Leather covered chests

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Colin Middleton
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Leather covered chests

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue May 31, 2011 12:47 pm

I was looking at a beautiful 17th Century coffer at the weekend and it got me thinking how the Medieval ones were made. This clearly had the leather glued to the wood, but it then had nails put through it to form a decorative patern (and presumably help keep the leather in place), with metal work in the corners, as for a normal chest.

Does anyone know if the same style was used in the 15th Century? Are there any surviving coffers from that period?

Many thanks

Colin


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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue May 31, 2011 2:29 pm

Colin,

This one is in the same Kent church with the mid-14th century knight referred to in another post. It's said the be 15th century and it seems to be covered in leather, but I can not find much in the way of a detailed description. Church coffer chests in general seem to be subject to intense security these days after a spate of thefts . . .

Ash St Nicholas 15th Century Coffer.jpg
Ash St Nicholas 15th Century Coffer.jpg (40.02 KiB) Viewed 3104 times


Edit: It may not be leather-covered after all; I found a monochrome picture and it is iron-bound, with the rust looking like patches of leather . . . but it shows the general shape of coffer chests of the period and the complex system of locks (security was tight even in those days!).


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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Tod » Thu Jun 02, 2011 12:47 pm

I've made a few 17th and 18th century examples. The one I use I made 15 odd years ago and its still going strong, I used modern materails (pine board) and leather covered it. Its strong enough to carry a ton of gear and sit on. I only used the smallest amount of glue and then nailed it. Looking at originals they seemed to do the same. The rusty metal you describe could well be leather, even close up it can difficult to tell (if its behind glass). The earlier chests that I've seen are all wood but that doesn't mean there weren't leather ones, I think it another one of those it depends what level of society you were.
It amazes me when I walk around LH camps, a rank and file soldier has so much kit he'd need several carts and horses to transport it and a castle to keep it in (when we know that unless you were noble you lived in a mud hut or ditch :wink: )



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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Chris T » Thu Jun 02, 2011 3:55 pm

The combination of leather and wood is a good one, as the leather pads the wood enough that blows will be much less liable to actually snap wood fibres, the start of cracks or splinters, while the wood provides the leather with a flexible support, so it in turn is less liable to be pierced or torn.

The use of leather on shields is so well attested in many periods that it would be surprising if its benefits on chests was not as widely recognised: I know this is not evidence as such, but where extant examples are lacking you do have to extrapolate. Certainly, I believe that there are at least some smaller boxes cover in leather still in existance from this and earlier periods.



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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby wulfenganck » Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:50 am

In the DLM Leather and Shoe museum in Offenbach (next to Frankfurt, across the river) there are some examples of coffins, chests, relic shrines and the like. At least the bigger ones consist of wood covered in leather.
Whoever's going to visit Frankfurt, make sure to also plan a visit there, it's worth it: http://www.ledermuseum.de/DLM/frames_e/hfr_in_e.html
Some examples on their facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.144834132245018.28234.144828992245532 and : http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.144859702242461.28239.144828992245532



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Colin Middleton
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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:52 pm

Wow! Wulfenganck, thank you. Just looking at their catalogue page makes me wish that I could read German!

According to Medieval Industries, leather covered coffers and smaller cofferettes were widely used in the middle ages, but it doesn't go into much detail. That's why I'm hoping for some pointers. I'll try to check the facebook page over the weekend, as I can't look at them at work.

Thanks again.


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wulfenganck
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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby wulfenganck » Wed Jun 15, 2011 11:36 am

Colin, if I remember correctly they should have some catalogues in english version. Maybe you just write them a request about any english catalogues or books, I remember the people there as rather willing to help.



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Karen Larsdatter
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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Karen Larsdatter » Mon Jun 27, 2011 6:12 pm

Colin Middleton wrote:Does anyone know if the same style was used in the 15th Century? Are there any surviving coffers from that period?

:arrow: http://larsdatter.com/boxes-leather.htm :rock:



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Colin Middleton
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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:49 pm

Karen, you're a wonder, thank you!

There is definitely a theme appearing here. Upto the late 16th C, the leather is (presumably glued on, then) held in place by metal straps. Toward the end of the 16th C, we start seeing the move to decorative nails holding the leather in place.

Ah well, I guess that I need to save up for some nice metalwork and practice my leather carving skills...


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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Mark Griffin » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:02 pm

Some of the V&A ones are glued, some are sewn on wet and when dry they shrink on, same with examples in Cluny. Haven't seen many with nails (esp not the very decorated ones) but when they do they are always part of the decorative scheme.

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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Langley » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:43 pm

Is it too late to do the "I thought you meant something like this joke"?
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Lady Willows Retinue
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Re: Leather covered chests

Postby Lady Willows Retinue » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:03 pm

I also used to have a leather covered chest, but now it has all gone south & needs ironing ;(




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