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James R.Fox




Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 9:29 am    Post subject: Leather Armour in Western Europe         Reply with quote

Sirs-I would like to point out that leather armour came back into use in the early 1500's, and was used from then on untill armour ceased to be used at all in the early 1800's. This armour consisted of the buff coat, the cavalry glove ( a riding glove with a buff leather cuff to the elbow,and the jack boot, a riding boot with a buff extension layer at the top to cover the knee joint and lower thigh.Buff leather is made by sewing 2 or more layers of leather flat together. This will turn a saber slash and a arqebus or pistol shot from a distance but not a musket ball. This was re-inforced in the early days by a breast plate only and a light helm, or a steel cap inside the hat. ( no gentleman went anywhere w/o his hat, it was a faux pas, even if you were fighting a battle) The was true as far east as Poland. The most complete and detailed source is"Fighting Techniques of the Early Modern World, 1500-1763" A collection of historical essays on weapons armour and tactics avaailable from Amazon,com. I have the same books for the medieval world and classical world on order.I can't believe the Celts with their leather jackets and the Romans with their thromachus had failed to notice this, espically since they all used shields covered with leather.
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 11:19 am    Post subject: Re: Leather Armour in Western Europe         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
Buff leather is made by sewing 2 or more layers of leather flat together.


I have not noticed this on originals I have seen, Buff as I understand it is so strong because of the oil tanning process that is used to make it.
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James R.Fox




Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Mr Parramore-I have never seen an example of buff leather, only photos, drawings and descriptions from books, like the one I quoted. I am glad to learn this, as, if you have seen some of my posts here and in the off-topic talk, I am hyped on the subject of leather armour in Western Europe. I am totally convinced it was used, at least from the Celts on, but few examples survive, unlike the Central Asian and far Eastern examples, where the leather was lacquered to make it waterproof, and the climate is colder.Lacquered leather is not as good as steel, but the Central Asian horse tribes had lots of leather, and could buy or steal or extort plenty of lacquer from China.( The lac bush is indigenous to southern Clina)
Ja68ms
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi James, I am sure somebody else will comment.

I believe buff has been used as armour for a very long time and I am also of the belief that it was used right through the medieval period, as it was in the form of garments a great deal of it could have been worn till it was no longer serviceable and or used to make other articles, it is a very enduring type of leather .
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 4:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Buff leather was technically split (skin grain removed), and most commonly sanded with pumice (hence the name buffed.) Without the skin layer, it does not seal well, and is a poor choice for something that would be exposed to weather. It was originally an economy material for cases where the hide was seriously blemished, or mold destroyed it as far as fine leather application. It tends to turn out a lot like buckskin, and is usually pale to golden blond in color. The name has been confused with lightly colored finely tanned leather. So, somethings may have been called buff due their color, but if the top grain was high quality, that really was misinformed terminology. Because of the quality problems with it, natural buff leather was blotchy and unattractive. White pigments were incorporated into the process in early modern times to give it more uniform appearance. I am not sure when the use of the pigments started, but am not aware of it in medieval era.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 5:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Leather Armour in Western Europe         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
I can't believe the Celts with their leather jackets and the Romans with their thromachus had failed to notice this, espically since they all used shields covered with leather.


First I'd heard of Celts with "leather jackets"--do you have some documentation for that? There is ONE description of the Roman thoracomachus, from a rather late source, and while it does mention an outer layer of leather, the wording is ambiguous and it could refer to a separate layer worn over the heavy cloth padding underneath--and it does say the leather is for waterproofing, so it is not necessarily very thick at all. Roman tents and removable shield coverings, for instance, were goat or calf leather.

While some shields of that era may have been covered with leather, there is actually surprisingly little proof. Surviving shields seem to have been covered with very thin rawhide (described by the ancients AND by modern archeologists as "parchment"), or by linen, felt, or just a layer of glue. I don't know of a Roman or Celtic shield offhand that has actual documentable leather on it. However, there is a surviving Viking-era round shield which I believe has a leather facing.

Quote:
...I am hyped on the subject of leather armour in Western Europe. I am totally convinced it was used, at least from the Celts on


Bordering on a fetish, eh? (Just kidding!) Of course leather and hide used as armor in ancient times! A leather shield dating to the Bronze Age was found in Ireland, plus 2 wooden molds for making similar shields. Minoan and Mycenaean shields are shown with cowhide patterns on them, and Homer tells of shields made of 4 layers of hide. He also mentions leather or hide armor at least once, and a cap of bullhide. There is a piece of rawhide lamellar armor from Dura Europas, c. 250 AD. Leather and hide were definitely used for clothing in any number of ancient cultures.

The problem is that leather armor just does not seem to have been very common, *according to the evidence we have*. And even if we know it did exist (such as Homer's reference), we don't know what it looked like. Heck, we don't even know if he meant leather or rawhide! That's why some of us keep squabbling with you and the Leather Armor crowd, because we would like to stick with the EVIDENCE as much as we can. Some of us feel that you guys are really pushing the limits of the evidence, tilting vague references and stretching the interpretation of visual evidence, etc., more than simple scientific academic debate should permit. Idle theories are one thing, great to toss around at parties, but when they are pushed on us so strongly, and then we seem to get yelled at simply for pointing out that there is no evidence for them, well, it gets tiring.

Sure, buff coats were all the rage in the 17th century! That's not my area of expertise, but I had thought that they developed as hunting wear, and were found to be useful against civilian rapiers. I never heard that they were at all useful against pistols, but I certainly may have missed some information. I also understood that they were expensive, so not something used as a stopgap by grunt soldiers.

We've all heard stories of a soldier's life being saved when a bullet hits the Bible in his pocket. Should we assume that it then became common for troops to strap Bibles all over their bodies? After all, it's cheap protection and much better than nothing! Somehow, though, they just don't seem to have thought that way.

"Burden of proof", my friend! If you want to convince us of something, YOU have to present the evidence. It's not up to the rest of the world to disprove your theories, however "logical" they may be.

Vale,

Matthew
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I might be one of those accused of trying to place leather armour in the Dark Ages, Big Grin , BUT:

IMO, there was very likely some form of a padded undergarment worn during this time UNDER armour. As far as a padded type combination on it's own, I'm less convinced though I think it was surely a possibility.

Not that these padded undergarments were made as the later gambesons - I lean more towards layered cloth, thick wool, maybe leather.

The things that make me feel leather was used at all are the descriptions of Roman "underarmour", the saga is possibly something there is well. I can't see the sage as proof in any way, but it should not be entirely discounted. The use of leather probably in the roman garments and later Byzantine Bambakion are more what push me in this direction.

With all that being said, I don't feel leather is particularily useful for this, at least not as a primary armour form. I've seen tests of soft leather where it shows little resistance to much of anything. Now I know it can be made harder even by the tanning method used, but it also loses suppleness when done. If you have harder leather, you are limited to spot protection such as greaves, vambraces, breastplates, etc. The Carolingians seemed to favor shorter hauberks and spot protection like greaves - Hardened leather could have been used here, but I am unaware what we have in the area of finds for this, either metal or leather, but we do have pictorial evidence of one or the other or both being used for this.

As far as a primary armour function for supple leather - if used, it would have had to have been used also with textiles IMO, linen/wool etc. to make an effective "padded" garment for armour.

Given it's weight, cost and effectiveness or lack there of, it would seem textiles would make as good or better sense. I think 20 layers of linen offer better protection than the supple leather that could have been worn at at thickness that allows it to be supple. A mocassin bottom of leather could offer some resistance to weapons (not that much though even), but imagine wearing it as a hauberk - would not be very flexible.

I think textile combos offer better protection for weight and cost than leather, though I'm not sure about the cost.

But one thing here that I feel fairly strongly about - If a Viking wears 2 layers of linen and a thick wool tunic in the summer under his armour, and has a specific item that is worn for this, not everyday clothing, is this armour or clothing? I have to say armour, or at least part of ones armour. They would not be wearing it on a warm summer day if not getting into their armour.

As someone else mentioned, Dark ages armies were likely far less regimented than roman ones, so you are not going to have your legion issue underarmour to wear, what they wore was up to thme I would think for the most part. Of course if the rookie warrior is getting into mail, I think he would have been told to wear something like x or x under it, though personal tastes apply, there were also some norms for what was worn.
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that buff has to be looked at ,as it is quite different from other leather, also I think it was used in some cases poncho style over mail and sometimes as the surcoat itself with paint applied, this idea I have comes from looking at effigies not accounts, it seems to have been quite good against sword cuts, but less so against bullets, but put it in combination with other armour and I can see it's use in dissipating a missile.

Quarter of an inch or thicker is possible.

As for other leather, look at Victorian accounts from Africa, I have heard of rawhide shields stopping bullets and have read of soldiers breaking and bending swords against them.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Quarter of an inch or thicker is possible.


That would be 16oz weight leather. For a comparison, the Thickest leather jackets designed as protective wear on motorcycles are in the 8oz range, so are chaps. If you have worn these before, they are a lot stiffer than a casual wear men's leather jacket. I'm not sure what something twice this thickness would wear like, but I would think it would be pretty stiff.

Of course you can alter the stiffness of leather by how it's tanned. If I remember right, brain tanning produces a softer leather, oil tanning is stiffer and can be more stiff depending on how long it's allowed to "tan". But remember, the softer the leather the less impediment it is for weapons, therefore less armour.

Plus I'm thinking you would need about 12 sqaure feet to make a t-shirt type garment (I'm estimating here, any tailors please correct me!) 16 weight leather would weight about 12 pounds if this is the case. Lighter than mail, but not a lot lighter.

I wonder how much the "20 layers of linen treated with rough wine" garment would weigh?

But I have seen testing of softer leather. A sword was able to easily cut through and pretty easily thrust through two leayers of 8 weight leather, which is the 1/4 inch you speak of. One layer gave almost non-existent resistance. This was using a 16 oz water bottle to hold it, not putting it up against a nailed in 2x4 or anything.

The hardened leather lammelar was suprisingly effective on the other hand - could not be cut through, only scarred. A determined thrust penetrated a little, but not much!

But with all this in mind, I don't see soft leather on it's own as effective armour. Maybe if combined with layers of textile and/or padding it could be effective.

As to it's common use in this way - IMO it depends on the local economy and tradition. If cowhide is easily available and linen imported and or expensive, this local may use leather in a padded type garment. Maybe this is why the Roman padded garments and later Bambakion list leather in the construction?

As cows were not used as much for meat as they are now, I would think a dairy cow would be kept for milk til slaughtered, and beef would not be a daily item on a middle ages dinner table. If this is the case there would be less slaughtered cows, and leather would not be as cheap or common. Plus the locale makes a difference - if sheep are the common item of animal husbandry and cows are not as common, once again thicher hide would be rarer and more expensive.

This is why I feel leather MAY have been used in western europe, under mail or on it's own, most likley in a combo type construction with textiles, but I would think linen or other textiles would be more common. Of course a tradition dating back to Rome of combo garments of leather and textiles could kick in the traditon thing a bit more, and make leather a more likely item to be used than economics would indicate.
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Brawn Barber




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 1:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
But I have seen testing of softer leather. A sword was able to easily cut through and pretty easily thrust through two leayers of 8 weight leather, which is the 1/4 inch you speak of. One layer gave almost non-existent resistance. This was using a 16 oz water bottle to hold it, not putting it up against a nailed in 2x4 or anything.

The hardened leather lammelar was suprisingly effective on the other hand - could not be cut through, only scarred. A determined thrust penetrated a little, but not much!

But with all this in mind, I don't see soft leather on it's own as effective armour. Maybe if combined with layers of textile and/or padding it could be effective.


Soft leather, I'd agree. Hardened leather has limitations too, obviously.

I have tested varying thicknesses of leather in combination with chainmail (16 Gauge steel, both butted and riveted)
with a high quality Damascus steel dagger (@ 12" long)

8 oz and 15 oz leather alone doesn't stand a chance against a piercing strike, impaled to between 5-7 inches. When combined with maille however, there were a couple of interesting notes.

The same force strike with butted maille either under or over the 8 oz and 15 oz pierced both the leather AND maille to about 6 inches, seperating the links. Riveted maille in combination with leather could not be pierced with the same force strike.

Boiled 15 oz leather withstood a double handed overhead strike with a 6 foot 2X4, however it fared little better than the unhardened leather test for piercing as described above.
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I seem to think I have seen a few English Civil War ones with the signs of slashing from swords, but not penetration, I also think that if Buff was completely useless as armour it would not have been used so much?
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 2:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brawn Barber wrote:

Quote:
Boiled 15 oz leather withstood a double handed overhead strike with a 6 foot 2X4, however it fared little better than the unhardened leather test for piercing as described above.


What I have seen is large plates of this can be fairly brittle, though perhaps there is some method of making herdened leather that alleviates this somewhat, but we do not know of. The testing I saw had the leather not penetrated by a cut, though the plate of leather was severely stressed. Another few blows and it would have been falling to pieces.

But the lammelar functioned very well. I think the "give" that the lames have due to being held together by cords make it much more effective than a plate of hardened leather.

Quote:
The same force strike with butted maille either under or over the 8 oz and 15 oz pierced both the leather AND maille to about 6 inches, seperating the links. Riveted maille in combination with leather could not be pierced with the same force strike.


Sure would have been more effective under mail. But a good amount of layers of linen and padding would do the saem thing I would think. I think here it would be about what made more sense economically to wear under mail, and traditon would be even more important.

Lawrence Parramore wrote:

Quote:
I seem to think I have seen a few English Civil War ones with the signs of slashing from swords, but not penetration, I also think that if Buff was completely useless as armour it would not have been used so much?


My guess it could be helpful against glancing blows, but I'm rather ignorant about the specifics of Buff leather. Was it used in conjunction with metal plate pieces as well? Was it ever made in a Brigandine, with metal plates between the layers of leather?
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not normally as seen in films with a metal breastplate, it was either one or the other from what I understand, I believe the structure is greatly different to vegetable tanned leather, if I get time I will look in my copy of Waterer, it is a book on original leather armour.
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Jim Mearkle




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just curious - has anyone seen any documentation for this:

http://www.woodenswords.com/WMA/lbuckler.htm

Thanks!

Jim
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It reminds me slightly of the mold that was found in the Irish bog, but the claim that it will stop a 38 needs proof Eek!
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Jim Mearkle




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2009 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could you tell me more about the mold? Or tell me where to find more info?
Jim
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James Barker




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2009 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The buff coat replaced cloth and combo armors like jacks and jack of plates when the thick cloth or cloth metal combo was no longer able to stop gun fire. Really it was there to help turn blades that do not land well; the other armors I mention did that too but were really thick and helped against cuts and arrows.

We have evidence of leather armor in the middle ages; however I have always seen in paired with maille under it. Likely the leather was not strong enough to really stop a good blow from a medieval sword; it was there to slow the blade and the maille did the stopping work much like light cloth armor over maille. One layer takes the brunt of the energy the other is the real protections.

James Barker
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2009 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
We have evidence of leather armor in the middle ages; however I have always seen in paired with maille under it


Where is this evidence from? Just curious, I'm was not sure of any evidence other than the descriptions of the Bambakion and it's use under mail or lammelar.

Any examples of this in western europe?
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2009 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jim Mearkle wrote:
Could you tell me more about the mold? Or tell me where to find more info?


page 27, Leather and The Warrior by John W Waterer
Iron age shield mould made of oak, found in a bog Churchfield,County Mayo, Eire.

There are also some leather medieval helmets etc discussed.
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Hunter B.




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2009 4:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lawrence Parramore wrote:
It reminds me slightly of the mold that was found in the Irish bog, but the claim that it will stop a 38 needs proof Eek!


Load: .38 Special +P+ 110 gr (7.1 g) Muzzle Velocity: 1,100 ft/s (340 m/s) Muzzle energy: 295 ft•lbf (400 J)

Load: .38 Super 130 grains (8.4 g) Muzzle Velocity: 1,275 ft/s (389 m/s) Muzzle Energy: 468 ft•lbf (634 J)

Yeah, I'd love to see that proof test.

“It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves.”
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