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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Nov, 2014 7:47 am    Post subject: DIY: Medieval Sheath for Camp Knife         Reply with quote

I have a growing interest in medieval knives and daggers. The need for a new camp/utility knife gave me a chance to try medieval sheath technology in a real-world setting as opposed to just putting it on a shelf.

The knife is one of the wonderful Old Hickory butcher knives you can get new for under $12. This is the 7" blade (high carbon steel,) which is compact and light enough for fieldcraft, but thick enough for limbing, batoning, etc. Because it's incredibly cheap and sturdy, you can push this knife a long way without worrying too much about breakage. You can see how worried I am about keeping this blade pristine. Those qualities played a part in my sheath planning.

The sheath is of the duplex style typical of what you'll find in the Museum of London publication "Knives and Scabbards." There isn't much in the way of construction or decoration to suggest a period more specific than 1300-1500. I did add a hasty design to the front of the scabbard just because that broad surface looked very dull without something. In keeping with the utilitarian work overall, I used a very coarse stitching (two-needle) of the heavy waxed cord sold as "artificial sinew." I punched the holes rather far from the seam edge because I didn't want to risk the cord pulling through.

For the suspension, I've used paracord instead of the historically appropriate thong, but I'm not necessarily convinced the paracord is superior as it might be more prone to slippage. Here's where the cost of the knife and leather influence the construction of the sheath–if this suspension fails and and I lose my knife, I'll shed a quick tear over the labor, but won't worry too much about the $15 or so I have invested in this set. Because the German Bauernwehr was sometimes suspended from a narrow belt, I've made the horizontal suspension channel large enough to accommodate that suspension if the thong annoys me. In general, I like to have field kit well-secured, but I'm willing to give this loose suspension a chance for the sake of better understanding it. One obvious advantage of this suspension is that it can move out of the way as you kneel, crouch or sit on the ground, which is often the case in fieldcraft. A large knife fixed tightly to a belt can restrict such movement and be uncomfortable.

Medieval paintings often show light knives (eating knives, etc.) suspended by a single loop. For a knife of this size, I think I'll prefer folding the single loop over to create duel side-by-loops. This should be a good compromise between stability and flexibility. We'll see.

The photo at bottom shows how I keep the suspension channels open at the various stages of construction. At the stage shown, I was gluing the duplex layers around the mouth of the sheath to stiffen the opening and help prevent separation of the layers. When that was dry I did the final trimming, dyeing and burnishing of the mouth. You could just as well finish everything and then dye. That probably makes more sense, and it would save some staining of your hands! I rubbed the dried sheath with a cloth to remove excess dye then rubbed in copious amounts of beeswax to fill the seam and stitch holes, and polished with a dry cloth.

So, there's my $15 Bama-wehr. It's a relatively simple, practical and inexpensive way to develop skills for the broader hobby of medieval arms.



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-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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Sean Flynt
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myArmoury Team

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PostPosted: Fri 07 Nov, 2014 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's an example of a Bauernwehr with a belt suspension for what must be a relatively heavy combination of thick primary blade and multiple by-knives.


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-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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Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Nov, 2014 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks pretty good Sean. I like the variety of photos here, including the suspension and on-the-belt shots. To see the object is one thing, to see how it would be worn begins to open up understanding about the mindset of the time and how such a piece may have been used.
"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Nov, 2014 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice job. Old Hickory knives are great. I have a set for butchering. I really like the suspension there, tell us how it works in the field.
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Ralph Grinly





Joined: 19 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2014 2:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That looks great, Simple, but very practical. The only difference I'd have made was to maybe have the knife set a bit further down into the sheath to make it a lil more secure ?. Tne double loop suspension looks pretty effective. I'm sure there were many genuine knives and sheaths constructed the same way. . I don't know how the Old Hickory logo is put on the scales, but maybe sanding the scales down a bit would remove the logo. Then you could put a few groves in the scales to match up with the sheath design and restain the scales to make it look more 'used'.
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Pieter B.





Joined: 16 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2014 3:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks good.

I believe I have some more early 16th century depictions of large knives being worn with those thin belts.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...ject_2.jpg

http://www.museumsyndicate.com/images/6/59065.jpg

http://uploads8.wikiart.org/images/pieter-bru...e-1567.jpg

Here are two small knives hanging from a cord like you said.

http://cdn.artboom.info/wp-content/uploads/20...-knelt.jpg


What I also noticed is that they appear to be really large. (two depictions of them on the left side of the painting, one unsheathed one sheathed.)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...roject.jpg


Some of these depictions do indeed show folks with a relatively thin belt packed with stuff such as pouches, knife sets and such.
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Sean Flynt
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myArmoury Team

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PostPosted: Mon 10 Nov, 2014 6:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah! I love those and I'm planning a project inspired by the long, slender Flemish knives (Henry VIII's Flemish saber being a notable longer variant). I'm very intrigued by those. I have a little cutlass blade that might work with the tang lengthened/blade shortened and a one-piece grip (as opposed to the scale grips of the messer style). I'm confident I can make one of those simple knucklebow guards.

With the recent purchase of an Albion grossemesser reject from the Moat Sale, my EBE Hauswehr and a current German bastard sword project, my collection seems to be drifting towards these shorter swords.

I love the lances/spears in the Breugel images, too!



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-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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