Dale Rosamond stands in his small apartment kitchen rifling through a cupboard looking for a plate. His tall frame makes it easy for him to see everything on the top shelf without using a step stool.
It’s not a dinner plate he’s looking for, or even a smaller dessert plate. Rosamond is searching for a square sheet of copper, about six inches by six inches, on which he can engrave words.
He’ll be using it as part of a medieval shield he’s making for a friend.
The heavy metal shield stands half-finished on a workbench beside Rosamond whose home, located in Chilliwack, is filled with helmets, plate armour and swords, all of which he’s lovingly handmade out of scraps of metal he’s brought home from work.
This is Hamster and Elderberry Armory.
There are two fascinating things about Rosamond’s new-found hobby: the fact that he bends, hammers, cuts and finishes every single metal piece by hand; and the fact that his workshop is located entirely within his tiny apartment… more specifically his dining room.
It all began about a year ago. He was trying to get his mind off of the recent loss of his two horses and dog, and at the same time he was recovering from two workplace injuries.
“I needed something to occupy my brain,” says Rosamond. “Because as soon as I stopped, everything would come forward. I would cry about my dog, my horses, and develop a series of bad luck.”
|Rosamond with a finished helmet. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)|
A cowboy at heart, he started by making belt buckles. From there he built a metal table and then his first shield.
He shared a picture of that shield with a medieval historical society group on Facebook, which didn’t go over very well. People started slamming him stating traditional medieval shields were made of wood, not steel.
Despite the criticism, something good came out of it though — the name “Hamster and Elderberry.”
Rosamond was joking back and forth with a man in England on that Facebook group quoting the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was the line by the Taunting French Guard “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries” that was the inspiration for the name of his armoury.
Over the past several months, Rosamond has been spending his spare time making helmets, plate armour, shields, swords and other medieval items. He’s created ornamental pieces that folks hang on their wall or place on their shelf, and heavy-duty armour for people who take part in re-enactments and have real one-one-one battles.
“My first target audience was the re-enactors and that is truly where my passion is,” he says.
He has “no idea” how he got the training for working with metal — it all just came naturally to him, though he thinks it’s in his blood thanks to his father who’s a handyman and his brother who’s an artist.
“I am doing it very slowly because I love my job and I don’t want to turn my hobby into a job,” he adds.
|Cutting a piece of leather. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)|
Rosamond was recently hired to make props for a Vancouver theatre company for its production of Hamlet. His apartment was “mayhem” while making the eight shields, two swords and three helmets for Palme Russian Theatre. Made from aluminum, the stage pieces are lightweight.
His friend James Zoral does all the woodwork for him, like pieces of the shields and sword handles.
Everything Rosamond makes is built within the confines of his seven-foot-by-seven-foot metal shop. Instead of a kitchen table in his dining room, he has a work bench and power tools.
To help absorb the noise of the hammering and grinding, he’s added multiple layers of foam and cardboard to the floor of his work space for the benefit of his downstairs neighbour.
“He didn’t even know I had a drill press. These people don’t even know I have power tools, and my neighbours don’t even hear me hammering,” says Rosamond, who approached his neighbours beforehand to tell them he’d be making noise. Respectfully, he gave them his phone number in case they wanted him to stop.
He says you have to respect your neighbours — that’s part of communal living.
|Rosamond works on a metal scroll he’ll later attach to a shield. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)|
Rosamond does all the quiet work at Hamster and Elderberry Armory late at night. The noisy jobs like grinding and hammering take place during the day on weekends.
“I do a lot of hand filing. I’m in an apartment, so I can’t be all the time on the grinder. I do most of my stuff with hand files.”
“Here’s the thing, I don’t have any of the proper tools, or the molds, or anything, so I need stuff to shape this metal… that’s a trailer hitch,” he says pointing to a metal sphere in the corner.
He uses an old cobbler’s anvil which he found at a second-hand store to shape the metal, as well as a small chunk of railway track. He even uses the top of a metal-backed chair to bend some pieces, and his oven to temper the metal.
“I have baked more metal in that oven than I have pizzas,” Rosamond laughs.
Though his hammers are not the highest quality, they’ll do for the time being.
“For now I’m building stuff that looks like it’s already been in the melee,” he says. “I believe, if a woman finds a knight in shining armour, chances are he’s never been in a scrape.”
Regardless of what makeshift forms he uses to shape the metal, making armour puts him into the zone. And he always listens to Templar music while working the steel.
“When I sit down and I’m shaping a piece of metal, it just shuts off all the background noise,” says Rosamond. “I think it’s a beautiful art form.”
You can reach Dale Rosamond at 604-799-6951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.