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 – part the first

I’ll assume everyone’s done the homework and read the Leatherwork from Hedeby post. If not, nip back and have a quick read. Check out the first couple of comments between Steve and me as well. I’ll wait…

This post is the first of a series about making my interpretation of a Hedeby quiver. It’s a combination of plates 22 and 25-27, trying to make sure all the pieces look at least vaguely like the ones found, knowing that there are two (or more) quivers in all the bits and in theory, paying attention to the presence or absence of thread marks on the leather.

This first part will be about making a last and the patterns for cutting the leather.

Here’s a dimensioned version of the reconstruction a. from figure 22.


Hedeby quiver, front and right side view.

Dimensions and the location of the side seam and heights of the suspension lugs are from the text on pp 36-7. The teardrop shaped piece from figure 27. 2a or b isn’t shown, I’ll get to it in a while. I had a theory and hoped it would fall into place during the pattern making.

There was a week’s delay waiting for the workshop to be below 40°C during the times of day that I could make noise. We finally had a couple of cool days and I turned up a last the same shape and size as the interior of the quiver. The taper isn’t quite as steep as the proposed one in figure 22 because I’m not convinced that it would fit very many arrows if made as as shown.  The wooden last was covered with a layer of kitchen film and a couple of layers of masking tape.


The next step was to mark out the individual pieces. The back piece is a bit more than 12 the width of the whole, and if the teardrop went where I thought, the front piece was about 9cm wide when measured about 4.5cm up from the point.


An arbitrary line was drawn from the point to the end. I’m using the grout lines in the floor to stop the last rolling, and the flat bit of pine as a sledge for the pen. Measure up 4.5cm from the pointy end, measure 9cm across and mark for the second line. I then rolled the last on the floor until pen point on top of the bit of 19mm pine hit the right spot.


Measure 35cm up from the point and draw two lines to the sides, ending about 4cm from the point. If you do it correctly, the straight lines will form tangents to the arc and you’ll  end up with a fairly perfect teardrop shape.


L to R: back, lower front, front, last. Not shown, top band, piping, suspension lugs. I’ll cover the top band in its own part, and just wing the piping and lugs as I go.

There’s some bulging in the back and lower front, but there’ll be enough stretch in the leather to accommodate them. The thing I like about this design is that the arrow heads only contact the lower front part. This is held in with edge-flesh stitches, making it an easy piece to replace without having to dismantle the rest of the quiver.

In the next part: cutting, sewing, fitting and dyeing.