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Mk-Eng-Kv-Scab-art - 11/9/14


"How to make a Medieval English Scabbard Using Period Techniques and Tools" by HL Czina Angielczyka.


NOTE: See also the files: HTBuy-Leather-art, leather-msg, lea-tooling-msg, bladesmithing-msg, blades-lnks, knife-sheaths-msg, Scabbard-Mkng-art, scabbards-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at



Class notes from her talk at the Ansteorra King's College event, 2012


How to make a Medieval English Scabbard

Using Period Techniques and Tools

by HL Czina Angielczyka



This is a step-by-step instruction guide to making a leather scabbard (Figure 1) using the known tools and techniques of the Medieval English leather worker. These directions assume a basic knowledge of leatherwork, and some of the techniques may be new to the modern leather worker. These directions draw on historical examples of tools, techniques, and extant leather pieces, along with modern leatherworking techniques to create a 'How-To' manual that is consistent with historical examples.


Figure 1: Recreation of Scabbard 391. (Author)


Materials and Tools Needed

Knife for modelling (or wooden approximation)


Sewing thread and needle

Scissors or seam ripper

5/6 oz. Vegetable tanned cowhide

Bowl of water

Straight edge - wood, metal, etc.


Half-moon knife or a sharp, heavy-duty knife

Knife safe cutting board or mat

Marble slab

Wooden or rawhide mallet

Fleur-de-lis stamp

Overstitch wheel - 5 stitches per inch

Iron oxide mixture - rust water

Sheepwool scrap

Latex or rubber gloves

Wing dividers

Linen thread


Stitching awl

2 Harness needles or boar's bristles

Neatsfoot oil


Leather History and Extant Examples

Leather is the skin of an animal, processed so that it does not rot. Leather can be made from any animal skin, including cattle/calf, ox, goat, deer, horse, and sheep, to name a few.  Leather has been used since pre-historic times for a variety of objects - clothing, tents, shields, etc. Stone scraped skins have been dated to over 100,000 years old and suggest that some form of preservation was done at that time. 'Modern' man was preserving leather 40,000 years ago by rubbing them with fats (which is similar to the 'brain tanning' used by Native Americans.) (Salaman 294)


There are different types of chemical treatments to create leather. The type used for this project is vegetable tanned leather. Vegetable tanned leather has been in use for at least 4000 years, and it is possible that the process is even older. (Reed 72) It was possibly discovered as a result of accidentally immersing skins in pools with a high tannin content, or by trying to color the leather with vegetable matter. (Salaman 294) Vegetable tanning involves impregnating the skins with tannins, which are acidic compounds found in the bark of trees and other plants. These tannins are leached from the bark to form a 'liquor bath,' and soak into the hide to chemically change the structure of the skin into a water-resistant, durable material. The tanning process can take months to complete, using large volumes of water and bark.


After the tanning process is complete, the back of the leather is skived (thinned) to different thicknesses - thicker for saddles, thinner for shoes. Historically, skilled workers did this with large knives - a process now done by machine. Leather is measured in 'ounces'. One-ounce (1 oz.) leather is 1/64th of an inch thick. Due to the nature of leather, this thinning process is not completely uniform,  so hides are usually referred to by 2 numbers - 5/6-oz. leather is leather whose thickness varies from 5/64 - 3/32 inch thick.


After skiving, the leather is curried - smoothed, stretched, and conditioned. This process keeps the leather flexible and the fiber structure from breaking. Dubbing/dubbin, a mixture of tallow and oil (neatsfoot, cod-liver, or sperm whale oil, for example) was often used as the final conditioning agent before sale.


Vegetable tanned leather is the type commonly used in scabbards, belts, saddles, and shoe soles. Knives and scabbards (or sheaths) have been essential accessories for people throughout history. Much like a pocketknife today, knives were versatile tools and used in many professions. They were also a necessary eating utensil in Medieval England, at a time when diners were expected to bring their own flatware to the table. (Cowgill 55-56) Leather scabbards have been used since prehistoric times to protect knifeblades. (Waterer 1956, Fig. 119)


Museums throughout Europe have medieval leather items on display. These items range from ceremonial pieces to everyday items. Due to increased interest in the 20th century, there are museums dedicated to the study and conservation of leather items, most notably the Deutsche Ledermuseum (Germany) and the Northhampton Leather Museum (England).


There are two types of medieval leather artifacts: intact items, usually found in museum collections, and the remains of items, found in archeological contexts.  Remains of leather items are most often found in waterlogged sites like the Thames revetments due to the anaerobic conditions; bacteria and other elements normally destroy leather items buried in the ground. The Museum of London has produced a book of knives and scabbards found in various London excavations. The scabbard being created (Figure 1) is based upon 'Scabbard 391'  recovered from Swan Lane in London dated to the late 13th century, no later than CE1280. (Cowgill 1)


Figure 2: Close-up of Scabbard 391.

(Cowgill Pl. 8)



Figure 3: Line drawing of Scabbard 391.

(Cowgill 122)


Steps to Make the Scabbard


1.     Create the Pattern

Each knife is slightly different, so the pattern should be made to fit the knife for which it will be used. The handles of medieval knives were fairly standardized, so the main variation in scabbards occurred in the blade section.  (Cowgill 35)  Experienced sheath makers would probably not need a new pattern for every knife, but would have a variety of 'standard' patterns.  A wooden last (an approximation of a knife) can be used for a more generic shape. (

Figure 4).


Figure 4: Wooden last, used for moulding and forming scabbard. (Author)


Using Felt to Create the Pattern

There are no extant 'patterns', but wool, thin wood, rawhide, or even leather are all possible materials that could have been used to create permanent patterns.  Scabbards were also reused, as evidenced by the cuts and re-stitching on recovered examples. (Cowgill 39) Felt is a material similar to leather - flexible, but with more body and thickness than regular fabric. It is easy to sew and cut, and the cut edges won't fray or come apart. These properties make it a good material to use when making patterns


Cut a piece of felt larger than the wooden last. (

Figure 6)


Figure 6: Cut piece of felt. (Author)


Using sewing thread in a contrasting color (white in this case), sew the felt around the last with the seam in the center back. Use large 'running' stitches. Pull the felt taut, keeping the seam centered. When the seam is complete, trim away the excess felt. (

Figure 8).


Figure 8: Sewing the felt around the last. (Author)


Remove the felt from the last and slice the seam apart, using scissors or a seam ripper. Leave the cut threads in the felt, creating the outline of the pattern. (Figure 10)


Figure 10: Felt cut apart, showing the pattern line. (Author)


Using the cut threads as the pattern line, cut the felt to the correct size.  (Figure 12)


Figure 12: The felt cut apart, showing the pattern. (Author)


Transfer this pattern to cardstock to make a permanent pattern. (Figure 14)


Figure 14: Cardstock pattern made from the felt. (Author)


See Appendix 1 (pages 23 - 24) for an alternate modern way to create a similar pattern.


2.     Choose Leather

Take a piece of 5/6-oz. vegetable tanned cowhide and carefully examine the piece for any cuts or major marks on the grain side. The scabbards found in London are described as being made of vegetable-tanned calf leather, approximately 2 mm thick. (Cowgill 34, 122) This translates to 5 oz. (5/64 in. thick) modern vegetable tanned cowhide.



3.     Lightly Wet Leather and Trace Pattern

Use a sponge to lightly wet the leather on the grain side. Use the tracer (Figure 16) like a pencil to scribe the pattern onto the front (grain side) of the damp leather. (Figure 17) Tracers were normally made from (non-ferrous or coated) metal, wood, or bone. (Salaman 138, 198 - 200) Scabbards were made with the grain side out, (Cowgill 34) because the grain is tougher and more water-resistant, and allows stamping and tooling. Figure 18 shows the line traced on the dampened leather.


Figure 16: Tracer. (Author)


Figure 17: Using the tracer. (Author)


Figure 18: The cutting line traced on the dampened leather. (Author)

Text Box:

4.     Cut Leather

Cut along the pattern line, using the half-moon knife (Figure 19) (or other sharp, heavy-duty leather knife).  Make sure your knife is sharp, and follow knife safety guidelines. Figure 20 shows the leather after being cut. The half-moon knife is the traditional leather worker's cutting tool. (Salaman 133, 138) This design of knife has been used since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. The design has only changed slightly through the centuries. (


Figure 21)


Figure 19: Using the half-moon knife. (Author)


Figure 20: The cut out leather. (Author)







Figure 21: Historical examples of the half-moon knife. (Waterer 1968, pl. 5)



5.     Decorate the leather

The following are directions for a scabbard in the style of Scabbard 391 (



Figure 3) in the Museum of London collection. (Cowgill 122) Figure 23 shows other examples of 'single motif' stamps used on scabbards. The earliest examples of single-motif stamping in the London collection are from the Swan Lane deposit (no later than CE1280.) (Cowgill 43 - 44, 122 and Salaman 196) Single dot stamping used to 'outline' designs were in use a bit earlier (early to mid 13th century). Heraldic motifs were popular in Medieval England and the rest of Europe – scabbard 391 is an early representation (Cowgill 42) - see Figure 16 for more designs. At that time, stamps may have been made from metal or wood, but modern tools are made from steel or zinc and plated to prevent rust damage on the leather.


The name 'Ricardie' was stamped on the handle of scabbard #391. This has been omitted, but another name could easily be substituted if a suitable stamp was made. Scabbard makers did not mark their work in the extant examples, but there are examples of post-purchase 'graffiti' made by the owner (Cowgill 40).


Figure 23: Stamp impressions from the Museum of London collection. (Cowgill 44)


Directions for decorating the leather:

Thoroughly wet the leather by submersing the whole piece in a bowl of water or by using a sponge to wet it in sections. The leather needs to be wet in order to do any decorations or forming (Cowgill 35, 40, 43, and Salaman 195, 196, 198). Let it sit until there is no water on the surface, and the color has started to return to normal. If the leather is too wet, the stamping will be blurry; too dry, and the impression won't hold. Rewet the leather as needed during stamping. 


Do all stamping on a marble slab or other smooth, sturdy surface - this will help prevent the stamp from bouncing, creating a double impression.  Use a wooden or rawhide mallet, because a metal hammer will damage the stamp, causing the top to 'mushroom' and deform.


Scribe the division line between the handle and blade sections onto the leather using the tracer (Figure 16) and straight edge, following the extant example, (Cowgill 40 and Salaman 198 - 200) and then decorated. (Figure 17)


Figure 24: Scribing the division line. (Author)


Scribe a line down the center of the scabbard as a guide for stamping. (Figure 25)


Figure 25: Scribed lines on the scabbard. (Author)


Using the wooden mallet, stamp the line of fleur-de-lis onto the leather, using the scribed line as a guide. (Figure 26 and Error! Reference source not found.)


Figure 26: Fleur-de-lis stamp.

(Tandy Leather Factory)

Text Box:

Figure 27: Stamping the line of fleur-de-lis. (Author)


Scribe the diamonds around the fleur-de-lis, using a straight edge and the tracer. This is called modeling, because they are pressure lines, not made with a mallet and stamp. (Figure 28 and Error! Reference source not found.)



Figure 28: Laying out the diamonds for modeling. (Author)


Figure 23: Scribing the diamonds


Use the overstitch wheel (

Figure 30) to create the background dots on the front of the scabbard. Avoid going over the edge onto the diamonds or on the back portion.  An overstitch wheel is a modern equivalent to a rouletting wheel, which was used to create the background dots (Cowgill 43, Pl. 8 and Salaman 260). A roulette is a small toothed disk of metal attached to a handle and used to make rows of dots or cuts, as on postage stamps. The rouletting was probably done first, followed by stamping with the fleur-de-lis stamp, which covered any mistakes by the rouletting.


Figure 30: The overstitch wheel.  (Author)


Figure 32: Using the overstitch wheel to decorate the front of the scabbard. (Author)


Scribe the back of the scabbard using the tracer to create vertical lines. (Error! Reference source not found.)


Figure 28: Scribing the vertical lines


Figure 33 shows the completely decorated scabbard.


Figure 33: The decorated scabbard. (Author)


Dye the Leather

To make the leather dye, combine vinegar and water in approximately equal portions with scraps of iron (steel wool or old nails, for example) to create iron oxide. It can take awhile to form enough liquid to dye the leather - start making the dye about 2 weeks early for this project. The liquid is done when it has turned orange/red. A foamy 'scum' often forms on the top, especially in a sealed jar. Straining the liquid ensures that no metal filings stick to the leather.


This iron mixture combines with the tannins in the leather and permanently dyes the leather.  This is a chemical reaction, so the amounts of tannins in the leather can affect the final result.(

Figure 34)



Figure 34: Example of 'rust water dye' on vegetable tanned leather. (Author)


Black dye on leather and fabric was commonly used through the Middle Ages. This dye was formed by the combination of iron compounds (copperas [green vitriol] and/or rusty iron pieces) and tannins - either galls, in the case of fabric, or the tannins added to the leather during the tanning process. (Cowgill 40; Rosetti xix; recipes 168, 173, 178,190, 193)  "Then take one ladle of dregs of filings and a half of scale of iron and a flask of white vinegar and one ounce of Roman vitriol …." (Rosetti, recipe 190) This same principle is used for the creation of ink in On Divers Arts around CE1100. The recipe calls for tannin to be mixed with wine and green vitriol, which creates colorfast and long-lasting ink. If the ink is not black enough, Theophilis recommends adding more iron to create more of a reaction (Theophilis 42).


This same tannin/iron reaction has been recorded on Hallstatt era (800-400BCE) textiles (Hofmann-de Keijzer, et al. 58), which helps indicate the antiquity of the recipe. Modern leatherworking tools are coated in zinc to prevent such a reaction, and modern vegetable tanned leather sometimes shows black marks made from the nails of wet shipping pallets.


Apply the dye with a scrap of sheepwool or old cloth. The color is not as dark as modern black dye, and will appear somewhat gray.  Apply a second coat.  More coats can be applied to achieve a darker color.  Gloves should be worn while dyeing the leather to avoid over-exposure to the iron, which can enter any cuts on the hands. Prolonged exposure to the just dyed leather can cause a bit of black rub-off (the liquid washes out a bit of the tannins from the leather) but it washes off.  Also, be aware that wood, especially non-finished wood, may have tannin in it, and can be stained black if it touches the rust water.


Making the 'rust water' is recommended over using iron powder (Ferrous Sulfate Heptahydrate, available from nature dye suppliers). Experiments with using the powder to dye leather did work, making the leather black, but a salty residue formed and kept reappearing, even after repeated rinsing and overdyeing with rust water. Further trials with this powder may prove to make it equal to rust water, but the rust water is easy to make and very inexpensive.


6.     Mould the Leather and Mark the Stitch Line

Re-wet the leather and mould it around the last, matching up the seams. While wet, the leather is very flexible, and will stretch around curves. When dry, the leather will retain that shape.


Carefully line up the edges of the seam. Use the wing dividers (Figure 35) to mark the seam line approximately 1/16-inch from the seam. (Figure 36)  In extant examples from England, the stitch line measurement is not given, but a good rule of thumb is to inset the seam the same distance as the thickness of the leather (5/64 to 1/16-inch) (Stohlman 1977, 7).


Figure 35: Wing dividers. (Author)


Figure 36: Using the wing dividers. (Author)


While the leather is wet, impress stitch marks using the overstitch wheel (

Figure 30), which marks 5 stitches per inch. Mark each side of the seam so that the holes line up. (Figure 37 and Figure 38) The stitches on the extant example were approximately 5-7 mm. apart (Cowgill 37), which translates to 5 stitches per inch and the overstitch wheel is conveniently spaced for that distance. Experienced sheath makers may have had special tools to mark and space the stitches.


Figure 37: Marking the stitches with the overstitch wheel. (Author)


Figure 38: The stitch holes marked around the edge of the scabbard. (Author)


7.     Punch the Holes and Sew the Leather

Figure 39: Example of edge/grain stitch (Grew, et al. 49)


The edge/grain stitch (Figure 39) is used to stitch the seam. This stitch goes through the grain side of the leather, but instead of going all the way through straight up and down, the thread goes through at an angle and exits through the edge of the seam. This stitch does not allow the blade of the knife to touch the thread, which protects the stitching from wear and tear.  Practice this stitch on scraps to learn how tight to pull the thread without tearing through the leather.


Figure 40: Stitching Tools: awl, overstitch wheel, beeswax, linen thread,

and harness needles. (Author)

Figure 40 shows the tools used for sewing leather. Use 2-ply thread (linen, or its modern equivalent, nylon) to sew up the scabbard. 2-ply linen thread was probably used on the extant example, although the thread has disintegrated. (Cowgill 37) Linen thread came in a variety of weights and colors for clothing (Crowfoot 151), so black linen thread was probably available to the scabbard maker as well. Either coat the thread with beeswax, or use pre-waxed thread. The wax helps the stitches 'grip' the leather and keeps the stitches tight. (Grew et al. 48)


Harness needles are used for the sewing, in conjunction with a diamond shaped awl. An alternate modern option is to use a curved awl, and/or flexible or curved needles. There is no evidence these were used on the extant examples from England, however. Lightly wetting the leather can help with sewing through the angled holes.


Medieval leather workers traditionally used boars' bristles (Figure 41) to pull thread (Waterer 1968, 50). The thread was attached to the end of the bristle with wax, rather than put through a hole, as with a needle. These bristles, which are flexible enough to go through curved holes, are not readily available today. Blunt tipped harness needles will achieve the same result.


Figure 41: Boar's bristle. (Salaman 173)


Carefully push the diamond shaped awl so the hole goes through the grain and the edge.  Be certain that the holes are lining up so that they match on the sides of the seam. Holes can be punched and stitched in pairs, or all of the holes can be punched at once. (Figure 42)


Figure 42: Awl holes around the edge of the scabbard. (Author)


Cut a length of thread about 3 times the length of the seam to be stitched. If the thread is not pre-waxed, run each strand through the beeswax to get an even, thorough coating. (Figure 43) Roll the strands together to form the 2-ply thread.


Figure 43: Waxing the thread. (Author)


Thread a harness needle on each end of the (waxed) thread. They won't cut the leather, as they are blunt.  Roll the thread and 'tail' together between the fingers or on a scrap of leather until the pressure and heat allows the beeswax to fuse them. (Figure 44) The thread coming out of the needle should not be much thicker than the needle, or it may catch on the leather and tear it. The thread will go through each hole twice, as in modern saddle-stitching.


Figure 44: Rolling the 'tail' of the thread. (Author)


Start stitching at the point (tip) of the scabbard so that the thread ends at the top for tying off.  (

Figure 45)  Pull the thread halfway through, so there are equal lengths on each side of the seam. Then carefully start stitching up the scabbard, pulling the thread taut without tearing the leather.



Figure 45: Stitching up the scabbard. (Author)


At the top of the scabbard, backstitch one time, and then tie off the thread in a simple square knot and clip the ends close to the leather. Backstitching another stitch and then pulling the thread to the center and trimming would also work, but the holes are so shallow the leather could tear. Figure  shows the completed stitching.


Figure 40: Back of the scabbard, showing the stitches. (Author)


8.     Trim Leather

The top edge of the scabbard can be trimmed and evened out using a sharp knife after sewing, if necessary.


9.     Oil Leather

Apply a thin coat of neatsfoot oil to the scabbard. This will darken the color even more.  In Medieval Europe, leather was oiled when it was tanned (Plictho xix and various recipes), and curried (trimmed and thinned to the appropriate weight.) (Cowgill 34) Oiling periodically helps prevent the leather from drying out or rotting. Any number of oils may have been used, but there is no evidence which type was used on extant examples. Cod oil, olive oil, and eggs were all used during this time on different types of leather, as well as other oils. (Plictho xix; Tuck 5; Salaman 108)  Neatsfoot oil is obtained by pressing the hooves of cattle and other animals (Neat is an Anglo-Saxon term for cow). This is the most common oil lubricant in use for modern leatherwork.


10.  Cut Slits

Cut hanging slits in the back portion of the handle using the half-moon knife. These slits determine the angle at which the scabbard hangs from the belt.  In Medieval England, the owner would cut hanging slits in the scabbard after purchase to suit his or her own needs. (Cowgill 54)



Modern leatherworking tools are not very different from their medieval counterparts, although some techniques have given way to others. The tools used for leatherwork were developed relatively early, with little or no change until modern times. By using authentic tools and techniques, it is possible to experience the level of craftsmanship and skill of the Medieval leather worker.


Works Consulted


Cowgill, Jane, Knives and Scabbards (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 1). London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1987. New addition – Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2000. 

Excellent resource for extant examples of knives and scabbards. Well written and easily understood by laypeople. It includes basic medieval leatherworking information, as well as scale drawings of the leather stamps used on the scabbards. Part of the Medieval Finds series. ISBN: 0851158056

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland, Textiles and Clothing c. 1150 - c.1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4). London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1992. New Addition - Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001. 

Excellent source for information on medieval textiles. Gives information about what was found in the Thames revetments, as well as medieval techniques. Part of the Medieval Finds series. ISBN: 0851158404

Grew, Francis and Margrethe de Neergaard, Shoes and Pattens (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 2). London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1988. New addition – Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001.

Excellent source of information on medieval shoes. It includes line drawings and photographs of extant examples of shoes, as well as more medieval leatherworking and shoemaking information. Part of the Medieval Finds series. ISBN: 0851158382

Hofmann-de Keijzer, Regina, et al. "Dyestuff and element analysis on Textiles from the Salt-mines of Hallstatt" in Hallstatt Textiles: Technical Analysis, Scientific Investigation and Experiment on Iron Age Textiles. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2005.

Premier resource on Hallstatt textiles. This article shows the dyestuffs analyzed and used. ISBN: 1841716979

Reed, R. Ancient Skins, Parchments and Leathers. London: Seminar Press, 1972.

Very informative book about the processes used to tan, taw, and otherwise treat skins for use as writing materials. ISBN: 0129035505

Rosetti, Gioanventura. The Plictho. (Ed. and trans. by Sidney M. Edelstein and Hector C. Borghetty). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1969. 

Sixteenth century Italian dye manual, which includes a whole section on dyeing leather. It contains both the original and a full translation with notes. ISBN: 0262180308

Salaman, R. A. Dictionary of Leather-working Tools, c. 1700-1950, and the tools of the allied trades. Mendham, New Jersey: Astragal Press, 1986.

Comprehensive book of historical leatherworking tools. While the start date is post-period, the author indicates ancient and more modern tools. Great line-drawings and information on obscure tools in the various leatherworking trades. ISBN: 1879335727

Stohlman, Al. The Art of Handsewing Leather. Ft. Worth, TX: Tandy Leather Co., 1977.

A good reference for modern leatherworking sewing techniques - although even these have given way to sewing machines. While there is no pre-modern history given, the techniques are conjecturally period ways for sewing leather. ISBN: 1892214911

Stohlman, Al. Leathercraft Tools. Ft. Worth, TX: Tandy Leather Co., 1984.

Gives methods for using the tools and good line drawings of the tools. While the tools are all modern, the techniques for use are good. Works well with Salaman's Dictionary. ISBN: 1892214903

Tandy Leather Factory, Buyer's Guide Catalog 2009. Ft. Worth, TX: Tandy Leather Factory, 2009.

Largest source for modern leatherworking tools and materials. Catalog shows the items commonly available to the modern leatherworker.

Theophilus Presbyter. On Divers Arts. (Ed. and trans. by J. G. Hawthorne and C. S. Smith). Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1963.

Twelfth century treatise on many subjects, including painting and ink making. Good source for medieval techniques. ISBN: 0486237842

Tuck, D. H. Oil and Lubricants used on Leather. Northhampton, England: Leather Conservation Centre, 1983.

Scientific book on the technical uses of oil on leather. ISBN: 0946072035

Waterer, John W. Leather Craftsmanship. New York: Praeger, 1968.

Good overview of leatherwork from an English perspective. While slightly out of date compared to the Museum of London series, the pictures are excellent. Waterer was the 'Father of Leather Conservation.' ISBN: 0713510315

Waterer, John W. "Leather" in A History of Technology vol. II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956.

Part of the 'History of Technology' series, this gives a historical overview of leatherwork, although it is somewhat outdated by new research and discoveries. ISBN: 0198581068



Appendix 1: A Modern Way to Make a Pattern


Modern leatherworkers have many tools and supplies available to them that were not available to the Medieval leatherworker. These materials allow greater flexibility and variation, and while modern, they can help in the creation of historical items.


One alternate modern method to make accurate flat patterns of 3-dimensional items is to use tape - duct tape, masking tape, etc. The materials are inexpensive and easy to use, unlike other molding materials, such as plaster or rubber. The tape, when used over a covering such as cloth or plastic wrap, can be wrapped around the item, covering it completely. When the covering is cut off, the tape holds it in shape, which can be flattened to create the pattern. This method can be used to create an accurate pattern of a knife or wooden last. Plastic wrap is used to protect the knife from the sticky residue of the tape.


Wind plastic wrap around the knife or wooden last. (Figure 47)


Figure 47: Plastic wrapped around wooden last. (Author)


Cover the plastic with masking tape. (Figure 48)


Figure 48: Covering the plastic with masking tape. (Author)


Draw the seam line onto the tape (center back, in this case). (Figure 49)


Figure 49: Drawing the seam line on the tape. (Author)


Cut off the tape and plastic along the seam line. (Figure 50)


Figure 50: Cutting the tape pattern off the last. (Author)


Transfer this pattern to cardstock to make a permanent pattern. (

Figure 51)


Figure 51: Cardstock pattern made from the tape pattern. (Author)



Copyright 2012 by Cynthia Sebolt, <czinaangielczyka at>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at