I don’t have a huge amount to write about greaves. Greaves that have been found have been bronze, but bronze survives a lot better than iron, and the Greeks did have some iron armour. Paintings and sculpture do not tell the viewer whether a greave is iron or bronze. I made my greaves from iron. Another good reason for this is that iron sheet is cheap and easy to get compared with bronze.

I met a very professional armourer who made a hoplite panoply, and he used bronze. Like me, he hammered the greaves from a sheet.

I made my greaves by making a rough pattern with cardboard, to fit my own leg. I then made a slightly over-size copy in thin aluminium sheeting. It was like very thick baking foil, and could be bent easily with the fingers, and cut with a stout pair of scissors. I bent and trimmed and bent and trimmed until I was satisfied, then rolled the foil out flat, traced the pattern out, and cut my greaves out from iron sheeting.

I worked out where the kneecap would be, and hammered a nice dome there, and bent the whole greave round into a near-tube. As much as I could, I hammered the things into shape against leather-covered sandbags in a metal-workshop. The surface was “dressed” by hammering very gently on “dollies” which are little shaped mini-anvils which one clamps in a vice. This gave the domes for the kneecaps a nice finish.


There came a point, however, when the curvature of the greaves made it impossible to shape them in this way. I then showed the world how much I wanted those greaves. I put them on my legs, and hammered them into final shape there. Yes, it hurt, but I’m British and can take it.

The final result was a pair of one-piece greaves which fitted quite nicely. They hold themselves on my legs by virtue of their shape and the springiness of the metal. Though I have worn them in all manner of circumstances, and have run, climbed and even danced in them, they have never fallen off. When on, they feel light, and hardly slow my running speed at all. After I had had them for about four years, I decided to make them a bit more comfortable, by drilling lots of little holes around the top and bottom edges, and sewing on some sheepskin, with the trimmed fur on the inside, as padding. Before I did this, the bottom edge would dig into the top of my foot a bit, and the top edge would scrape at my shield. Real ancient Greek greaves have little holes around the edges, so I think that what I did was quite authentic.

Very soon after being made, the greaves went very rusty indeed. I scraped off the rust with wire wool, and coated the greaves with vegetable cooking oil. This oil set, leaving a dry finish, and has protected the greaves very well ever since. I do sometimes get a bit of rust forming on the inside, where moisture condenses from my sweat.



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