I find with these pages I usually give a brief introduction to the topic. For this page, it was going to be “I had the opportunity to make a MOD collar for…” but that is far from the complete story, so bear with me while I recount the tale, and if you want to just skip to the collars themselves, skip over the next paragraph.
Don (as he was then) Matthias of Trimaris has served as his kingdom’s rapier general. I met him a couple of years ago. Then this past year at Gulf Wars I had the privilege of getting to know him better. He is a very good fencer, with good natural ability and years of practice to hone his craft. Yet he hasn’t stopped trying to improve himself. This impressed me greatly. I found myself in a discussion with him about how he can use other fencers, who are likely not to be as skilled as he, to help him see what he is doing and thus help him to further improve. When, a short time after the war, I heard he had been selected as one of the premieres of the Order of Defense for his kingdom, I wrote to his friends and asked if there was something I could do, or more likely make, for his elevation. I know Trimaris has many fine artisans, and I was thrilled that they gave me the opportunity to make his collar. A few weeks later I was in Florida for business and, as I explained to my boss, whenever most of my friends and I get together, a swordfight breaks out. It was exceedingly fun and I got to fence with some of the best rapier fighters in Trimaris. Afterwards, at dinner, talk turned to the upcoming MOD elevations, and it came out that Davius also didn’t have a collar being made yet. I didn’t want to presume, but my offer to make him one was accepted there and then, and I was thrilled to have the challenge of making two collars for two very good fencers and fine human beings.
First, the design: This was going to be a fairly standard livery collar. Matthias’s will be on leather and Davius’s would be on velvet. These materials seemed to suit their personalities, I thought. I decided on a hefty 2″ width – both recipients are broad shouldered enough to carry that off, and after all these are supposed to be showy pieces for them, not everyday combat wear. Traditional collars that are on a material (i.e. not just metal) can have these distinct components:
- Bars along them, which are both decorative and functional (to keep the material flat)
- Ends, which are generally functional (holding onto the central piece) but sometimes only decorative
- A central piece, which joins the two ends together and frequently holds a pendant showing the award
I decided on the bars, and ends. I thought up the idea of making the ends in the shape of Trimaris’s trisceles. The central pendant would naturally be the MOD 3-crossed-swords. However, I decided against hanging from a central piece (which is frequently in the shape of a three-lobed piece). Personal experience shows that this lends itself to the pendant wanting to flip backwards and generally gives the piece a more flimsy feel to it. Given the wide range and styles of collars found in period, I felt justified in sticking with attaching the central pendant directly on to the end pieces.
The bars would be decorated with something from the two gentlemen’s heraldry. Matthias’s was easy, because his arms included a chief with three crosses (he told me that he preferred them to be templar’s crosses, not those as depicted on the representation below). For Davius, I settled on the ermine motif from the background of his arms. In retrospect, this was a great choice as I saw the ermine represented on other members of his household.
Drawing out the collars with the original plan, however, the triscele looked too plain. I debated how to decorate them and then it occurred to me that they kinda sorta look shield-shaped if you look at them through a squint. I swear there was no alcohol involved in this realization. So I set out to recreate their arms on the triscele. (Point of information: Davius sent me his heraldry and told me that it’s a left glove on the shield… he doesn’t care which side the thumb is on, but he was adamant that it be a left handed glove).
First, test pieces. I made one bar for each of them, plus a triscele and the central pendant for Matthias, as a test batch.
Red resist on the bars (the bars went into the etchant as rectangles, and were shaped into the final oval shape later. This was done just in case the etchant ate at the corners:
First pieces were placed in the etchant bath:
I developed a new method for this process. The first time they go in, they go in for 10 minutes. They get rinsed off in water and the resist reapplied if necessary. This is repeated after each dip, with the time increased from 10 minutes to 15 to 45 and finally for 2 hours.
Once they came out of the bath, they get rinsed in acetone. They don’t look too hot yet:
But once they’re polished, they look much better:
I made the rest of Matthias’s first, then the full set for Davius:
Now, to assemble the collars. First, a test fit on felt:
Then some detailed assembly instructions:
The rivets were dome-headed 1/8″ rivets. The bars would just have washers on the back while I cut plates for the backs of the end pieces. Of course, I couldn’t find a washer with a 1/8″ hole in it to buy, so I hand-punched the holes from many many tiny washers using a Whitney punch. Thank goodness for the Whitney punch. (I will admit I nearly ruined a drill bit with my first attempt at making these holes bigger)
Assembling the collars. Matthew took pity on me and my broken hands and peened all of the rivets for this project. ALL of the rivets.
The trisceles held onto the MOD pendant via an S-shaped “ring” formed from brass wire.
And with that, the collars were done. I wish I had taken a picture of them in their boxes. I lined them with black fleece.
Packing to take them to Trimaris!
They were packed into boxes originally for patent awards (it’s punny: the MOD comes with a Patent of Arms awarded) and they *just* fit into my carry on. I would have had to get more creative in order to carry them down, as no way were they going to be checked!
And FINALLY, they were awarded!
I don’t normally like pictures of myself, but this one came out from the event, and I just look so happy, I have to include it here as a reminder for myself of why I do this. Because, seriously, I was nothing but a ball of nerves throughout this entire process.