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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 6:39 am    Post subject: Wood scabbard without facing -- yes or no?         Reply with quote

Hello. I'm once more going over the practicalities of reconstructing this type of scabbard for a historical reenactment, and I'd like to know if it would be okay to leave it with no facing at all, just paint and some kind of historically-plausible finish. Would it be too easily damaged?
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Terry Thompson




Location: Suburbs of Wash D.C.
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 8:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing I've noticed with extant European scabbard finds is that they almost have evidence of some sort of binding. In the iron age, the wood would be exposed, but it would still be bound by iron or bronze ribs (decorative but also seemingly functional to keep the scabbard from separating.
In the later migration era scabbards were bound in linen, and later still; leather and fabric coverings. Besides all of these variations being aesthetically pleasing, these all have the common functionality of preventing the wooden halves from separating at glue lines. I suspect that many glues in the period were probably either susceptible to humidity/water or didn't bond strong enough for a durable enough construction that would endure repeated abuse. So the covering, or binding or wrapping was a functional necessity or an improvement.
Realize that the sharp edge of the blades tend to rest right along the joint between the two halves, and would act as a wedge to push the pieces apart without some extra reinforcement like a cover. The jostling of a sword while riding or running, I think would make short work of an uncovered scabbard and cause the possible loss of a toe or two.
-Terry
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 9:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, a wooden core inside a composite layer of glue and cord/cloth/leather is naturally a lot stronger than just two pieces of wood glued directly to each other.

Being bound across the grain helps prevent the wood itself splitting, too, and cloth and leather covers provide a measure of weather proofing.

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Oskar Gessler




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The wood would also shrink and quill due to the changing amount of moisture within.
It would twist and bend all by itself over the time and gaps would appear.
Wire rivets along the glue line would be an option.
The sheaths of Saamiknives come to mind. Most of the time they were made from antler but there are plenty wooden examples as well.
But thats all not ´medieval authentic´ of course.
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for those thoughts. It's also true that I can't think of any examples of wooden scabbards that appear to have never had facings or other reinforcements.

I'd mostly been worried about painting the scabbard with paints that have a historically-plausible sizing, like hide glue or casein, without having them bleed too much if they got caught in the rain. What I've found out so far suggests that this is difficult to do over leather. But maybe linen is a better option.

Oskar Gessler wrote:
The wood would also shrink and quill due to the changing amount of moisture within.
It would twist and bend all by itself over the time and gaps would appear.


Would a facing provide much more moisture protection than paint and wax? In particular, I think that the usual leather at the time was similar to chamois, which soaks up moisture like a sponge and which I have not yet figured out how to waterproof.
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Hamish C




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 4:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Dan, You could do an unreinforced wooden scabbard with a modern waterproof glue such as Titebond 3. If you used quarter sawn timber that would eliminate twisting or gaps opening along the glue line from movement.


That being said the belt and braces approach with a covering, and or binding is going to be even more durable.
Caesin glue/paint should be very water resistant when cured, unless you are leaving the item constantly submerged.


If you want to see some seriously beautiful all wood scabbards(and handles), check out yeshuas-sword.com.
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Oskar Gessler




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Oct, 2018 8:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan D'Silva wrote:

Would a facing provide much more moisture protection than paint and wax? In particular, I think that the usual leather at the time was similar to chamois, which soaks up moisture like a sponge and which I have not yet figured out how to waterproof.

Most likely not but you wouldnt see if something changes. Its hidden .
Plus the facing binds the wood pieces in place. I would be curious how it looks like if someone would remove the facing of a scabbard, lets say after ten years of reenactor camp life. Im pretty sure the wooden halves are everything but not straight as they were at the beginning.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2018 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hamish C wrote:
If you want to see some seriously beautiful all wood scabbards(and handles), check out yeshuas-sword.com.

Thank you. That is indeed wonderful woodwork.

Since this scabbard will be for historical reenactment, I think it would be best to do what is achievable with period-appropriate materials. Leather-covered scabbards of this type are known.

Question to all: Would you consider a linen facing too speculative? I'd like to paint the facing, but I never figured out how to make a period-appropriate paint on sueded leather that's water-resistant. I understand from some discussions at RAT that milk paint can be applied to glued linen easily enough, and with a coat of paste wax the result is said to be pretty water-resistant and durable.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2018 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Dan,

On Thursday 11 October 2018, you wrote:
Since this scabbard will be for historical reenactment, I think it would be best to do what is achievable with period-appropriate materials. Leather-covered scabbards of this type are known.

Question to all: Would you consider a linen facing too speculative? I'd like to paint the facing, but I never figured out how to make a period-appropriate paint on sueded leather that's water-resistant. I understand from some discussions at RAT that milk paint can be applied to glued linen easily enough, and with a coat of paste wax the result is said to be pretty water-resistant and durable.

If it's not attested, it must be speculative. When then does it become "too speculative"?

As the British Museum says in its curator's comments on the example you cited in the OP, " . . . most scabbards must have been made of plain wood or leather . . . " it's probably better to use a water-resistant paint directly on the wood. Both casein and hide glues are reasonably water-resistant when properly cured, and waxing or oiling over the paint should provide adequate additional protection. But it may be better still just to wax or oil the scabbard's unpainted wood.

Keep in mind that this is Achaemenid; most of the replies you've gotten have referred to European scabbards. There isn't necessarily any continuity between Persian scabbards of the Greco-Persian Wars era and medieval European scabbards. But there may be similarities to contemporary Greek scabbards, and they may be more commonly discussed in the archaeological literature. I think that would be a less-speculative way to go, if you depart from the attested examples.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman


Last edited by Mark Millman on Fri 12 Oct, 2018 3:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Thu 11 Oct, 2018 6:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
If it's not attested, it must be speculative. When then does it become "too speculative"?

Well, there's the question. I am not sure where I'd set my own standards yet, only that I know the minimum would be, as I said, achievable using period-appropriate materials.

Mark Millman wrote:
But there may be similarities to contemporary Greek scabbards, and they may be more commonly discussed in the archaeological literature. I think that would be less-speculative way to go, if you depart from the attested examples.

I agree that would be a good starting point. I know at least one reenactor out there has used linen wrapping on a Greek scabbard, so I'll have to ask about the basis for that. And any Iron Age finds from other parts of West Asia, or maybe even Egypt, would also provide circumstantial evidence.

Okay, off to do more research. Thanks!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Oct, 2018 1:58 am    Post subject: Re: Wood scabbard without facing -- yes or no?         Reply with quote

Dan D'Silva wrote:
Hello. I'm once more going over the practicalities of reconstructing this type of scabbard for a historical reenactment, and I'd like to know if it would be okay to leave it with no facing at all, just paint and some kind of historically-plausible finish. Would it be too easily damaged?


A scabbard like this should be fine uncovered. It will be more likely to split, especially if fallen on or sat on, than a covered scabbard, but should survive normal use for quite some time. In particular, the large throat and foot give a lot of area to join the two halves of the scabbard together (with some combination of glue, nails, and/or wooden pins). Construction like that is common on SE Asian scabbards.

Without the large throat and foot, you'd want some kind of reinforcements, such as a throat piece and a chape (e.g., like Japanese scabbards), or some reinforcing bands (e.g., like dha scabbards), but uncovered would still work.

Some modern naked and unreinforced scabbards:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collect...p;partId=1
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collect...p;partId=1
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collect...p;partId=1
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collect...p;partId=1
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collect...p;partId=1

Rattan or cord reinforcements are common:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collect...p;partId=1

Whether or not it would be historically accurate is another story, but it could certainly be functional.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Oct, 2018 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

AIUI - and I'm not sure whether this the case for these particular scabbards, but I think it goes at least for some similar things from the same region and rough time period - it's also not uncommon for the throat and foot to be separate components, made in one piece each, often in some stylishly contrasting material, and fitted over the glued core to help bind it together at each end. Much like on many keris scabbards.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Harry Marinakis




PostPosted: Sun 14 Oct, 2018 7:30 am    Post subject: Re: Wood scabbard without facing -- yes or no?         Reply with quote

Dan D'Silva wrote:
Hello. I'm once more going over the practicalities of reconstructing this type of scabbard for a historical reenactment, and I'd like to know if it would be okay to leave it with no facing at all, just paint and some kind of historically-plausible finish. Would it be too easily damaged?


Hi Dan,

Based on your link, you're talking about the 4th or 5th century BC. Information on scabbards from that time period is very scarce. Very little has survived to this day. It is quite possible that plain wood scabbards were used, but whether or not they were painted is speculation. A lot of Greek pottery from later in the Bronze Age show images of scabbards that seem to wrapped in a spiral fashion with something.

I would study Egyptian paintings and see if you can find anything at all to give you some clues.

So as far as historical reenactment is concerned, I would use a baldric and make an educated guess for the scabbard. No one is going to be able to prove that your design is wrong, because they can't prove what's correct.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Oct, 2018 9:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've seen some period iconography - like this, for example, although some show the suspension more clearly - that shows these being worn tucked under a belt AND/OR on a short baldric or cord, in both cases hilt pointing right and high enough in front of the chest that they were probably drawn with the palm of your hand turned outward (or otherwise using the overhand "icepick" grip).

PS. They're also shown hanging from the belt, like this:




The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sun 14 Oct, 2018 3:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
A scabbard like this should be fine uncovered. It will be more likely to split, especially if fallen on or sat on, than a covered scabbard, but should survive normal use for quite some time. In particular, the large throat and foot give a lot of area to join the two halves of the scabbard together (with some combination of glue, nails, and/or wooden pins). Construction like that is common on SE Asian scabbards.

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
AIUI - and I'm not sure whether this the case for these particular scabbards, but I think it goes at least for some similar things from the same region and rough time period - it's also not uncommon for the throat and foot to be separate components, made in one piece each, often in some stylishly contrasting material, and fitted over the glued core to help bind it together at each end. Much like on many keris scabbards.

Those are interesting points and I'll admit that I hadn't thought about southeast Asian styles, though they do remind me of akinakes scabbards. The separate one-piece throat, AFAIK isn't supported by evidence, but there is so little evidence in the first place. I think that Greek scabbards of the period sometimes had separate throats, based on period art.

(On a tangential note: The Apulian "Darius vase" supposedly shows an akinakes. It's actually just a small Greek sword.)

I was planning on getting these made by a professional woodcarver since I no longer have access to a shop or tools to do it in a reasonable timeframe. A separate one-piece throat would seem to me to add a lot of work, and I'd probably want it to be in contact with the neck for at least the better part of an inch so as to provide plenty of bonding surface. At least one and hopefully both scabbards will have separate bronze chapes (based on multiple archaeological finds).

Harry Marinakis wrote:
I would study Egyptian paintings and see if you can find anything at all to give you some clues.

I'll give it a shot. The Late Period is kind of a narrow slice of Egyptian history, but Egyptian art on the whole seems like a popular enough topic that I'm sure there are good studies out there.

I feel pretty confident about having worked the suspension out. The sidewise Persepolis reliefs are confusing, but there are some frontwise ones showing that the scabbard was attached to a waist belt worn on top of the usual knotted sash.

Thanks everyone.



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