scabbard making

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Sir Edmund Mortimer
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scabbard making

Post by Sir Edmund Mortimer »

Wife bought me a hand and a half sword but i need a scabbard for it, tempted to have a go at making one .. any pointers? will need leather that i know ... so ideas for best buys and pointers in cutting etc im pretty nifty at making things :D

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Re: scabbard making

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a hammer is allways good to have 8-)

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English Warbow: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every muthaf**king Frenchman on the field. Accept no substitutes.

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Brother Ranulf »

Looks like a very comprehensive and sensible article on the subject. There is mention that "the oils in oak might not be good for steel?". Not oils so much as the tannic acid content in oak (and certain other woods such as ash) - the tannin reacts with iron or steel to produce black stains in the wood and rapid rotting of the metal. This is the reason for the use of trenails in projects using oak construction (wooden pegs rather than metal nails). Poplar and birch have far less tannin content, plus they are considerably lighter in weight than oak.

Having said that I have a 3.5 inch 12th century nail taken from oak beams in the roof of Lincoln Cathedral (part of a refurbishment project) which is extremely well preserved, so the rotting is not always fatal -presumably keeping the pieces dry helps to delay the reaction.
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Zachos
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Zachos »

My scabbards have a thick leather core, made in a similar way to how the article makes the covering, but using the sword as a former. I'm hoping to make a new one for my longsword before the season starts. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Colin Middleton
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Colin Middleton »

That's the same way that I do it Zachos.

That's a very nice little site. Lots of interesting bits to learn from.

I not convinced of his methods for hanging your scabard, I'd want to look more at period sources before I did that. They've got the right idea, but I think that they may be over-simplified.

I don't agree with the way he sews the leather either. I'd go for some form of saddlers stitch, where you have 2 needles passing through the same hole such that they tie a knot inside the hole. Very strong. However if you do it right, you don't get that cross moteif on the outside (which I've never seen on any medieval leather, save for decoration), but instead get what looks like a line of back stich each side of the seam (it's actually each thread takes turns of doing one stitch each side).

Based on my researches into this (limited though they are), you should either do a butted stitch (the needles pass grain to edge or (less commonly) flesh to edge), or raise a small seam up and stab through that. I favour the butted seam. If you're fealing really clever, you could try a hidden tunnel stitch, where the thread passes into and out of the EDGE of the leather. I've never tried that as it scares me!

Some other points that I've picked up are:
- Leather should be 1.5-2mm thich for the scabard and you should use calf leather.
- If you want a tied belt, that should also be made of 1.5-2mm calf leather, but the main part of the belt is made of a double thickness, sewn togeather allong the edges. I presume that the thongs will all be single thickness.

Most of the above can be picked up from the Leatherworking in Anglo Medieval York book.
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Colin Middleton
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Colin Middleton »

If you're doing the butted seam, I'm currently working on the theory that you should stab your holes at a steep angle close to the seam, so that they exit the edge near the far face (I hope that makes some kind of sense, if not ask and I'll try to get a better explanation). The awl should also be held at a constant angle for it's diamond section. This should improve that amount of leather that is 'grabbed' by the thread and make for a stronger seam.

Best of luck.
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Sir Edmund Mortimer
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Sir Edmund Mortimer »

gosh .... thanks for the response im quite eager to start having a go ...got to find the leathe first :D

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Laffin Jon Terris »

Good preparation is the key, mark out (and make) the holes when the leather is flat (and you are happy with the fit).

I use a curved awl and go in through the top and out through the edge of the leather for a neat butt stitch.

I tend to glue the outer (thinner) leather over the core layer and then sew it up.

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Sir Edmund Mortimer
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Sir Edmund Mortimer »

Laffin Jon Terris wrote:Good preparation is the key, mark out (and make) the holes when the leather is flat (and you are happy with the fit).

I use a curved awl and go in through the top and out through the edge of the leather for a neat butt stitch.

I tend to glue the outer (thinner) leather over the core layer and then sew it up.

JonT

thanks

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Medicus Matt »

A couple of things relating to advice on that website.

I always use ash rather than poplar unless my customers ask me to. Not only is it considerably cheaper, it's more durable too.
It doesn't seem to mention any sort of lining? Not sure what period you're doing this for but a lining of animal fur, felt or sheepskin is the norm for most wooden scabbards from the bronze age onwards. When I make them, I make it so that the blade is a very tight fit in the lined scabbard. Oil the blade, leave it in the scabbard for a few days and you'll find that the lining fibres compress, leaving you with a scabbard that will hold but not bind on the blade.

And some other tips

A router is a damned sight quicker than a chisel.

Make a template for your leather cover by wrapping tinfoil and then masking tape around the core and then cutting it up the back seam. Open it out and draw around it. Allow 3-5mm on each seam edge, depending on the thickness of your leather. Also allow an inch at the top to allow for shrinkage; easier to trim it off later than to curse and swear when you see the wooden core poking out the top.
Apply the leather damp but not wet and stitch it up with waxed linen thread using a saddle stitch as quickly as possible.
Don't use that x-stitch he shows, it looks bloody awful.
Don't use glover needles when stitching with two needles, you'll curse the number of times they cut through the thread.

Use thin veg tan (1-1.5mm) for the cover, thinner the better if you're doing cord work underneath, bit thicker if you want to tool the surface decoration.

Oh, and a coat of waterproof varnish over the woodwork before applying the leather doesn't hurt either.
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Re: scabbard making

Post by wulfenganck »

You mentioned a hand and a half sword in your opening post, so I think you are talking about a 1300-onwards protrayal, right?

I used for one of my swords another methid, which copies the original scabbards from the 15th century in the museum of the Nuremberg castle.

Here's a short introduction:
- get two really thin (if possible not more than 1 mm thickness) wooden veneers/plates (maybe missing the word here, sorry); I was lucky to get some ash veneer of about 1 mm thick; Then you'll need some linen fabric which willbe wound around the wooden core; lots of glue (go for some authentic glue, there should be enough providers n the UK, it's authentic AND that type of glue doesn't contain acids etc.; modern glues can sometimes oxidize the steel);
- use your sword as a form for cutting each plate, each side of the edges should overlap for about 1 cm, of possible a bit less (about 2 cm for the point of the blade);
- now leave your sword there to form the core and glue the two pieces together on one side; wait until the glue has dried out a it, fix the glued edges with some clamps; carefully press the other edges together, glue them together and fix them with clamps;
If your woodens plates are to thick, just take a knife and cut downward in the centreline of the plates, don't cut them apart, just a smal cutting line to fold them easily around your blade.
- carefully (CAREFULLY) sand away the wood on the edges if you think it's to wide;
- once the glue has dried out, wrap your linen fabric around the core: glue the first layer on one side if the core, leave it to dry, than start wrapping the linen around, from side to side, each layer is supposed to be glued to the core/ the layer afore;
- make sure to use some firm pressure while wrapping around, the linen is supposed to fix and stabilize the core, but also to press it a bit together, the core should "open up" a slight bit, so that your sword can be drawn easily fro the scabbard.
- three layers in each side should be sufficient, wait until everythng has dried out, then go on with the leather;
BUT don't sew the leather around the core, glue it onto the core; make sure to have enough leather, you can cut away overlapping parts.

I hope that explanation does make some sense, I'm not used to explain that sort of DIY-work, in particular not in english. Therefore it may sound like one of those crappy "how-to-buid-up-your-new-xxxx" building instruction.

Don't get me wrong, the method described above is fine and provides you with a stable and solid scabbard.
But for the surviving scabbards of the 15th century I've seen and after studying the illustrations I prefer my method, as it provides you with a very slim, yet surprisingly solid scabbard.

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Sir Edmund Mortimer
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Sir Edmund Mortimer »

THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUGGESTIONS ... I WILL DO WHAT I CAN .. WHEN I CAN AT PRESENT I HAVE NO TRANSPORT AS TWO CARS BROKEN DOWN IN ONE WEEK THIS YEAR IS NOT GOOD SO FAR ... I FREEZER, BOTTOM FELL OUT OF, WASHING MACHINE BLEW UP, KETTLE KNACKERED AND THEN TWO CARS ......AAAAGH! ANYONE IN AMMANFORD (WALES) AREA GOT A CAR THEY CAN LEND ME?????

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Re: scabbard making

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Good Lord, Sir Edmund! Your luck has got to turn around soon. Best wishes on everything becomming far less crap in the very near future.
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Colin Middleton »

Wulfengank, your instructions make perfect sense and I'm sure that I could make them work without too much trial and error.

Medicus Matt wrote:It doesn't seem to mention any sort of lining? Not sure what period you're doing this for but a lining of animal fur, felt or sheepskin is the norm for most wooden scabbards from the bronze age onwards.
I thought that the lining of scabards stopped being done during the Anglo-Norman period. I know that it was done as the norm before that, but wasn't aware of any linings in the middle ages (12th-15th C, not 'Early Medieval').

Best Wishes.
Colin

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Medicus Matt »

Colin Middleton wrote:
I thought that the lining of scabards stopped being done during the Anglo-Norman period. I know that it was done as the norm before that, but wasn't aware of any linings in the middle ages (12th-15th C, not 'Early Medieval').
I know that at least one of the 13th century scabbards in the Madrid Armoury has a sheepskin lining and I'm sure there are others, I'll have to go and check Oakeshott now.

12th C , what examples are there to go on?

Later than 13th, pffff. I have no idea. If they aren't lined anymore.....why not?
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Brother Ranulf »

If there is a surviving 12th century Norman or Anglo-Norman scabbard I would be pleased to hear about it. There are plenty of leather knife sheaths from the second half of the century, none (as far as I can discover) with any lining, other than some cases where one leather sheath sits inside another. I am always amazed at the work that routinely went into decorating these knife sheaths, usually with embossed, tooled or punched designs. You have to wonder if sword scabbards were not similarly endowed.
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Medicus Matt »

Brother Ranulf wrote: You have to wonder if sword scabbards were not similarly endowed.
Not if the surviving scabbard leathers are anything to go by, no. Patterning seems to drop off from the highly decorated scabbards of the migration period. You get a few simple geometric lines on some 9th/10th century examples but that seems to be about it.

But then a knife in it's decorated sheath was 'everyday' wear for a large section of society so overall quality (including decoration) would be a sign of it's worth and therefore of the owners status (or at least pretentions towards it).

Just the act of owning and wearing a sword and scabbard was making a statement.
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Re: scabbard making

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Medicus Matt wrote:
Colin Middleton wrote:
I thought that the lining of scabards stopped being done during the Anglo-Norman period. I know that it was done as the norm before that, but wasn't aware of any linings in the middle ages (12th-15th C, not 'Early Medieval').
I know that at least one of the 13th century scabbards in the Madrid Armoury has a sheepskin lining and I'm sure there are others, I'll have to go and check Oakeshott now.

12th C , what examples are there to go on?

Later than 13th, pffff. I have no idea. If they aren't lined anymore.....why not?
Okay, the 12th C reference was a guess. I don't look at much before 1195 if I can avoid it.

As to no linings, it was 'received wisdom'. It makes good sense to have some form of lining, but I'm struggling to get any information on scabards of that period at all.

The Madrid scabbard, is that one has a lining and several don't? I'm always a bit wary of trusting anything Spanish as a guide for England, but I would be very interested in evidence for lined scabards in the 13th C and after.

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Re: scabbard making

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Colin Middleton wrote:Good Lord, Sir Edmund! Your luck has got to turn around soon. Best wishes on everything becomming far less crap in the very near future.

It got better .....

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Re: scabbard making

Post by gaukler »

There are quite a few sword scabbards described and illustrated in Craft, Industry and Everyday life :Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York, by Quita Mould, most of which are 10-11th century, but include some 12th century pieces, and one 15th century.
There is lots of information on stitching, suspensions, and metalwork. There are also mentions of surviving decorated scabbards (12C Waterford, 13-14C Manchester.
mark
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Sir Edmund Mortimer
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Re: scabbard making

Post by Sir Edmund Mortimer »

gaukler wrote:There are quite a few sword scabbards described and illustrated in Craft, Industry and Everyday life :Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York, by Quita Mould, most of which are 10-11th century, but include some 12th century pieces, and one 15th century.
There is lots of information on stitching, suspensions, and metalwork. There are also mentions of surviving decorated scabbards (12C Waterford, 13-14C Manchester.
mark

i think i have all the info i need for now ... thnakyou all for helpful advise much appreciated.

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Re: scabbard making

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If you'll forgive us, I hope that we'll continue this thread a bit, as I'm learning some useful stuff too.

I've read the scabards section of that book and I think that is proposed that scabbard mouths with stitching round them may be an indication of an attached lining and I don't think we see that later than the 12th C. But like I said, I'm just starting out looking into this stuff.

It occurs to me that if you had a lined scabbard, using oak should become viable, as that will protect the metal from the acids.

How do you keep your lining secure? I've tried it in the past and had problems with it coming loose and 'rucking up'?

Best wishes.

Colin
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Re: scabbard making

Post by wulfenganck »

I am pretty sure that the original scabbards I've seen in the museum in Nuremberg castle were NOT lined - again, as I wrote, 15th century....

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Post by Medicus Matt »

Colin Middleton wrote:If you'll forgive us, I hope that we'll continue this thread a bit, as I'm learning some useful stuff too.

I've read the scabards section of that book and I think that is proposed that scabbard mouths with stitching round them may be an indication of an attached lining and I don't think we see that later than the 12th C. But like I said, I'm just starting out looking into this stuff.

It occurs to me that if you had a lined scabbard, using oak should become viable, as that will protect the metal from the acids.

How do you keep your lining secure? I've tried it in the past and had problems with it coming loose and 'rucking up'?

Best wishes.

Colin
Well, reading Records of the Medieval Sword and Sword in the Age of Chivalry was just damned frustrating. Oakeshott may be the man when it comes to swords but he doesn't give a tuppeny upright about scabbard construction. He doesn't go into any sort of details about the surviving 13th and early 14th C scabbards other than to detail the colour of leather and any embellishments. That includes the one in Madrid whoch I know to be lined. That being the case, I don't think we can say at the moment whether other surviving scabbards of that period are lined or not, so I shall be contacting the various museums to find out.
Of course, there's no guarantee that the scabbards themselves are the ones made at the time that the sword was first assembled.

I made the mistake of using oak for a scabbard once, lined it with sheepskin. The oil from the blade soaked through the skin and drew the tannin all the way back through to the blade. Not recommended.
How do you keep your lining secure?
Glue. :wink: Or, more importantly, a high strength, waterproof glue. Given the choice, exterior 'no nails' or, for 'fentic I'll use fish glue.

Having the lining stitched to the leather helps here (I'm sure I've seen some 13th c scabbards with stitching across the top of the mouth...back to Oakeshott :roll: ), as does making sure you're careful when you sheath your sword.

I wonder why lining's go out of fashion. Sacrificed in order to make slimmer scabbards perhaps?
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Re: scabbard making

Post by wulfenganck »

Medicus Matt wrote: I wonder why lining's go out of fashion. Sacrificed in order to make slimmer scabbards perhaps?
That was my idea as well, because the later scabbards seem to be slimmer compared to those of the 12th, 13th century.
Maybe it's as well a question of costs? Lining with fur requires another working step(s) and adds costs.
Is there a higher rate of common soldiers wearing swords (or a falchion, a "langes Messer", a hanger etc) in the 14th or at least 15th century in comparison to the earlier centuries (11th, 12th, 13th)?

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Colin Middleton »

The slimmer scabards would be my guess too. It's also possible that the improvement in steels made the lining unnecessary or that the change in the shape of the swords had an effect.

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Zachos »

Considering how swords are kept I would say its probably the other way round. More swords are in use, so people want to show they're richer with a better class of sword. If you're richer then you only have your sword in the scabbard when you're wearing it. Apart from that you keep it seperate and looked after by a polishing man. Therefore you have no need for a lining, and so the scabbard gets slimmer, whereas if you're keeping a sword in a scabbard all the time then it'll probably need one.

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Re: scabbard making

Post by Colin Middleton »

On the other hand, the cost of a sword had come down by the 15th C, so presumably you would take even more care of them in the 10th C than 500 years later... :?

I'm not sure if an educated guess on this one will do us any good...
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Re: scabbard making

Post by WorkMonkey3 »

Surely if the need to line the scabbard to protect the blade was apparant pre-12th C, then that need would not disappear?

If you removed the lining from my scabbard you'd gain 1mm? maybe 2? You made it Matt, what do you think. Can't see taking it out would allow the construction method to make it any noticably thinner.

All I can think is that the general "worth" of a sword has gone down considerably after the 12thC and continues to do. After all, migration swords were given names, histories and passed down as heirlooms, maybe giving it a fancy scabbard with a comfy bed to sleep in and keep it clean was some sort of offering to appease the blade itself to make sure it didn't break/bend/fail in the users mind.

By the 14th/15th C all the ostentatious display of the sword has gone out of fashion, perhaps a lining was just not deemed neccessary since it's now just a piece of iron that any old jonny can own and is simply used for cutting the other chap up once your lance/pole arm has failed rather than a potent symbol of power and martial supremecy.

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