Hedeby Quiver – part the third

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.


After. And there was much rejoicing.

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.


Finished main part of the quiver. The kitchen paper is visible, it made it much easier to get the wooden core out.

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.



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.

Another brilliant idea

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.


Dalton, Antiquities Journal, Volume 2, 1922 p209

It looks fine, right up to the point where you compare it with the photograph of the real thing…


Bracer in the british Museum. My photo. That is an awful lot of gold.

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]


Painted bracer, it’s still a work in progress, I’ve since changed the colour of the crown.

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.


The painting on the other side is restricted to just lining.

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.

Leatherwork from Hedeby

I’ve picked up a commission to make a Hedeby quiver. First step is to have a go at translating the relevant chapter of the standard reference, Willy Groenman van Waateringe’s Die Lederfunde Von Haithabu into English. I sent it off to a friend who was working with a group of German-literate people for the first cut. What came back was great, but it was obvious the people were neither archers nor leatherworkers. I think I’ve tidied it up to the point where it’s as coherent in English as I ever get. There will still be errors, so if you see any, I’d appreciate if you let me know.

Original text is in blockquotes, English below each section and I’ll keep my comments in something obvious. We’re starting on page 37, although there is a little relevant information from earlier pages that I’ll interpolate as we go.

4.4 Pfeilköcher (Abb 22; Taf. 25-27)

Die folgenden sieben Lederfragmente gehören zu mindestens zwei verschiedenen Gegenständen.

4.4 Arrow quiver (Illus. 22; Plate. 25-27)

The following seven leather fragments belong to at least two different objects.

1. Unregelmäßiges, längliches Lederstück, (46) x (27) cm; an einer Stelle Nahtlöcher, keine Zwirnabdrücke, eingedrückte Verzierung; entlang einer Naht unmittelbar an einer ausgefransten Schmalseite ein annahernd dreieckiger Fortsatz, Basis 11cm, Höhe 4 cm, am Rand Nahtlöcher, darin eine ovale Öffnung (3 x 1,5 cm), durch die ein der Länge nach doppelt gefaltetes Lederband zusammenge wird; Fragment eines zweiten, dreieckigen Teiles mit einer Öffnung, das ursprünglich auf diese aufgenaht war (Taf. 25. 1-2).

1. Irregular, elongated piece of leather, (46 x 27 cm); along one edge are stitch holes but no thread marks on the surface, embossed embellishment; an approximately triangular extension, base 11cm, height 4 cm is attached. At the edge of the attachment are stitch holes, in it an oval hole (3 x 1.5 cm), through which a lengthwise folded leather strap passes; Fragment of a second, triangular portion with a similar hole, (Plate 25. 1-2).

2. Drei aneinander und aufeinander passende Fragmente, die zusammengefügt einen an einer Schmalseite runden und an der anderen Schmalseite annähernd zickzackförmigen Genstand ergeben, 45 x 20.5 cm, an allen Seiten Nahtlöcher, nur am oberen Rand Zwirnabdrücke an der Narbenseite, eingedrückte Verzierung; etwa 13 cm unterhalb des oberen Randes, auf etwa einem Drittel der Höhe, links und rechts zwei annähernd dreieckige Fortsätze (11 x 4.5 cm mitm; 10 x 6 cm), entlang dem Rand Nahtlöcher, eine ovale Öffnung, (etwa 2 x 1.5 cm Taf. 26. 1 a, c-d).

2. Three matching fragments that are joined together with a folded edge on the outer side and a damaged edge on the other, 45 x 20.5 cm, stitch holes on all sides, on the upper edge there are thread imprints on the grain side. An embossed decoration is about 13 cm below the upper edge and at about one-third of the height, are two roughly triangular attachments (11x 4.5 cm; 10 x 6 cm) on the left and right with seam holes along the edge and an oval opening, (about 2 x 1.5 cm Plate 26. 1 a, c-d)

3. Dreieckiges Lederstück, 10.5 x 4 cm; an beiden Seiten, nicht jedoch an der Basis Nahtlöcher; fast quadratische Öffnung, 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 cm (Taf. 26. 1 b)

3. Triangular piece of leather, 10.5 x 4 cm; stitch holes on both sides, but not at the base; almost square opening, 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 cm (Plate 26. 1 b)

4. Stumpf kegelförmiges Stück Kalbs-/Rindsleder, Durchmesser der oberen Öffnung rund 9 cm, Höhe 16.5 cm; der obere Rand zur umgeschlagenen Randstück eine Verstärkung aus einem dicken Lederstück; Radialnähte vom Typ 1 b, Zwirnabdrücke an der Narbenseite; im unteren Rand bogenförmige Öffnungen mit Nahtlöchern, eingedrückte Verzierung in Form eines Kreuzes (Taf. 27 1 a-c).

4. Truncated cone-shaped piece of calf / cow leather, diameter of the upper opening approximately 9 cm, height 16.5 cm; the upper edge of the folded-over edge piece covers a reinforcement of a thick piece of leather; Radial seams of type 1 b [single needle saddle stitch], thread marks on the grain side; in the bottom arched openings with stitching holes, embossed ornament in the form of a cross (Pl. 27 1 a-c).

5. Kreuzförmiges Lederstück, Länge der Kreuzbalken 9.5 cm und 8.5 cm; der Form nach identisch mit der Verzierung auf Fragment 4 (Taf. 25.4).

5. Cruciform leather piece, length of the cross beam 9.5 cm and 8.5 cm; in form identical to the ornament on fragment 4 (Pl. 25.4)

6. Zwei längliche, an einer Seite spitz zulaufende Lederstücke, 39 x 2-9.5 cm und (34.5) x 5.5-9 cm; die andere Schmalseite gerundet, an allen Seiten Nahtlöcher, keine Zwimabdrücke; eingedrückte Fischgrätverzierungen (Taf. 27. 2 a-b).

6. Two elongated pieces of leather, tapering on one side, 39 x 2-9.5 cm and (34.5) x 5.5-9 cm; the other narrow side rounded, on every side stitch holes, no thread imprints; Embossed herringbone decoration. (Pl. 27 2.a-b)

[Page 38]


Abb. 22 Pfeilköcher. 1 Rekonstruktion. 2. Darstellung auf dem Teppich von Bayeux (nach Stenton 1965).

Fig. 22 Quiver. 1 reconstruction. 2. Presentation on the Bayeux Tapestry (after Stenton 1965).

7. Sechs Fragmente von Randeinfassungen; der Form nach gehört die runde Einfassung (Taf. 26.2) sicher zu einem der unter 6. Beschriebenen Fragmente, die übrigen stammen möglicherweise su den unter 1.-2. beschriebenen Lederstücken.

7. Six fragments of edging; the circular rim (Pl. 26.2) belongs with one of the 6 outlined fragments, the others may have been below the other 1-2 leather pieces described.

Die Fragmente 1-5 werden hier als Teile von mindestens zwei Pfeilköchern interpretiert (Abbt. 22. 1). Grundlage dieser Ansicht bilden die Darstellungen von Pfeilköchern auf dem Teppich von Bayeux (Stenton 1965, Taf. 61-61; 70; X), auf denen deutlich zu erkennen ist, daß die Pfeilköcher der Bogenschützen einen verdickten oberen Rand aufweisen, ihre Seiten parallel geführt, das untere Ende gerundet und die Köcher selbst zumeist am Gürtel befestigt sind (Abb. 22.2).

The fragments 1-5 are interpreted here as parts of at least two quivers (Fig. 22. 1). This view is based on the depiction of arrow quivers on the Bayeux Tapestry (Stenton, 1965, plates 61-61, 70, X), which clearly show that the quivers of the archers have a thickened upper edge, the lower end rounded, and the quiver itself attached to the belt (Fig. 22.2).


Plates 25, 26 and 27, quivers from Hedeby

Da die Fragmente 1 und 2 unterschiedliche Länge besitzen, müssen sie von zwei verschiedenen Exemplaren stammen. Die Gesamtlänge der Köcher betrug, falls Fragment 4 als oberes Randstück auf Fragment 1 oder 2 aufgesetzt war, mindestens 62 cm. Das stimmt gut mit der Länge der Köcher auf dem Teppich von Bayeux überein, die einem erwachsenen Mann von der Hüfte bis kurz unter das Knie reichen. Aus den Nahtspuren am unteren Rand von Fragment 4 ist die Art der Befestigung auf Fragment 1 oder 2 nicht deutlich rekonstruierbar. Diese Spuren passen auch nicht zu der Naht.

[Page 39 is missing from my copy]

[Page 40]

Beschrieben wird (Richardson 1961, Abb 19.24; S. 85): “Triangular appendage made of leather straps broken off below a rigid tubular thong with knobbed ends threaded through the straps to keep them spread out. The two outer straps are also threaded with thongs, one of which passes through the apex. Perhaps used for suspending a dagger or purse from the belt.” Es gibt aber, u. a. aus dem Dublin des 12. Und 13. Jahrhunderts auch Stücke, die hochmittelalterlich datiert werden (Katalog Dublin 1976, S. 43, Nr 188): “Leather object of unknown function. Oval with semicylindrical projection at each narrow end. Longitudinal slashing as ornament. Late 12th century. High street. Length 9.5 cm.” Ein vergleichbares Stück wurde 1974 bei den Ausgrabungen am Woodquay geborgen.[15] In Southampton ist ein solches Lederstück als “shoe tongue, slashed and pierced at either end for attachment” (Platt und Coleman-Smith 1975, S. 301) angesprochen worden. Die Datierung bewegt sich vermutlich im 16. Jahrhundert. Ähnliche Stücke sind darüber hinaus im spätmittelalterlichen Ledermaterial aus Holand vertreten.

Since the fragments 1 and 2 have different lengths, they must be from two different items. The total length of the quiver if fragment 4 was placed as the upper edge on fragment 1 or 2, will be at least 62 cm. This agrees with the length of the quivers shown on the Bayeux Tapestry, which reach from the waist to below the knee on an adult male. From the seam marks on the lower edge of fragment 4, the type of attachment to fragment 1 or 2 cannot be clearly reconstructed. These stitch holes also do not match the seam described (Richardson 1961, Figure 19.24; p.85): “Triangular appendage made of leather straps broken off below a rigid tubular thong with knobbed ends threaded through the straps to keep them spread out. The two outer straps are also threaded with thongs, one of which passes through the apex. Perhaps used for suspending a dagger or purse from the belt.” But there are, however, other finds from Dublin of the 12th and 13th centuries, also pieces that are dated high medieval (catalogue Dublin 1976, p 43, No. 188): “Leather object of unknown function. Oval with semi-cylindrical projection at each narrow end. Longitudinal slashing as ornament. Late 12th century. High street. Length 9.5 cm.” A similar piece was found in 1974 during excavations at Woodquay. [15] In Southampton such a piece of leather has been referred to as “shoe tongue, slashed and pierced at either end for attachment” (Platt and Coleman-Smith 1975, p.301). The dating is probably in the 16th century. Similar pieces are also represented in the late medieval leather material from Holland.

Anyone who knows me will already know that I disagree with the reconstruction shown in figure 22.1.

I’ve had a look around at what other people have done, and everyone seems to be using garment leathers to copy the appearance of the fragments after  1000 years is wet ground. As a consequence, no one has done the moulding on the top piece. I’ll be using vegetable tanned calf and cow leather so should be able to do those parts easily.

Thanks to Lissy O’Brien and her team of talented people. I owe you a beer and/or lunch.


Willy Groenman van Waateringe, Die Lederfunde Von Haithabu (K. Wachholtz, 1984) in Volume 21 of Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu, ISSN 0525-5791

Finished Archer’s Bracers

This post is a follow up to Archer’s Bracers and Wooden Stamps (again) of the year before last. It’s mostly me showing off, with some self-justification to explain the decisions I made about dye colours and buckles. I started writing this post in September 2014, so forgive me if things seem a little outdated.

I’m quoting from Gervase Markham’s The Art of Archerie (1634) here, mainly for my own convenience because I can cut and paste from the ebook. Markham was a publisher and like his peers, made his money from the sheer number of different titles he sold rather than the more modern approach of having fewer stronger selling titles. Accuracy, readability, veracity and respecting ownership of intellectual property were not his strong points. In this case, he’s written a new dedicatory epistle to the king, a new first chapter (A general encomion or praise of shooting both in peace and war) and then basically plagiarized the second book of Ascham’s Toxophilus when he thought everyone had stopped reading. He has modernised Ascham’s language somewhat and added the occasional paragraph of his own.

…the bracer serves for two purposes, the one to save the arm from the stripe of the string, and his doublet from wearing; and the other, that the string gliding sharply and quickly of the bracer may make the sharper shot, for if the string should light upon the bare sleeve, the strength of the shot would stop and die there…

This next bit seems to be Markham’s own work and reflects mid-17th century practice rather than 16th c, Ascham is silent on the appropriate types of leather.

The bracers are made for the most part of Spanish leather, the smooth side outward, and they be the best, sometimes of Spanish leather and the flesh side outward, and they are both good and tolerable, and others are made of hard, stiff but smooth bend leather, and they be the worst and most dangerous, and thus much is spoken of the bracer.

When looking at the Mary Rose bracers, all are skin side outwards and only a couple are candidates for being of Spanish leather. I’ve used harness butt for all mine, it’s thick, flexible and takes stamping well. Most of the Mary Rose bracers are rectangular or octagonal, with a couple having curves on the long sides. I made a couple of each design, patterns were just the drawings from the MR book blown up to life size on a photocopier. Cut out the leather, case it and decorate with the stamps you made two years ago. Attack with the back of the butter knife if your design needs it. You may have done that two years ago as well…

Buckle, strap and pattern

Buckle and strap

Cut the straps to the correct width to fit the actual or hypothetical buckle and punch the holes for the rivets and mounting the buckle. I used a thin 1.5mm carving leather for the straps on the commercial buckles and a 3mm on the ones I’d made. “Y” shaped straps can be made by splitting a straight strap for part of its length, dampening the branching area and then stretching and squeezing to shape.

Dye the bits as required with your choice of leather dye. I used red on a couple to represent Spanish leather (the red colour came from a step in the tanning process), the majority are black or brown.


Mild steel buckles

My bracer has a forged buckle, but to show what you can do at home, I made these from a piece of 1.6mm sheet mild steel I’d picked up from the local hardware. The shapes are entirely hypothetical because none of the Mary Rose bracer buckles have survived. The holes have been drilled and then opened up with files. On some of the square ones, I stitch drilled and then cut the webs with a cold chisel. Decoration is with sharp or blunt cold chisels and a centre punch. The buckle tongues are horseshoe nails with the heads cut off and then bent to an appropriate shape. Don’t forget to clean and debur the front and back.

The finish is a simple heat blue, a stable oxide of iron. I use a similar process to this, either using a propane torch or gas ring depending on what the gas bottle is connected to, but finish with a spray oil rather than a dip. Just do it outside and don’t breathe the fumes. You can blue in your oven if it can heat to 290°C/550°F.

Assemble all the bits using copper harness rivets (the impressions in the leather match the Mary Rose examples) and wax or seal to taste.

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In which I make Helmut a scabbard and baldric

This post has been in preparation since late 2014. Case and tense is all over the place and my brayne is too addled to straighten it out. I’ve added dates to each section, so you can get a feel for the creative process. Now read on…

My friend Helmut is a musketeer, he wears a black floppy hat and carries a musket that according to legend, weighs 30 pounds. He owns a Spanish cup-hilt rapier that he won from a Spanish soldier in a game of La puta madre during the 30-Years War. Unfortunately, the scabbard and baldric* also date from the 30-Years War and are starting to show it. In this post I’ll demonstrate the process for making and decorating a rapier scabbard, I’ll loosely base the decoration on the Mary Rose one (if anyone challenges me, I’ll hide behind Margaret Rule’s observation that if the Mary Rose hadn’t been so securely dated, all the artefacts would have been dated 100-years later). There’s a joint on the still shawm that wasn’t even invented until the clever French people did it in the mid eighteenth century.

Mary Rose rapier scabbard (my photo). I’m using the impressions to tell me what tools to use in my design. I’m taking the frame and mouth decoration more or less directly, everything else is freestyle using the same tools that I would have used if I was creating this scabbard.

It should be noted that I hold Helmut personally responsible for my dreadful obsession with the work of Mr Mindum, which I sometimes inflict on you poor people. This will become relevant later.

* A rapier is a gentleman’s blade and normally worn from from a highly decorated waist-belt rather than a baldric. For the purpose of the exercise we’re assuming Helmut lost the round the belt was played for and had to get a baldric made by a local leatherworker that didn’t know the difference.

Step 1: Procrastinate (September 2015-March 2015)

I’ve had this since September, it’s now March and I haven’t started on the leather. To be fair, I’ve cleaned the sword and removed the burrs and the worst of the chips from the blade, repaired the grip, straightened the cross and reblued the hilt.

Step 2: Make the patterns (January 2015)

I like to make a copy of the sword blade in hardwood so I can wrap it in wet leather without worrying about rusting anything.  It gives a firm surface for tooling, draws some moisture out of the leather and gives nice, crisp edges. Functionally, it’s similar to a last for shoe making. It can be made a little larger than the sword, so you don’t get problems with the finished scabbard being too tight. Don’t forget to add extra timber to allow for any ears on the hilt that might need to be covered by the scabbard. You’ll also need extra length so the chape can be riveted on without leaving the sword sticking an inch or so embarrassingly out of the scabbard. I know others are happy with just wrapping the blade in plastic, and/or gaff tape. Do whatever works for you.

Step 3: Procrastinate more (January – July 2015)

Yeah, I made the patterns back in January, just needed to fix the shape of the point a bit. Two months later…

Step 4: Oh crap! (July – August 2015)

Realise that arrow order is due in one month, not two…

Twelve arrows later. It’s now April July…

Step 5: Finish the pattern (August 9, 2:10-2:13pm)

It took nearly 3 minutes to finish.

Step 6: Mould (August 9, 2:17pm – August 28)

Cut the leather, wet it and clamp it around the pattern. Once it’s dry, remove the clamps, cut to shape and do the two raised bits around the scabbard mouth. I have a bit of hardwood with a “U”-shaped groove about 6mm wide for this sort of work in leather or brass. Flatten the scabbard out again, wet the leather, put it skin side down on the grooved block and hammer a brazing rod in from the flesh side.

Moulding the leather on the wooden pattern, I'm using a couple of lengths of  primed timber to clamp the seam.

Moulding the leather on the wooden pattern, I’m using a couple of lengths of primed timber to clamp the seam.

Step 7: Stitch (August 29 – September 6 while watching the telly)
Make the awl holes and stitch. I’m using edge/flesh stitches to get a flat seam, other seams may be appropriate according to your period and type.

Stitch the back seam, you can see the pattern poking out the top end. I've wrapped it in plastic film so it doesn't swell when wet.

Stitch the back seam, you can see the pattern poking out the top end. I’ve wrapped it in plastic film so it doesn’t swell when wet.

Step 8: Decorate (September 7)
The decoration is informed by the Mary Rose rapier scabbard, a stack of 17th C knife scabbards in the MoL and other places and 17th C furniture and embroidery designs. I quickly carved a new stamp in the end grain of a bit of broom handle. It took 30 minutes and involved curved chisels, a scriber and a short length of 4mm diameter copper tube. It’s a nod towards the two flowers on Mindum’s Jayne Ayres shoehorn of 1593 and a reference to Helmut’s influence with my obsession interest. I’ve covered stamp making before so won’t go into detail here.

The smaller flower is a commercial stamp from the leather store, the small circles are a 1.6mm ∅ nail punch from the hardware and the rest is done with the back of the butter knife (you knew that bit already, didn’t you?). If the leather has been cased properly, the smaller stamps can be done using hand pressure alone. I’m using the wooden pattern to provide support while I’m leaning on the punches and embossing with the butter knife. The bigger stamp was smote with a mallet, with the wooden pattern in place and the whole assembly resting on a block of softwood.

Decorate to taste. Tools include hand made and commercial stamps, a nail punch and the back of a butter knife. The bone and squirty bottle are for flattening the back seam.

Decorate to taste. Tools include hand made and commercial stamps, a nail punch and the back of a butter knife. The bone and squirty bottle are for flattening the back seam.

Step 9: Embalderise (September 10, 2015)

Cut the straps for the baldric. There will be a lot of decorative stitching on the front where it meets the scabbard. Hold off until after the dying’s done.

Straps and hangers.

Straps and hangers.

The stitched but undyed baldrick.

The stitched but undyed baldrick. I lied about dying first.

Step 10: Dye

Colour and method to taste. The baldric is saddle tan with black outside the line where the decorative stitching is going to be. This should help the idea that the scabbard and baldric were made by different people. On the scabbard I used a tan base and overdyed red with the new “safer” water-based dyes. It’s supposed to be colourfast and waterproof when set.

Step 11: Final assembly

Stitch the baldric together, do the decorative stitching.  This next bit is straight from the MR scabbard – split the wooden form lengthwise and hollow out space for the blade. Glue it in with barley paste, hide glue or PVA, whatever you are comfortable with and can self-justify.

Scabbard with wooden insert.

Scabbard with wooden insert.

Step 12: Wax to finish

A nice solid coat of beeswax and put it outside in the sun to soak in.

Step 13: Helmut tries it out – and it rains

I made an early delivery to Helmut so he could test it and see if there’s any changes or adjustments to be done. The chape is still on the to-do list for later. Helmut used it at the St Ives Medieval Faire. Oh Noes! Disaster! The red dye washed out in the rain, leaving it all spotty where the drops splashed…

Scabbard (sans chape) in the pre-deluge colour and finished baldrick.

Scabbard (sans chape) in the pre-deluge colour and finished baldrick.

Step 14: Repeat steps 10-12 (May-July 2016)

… strip the red dye with hot water and re-dye using red Raven Oil. Let’s see that run!

Step 15: Make and fit the chape (18 July 2016)

This was always going to be the final step after the St Ives test to see if there was any fettling required. Fold a chape from sheet brass, decorate and polish. In the final fitting the chape split along the line of the decoration. I’m beginning to think this scabbard is cursed.

Step 16: Make and fit the chape again (19 July 2016)

Absolutely, finally, completely finished scabbard.

Absolutely, finally, completely finished scabbard.

Step 17: Hand to Helmut and back away slowly (21 July 2016)

… or so I thought. Helmut wasn’t there at the drill, so I’ll take it or send it along to the next event.

Elapsed time: 1 year 277 days, 19h, 11m.
Actual Working time: 14h 8m