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    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Oh that’s easy. Vallejo gunmetal grey, and a black ink wash 🙂

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Probably more than ninepence, but it would have saved a lot of time if we’d decided on that  two months ago!


    Now what colour were those prolonges?

    Avatar photoSane Max

    What was the original point? Oh yes! What colour to paint your mail clad figures – anything you like for ninepence I reckon.

    Sorry Disagree. They wouldn’t have let mail rust. Mail was expensive, labour was cheap. How they did it we don’t know, but no way they would have let it get eaten away by rust.

    I would like to raise the stakes a bit and ask how the hell you would stop a Gambeson from rusting 🙂

    Has anyone tried asking Sir Thomas Tom? He is the Wisest Knight in Appledore.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    I reckon you paint a few rusty hauberks,  then you could spend the entire game arguing about (sorry: discussing) how you clean them and whether they were self cleaning or treated with wax/oil (what type and how) and whether you should have a camp/base that included a barrel for rolling the hauberks in and what that should look like and who makes one that can be adapted. I may do that and never lose a game again!

    Gambeson? Define gambeson. My gambesons don’t have metal in (edit – this is a literary device, I don’t actually have any gambesons, but if I did they would be stuffed with non metallic material). Jacks may do and I have no idea – wax your outer fabric as well as the individual plates as they are sewn in?

    Brigandines must have been worse – given they had rivets attached to the fabric rather than sewn pockets.

    I don’t think I have ever heard of Sir Thomas Tom before – thanks for the heads up – but now I have, I admire him more than I can say as a role model for knighthood (hiding when he found a challenger – sound approach I reckon) he was obviously wearing plate however and how you maintained that is a whole other discussion – pass the bran.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Wool naturally contains lanolin. Make your brigandines out of woollen cloth. Sorted.


    Got no bran, have a can of worms

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    Got no bran

    branGot ya covered, 2.20 at TESCO.  Probably won’t clean mail, but will definitely clean pipes.  😀

    I confess that I have honestly found this thread both (speculatively) informative and entertaining.  Ever since I was a kid and saw the books about “Life In ____ Times” that had the illustrations of what we think daily life was like in a castle, or a Viking settlement, or Roman town with all of the little details and cutaways, I’ve found this sort of thing interesting.  I’m sure some really novel solutions to problems we didn’t even know existed have been lost to time.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish


    Being boring again for a moment – British Museum Brigandine fragments suggests quite obvious answers to the brigandine rusting prevention strategy – the iron plates/scales are tinned, the rivets are copper alloy (latten?). The cloth is coarse canvas faced with crimson velvet.

    There are Italian brigandines from c1400 surviving – obviously stabilised by conservation techniques now – from the Turkish attacks on the Venetian empire in the Greek  islands and they look pretty good considering they were found c400 years later in castle ruins. Chalcis/Negroponte finds 

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Those BM plates don’t show much evidence of tinning, they could be russeted 😉

    The Italian ones look to have a black oxide finish.

    Want another can of worms? 😀

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Can I tumble them in a drum?

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Yeah, go for it.

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoSane Max

    Never thought about how you clean a worm. Takes us to the eternal wonder that is Pete and Dud

    Dudley “May I ask what your plans are for the future?”

    ‘Sir Arthur Streeb Greebling’ “well I’ve written a book – “Helga the Worm Cub”. I’ve got 4000 copies in the conservatory. It’s the story of a kindly old man who finds a wounded worm, and nurses it back to health. It would make a terrific Film. I saw myself as the man, and either Virginia McKenna or Brigitte Bardot as my wife. Bardot in particular looks as if she could have a soft spot for a worm”

    Dudley (5 minutes of helpless chortling)

    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    It is unlikely that we will find a definitive answer contained in documents.  We may find something in “finds” like the Vindolanda tablets.  The reason I say this is because virtually all surviving documents were written by the rich and famous.  The “celebrities” of their day.  How often do we find modern celebrities telling us how they clean their costumes?

    Most of the audience had been in the army or close to it so they knew how it was done, if only to make sure the slaves cleaned the armour properly.

    Back on topic, the people who did the cleaning were most likely the soldiers, army or personal  slaves.  The slaves are highly unlikely to have kept diaries that survived though a very, very few may have scribbled graffiti.  Soldiers are likely to have complained to each other, some may have written home but I suspect that “barrack room lore” probably passed from the veterans to the recruits was the way that the information passed.

    So few documents have survived the destruction caused by age, war, weather, religion, accident, casual/unthinking use as kindling or whatever that we lack the vast majority of written sources.  The very fact that so many nations and races used mail armour means that there must have been methods of keeping it clean, de-rusting it etc.  I have read of various abrasives (sand, crushed tiles, pebbles, gravel etc), greases, fats, oils being used in combinations and rolled in barrels, sacks tied to wheels, rubbed by hand; also that the rings when worn abraded each other to an extent as did wearing a linen tunic under and over the mail.

    I doubt you will find a literary source.

    Having said that I am sure that now someone will find a document by Googlus or Wikipedianos giving all sorts of information on the most obscure intricacies of cleaning armour.



    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Alan, thanks.

    Agree with all you said about the likelihood of finding a Roman source.

    What I had hoped for was a possible note in a military manual, note to a command successor, or elite description of how plebs work was done. They don’t appear to exist, but one lives in hope.

    I’ve read the same descriptions in modern re-enactment blogs, manuals, and discussions you have. Lovely speculation, and may well be right, but I’ll go back to where I started; that’s indicative of how it may have been done but not evidence of how it was done.

    These descriptions in 99% of cases (pretty sure it’s 100% but I’m a cautious type) however state categorically that this was how it was done. There is no evidence for most of these claims.

    Evidence appears to be:

    14th century – barrels.

    Possibly being ‘rolled’, ‘turned’

    No abrasive listed – speculated by 19th century antiquarians, possibly looking at their contemporary metal workers, not medieval evidence.

    Bran – listed for polishing harness (unclear whether for mail or plate and no reference in the source to barrels or rolling)

    Sack whirling – Vinesauf apparently (I haven’t checked the original) says as I indicated above that Richard the Lionheart’s troops whirled their hauberks for the purpose of preventing them being stained with rust – no mention in the latin quoted of sacks note. The claim from Meyrick quoted next to this quote which has been concatenated by readers I think says that contemporary (1821) eastern warriors shook their mail with bran and sand – but is this hearsay? It’s certainly not a medieval source. And it is nothing to do with the Vinesauf quote about whirling your hauberk around.

    I think we have to consign the assertions of gamers, re-enactors and Total War players on how medieval mail was cleaned to the realm of (possibly informed) speculation. It won’t stop anyone on the net saying this was definitely how it was done but I can’t find any evidence for it being true…so far.

    Love the Pete and Dud sketch – shan’t be tumbling my worm(s?) in sand now I think of it.

    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    As far as I am aware there are no known Roman training manuals that have survived.  There are a few higher level “manuals” (eg Vegetius “De Re Militari”).  The fact we have not found any (yet) does not mean that there are none.   Rest assured that, by whatever means, the armour was cleaned and kept as rust free as the conditions (and Centurions and Optios) permitted.

    The Roman techniques may have been copied from the Gauls.  After all they learned a lot about metal working from them including much of their armour fabrication.  Not that that helps much.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    I had hoped that Maurice’s Strategikon might have had something about it in the baggage train bit but apparently not.

    Vegetius talks of how to train troops and make camps so you could have hoped he might have mentioned mail dry cleaning. He doesn’t. But then we call his works ‘manuals’ but they aren’t really – he was a sort of Roman antiquarian, collecting stories of military life rather than a soldier or administrator running the army.

    I know we are sadly lacking in Roman military manual survivals (makes you wonder how so many people write so confidently about it online!) but given the certainty some re-enactors and ‘authorities’ state how things like mail cleaning was done, I had hoped I had simply missed something (still a distinct possibility – Roman stuff is definitely outside any area of ‘expertise’ of mine) but so far no joy.

    If you want another tin of wriggly things opening – is there any evidence for cadence marching in legions?

    Quora (and quite a few others) say Vegetius says so, some even seeming to ascribe the ‘sin dex’ or ‘dex sin’ depending on your fancy, reenactor cadence call to him .

    The ‘Sin dex’ is made up. The rest may or not be true depending how you translate the Latin – does ambulare mean ‘march’ as ‘in step’? He definitely says troops should ‘ambulare’ together because a ‘divided and disorganised army always bears the greatest danger from enemies’. They should therefore ‘do 20 miles in five hours in summer at the military pace’ but I can’t see where he says this should be in step.

    Maybe if they rolled their mail in barrels while they ambulared they could kill two birds with one stone?

    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    Again we rely on interpretation of other sources for cadenced marching.  We know that the roman soldiers sang songs on the march though we do not have the actual tunes.  Military cadence is carrying out a rhythmic activity in time to singing or chanting.  It is not always done on the march.  Marching in step may, and often is, done in time to marching songs, chanting and drums, music or whistles marking the beat.

    There is a nice piece on Roman Marching tunes here   http://www.romanarmy.net/marchingtunes.shtml

    Since the Urbane, the ribald marching song of the soldiers at Julius Caesar’s Triumph, follows a rhythm strikingly similar to 20th Century marching songs it is very likely that the soldiers marched in time to the rhythm.  It is almost instinctive and makes marching easier.  It is a small step (pun) from there to have the Optios and Centurions chanting and the men following suit in much the same way as the American army did (does?).  And this is easier in step, “Sin, Dex, Sin, Dex, We will do our Pila Drill, etc.”

    Count: ONE, two, three, four – FIVE, six, seven, eight – NINE, ten, eleven, twelve – ONE, two, three; and you have it.  https://youtu.be/X5xsYU4fCOw

    Conjecture but I know how marching songs and marching in step eat up the miles.

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    I don’t know but I’ve been told,
    That our eagle’s made of gold!
    (Made of gold?)
    So I’m told!

    I don’t know, I’ve heard it said
    That the Tenth’s is made of lead!
    (Made of lead?)
    So it’s said!

    Sound off ….


    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

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