Grit Blogs > Learning to Live

Setting up Shop: Making a Workbench for Making Armor

By Kasey Moomau, Assistant Editor


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So, I've wanted for the longest time to work metal, specifically, to make armor. For years I've wanted to do this, but I haven't had the space (living in an apartment), and I haven't really had the tools I need. Having moved into our small house, we've got a little more room for Making Things. Some of that room has needed to be reclaimed in various ways - the spiders, sometimes, are particularly challenging. Particularly in the basement. It's possible that I'm something of an arachnophobe, and when I arrived in the house, there were brown recluse webs everywhere. My first move was to buy a 72-pack of Catchmasters and artfully arrange them around furniture and along baseboards - they seem to have made a pretty sizeable impact. My girlfriend mixed a spray out of lemon and peppermint essential oils, heavily diluted, and mists all the corners once every couple of weeks - this too seems to help.
  
Over the months since we moved in, we’ve knocked the spider population down to acceptable levels - except in the basement. It's unfinished, with open joists above, and they just love to hang out up there. For a while it was way more than I wanted to tackle, but eventually I went down there armed with a dust mask, a Maglight, and a broom to do valiant battle upon my arachnid nemeses. Removing most of the cobwebs, I did find quite a number of spiders. After that purge, they seem to be slow in reestablishing themselves, so I just knock down the webs every couple of weeks and kill any that I see. It's tolerable. *twitch*

Well, onward and.. downward, I guess. If I want to do any armoring, it’ll have to happen in the basement. I thought about getting a yurt, just for the purpose. Carefully considered buying some canvas from Panther Primitives and making my own light, airy, spider-free environment, but I don't have a convenient upholstery sewing machine, however, nor the cash to devote to good canvas at the moment, so I figured I better just suck it up and get right to the metalwork. Which means an uneasy truce with the diminished number of arachnids still sharing my home with me. It’s fine. Really.

Recently, I got tired of procrastinating and bought mild steel plate and rod from a local metal shop. Several things magically came together at this point, and I made a deal with a friend who had the tools but no space, so my tiny basement will serve as a shared shop on some evenings. I've got really good friends, I find - another helped me transport an anvil to my house, and yet another helped me wrestle a hundred or more pounds worth of said anvil and stand down a cramped staircase.

  Anvil
 

I'm also building a bench on which to mount a small old vise that I unstuck, and my (first) friend's small Beverly shear for cutting out pieces. 


  Benchtop under Construction

You know, it's funny... I've hemhawed for YEARS while saying, "Oh, man, I'd LOVE to learn to make armor," but it wasn't until I started doing it (buying the metal, committing to the purchase of some tools) that what I needed started to fall into my lap. And once I'd committed, it literally RAINED good luck. Good thing I was prepared to take advantage of the deluge of opportunity by my decision to commit, huh? 
Tonight I'm gonna help a friend of mine put together a basket hilt for a practice sword, and then I'm going to pattern out a spangenhelm. At some point I'd also like to fabricate a way to better control the draft into my woodstove, so that I can choke it down to a nice simmer in the evenings (it currently has two modes, Full Steam Ahead, and Off) - I imagine I'll burn a lot less wood that way. 


Woodstove Fire

I'd like to stay focused, though: once I get the armor done, I'll be able to fight again, which is an absolute blast.