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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Sat 15 Aug, 2020 7:57 am    Post subject: Anyone familiar with bitumen or resin-based glue or varnish?         Reply with quote

I've always put wooden scabbards together with modern wood glue and attached leather facings using rubber cement, but as I'm gearing up for the next big Greco-Persian events in the next year or two, I'd like to move to more period-appropriate materials. So the thought occurred of using adhesives based on plant resins, since they are supposed to be water-resistant, or else bitumen.

With scabbards like these, the challenge is to apply adhesive around the edge of one wooden half and stick the halves together, then spread a thin layer over the wooden surface, lay the leather on and smooth it out. The glue at the end where I start has to still be sticky by the time I've finished applying it to the other end, at least definitely with the core halves -- the facing could perhaps be rolled on inch by inch. And it has to become hard, but not too brittle.

So the potential materials I've had in mind include melted bitumen, or melted cutler's resin or equivalent; also emulsified bitumen, or resin dissolved in alcohol, though those might be cheating. Do any of these sound like they'd work? I've also written to a few sellers of pine tar, but they tell me it wouldn't work, though so far they haven't gone into much detail -- only one implied that it wasn't adhesive enough.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Aug, 2020 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bitumen/asphalt has been used as an adhesive since at least the Paleolithic. We have extant Neanderthal tools where traces of asphalt were found where the handle would have been attached. In the Bronze Age it was used as a mortar for stone construction in the Middle East.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Sun 16 Aug, 2020 1:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed. Unfortunately, I've never worked with it before, so I don't know if its working properties are suitable in this instance.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 431

PostPosted: Sun 16 Aug, 2020 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Dan,

I apologize for this reply, because I can't answer your question as you ask it.

Despite its disadvantages, a protein adhesive such as casein glue, fish glue, or hoof-and-hide glue seems much more likely to have been what the Greeks used than bitumen or a plant resin. Given the construction of Greek scabbards (as shown, for example, on Matthew Amt's Greek Hoplite pages, which I'm sure you've seen), it's clear that the scabbard's main fastenings could be the throat and chape, and the body wrapping. The throat and chape can, depending on the materials and the maker's particular skills, be carved and hollowed as unitary pieces, or if fabricated from multiple parts be held together with, for example, brazing, or rivets or nails--which can then also hold each terminal to the scabbard's body--escaping the disadvantages of glue. The scabbard cover can likewise rely on stitching or careful (and tight) spiral wrapping to permanently fix it to the slats, although glue is certainly useful in achieving the initial placement. It can furthermore be oiled or painted to protect the cover's material and any glue against damp. So with the wrapping to fasten the slats' main length, further protected by a water-resistant finish, and the throat and chape to hold the top and bottom of the scabbard's body together (and perhaps enclosing the wrapping's ends too, for extra security), I don't think you'd have a problem using a glue that might be susceptible to softening in hot and wet conditions.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that gluing the scabbard's body pieces together isn't a good idea. In fact, I don't think there's a better way to line them up and hold them in place while attaching the wrapping and the terminals. I just don't believe that glue needs to be the main way that the slats are permanently attached to each other once the assembly is complete.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Mon 17 Aug, 2020 4:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you. The trouble with being a Persian reenactor is that the evidence for many objects is scant. After years of following the subject, I still can't tell you whether Persian scabbards were ever made with separate throats. Chapes, quite often, but the one from Egypt apparently has the chape carved integrally with the front and back halves of the scabbard. It originally had a sheet gold facing attached with some kind of white paste or stucco, but I wrote to the British Museum and they couldn't provide further details.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 431

PostPosted: Mon 17 Aug, 2020 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Dan,

Please forgive me. If I'd remembered that you're a Persian re-enactor--because now that you say it here, I do recall your having mentioned it before--I would not have written that post.

Sorry!

Best,

Mark
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Tue 18 Aug, 2020 6:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's alright. I should've been clearer, and it's something to think about anyway.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Mon 31 Aug, 2020 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've been doing some experiments. It seems like dissolving rosin in rubbing alcohol and letting it evaporate until thick and syrupy yields a glue that its more-or-less as effective as rubber cement. Both adhere chamois to wood, but peel away fairly easily. (Of course, the dried textures are different; the rosin is hard, the rubber cement, well, rubbery.)

Melting together rosin and beeswax about 3:1-2:1 appears to make a very strong hot glue for this purpose. If I try to peel the leather off the wood, the leather rips up before the glue fails. The only trouble is that of course it thickens and hardens fast. The glue and leather have to be applied in stages, and even with careful use of a heat gun (including heating it after finishing applying the leather and pressing it against flat surfaces to smooth it out), my test scabbard is turning out slightly lumpy.

I bought some rosin/wax/charcoal pitch glue that seems to hold the scabbard halves together well enough, though it's also a little tricky to use.



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