*Archivist Note: There seems to be an increase in the blacksmith trade. I know there are at least three operating in my area. Please contact me if you have a few thousand dollars lying around and would like to donate a suit of armor to the Medieval Archives!
Bill Fedun was 18 and bored working in a shop charging batteries when he made his first piece of armour.
“I was doing some wood carving at the time,” he recalls, “and I’d cut myself pretty badly, and I said, ‘Well, let’s take a look and see if I can make armour,’ and I knitted myself a chain mail glove.
“Sure enough,” he continues, “I was carving a little piece of wood and the knife slipped and came right across the chain mail glove and didn’t hurt me at all, and I said ‘You know, this stuff works. There’s a reason why we build armours.’”
A career in the military — repairing the electrical systems of aircraft — intervened, but he was only 38 when he retired (along with CFB Uplands) with a 20-year pension, and he needed somehting to do to occupy his time and hands.
“Fixing airplanes,” he says, “the electrics are so advanced and high-tech, I wanted to do something to relax with that was low-tech.
“There’s nothing more low-tech than hitting a piece of recalcitrant metal with a hammer.”
And so Fedun returned to making armour, expanding his new trade to include leatherwork, body armour, shields, knives and swords.
Now 53, he makes all those at his shop — The South Tower Armouring Guild — behind his home in Metcalfe, and also teaches armour- and chain mail-making and swordsmanship at Algonquin College and, through the City of Ottawa, at the Plant Recreation Centre on Preston Street.
His wife, Brenda, whom he calls his “remembering girl,” keeps his business on track, doing all the paperwork and getting him to where he needs to be.
“Without her,” he insists, “there’d be no business — just a fairly elaborate hobby.”
On Saturdays, he allows other similar-minded enthusiasts to use his shop, asking only that they pay for any materials they use and replace anything they break.
Additionally, he regularly visits area classrooms and gives armour demonstrations to nine- and ten-year-olds.
A full suit of armour costs between two and five thousand dollars, depending on what bells, whistles or other ornamentation a client wants. Fedun’s armour is nearer the higher end of the scale, but as he notes on his website, “I will personally make you a real battle armour that fits perfectly and allows you to perform so well that they will write songs about you.”
A clue to Fedun’s motivation is found in his dining room, where the words “generosity,” “loyalty,” “courtesy,” “faith,” “honour,” “courage,” “prowess” and “noblesse oblige” are stenciled along the tops of the four walls. These are the ideals, he says, by which he tries to live his life, and ones that nicely encapsulate the notion of chivalry in the age of knights. They’re also the principles he impresses upon the students he instructs.
“It’s a code they followed in their day-to-day life,” he says of knights of the Middle Ages. “It’s a game, but even though it’s a game, if you followed it in your day-to-day life, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
“I mean, what’s wrong with honour and courtesy and loyalty and faith and courage? These are all the things that make a good soldier, these are all things that make a good airman, they’re all the things that make a good person. So generally speaking, I said ‘Why not do stuff like that?’
“A knife or a sword is a symbol of the chivalry and the courtesy,” he adds. “Maybe in this modern day and age symbols don’t mean as much as they used to, but on the other hand, maybe we need them more than ever.”
He sells his wares worldwide, including to foley artists who employ the noises his chain mail and armour make for use in films. He’s not allowed to reveal which movies his armour has rattled, creaked or clanged through, but says that pretty much any Lion’s Gate film with armour bears his signature.
“I can guarantee you have heard my armour,” he says, “even if you haven’t seen it.”
He gets it right, too, travelling every two years to museums in Europe, where he chats up curators and studies and measures displays of armour.
“I don’t make garbage,” he says. “I could buy an armour made in Pakistan or India and that armour might not protect you. Whereas if I make you a helmet, I can guarantee it’s the best possible armour that can be made.
“Maybe there’s better people who can make armour better than me, but I don’t think so.
“This is pretty much my life,” he adds. “When I’m not actually pounding on armour, I’m talking to people about armour. I’m supporting chivalry, and I do it by pounding on iron, day in and day out.”
Source: Ottawa Citizen