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Cardiff Rose Swordsmen Guild - Suspension system for Spanish Morion

Sample photos from Derek Cole, Medieval Reproductions, and ValentineArmouries

Spanish Morion helmets are available on eBay for around $30 including shipping. These helmets are made in India of reasonably heavy steel, are clear lacquered on the outside, painted silver on the inside, but come with no suspension system or cheekpieces. Although they can be worn with just a knit cap underneath and no cheekpieces, this is neither comfortable in warm weather or safe if you need to move rapidly over uneven ground.

All morion-style helmets have armoured cheekpieces that fasten underneath the chin, both to provide side protection and keep the helmet on your head. Close inspection of the armoured cheekpieces shows them with either overlapping metal plates, or plates riveted onto the leather close together. Some cheekpieces have linen liners, others use rounded rivets that won't scratch the face.

We copied the suspension system from the very nice Valentine Pikemen's Pot, as it is a period-look design and proven comfortable to wear.

Suspension system issues include:

    Helmet MUST be suspended from the crown of the head, NOT the brow/sweatband area to avoid headaches.

    Crown pieces should not overlap, be lumpy or too tight.

    Crown pieces should be ventilated & absorbent.

    Top suspension should be adjustable for different head sizes.

    Cheekpieces should be long enough to tie or buckle under chin.

    Cheekpieces should flex comfortably and be lined or have rounded rivets inside.

    A properly fitted & fastened helmet must stay on your head!\, even if you stumble.

    If your hat size is too large to allow any sweatband, just install cheekpieces and a block of foam under the comb or wear a knit cap.

The Valentine system consists of four pizza-slice-shaped "crown" sections of leather that are riveted to the inside of the rim. The free ends of these pieces are folded back into the helmet where the pierced tops are strung together with a piece of leather lace, tied to allow adjustment.

The armoured cheekpieces are riveted underneath the crown pieces, or in other words between them and the helmet (against the metal). Even though they will seem long, the lower ends of the cheekpieces should extend to under the jawbone, where either leather lace ties can be fastened, or a leather strap can be buckled.

Test morion crown pieces were a bit wide and uneven, cheekpieces were not armoured.

Even though the morion style helmet has a base/bottom rim that rises in the front and back and dips down over each ear, it is better to have the internal suspension system follow this rim than try to set it horizontal. One drawback of setting it horizontal is that the sweatband is visible in the front and back of the morion, another is that this section would need to be reenforced to avoid twisting or deforming.

Each crown piece should have three evenly spaced rivets, and both cheekpieces should have two rivets. Mark and drill the cheekpiece rivet-holes first about 1/2" from each corner of the cheekpiece, then use the same holes for the center/middle ends of each crownpiece (in other words, don't drill extra holes for the cheekpiece rivets). This results in a total of 12 holes drilled about .5 inch above the rim. Since the brim flares up, care must be taken to not mark it with drill chucks or other tools.

First use a center punch to mark the location of the roughly evenly-spaced holes around the rim, then drill and clean off metal burrs. Make sure that the two holes over the ears are positioned to allow the cheekpiece to be attached with a hole near each corner. Hold the leather in place and mark each hole with a pen -- then punch holes in leather. Don't overlap crownpieces, and trim out any 'bubbles" in the leather sweatband area due to twisting during riveting. Cheekpieces should share rivet holes in the inside/touching corners of the two crown pieces on each side. Remember to set cheekpieces hanging straight down, and punch holes in leather to match up with crown-piece holes.

For our test Spanish Morion suspension system, we used Tinners Rivets from Orchard Supply Hardware. These rivets are sized by weight, and we used the "2 lb" size which are aproximately 1/8th inch in diameter and 5/16 inch length. These rivets have a solid shank with a flat head, and need to be long enough to pass through both the crown section and cheekpiece leather as well as the helmet, leaving enough rivet to be rounded with a flat punch and a hammer on the outside.

When rounding (or "peening") the exposed ends of the rivets, you must use a flat punch or metal bar -- otherwise the hammer head will mark the surrounding metal. The base of the rivet inside the helmet must be placed firmly against an anvil or solid metal bar.

A standard decorative element of the period is a plume-holder. The Valentine holder is a simple tapered tube with a sidetab folded flat and riveted to the helmet. Don't drill an extra hole for this, just use the existing hole for the crown piece.

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