A Beginner’s Guide to Geeking Out About Medieval Armor

Swords, Shields, Armor


Picture courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

My interest in swords, shields, and armor started when my father took me to the Art Institute of Chicago. Their exhibition on medieval metalwork featured artifacts that would make any knight-obsessed kid happy.

As a child, I gleaned much of what I knew about medieval weaponry and armor from movies, television, and paperback novels, so my frame of reference was slightly skewed. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm remained.

The swords and shields were beautiful, and the armor set my curiosity in motion. While I had no factual or working knowledge of metalwork and forging, I was fascinated by the level of craftsmanship needed to produce even the simplest of swords.

My interest in these techniques and tools has never ceased. In fact, it has only increased over time, especially as I researched topics related to my twelve-novel fantasy saga.

If you would like to share in the enthusiasm, here are a few simple steps for the beginner enthusiast:

How to properly geek out about medieval arms and armor:

1. Find some authorities on medieval arms and armor:

Reading quality articles on swords, shields, and armor is a great place to start; however, it’s important to find a reliable source.

For example, take the Met Museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a variety of articles and blogs centered around the artifacts in their collections. I spend a lot of time plundering their resources.

Here are two articles I found while conducting research for my series:

Arms and Armor – Common Misconceptions

The “Cutting Edge” of Fashion: Designs for the Decoration of Arms and Armor on Paper

Be warned, if you are really into arms and armor, reading these will quickly send you down the rabbit-hole. If you like these, I have included more articles from the Met Museum and other sources in my ongoing Swords, Shields, and Armor Google Collection.

2. Learn terms like fire-gilding: 

Finding the right words to express your newfound enthusiasm for swords, shields, and armor is a huge part of geeking out.

For example, after reading multiple articles on crafting armor, I found the term fire-gilding. Knowing the term itself serves no practical value, and I will never use it in my novels or daily conversation. Still… it is pretty cool to know.

See fire-gilding explained here: Fire Gilding of Arms and Armor

3. Appreciate the level of craftsmanship:

Part of learning about swords, shields, and armor is discovering the process behind their creation. There are plenty of ways to build your own appreciation for this type of craftsmanship. I strongly suggest watching videos, even if they use modern techniques. It’s a complete sensory experience.

Here’s one from Mitchel Jacobsen :

4. Reach out to a community of like-minded enthusiasts:

Sharing what you care about is one way to keep your passion alive. Why should your enthusiasm for medieval swords, shields and armor stop you?

Here’s a community that I started:

Swords Shields, and Armor Enthusiasts Community on Google Plus

Like what your reading? Here’s some good news!

After reaching out to the Art Institute of Chicago, I am planning on writing another curiosity post on medieval armor and weaponry, featuring pictures from the Deering Exhibit. If you’re not already following the blog, consider it to stay posted on more curiosity posts.


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