Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Leather Sheaths? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Eric Nower




Location: Upstate NY
Joined: 22 Dec 2004

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun, 2005 8:28 am    Post subject: Leather Sheaths?         Reply with quote

As I was reading the forums, a question dawned on me: Is there any surviving examples of leather sheaths for swords? Were they used at all? How common were they if they were used? Advantages and disadvantages From what I've read sword scabbards were expensive and not everyone could afford them, did the common man-at-arms improvise and use leather? I should think that it would be lighter and more flexible to wear than a woodencore scabbard. Retaining water may be a problem if the leather gets wet and come to think of it how would it of been carried? Once you drew the sword the leather would go limp and drag on the ground and be in the way. I know that leather was used in making claymore sling like what Albion sells, but how common were they actually in history?


Thanks
Eric

May God have mercy on my enemies, for I shall have none.
View user's profile Send private message
Aaron Schnatterly




Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Reading list: 67 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,244

PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun, 2005 8:43 am    Post subject: Re: Leather Sheaths?         Reply with quote

I can't authoritatively address all of these questions, but I'll hit what I can... I'm sure leather scabbards were used, how prevalent, I don't know...

Eric Nower wrote:
From what I've read sword scabbards were expensive and not everyone could afford them...


There is a LOT of work that goes into making a high quality period-appropriate wood-cored scabbard. Same thing is very true today, too...

Eric Nower wrote:
I should think that it would be lighter and more flexible to wear than a woodencore scabbard. Once you drew the sword the leather would go limp and drag on the ground and be in the way.


The weight difference is not really significant, actually. I'd use a heavier weight leather in lieu of the wood - probably would be very close in weight. They do tend to be more floppy, of course, which may or may not be a good thing. I end up tripping over the damned thing as it flops down between my knees... I like wood cores better, but that's me. Makes sitting more difficult, though...

Eric Nower wrote:
Retaining water may be a problem if the leather gets wet and come to think of it how would it of been carried?


There are ways of treating leather that can keep the moisture issue in check with a wood-cored one. You can add a suspension to a leather scabbard just as you can with a wood-cored one - either through leather or metal fittings. It's not hard...

-Aaron Schnatterly
_______________

Fortior Qui Se Vincit
(He is stronger who conquers himself.)
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Allen W





Joined: 02 Mar 2004

Posts: 285

PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've always assumed leather sheaths were the norm for munition swords, being created as needed for a given campaign. Oakeshott comments on this issue in Records(though I forget his conclusions) with examples of the Dordogne find of a bunch of swords in a chest and without scabbards or sheaths, presumably of English supply sunk in the river during the Hundred Years War, as well siting a scene in St. Olaf's Saga where the king opens a chest full swords on his boat to rearm his men whose blades have dulled, no sheaths or scabbards being mentioned. There are also very few scabbards or sheaths in Graz.
I figure that the swords were understood to require less maitenance in storage than scabbards, which would be likely to warp over time, or leather sheaths and so would be stored without until needed when sheaths might be produced in mass.
View user's profile Send private message
Chris Post




Location: Germany
Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Reading list: 3 books

Posts: 46

PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun, 2005 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I don't actually know about how the situation was in times of yore.
Today, I'd use a leather sheath only for a blunt sparring sword, for two reasons:
1) a sharp sword may cut through a plain leather sheath over the time,
2) sometimes when sparring or stage-fighting you simply do trip (with sword drawn), and then a leather sheath will just bend. When the same thing happens with a real scabbard, the wooden core may break and then you have a problem.

By the way, the most sophisticated scabbards I saw/read of have a leather cover over a thin wooden core, and are lined with fur (rabbit I think) so that the wood won't dull the edges. Plus, the fur is glued in so that the hairs point towards the tip, to the effect that the fur holds the blade snug in the scabbard and it's yet easy to draw.

I hazard that this is an authentic method, because it's an idea you just don't get out of thin air. Also I read about a special type of acid-free glue which had a very rustic-sounding name. Wink
Goes without saying that this stuff is damn expensive. In my experience it's a lot more than most people are willing to pay.

Skeppsmannens härsmakt räddes ej väta:
blodulvar vadade väst över Panta:
fram över flodens glimmande vatten
buro de lindesköldar i land.
View user's profile Send private message
Jared Smith




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

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 4:34 pm    Post subject: lining         Reply with quote

I have read, but don't know the truth of, that finer scabbards were lined with lambs wool. Wool actually contains a natural oil, and could prevent rust on the sword naturally. I currently have a couple of scabbards I am testing, although this takes time. Storing my sword (Albion Crecy Grete) in a cotton felt lined scabbard with gun oil does a good job of preserving. I cannot see a difference with wool (preserves as well.) Bare wood is prone to allow rust (seems to depend entirely on how it was cared for before inserting into the scabbard.)
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 2:00 am    Post subject: Re: Leather Sheaths?         Reply with quote

Aaron Schnatterly wrote:
I can't authoritatively address all of these questions, but I'll hit what I can... I'm sure leather scabbards were used, how prevalent, I don't know...

Eric Nower wrote:
From what I've read sword scabbards were expensive and not everyone could afford them...


There is a LOT of work that goes into making a high quality period-appropriate wood-cored scabbard. Same thing is very true today, too...


Beg to differ. A simple wooden scabbard can be made by pretty much everyone with a minimum of tools. You need two pieces of wood, a wood carving tool the english name for which I can not remember, and some spare time.
Combine this with some experience with woodworking, wich every man worth his salt (Except, maybe, the nobles Wink ) in medevial europe would have, and making a scabbard is a breeze.
At least, a lot less trouble than dragging a sharp sword around.

Personally, I neve found tripping in my scabard was a problem. Unless, of course, you are running and the scabbard (with a sword in it), while using some other weapon, and the sword belt crawls round to your back, as it tends to do when you run a lot...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Aaron Schnatterly




Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Reading list: 67 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,244

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 5:07 am    Post subject: Re: Leather Sheaths?         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Aaron Schnatterly wrote:
There is a LOT of work that goes into making a high quality period-appropriate wood-cored scabbard. Same thing is very true today, too...


Beg to differ. A simple wooden scabbard can be made by pretty much everyone with a minimum of tools. You need two pieces of wood, a wood carving tool the english name for which I can not remember, and some spare time.
Combine this with some experience with woodworking, wich every man worth his salt (Except, maybe, the nobles Wink ) in medevial europe would have, and making a scabbard is a breeze.


I agree - I could throw something together in a couple of hours that would work. It would take a little time with a chisel (which is the tool I believe you were searching for the name of) or plane. Actually crafting something of quality has taken a lot longer - 2-3 days. I spent about 5 hours yesterday carving out the inside of a core. I'm estimating at least another hour to shape the outside, an hour or two on the leatherwork, and a couple of hours making fittings. That's 9 - 14 hours, and this one isn't overly fancy, done with modern tools. I have a couple on the drawing board now that will likely take closer to 30 - 40 hours, and will incorporate a lot fancier work, finer fittings - something fit for a nobleman, who may not be worth his salt, but his silver is just fine.

-Aaron Schnatterly
_______________

Fortior Qui Se Vincit
(He is stronger who conquers himself.)
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 5:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed. My comment was aimed more at the assumption that people could not afford scabards. Kind of like saying 21. cent people could not afford watches, because a Rolex is expensive...
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Aaron Schnatterly




Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Reading list: 67 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,244

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 5:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Indeed. My comment was aimed more at the assumption that people could not afford scabards. Kind of like saying 21. cent people could not afford watches, because a Rolex is expensive...


Totally with you, Elling! There was, I'm certain, quite a range. I personally would rather have a wood core, even if it isn't a particularly good quality one (but functional) over a moderate leather one. I'd take a good to exceptional wood core over an exceptional leather one. I'd take a leather one over a bare blade...

-Aaron Schnatterly
_______________

Fortior Qui Se Vincit
(He is stronger who conquers himself.)
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Eric Nower




Location: Upstate NY
Joined: 22 Dec 2004

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all,

I think I may have mis-typed... Wooden core scabbards would have been more expensive than a simple leather sheath wouldn't they? Would they have been common place or not? Did any historical examples survive? You might run into a problem dragging or tripping on a leather sheath( if not reenforced with metal fittings...Thanks Aaron Hadn't thought of that)

Aaron Said "I personally would rather have a wood core, even if it isn't a particularly good quality one (but functional) over a moderate leather one. I'd take a good to exceptional wood core over an exceptional leather one. I'd take a leather one over a bare blade..."

I would as well, these thoughts just popped in my head while I was making a sheath for my brother one day.

May God have mercy on my enemies, for I shall have none.
View user's profile Send private message
Michael F.




Location: Vermont
Joined: 27 Mar 2005
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 106

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 11:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know much about historical scabbards, but I think a leather sheath would work well. Both of the 2 swords I own came with leather scabbards. In fact, they were very floppy. One of my swords is a longsword. This scabbard when the sword is unsheathed, is long and floppy- seems like it wants me to trip. Actually i've never had a problem when practicing with the scabbard on.

I use a leather diagonal suspension system for both my swords. Also I've seen a leather scabbard made out of really thick leather that is not floppy at all. It was almost like a wood core as it was thick and had weight. Thought it did have metal fittings.

I guess the tripping issue really depends on what kind of leather you use, whether it is reenforced with fittings, and the suspension system you use.

I recently tried to make a wood core scabbard and it was quite difficult, even though I'm an 'decently skilled' carpenter. Razz

but the historical issue- I'm not sure about. I'd love to see some historic examples of leather scabbards.

"Tis but a scratch.....A scratch? your arm's off!"-- Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
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: 9,131

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 1:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In certain periods, leather sheaths were the norm. For example, from what I've read, many basket hilts had leather sheaths with metal mounts. Same for dirks of the period.

As for scabbards in general, some people think they were discarded before a pitched battle in order to be out of the way. Some conflicts were more spontaneous, in which case any scabbard, leather, wood, or metal, could get in the way.

Happy

ChadA

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




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

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,145

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 7:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad;

Getting rid of the scabbard before a fight makes a lot of sense if its for the primary weapon.

If the sword is the back-up to a Polearm or Twohander your stuck with it at least until you discard the primary weapon.

For a shorter short sword or long dagger the scabbard doesn't get in your way.

I would imagine that the design of the suspension system would be more important than the scabbard itself when it comes to keeping from it being a liability.

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




Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Reading list: 67 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,244

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 7:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is evidence of a ring attached to a belt where a sword could be put in lieu of a scabbard. This could help eliminate the issue of tripping and where to put this (possibly secondary) weapon. Wouldn't do for long-term storage of a prized weapon, but would work just wonderfully in the heat of battle...
-Aaron Schnatterly
_______________

Fortior Qui Se Vincit
(He is stronger who conquers himself.)
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jean Thibodeau




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

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,145

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 7:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aaron;

Good point, but couldn't you get tangled up on the naked SHARP blade just as easily as if it was in a scabbard Eek! Laughing Out Loud

Now, when you did draw the sword you would have the advantage of not having an empty scabbard bouncing around.

Just playing devils' advocate here

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




Location: New Glarus, WI
Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Reading list: 67 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,244

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 8:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Good point, but couldn't you get tangled up on the naked SHARP blade just as easily as if it was in a scabbard Eek! Laughing Out Loud


There you go thinking again... Razz

Agreed... most instances, though, were on full harnesses (I believe), so EVERYTHING gets covered.

-Aaron Schnatterly
_______________

Fortior Qui Se Vincit
(He is stronger who conquers himself.)
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jean Thibodeau




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

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,145

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aaron;

Yup, I'm buying maille underwear for sure. Eek! Razz Laughing Out Loud

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




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 4:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aaron Schnatterly wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Good point, but couldn't you get tangled up on the naked SHARP blade just as easily as if it was in a scabbard Eek! Laughing Out Loud


There you go thinking again... Razz

Agreed... most instances, though, were on full harnesses (I believe), so EVERYTHING gets covered.



Could be that the loops are for maces and the like, who do not have a scabard


Quote:
Wooden core scabbards would have been more expensive than a simple leather sheath wouldn't they? Would they have been common place or not


On the contrary. Wood is cheap. (It literaly grows on threes Razz Big Grin ) Thick leather is expensive... You have to kill cattle to get it....

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

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

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 9,131

PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The bottom line is that much of this discussion is speculative. Happy

Here's what we know:

-wood-core scabbards existed
-leather scabbards existed
-For certain periods/locales/sword types each was more popular than the other
-period artwork shows fighting afoot and mounted with scabbards being worn. Does it always show scabbards being worn? I doubt it. But checking through the period art of the high Middle Ages shown in articles on our features page shows a lot of scabbards worn in combat (in the Bayeux tapestry and Maciejowksi Bible, for example).

We can speculate all we want, but a wood core seems to have been more popular for the knightly class in Medieval Europe, based on the few survivors we have. Of course, leather alone may not have survived the ravages of time. Period art shows fighting while wearing scabbards, so we can assume it was done.

Our forebears were practical people. If fighting while wearing a scabbard was too clumsy and awkward, it wouldn't have been done and we wouldn't see it with the frequency it appears in art. The modern mind may find it hard to believe this seemingly awkward situation of having a flopping-about scabbard occured, but it must have. To them, it must have been no big deal or they wouldn't have done it.

Happy

ChadA

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



Location: Tallahassee, Fl
Joined: 04 May 2005

Posts: 144

PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 6:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And many swords that have been found, at least in northern Europe, have had the scabbards mostly rotted away, but there is still evidence of hair attached to the blade, suggesting a wool lined scabbard.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Leather Sheaths?
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