Armor makers busy ahead of Medieval battle replay

LUBLIN, Poland Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:27pm EDT

1 of 6. Armorer Tomasz Samula hammers a piece of metal to be part of a helmet at his workshop in Lublin July 12, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel

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LUBLIN, Poland (Reuters) - Just like his Medieval counterparts 600 years ago armourer Tomasz Samula has hardly any time to outfit his knights before battle commences.

Samula is racing to add the final touches to the metal breastplates, helmets, gloves and other accoutrements needed by the Lublin knights before they take part in re-enacting Grunwald, one of the largest battles of the Medieval age.

Saturday, thousands of re-enactors will become the knights, infantry, artillerymen and other combatants of the Polish-Lithuanian army and the Teutonic Knights who they defeated in a massive battle on a field near this Polish village in 1410.

"Now people come to me to make last enhancements...The Grunwald (battle) starts in a couple of days so if I hadn't sent the gear by now people would kill me," Samula said, standing in the middle of his garage-turned-armory.

The fashioning and fixing of armor in time for the battle has put a smile on the faces of armourers. A full suit can cost up to 5,000 euros ($6,298) or more.

"I myself have provided full armor for one knight who will take part in the battle of Grunwald," Samula said. "It wasn't easy because the guy was huge and it's always difficult to prepare an armor for non-standard sizes."

He said that preparing a full armor takes 5-6 months at minimum.

NO ROSE GARDEN

Samula said armor-making can be a tricky trade in the modern world with fallow periods between mock battles. One of his worries is the volatility of the zloty exchange rate as most of the armor is exported to Germany and France and therefore paid for in the common currency.

"We set a price with the customer a year before (he gets his armor) and he pays a year later so I never know (how much zlotys I will get)," he said pushing a helmet against a swirling polishing machine.

Another problem is the lack of trained personnel to help.

"I had an apprentice once but it took him a year to learn to make the simplest helmet I have on offer. But this is not a business that will make you filthy rich so he fled and now works at a warehouse near Warsaw."

FOR KING AND COUNTRY

A mobilization of knights, just like 600 hundred years ago, is expected for Saturday's battle. However, unlike the middle ages, the knights and other combatants will also come from Australia, Canada and the United States.

"We expect 6,000 people to take part in the re-enactment of the (military) camp and 2,200 to take part in the battle," said Jacek Szymanski who will lead the Polish-Lithuanian forces into battle as king Wladyslaw Jagiello.

Szymanski had brand new armor made for the battle after some research to find out what it should look like.

"We found the fanciest medieval armor there was and made a replica of it. Kings always had the best armor."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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