The Lorica Project – Sample Instructions

I just spent far too long writing up instructions. I will try and paste them into this post, but I will also upload the file.

The Word 2013 File.

The PPT file with my diagrams

The actual PDF I found with a Newstead Pattern harness

This may get ugly. I’m not going to take a lot of time to edit it, though. Be warned: after the break, here there be dragons. (alas, the pictures did not come in – please take a look at the files themselves).

Lorica Segmentata – Roman Segmented Armor costume
For the Cyprus Fall history program, the kids will be making
lorica segmentata out of cardboard
(and other materials). The armor was in use for about 300 years, from about 9
BC to somewhere between 250 and 300 AD.
The pattern we’ll be making is the latest of the designs,
chosen for its relative simplicity: the Newstead pattern (named for the town in
which the original piece was found).
The armor will be constructed flat – first the pieces are
cut more-or-less to size, then secured in place with ribbon (representing
leather harness straps), then coat-hanger stiffening will be added to help keep
the pieces in the proper shape, and then it’ll be bent into shape.
Each lorica was hand-made, a unique piece. If no two
children’s lorica are alike . . . that’s historically accurate!
These instructions will give step-by-step guidance for making
and fitting a lorica segmentata to an individual.
The Finished Product
final product consists, more or less, of four components, all strapped
The first section is
the chest and back plates, which are joined together by a hinged segment that
sits on the shoulders. This is six pieces, and we will use ribbon for the
hinges and straps.
The second section protects the abdomen, and will consist of
long, thin strips of cardboard, attached together in back with more ribbon to
make a long, folding piece (we’ll eventually bend it in place to shape it, as
in the pictures to the right). The number of bands will depend upon the
wearer’s height. They will be secured together into an overlapping pattern by
six pieces of (you guessed it) more ribbon. An approximate pattern is found to
the right, but that’s a Colbridge pattern, not Newstead, so don’t use it to
figure out what to do!
The final sections are the left and right shoulder
protection. These are the most intricate pieces and the hardest to strap together,
but don’t worry: the Romans did this with leather and hand tools too!
The Basic Materials
You’ll start with the following basic materials:
A 24” x 36” of corrugated cardboard, which
should be painted silver (technically, Ralph Lauren Ancient Alloy metallic
latex paint) on one side
A number of standard metal 14.5-gauge wire coat
hangers equal to the number of belly bands needed
About four yards of black ribbon, of the kind
used to giftwrap presents
Maybe 12-18” of Velcro adhesive-backed tape
Some method of cutting the cardboard. I have
used a ruler and Xacto knife (scalpel), but the best is a large paper cutter.
You will also need
some measurements for the wearer. They’re pretty simple:
Measure the width of the torso, from the points
where the arms meet  the torso as shown.
This will define how wide the chest and back plates need to be in total.  (Green)
Measure the distance from where the collarbone
comes together to the bottom of the sternum, either the solar plexus or the
xiphoid process, if one is anatomically inclined. (Red)
Measure from the bottom of the sternum to
roughly the belt line – maybe an inch or so below the belly button (Blue)
Each chest plate will be half the distance of measurement 1
wide, and the full distance of measurement 2 tall.
You will be using 2” strips for the abdominal protection,
and they will overlap slightly. Take measurement 3 and divide it by 1.75” –
this is the number of plates from the bottom of the abdomen to the bottom of
the chest plates. Round normally, so if the calculation says you need between 4
and 4.5 bands, use 4, while if you’re between 4.5 and 5, use 5. Real Roman
armor tended to have six bands; unless you’re Andre the Giant, don’t use more
than six! (Or just consult the table below)
If I am making armor for my
wife, she is about 12” for the green measurement, 7” for the red, and 10” for
the blue. So the chest and back plates will be 6” x 7” each (four of them). We
take the 10” blue measurement and look it up – she’s between 9 5/8” and 11
3/8”, so she’ll use 6 bands.

Layout of the cuts
To minimize work and waste (and materials cost), we
need to plan the layout of the cuts. The first is to lay out the chest/back
Use the longest
dimension for each chest/back plate, and mark a long horizontal cut on the
cardboard sheet. Then use the shortest
dimension and divide that section into four pieces.
The example shows an
Alina-sized armor section, which uses up all 24” of the armor. Children will
likely have some left over. That’s fine!
Provide for twice as many belly strips as you
need. If you need 4, make 8, if you need 6, make 12. You will need two pieces
to encircle the torso for each strip.
You will also want a two 2.5” strips that
will make the large shoulder guards. This will take up 5”. This is not shown in the example above.
Now we get to the heart of it, creating each of our four
armor subsections.
Creating the Belly Protection
First thing required is to measure the circumference of the
torso at its widest point. The lorica is not a svelte or tailored piece of
armor. Take a belt or measuring tape and get a reasonably snug fit . . . and
then add 4” to that. Divide that total distance in half. This is the required width of each belly segment.
Example: If a completely
hypothetical person had a widest circumference of 38”, I’d add 4” to that to
get 42”, and divide that in half to get 21”. Each of the 12 belly bands will be
cut to 21” long. A 6yo might only require 12” or 16”, leaving lots of spare
bits left over. This is good – it will allow using that for shoulder pieces!
Once the pieces are cut to
size, lay them flat on a table, painted side down. Mark each piece at the top
of the band at the ¼, ½, and ¾ positions, at the top of each band, with a dot
or a short line. Pair up two bands, end to end, but leave a 1/8” gap between
the two bands. We will be making a hinge that will allow them to bend.
Cut a 2” piece of the black ribbon, and glue each pair
of belly strips together in the middle, as shown:
Once that is done, and the
pieces are dry (wait 30-45 minutes for white glue), you will assemble the
Line up the bands so that the middle segment is
exactly aligned. It may help to draw a line on a piece of paper on the work
surface, and ensure that the hinge/gap is always on top of it.
Overlap each band by roughly
¼”, perhaps a bit more, but not more than ½”.
Cut six pieces of ribbon, each as long as the blue chest-to-beltline measurement above. Put a
small bead of glue along each of the marked segments of the bands (shown as
black lines), and then glue a piece of ribbon along each column of
lines. There should be very little slack in the ribbon, but it need not be
taught. Let the glue dry.
The extra 4” we added to each segment should allow plenty of
extra room to close the armor in front. The next step is to add the stiffeners.
Cut out the long wire of a clothes hanger for each belly strip (up to 12 will
be needed) and thread them through the corrugations along the bands, left to
right. Trim them so they’re about ½” to 1” shorter then each band – once
they’re bent into shape, they’ll stay inside the abdomen armor just fine.
Creating the Shoulder, Chest, and Back
The chest and back plates are much simpler than the belly
First, take the four back and chest plates cut from the
first piece of cardboard. Lay them out so that the direction of the red
measurement runs together. Put the paint side down.
Then take some scrap
2” wide strips that are each as long as the red measurement. In the example for
Alina, each 2” strip will need to be 7” long.
Then trim the end
of each strip, by cutting (using a scissors, paper cutter, or Xacto knife) an
angle such that the inner edge is 1” shorter than the outer edge. Do this same
cut regardless of how long the strips
Finally, trim one set of plates (the chest pieces) to match
the angles of what will be the shoulder supports (the 2” wide segments).  Mark off a line 2” wide and 1” along the side
of the plate – this will match the angle of the shoulders exactly.
Before we glue the “hinges” on this assembly, we will
stiffen the shoulder plates. Slide a piece of coat hanger down the middle of
each shoulder. This will
allow them to be bent into a shape that conforms with the shoulder and allows
the back/chest plates to hang more naturally – hinge or no.
Finally, glue “hinges” on the unpainted side of the cardboard,
once again leaving 1/8” gap or so between the pieces to allow them to bend. Do
not join the front chest pieces, or you won’t be able to get the armor on your
The shoulder pieces will attach to this assembly in a fairly
unusual but important arrangement of ribbon. So we’re going to mark the
connections. Using a black magic marker on the unpainted side of the back/chest
assembly, make the following dots
One dot in the middle of each shoulder plate,
halfway down the short side of the
One dot on each chest and back plate, 1” from
the edge, and 2/3 of the red measurement from the end of the plate
Example: Alina’s plates are
7” long, so 2/3 of that is  about 4 5/8”.
So the dots go 1” from the edge of the plates, and 4 5/8” from the ends.
Shoulder Guards
The shoulder guards
are the final intricate piece of the armor. You will need two each of the following
pieces (this is enough for one shoulder):
One 2.5” wide strip that is 2.5x the red
measurement (Example: for a 7” red measurement,
the piece is 17.5” long)
Two 2” wide strips that are each 2x the red
measurement (Example: 7” red measurement will have each strip 14” long)
Two 1-1.5” wide strips that are each roughly 1.25
the red measurement (Example: 7” red measurement will be 8.75” long each)
All in all, you will need ten strips of cardboard.
Next step, you will need to cut the long, 2.5” piece of
cardboard into three pieces, and then re-join them as a hinge.
Measure and mark a
line 90% of the Red measurement up from each end, and cut the segment at both
places. This will turn one piece into three, which you will promptly glue back
together with a ribbon hinge!
Before you fix the hinge in place, slide a coat hanger wire
into each of the three segments – each will need to be shaped.
You will also need to mark the harness attachment points
(ribbon) with dots again. They are placed in the dead center of the central
piece, and 0.3 x R (1/3 of the length) of each outer piece.
Remember, you need two
of these.
Next we mark the ribbon locations on the shoulder plates.
The middle row of marks is in the midpoint of
each of the lengths
The four single pieces are marked close to the
edge of the piece, to allow it to wrap over the shoulder and upper arm
The best way to align the outer marks is that
it’s halfway between the hinge and the dot on the wide piece. The three outer
pieces are all exactly the same width apart for the marks
Now thread
coat-hangar wire through each of the shoulder plates, since all of these will
need to take a fairly sharp bend. The angled pieces of the hangar should be
sufficient for this (they’re slightly shorter, but should be long enough).
Finally, stack up the bands, starting with the hinged band,
and put each layer slightly overlapping the next, just as was done with the
abdomen. You may need two pieces of ribbon (as shown) to make the curve work.
Now let it all dry – overnight is probably best.
Putting it all together
Now that we have the abdomen, chest/back piece, and both
shoulder assemblies, it’s time to bend them all to fit.
Start with the
abdomen. The paint goes on the outside of the curve (bend towards the unpainted
side). Bend the entire assembly together as one into a flattened C-shape that
fits the wearer’s body. It is best to bend it around something that has a
semi-circular shape to it already, such as the arm of a couch. There will be
3-6 coat hangers in each hinged section, so bending it around the wearer is not
likely going to work (and may hurt them). When done, the pieces should form
more-or-less a broken ellipse (right).
Next comes the chest and back. The only parts
that need bending are the shoulder pieces, and these need just enough bend to
help the chest and back plates lie more-or-less flat to the body. (also right)
Finally, the arm protection. This may be
difficult. Always bend away from the painted side of the armor.

Bend the entire middle section around something the diameter of roughly a 2- or
3-liter bottle of soda. Once the middle has taken shape, continue to work a
gentle bend into the 2.5” section (it doesn’t have to be much). Finally, bend
the 2” and 1” into roughly a half-circle, perhaps a bit less.
This next part puts the shoulders and chest plates together.
The final product is a bit daunting to look at – just remember that most of the
work has already been done!
Slide each shoulder piece to connect with the
chest/back plates. The bending may make this challenging
The hinged shoulder piece goes OUTSIDE (on the
bottom) of everything else. This is important!
The only real assembly work is to glue the loose
ribbon from the shoulder assembly to the marked spots on the underside of the
chest/back assembly.
It is probably best to apply glue, then clamp
the ribbon to the chest/back assembly with a clothespin or even a large
paperclip (that might be best).
Once that glue has
dried (give it an hour), the entire kit can be put on like football pads and
then adjustments to the bend and fit of the armor can be made. This is the
primary opportunity to adjust the fit of this part!
The final assembly is connecting the belly bands to the
shoulder/chest assembly. The best way is likely to permanently affix the belly
to the back plates, using four small strips of ribbon and glue. The particular
fit will be unique for each set of armor (sorry!)
“Lacing” it up
The real thing was held together with hooks made of metal,
and lacing in front (and back, for that matter). Armor was often “built” onto a
warrior, as it was hung from straps piece by piece. This is seen in later
European armors, as well as Japanese styles. It’s why wearing armor was often
referred to as being “in harness,” as your protection was strapped on to you.
Closing our costume armor is probably best accomplished with
some Velcro, however. The belly bands can seal with a Velcro sticky-tab on each
band. Then the chest pieces can be folded around the head, and also attached
with a Velcro tab in front, mimicking the hooks.
That’s it! You’ve got your lorica segmentata.
A final note
This is a very intricate costume, and will teach you just
how much work went into protecting each and every Roman legionary.
However, it is a costume, not armor. It has roughly
zero protective value, and will likely not stand up to roughhousing, stage
combat, real combat, squabbling with brothers or sisters, or wrestling lions,
tigers, bears or alligators.

Please keep that in mind. J

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