Is Paper Armor Really Stronger While Wet?

according to ancient Chinese legend not
only was paper armor made and actually used in battle but also it worked better
wal wet is that even possible something one way to find out paper armor it
sounds a little like an oxymoron but after looking into it it’s actually
pretty reasonable apparently back in ancient China people developed a method
of making armor using layered paper this stuff was supposed to be just as
effective as steel armor which is pretty impressive but the thing that really
hooked me on this topic was what I read next
apparently this stuff worked even while it was wet and not only did it work
supposedly it actually worked better to test it out I’m gonna need to make some
small-scale models so I headed over to Blake and picked out a couple different
kinds of paper the four kinds I picked up were a thick mulberry paper a thin
mulberry paper a cotton paper and a regular wood pulp paper I tried looking
for other kinds of paper like linen or silk paper but they either weren’t
commercially available or they were just cost prohibitive I got like five sheets
of paper and it was still 40 bucks I really hope the cheap paper is the best
one to get these ready for the test we’re gonna layer these papers kind of
on top of each other and build up kind of a little mini pack that we can then
test out in the real world so right now we are down at the same place that we do
all of our target practice I basically whipped up some ballistic gel it’s it’s
a little bit denser than regular gel oh we should probably do a control first so
we’re just gonna take the bow and shoot it straight into this block all right
three two one all right how far in did we go oh we went all the way through and
slightly out the back that is what its gonna look like with no protection
whatsoever probably should have made a longer block
but you know I think it’s gonna be good enough for just seeing how different
things perform dry wood pulp paper three two one
so that completely blocked it how far through did it get oh it almost broke
through but it is poking through the back but not all the way through dry
cotton paper they’re moving the block of gel but they’re just not making it
through all right this one seems to have done just about as well as the other
paper I’m really curious to see how the mulberry paper performs now since these
are both so much stiffer than it this stuff is like much softer than the other
two I think it’s still blocked it I think yeah it doesn’t seem to have
impacted the gel at all this one has kind of done the least well of all three
I think that could have something to do with the softness but truthfully it also
didn’t do that much worse I think the interesting thing is that this is so
much more flexible which would make it a much better Armour even though like the
strength is about the same I don’t know I’m curious but I think now it’s time to
get them wet one one two oh my gosh this is absorbing so much water do you come
look at this look how many bubbles are coming from it what I’m trying to do is
absorb as much water as possible these obviously the thickness of the paper
itself has now expanded see so now there’s more material for it to get
through it’s gonna be really interesting to see how this performs actually mark
pull the paper all right so that didn’t uh that did not work maybe as intended
that really got impaled even kind of went through a block a little bit let’s
test these other two these are as soaked as I could get them they are dripping
wet cotton layers full so so it definitely did worse than it did
before it went that far in but it didn’t go all
the way through the paper so it still did a lot better than this stuff
the last thing to try is wood pulp paper not a hundred percent sure that I want
to use wood pulp paper as our final test even if it is technically the best 100
percent wood pulp paper fully soaked firing in three two one
this stuff seems pretty strong I don’t know how accurate is to handmade paper
which would have been used in China I think that the most accurate choice
based upon what was available and what is doing the best in these comparisons
is probably to go with the cotton paper so despite the questioned ability of the
small-scale testing I’ve decided to go with cotton paper while wood pulp paper
technically did better cotton paper would have actually been produced will
by the Chinese at that time so I felt like it made more sense to go with that
rather than something that is very much a modern-day paper now as usual we’re
gonna be using our dummy stumpy to test out this armor however I realized he
needs to be a little bit more rigid if I want him to be pretty accurate so I’ve
decided to add some wooden dowel in order to give him sort of bones that’ll
make him a little bit of a stiffer dummy scalpel prepare the bones for transplanting he’s
gonna be okay I’m gonna stitch him back up sir
congratulations so after successful surgery on our dummy it’s time to get
started on our actual armor now while the ancient texts refer to several kinds
of paper armor the one that we’re gonna be focused on is called Zija and I am so
sorry that I’m butchering that pronunciation in English though it’s
called studded paper armor and we’re actually told some specifics on how its
constructed though they’re a little bit vague
this armor is made of flexible paper which is hammered soft layer to three
kun thick and then held together by studs I bought 2 packs of cotton
watercolor paper I’m also gonna be supplementing this with some other
cotton watercolor paper so I’m gonna stack plywood on the top and bottom of
these sheets and then I’m just gonna drill holes all the way through the
plywood is just gonna function so that I can compress all the other layers of
paper together that way they don’t move around and they don’t rip as I’m trying
to drill through them now the studs I’m gonna be using are gonna actually be
pulled but they should function approximately the same way also to make
it easier to work with I might add some straps on the back of the armor I’m
gonna make sure that these don’t interfere at all with the strength of
the army so with the armor complete I headed back to the reins to do the final
testing we are here at the solid filming location that we always use I have to
set up this kind of obnoxious thing that I created last night in order to
actually test out this dummy I think this will work I don’t know what do you
think you think this thing looks legit you know now that looks good that looks
awesome I think I’m pretty happy with that you
want to grab the straps and you just got it cinch it up so it’s maybe not the
most sturdy thing but we’re gonna hope it holds together for at least a handful
of swings it should get the job done for what we’re doing my theory is that if it
works at all while wet the reason is because that added water kind of adds
mass to the pages and maybe slow stuff down more because there’s just kind of
more slush to get through but at the same time you’re also breaking down the
particles right so you kind of have these two forces fighting against each
other which is going to be interesting I don’t have a ton of faith in it but I am
curious to see what happens according to the text the paper is supposed to be
approximately three to four inches thick so I made this front chest plate three
to four inches I think it looks pretty good
honestly all there really is to do right now is to kind of go at it what we want
to try first all right go for it three two one oh all right so about how far
did that go in then oh just barely the tip all right well that’s I mean that’s
a really good benchmark though I’m surprised actually that it went in even
that much how good are you at using a knife you ready really oh wow that’s pretty small yeah I
mean obviously they wouldn’t use it if it was horrible
I mean that’s more impressive than I thought it would be all right cool I’ll
have at it with the sort where did I hit it then I hit it way over here I did but
it also like barely went in at all it’s already is gonna cool well no this side
is pretty sharp I gotta say Wow oh sure yeah no it is dangerous it’s genuinely
this is a genuine weapon people in the last video we’re all like oh it’s
probably not this sharp they still could sharpen even this is sharp I don’t I
don’t want to be around this dude I’m worried I’m gonna like slip and cut yeah
look at that that’s plenty sharp that’s sharp all
right so now anyway after that whole sitch I think we’re ready to take a stab
at it I should begin a comedy tour don’t you
think all right three two one so I mean I knew that we would have this
problem because the thing about this sword is that it’s pretty wide and also
paper is quite good at stopping things yeah this is actually quite dangerous I
don’t being kind of an idiot with this thing you think we get it wet now ever
oh hold on hold on hold on hold on whoa there let’s apply some duct tape right
here so I couldn’t find enough pieces of wood to have all of them actually be the
right way so I had to join these together with screws and so this is just
to make sure that they don’t like fall apart ball game masterpiece to the river
dude what is the river like dry today or something no it’s not dry it just looks
really gross like that looks really gross right there like it’s it’s been
like not moving for so long that there’s it’s got like fuzz on them true that is
that is possible dude I need like a deeper section of the river here we’re
gonna take a long time if I don’t find a better spot to fill this up right here
so we’re just gonna that was like barely any water well I
tried to there there was just like no more depth so I’m saying it’s just it’s
not that deep there’s also like that part of the lake over there but you know
what poison ivy looks oh yeah the river gets deeper on the other side it’s also
like less gross it’s still not that deep yeah that’s significantly more water
that’s great that’s so much water dude how much water do you have 20 gallons
Wow I’ll spread apart the pages a little bit I mean it’s getting in there don’t worry
about it it’s getting down into the ridges for sure all right hold up hold
up let’s just let’s just soak it a lot yeah screw it let’s try it Oh Kazi actually well I got the legs what
do you think you think it’s gonna make a difference it’s really wet though
crossbow versus absolutely definitively waterlogged paper firing in three two
one I mean there’s like a millimeter count
as a difference it is either the same or worse so it’s not any better well we
don’t know that yet we gotta still we still gotta try the we still gotta try
the knife and the sword man here take that for Clumsies pocket knives is it
any deeper you think a little bit like 10% yeah I mean it’s not doing any
better I’m not impressed by the wet armor yet but maybe maybe we’re just
using it wrong maybe we got to take a swing at it with the sword let’s let’s
have at it waterlogged paper sword stab test so actually look look it didn’t go very
far in that’s kind of cool I mean I don’t think it’s conclusive
enough to say that it was because of the armor right waterlogged paper slash test
three two one where’d I hit it that is in the exact no
I hit it a little bit higher I guess it did a little better kinda I mean mostly
it did about the same ouch I mean that was a hell of a slash and it did it did
about as well as the other time based upon that testing I gotta say I am NOT
super impressed I mean what do you think I don’t think it did anything useful
there you have it I mean that’s a paper armor not stronger well wet but
surprisingly not that much weaker either so thank you guys so much for watching I
hope you liked this one if you want to chat about these projects as I’m
developing them you can go check out the discord which is linked down below I
also want to give a shout out to a company called pop of leather pop I’ve
reached out to me a while ago and sent me a couple of free wallets I’ve
actually been using this as my real actual wallet since like April and
they’re really high-quality leather they’re like the right price it’s it’s
truly impressive I get a little bit of a kickback if you buy one of those wallets
and if you go to the discord I’m actually I’ve got a second wallet that
they sent me and I’m giving it away for free you don’t have to do anything
special except join the discord if you want to see another video you can click
right over here if you want to support me on patreon you can click right down
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15 thoughts on “Is Paper Armor Really Stronger While Wet?

  1. Cool video. I'm curious though, how accurate is cotton based paper? I would think that paper from that time would be more likely to be mulberry based (I think China has mulberry right?) and not cotton. Idk, something for a more qualified historian to look at.

  2. Great video, fun experiment! Perhaps the efficacy of the ancient paper and its corresponding response to moisture may have something to do with how their paper was made. It may be similar to how carbon fiber derives much of its strength from the specific weave of the fibers, and not simply from the material composition. Definitely thought provoking!

  3. love your videos so far. And you should try getting the paper wet then freezing it. It's supposed to be crazy strong. Also maybe try to find a different filming location than under a road. lmao <3

  4. As a Chinese myself and a history enthusiast, I would like to contribute my two cents to this topic. First of all, the ancient Chinese mostly used silk paper to make paper armor for much of their history. Cotton was only available (imported to China from India) from the Ming Dynasty onward (14th century AD onward), while paper armor appeared much earlier, as early as the 6th century AD. Secondly, there were at least two (or perhaps even more) types of paper armor used in history. The first type is layered paper armor, which is constructed in a similar fashion as lamellar armor, stacking layered paper blocs one on top of the other. The second type was more similar to medieval European gambeson, which was a type of quilted silk paper filled with silk floss, calico, and other types of fibrous materials (including animal and human hair!). Both types existed in China. Thirdly, the quote "paper armor being more effective when soaked with rainwater" only came from one single Ming period text in a book that was not about military but rather about the history of the dynasty and various other anecdotes, while earlier Tang and Song sources and other Ming sources made no mentions of such effect, hence I think this quote is rather dubious.

  5. And the Chinese (particularly the southern tribes) had other types of non-metal armor as well, including lacquered rawhide armor (made from buffalo hide) and rattan armor soaked in tung oil. Love to see those two put into test as well, though I understand that it might be harder to get access to those materials.

  6. Good video! I was wondering about your method a little, actually, as a southern Chinese:
    1. Rain never really gets you absolutely sopping wet like you've been standing in a waterfall. Rains are usually fast and hard or rather soft and long-lasting in the south, which would mean water wouldn't soak through the entirety of the armor. Would that change anything? It may achieve a state where it is soft enough to handle hits, yet hard enough that the polymer connections aren't completely obliterated.
    2. Chinese paper armor is not well documented, but Japanese pirates have used similar armor, and their documentation calls for the use of rice paper, glutinous rice and hemp cloth. The hemp cloth would stiffen the entire setup.
    3. If you can read Chinese, some people in China have also replicated the armor for testing purposes here:
    They used the Japanese method, and the conclusion is that it doesn't block bow attacks but blocks sword attacks very well due to its pliability; however, I note their plate is nowhere near the called-for 10cm. I realize it would be very expensive and time consuming to make a 10cm block of such material for testing, but a thicker, more durable material may have acted like Kevlar against arrow attacks. As for the "arquebus attacks" mentioned in the original text, those were little more than fast moving metal balls (not even that fast moving, by today's standards), so the Kevlar point is even more relevant.
    4. We have to remember that armor is primarily meant to turn the fast moving sword into a fast moving baseball bat, as bone-setting, not suture, was the easier option in an era without the sanitary conditions available today. I wonder if the "better" bit actually refers to the fact that it would absorb more of the impact and thus reduce the chances of breaking bones. Armor is expensive, but if it does its job of keeping you alive, it doesn't really matter if it gets dinged up. Of course this is all conjecture; the original text does say "arrows and shots encounter difficulty in penetration", but the writer isn't in the military, and plenty of things could get mixed up in communication of the fact that it keeps you alive better.
    5. We also have to remember that in south China, where humidity can easily reach and stay around 90% (we had to buy a de-humidifier for the rainy months, or the suffocating humidity would make us all sick), metal armor would rust very easily. Paper is also less dense than metal for naval battles, which were common in the south due to our closeness with rivers and seas, and may or may not have served as life vests in a pinch. Overall they're still more useful considering the environment; up north metal would have been much better.
    In any case, good video! Now try rattan armor 😉

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