Best type of Armor to be made out of Soft Iron

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,476
Eastern PA
#2
Mail armor, by necessity, would be produced from soft iron to form the rings and rivets. Depending on the method used to produce the wire, work hardening would be a component of the finished wire properties, but the radius of curvature of the ring presents one limit to the maximum hardness and the spring back problem with high hardness wire presents a huge issue forming the rings. I would probably choose soft as possible and substitute design of the interlock for strength.

Scale armor is easiest to produce from hard iron requiring just a small radius of curvature and can be work hardened and cold formed.. How/when to make the riveting hole represents the only issue.

Plate armor can go either way, depending upon the size and curvature of each individual component. As a rule, all pieces would be easiest to be formed hot, so work hardening would be limited. The smaller pieces with greater curvature, such as used at joints, arms, feet..... would be by necessity be formed hot. Larger pieces could be cold formed.
 
Likes: Niobe
Apr 2017
1,117
U.S.A.
#3
Mail armor, by necessity, would be produced from soft iron to form the rings and rivets. Depending on the method used to produce the wire, work hardening would be a component of the finished wire properties, but the radius of curvature of the ring presents one limit to the maximum hardness and the spring back problem with high hardness wire presents a huge issue forming the rings. I would probably choose soft as possible and substitute design of the interlock for strength.

Scale armor is easiest to produce from hard iron requiring just a small radius of curvature and can be work hardened and cold formed.. How/when to make the riveting hole represents the only issue.

Plate armor can go either way, depending upon the size and curvature of each individual component. As a rule, all pieces would be easiest to be formed hot, so work hardening would be limited. The smaller pieces with greater curvature, such as used at joints, arms, feet..... would be by necessity be formed hot. Larger pieces could be cold formed.
Very helpful, thank you.
 
Likes: Edratman
Aug 2014
4,244
Australia
#4
Plate armour made from steel that is too hard can shatter when hit with firearms. Shotproof plate is better made from softer, more ductile steel.

Mail links are generally made from softer iron but even this needs to be annealed at least twice during the manufacturing process to remove the work hardening.
 
Jan 2015
2,863
MD, USA
#5
Just as a little nitpick, I really hate using the term "soft" for IRON. It's not lead, it's not butter, it's not a pillow. It's IRON. It's hard. *Not* as hard as steel, of course! I just think throwing the term "soft" around too widely has led to all manner of misconceptions, and some ludicrous sweeping statements and beliefs.

That said, iron has been used for all sorts of armor, from the Classical era right through the 17th century. Seems to have served more than adequately.

Matthew
 
Apr 2017
1,117
U.S.A.
#6
Just as a little nitpick, I really hate using the term "soft" for IRON. It's not lead, it's not butter, it's not a pillow. It's IRON. It's hard. *Not* as hard as steel, of course! I just think throwing the term "soft" around too widely has led to all manner of misconceptions, and some ludicrous sweeping statements and beliefs.

That said, iron has been used for all sorts of armor, from the Classical era right through the 17th century. Seems to have served more than adequately.

Matthew
I included soft in the op to draw attention to the fact I meant iron and not steel.
 
Jan 2015
2,863
MD, USA
#7
...Scale armor is easiest to produce from hard iron requiring just a small radius of curvature and can be work hardened and cold formed.. How/when to make the riveting hole represents the only issue.

Plate armor can go either way, depending upon the size and curvature of each individual component. As a rule, all pieces would be easiest to be formed hot, so work hardening would be limited. The smaller pieces with greater curvature, such as used at joints, arms, feet..... would be by necessity be formed hot. Larger pieces could be cold formed.
Interestingly, in Archaic and Classical Greece, while iron weapons were the rule, iron *armor* and helmets are practically unknown before the 4th century BC. From what I've heard, it was probably just because of the difficulty of working wrought iron out thin enough for armor since it loses the heat of the forge too quickly. It really can't be worked out thinner or hammered to shape cold, as can be done much more easily with modern steels, it's just a particular animal to work with. Once the ancient smiths figured out a trick or two for hammering out thinner sheet, no problem. Hence the huge amounts of iron armor and helmets used by the Romans, as the obvious example. (And hence the contiued use of bronze for Greek armor and helmets!)

Work-hardening any piece of armor is simple enough, just go over it with the hammer after it cools from the hot-shaping. This can just be part of the plannishing (smoothing) process, so it's almost bound to happen, unless the piece is reheated to anneal it afterwards, for some reason. Now, just how often armor was work-hardened is another question! It doesn't seem to have been universal.

Punching holes is also no big deal, and was done with steel punches. Drills were also known, but punching was often quicker and easier.

Matthew
 

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,476
Eastern PA
#10
Just as a little nitpick, I really hate using the term "soft" for IRON. It's not lead, it's not butter, it's not a pillow. It's IRON. It's hard. *Not* as hard as steel, of course! I just think throwing the term "soft" around too widely has led to all manner of misconceptions, and some ludicrous sweeping statements and beliefs.

That said, iron has been used for all sorts of armor, from the Classical era right through the 17th century. Seems to have served more than adequately.

Matthew
I am a former steel mill metallurgist and in the mills we routinely used the terms "soft" and "hard". It is simple, yet comprehensive definition. If it was important to be more precise, then we would use precise terminology.
 
Likes: Niobe

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