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.
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 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.
The approximate pattern on the hide. Sorry, I had meant to take a photo of the leather marked up but got carried away…
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.
Trim and skive to taste. I’ll be using these later.
IMOLC have recently discovered that they don’t own the collection of jacks, bombards and bottels that they’ve had on display in the old museum for the past 70 years. They have until the start of March to crowdfund £33000 otherwise the collection will be broken up and sold off. For details, see IMOLC’s blog post.
This article serves a number of purposes. Firstly, for me to show off a couple of the scabbards I’ve made and secondly, to discuss the trends in scabbard construction and fashion during the late Stuart period.
Here is a photo of two scabbards I’ve made. What is unusual about them is that they are glued rather than stitched in the conventional manner.
The front and back of the knife scabbards,
click to eviscerate.
There. Now showing off is safely out of the way, lets get on with the construction. Both are based on scabbards from London in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Interestingly, there appears to have been a decline in the number of scabbards found during this time, but no corresponding decrease in the number of knife finds. This reflects a change in men’s fashion, where wearing a scabbarded knife was no longer de rigueur. In fact, there are a total of three scabbards known from this period, two of traditional construction, and one showing all the techniques of bookbinding instead. It is this last one I copied for the regimental scabbards, taking a bit of artistic licence making it one of a matched pair. Apart from it being a chance to practice my embossing skills, the main reason for the choice was that there is no stitching for buggers to cut when putting the knives back.
The top of the original scabbard is damaged, so I’ve based the way they fit the knife handles on some earlier scabbards and an early 17th century pen knife in the Museum of London.
After making a paper pattern and roughly cutting the leather to shape, the leather was dampened and shaped by stretching and clamping around wooden knife-shaped formers the same shape but slightly thicker than each knife.
The gluing was done once the leather was dry, before any of the design was applied. This was mainly to ensure that the shape was more or less final and embossed parallel lines were approximately parallel and the lines going around the blades didn’t spiral. If I’d done the embossing first, it would have changed shape where the leather stretched. If you prefer to do the embossing flat and then mould and glue, go ahead: that’s how I do scabbards with knot work designs where distortion of the design is less noticeable.
The design consists of stamped diamonds, fleur-de-lis and arabesques, framed with straight lines and highlighted with short parallel lines and dots. I made the diamond and lily stamps from scraps of metal lying about, the thin curves from the edge of a bit of thin steel cut off a forged spearhead socket, the rondelling with a plastic gear from Andrew’s Meccano and the dots with an old bit of brass rod. The frame was embossed in the now traditional method with the back of a butter knife.
With both these scabbards, I deliberately avoided using any modern leatherworking equipment. One reason was because I could, but the main reason is that it’s unnecessary and proves there’s no any excuse about not being able to find or afford the gear. Total time from start to finish was three evenings while watching telly.
Egan, G., Material Culture in London in an Age of Transition – Tudor and Stuart period finds c1450-c1700 from Excavations at Riverside Sites in Southwark MoLAS Monograph 19, London, 2005
I’ve talked about the binding before in my post on another Saxon quiver, now they’ve managed to do CT scans of the binding and covers. It looks like the tree design was worked into a mould from the back, then the design was filled with clay to keep the shape. The technique is the same as the one I used for my costrel all those years ago.
The raised straight lines that frame the tree and knotwork are worked over cord, but I have my suspicions that the groove may have been started from the back with the
seventh eighth century equivalent of a butter knife and plastic rule, the cord put in place before the cover was stuck to the board and the line finally worked down from the front. You can see where they’ve overshot with the butter knife in the corners. Emboss the knotwork and paint to taste.
The back is entirely butter knife work.