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Joe A




Location: Philadelphia, USA
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Aug, 2016 10:46 am    Post subject: Experiments On Medieval Cuir Bouilli Armour         Reply with quote

Thought this was interesting. Note the online book is free.

https://www.sidestone.com/books/why-leather
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Aug, 2016 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Waxed cuirbouilli? I thought were done with that nonsense a decade ago. Apparently they never read Dobson's "tough as old boots" paper.
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Alan E




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Waxed cuirbouilli? I thought were done with that nonsense a decade ago. Apparently they never read Dobson's "tough as old boots" paper.

This Dobson:
Quote:
The interpretation as 'boiled leather' produces difficulties for such authors as Waterer and Cameron, who correctly noted that although boiling leather does yield a substance that is hard, it is also brittle, and therefore useless as an armour (Cameron 2000, 25-33, Waterer 1981, 62-77). They have together with Dobson (2003, 79-99), argued that the substance was leather which was not boiled but treated in some other fashion. Watere suggested that wet leather after being moulded by a process known as 'samming', was heated to no more than 50 C, whereas Dobson reconstructed a pair of vambraces (leather armbraces), from wet leather dried in an oven at 70 C.

?

They go on to say Cameron thought that hot wax and rosin may have been involved but say
Quote:
No evidence has been found from contemporaneous sources that making cuir bouilli armour involved impregnation with waxes, oils, rosins or any other foreign substance

So I don't believe they are supporting that theory, merely discussing the published ideas, prior to looking at what actually happens in some of the processes (I haven't read it through yet).

Member of Exiles Medieval Martial Arts.
Currently teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Heh. That's what happens when one comments after skimming through a paper. I'll blame lack of sleep and a head cold and refrain from commenting further till I read it properly.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan, don't we have artistic evidence for the use of "cuir boulli" in thirteenth-century in the form of arms and legs protection? People usually talks about an effigy of some flemish knight and other italian evidences:



Source: http://armourinart.com/169/255/
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Matthew Amt




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

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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 11:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sure, no one is saying it didn't exist! Dan was just saying that it wasn't cooked/hardened in hot wax--that ruins its defensive qualities, and makes it impossible to add the decoration that illustration shows so well.

It's also worth noting that cuir boulli seems to be used *over mail*, generally...

Matthew
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 12:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I make decorated and hardened leather armour with some frequency, and usually put it in an oven at about 100 degrees Celcius for 10-15 minutes after being dipped in water for a brief spell. The heavy vegetable tanned leather loses none of its resistance to being cut or penetrated, and does not become brittle but turns into a very stiff and springy form. It seems ideal for use against concussive blows and would ward off all but the most acute blade strokes, methinks. If the medieval method could turn out anything similar then it would be a worthy form of protection. Also, half-tanned leather (which was likely used) would also be more resistant to penetration in its raw form, and so turn into an even finer armour.

Matt's point about leather typically being a secondary form of protection in artistic depictions is notable, and it's also interesting to consider that the arms roll from the tournament at Windsor Park in 1278 lists all of the armour used by the competitors as being cuir bouilli, from helm to cuirass. It was used as a defense against carved baleen swords in a bohourt.

-Gregory
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Joe A




Location: Philadelphia, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:
I make decorated and hardened leather armour with some frequency, and usually put it in an oven at about 100 degrees Celcius for 10-15 minutes after being dipped in water for a brief spell. The heavy vegetable tanned leather loses none of its resistance to being cut or penetrated, and does not become brittle but turns into a very stiff and springy form. It seems ideal for use against concussive blows and would ward off all but the most acute blade strokes, methinks. If the medieval method could turn out anything similar then it would be a worthy form of protection. Also, half-tanned leather (which was likely used) would also be more resistant to penetration in its raw form, and so turn into an even finer armour.

Matt's point about leather typically being a secondary form of protection in artistic depictions is notable, and it's also interesting to consider that the arms roll from the tournament at Windsor Park in 1278 lists all of the armour used by the competitors as being cuir bouilli, from helm to cuirass. It was used as a defense against carved baleen swords in a bohourt.

-Gregory


I have no dog in this fight so my question is not based on any preconceived ideas of leather armor from that period.

Have you ever tested your leather armor?
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've often had to cut my armour after it was already hardened to create different shapes or put holes in it, so I am aware of its strength against blades and points versus the unhardened material. Razor blades and needles definitely penetrate the leather much easier if it is not hardened. Several of my pieces have been used with frequency by SCA fighters and have proven to work fine against heavy rattan weaponry. I also personally use an archery bracer that I made with this method and after years of use the surface shows virtually no signs of the wears of time or abuse, while I'll note the strapping has degraded considerably.

You do make me want to conduct some proper experiments with real weaponry, though, and I just may do that sometime soon... (EDIT: However, I've always felt that until we know more about the actual medieval process of making cuir bouilli, that such experiments will reveal results that might only give us a false impression of what the reality was like. My vegetable tanned leather and conventional oven may turn something that that is a far cry from authentic.) Cheers!

-Gregory
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There isn't much point testing anything against cuts. Armour was designed to stop points - primarily arrows and spears.
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
There isn't much point testing anything against cuts. Armour was designed to stop points - primarily arrows and spears.


You say that a lot, Dan, but what's the point? Where's your evidence? Have you got a time machine and treaded through thousands of years of history to survey armourers and soldiers about the purpose of their technology? Do you think men engaged in combat said "Oh, he's got armour on! I'd better thrust at him instead of cutting!" No, no, and no... The number of severed and cut bones we've found in piles of ancient and medieval dead men, and the number of dented pieces of armour and the great mass of weapon designs that were obviously suited for cutting, support the fact that armour of any sort would have served its purpose against cutting. Whether that was its optimal function can be debated, but that it served to ward off cuts in combat is clear, and certainly armours that worked well against cutting weapons protected more than one man (I'll guess hundreds of thousands) from the possibility of injury.

Also, I sincerely doubt that the cuir bouilli used at the Windsor bohourt was meant to prevent the points of arrows or spears... The same goes for most tournament armour, and a great number of other specialized or unique historical circumstances. You better than most people should know that the variety of dangers posed by different sorts of weaponry and modes of combat throughout history dictate a wide spectrum of technological needs. To suggest such a broad statement as "armour was designed to stop points" is very misleading.

-Gregory
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 5:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The primary threat on any battlefield for the best part of three thousand years was from spears and arrows. Armour was designed to stop the primary threat. Anything that can stop these weapons has no trouble against a sword cut. A lot of winter clothing can stop a sword cut; you don't need special armour for it. Cuirbouilli was not worn by itself on the battlefield - presumably because it was wasn't very good against spears and arrows. It was usually layered over mail.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Aug, 2016 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The primary threat on any battlefield for the best part of three thousand years was from spears and arrows. Armour was designed to stop the primary threat.


'Tis an assumption. If you want to make sweeping statements by taking what seems to be a reasonable generality and then apply it to "all armour" then that's your prerogative. I prefer to look at pieces of armour individually and ascertain what sorts of circumstances they were used under - which sorts of weapons were used against them, in what sort of settings were they likely to see action, what was the rank of the person wearing them, etc...

In tournaments we know that cuir bouilli was used by itself without any other form of armour against either against blunted lanced or swords. There is both literary and artistic evidence to support this use of leather as a form of defense in the 13th-15th centuries. This tells me that cuir bouilli by itself must have had some merit against concussive blows, and this purpose falls entirely outside of the scope of your statement.

If you want to limit yourself to the battlefield, you are welcome to consider the popularity of broad-bladed swords designed for cutting and slashing, or the widespread popularity of axes, maces and polearms among all classes of soldiers throughout Western Europe, used for hacking or concussive blows. You can note the Battle of Benevento in 1266 where the frustrated French were commanded to use their smaller swords to stab at chinks in the armour of their German adversaries who wore plated armour over their hauberks, after typical slashing techniques proved futile. You can look at hundreds of medieval depictions of battle where swords, axes and polearms are being swung around in every which way during melee combat.

In conjunction with such straight-forward evidence, you can consider the advanced "arms race" between weapon smiths and armourers throughout the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, when swords and other weapons were constantly changing to break through evolving armour types, and armour was in turn changed to blunt the force of various heavy weapons and prevent access to conspicuous target areas, and many other fascinating things that make no sense if your blanket statement actually had serious merit. If armour was only made" to stop spears and arrows," then big shields and brimmed helmets would have been satisfactory for all of three thousand years. This, however, was far from the reality.

-Gregory
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug, 2016 11:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Dan, don't we have artistic evidence for the use of "cuir boulli" in thirteenth-century in the form of arms and legs protection? People usually talks about an effigy of some flemish knight and other italian evidences:


http://armourinart.com/media/armourinart.com/original/255.jpg
Source: http://armourinart.com/169/255/


Are you sure it's not just some stylized metal plates worn over the mail?

The King's Mirror c1250 ad: The rider himself should be equipped in this wise: he should wear good soft breeches made of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth, which should reach up to the belt; outside of these, good mail hose which should come up high enough to be girded on with a double strap; over these he must have good trousers made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already described; finally, over these he should have good kneepieces made of thick iron and rivets and hard as steel.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug, 2016 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
Are you sure it's not just some stylized metal plates worn over the mail?


There are surviving pieces of decorated leather armour from this period, and numerous effigies that clearly show the thickness and carved details of cuir bouilli being worn over mail, as well as dozens of illustrated depictions and literary references. Most of the time similar styles of motif are used and the evidence is concentrated in particular regions (such as northern Italy). The prevailing academic theory is that these are depictions of leather armour, and I see no reason to doubt that given the amount of evidence that has been compiled.

As far as the illustrated examples are concerned, the dominant use of brown pigment to color in the armour suggests leather beyond any other possibility, as it was a dull color and not associated with fine decoration. It was simply a matter of fact that leather is brown.

-Gregory
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