Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

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guthrie
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Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby guthrie » Sat May 05, 2012 9:46 pm

So, how did they make and use dagger scabbards?
I can find b**ger all information in the literature that i have available to me just now. It appears anyway that from the 14th century onwards, dagger scabbards had chapes made of copper alloy. But how were they attached to the bottom? By glue? Maybe, although some have a few holes on the back that might be for sewing them onto the leather scabbard.
Even worse, what about the top metalwork? I've searched the small finds database, and virtually everything on there is either dagger pommel or guard, or else a chape. The only example of a dagger scabbard locket that I have seen, as they seem to be called, is in the Salisbury and south Wiltshire medieval museum catalogue, part 1.

This artefact appears to be still with the dagger it was made for, and appears to be 14th century. The brass locket thingy appears to be one piece, so perhaps cast, and has two horizontal metal loops on the back, i.e. the dagger may well have been worn suspended from the belt by a thong, as you can see in some pictures of the period, rather than in the modern method by a vertical belt loop. Although the latter may have been used as well, judging by some pictures where the dagger is hard up on the belt.
But how did it grip the leather? More glue? Maybe some research into the strength of period glues is necessary. If the dagger was effectively held by the loop of metal, then the leather need not be very strongly held.

From the few surviving daggers, I also get the impression that our modern ones tend to be a bit longer than the medieval ones. Certainly some of them, including the one mentioned above, are around 8 inches long, whereas my modern reproductions, nice though they are, tend to a foot or so. But then I am probably 6 to 10 inches taller than a lot of medieval men and a longer dagger suits me.

Any thoughts, observations?



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gaukler
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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby gaukler » Sun May 06, 2012 5:55 pm

I've made replica medieval knives, lockets and chapes.
Friction fit chapes seem to work moderately well, but I often add a bit of glue. Considering how badly most of the originals were made, I doubt that there was room in the budget for glue:)
Lockets don't seem to have been as common. I don't recall seeing any in Knives and Scabbards. If the knife and scabbard are tapered, friction is all you need.
I've examined the Salisbury and South Wilts locket. I'm sure that it's cast.The two loops work the same way the leather cut "loops" work in typical 14C lower end sheaths.
http://medievalwares.com/index.php?main ... cts_id=836 shows a replica knife with locket and chape, as well as a picture of me looking at the S and SW example. I don't have permission from the museum to pass on closeups.
mark


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guthrie
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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby guthrie » Sun May 06, 2012 6:22 pm

Thanks for the information. I'll try casting one myself.
It occured to me this morning that they may have used glue such as hide glue, which isn't waterproof. Then after a few months you end up letting it get wet or it accumulates moisture, bang it on something or whatever and then it drops off. Hey presto, lots of dagger chapes to be found by metal detectorists and an annoyed historical person.

The problem is that what images I've seen so far don't have much detail on the dagger sheaths.



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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby gaukler » Sun May 06, 2012 6:37 pm

You really need to look at the MoL's Knives and Scabbards. There are some good pictures in the YAT leather volume.
I think that the S and SW knife is very late 14C or more likely, 15C.
I've got a 14C sheath in my collection- would you like pictures?


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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby guthrie » Sun May 06, 2012 9:20 pm

I can't get up right now because of a cat on my lap, but from memory the MoL knives are mostly of what we would call eating knives rather than full scale daggers. Of course the method of tyeing onto the belt is what matters and you're right, what I recall is very much a thong around the top or through some little loops.

I'd love a picture or two of a dagger sheath, especially what stitching is used and how they finish the tip of it.



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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby gaukler » Tue May 08, 2012 4:21 am

Here are some pictures:
Attachments
sheath2.jpg
sheath1.jpg
sheath11.jpg


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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby gaukler » Tue May 08, 2012 4:24 am

And some more:
Attachments
sheath5.jpg
sheath4.jpg
sheath3.jpg


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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby guthrie » Tue May 08, 2012 11:50 am

Cool, thanks.
I think we need to see more decorated scabbards around.



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Colin Middleton
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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue May 08, 2012 12:52 pm

guthrie wrote:Cool, thanks.
I think we need to see more decorated scabbards around.


I'm working on it! I've managed to get a few of the guys at KIBS to have decorated sheaths (primarily by giving them as gifts, but ho-hum). If you look at the YAT and MoL books, almost every sheath is COVERED in decoration. Definitely need more of that!

On the initial point, my thoughs are that most people don't carry a fighting knife, just an eating one (and possibly a big 'I need a knife' knife).With these, you've got your cheaper sheaths, without the throat on it (I think that locket is a later word from when they were used to attache the scabbard to the baldric) and quite possibly without a chape too. Those made for true fighting weapons are likley to be made for people with a bit more cash to spend and are likely to be glued in place. If the chape fits well, a dab of glue to increase the friction is probably all that you need to keep it in place for some time. I'd be inclined to extend the leather past the tip of the knife, then pinch the chape onto that, creating a good tight hold.

Also, is the leather baked or just cased (wet shaped and allowed to dry)? This will influence how solid a 'base' it provides for the metal/glue.

Best wishes


Colin

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Re: Dagger scabbards- mystery upon mystery

Postby guthrie » Tue May 08, 2012 5:37 pm

Yes, metalwork is definitely a more expensive thing. So my ballok and baselards are in sheaths without any metalwork, I feel my rondel dagger and the more sword like one should have some metalwork.




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