Josh Davis and the suit of armor he constructed, on display in Lindell Library.
Not many senior projects require countless hours spent shaping steel with a hammer. And sandpaper and steel brushes aren’t often used to finish one of the most significant assignments in a student’s undergraduate career.
But Josh Davis’ ’10 project wasn’t like most. For more than two years, Davis spent the vast majority of his free time working to construct a full suit of armor, based on armor of the late 1400s.
“I wanted to clear up the myths about armor,” Davis said. “It’s not that restrictive. It’s not that heavy. I just want to clear up the misconceptions.”
Davis became interested in medieval studies after arriving at Augsburg. He secured a part-time job at Arms and Armor, a company located in Minneapolis which produces historically accurate replica swords, and started making armor.
He began the project in the fall of 2007 and finally completed it in 2010. To call it a labor intensive process would be an understatement. After originally keeping track of the time he spent on the project, Davis stopped when he reached 1,000 hours, a mark that is the equivalent of 25 weeks of 8-hour work days.
“Basically it was three years of my social life,” Davis said. “It was a lot of late nights, overnights, whenever I had time. But it was what I loved to do.”
The suit is made out of sheet steel of varying thickness. It includes 20 individual pieces that fit like a puzzle to form the complete armor. Many of those pieces, however, are made of a number of smaller pieces of steel that were riveted together. Each leg, for example, is made up of what had been 13 separate pieces of steel, many of which were place on top of each other to increase strength.
“The hardest part is finishing it,” Davis said. “I can rough out a form in an hour or two, but fine-tuning it, sanding out the hammer marks and making the hinges and buckles took a long time.”
In addition to historical texts, Davis based his suit on what he saw in England while studying abroad during the fall of 2009. After spending August in an international summer program on war and society in the Middle Ages, Davis spent a semester at Oxford. On weekends, he supplemented his knowledge through trips to museums and time spent with medieval enthusiasts. Davis now works full time at Arms and Armor, and has been commissioned to build suits of armor and other replica medieval weapons for professional jousters around the world.