has gone through a heat-treatment process to enhance its strength and durability. Rather than being "squishy", spring steel acts much more like a spring in that it will tend to snap back to its shape and be much more difficult to deform in the first place. Here at WTC our spring steel is given a full oil quench and then tempered in a digitally controlled kiln for an optimum balance of hardness and toughness. There are other alloys that can be used other than 1050 but I've chosen 1050 due to its ease in working (its a little tricker to heat-treat, but the kiln takes care of that) and because its more similar to medieval steel alloys and thus lends a degree of authenticity. Check out the video on the home page for more information and explanation.
Q: So, will your spring steel armour be thick enough for what I do?
A: Almost certainly. At this time I use 3 thicknesses of 1050 and they are .040", .050" and .062". Lets take the .050" which is roughly equivelent to 18 gauge as an example. Given even a soft temper, 18 gauge spring steel will be roughly equivelent to 16 gauge stainless steel (Which is harder or "stronger" due to a much higher nickel and chromium content) which in turn is roughly equivelent to 14 gauge mild steel.
Therefore, my Helm thickness spring steel of .62" will be equivelent to about 11-12 gauge mild steel in terms of dent resistance and overall "umph". The numbers get even better when we factor in the fact that I use a medium temper for most parts. Hard tempers run a risk of cracking and thus I will not make any armour with a harder temper.
Some pieces such as coats of plates and gorgets are not made with spring steel. All of my armour meets SCA and WMA minimums but if you want a bit more durability from non-spring steel parts I can usually make them out of stainless rather than mild or I can bump them up a notch in terms of thickness at the expense of price and weight, respectively.
Q: So you'll make me X out of Aluminum or Plastic right?
A: No. I am interested in reproduction work. I have absolutely no interest in making anything out of plastic nor aluminum. If you are concerned about the weight of your kit, you'd likely be surprised how much of a difference close tailoring can make. If you are looking for a sport harness that is as light as possible, there are many other reliably businesses and shops out there that can provide. I simply have no desire to work with anything other than leather and steel.
Q: Spring steel sounds great an all, but can you make me your spaulders, elbow cops, etc. out of regular stainless?
A: While some of my parts (gorgets, CoP's) do use stainless I actually don't make any armour that requires significant shaping out of stainless. Stainless is much more difficult to work than regular steel and you'll notice armourers who spent many years pounding out helms out of stainless tend to not be in the profession anymore because all their tendons blew out. Stainless eats armourers slowly just as angle grinders eat armourers quickly. I want to be doing this for a long long time, and that means as nifty as the not-rusting bit is, I refuse to sacrifice my body to work it. On a blunt personal note, I also think stainless is just ugly compared to the "bluer" steels.
Q: What about titanium?
Q: Spring Stainless? (Pretty please?)
A: I may pick this up in the future, given how enormously handy it would be for things like gauntlet fingers and since I can work it hot which avoids the tendonitis problem. No ETA or promises though.
Q: Does your armour come strapped?
A: Yes, every piece of armour I ship is ready to be worn. At most you'll only need to punch a pair of holes to lace your arming points through. Please be aware my armour is intended for use with properly designed arming clothes and uses period attachment solutions. If you want your spaulders to have buckles that attach to your gorget, I'm not your guy...
All of my strapping is made from 6/7 oz premium Latigo leather. Latigo is noted for its durability and ductility. Its not as stiff as bridle leather but its also not going to dry out and fall to pieces in a year like many leather straps I see on armour. I don't skimp on the details.
Q: Do you do custom work?
A: I often get e-mails that go something like " I really like your coat of plates, but can you make it like this? (attaches pic of 15th century brigandine which would be 5-8 times the price) " or "I like the look of your splinted work, can you make me a fluted gothic something or other?"
The answer is that I am a semi-custom shop. What is shown on this website is what I have to offer to the general public. I have this thing where I don't feel comfortable taking someone's money for a comission unless I am certain I can deliver a quality product. That means I want to have made it before and worked the kinks out and tested it out myself. Therefore I am only willing to do limited customzations on my existing line. If you you a different breath-hole pattern on the great helm? No problem. If you want a sallet instead? Sorry, can't help you.
All of my items are fully customizable in terms of sizing, I will make it to fit you, however I won't stray very far from my base design. It also is a way for me to keep the costs of my armour reasonable. Design and patterning takes a *long* time, and its why the top notch custom shops charge what they do. As time goes on and my skills and capabilities improve my line will continue to expand, but for the time being, what you see is what you get.
Q: Will you make me this awesome fantasy armour from such and such? Do you do film work?
A: Nope and nope. See above. Also, I make my armour for martial artists who intend to *use* the stuff. I'm not the right shop to be looking at for decorative costumes.
Q: Why is your stuff so expensive?
A: Because I don't work for $5 an hour. WTC is my nearly full-time profession and while I am fortunate to live in an area with a fairly low cost of living, I do need to pay myself a living wage. My prices are very straightforward. I take materials costs and add $30/hr for labor. So when I charge $850 for a helm thats because it takes a solid 25 hours to make and uses up about $100 worth of steel, leather, rivets, consumables, fuel and tool wear and tear. My prices reflect just my wage and do not include a profit margin.
Armouring is an odd industry in that commercial shops such as my own are often expected to compete price-wise with folks who make a helm every now and again on weekends in their garage and are happy to make $100 for 3 full days work. $30 may sound like damn good money but thats before I have to pay for my shop, its electricity and heat, insurance, interest on the morgage to have bought all this stuff, etc. I also don't get to bill for hours spent designing, patterning, answering the phone or e-mails, driving to the post office, etc. My real wage is closer to $12-$15 for a profession that took 5+ years to learn and is quite rough on the body. So, in all honesty, if I made what your mechanic charges per hour my prices would be 2-3 times higher.
Rant aside, as I said earlier, I also try not to skimp on the details. I raise my cops rather than dish or weld them, I do a lot of steps by hand that many others do by machine. I like my work to have the feel of old-world craftsmanship. That means it takes longer to make and I need to charge more to cover my time. I also use top quality materials which means even in bulk my leather costs around $6 a square foot rather than getting crap tandy hides for $3 sq/ft.
The real serious answer is that when you pay a premium for armour you get a product that is going to fit and function a helluva lot better than a generic Indian or Pakistani import piece. You will also get an armourer and his reputation standing behind it. If anything goes wrong that shouldn't, or if it doesn't fit, I will take care of you at my expense. I'm not just looking to make a quick sale and then bail. When you buy armour from me, you are acting as a patron and you are engaging my services. I am not a munitions off-the-rack production shop, as I said earlier I am a semi-custom armoury and that means a different business model and price point.