Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mid 14th Century Helmets

Head: Your head is probably the most important thing to protect in SCA combat. First of all, it contains your brain, and that's kind of important (Trust me, I'm a Ph.D. candidate in Neurobiology :-D). Secondly, your face is also located on your head and it's fairly sensitive to being hit and has vulnerable bits like your eyes that help you to see. Thirdly, the way that SCA rattan combat works means that your head is going to be one of the areas that is hit most frequently. Because of this, you want your helmet to be strong and you actually want it to be fairly heavy (at least 10 lbs) as this additional weight will increase the inertia of your head, which will keep your brain from bouncing around in your skull as much. You also want a helmet that is made of sufficiently thick metal to keep it from denting too easily. While thinner material is legal, you should consider 14 gauge mild steel to be the absolute minimum thickness of metal for your helmet, and should probably look for something in 12 gauge steel.

There are 3 main styles of helmet that are appropriate for the mid 14th century.
Great Helm of Albert von Prankh,,_14th_century,_front.jpg

The great helm, would have been going out of style by the mid 14th century, but is simple enough that making one can be accomplished with minimal tools. These have the advantage of looking pretty badass, but typically have poor visibility. Furthermore, the flat surfaces (especially on top) can make this catch shots that would glance off other styles of helm.

 This tutorial is fairly decent and describes how to make this style of helmet:

So is this one:

This video: and this one: are also helpful in figuring out how to make one. I 

A kettle helm made by Therion arms (
The next style of helm is the kettle helm. Historically, kettle helms did not cover the face or the back and sides of the head, but several armorers make kettle helms with bar grills and slats that cover the rest of the head to make them legal for SCA combat. 

A bascinet style helm with a fixed bar grill covering the face from Mad Matt's armory (

Finally, there's the bascinet. This style of helm is probably the most popular in the SCA. It is fairly simple to make, and the conical point makes it good at causing some shots to glance off the surface. The cheapest versions of these are made with a bar grill that is fixed to the helmet itself. More expensive versions have a hinge at the top that allows you to lift the bar grill and potentially swap it out with shaped face plates that are more common in later decades of the 14th century.

In general I recommend buying a helmet unless you have a particular interest in making armor, have access to some metal working tools, and have the time to spend on making one. As far as making one goes, the easiest of these to make is the great helm, as it requires only a few tools and can be riveted together (rather than welded). The other two styles require some more complex metal shaping, a few more tools (that aren't necessarily super expensive), and access to welding. I will address these possibilities in more detail in a future post, but for now my recommendation is to find an inexpensive "starter" bascinet style helm with a fixed bar grill. These typically run around $150 - $300 depending on some options.

Mad Matt's Armory offers several great helms, kettle helms, and bascinets at a reasonable price:

Iron Monger's munition's grade bascinet is a decent choice:

Helms are frequently for sale on the Armour Archive: