Experiments with an arrow spacer

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.

arrow spacer

Arrow spacer with 25 holes in the Museum of London

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.


Arrow bag, top view. The stitching mirrors the MoL’s example and the strings are for slinging from a waist belt.


The base is stuffed with wood shavings from some project or other to protect the bottom of the bag from the arrow points. The Canterbury arrowbag had hay for the same reason. The linen ties allow the bottom of the bag to be tied up or opened as needed.


Partially filled with arrows, with the top rolled down.


Filled with arrows and the top up and tied.

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.

Hedeby quiver erratum

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.

Hedeby quiver – part the second

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.