Hedeby Quiver – the finish

 

This part is really just a quick finish and review of the success or otherwise of the project.

First the hanging straps – we know they are folded leather, sewn with a saddle stitch along one edge. One end loops through the tab on the side and is stitched to itself. Interestingly, I quickly found that the top extension of the tab keeps the hanging strap sitting at the correct angle.

At the top end, we don’t know. We’re missing that bit. It could have been some sort of hook or escutcheon like these from Birka or just about anything. I’ve gone with the safe option and just repeated the loop from the other end of the strap. I don’t know what the width of the belt is that my client will be using, just that he wants the top of the quiver to sit at waist height.

Here’s how it looks:

I’ve borrowed my son’s 28″ arrows for the test, my 32″ monsters are a bit long for this period and type of quiver. There is a little wadded woolen fabric in the bottom to stop the heads marking the leather. I think it helps keep all the arrows at the same height, which is what I prefer. Without it the arrows in the centre would sit lower than the ones around the edge.

Now take a quick look back at the Leatherwork from Hedeby post. Having made this one, I’m fairly confident the finds at Hedeby represent two different, but similar quivers. I’ve think I’ve managed to match the shapes and angles of all the pieces, and in all but the outer seams on the carrying tabs, I’ve been able to match the thread impressions, or lack thereof on all pieces. I think there’s a fair chance the carrying tabs had a thin leather wrap around the edges as the originals had stitch holes but no thread impressions.

Here endeth the build. If you are interested, follow my attempt at a quiver from Nydam Mose on my other blog.

 

 

Too good to not share…

The Museum of London leather jerkin in close up photographs.

Thanks to the Archaeological Leather Group for pointing it out.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I’ve used this technique on costrels before. When the leather is dry, peel it off.

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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:

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The narrow bit needs a little work, I had to rewet it and gently work it into shape.

Dye this bit next…

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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.

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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 – 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°.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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DieDye.

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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]

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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.

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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.

To make straps another way

I keep meaning to do a post about the way I do the “Y” shaped straps on things. Rather than cutting the finished shape and wasting a big triangular piece of leather, I cut a strap twice the finished width, split it for the desired length and then wet the leather and stretch it to shape.

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The approximate pattern on the hide. Sorry, I had meant to take a photo of the leather marked up but got carried away…

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Wet at least the intersection, stretch the arms to the correct angle and work any bulges or wrinkles out with your thumbs. Let it dry.

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Trim and skive to taste. I’ll be using these later.

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.

Buckles

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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