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lacquering leather armour (has become Archer vs Armour)

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:06 am
by wyldstallions
I read that most leather armour was lacquered to make it harder. I was told an authentic method was to boil beetle shells and paint that on but it was also suggested to me to use boiled linseed oil as it dries hard but it takes about four months to dry, I know beeswax would do the job but would take a lot of beeswax and be quite expensive compared to linseed oil. Anyone know of any other ways

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:24 am
by Medicus Matt
1. Lacquer comes from trees, shellac comes from beetles; two different things.

2. You don't get shellac by boiling beetles. It's a resin that's produces by the female lac beetle in Asia. I'm not sure but I think it was still pretty rare in the West until the 16th century. G23b would know I reckon.

AFAIK, lacquered leather armour (treated with tree sap) was only used in Orient...China, Japan...maybe the Mongols brought it westwards but I don't think it was used in the west.....

Are you portraying a samurai?

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:18 am
by wyldstallions
No I'm not, I have some leather armour and need to harden it, I read this was usually done via Lacquering so thought I would ask of ways. the most practical way I think I have been told so far is the boiled linseed oil. I have tried boiling it but can't seem to get it hard enough.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:30 am
by Medicus Matt
If you're trying to harden leather using boiling oil then you do it by immersing the piece into the oil, not painting it on. I'm not sure that linseed would work...never tried it. Ordinary veg oil, THAT works.

You can also do it by immersing the leather into hot (not boiling, makes it brittle) water. Experimentation is the only way to crack this.

Immersion into wax does work but, again, too hot and it goes brittle.

For a lot of discussion on leather armour, look here

forums/viewtopic.php?t=3504&highlight=l ... mor+armour

and here

http://livinghistory.co.uk/forums/viewt ... sc&start=0

for starters.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:06 pm
by Hobbitstomper
Hardening with hide glue and heat works well but you wouldn’t want to start with finished armour. Varnish and paint then stops the glue from absorbing water and the armour from falling apart.

I’m a bit dubious about a lot of leather armour. The Victorians liked it but cows are not arrow proof (there’s even a picture on the net of someone who successfully hunted an elephant with a crossbow). Properly hardened leather works but it would need to be managed carefully in the damp of England.

I've made hardened leather aliettes, cops and lower limb defences but it isn't really worth the hassle when you can get cheap steel equivalents.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:19 pm
by gregory23b
I don't think shellac makes an appearance in Europe until quite later, I have not found any mention of it in any of the well known treatises. Nor do modern works on historical painting mention it.

It is soluble in aclohol btw.

As Matt says, it is not a case of any old beetle.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:47 pm
by Colin Middleton
Hobbitstomper wrote:I've made hardened leather aliettes, cops and lower limb defences but it isn't really worth the hassle when you can get cheap steel equivalents.
Which is the same attitude taken in the 13th C. Whenever leather armour appears, it seems to be replaced about 10-20 years later with steel in the same shapes.

Your best bet for hardening leather is baking it. Wet it, then cook it in the oven and it will go hard (then burn, so watch the timing on it). However you can only do this with vedg-tan leather. Chrome tan just won't harden the same way.

As for painting it with linsead oil, it should work, as you get the oil to fill the pours of the leather, then it hardens into a varnish. Don't know if it has provinance though.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:43 pm
by Fox
Hobbitstomper wrote:cows are not arrow proof
Neither is steel, so I'm not sure I follow that logic.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:54 pm
by Hraefn
Fox wrote:
Hobbitstomper wrote:cows are not arrow proof
Neither is steel, so I'm not sure I follow that logic.
Depends how thick the steel is surely, that's if we're going off on a prove it thang again a la le arsespermyfarte discussion.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:17 pm
by Mad Monk of Mitcham
Hraefn wrote:
Fox wrote:
Hobbitstomper wrote:cows are not arrow proof
Neither is steel, so I'm not sure I follow that logic.
Depends how thick the steel is surely, that's if we're going off on a prove it thang again a la le arsespermyfarte discussion.
Also depends on the size of the arrow :twisted:

Didn't Leornardo da Vinci design a giant crossbow? :P

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:49 pm
by Colin Middleton
Actually I'd love to see some really unbiased research into the strength of medieval armour vs medieval long bows. If you talk to an archer, it sounds like the arrow will go through the knight like tinfoil. If you talk to a MAA, they make out that the arrows just bounce off, like they were rubber tipped.

Personally, given the Battle of Northampton (largely archers vs MAA), I'm reckoning that the Cap-A-Pie armour was practically arrow proof (unless you could get it onto one of the gaps like at Ferrybridge). On the other hand, given that tests show blows from a war bow are "like being hit by a sledgehammer" and given the force delivered by re-enactment archers in demos (3 hit my sword at the same time and almost ripped it out of my hand!), I'm guessing that a blow from such an arrow would stagger and slow a knight just like a hard blow from a spear would.

Guess what I play on the battle-field! :roll:

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:03 pm
by Black Pear
it's taking the thread off-topic, but i can't resist ...

I've seen a TV doc where they shot into plate backed with mail and a padded jack beneath and it went through to the jack. BUT this was from close range (<10m) and some of the arrowheads used just bounced off (going nice and curly). Can't remember the poundage of the bow either, but it would have been 90# plus I would surmise. (As I type I think it was the Mike Loades thing about decisive weapons?). From further and further away I am thinking it is going to be less and less likely you get armour penetration as in "nailing the breastplate to the chest", although it's still going to knock you about as you close in.

Archers were used in high percentages in medieval armies. Why would this be the case if the arrows just bounced off? I think the answer is that they didn't bounce off, at least, they didn't bounce off the majority of the men on the field, wearing padded jacks and mail (mail provides a nice purchase for the arrowhead as it hits, and splits just lovely as the arrow pushes through). I think that sometimes we have a view of medieval battlefields glinting with foot to toe armoured knights when this isn't necessarily the case (especially in 14thC France).

For 14thC armies I think the superiority of the warbow is built on the high number of comparitively soft targets and knights and men at arms with areas uncovered by plate. As the 15thC progresses, emphasis turns to plate for more protection (possibly, though i wouldn't argue solely, from arrows due to their capacity to damage unplated targets at a distance?) and the warbow begins its decline, increased by the advent of widespread gunpowder artillery etc.

If you stand close enough, with a strong enough bow, you might get one to stick in his breastplate. Otherwise, aim for his men, his horse, and whack him with a maul to disarticulate his armour when he gets close.

I am an archer. Bring me my maul!

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:33 pm
by wyldstallions
Black Pear wrote:it's taking the thread off-topic, but i can't resist ...
Don't worry about it think I have my answer now, thanks people who answered.

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:56 pm
by gregory23b
"Archers were used in high percentages in medieval armies. Why would this be the case if the arrows just bounced off?"

You could answer that because not many arrows actually did much harm or enough harm. If they were so effective then not so many would be needed. We know that archers shot at each other and engaged once out of ammo, so they can't have either been:

all great shots

all that wonderful at penetration

I am only offering that as a sensible reason wy you have large numbers of mobil artillery.

The effect, as with a lot of missile weapons is morale and reducing the enemy's ability to shoot back or react. Otherwise English armies in the WOTR would have cancelled each other out to oblivion.

In ideal circumstances the bow is of course deadly, but as you say maybe decent armour does the job of reducing damage, it must do otherwise it is useless.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:02 am
by Marcus Woodhouse
it also does a fantastic job of funnelling an enemy towards a choke point, just as modern artillery will. A suggestion is that at agincourt this helped to clog up the french advance and made it more difficult for French MAA to use their weapons to effect.
I also imagine that sheer volume of fire would have some impact, with those many arrows in the air one might make a lucky strike.
Of course in Italy and among the Swiss there was more in the way of sniping and a crossbow is an ideal tool for this as they can store more energy for a longer period and thus can be aimed at more vunerable areas. Needless to say the same logic led to the Swiss and italian armies adopting handcannons faster as well.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:14 am
by gregory23b
with those many arrows in the air one might make a lucky strike. "

exactly, People did get shot, we know that, but the idea of mass death from above seems a tad extravagant.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:40 am
by Medicus Matt
Mid 14th century (sort of Crecy, Poitiers period) ... don't a lot of armours still have a big gappy bit around the neck, covered by a mail coif? Don't they also have nice smooth sided helmets to funnel any descending arrows down nicely into said gap?

I reckon that 5000 archers dropping six rounds a minute into a mass of armour, firing for effect, is going to rack up a decent number of disabling strikes, regardless of the arrows ability to penetrate plate.
And wipe out a lot of mounts which will merrily fall over and crush their riders.

That and it's going to turn the ground into a pin cushion and generally cause huge amounts of chaos.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:35 pm
by Colin Middleton
Wow, we actually appear to agree! :shock:

8)

I was quite careful to limit my discussion to knights, for exaclty the reasons the Black Pair lists.

I reckon that the knights (or however you want to catagorise them) were more-or-less immune to the arrows at all ranges, save for the odd 'lucky shot' or sniping
I think that the common infantry must have had some decent defence against arrows from their 'soft' jacks and mobility, or as G32b said, the battle-field would be a masacre.
Also, I suspect that bodkin arrows tended not to be lethal (Prince Harry's face for example), which puts the archer as an area control 'weapon', like Matt and Marcus have described.

I was coincidently flicking through the Warbow book last night and found a short section on just this. They proposed from what experiments had been done, that arrows were effective at penetrating IRON armour, but probably couldn't penetrate the better made STEEL armours (which no doubt became more common as the 15th C progressed), but that considerably more experimentation was required.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:51 pm
by gregory23b
"firing for effect"

You were doing so well, back to the dark ages with you :twisted:

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:20 pm
by Fox
I assume everyone has been following the Mark Stretton and Steve Stratton work, a good chunk of which has been synopsised in Skirmish?

I wouldn't want bet on any armour I was wearing being 100% arrow proof.

I reckon the better your armour the more chance you have of getting away with a hit, but I wouldn't want to keep pushing my luck.

I was quite suprised, at Kelmarsh this year in the volley firing for Agincourt, how quite a dense volley can miss just about everyone.
It leads me to conjecture that the chances of being hit at all at a distance are less than you might think instinctively.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:41 pm
by Black Pear
You could answer that because not many arrows actually did much harm or enough harm.
Good point G2B, more needed because less effective. And of course archers only cost pennies a day, so they are much cheaper too so you can have more for your money.

Mark Stretton and Steve Stratton have done a lot to show that it is possible to use a 150-200# bow and penetrate armour, but can those bows be used to shoot at least 24 arrows at a reasonable rate of "fire" and leave the archer in a condition to fight at the end?

I was under some of the volleys at Kelmarsh and didn't get hit once, though a couple landed about 4-6 inches away. Scary just the same. I think medieval archers would be able to drop arrows on a reasonably small area given that they would have practiced since youth aiming at targets of a similar size to a row of men, but agree most arrows shot would be likely to become ammunition for return "fire". I think the area control/fear factor is important. You are not going to go and happily stand under the results of a weapon that can do this if you get hit in the right place:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_cODTxzY0ZGg/R ... isby-2.jpg

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:43 pm
by George P.
Bake leather soaked in water on a wooden board at 60 degrees and brush oil (I use olive) onto it, bake till it browns. Its the hardest leather I've yet got and I've tried quite a few methods. Its not brittle either.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:50 pm
by gregory23b
BP aren't those crossbow bolts in the Wisby man's napper?

they look rather squat, maybe the pic angle though.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:18 pm
by Medicus Matt
gregory23b wrote:"firing for effect"

You were doing so well, back to the dark ages with you :twisted:
As the whole expression is a modern one, even though the concept isn't, you can cock off, snory boy. :wink:

Anyway, "loosing for effect" just sounds rubbish.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:56 pm
by Fox
Black Pear wrote:Mark Stretton and Steve Stratton have done a lot to show that it is possible to use a 150-200# bow and penetrate armour, but can those bows be used to shoot at least 24 arrows at a reasonable rate of "fire" and leave the archer in a condition to fight at the end?
Steve seems to manage pretty well, and he's a stringy piece of the proverbial. He's fit and strong certainly, but he's not a big or heavy set sort of bloke; I'd say he's a convincing medieval archer, build-wise.

I'd guess from having watched him that he can do his 12 per minute.

Apparently it's all in the technique.

And I think, from what I've seen, even an 80-100lb bow would be relatively efficacious, if less effective than it's larger cousins.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:00 pm
by Fox
Black Pear wrote:I was under some of the volleys at Kelmarsh and didn't get hit once, though a couple landed about 4-6 inches away. Scary just the same. I think medieval archers would be able to drop arrows on a reasonably small area given that they would have practiced since youth aiming at targets of a similar size to a row of men, but agree most arrows shot would be likely to become ammunition for return "fire".
I agree, but it's not that the arrows weren't falling among us, it's just I there is more "miss" area than you'd think among even lightly spaced troops.

As for return fire, it does require you to have the archers, which doesn't help the French. :twisted:

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:14 pm
by Medicus Matt
Fox wrote:
I agree, but it's not that the arrows weren't falling among us, it's just I there is more "miss" area than you'd think among even lightly spaced troops.
Bet there isn't when there's a few thousand of the buggers all aiming in your general direction.

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:27 pm
by Fox
Medicus Matt wrote:
Fox wrote:
I agree, but it's not that the arrows weren't falling among us, it's just I there is more "miss" area than you'd think among even lightly spaced troops.
Bet there isn't when there's a few thousand of the buggers all aiming in your general direction.
That's not quite how it works, though is it?
It's how many archers do you have aiming at any given square metre; a sort of density archers against density of target over surface area of target.

In short if there'd been thousands of them, then there'd have been thousands of us too, and just as spread out.

They wouldn't all be aiming at me, would they?

Would they? :shock:

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 5:33 pm
by James The Archer
Fox wrote:
I agree, but it's not that the arrows weren't falling among us, it's just I there is more "miss" area than you'd think among even lightly spaced troops.
It's how many archers do you have aiming at any given square metre.
In short if there'd been thousands of them, then there'd have been thousands of us too, and just as spread out.

They wouldn't all be aiming at me, would they?

Would they? :shock:
You area large target, good to hid behind :twisted:

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 5:37 pm
by gregory23b
"As the whole expression is a modern one, even though the concept isn't, you can cock off, snory boy.

Anyway, "loosing for effect" just sounds rubbish."

So dark ages is ok, as it serves a purpose, mainly making you cringe ;-)

Anyway, shooting for effect sounds much better, shooting being both olde worlde and moderny woderny bllllllsssssssp!