A Business was Born
An article by John Rodden
Nigel Carren is a specialist in recreating and restoring 16th and 17th century historical European armour and spends most of his time working with metal, using Hobbyweld 5 to create amazing works of art.
We asked him how his interest in making armour started;
“I tried to buy several pieces at auction, but they all sold for 2 to 3 times over their estimate so I came home from London empty-handed. At the time I was working as a chandelier restorer for the National Trust (amongst others), so I had all the tools, and I had just finished restoring three 1930’s racing cars (which was a hobby of mine) so I thought… ‘How hard can it be to make a helmet’… and that is where it all began.”
After making a copy of an original helmet, Nigel was sufficiently encouraged to try making a complete suit of armour. However, living in a small home with a real shortage of space proved to be a real stumbling block, so Nigel, refusing to be beaten, simply created a miniature version of the original design. This was sold almost as soon as it was finished and in the same month Nigel received a commission from a collector at The Pentagon, USA. Hey presto, a business was born.
“I started making armour in the early 90’s, but I have been making stuff for money since I was 14. When I was 18 I was featured in The New Scientist magazine because I opened a shop called ‘Anything Repaired’, so restoring ‘things’ has always been a passion that I have always tried to hone, though often I know I could be richer if I did other things. I was a bank manager for 6 months once, but I left because I refused to call my boss ‘Mr!’ I figured if he called me Nigel I could call him Andy… so that was the last time ‘I played shops’… I hated it, I felt totally strangled in the office environment.”
Nigel says his customers range from wealthy Japanese businessmen ordering miniatures as corporate retirement presents to clients with smaller budgets paying for commissions in instalments.
“I supply to museums, fashion houses, movie companies and even the ministry of defence, where I have worked as a consultant on a couple of occasions when they wanted to look to history to find modern warfare solutions.”
Depending on the detail put into each piece, Nigel can take anything from 30 days to a staggering 90 days to complete a suit of armour; however Nigel told us there are suits out there which could take a full year, especially if they are gilded and embossed.
To cap it off, we asked Nigel if he had a favourite period in history which he liked
“I love ‘Peascod’, my favourite piece being the waistcoat breastplate complete with 20 fake steel buttons. My favourite period is the English Civil War, though I do prefer the Cuirassiers armour of that period and ideally with the Savoyard helmet (the helmets with the face… and ideally a moustache). I like the way the armourer even went so far as to try and imitate the face of the man inside on the outside of the helmet.”
Nigel now uses Hobbyweld 5 for the majority of his welding tasks, we asked him how he was getting on with it; - “There’s no more ‘Hit & miss’ like I had with the old CO2! There is no spatter and much more control, now welding 0.6mm is just a routine and not a risk”
To delve a little deeper into the world of Nigel, visit his website here - Nigel Carren of England
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