Lessons of the great bascinet

All the metal work of my King Renee great bascinet project is complete, and it just needs to be padded.  I wanted to take a moment to talk about this end of the project and write down some of the big things I learned so I don't lose them in the junk drawer of my brain.  The project started here if you want to follow from the beginning.

I'm generally pleased with the shape I got out of it, though next time I'd like to nip the waist in more, and flare out the hips more. I didn't appreciate quite how much this kind of helmet from behind can look like a curvy girl in a corset.  Some of the originals have almost vertical sides, and some are more like Jessica Rabbit.  It's something I'm viscerally drawn to, and it should be accentuated.  It makes the whole thing more graceful, shows off my art, and even protects the shoulders better.  I wish I'd left another inch or two on the bottom edges over the shoulders.  A slight flute in the crest of the next one would be sexy.  It's not a completely universal trait of the originals, but the best ones had it.
  Here's two examples of 410 being a pain in the ass alloy though.   Since it's air hardening, after you hot work it, you kind of have to hot work it from there on in.  I did anneal this whole thing a couple times, and it helped, particularly before I switched over to oxy-propane, and could see the bumps better. So it's harder to make this smooth in 410 because hot planishing is the default path.  It's hot and expensive to zen out and just tap away on it for hours like you might do when it's cold.
  The second issue is the welding.  I decided to form the bowl in one piece and weld everything from the ears down to it.  There's more on that back here.  I also decided to weld the vertical bars of the grill on.  You can see a horizontal band of roughness and pitting in the image above that's from the welds.  I've gotten a lot better at welding though this project, but even compared to other stainless steels and other spring steels, 410 just doesn't flow as well, even with a good TIG rig with argon shielding.  It's more prone to small voids which are hard to see until you're in the polishing stages.  I spent many hours grinding and going back over welds to improve them, and it's still not perfect.  Structurally they're fine, but they're like pimples on a beautiful girl.  The issues are most visually obvious in the grill.
  Side note: Oxy-acetylene works great for hot work but 1. The flame is so bright you need to wear shaded goggles to avoid welder's flash, even when working with a rosebud tip. 2. I went through three bottles of acetylene on this build.  It gets expensive.  I bought a gas saver a couple months ago and it's changed how I work in a positive way.  I don't waste as much gas and I'm not as rushed.

The layout of the bars went pretty well.  I could have made them about 1/8 inch narrower.  I've been waffling on where exactly I'm going to use this helm, so I'm not sure if it just has to stop 1.25 rattan or steel weapons.  It should be good for either, but to accommodate that, the grid is a little dense.  This early fit was decent too.  It's a touch smaller than I was shooting for.  There's not a lot of room for padding the chin and the top of the dome.  I was thinking there's be room to turn my head, but probably not much in this one.

I started using Cleco assembly tools on this project.  You can see the little clamp style ones in the right above, and they were very useful on roughing out the bar placement.  You can't hot work around them though.  The metal in them has an amazingly low melting point.  Is it lead?  Seriously, they're almost liquid at room temperature.   Screws, vice grips and heat helped this part of the process enormously.
   The welds look pretty good in these pics, but next time I'm going to rivet the bars on all the way.  In the illumination there's no indication of the bars riveting on, but it's likely just fantasy.

See?  No rivets at the top or sides of the bars.  They also drew the hinge with a single knuckle, like the one I made.  It's not as strong, nor as elegant as the extant great bascinets which used multiple fingers on their hinges.  I vow, here and now, before the whole, uncaring internet, to be less of a wuss about making proper hinges.  The hinges I made are probably my least favorite part of this whole piece.  My bevor and visor riveted together under the hinge so it's clunkier than it should have been.

I did a ton of hot punching on this project.  The bevor (throat part) in the illumination has a set of ventilation holes in it, and I haven't seen them done in the very few reproductions of this helmet that exist today.  It's 410, in a saddle shaped curve, so I had to work that hot to get the shape, which meant the steel was then almost as hard as any drill bit.  It's too deep in for even my mega Whitney punches, so hot punching was necessary. The process is simple and pretty quick: Mark the location, get it well into red hot, and wail on it with a punch as you can see below.  I made a backing form for it so the bevor wouldn't deform so much, using a old steel dumbbell that I drilled a hole into.  It was way easier to line up my punch site with the dumbbell's hole than I expected.  Note that if you want a totally round hole, it's way faster to grind the flat facets off the sides of the punch than to file the hole round.  Otherwise it looks like you shot a bolt through the hole.
Heat treating went smoothly, and while clean up took a long time, it wasn't hard.  As much as I'd like a gleaming mirror finish, I just couldn't fix enough of the small bumps and weld pits to make that work.  I fell back to a finish David Halliburton suggested: oil and circular hand buffing with a scotchbrite pad.  It hides a lot of small flaws.
  I made the buckle plates out of 18 gauge brass from the hobby store.  I wish I'd put them a little higher, since now the helmet can't sit on a flat table without falling over.  The brass accents are nice though.

My next one will probably be in 4130, have a tighter waist, have a flute up the middle, and not have a mess of pieces coming together in that lame hinge.  I want to make more like it, since there's so much to refine, and the construction of this one made me a better armourer.   I need to draw more, and spend more time looking at all the images available to really understand pieces in more detail.  It's kind of nice that there's always room for improvement.


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