Sunday, March 24, 2013

Armour Smith-Jiri' Klepac of the Czech Republic!



(c) J Klepac

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of interview about Armour Smith's and their amazing products.I choose Mr Jiri. Klepac, because I have known of his work for the better part of a decade. Also like most great smiths, he feels that, "Form Follows Function."-Meaning there was a very good reason why European Armour had the look that it did. To answer the unasked statement, hanging in the air,-Yes European Armour was heavily influenced by clothing fashion, but... it had to remain functional. To that end I have chosen Mr. Klepac's work to be the first Armour Smith portrayed. His work, once finished, has a museum quality look to it. With all that being said, I think Mr. Jiri Klepac's own words and his amazing art should speak for themselves.

Maximilian inspired helm, similar to one owned by Otto Heinrich
Etched Close Helm 
(c) J Klepac


Detail of Maximilian style-Otto Heinrich Inspired Helm.

(c) J Klepac

What follows below is my interview. I hope you enjoy reading it, as I did in asking the questions.



Q: When did you decided to make armour.-Meaning what made you want to make or craft medieval and renaissance era armour?

A: I started at the age of 15. My motivation was originally only to have the armour for my reenactment activity ,that I could not afford buying. Quite soon I realized that forming steel is fun on its own.

Q: Did you go to a school of art and design?

A: Not at all. I studied economics. I read a lot of books on the topic, I like watching the art and design pieces of various styles, this is my only education in this field. Making reproductions is much easier when it comes to design invention than making new pieces IMHO.



Hot Raising a XIV Bascinet.
The Shaping Process

The finished Helm
(c) J Klepac




Q:  Did you ever apprentice yourself to another Smith.

A: No, I have seen many armorers working on their videos and many smiths working. Vast majority of all I know is from the books, fabrication marks on original pieces and trial and error school. I can say that Eric Thing influenced me a lot, showing the gas forge and the basic guide for making helmets in one piece in his article. This text finally made me to start one.

Q:  Where specifically do you get your patterns and armour styles from?

A: I am trying to influence the original style of armour by my own creativity as little as possible. I prefer understanding why they did the piece, in the manner they did, rather than going my way from the perspective of a modern armour smith. I build 95 percent of my patterns myself. Patterning is quite easy for me now, after more that 15 years of experience.



Beginning the Hot Raising Process.
(c) J Klepac
The Shaping process.
(c) J Klepac
(c) J Klepac
The finished Grand Bascinet
(c) J Klepac




Q:  How much time is spent in researching each article of armour you create?

A: Depending on the project. On full armour without perfect documentation, it may be more than 50 hours. I start at the moment, what I think I understand the design and have the production process fully set in my head.

Q: Where did you learn metallurgy?

A: Mostly from machinist´s and blacksmiths´ books, also from my friend who does heat treating for living and was keen to try various methods of heat treating on steel for armouring. Last but not least from the priceless book by Alan Williams: The Knight and the Blast Furnace. I still keep learning, there is so much to know.

Q: How close in the types of metal and in the design do you try to adhere to, when creating say a piece from XIV Century?

A: I try to stick on the original design as much as possible, being affected only by client´ s taste and size and level of my ability to reproduce the piece properly. I use C45 steel (AISI 1045) for most of the projects. I plan to give a try to wrought steel one day. This is a challenge!


XIV Century Globose Breastplate based on the famous
Churburg Castle Harness.
(c) J Klepac

XIV Century Tulip Gauntlets
Also inspired by the Churburg Castle Armour.
(c) J Klepac

Q: Has any of your work appeared in or for museums?


A: Several of my pieces are in the exposition at Kuneticka Hora castle in the Czech Republic, one helmet in museum of Usti nad Labem. Several pieces are also in private museum in Italy. Most of the time I work for private clients.

Q: Of the different styles of European Armour you have created, which era or style has been your favorite to create?

A: I love Milanese 15th century pieces. Second most favorite is German style of middle of the 16th century. I like plain field pieces most.-The real fighting stuff.

XVI Century German Inspired Black and White Harness
(c) J Klepac

XVI Century German inspired Black and White Close Helm
(c) J Klepac

XVI Century German inspired Black and White Gauntlet
(c) J Klepac


Q: What has been the single hardest and at the same time, the most rewarding piece or harness you have created thus far. Or another way of saying it might be, What was your master's piece. The one piece of armour that took you from a talented enthusiast to that of a master smith?

A: I guess, It was a grand Bascinet I made some 5 years ago. It was a big project for me. This project required raising of a really big and deep bowl and a lot of research and engineering to fit pieces together at the same time. There is still so much to learn, which gives me the motivation for the next commission.

Here are some more examples of his work:

Front View XVI Century Spanish/Italian Cabasset Helm
(c) J Klepac

Side View XVI Century Spanish/Italian Cabasset.
(c) J Klepac


For those interested, Jiri Klepac has opened his commissioning que for the month of March 2014. It normally takes a year to reserve a spot in his production schedule...

Jiri Klepac's website can be found at:
http://www.armour.cz/

His e-maill address is:
jiri@armour.cz

He also has a short video on YouTube demonstrating  hot raising a Gothic Helm:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s-Lnu1ukr4 -It should be noted the video is in Czech.

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment in the space below the article


All my absolute best!

DS Baker.