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.

 

 

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.

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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Tudor thread bobbins

I’m afraid this is another one of those posts where I show off while pretending that it’s really all to do with Tudor leather work. It was my turn on the lathe last Sunday afternoon, so I whipped up some copies of bobbins from the Mary Rose out of an off-cut piece of silky oak that was destined for the bin.

Mary Rose bobbins

One’s pretty much a copy of 81A1433, complete with hollow inside for storing needles, the other is similar but solid due to a borer hole that comes out the side.

Mary Rose bobbins

These are for my Stuart period leather worker’s tool box. See – it was relevant after all! As well as storing thread, the bobins can be used to maintain a tension on a thread when doing things like whipping rope.

They are just slightly under diameter because of the size of the timber I was using. 81A1433 apparently has some traces of paint so of course, I couldn’t control myself. The paint is artist’s oils because I wasn’t confident that ground pigment wouldn’t come off on the thread. Pigments are all ones in common use and the arrangement of colour is from seventeenth century painted furniture.

Mary Rose bobbins

Post script: even commercially prepared oil paints don’t stop lamp black from rubbing off over everything. Maybe I should use and iron or ivory black next time. I ended up putting a thin coat of varnish over the black to seal it and then waxed.

After the rain…

That didn’t take long! The situation I was trying to simulate is one where the painted leather is kept wet for a period of time. I had this happen at Easter 2009 where we hosted a 17th century tavern that ran for four days. By the end, all the leather drinkware was soaked and the paint was just starting to bleed.

After the rain
As before, oil at the top, then gouache, then acrylic. Modern dye to the left, iron black to the right

I must admit, early Summer rain in Sydney is somewhat akin to being shot-blasted, but it has accelerated the testing nicely. The oil on modern dye, which had already started to chip, suffered quite badly from this treatment. The gouache on iron black mostly washed off, on the modern dye it stood up a little better and could have been rescued by bring it in earlier and gently drying it. As you would expect, the acrylics are largely unaffected, as is the oil paint on iron black.

Remember, all samples are from the same piece of hide, and all have a coat of varnish and a heavy coat of beeswax over the paint.

Once they’ve dried out, I’ll simulate washing up.

Remember these?

Paint tests 2
From top down, oil paint, gouache, acrylic, left samples are modern dyes, right are iron black.

I’ve had the samples sitting for about six months, just to make sure the paints were really dry. They were dusted off and given a light coat of beeswax to finish sealing them, as I do with the painted drinkware. So far, they’ve had an easy life.

As expected, the acrylic stuck to both samples. What I wasn’t ready for was the way the oil paint seemed to be just sitting on the surface on the modern dyed piece. It smudged when I hit it with the wax. The gouache is having some problems the other way around. In that case, the modern one is fine but the iron black sample seems to have thinned the coating somehow. Possibly it’s reacting with the paint.

I’ll keep on with the tests as planned. Tomorrow might be a good time to leave them out in the rain.

The (An?) Oxford Joiner’s Jack

Some time back I wrote about the dodgy habit dating of jacks based on painted decoration and used the Oxford Jointer’s Jack from Baker as an example of what looked to be a seventeenth century jack that had been given an 18th century date, due to a later painted design. I had a chance to see the jack while on a recent trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and having seen it in the flesh, am even more convinced that it is a mid-17th century jack.

Oxford Jointers' Jack, Ashmolean Museum

While the painted decoration is dated 1712, stylistically this large jack appears to date from the mid-part of the 17th century. The silver bands at the mouth and foot are painted imitations probably contemporary  with the paint. Sorry about the reflections in the glass, I wasn’t able to get around them.

Oxford Jointers' Jack, Ashmolean Museum

There are four layers in the handle, the embossed double lines around the spout are a characteristic of jacks of the period 1635-1650.

Oxford Jointers' Jack, Ashmolean Museum

Interestingly, this view shows three lines of stitching in the handle, rather than the more usual two.

There’s another problem. Either Baker’s painting is based on a fanciful interpretation of a possibly written account, or we were looking at two different jacks. The arms on this one are the same but much rougher and on an oval shield, the date 1712 is in the same position and appears to have been done by the same hand, all the other text is missing and the foliage in the painting has been reduced to rough blobs of white. Yet the leatherwork has all the characteristics that Baker highlights as reasons that it can’t possibly date to 1712. The guild must have had more than one, keeping the flash one for the important table and plainer ones for mere members.

I couldn’t see the other side but there is a watermarked photo of it here. If the link takes you to the home page, search for “Blackjack jug, 1712”.


Since writing the first part of this post, I’ve realised the jack Oliver Baker
was describing is the one with Iohn Baker (the use of the letter I as J dates
it to the period before 1650) and the one in my photos is the George Taylor one.
You can see part of the inscription in the Bridgeman Art photo in the link.

I hereby withdraw all assertions, accusations and snide comments, explicit or
implied, that Mr Baker had been too much at the laudanum.

14 November 2013

I’ve found a couple of references to the jointers and freemasons being a single guild in the seventeenth century, and the jointers forming their own guild in the early 18th century, the date 1712 may refer to the founding of the guild and the jacks may have come from the original body. (See http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22813#n338)

The Oxford Jointer's Jack, Baker's Plate 1

Baker’s Plate 1. I think I can see a top and middle line of stitching on the picture, similar to the ones in my photo above, probably meaning the jacks were all made by the same person/factory and only the quality of the painting differs. I may also be delusional.

Oxoniensia VII 114 (1942) E. T. Leeds, Leathern Jack of the Joiners’ Guild of Oxford plate X shows a scaled photograph of the Ashmolean jack from both front and left side. The text reads:

LEATHERN JACK OF THE JOINERS’ GUILD OF OXFORD (PL. X).
At the time of the disbandment of the old guilds in Oxford in the 19th century, their property was unfortunately scattered far and wide instead of being preserved in the city to be a witness to Oxford’s past. Some of the records and the box of the Cordwainers’ Guild came to the University at the death of Mrs. Herbert Morrell of Blackhall, while various pieces of plate have in recent years passed into the possession of the Goldsmiths ‘ Company and in one case of the Ashmolean Museum.

Last year the fine leathern black jack of the Joiners’ Guild (illustrated on PL. x) was presented to the Ashmolean Museum by Miss A. E. Badcock of Leamington Spa, whose family have a long association with the city. It has scroll-work stamped round the spout, the letters LG (twice) in front and a large 4 on the base, and is embellished with arms and labels in colours, red, yellow, green, white and black. On the front are the arms of the Joiners’ Guild, argent, a chevron between three compasses with mantling; on the left the arms of the City of Oxford, below which is the date 1712, the 2 painted over an original 3. On the left an escutcheon bears the name GEORGE TAYLOR MASTER in two lines. The date must have been corrected to record the year of his entry on the mastership. Another jack of the same guild is known. It is similarly decorated and also dated 1712, bears the name of John Baker as Master, presumably Taylor’s predecessor in office.

My current crackpot theory is the Oxford Jointers had four or more jacks, at least two of them were made in the period 1635-1650 and probably by the same maker. The similarly impressed initials on both tend to support this. Baker has a little to say on that subject, “When impressed in the leather with a stamp they may be regarded as those of the maker, as it could only be done successfully when the leather was wet and supported by the wooden block inside…  ” (p184).

During the time of John Baker’s mastery (which I haven’t been able to ascertain but the use of “I” instead of “J” does lend to a 17th C date), one jack was given the painted arms and escutcheon as befits the dignity of the jack used at the master’s table. Years later, possibly around the middle of the 18th century, the new master, George Taylor had another of the jacks painted to celebrate his mastery. Taylor’s wasn’t necessarily done as a copy of John Baker’s, as the arms of the guild and the city are common elements. The escutcheon does look to be copied, but that could be a coincidence. The execution of the painting on Taylor’s, is clumsy and looks to have been done by the stereotypical “bloke who could do it for cheap”. The 17132 date appears to be in the same paint and by the same hand as the rest of the design, the mistake possibly resulting from the date being painted in well after the fact.

Interestingly, the 1712 date on the John Baker jack appears to have been done by the same person at this later date. Another interesting element is the painted bands around the top on both and foot on the Taylor jack. These imitate the silver collars and in some cases foot rings which Oliver Baker comments on being mostly an 18th century innovation.

So, where did the John Baker jack end up after being in “…the collection of Mr. W. J. Fieldhouse at Wootton Wawen near Stratford-on-Avon.”? [Baker, p76]