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Brian Robson





Joined: 19 Feb 2007

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PostPosted: Tue 27 Nov, 2007 7:59 am    Post subject: Leather dieing/Scabbard making         Reply with quote

Hi,

I'm having a go at making my first scabbard based on Peter Johanssons(sp?) excellent one-page guide (posted here previously).

I have the core done, sheepskin lined (one side anyway - I didn't want to weaken it anymore by thinning it to fit the other side). I have the chape ready and the leather (1.5 mm Veg-tanned - enough for at least 3 because I'm sure I'll mess up!)

Anyway, I got the leather and thought.. wow.. that is very white.. And then though of the period (12c) 'fashion' for white sword-belts and thought hmmm.. Maybe I can keep the belt almost white and dye the scabbard brown.

So here are the questions.
When do I dye the leather? When I sew on the leather, I'll be hoping to do it all in one go, while its wet - and I understand that it will need to be wet to stretch to get it to fit properly. I imagine the same will be true of the slits that I will be cutting for the belt to run through. So.. Do I dye the scabbard first, then soak it and fit it (Can you soak dyed leather?) or do I make the whole thing up and then dye it, hoping I don't get any on the belt?

And.. Is there anything I can use to preserve the 'whiteness'? I have used veg-tanned before - but only off-cuts so they have had some sun exposure and so darkened a little. And what I have made in the past has darkened quite a lot in time - with the sun, getting wet, mink-oil to preserve it etc.. How can I avoid this?

Many thanks,
Brian
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Nov, 2007 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I dimly recall that 18th military baldrics/belts were whitened with pipeclay. I don't know the process, but you might be able to find info among 18th c. living history folks.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Nov, 2007 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like the "wet stretch and sew" method myself. Below is how I was shown to do it.

Chances are fair that you will end up giving the calf skin some distress marks in the process of wet sewing and stretching, wrestling it around. You can capitalize on that and go for the campaign worn look. I have gone as far as drenching the face side of the leather with alcohol and then wadding it up inside a towel while beating the bundle of leather with a hammer to deliberately distress it. The alcohol needs at least 10 minutes (I prefer 20 minutes with a re-wetting at 15 minutes) to soften the leather and make it stretchy, and you may need to re-wet it before distressing, or periodically during the sewing process.

Dying is easily done after the leather is sewn over the core. Purchase some Fiebing's alcohol based (not the institutional water based stuff) dye in color of your choice. This is sold at Tandy, Siegel of California, etc. Buy your sealing cream at the same time. The small 4 oz bottles of dye will do an average sized whole scabbard. You will probably need more sealing conditioning cream than dye. It helps to slightly moisten the scabbard covering with a little alcohol before the dyeing. This makes the dye absorb more evenly. You can daub the dye onto a piece of carpenter's canvas (sold cheap at hardware store paint sections) and sort of burnish / antique it on. Buff it with rapid rubbing action (produce a little heat from friction of rubbing) and this will actually smooth down the calf skin grain giving it a fine patent shoe leather type sheen. After a couple of days of drying it out (stand it up over an air conditioning floor vent), seal it and buff it similarly with a coarse canvas and some carnuba cream. Don't touch the drying cream finish for 2 or 3 days. It should end up looking like an expensive leather shoe and be reasonably resistant to minor rain sprinkles, etc.

One done similarly is at this post; http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...h+scabbard

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Mathieu Harlaut




Location: Paris-France
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PostPosted: Wed 28 Nov, 2007 2:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would advise to dye the leather first.
Once I dyed the leather after sewing it on the wood core. When I applied the alcohol dye some spots of ligther color appeared while nothing was visible before. It is wasn't catastrophic but somewhat disappointing after so much work.
I am still not sure if some hide glue got on the leather or through it or if I stained it with grease or wax while working on it.

Now I always dye the leather first to prevent this to happen again.

Vegetal tanned leather will always darken with time. White leather is an other type of leather, tawed (and not tanned) with alum. During the middle ages it was even called "white leather" opposed to "red leather".
This type of leather was used to make the "buff" coat of the 17th century and the white baldrics of the 18th and 19th century. The belts of the garde republicains if France are made with this kind of thick leather.
White leather was also widely used to make gloves in the 15th, 16th and 17th century (perhaps before and after that as well). Most of the fine gloves seen on paintings of those centuries are white (see Holbein portraits). Of course it is sheep or deer skin that is used for that.

I wouldn't be surprised if the white belts of the 12th century would be made of the white alum tawed leather. Perhaps deer skin.

Unfortunately alum tawed leather is hard to find now, it as been replaced by chrome tanned leather. It is seems that you can find some Alum tawed sheep skin in Germany.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Nov, 2007 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mathieu Harlaut wrote:
I would advise to dye the leather first.

I am still not sure if some hide glue got on the leather or through it or if I stained it with grease or wax while working on it.


I found that to be a frequent problem too if gluing the leather to the scabbard. Almost any form of glue or even light oils will tend to irreversibly blemish the leather as far as absorbing dye goes. Lots of hand washing and care is needed if attempting to glue it.

With wet stitching, there is no point in gluing the leather as the alcohol tends to just dissolve rubber contact cements and such. It is easy enough to draw a center line on the core where the stitching seam should be, and then trim and cut as you go. The leather tends to contract a little (roughly 3%) after wetting with 75% alcohol/25% water (common grade found at pharmacy stores.) This will draw it up tight to the scabbard if the cover was stretched reasonably tight while stitching it.

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Brian Robson





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PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2007 2:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies!

I was planning on just using water for the dampening/stretching. Do you suggest I leave a gap in the leather where stitching so it will be stretched once completed? Hmm. lets see if I can explain what I mean.

When it is damp, the leather will stretch around the core to be sewn. Should I cut out the leather to be slightly shorter (width-wise) than the circumference of the core so it will be stretched when stitching, or will that put too much strain on the seam? If I should leave a gap, then how much? If I don't leave a gap, will it be too loose?
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Dan Dickinson
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2007 3:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What I would recommend is to use a paper pattern (I use brown paper from grocery store bags) and cut it to fit together around the core. Then use the pattern to cut out the leather.....at this point the leather wrapped around the core won't have much of a gap. However, when you die the leather it will shrink noticeably......after it's dry if you try to wrap it around the core you will see a significant gap. However, after re-wetting (I just use plain water with a spray bottle and a damp sponge to keep it wet while I'm sewing) the leather will stretch allowing you to sew the seam tight.....and when it dries it shrinks to a nice tight fit.....though I generally apply glue as I sew as well.
Hope this helps,
Dan
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Walter Stockwell




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2007 4:52 am    Post subject: Re: Leather dieing/Scabbard making         Reply with quote

Brian Robson wrote:
...
I have the core done, sheepskin lined (one side anyway - I didn't want to weaken it anymore by thinning it to fit the other side). I have the chape ready and the leather (1.5 mm Veg-tanned - enough for at least 3 because I'm sure I'll mess up!)
...


I would be very careful with the sheepskin. I had some knives severely rusted by sitting in a drawer next to a sheepskin my mom gave me. I'm not sure how it was tanned, but it seems not all sheepskins would be good to use in a scabbard.

Walter
www.stockwellknives.com
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2007 3:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brian Robson wrote:
Thanks for the replies!

Do you suggest I leave a gap in the leather where stitching so it will be stretched once completed?


The previous two replies from others are on target. Start with a paper pattern.

Allow a little extra leather (maybe 1/4" either side of stich seam) as the leather will already start shrinking once you wet it with inexpensive alcohol and begin stitching. It seems to be easier to cut the seam to fit as you go rather than get that pattern just perfect and allow for all of the shrinkage variables.. If you wet it with pure water, the shrinkage affect will be magnified (both in terms of time it takes to happen, and in terms of how large it becomes.) You may also have to wait a few days before dyeing it if you wet it with pure water and want optimal control with the dye. I would not deliberately build in any gap at the time of stitching. Any gaps visible when wet will tend to widen and become bigger gaps as it dries and shrinks further.

A nice alternative to sheep skin is extra thick (wool winter coating or "Melton" fabric) 100% wool felt. This generally sets up to a firm and lasting tight grip if compressed to about 50% of the original fabric thickness, so guessing on the carving of the core is not very difficult. I guess it is a little late at this point in your project, but a 1.5 standard "yard" of the stuff can be bought over the internet and shipped to you for about $20 U.S. This is enough to fully line several thousand dollars worth of sword collection scabbards!

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Brian Robson





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PostPosted: Tue 04 Dec, 2007 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Again, thanks for the replies.

Why Alcohol? I've only ever used water before. Won't it dry even quicker with evapouration?

Also, with the liner I'm kind of ok with the sheepskin. Its for LH/Re-enactment purposes so if I can truthfully say its lined with sheepskin as it was authentically, then I'm happy. Also, its not for an Albion or anything, just a 125 Kovex re-enactment sword that will get battered/weathered and rusted just by doing events in the rain, camping in fog etc. so I'd expect it not to be pristine after a season or so anyway.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Dec, 2007 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Straight water seems to make the leather shrink more when it does dry, and stretch too much wetted (may tear when it dries.) The leather also dries rather stiff and rigid if wetted with pure water. The alcohol is a lot gentler on it.
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