The Museum of London leather jerkin in close up photographs.
Thanks to the Archaeological Leather Group for pointing it out.
When we left at the end of the previous episode, we’d just started assembling the front parts and the hanging tabs. The errata found that I’d misread the German, while it was early enough to do something about it.
I think we should all view this update as a learning experience, or several. Attaching the back was the same as attaching the lower front piece. The stitches go from the skin side on the back, out the edge, through both layers of the piping, through the edge of the front and out the skin side. Repeat as desired. I found as I went that the quiver tightened on the wooden core. Wrapping the core in unwaxed kitchen paper provided a low-friction layer and stopped the leather from getting stuck.
So on to our first disaster. It’s 35 degrees C inside, I’m sweating like the proverbial and I’m stitching with steel needles, pulling them through the leather layers with a pair of 19th century steel lasting pliers and my stupidly salty sweat starts pulling iron ions from the tools and transferring them to the leather, where they react to form perfect, black stained ferric tannate fingerprints.
The wisdom of the Internet suggested juice from a lemon as a good way of removing the stains, and the results were even better than advertised.
For the last half inch (or metric half-inch, if you prefer), I decreased the height of the piping until it was flat with the seam at the top. This makes fitting the collar piece a little easier.
All the seams were dampened, and given a bit of a push or prod until I was satisfied with the way they sat.
I hit this with three good coats of dye and while that dried, made the mould for the collar.
The mould was just a plank of radiata pine with the appropriate bits carved out and a ridge added to the the narrow bit near the top.
The red stuff is car putty, I had a few problems with tear-outs. Case the leather, lay it over the design, clamp in place and work through from the back with a bone or wooden folder.
I’ve used this technique on costrels before. When the leather is dry, peel it off.
Cut off the spare bits, leaving enough to fold up along the bottom edge. The original has this edge folded and stitched. You may need to skive the edge, depending on how thick the leather is. Fold, stitch, do the back seam and put a roll of leather in the top ring. It comes out looking like this:
The narrow bit needs a little work, I had to rewet it and gently work it into shape.
Dye this bit next…
and discover that this piece of leather won’t take darker brown dye. I tried water-, spirit-, and oil-based dyes and none of the worked. I had to hurriedly make a new one from some different leather.
I think this one is better, anyway. It took the dye properly and I was able to do the seam that holds it all together. Just the hanging straps to go now.
I’m not sure how I missed this one, regular viewers will remember back in 2009, I posted a gallery of leatherwork from the Museum of London. One of the odd inclusions was a 15th century leather arrow spacer. Here it is again for those who missed it the first time.
There are similar spacers in the Mary Rose museum, roughly contemporary with this one. The Mary Rose spacers have 24 round holes and a slightly smaller (110-130mm diameter) but are otherwise similar. The small holes left by the stitching can be seen, the holes go from the skin side and come out the edge. This disc also has two small holes for carrying. The theory is that the disc was sewn inside a fabric or leather bag to protect the arrows that were put in it, the bag helping to stop the arrows going through far enough to rest on the fletching.
What was probably one of these bags with a leather top and straps was found on the Mary Rose, find 81A0116. Taking the dimensions from that one and adding the triangular cut-outs from the MoL example, we made and tested an arrowbag.
My arrows are 30 inches in the old measure, the arrow bag functions well at this length. One thing we found was that the small triangles allowed the use of small swept broadheads of the Jessop type M4/ MoL catalogue type 16 and of the wider Tudor bodkins that won’tt work with plain circular holes that are just a bit bigger than the arrow shafts.
In what should probably come as a surprise to nobody, I made an error in my translation of the original German report. The carrying lugs attach “…at about one-third of the height… (…auf etwa einem Drittel der Höhe…)”. I’d taken that as the full height of the quiver and put them at 20cm/8″ down. They should be at one-third of the height of that front panel at 16cm/6.3″ from the top.
I’ll correct the first post when I get a chance.
Sorry about the delay between updates. That’s my workshop, right in the middle of the purple bit to the west of Sydney. We took the thermometer out there in the last heatwave and it got to 57°.
It’s been like this since December, we get 3-5 hot days followed by two relatively cooler days in the low 30s. Rinse, repeat, rinse a couple more times.
Progress has been slow, because the embossed and moulded parts need me in the workshop making the moulds. Here’s the progress so far.
Transfer the patterns to the leather and cut out the shapes. The triangular bit of waste at the bottom right is used to make one layer of the suspension lugs. The stringy bits will get used too.
Mould the bottom bits. This is the front, it took about 20 minutes to get it to shape, I just used hand pressure to hold the leather in place while it set. The embossing (copied from the original) helped it sit the way it was supposed to.
The back comes further around to the front. Another 20 minutes in stupid heat with hand pressure. I used my thumbs to work out any small ripples in the surface. The front piece is drying in the background.
The account in Die Lederfunde Von Haithabu shows narrow folded bits of calf-skin and suggests that they may have been used to edge the larger pieces. I’m going with 1mm calf-skin and using 3mm diameter cotton piping cord inside to help give it shape. While there’s no trace of fibre inside the folded fragments on the originals, there is leather filling the top roll. It’s what I would have done had I been making the original. Dipping the ends of the cord in beeswax stops them fraying.
To help hold everything together and avoid puckering or bagging, I used basting stitches to hold the piping in place before attaching the multiple layers together. In this case, on the lower front piece.
The mounting lugs are made from two layers, with a moulded ridge so they sit further back on the hip than would otherwise be the case.
The front is complete, I’m about to attach the suspension and then attach the back. Basting stitches again hold the piping in place until I can get the parts all stitched together.
I’m now a bit further along than shown in the picture, but I haven’t yet got to the point of splashing dye around. I’ll do another update when I get there.
I’ll assume everyone’s done the homework and read the Leatherwork from Hedeby post. If not, nip back and have a quick read. Check out the first couple of comments between Steve and me as well. I’ll wait…
This post is the first of a series about making my interpretation of a Hedeby quiver. It’s a combination of plates 22 and 25-27, trying to make sure all the pieces look at least vaguely like the ones found, knowing that there are two (or more) quivers in all the bits and in theory, paying attention to the presence or absence of thread marks on the leather.
This first part will be about making a last and the patterns for cutting the leather.
Here’s a dimensioned version of the reconstruction a. from figure 22.
Dimensions and the location of the side seam and heights of the suspension lugs are from the text on pp 36-7. The teardrop shaped piece from figure 27. 2a or b isn’t shown, I’ll get to it in a while. I had a theory and hoped it would fall into place during the pattern making.
There was a week’s delay waiting for the workshop to be below 40°C during the times of day that I could make noise. We finally had a couple of cool days and I turned up a last the same shape and size as the interior of the quiver. The taper isn’t quite as steep as the proposed one in figure 22 because I’m not convinced that it would fit very many arrows if made as as shown. The wooden last was covered with a layer of kitchen film and a couple of layers of masking tape.
The next step was to mark out the individual pieces. The back piece is a bit more than 1⁄2 the width of the whole, and if the teardrop went where I thought, the front piece was about 9cm wide when measured about 4.5cm up from the point.
An arbitrary line was drawn from the point to the end. I’m using the grout lines in the floor to stop the last rolling, and the flat bit of pine as a sledge for the pen. Measure up 4.5cm from the pointy end, measure 9cm across and mark for the second line. I then rolled the last on the floor until pen point on top of the bit of 19mm pine hit the right spot.
Measure 35cm up from the point and draw two lines to the sides, ending about 4cm from the point. If you do it correctly, the straight lines will form tangents to the arc and you’ll end up with a fairly perfect teardrop shape.
L to R: back, lower front, front, last. Not shown, top band, piping, suspension lugs. I’ll cover the top band in its own part, and just wing the piping and lugs as I go.
There’s some bulging in the back and lower front, but there’ll be enough stretch in the leather to accommodate them. The thing I like about this design is that the arrow heads only contact the lower front part. This is held in with edge-flesh stitches, making it an easy piece to replace without having to dismantle the rest of the quiver.
In the next part: cutting, sewing, fitting and dyeing.
I had a great idea, but not one so great that my foot fell off. Why not make a copy of the bracer in the British Museum?, I thought. It will be easy, I thought. I have the report with a nice clear drawing.
It looks fine, right up to the point where you compare it with the photograph of the real thing…
When you try to use the published drawing, you find out there’s all these little fiddles like changing the size of the spots to make it work. The height of the decorated panel is okay but the two narrow ones above it are compressed. The lettering is all over the place as well and the sides of each panel don’t line up with each other in the same way they do on the original. Oh well, I’ll have to redraw it for the next one. The photo also shows how the gilding runs.
The process is simple enough. Transfer your design to the leather – because this one is to be gilt and painted, I just used plain old office carbon paper.
Straight off one of the problems becomes apparent. The pockles on the right have considerably more room than those on the left. I cut the outlines with a small straight blade as we’re predating swivel knives by several hundred years.
Empockelate appropriately with a 1.6mm nail punch, using kitchen utensils and home made punches as appropriate. Punch the holes for the strap, realising that they are too close to the edges and are the reason all the other holes were put in later for thong. Also realise that one hole in the drawing is too far to the right when compared to the other three. I tried swearing at this point, but it didn’t move the hole, so you can skip that if you like.
Enstrap and buckle. I either have to get faster at buckle making or give it up and buy them, I spend far too much time making the wretched things. I’ve gone with a copper alloy double oval loop buckle with moulded pin rests, making it date to between 1550 and 1650. [Whitehead, R., Buckles 1250-1800, Greenlight Publishing, Chelmsford 1996]
Paint. The BM says some trace of pigment remains, having contacted them, it’s just a possible hint of red on the letters but they couldn’t tell me what the pigment was and if it was colour or bole (primer for the gilding). I’m going with colour, mainly from an ostentation point of view. Minium (red lead) substitute, rather than iron red in this case because it will be the same as on the rose. I also think the gilding is shell gold rather than leaf due to the way it sits down into the background rings and the narrow strips along the top and back would just be way too fiddly. There’s no evidence of the use of size under the gold in this case, either.
I’m doing a Tudor rose, contemporary with the text, rather than a Yorkist white rose to match the tradition. It’s slipped and crowned (which may make it as late as Henry VIII or even Elizabeth) which didn’t happen with York white roses and I’m doing brown and ochre oak leaves and acorns, just because.
Yeah, it’s acrylic paint. Yes, I know I’ll have to apologise to Jesus, but I’ve been lead to understand that he’s fairly forgiving.
So I think I’ve finished it, it’s gone well as a fair copy of the reported illustration but I’m largely unsatisfied with it. I’ll have to have another go later.
While we’re on the subject, I need to vent a bit. The report begins on p208 of the Antiquities Journal with the sentence, “THE archer’s bracer illustrated in the fig. on p. 209 is of cuir bouilli, …” The BM repeat the assertion in their online catalogue.
I’m not sure what the fascination of antiquaries/archaeologists of this period is with cuir bouilli, they see it everywhere. Cuir bouilli, as the name implies, is a heat curing process that by its nature precludes tooling of the finished article. If you’re after more information on the subject, have a look at Marc Carlson’s Hardened Leather which also has some experiments on different methods.