The Coppergate Helm

Sir Richard of Raefen

Editor's note: We would like to thank Sir Richard for completing this article for us. Since his treatment of the first few steps of the construction varies from the original article (EP #4) somewhat, we have included his article in its entirety.

I. Cut out the following pieces:

Dress the edges of each piece with a file.

II. Shape the brow band into an elongated circle. You are aiming for the shape shown in fig. 1. Thee are two possible methods:

III. Shape the ridge piece by dishing.
Dishing a long, narrow piece will cause it to curve also. For this you will need a wood stump (ours is oak) and a dishing hammer. A ball peen hammer can be used once the point is ground down to a smoother curve. I use a 3" ball-type trailer hitch. It gives a smooth, fast, curved surface that needs less dressing up (planishing). To prepare the stump, cut a 3" diameter hole a couple inches deep in the top (fig. 4).

Place one end of the ridge piece over the hole in the stump and then strike the metal squarely with the hammer. A dent will appear. Starting at one end hammer a series of 'dents' to the opposite end. By hammering back and forth repeatedly, a smooth curve will eventually happen (see fig. 5 for the shape to aim for). If there are unsightly bumps on the outer surface, place the piece on a mushroom stake, outer surface up, then hammer the bumps with a flat-faced hammer.

IV. Attach the ridge piece to the brow band.
The front edge of the ridge is riveted to the outside of the brow band (fig. 6). The back end of the ridge is riveted to the inside of the brow band. (fig. 7). But before you do this, think out your final design and decide where you are planning to put brasswork or other decorative stuff. Try not to place the rivets where they will be in the way in the future.

V. Dish the side plates.
Rivet the plates inside the brow bands and ridge piece (fig. 8). Use vise grips or C-clamps to hold the pieces in place while drilling the holes for the rivets.

VII. Dish and attach the 'spangs'.
Using the dishing methods discussed above, dish the spangs into a shape that crates a smooth curve when placed into the triangular openings. These pieces are fitted into place from the inside of the helm. Use three rivets along each side of each spang and two rivets along the bottom (brow band) side.

VIII. Shaping the Cheek pieces.
The lower 2/3's of the cheek piece should be slightly dished. This will curve the piece inward toward the point (sort of like your cheek bone curves toward your chin). If you are still confused, take a look at the cheek pieces on a photograph of the Coppergate helm. The upper 1/3 of the cheek piece needs to be curved so that the upper edge matches the edge of the brow band where it will be attached.

If the section of the brow ridge where the cheek piece is going to attach has this much curve Then the top edge of the cheek piece should also have this much curve.

IX. Attaching the cheek pieces.
The edge of the cheek piece should line up with the edge of the eye opening in the brow band (fig. 9). If you plan on a brass trim around the cheek piece, do it before you attach the cheek piece to the helm. It will be easier that way.

The cheek piece is attached with a hinge. The hinge you use can be one commercially available (brass looks good), a leather strip (functional but not much else) or you can make your own.

A simple strong hinge can be made by folding a piece of metal 1 ½" x 2" around a piece of ¼" bar stock (fig. 10). You will need four of these. Remove the bar stock (save it, that's what you will use to make your hinge pin) and cut out sections of the bent portion of the metal to form interlocking fingers (fig. 11). The bottom edge of the brow band and the upper edge of the cheek piece should be cut out the same width as the hinge so the hinge will seat better. (fig. 12)

Connect the two pieces of the matched hinge with the hinge pin. Spread the one side of the hinge apart slightly and slide it into place over the edge of the brow band and then rivet. Slide the cheek piece into place and then rivet it. (figs. 13a and 13b).

X. Eyebrow trim and nasal.
Now is when your creativity comes into play. The Coppergate nasal is approximately 5 ½" long (fig.14). You can use dome-headed brass rivets for extra decoration. Additional brasswork could be a narrow brass band around the lower edge of the brow band. You could also center a brass band on the ridge piece running from the back to a point overlapping the eyebrows and nasal, ending perhaps in a serpent's head. You might also want to center a brass band on the side plates crossing the ridge from side to side.

XI. Other stuff.
A mail curtain can be suspended from the lower edge of the brow band between the back edges of the cheek pieces. Leather straps can hold the mail to the cheek piece. (fig. 15) Tie straps can be riveted inside the cheek pieces, slightly below the center (fig. 16).

To adapt this helm for SCA combat use, add a back plate to the helm and hide it under the mail. In addition, bars should be place across the front of the helm. These can be welded or riveted on by flattening the ends of the bar stock and riveting through them. Vertical support for the horizontal bars can be achieved by extending the nasal to the bottom of the chin, and sandwiching the bars between a folded nasal piece (fig. 17). Be sure to use a very sturdy hinge for the cheek pieces, or use a fake hinge and add a rectangular plate to the inside of the helm and cheek pieces.

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