This care advice has been written by the Royal Armouries Conservation Department to help you learn the ins and outs of replica care and display. Please click here to view our full range of replicas.
Every purchase of replica arms and armour made at the Royal Armouries will come complete with a Care booklet.
MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTION
These replica armours are constructed from mild steel and may have parts made of brass, leather and textile. Over time these materials can react with each other when in contact and degrade in different environments.
It is important to look after your replica as iron corrosion will not only look unsightly but it will also increase the deterioration rate of textile and leather.
CLEANING AND CONSERVATION
Handling your armour can leave you with unsightly fingerprints due to the traces of acid found on your skin and once the fingerprints are etched, they can be difficult to remove. As a preventative measure, we recommended that you wear gloves when handling metals to prevent corrosion. Latex gloves are preferable to cotton; this is because cotton can allow moisture to seep through onto your replica. If you do handle a replica without gloves, make sure your hands are clean and after handling, wipe the object down with a soft clean cloth. To avoid any issues we recommend that you avoid touching the blade on swords and daggers.
For general dusting a soft brush is ideal. A vacuum can come in handy for larger pieces, however, to minimise the chance of losing any loose parts it is a good idea to fix a piece of fine net over the vacuum head with a rubber band.
There are many materials and techniques that can be used to clean and conserve replica armour. We recommend that you avoid using cream products such as Brasso and Prelim, as they may leave residues that can become unsightly and difficult to remove.
To remove light corrosion on plain armour without a decorative surface finish (e.g. painted, blued, gilded etc.) use a '0000' wire wool pad with 3-in-1 oil. For larger areas, use a ball of wire wool with a few drops of oil and gently work the surface to remove the corrosion. For smaller areas, the wire wool can be wrapped round the head of a cotton bud. In all cases, start in a discreet area and stop if the process appears to be causing further damage. If it recommended that you use a plastic bag as a barrier to prevent oil or dust coming into contact with any leather or textile components.
When the corrosive substances have been removed the surface will feel smooth, however, it is possible this will also leave dark marks. These marks can only be removed with more vigorous polishing, which should be avoided. Residues from the oil can be reduced by wiping with a cloth or completely removed with white spirit or acetone. Be sure to avoid any contact to the leather, textiles or paints with these substances. When using any chemicals, oils or waxes, please follow the products own safety advice; making sure you use the correct safety equipment and a well ventilated work space.
DISPLAY AND STORAGE
Armour is traditionally displayed in the open, thus, is more likely to be subjected to a build-up of dust and fluctuations in relative humidity. Such fluctuations can damage organic materials such as; textile, leather and wood and cause corrosion if the relative humidity is too high.
Due to the hygroscopic nature of dust it can become damp and create a corrosive environment, which is likely to cause damage to metal. To avoid this it is preferable to have armour in a display case or to ensure that it is dusted regularly. A protective coating, such as heated microcrystalline wax, can be applied to metal parts. This provides a barrier and enables fingerprints to be wiped off more readily if they are dealt with in good time. It is a good idea to use this wax sparingly, adding a little to a cloth and wiping the metal parts down after handling. It can also be used to cheer up leather that has a finished surface (not the raw side), test this discreetly first in case it stains the leather.
Armour of mixed composition can be stored and displayed between approximately 40–55% RH. Metals should not corrode in an environment below 60% RH, especially if it is clean and free from pollutants. Avoid hanging on outside walls, as condensation may be an issue. If an outside wall is your only option, ensure that air can flow between the object and the wall. Also avoid placing objects above a heat source such as a radiator or fireplace. If there are textile or leather components consider light levels to avoid fading and brittleness. In all cases avoid direct sunlight.
When it comes to mounting your replica armour, it is important to ensure that the shoulders and neckpiece are fully supported before considering the rest of the piece. The best way to achieve this is to support the bottom of the breast and back plates and the end of the arm defences. Ideally, any mount should be made from an inert material such as metal, which will not give off corrosive gases that could cause damage to your replica. At the same time this mount should not scratch or apply too much pressure to the object. Key materials to avoid contact with your replica are felt, silk and oak.
You are welcome to contact the Royal Armouries Conservation Department for further advice. Please write to:
Royal Armouries Museum
Alternatively please email firstname.lastname@example.org and your query will be forwarded to the relevant member of staff.