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Long story short: the setting is something like Highlander meets The Road or I Am Legend – basically a vast majority of humanity dies VERY suddenly such that vast quantities of regular items are available in hardware / department stores untouched. There is no internet, no power, no running water, etc.

I have a character that is building an armor suit based on the idea of composite plates. There is a lack of time to make proper ring mail or plate mail. My thought is that if stainless steel mesh is embedded in some sort of ABS or poly resin this would be tougher than just going with tire armor (the de facto in this setting). Obviously there is enough clothing around to layer for the effect of a gambeson to help with the blunt force of impacts.

My research so far has said that tire armor works because the rubber / steel mesh provides enough friction to slow piercing & slashing while still insulating against concussive blows. I've seen youtube videos of people testing out modern swords against duct tape armor that faired well. Steel wire reinforced tubing has also been suggested, as has adding in a layer of thin steel, say from a hose connector for HVAC, which is set inside of the resin or whatever material to give it more strength. Ideally this can be made in a day but bonus points if through some quick drying hand-waving it can be made in an hour or three.

Something like a brigandine made of salvaged steels appears to be always beat out this composite concept except for the case of piercing spear strikes (IMHO).

Ultimately whatever armor it is should resist (in this order):

  • Piercing thrusts (spears, estocs, rondels, etc.)
  • Bludgeoning blows (improvised clubs a plenty)
  • Combination piercing / bludgeoning (a club with spikes coming out of it)
  • Slashing (sharpened high carbon steel)
  • Fire.
  • Arrows, crossbows, harpoon guns, slingshots, or improvised handheld projectile weapons
  • Small arms fire
  • Shotguns
  • Rifles, etc.

Some additional points:

  • Weight is a major factor story-wise.
  • Noise / ability to move silently is also a major factor for this character.
  • The majority of the combat takes place in apartment buildings or other relatively tight quarters. A Manhattan or European city block (littered with car husks) is about an open a field as we see.
  • There is a story reason that guns / projectiles are not as widely used.
  • There might be a enough thick leather that could be coated in some other material (the same material?) to make a patent leather style armor. Open to ideas here too.

The actual question: what is going to be the best option for embedding the steel mesh inside to make the armored plates? I've also considered spray truck liner (though this is HIGHLY flammable). For the purpose of this I would prefer to hand wave the finding of the perfect material than the physics of how the armor would work.

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You could use gentle heat (from an old-style iron, or just a lump of metal with a handle) to melt plastic chips (like HDPE from milk jugs, etc) into the mesh. For an idea of how much work it would take, see this article where the author was making plastic plates out of shredded milk bottles for a boat. The important part seems to be letting the plastic "soak" at temperature for a bit to ensure bonding around the mesh, and then making sure it only cools very slowly and properly clamped flat.

To be honest, the most difficult thing will be finding a stainless steel mesh to embed inside. What makes you choose stainless? Expanded metal mesh of regular steel is a lot more common, and just as strong.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh, considering the crisis right now I am doing a lot of research via online retailers & found stainless mesh there just as easily other steel. I guess once it is encased in plastic there won't be any rusting issues, hah! Thanks for the HDPE milk jug idea – & also the heating method, that's exactly the kind of detail I need for fleshing out the story! I had no idea HDPE was in so many common objects, I wonder if that is true in Europe (where the story starts). Do you think that HDPE would be stronger with a steel mesh inside? $\endgroup$ – Marcus Webb Jul 29 '20 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ The steel-reinforced HDPE would definitely be stronger than just plain HDPE - there's this thing called to rule of mixtures, it means the combined strength is roughly the sum of each material strength times its volume fraction: Say 80% plastic, 20% steel - 25MPa*0.8 + 250*0.2 = Yield strength of 70MPa. As you can tell, the steel is the strongest part, the HDPE mainly would add stabby resistance and help to distribute force from blows. $\endgroup$ – IronEagle Jul 29 '20 at 19:32
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Plastic is hot. Fabric is not.

Yeah milk jugs are light, but after a few days your enemies will smell you when you get near. Milk jugs don't breathe! Also if you have companions they may get to calling you "milk jugs" and I think you know from hard experience that nickname will be for life.

Your warrior obtains a high end summer weight silk coat from Bloomingdales ($3000 new!) and sews the steel onto the outside, one thread thru each link. Very laborious, but there is nothing on TV and he is not much of a reader. When he is done the coat still looks good and breathes well, and now is reinforced with steel. The links do not move so it is quiet. His companions call him Silk.

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  • $\begingroup$ The Mongols used silk shirts as the innermost liner for their armor because the silk would wrap around barbed arrows and weapons, so when they were pulled from the wound the barbs didn't snag. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Sep 29 '20 at 3:17

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