Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Metallic scabbards - when and why (not) ? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Simon G.




Location: Lyons, France
Joined: 02 Jun 2008

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 238

PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 3:39 pm    Post subject: Metallic scabbards - when and why (not) ?         Reply with quote

As I was discussing scabbard-making with my father earlier he asked : "and why didn't they make them from metal ? Sheet metal would be easy to shape." I didn't know the answer, so here I am asking you, fine myArmoury.com forum members. Did scabbards with a metallic base (not just chapes) exist in the Middle Ages ? If not, why (in your opinion) and when did metallic scabbards start being made ? I know for certain that these existed in the XIXth century (I have one, all-metal with leather inner lining, with an Italian infantry officer's smallsword from circa 1880), so there seems to be no absolute reason for not making such scabbards. But I have no idea when they started to exist and why.

Thanks to anyone who can shed a light on that...
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

Location: Cincinnati, OH
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Likes: 21 pages
Reading list: 231 books

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,135

PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 3:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are Celtic swords with iron scabbards from the last few centuries BC (do a forum search for "celtic sword" to see examples). There may be Roman scabbards, too. I know there are repros of them (which doesn't mean they're accurate). I think they weren't popular during the Dark and Middle Ages because the iron/steel would have more useful as blades than scabbards.

I think it has more to do with economics. From what I understand, in the Middle Ages raw materials were expensive and labor less so. So iron and steel would have been saved for blades, hilts, and armour, partly because of their cost is high and partly because the cost of a scabbard of wood/leather would be labor intensive moreso than materials-intensive.

Also, getting your iron and steel to a consistent sheet thickness is probably something that would be been difficult without some Industrial Age machinery. But that's pure speculation on my part.

And with the consistency of mass-produced blades, you can use Industrial Age machinery to stamp consistent scabbards shapes out. Again, speculation and guesswork on my part.

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Fabrice Cognot
Industry Professional



Location: Dijon
Joined: 29 Sep 2004

Posts: 354

PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 4:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Salut Simon

Chad had it right : sheet metal was hard to make (and yet the Celts made sheet metal...But they're an exception - masters of Iron, these Celts, they were indeed), and therefore not cheap, while other, more affordable, and - more important - more fashionable materials were available.


Considering the two main families of metallic scabbards that existed in History, we have two extremes :

- the latter, 18th-19th-20th century, using (pre) mass-production methods to create uniform-looking, pattern-abiding models. The will to make huge numbers, and with each and every one of them (with exceptions) looking the same as others fo the same pattern.


- the earlier : Celtic (and, continued later, Roman) scabbards. Using a well-mastered, time-consuming crafsmanship to create elaborate, unique, one-of-a-kind masterworks.


So, yes, economics certainly play a part. But culture has its importance too Happy

Cheers

Fab

PhD in medieval archeology.
HEMAC member
De Taille et d'Estoc director
Maker of high quality historical-inspired pieces.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
Industry Professional



Location: Netherlands
Joined: 11 Mar 2005

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 740

PostPosted: Tue 08 Jul, 2008 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One reason would be that with metal scabbards in direct contact with swords, you get a lot of wear on the blade, damaging all the hard polishing work. Plus any bit of moist that may get trapped inside, and your sword rusts into your scabbard and in the worst cast may even get stuck (no WD40 yet! Wink ). This can be solved with a wooden core (possibly with fur or textil lining on the inside). But if you're going to use a wooden core, it's just as easy to wrap some textile or leather around it, rather then going through all the effort to make a sheet of metal, and hammering that around.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
B. Fulton





Joined: 28 Dec 2004

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Thu 10 Jul, 2008 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As mentioned, primarily cost.

Also, weight. That extra pound or so of metal adds up. Leather and wood is lighter.
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,306

PostPosted: Thu 10 Jul, 2008 7:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I really don't think cost was a factor for someone who could afford a SWORD. Aside from the Romans, we're mostly talking aristocrats, right? A few ounces of sheet metal are nothing compared to the work that goes into the blade. EVERY metal-using culture that I know of from the Early Bronze Age onwards was quite capable of producing sheet metal in the amounts needed for a sword scabbard, and in fact you see sheet bronze scabbards in Bronze Age Italy as well as Iron Age Gaul (just for examples). Considering the work that went into the incredible sheet bronze shields that are found in bogs and graves all over Europe, I'm sure they all could have had metal scabbards if they wanted them.

As with most other things, it's all about fashion! If a metal scabbard is stylish, that's what you get. But quite often, the styles ran to wood and leather, sometimes with added bling and sometimes not. It all depended on the fashion of the times.

Matthew

PS: pretty sure that most metal scabbards had wood and/or leather linings, in any case!
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Shane Allee
Industry Professional



Location: South Bend, IN
Joined: 29 Aug 2003

Posts: 506

PostPosted: Fri 11 Jul, 2008 1:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Speaking from a La Tene perspective only, but mostly the reason that the metal scabbards stopped being made was more of a social reason instead of any physical problems with the scabbards. I don't know of any La Tene period swords which show wear from the metal scabbards. The fact that we see them putting work into decorating the blades in various ways probably is a good indication that it wasn't a problem. Doesn't seem that the majority of the scabbards had wooden inner cores either. I've made two now at this point and weight really isn't a big deal with these. Probably not all that much difference from wood and leather covered scabbard, the last one was for a larger la tene III and it was under 1 1/2 pounds. When you look at the chain belts and leather belts with several large iron rings, the weight of the scabbard isn't something you are going to notice.

We often joke about there being a cult of iron/steel for the warrior class at this time, but it really might not be that far from the truth. While it might not have been something worshiped or anything like that, it was something of very high significance. While the women of equal status were often wearing around fancy copper alloy and gold jewelery, men often times would be decked out with iron multiple arm rings, bracelets, sometime even leg rings, and large iron fibs. Factor in this status they obviously had for iron and steel with the talents they developed for working it, and their nature to decorate practically everything it makes much more since.

Shane
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Fri 11 Jul, 2008 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shane Allee wrote:
Speaking from a La Tene perspective only, but mostly the reason that the metal scabbards stopped being made was more of a social reason instead of any physical problems with the scabbards. I don't know of any La Tene period swords which show wear from the metal scabbards. The fact that we see them putting work into decorating the blades in various ways probably is a good indication that it wasn't a problem. Doesn't seem that the majority of the scabbards had wooden inner cores either.
Shane


Did the La Tene scabbards have any other kind of lining, such as leather or wool? I realise that wood would not be necessary, but I would be mildly surprised if they had only bare metal on bare metal. Other than a very brief allusion to wood fragments found in a few scabbards in Pleiner's "The Celtic Sword" I've seen no discussion on this very important topic.
View user's profile
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

Location: Cincinnati, OH
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Likes: 21 pages
Reading list: 231 books

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,135

PostPosted: Fri 11 Jul, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

C. Gadda wrote:

Did the La Tene scabbards have any other kind of lining, such as leather or wool? I realise that wood would not be necessary, but I would be mildly surprised if they had only bare metal on bare metal. Other than a very brief allusion to wood fragments found in a few scabbards in Pleiner's "The Celtic Sword" I've seen no discussion on this very important topic.


There's been discussion on Celtic swords on this forum that covers scabbards (to some degree) as well: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=194

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Metallic scabbards - when and why (not) ?
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum