Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Historic scabbard fit Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

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

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,132

PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:29 pm    Post subject: Historic scabbard fit         Reply with quote

I know this may be tough to answer, but I figured it was worth a shot. Happy How tightly did historic wood-cored scabbards fit swords during the Middle Ages?

Modern scabbard makers often try for a secure fit with no rattling and a pretty close fit but still with a relatively easy draw. Some even like the scabbards to be tight enough that the rig can be held upside down and the sword stays in.

I know we don't have too many scabbards that survive and it may be hard to know based on their current condition, but how did historical scabbards fit? Do we have enough examples to know what the range would be, since some would likely fit more tightly than others?

More directly, if I decide to make my own scabbards how militant do I have to be with a super-exact fit if I want it to be somewhat accurate? Are we being more retentive and precise that our forbears or are we upholding their traditions with a close, no-slop fit?

Happy

ChadA

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




Location: California, Maryland, USA
Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Reading list: 3 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,435

PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Historic scabbard fit         Reply with quote

I don't think they would fall out if it was upside down.

Inside the (better, if not all) scabbard's core was sheep's wool; the oil (Lanolin??) keeps the blade clean and rust-free.

M.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger ICQ Number
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

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

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,132

PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Historic scabbard fit         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
I don't think they would fall out if it was upside down.

Inside the (better, if not all) scabbard's core was sheep's wool; the oil (Lanolin??) keeps the blade clean and rust-free.

M.


From what I've heard, the wool lining was a feature of earlier scabbards, say the Viking Age or so. There are those who doubt its prevalence later.

As far as I know, folks like Kevin Iseli and Christian Fletcher don't typically line their Medieval scabbards with wool.

Happy

ChadA

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




Location: California, Maryland, USA
Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Reading list: 3 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,435

PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 4:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Historic scabbard fit         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
M. Eversberg II wrote:
I don't think they would fall out if it was upside down.

Inside the (better, if not all) scabbard's core was sheep's wool; the oil (Lanolin??) keeps the blade clean and rust-free.

M.


From what I've heard, the wool lining was a feature of earlier scabbards, say the Viking Age or so. There are those who doubt its prevalence later.

As far as I know, folks like Kevin Iseli and Christian Fletcher don't typically line their Medieval scabbards with wool.


Mine will be, once I find a source for raw wool.

I'm not sure what was in later scabbards, so I'm not much help there if it wasn't raw wool.

M.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger ICQ Number
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 10:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On tightness of fit, I seem to recall some period instruction about "grasp the mount of the scabbard firmly with one hand and pull the hilt". This suggests a little bit of force being required in my opinion.

Of my own scabbards, my children have great difficulty pulling the sword out and adult strangers give me a puzzled look when I hand them the sword in scabbard and invite them to draw it to inspect it. It really only takes a few pounds of force (preferrably between 5 to 10 lbs force) to withdraw one. I have no fear of a sword comming out simply from being turned upside down or comming loose in travel and actually like this snug fit.

I have used heavy wool flannel fabric (100% wool) from Fabric.com. I like the taupe or camel colors as these seem to have the least amount of dye. I fit the cores to compress the flannel to about 50% of its original thickness near the mouth. This ends up working pretty well over time as it loosens or takes a "compressed set" a with oil and age. The unpleasant aspect of doing this with flannel is that I have found it necessary to extend the cloth out of the mouth and to turn it over the exterior like a cuff. It will tend to get caught and tear loose during sword insertion if the wool cloth is only inside the core.



 Attachment: 44.9 KB
[ Download ]

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

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

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,132

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was to find more information on this topic. Does anyone else have any thoughts or documentation on how tightly historical wood-cored scabbards fit?
Happy

ChadA

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




Location: Maine USA
Joined: 17 Oct 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 305

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I will add a "thought" which isn't supported by documentation, so I hope I won't irritate anyone. I have more than once heard reference to "loosening the sword in the scabbard" prior to combat. That would indicate a desire to overcome some intial friction or resistance so that the sword could be drawn swiftly. Granted I read mostly fiction, but some fiction authors who have referred to loosening are pretty decent historians themselves (such as J.R.R. Tolkien)

Again, it is just a thought Happy

" I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood. "

Faramir son of Denethor

Words to live by. (Yes, I know he's not a real person)
View user's profile Send private message
T.L. Johnson





Joined: 16 Sep 2005

Posts: 29

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A loose fit that permits movement (say, while on horseback) would have contributed to dulling the edge, would it not?

A tight fit seems intuitively beneficial not only for the secured position of the sword, but to prevent damage to the blade under continuous movement.
View user's profile Send private message
Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

Posts: 552

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 10:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T.L. Johnson wrote:
A loose fit that permits movement (say, while on horseback) would have contributed to dulling the edge, would it not?

A tight fit seems intuitively beneficial not only for the secured position of the sword, but to prevent damage to the blade under continuous movement.


And to prevent accidents if the sword comes out loosely...
View user's profile Send private message
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

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

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,132

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those theories all make intuitive sense and use sound logic to the modern mind. Happy However, do we have any documentation on historic scabbards? I know a few survive. Are they too fragile to check fit? Would the materials have shrunk/expanded over the years?

Oakeshott mentioned that the disputed Black Prince sword fit the remains of the scabbard at Canterbury Cathedral. I wish I knew his definition of "fit." Happy

The sword of St. Maurice in Turin has a surviving scabbard. Does anyone know if the sword has been sheathed in recent memory? The Vienna St. Maurice may have a scabbard, too, though perhaps from a later period. What about it?

Do we have any evidence besides modern anecdotes and theories? It's possible we don't, which would be unfortunate.

Happy

ChadA

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



Location: Storvreta, Sweden
Joined: 27 Aug 2003
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,757

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is a rare thing to find a medieval sword in pristine condition. Even more so, one that has its original scabbard surviving and in such shape that it will tell anything useful.
I guess this is why you do not see these kind of details published: there has really not been much research in this field.

I have seen only a small number (6-10?) of well preserved medieval swords with original scabbards. They have been two part solid wood with leather, or thin veneers with leather (some 3-5 layers on each side of the blade: paper thin veneer).

In one case there might have been a textile lining inside the wood, and this was a 16th C scabbard for a H&H sword.

I was not allowed to try the fit between sword and scabbard of the Sword of Saint Maurice in Turino. It looked like it could still fit snugly.
The sword might have suffered a falling accident at one time.
Better not try rather than facing a cold sweat situation...

The fit was quite tight in those cases you could actually try it. My strong impression is that you would have to apply some mild force in the pull of the first inch or two: then the blade would slide loose.
A good fit means the sword can hang hilt downwards without sliding out of its scabbard, at least should a sudden jolt or blow not make the sword come loose, gliding up from its resting place. That could be embarrasing and pretty dangerous.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

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

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,132

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter,
Thanks so much for the info; this is just the kind of info I was looking for. It would be nice to have more research in that area, though it's quite logical that there wouldn't be much if anything to go on for a variety of reasons.

Wouldn't it be nice if scabbards could be analyzed in such a way (perhaps x-ray) to be able to compare their inner volume to the dimensions of the blade without damaging scabbard or blade? I would also like to see more info about thickness of the core. However, I'm sure there are much more important aspects of the sword to study than those. Worried

Happy

ChadA

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



Location: Storvreta, Sweden
Joined: 27 Aug 2003
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,757

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Peter,
Thanks so much for the info; this is just the kind of info I was looking for. It would be nice to have more research in that area, though it's quite logical that there wouldn't be much if anything to go on for a variety of reasons.

Wouldn't it be nice if scabbards could be analyzed in such a way (perhaps x-ray) to be able to compare their inner volume to the dimensions of the blade without damaging scabbard or blade? I would also like to see more info about thickness of the core. However, I'm sure there are much more important aspects of the sword to study than those. Worried


The scabbard is important and needs to be studied together with the sword.
At present, not much research has been done or published that covers functional aspects of the sword. It should not come as a surpise that no one has written much about the fit of scabbards.
Among those who collect antiques (and might be the ones who write texts for books on the subject), it might also be something that is taken for granted: a scabbard is made for the sword and fits accordingly snug. That is just how it is.

Looking at the few medieval scabbards that do survive will give us a hint of what the parameters of the craftsmen was all about. Just looking at an original scabbard makes it clear these were rather neatly made. A good fit would have been very much in line with the character.
A loose fit would be completely out of character.
Bulky volume even more out of character.
It is possible that solid wood cores allowed for a tight fith at the top and base, with a more loose fit along most of the length of the sword. This is quite possible to do when working with cut out halves.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
Joined: 16 May 2005

Posts: 614

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 11:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Those theories all make intuitive sense and use sound logic to the modern mind. Happy However, do we have any documentation on historic scabbards? I know a few survive. Are they too fragile to check fit? Would the materials have shrunk/expanded over the years?


That's not at all unlikely. There were/are very serious issues with wood splitting and cracking, especially as a result of climate change. There is a wooden dummy used in Wing Chun, and one of the companies that makes them will actually head the dummy until it cracks, repair the crack with putty of some kind, and then ship it. The reason was so many cracked when they changed from a humid to a dry area.

This might not be as much of an issue with slow changes of the ages, but that would provide it's own hazards, such as the wood drying out because it wasn't oiled quite regularly over the years, was exposed to the environment, etc.

The result of disuse coupled with moisture and temperature variations over a few hundred years could do almost anything. A pair of leather gloves gotten wet can shrink in a week, let along a wooden scabbard over 500 years.

As such, I would be most wary about thinking that the results of any test involving the fit of the scabbard against the sword, regardless of the sword being in the scabbard in the meanwhile or not.

Further, I would expect that the thin wood would be extremely fragile after all that time. Unlike a stone wall, These were not made to last the ages.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

I know this isn't exactly the same thing as sword scabbards, but what about the dagger sheaths that were worn horizontally? Assuming that these were constructed the same way as sword scabbards, this would indicate a fairly tight fit for the dagger in the sheath. The dagger obviously didn't fall out if worn in a horizontal manner. It may be a good assumption, if not too much of a stretch, to believe that sword scabbards would be made as tight.

There is a period illumination of combat between the Earl of Warwick and Sir P. Malacat with poleaxes that shows on of the combatants with a dagger at his side. The dagger's handle points groundward, indicating a pretty tight fit. The broken dagger on the effigy of Peter Kreglinger also appears to have been held at a slight downward angle from the horizontal. What may be a broken ballock dagger on the effigy of Kunz Haberkorn is held in a similar fashion.

Maybe daggers sheaths were a bit different than sword scabbards, but if they were constructed in a similar fashion, it may be used as indirect evidence that swords fit fairly tightly in scabbards. It was done with daggers, anyway!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,170

PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2007 6:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard;

A dagger being lighter in most cases than most swords might not need as tight a fit to not fall out if held upsidedown ?

With modern made scabbards I find that even a perfectly fitted scabbard can become loose or too tight depending on wear or
shrinkage and keeping a scabbard fit perfect must have meant some maintenance.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Richard;

A dagger being lighter in most cases than most swords might not need as tight a fit to not fall out if held upsidedown ?

Probably not, but I thought it was a good case to say that they could have made sword scabbards with a tight fit if they made dagger sheaths (which may have, at least in some cases, have been made in a similar way to sword scabbards) with a tight fit also. I know it's not a direct comparison, though.
Quote:

With modern made scabbards I find that even a perfectly fitted scabbard can become loose or too tight depending on wear or
shrinkage and keeping a scabbard fit perfect must have meant some maintenance.

Very true! Oakeshott mentions, in many of his works, that scabbards would have been replaced several times in the working life of a sword. They may have been seen as somewhat disposable; if the fit gets too tight or too loose, have another one made.

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Nate C.




Location: Palo Alto, CA
Joined: 13 Jun 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 301

PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

what about the armory at Graz (I hope I got that right)? From pictures I've seen there are a fairly substantial number of swords present there with scabbards intact. While they may be the wrong period, has anyone checked those? Maybe the museum staff could answer the question if asked?

Cheers,

Nate C.

Sapere Aude
"If you are going to kill the man, at least give him a decent salute." - A. Blansitt

If they ever come up with a Swashbuckling School, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, then Jumping Off Something. --Jack Handy
View user's profile Send private message
Charles D. Prokopp




Location: Tucson, AZ
Joined: 02 Dec 2004

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sun 18 Feb, 2007 7:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I guess I should jump in, here.
To introduce myself, as this is my first post: I am a knife and scabbard maker in Tucson, Arizona. So I can make a few informed comments. As you all know, a quality blade usually tapers in two directions...across the width and through the thickness along the length of the blade. I try to make the first couple inches at the mouth of a scabbard a fairly snug fit. A quick tug, and the entire blade comes unwedged (Is that a word?) and pops right out. Those first few inches a reinforced with brass or a band of heavy leather for safety, so you can grasp it there without risking a cut palm and fingers.
Wool linings can be works of art! What was used was a short shearling sheepskin, the wool no more than 1/4" long. That way, the scabbard wouldn't look like some sort of hide-covered timber. The skin was cuffed and glued over the outside of the sheath with the fleece shaved off the skin, held in place by the locket and leather cover. In use, the blade was heavily oiled and slid in and out of the scabbard a few times to load the wool with lubricant. For sea-farers and those living in wetter climates than I do, this was the best way to carry a sword.
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: Mon 19 Feb, 2007 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
I have used heavy wool flannel fabric (100% wool) from Fabric.com. I like the taupe or camel colors as these seem to have the least amount of dye. I fit the cores to compress the flannel to about 50% of its original thickness near the mouth. This ends up working pretty well over time as it loosens or takes a "compressed set" a with oil and age. The unpleasant aspect of doing this with flannel is that I have found it necessary to extend the cloth out of the mouth and to turn it over the exterior like a cuff. It will tend to get caught and tear loose during sword insertion if the wool cloth is only inside the core.

That can be solved by a scabbard mouth piece attached to the inside of the wooden core. It creates a step, so the sword can never be inserted between the lining and wood, and it's also protected from wear. A similar method was used in the bronze age, which I applied to a reconstruction of a dagger scabbard:
http://1500bc.com/bronzeage/bronzes/grooved_d...2006_2.jpg
Scabbard linings were made from sheep or cow skin have been used since the early bronze age, and fabric linings as early as the iron age. So a good tight fit was definately important in those days as well.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Historic scabbard fit
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next 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