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Thread: Dan Howard on Scale Armour

  1. #1
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    May 2011
    Karak Norn

    Dan Howard on Scale Armour

    As seen here, historian Dan Howard (author of Bronze Age Military Equipment; much recommended) touches on some aspects of scale armour:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Howard
    Scale armour tends to use plates that are a lot thinner than solid plate armour (c. 0.5mm was typical while plate armour was usually over 1mm), otherwise it becomes too heavy to bear. Plus there are a lot of weaknesses introduced because the scales have to be attached to the backing (every lacing hole is a weak point). Lamellar is a lot more efficient but the lacing is still a huge problem. The mail-and-plates construction was developed as a replacement for lamellar and did away with a lot of problems associated with lamellar lacing. If you want flexibility then use mail. It is lighter and just as protective as scale and lamellar. The problem with mail is that it is the most expensive and labour-intensive type of armour ever developed. The ideal armour is solid plate as the primary defence with mail protecting the areas that can't be covered with plate. But solid plate has to be carefullly tailored to fit properly and requires a lot of skill.

    Sakakibara Kozan's Chukokatchu Seisakuben presents a good summary of some of the problems with scale and lamellar - problems that re-enactors usually never get to experience.

    "When soaked with water the armour becomes very heavy and cannot be quickly dried; so that in summer it is oppressive and in winter liable to freeze. Moreover, no amount of washing will completely free the lacing from any mud or blood which may have penetrated it, and on long and distant campaigns it becomes evil-smelling and overrun by ants and lice, with consequent ill effects on the health of the wearer."

    The following passage from the Arabic Nihayat al-Su'l wa'l Umniyaya fi Ta'lim A'mal al-Furusiyya supports this.

    "Every day he must train himself to dismount elegantly so that he does not break or damage it [the armour], and he must keep practising and improving this skill. If, during the winter, the cuirass gets wet or damp from rain, he must examine its leather straps and its connections carefully and wipe off any dampness or mud from its individual pieces and any wetness from its lacing. If he fails to do this, the inside of it will rot and it will become out of shape. Such rotting shows negligence and carelessness."

    All metal armours are highly protective. The problems with scale have already been outlined but have nothing to do with protective capacity.

  2. #2
    Modsticker Codsticker's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    'stachehammer: Age of SigMo

    Re: Dan Howard on Scale Armour

    Quote Originally Posted by Karak Norn Clansman View Post
    As seen here, historian Dan Howard (author of Bronze Age Military Equipment; much recommended) touches on some aspects of scale armour:
    That is interesting stuff about scale armour. Of course, as wargamers, we never really think about such things.
    Quote Originally Posted by Salty
    What the Modsticker said.

  3. #3

    Re: Dan Howard on Scale Armour

    Very interesting.

    To touch upon the matter, I once saw an interesting documentary on TV where they pitted a medieval Knight versus a Samurai, each with their respective equipment, and analyzed the data to find out who would have the upper hand in combat. The experts found out that the Samurai would most likely win because while the Knight was very well protected indeed, the Samurai's lammellar armor afforded him better maneuverability to overpower his adversary.

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