3 Tricks Knights Used To Prevent Their Armor From Rusting

Further ReadingThe Top 5 Fun Facts About Medieval Knights

Medieval knights were expected to fight in a variety of climates and weathers. Of these, rain was one of the biggest threats for a knight. Not because of the coldness of the water but rather that the water would rust a knight’s armor. Here are the 3 tricks that knights would use to prevent their armor from rusting.

Across medieval Europe knights would use three tricks to prevent their armor from rusting. First, the knights would rub wax or oil on their armor. Second, a medieval knight would have their armor “blued” to add protection against rust. Third, the knight would have a squire hand clean their armor.

These tricks helped protect the knights medieval armor against rust slowly eating away at the iron or steel armor. One knight’s medieval armor set could take a fleet of attendants to make sure it was in perfect condition. Because of this many of the most beautiful medieval armor sets still survive to this day and can be seen in museums around Europe.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 tricks knights used to prevent their armor from rusting.

Trick 1: Rubbing Wax Or Oil On The Armor To Make It Waterproof

The first trick that medieval knights used to prevent their armor from rusting was to have their armor coated in either wax or olive oil.

Since the end of the Roman Empire olive oil and wax had been used to lubricate and protect metal from rusting. In the southern parts of Europe oil was primarily used while in the northern parts wax would typically be used.

The oil would create a waterproof coating on the armor that would protect it from rust buildup. The oil would have to be applied on a weekly basis and often by a knight’s squire. Olive oil would be preferred over other types of oil due to the supply and smell.

We know that knights would use oil to lubricate their armor from old reports on the physical appearance and smell of knights. The famous 14th century author Geoffrey Chaucer writes about the appearance of knights in his Canterbury Tales. In this story Chaucer details how the knight’s armor was coated in what appears to be oil.

In the northern climates wax would be used instead of oil. The wax would be rubbed on the armor to form a waterproof layer. Historians have very little sources that detail this as the use of wax as a waterproof sealer stopped sometime before the 11th century as oil became more readily available across Europe.

As such one of the tricks that knights used to prevent rust from eating away at their armor was to coat their armor with a layer of either wax or oil. This would create a defensive layer on their armor which would prevent moisture buildup.

Trick 2: A Medieval Knight Would Have Their Armor “Blued” To Add Protection Against Rust

The second trick that medieval knights used to prevent their armor from rusting was to add defensive layers during the smithing process. After this the armor would then be painted over to add one final layer of protection.

This process was called “bluing” the armor. Today smiths all around the world use the same techniques that smiths during the medieval era used. During the medieval era a smith would seek to add several defensive layers on top of the armor to protect it against rust.

Bluing during the medieval era was done in one of two ways. The first way was bluing the metal when it was hot and the second was bluing the metal when it was cold. After both of these methods the smith would typically apply a layer of paint over the metal for both aesthetic and defensive purposes.

The first way of bluing is known as hot bluing. After the smith had forged the armor the final step was to heat it up and then dunk it into a vat of oil rapidly. This would cause the outer layer of the armor to be mixed with oil which helped prevent it from rusting prematurely. The smith would repeat this process several times to make sure that the armor was protected against rust. This was the process of hot bluing the armor.

Cold bluing was completely different. Here a smith would take urine and rub it across the knight’s medieval armor. The trick here was to prematurely rust the armor evenly and then apply a layer of oil. Over time this would create multiple layers of rust and oil on top of the armor. When this process was completed the armor took on a deep blue/black color as it was rusted over. However, since the rust was applied evenly and had a coat of oil the armor was well protected against future rust.

After the smith ‘blued’ the armor they would then apply a coat of paint as the final layer. This paint would give the armor the final coating of waterproof protection and help fight against rust. However, this paint was different from the paint of today and would quickly fade away.

A knight who had his armor ‘blued’ against rust would have to constantly take care of his armor and take it back to the smith for touch ups. As such one of the tricks that knights used to prevent their armor from rusting was to have a smith ‘blue’ the armor for them.

Trick 3: The Knight Would Have A Squire Hand Clean Their Armor

The third trick that knights would use to prevent their armor from rusting was to have their squires hand clean the rust from their armor. This was by far the most popular way for medieval knights to prevent rust buildup on their armor.

Most knights in medieval Europe would take on apprentices which were known as squires. These squires would be aids for the knight and learn how to care for the armor, horse, and estate of the knight. Overtime squires would learn how to fight and become a knight themselves.

One of the main tasks of these squires was to care for the knights’ armor. A squire was taught from a young age that one of the most important tasks for a knight was to make sure his equipment was constantly taken care of. This included removing any rust from the knight’s armor.

For small pieces of armor such as the grieves or helmet the squire would typically apply a solution of vinegar, oil, and sand. The squire would then rub this solution against the armor to remove any rust buildup. After this the squire would then apply either wax or oil to the finished armor piece to lubricate and provide further protection against rust.

All of the larger pieces of armor such as the breastplate and shield were put into a barrel of sand and vinegar and rolled. This would polish the armor while also removing any rust buildup. Like the smaller pieces the final touch was to have the squire apply oil or wax to prevent rust buildup.

At the end of this process a medieval knight’s armor set would be polished and well oiled. This process would take place typically once a week and lasted several hours.

As such the third trick that medieval knights used to prevent their armor from rusting was to have a squire hand clean it. This gave the squire the skills and lessons on how to take care of an armor set so when they became a knight they could take care of their own armor.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article going over the 3 tricks knights used to prevent their armor from rusting.

The study of medieval knights is a fascinating subject. Many people are not aware of just how much resources went into fielding a knight. A medieval knight was much like a professional sports team where an entire team worked to make sure the knight was able to do their job.

Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the web.

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Sincererly,

Nick