Two of the first members of the Barony of Carolingia, Tabitha of Windmoor and Wescott de Gwhite, shared their memories of with the Gazette of the first weapons created in Carolingia using nothing but rumors of what was required.
Tabitha of Windmoor :
Swords have a story all their own. Dan (Daniel de Tankard) had told us that SCA swords were made of rattan. The council set to work locating a rattan source. Poring through the Yellow Pages (no internet yet), we turned up The Rattan Store on Rte.9 in Wellesley. Dan, Patri and I set out from my dorm to find the place. Yes—we walked up to Rte. 9 and walked along it toward Natick until we found the place (no GPS either). The store sold rattan furniture from the country we still called Burma (Myanmar).
After much talk with the manager, we persuaded him to order us a dozen uncut lengths of the light weight, ridged canes that looked kind of like bamboo from his supplier. Patri opined that it looked too light and brittle to use as a blade, but Dan assured him that rattan was what was used, though he admitted that he had never seen an SCA weapon or combat, only heard about it.
Dan drove out when our order came, bungeed it to the roof of his little yellow car, and brought it back to Cambridge where Doug, Patri, Carl, and anyone who could lend a hand made crude short swords of it.
Wescott de Gwhite:
All of our armor was designed and built to work well against the smaller, lighter bamboo. Patri made a beautiful shield from a piece of Homosote (cellulose wall board), covered in fiberglass and painted with a coat of arms. I made detachable basket hilts that could swap out the bamboo blades quickly, and I fumigated my MIT dorm room making up a fiberglass helmet from scratch. Garb was also fabricated, although it was pretty simple by today’s standards.
We arrived Saturday early afternoon at the event, looked around quickly and realized that we were in trouble. The real rattan swords were a LOT bigger & heavier than our gear was designed for. They were using steel freon tank helmets, which had big dents in them! They offered to lend us use of some swords, but that the padding in the armor was an awful lot lighter than what they wanted to fight in.
They allowed that Patri could wear it if he wanted to. They said the helmet would never do, which I took exception to. I had built it with a lot of overkill for the bamboo, and thought it would probably still work OK (for a while). Lord El said they wouldn’t allow Patri to use it unless he “tested” it first.
El set it upright on the ground and grabbed a large two handed sword. He took a big swing and tried to come down right on the crown. I’m sure he was convinced it was going to shatter, or at least crush, but he didn’t hit it quite square, and it basically flexed a bit & bounced into the air. He was clearly disappointed, and insisted on another attempt to hit it more solidly. He succeeded, but the result was
pretty much the same. We examined it, and saw no sign of damage, and it was declared usable.
I believe Patri fought in a total of 3 bouts. Thanks to his fencing background, he managed to hold his own reasonably well. I think he lost two & might have actually won one. At that point, the helmet was showing signs of impending delamination, and it was retired. Every place Patri’s shield had taken a solid blow to the edge looked like someone had taken a good bite out of it.