Making a Leather Scabbard

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Dishonoured Knight
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Making a Leather Scabbard

Post by Dishonoured Knight »

Lo everyone. During my visit to the dual re-enactors fayres last weekend i managed to temporarily lose the plot and decide i was quite cabable of making a leather scabbard or two for my vike swords.

Ive got the leather, got the thread and not got the foggiest how to go about it...... :oops:

Anyone have any good guides or tips or pictures or all of the above on how to make a leather scabbard. Specifically im looking for tips on measuring, marking, cutting and sewing. The leather is fairly thick so im finding it tough to work.

I tell thee, i dont half have some daft ideas at times :D
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Tuppence
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Post by Tuppence »

sorry - don't have info on making scabbard, but do you have an awl?? you'll need that to make the holes in thick leather, rather than triangle point leather needles (although it depends on the type of seam you'll be stitching.

good luck!
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Karen Larsdatter
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Re: Making a Leather Scabbard

Post by Karen Larsdatter »

You can find some instructions in the links at http://moas.atlantia.sca.org/wsnlinks/i ... catid=1297

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Post by gregory23b »

Depends on if it is a wooden cored one or not.

But you might be advised to ask Steve Stocker (Bowstock) very nicely as he sells leather and knows how to manipulate it, plus he might sell you the right tools for the job too.
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Post by Steve Stocker »

DK,
There are two ways to cover your sword - with a scabbard that has a wooden core and a leather or fabric cover or with a sheath of stitched and moulded leather.
If you have bought a stiff vegetable-tanned leather then you would be advised to try the latter method. If you have bought a soft, thin leather it will only be possible to wrap it around a wooden core.

Assuming you want to mould a sheath I would recommend you try a small sample piece around the widest part of the blade as it is difficult to get the sheath to fit properly. Experiment with how wide the leather needs to be before you cut the real thing.

Cut the leather, fold it dry and stitch your seam. Then wet the hide by immersing in warm water unitl the bubbles stop coming out of the grain. You can then mould the sheath so that the seam is at the back of the blade. You will need to work the blade in and out of the sheath as it dries to maintain the correct shape. A smooth rubbing stick or bone folder is useful at this stage. You will need to protect and dry the blade to stop it rusting. I always start my workshop days by doing the sheaths so that I can keep coming back to them until they dry enough to keep their shape.

The seam will provide structural strength and if you leave enough salvage you can open the seam out and flatten it to conceal the stitches.

PM me if you want advice on tools etc.
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Dishonoured Knight
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Post by Dishonoured Knight »

Great advice thanks peeps! Ive managed to beg steal and borrow some bits and peices to make the thing. I think its going to be a bit of trial and error and then if theres lots of error ill go buy one :lol:

I never considered doing a smaller test peice, great advice ill give that a go first and see how i get on.
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Post by Colin Middleton »

There's another message in this area on the same subject, there may be some useful tips in there too.

Steve, would I be correct in saying that vedgetanned leather will case (be able to hold its shape) after a couple of hours, regardless of how wet you get it, and then take anotehr day or two to dry fully?
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Post by Steve Stocker »

Colin,
In my experience it depends upon how tight the grain of the leather is. If you have a piece of hide with a close grain it will be harder to shape and will need longer in the water beforehand. It will also hold its shape better.

I find drying times vary. If I am shaping using a former or mould then I put the stuff in a warm place - airing cupboard - and it will dry enough to keep its shape in about 6 hours. If the project is moulded 'freehand' then you need to dry more slowly to avoid warping - on a window sill for 24 hours.
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The other topic

Post by Neibelungen »

I made some sort of error originally posting up a reply to this first question, which is why thewre's two threads. If a moderater can merge the two together it would be helpfull.

As Steve points out, drying and compressing the leather can make a significant difference to the finished stiffness of the scabbard. Airing cupboards are good places , as the extra heat helps the leather become tighter. It's disadvantage is that it does increase the shrinkage. Burnishing down the leather helps to compress the fibre structure too. Most texts mention a temperature of about 30 to 35 C as higher temperatures can remove too much moisture out of the leather and leave it brittle.

The type of stitching can also make a degree of stiffnes. A butt stitch (two edges sewn together through 2/3 thichness each) raises a seam which can be burnished down close and adds a stiffening spine .

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Re: The other topic

Post by PaulMurphy »

Neibelungen wrote:I made some sort of error originally posting up a reply to this first question, which is why thewre's two threads. If a moderater can merge the two together it would be helpfull.
Split a thread into multiple parts, yes. Join two threads together... unfortunately not.

Sorry!

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Post by Laffin Jon Terris »

This is assuming you are working on a straight edged sword (arming or hand and half etc) rather than a falchion!

1, cut a 1/2 inch strip of the leather you plan to use for the sheath, use it to measure how wide your sheath will need to be at the top and bottom of the blade (wrap it around the blade remembering to leave enough (1/8th to 1/4 inch) for the seam (unless you are butting the two edges together that is!)

2, transfer these measurements to your leather (or better still a card mock up) measure the length of the blade and having marked this as a centre line mark out the top and bottom of the sheath. I have found it useful to add a little extra to the length at top and bottom which can be cut down later.

3, cut and sew your sheath.

4, cover your sword blade in cling-film and pvc tape (electrical tape) pay attention to the hilt area, try not to use too much tape! cover this in vaseline.

4, soak as previously described.

5, fit the sheath onto the protected blade, tweaking the seam so that it runs down the centre of the blade.

6, leave the sheath on the sword and stick it in the airing cupboard for a day or two.

7, (optional) fret that you've done something wrong and check the project every ten minutes to make sure it's still there!

8,remove sword from sheath (this may be a bit stiff) remove tape and cling film, re-try the fit.

9, trim ends if needed.

Further advice can be found in the "Home Improvements" section on http://forums.swordforum.com/

This is the method I have used for ages, you need to think about how you plan to hang the sword and plan accordingly, if you have trouble closing the end of the sheath you can buy chapes to hide ugly ends!

Hope this helps,

Jon.

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Colin Middleton
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Post by Colin Middleton »

I always have problems with ugly ends. I usually find that a combination of pulling and (gentle) hammering straignten it out a bit. I think a chape i the next plan though.

I'm surprised that you're leaving 6 to 24 hours for it to keep its shape, will the leather not have completely dried by that point or is that the intention?
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Post by Dishonoured Knight »

Suberb info all round! Ive cut a test strip off the leather and found that once i start to move it around a bit it softens up considerably. Since ive never done any leatherwork before I plan on shaping sewing up and fitting this top section which should help me get an idea for what to expect on the larger scale of things.

When you do this kind of thing you really start to appreciate the price of ready made things, theres a lot more to it than you first think! When ive done my first attempt ill post a picture :)
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New Scabbards

Post by Neibelungen »

Just in the process of making three new scabards for different swords, so i thought you might find ther info helpfull for two alternative approached.

Two of them are triangular 19th century cut steel court swords.
First one is a simple leather wrap around. Moulded wet over the blade, which is wrapped in masking tape and heavily waxed. It's done grain side out and whip-stitched together. Then burnished down heavily and low baked. Afterwards it gets several coats of black lacquer till it comes out perfectly smooth.

The second one is another triangular blade. This time wrapped with a paper layer to which three wooden lathes are glued. Joints are filled with car body filler and the whole lot sanded down to about 1mm thick. Then fine vellum is glued and wrapped around the outside. Sand the wrapping join down and laquer as before.

The third is a new scabbard for an original 1798 pattern infantry officers gilt and blued sword, so neccessary to make a wooden mandrel approx 1 mm bigger than the blade. Wet leather is moulded round this and only sparcely stitched together. Once baked and dried, all traces of the stitches are removed and sanded down to 2mm thickness afterwards a fine calfskin is glued around the core leather and the edges burnished down smooth and a heavy black waxing is placed over it. Interestingly, the top locket has a small brass strip projecting down which is inserted under the outer calf wrapping and the end folded over to catch through a small slot cut into the leather.

Three different blades and three different approaches to scabbards.

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Post by Ayliffe's Steve »

I have been told that just leather scabbards are inauthentic for 11c. Something to do with chemicals eating blades?

Can anyone offer a viewpoint on that?
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Leather & chemicals

Post by Neibelungen »

There is planty of evidence for all leather scabbards right the way through from from prehistory.

The problem comes from the effect of oak bark tannages (tannic acid) and the entrapment of foreign matter either in the leather or whatever type of protective coating is on the blade.

Mineral oils weaken and break down leather along with paraffin based waxes. Equally, oil and wax from the blade cause foreign matter to get embedded into the leather acting eventually like a mild sandpaper (why blued & gilt blades get reuined with time). Again, leather absorbs moisture, combining with the acids from the tannage causing slow corrosion of steel and iron.

All that said, a scabbarded sword survived much better than one left exposed to the atmosphere, so it's swings and roundabouts. Plus oil, grease and moisture from sweaty fingers has a far more insidious effect on steel than any of these. Ask any collector of japanese blades !!

This is one of the main reasons why most high end scabbards are wooden cored. Pine, maple and ash are quite common, though occasionally oak and mahogany are seen, but neither of these is ideal either. Metal scabbards are fine, but the early ones were noted for dulling blades and many had wooden liners inserted .

Use a non-mineral oil or natural wax on the blade. (Renaissance microcristaline wax is always recommended. Tiranti and several other places carry this) . Always clean your blades before leaving them in a scabbard for long periods, and ideally store the blade out of it's scabbard over the off season period.

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Post by nathan »

Ayliffe's Steve wrote:I have been told that just leather scabbards are inauthentic for 11c. Something to do with chemicals eating blades?

Can anyone offer a viewpoint on that?
I'd be very interested to see the basis for this opinion, i can't think of any chemical that 'eats blades' that won't do worse to your skin.

There is very little evidence for scabbards made from just a piece of leather in this period in general (there is an example from a late viking age context in Dublin for example).

A box-scabbard (wooden core with a surface cover (leather/textile) and possibly some form of lining (sheepskin for example)) might be considered to be more typical for the early medieval period. There are practical considerations for the re-enactor to consider as they are prone to being broken in half when you land on them (and they are also prone to doing your ribs no good if you land hard enough on them).

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Post by Colin Middleton »

My understanding was that scabbards of the time were leather covered, with a core of wood and usually a sheepskin lining. I think that is how Wencelas's (sp?) scabbard is constructed.

If you're trying to do this, be careful how you secure the sheepskin lining as it can snag on burrs on the blade and get torn out.
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Post by Ayliffe's Steve »

Nathan,

Sorry, I cannot help you. I egde more toward the lamping people with a steel bar side of re-enactment rather than the knowing about history side ;-)

On one of the other forums I read someone mentioned that leather scabbards were inauthenic for 11c. When I asked why he could not remember and the thread that he read with the info on had been deleted in a server outage a short while ago.

I thought I would ask here in case anyone else had any knowledge about it.
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