Sixteen-year-old Chattanoogan makes suits of armor

Sixteen-year-old Chattanoogan makes suits of armor

April 24th, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Spencer Morse, 16, wears hand-crafted armor he made from stainless steel for his role in "Princess Ida." Morse plays a soldier who protects his sister, the princess.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

ABOUT SPENCER MORSE

School: Home-schooled 11th-grader.

Siblings: Five brothers, Isaac, 13, Corban, 9, Benjamin, 8, Jake, 6, and Creed, 2; five sisters, Hannah, 18, Geneva, 14, Emily and Katie, both 11, and Blessing, 11 months.

Favorite book/series: "Eragon" and other books in the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini.

Favorite movies: "The Patriot" and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

CLAIM TO FAME

Spencer Morse, 16, has been practicing metalworking since he was 11 years old and is a part owner in his father's metalworking business. He is co-starring in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Princess Ida," for which he made three sets of armor from stainless steel. See him in the Homeschool Players' musical comedy at the Catoosa County Colonnade, 264 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, Ga. Shows are at 1 p.m. May 3, 7 p.m. May 4 and 6 p.m. May 5. Tickets are $8 adults, $5 students, $3 ages 4 and younger.

Some actors gird themselves in confidence and self-assurance to stave off stage fright. Spencer Morse prefers stainless steel -- about 30 pounds of it.

For an upcoming production of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical comedy "Princess Ida," Spencer, 16, tapped into his lifelong fascination with metalwork to make three sets of armor and a half-dozen swords for himself and his cast members.

"I always like armor and medieval things like that," he said. "I was excited about wearing it, too, in the play. I wanted to make it look really cool.

"If I hadn't made the armor, [the play] wouldn't have been as interesting."

Spencer began learning to manipulate metal at age 11 from his father, Stephen Morse, who owns Morse Metalworks, an architectural and ornamental metal fabrication shop in Rossville.

Over the last several years, Spencer has taken on increasing amounts of responsibility in the shop. He spends several afternoons there every week helping his father complete projects such as exercise equipment at CrossFit on Main Street, metal barriers for Rock City's Fairyland Caverns and ornamental handrails.

As a result of his contributions, Spencer's mother, Amy Morse, said he now has a 20 percent stake in the business.

He has trained in a number of welding techniques with materials ranging from copper and bronze to steel and said he feels comfortable using most of the equipment in the shop under his father's supervision.

Spencer has always been fascinated by drawing and crafting but is particularly fascinated by the challenges inherent to manipulating metal.

"I like problem-solving," he said. "We always have to do a lot of figuring and when stuff doesn't work. I had to do that with this armor. We didn't have any plans, so we had to come up with our own."

Acting, however, was never high on Spencer's list of interests.

Although he landed the part of Guron, a fairly major role, Spencer said he doesn't have a love for the stage like his older sister Hannah, 18, who will play the part of the titular princess. His brother Isaac, 13, and sister Geneva, 14, also are in the cast.

Spencer said he has come to enjoy aspects of the Homeschool Players' production, but originally, his involvement was simply a way to get a drama credit while spending time with his siblings.

However, after watching a video of another troupe's performance of the musical before rehearsals began last September, Spencer said he saw an opportunity to use his love of metalwork to add authenticity to the show.

He and his father collaborated on designs for the armor, and Spencer has worked off and on for months welding, riveting and polishing three complete sets consisting of breastplates, shin and forearm guards and helmets. He has also created six swords for use in a large-scale sword fight.

"[The cast] loved it," he said. "They think it's awesome, and they're glad that we didn't have to wear plastic stuff."

"It's not really comfortable, but it looks good," he added, laughing.

Spencer's mother, who will be playing piano during the production, said she loves that he shares his father's affinity for working with metal.

In addition to providing opportunities for them to spend time together, she said, Spencer is learning a valuable skill set that could aid him in his long-term goal to work in metallurgy or welding inspection.

"There's definitely room for him to keep getting better and better, but I'm already super impressed with the skills he has under his belt," Morse said. "My hope is ... that he can give Christ glory in whatever he does."

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show." To nominate a possible subject of a future article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.