When asked the ubiquitous icebreaker question in American conversation, “So, what do you do?” Luke Apker’s answer holds the ultimate in intrigue.
“I’m a master armourer.”
He spells it will a “u,” as they did in olden times, because he’s all about recreating the past. He makes chain maille and helmets right out of the 16th century. Except when he’s making prototypes for cutting-edge modern-day armor to potentially protect the police from absolutely any danger. Apker’s armour spans the centuries.
He’s also restored multi-million dollar Ferraris, including a 1991 250 GTO worth $32 million. And he handcrafted a massive copper and bronze stove hood for George Lucas’s kitchen. As a “Star Wars” fanatic, it was the ultimate opportunity. “I even signed the interior,” he said. Etched in a spot far, far inside, that Lucas will never see, but Apker will always know is in the everyday world of Darth Vader’s maker.
He’s fashioned metal gadgets worn in movies, including “Wild Wild West” and “Armageddon” and worked on the space suits and helmets in HBO’s “From Earth to the Moon” and “Apollo 11.”
He even happily repairs dinged metal musical instruments, keeping the tubas and trombones in marching bands in pristine condition. “Fixing an instrument for a kid is more satisfying than fixing a Ferrari for guy that crashed it.”
If it involves molding metal, Apker is the man. Get him talking about his work and he’ll easily hold a listening ear through two beers at a cocktail party without a boring sip.
Growing up in Southern California “I was a dorky D&D player,” he said, referring to the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game he still plays once a week. He did well at Chaminade Prep, still crediting his education there for his math skills that are crucial to his design process. But much to his parents’ dismay, he was not interested in college once he became involved with Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization that holds reenactments of pre-17th century European battles. Not only was he thrilled to fight as an olden-day knight, he discovered he had a true talent for fashioning the appropriate metal outfits.
“I had no goals. I was just happy to be out of high school,” he said, until he discovered SCA when he as 18 and participated in his first tournament. “It was the end of me doing anything else but that,” he said of the reenactment organization founded at UC Berkeley in 1966. He started an armour apprenticeship at Thornbird Arms, and had a knack for it from the very beginning. He still carries a key chain made of maille that was one of the first pieces he ever made.
SCA has 100,000 members and, according to Apker, 20 percent of them are armour-wearing fighters. “There are a lot of people who need armour.” And he knew how to make it. “Amour was the tech of the old days. I have made thousands of pieces.”
He worked at Thornbird until the company closed down. Then is his mid-20s, he made the jump to a different kind of metal work, restoring super-expensive automobiles at Fossil Motorsports, while still making armour for himself and friends to wear in reenactment events. He broke his fingers 16 times, every one at least once, in his reenactment fighting days.