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scabbards-msg - 2/7/08


Making sword scabbards. Different types. References.


NOTE: See also the files: swordcare-msg, swordsmiths-msg, knife-sheaths-msg,

bladesmithing-msg, armor-msg, swords-msg, leather-msg, lea-tanning-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: sirb at hevanet.com (Phred Meyer)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Making a Scabbard

Date: Tue, 12 Sep 1995 21:23:34 -0800

Organization: Sir Blackhand


mikes at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu (michael squires) wrote:

(To make a scabbard)

> As it was explained to me:


> 1. Get two pieces of wood, about 1/4" thick, about 1/4" larger than the sword

>    in all dimensions (length vs width).  Carve out a hole for the sword; today

>    one would use a router.


> 2. Using cloth tape soaked in glue with the sword inserted wrap the two pieces

>    of wood just like an SCA rattan sword.


> 3. Let dry, then cover with leather and add fittings. A chape can be made

>    from hobby store sheet brass.


> 4.  I've heard that adding an oiled leather lining (so that the sword is in

>     contact with oil all the time) is  a Good Thing, but that one has to avoid

>     leather tanned using acids for obvious reasons.


Greetings from Y Blackhand,

I have been making swords and scabbards for several years. Here is my

(condensed version) method of scabbard making.

  1. Rout out the two pieces of wood for a loose fit of the sword to

within one and one half inch of the throat. Carve the throat to fit the

sword closley so it dosen't rattle in the finished scabbard.

  2. Finish the inside of the scabbard with varnish to stop moisture from

reaching the blade. Glue the two pieces together with woodworking glue.

  3. Shape the outside as desired. Varnish or cover with thin leather. As

an alternative to metal fittings use heavy leather bands at the throat,

middle and drag.

  Do not use leather, sheepskin, cloath or anything else that will wipe

the blade. Any thing used will collect dirt and grit that will scratch the



For the game we play,

Y Blackhand KSCA OL OP

Omnia Pecuniae


Y Blackhand      KSCA,OL,OP

       Omnia Pecuniae



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: gl8f at fermi.clas.Virginia.EDU (Greg Lindahl)

Subject: Re: Making a Scabbard

Organization: Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia

Date: Fri, 15 Sep 1995 23:29:22 GMT


Michael Greenstein <zarquon at platinum.nb.net> wrote:

>I love the SCA!).  One trick I was told, and used to good advantage,

>is that a basic sheath has three layers of leather: front and back

>panels, and a middle piece that is U-shaped, where the inside of the "U"

>is the shape of the blade.  This way, when you sheath your blade, you

>are cutting into leather rather than cutting into stitches.


Baron Silver, an Atlantian who does a lot of leather, makes sheaths

out of a single piece of leather, stitched down the back. Thus, it's 1

piece, uses half the sinew for stitching it up, and also has this

property that the stitches can't get cut. I don't know what his

documentation is, but he claims it's historical.


So how do you make it? Well, you make it with the stitches down one

side, and then you get it wet and re-bend it such that the stitches

are in the center of the back... the bottom needs a tiny bit of



Gregory Blount



From: david.razler at compudata.com (DAVID RAZLER)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Making a Scabbard

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 95 20:55:00 -0400

Organization: Compu-Data BBS -=- Turnersville, NJ -=- 609-232-1245


GL>Michael Greenstein <zarquon at platinum.nb.net> wrote:

GL>>I love the SCA!).  One trick I was told, and used to good advantage,

GL>>is that a basic sheath has three layers of leather: front and back

GL>>panels, and a middle piece that is U-shaped, where the inside of the

GL>"U" >is the shape of the blade.  This way, when you sheath your

GL>blade, you >are cutting into leather rather than cutting into



The major problem is not cutting the leather but damaging the knife.

Leather is generally acid-tanned (oak galls and bark the original



And acid is not good at all for steel.


So you have two choices: make an all-leather scabbard and keep the knife

out of it when you're not carrying, or making a scabbard that looks like

it is all leather but has a hidden plastic or wooden interior. I have

had good luck with basswood, sealed over the entire inner surface with

"crazy glue" then covering it with leather of one's choice.


I still do not keep anything in scabbards any longer than necessary

except my "hanger" cheap shortsword and a neat little souvenier my dad

picked up in Japan (metal lined with wood)


I seal the wood now because of an unfortunate experience at Pennsic when

a cloth-covered wooden scabbard got a little damp, and pitted the 440

steel inside. Lots of Neverdull cleaned it up pretty well, but I do NOT

ever again want to see a hand-forged blade a victim of acid or water.


                                        In Service to Sharp Objects,

                                         Aleksandr the Traveller

                                        [david.razler at compudata.com]



From: doug_brunner at hp-corvallis.om.hp.com (Doug Brunner)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Scabard? how to?

Date: 27 Mar 1996 00:55:58 GMT

Organization: Hewlett Packard Inkjet Comp. Div.


I guess it depends on what you're looking for. I've made pieces similar to

what most people look for. But, I've made them completely from wood. I use

something like a maple burl. These are pretty much show pieces. I can do

some pretty fancy inlay work on these. They're made to be hung over the mantle,

with the sword, on a display case.


One way I've heard of is pretty straiaght forward, but a bit awkward. Make the

actual sheath from a light, hard wood. Birch wouldn't be bad, or maybe ash. This

is so you don't tear up the interior of the sheathe. Take two pieces, about

2" longer and 3/4" wider than your blade, and about 1/2' thick. Make sure the

surfaces of these boards are planed and clean!! You'll have to glue them together, later. This is how I make mine.


Now, for this to work MEASURE CAREFULLY!!! Lay the sword on one piece. Center it, with the hilt sitting flush on the edge. Trace the blade, giving it a little bit around the outside edge. Maybe about 1/8". Now, duplicate the same drawing on the other piece.


If you're not sure about being accurate, make a pattern from a piece of panelling, and use that. Then, use a chisel (I use a router), and clear out the wood to make a pocket for the blade.  Each piece has to be cut out to just a hair over one half the thickness of the blade. Sand these smooth. Then tape the pieces together and check for fit. You may have to do this often, to ensure a good fit. Once you have a good fit, meaning no rattle and no drag, coat the area of the blade with something like a very thin epoxy or superglue. This prevents the interior from getting cut up, easily. I've also heard of using rawhide, but it's thicker and needs more clearance. So, the scabbard must be thicker.


Align the pieces,  glue them together and clamp them. A decent wood glue like TiteBond II is quite sufficient. As far as clamping, it just means equal pressure. Some masking tape and some heavy wights will work. You just want ALL of the surfaces to match. WARNING: If you use a lot of glue, it'll leak into the interior and screw up your sword area. Apply a THIN, even coat. This leakage

is called "Glue Squeeze Out".


Once it's dried, round over the end. This is what the extra 2" was for. If you followed the exact shape of the blade, you'd still be OK. But, that end gets banged a bit. I like to have a little more material, just in case. And, if you decide to add a brass or steel tip, there's something for the brad, besides the end of your blade. Then, round over the edges.


Next, locate some leather of your choice. Make sure it's a little thin, but strong. Sew a "SNAKE". This is a long sleeve. It just happens to be the same circumference and length as that piece of wood you've been working on. It should also round over on the end, just like the wood. Make sure the wood is sanded smooth, and that the "SNAKE" is a tight fit. Soak the leather until it's pliable. (Obviously, this is not a good procedure for suede. ) Coat the wood with a THIN coat of glue. Slide the wood into the leather sleeve. If you're good, it'll be a snug fit. The glue will also act like a lubricant, with the wet leather. Pull it up tight and let it dry. I would suggest  using really small

tacks and secure the leather to the top. Then, you can get a brass or steel plate for the top. This keeps the blade from wearing the leather, and hides your tacks.  Brass or steel loops can be added for straps and belts. Someplace like TANDY LEATHER carries a lot of this.


I know this is a bit long winded, but you wanted details. I hope I haven't frightened you off of this project. Just remember to be careful, take your time and do your best to be accurate. Some things like sanding can be boring as Hell. I keep a picture in my head of what this hunk of tree will look like when I'm done. It can be inspirational. I find the personal saisfaction of

completing a well done piece to be quite addictive.


Bruno vonBrunner

Woods Crafter/Merchant

An Tir


Doug Brunner, owner

Brunner's Woods and Crafts

lebanon, Or.

bwc at proaxis.com



From: Kim Pollard <kim at inna.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Scabard? how to?

Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996 20:07:52 -0500


On 26 Mar 1996, Terry Aucoin wrote:

>  Well I have just been given a very nice Sword by a good friend of mine. but

> dont have a Scabard to put it in! What is the best method to build to

> build one ?  

> -

>   TERRY AUCOIN  HDXQ27A at prodigy.com


      There are two ways you could go about creating a scabbard for

your sword.  Both are equally challenging, but one is slightly less work

than the other (as long as you have the proper tools).

      The first, easiest method is to use wood wrapped in leather.


A)  Make a pattern of your sword by laying it upon a large piece of paper

(cheap newsprint is good - graph paper taped together is better to keep

those lines straight).  Be sure to allow at least a quarter inch or more

(3/8" is better!) around the edges.  This space will be used for the

spacer pieces (I know there are technical terms for all these piece, but

I only know how to make one, not label one! (:>


B)  Choose your wood... if you are going to wrap this in leather, do not

use wood any thicker than a quarter inch (don't forget, you are adding

two pieces at 1/4" each, plus at least 3/16" for blade width, then on top

of that, another 1/8" to 1/4" of leather - depending on if you will want

to tool it or not) - and you already have almost an inch thick sheath!

    On the other hand... don't get anything thiner than 1/8" <-- and that

should be GOOD HARDWOOD.  You want something that will protect you from

that blade if (for some STRANGE reason) you or someone else falls on it!


C)  Cut the wood from your pattern.  If you think the pattern is a little

irregular, reverse the second piece so it mirrors the first.  Next, cut a

thin strip to go down the edge of each piece (the "seperators").  This

can be tricky, because you must match the curve at the bottom of the

sheath if you've followed the blade's point, as well as allow for a snug

fit to keep your blade from sliding out of the sheath on it's own.  (If

this is too confusing... give me an address and I'll mail you diagrams!)


D) BEFORE YOU GLUE ANYTHING... Clamp the pieces together and sheath your

sword.  If it seems too loose, either 1> recut the seperators and try

again, or 2> think about lining the interior with something like sheepskin

(trimmed to 1/4" works great).  Lining the interior works well and is

period - it kept the blade dry and, because sheeps wool contains a

natural source of lanolin, helped prevent rust.


E) Once you are satisfied with the fit of the blade, you may glue all the

pieces together.  I recommend standard wood glue and upholstery tacks for

the wood & some type of Contact Cement for the sheepskin lining (Barge's

works wonders and is now available in tube form in many shoe shops and

leather stores!).


F)  YOU MAY NOW STAIN YOUR SHEATH, or glue another layer of leather to

the outside.  If you only want something pretty, try a chrome tanned

leather.  Chrome tanning will not allow the leather to be carved or

stretched, but it is durable.  If you wish to carve the leather with a

device or design of some sort, you will need a vegetable tanned leather

at least 4 oz.  I have worked with thinner carving leather and was not

impressed with the end result - it is simply too thin to hold a good

imprint.  Also, if you carve a design, make sure you 'finish' the leather

with a good water repellant!  Otherwise you will pick up ever ding,

scratch and dent you can imagine, ruining several hours of work!


CREATING A LEATHER SCABBARD is basically the same, except you would have

to sew it, rather than glue it together.  If you have ever sewn several

layers of leather together before, you will realize how much of a pain it

is to go through 3/4" to an inch!  It can be done... but it's not fun! >;Q


Hope this was insightful!  (or at least somewhat useful) :)


Yours In Service




From: moondrgn at bga.com (Chris and Elisabeth Zakes)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Scabard? how to?

Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 07:37:51 GMT


HDXQ27A at prodigy.com (Terry Aucoin) wrote:

> Well I have just been given a very nice Sword by a good friend of mine. but

>dont have a Scabard to put it in! What is the best method to build to

>build one ?  


>  TERRY AUCOIN  HDXQ27A at prodigy.com


I use the "leather sandwich" method.


Start with a piece of heavy leather (12-oz or so), trace your sword

blade on it, adding about 1/4 inch. Make two pieces like that, and a

third that is like a very long "V" about 1/4 inch wide. Use a rotary

leather punch (the pliers-type) set to its smallest size to make a

series of holes about 1/4" apart around the edges of all 3 pieces. Sew

the V between the two outer pieces. I use 18 gauge wire (which is a

bit of overkill, but the blade will *never* cut through) or you can

use waxed leather-sewing thread, which is much quicker, but not as



It's time-consuming, but relatively easy to do, and doesn't require a

lot of specialized tools.


      -Tivar Moondragon

C and E Zakes

Tivar Moondragon (Patience and Persistence)

and Aethelyan of Moondragon (Decadence is its own reward)

moondrgn at bga.com



From: IMC at vax2.utulsa.EDU (Marc Carlson)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: re: Scabard? How To?

Date: 26 Mar 1996 17:08:55 -0500


<HDXQ27A at prodigy.com (Terry Aucoin)>

>Well I have just been given a very nice Sword by a good friend of mine.

>but don't have a Scabard to put it in! What is the best method to build to

>build one ?  


Although it risks making me look like some kind of "know-it-all" , might I

suggest something fairly simple.  Measure the length and max width and

depth of the blade, add about an eighth to a quarter of an inch to that.

Divide the modified depth measurement in half.  Go to the local hardware/

home remodeling store and find a strip of wood at least twice as long

as the blade, and as close to the modified width and even more modified

depth.  If in doubt, get bigger (a 2x4 can be whittled down, but a

1/8x4 can't be built up very easily.  I do not advise oak, as it is somewhat

acidic and can chew up your blade over a few years.


Take the wood, cut it in half and trace out the blade on both halves.

Using whatever tools you have available remove the wood that is filling

the part where the sword will go, leaving at least 1/8th" of wood  on

three of the sides (no, I don't think you're stupid, but I have seen people

just go ahead and clear out all that wood to make a very big, useless fork)

Some people use a table saw to do this, I use a wood carver's scoop.  It's

a matter of personal preference (although the table saw IS a bit more



When you are done, fit the two pieces together, rubberband them tightly

and then slid the sword in.  If it binds or stops, you have still got

wood to remove someplace (you might try looking for slick spots in the

wood where the sword rubbed against it. if you don't see anything, dirty

up the blade with anything (vaseline, chalk dust, charcoal, whatever)

that will leave a mark where the blade is touching the wood).


(BTW, if you want to line it, take some more wood out.  If you live in

an area where you are going to have changes in humidity, take even more



When you have the two sides completely fitted internally, separate them,

and trim down and taper ONE side only to whatever "scabbard shape" you



If you want it lined with parchment, cloth, fleece, whateever, do that now

(I suggest using glue, and no tacks, unless you want to risk scratching

up the blade.  I do *not* know what was done in period for this.  Do NOT

use a water soluable glue) and let it sit for as long as is suggested

on the container of glue.


Then glue the thing together, clamp it tightly and let it sit

for whatever duration is suggested on the glue container. If you are

using yellow carpenter's glue, let it sit for at least *3 days* before

you work on it again (you can unclamp it before that, but the glue will

soften with the heat of working on it if you mess with it before it

fully cures).


Make sure the sword still fits at this point.  If it doesn't fit, figure out

why and fix it.  If it means taking the thing apart and redoing part of

it so be it.  


Finally, using the side you've already done as a guide, trim down the other

side to match.  Taking the tool of your choice (power sander and carpenter's

rasp are both popular choices) shape the rest of the exterior.


At this point, you can decorate it, tightly sew a leather covering over it,

stain it, oil it, carve on it, set little silver bands on it, whatever.

I have no clue how to set a chape, though I wish I did.


Mounting it for wearing will depend on how you "finish" it, and how interested

you are in authenticity.


"Authenticity is not a matter     Diarmuit Ui Dhuinn

of money, but of time"           University of Northkeep/Company of St. Jude

-- Unknown Recreator             Northkeepshire, Ansteorra

                                  (I. Marc Carlson/IMC at vax2.utulsa.edu)



From: masters at nwlink.com (Tom Gibson)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Scabard? How To?

Date: 30 Mar 1996 03:28:18 GMT

Organization: Northwest Link


Marc Carlson (IMC at vax2.utulsa.EDU) wrote:

: When you are done, fit the two pieces together, rubberband them tightly


Ah HA!  NON-PERIOD MATERIALS!  (the band, not the rubber)


Instead of gouging out a hole for the sword try building the scabard up.  

The front and back boards should simply be separated by hardwood spacers

just a bit thicker than the blade (probly 3/16"). Glueing this together

should work without the trial and regouge mentioned.  Oh, and don't

forget to leave a hole at the bottom for water and evil spirits to get out.


      - Warren of the Just Plain

        Rubber bands are for powering longships, not making scabards.



From: bwc at proaxis.com (Doug Brunner)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Scabard? How To?

Date: 1 Apr 1996 16:53:23 GMT


masters at nwlink.com says...

>Marc Carlson (IMC at vax2.utulsa.EDU) wrote:

>: When you are done, fit the two pieces together, rubberband them tightly


>Ah HA!  NON-PERIOD MATERIALS!  (the band, not the rubber)


>Instead of gouging out a hole for the sword try building the scabard up.  

>The front and back boards should simply be separated by hardwood spacers

>just a bit thicker than the blade (probly 3/16"). Glueing this together

>should work without the trial and regouge mentioned. Oh, and don't

>forget to leave a hole at the bottom for water and evil spirits to get out.


>        - Warren of the Just Plain

>          Rubber bands are for powering longships, not making scabards.


That's really not a bad idea, if you're going to wrap it in leather. I don't

know how I feel about making it solid, though. For the best fit, IMHO, you'd

have to set them as spacers, leaving a bit in between the blocks so you could

adjust for the blade. But, again, if you're going ot wrap it, it may actually

work fairly well.


Thanks for the thought, I'll keep it handy.





Subject: Re: [authenticity] Re: scabbard question

Date: Wed, 05 Jul 2000 23:26:03 -0400

From: leigh tartaglio <leigh at dandy.net>

To: authenticity at egroups.com


Hi, All. Here is a quote from Dave Edge's book "Arms and Armor of the

Medieval Knight" "Throughout the entire period the sword was usually

carried in, and used from a scabbard hung on the left hip from a waist

belt secured by means of straps, thongs or buckles, as shown in the

Bayeux Tapestry. The scabbard consisted of two thin laths of wood

alongside either side of the blade, moulded to it's shape and probably

glued together along the edges with animal glue, then covered with

leather which could be elaborately tooled or embossed" He mentions

fleece lining on earlier swords, the lanolin in the wool guarding

against rust, then says "In later centuries the Knight's sword was

carried in a tighter fitting wooden scabbard made without this fleece

lining" He shows two examples on pg 63, one from ca. 1270 and the other

ca. 1200-1250 (the first Spanish and the second French or Flemish?).


Most swords of this period, and before and after, also have a form of

protection at the base of the scabbard called a chape. It can be cast or

hammered from sheet, and made of everything from iron to gold, and had a

variety of styles. It prevented the end of the sword scabbard from being

damaged, and the sword tip being exposed. I own a few original ones, one

with a bit of wood still in it.


Check with Sir Talbot or Gawkler to see

if they have any for sale, or pick their brains, as they have probably

handled quite a few originals. Some sword scabbards also had throats of

metal, but the two above mentioned sword scabbards do not appear to have

them. Earlier cultures used them, and they were in use later, so a chain

of use could be postulated, keeping in mind cultural variations, styles,

etc. It seems that, mostly, some sort of cord was placed under the

leather covering to form a ridge to enable the thongs that made up the

belt to not slip off the end. Different variants of this can be seen

from many cultures and many periods. This appears to be the commonest



Oakeshott shows two swords with metal throats, also sometimes

called lockets or latchets, on plate 17 and 18 of "The Archaeology of

Weapons", one from ca 1319, and the other from 1329, the first Spanish

and the other Italian, but an illo of a brass from England ca 1302 (the

brass of Robert deBures) shows none. Almost always is a chape shown,

though, be it ever so simple in design. Hope this helps, if you need

help in details, e-mail me separately, I can give detailed stuff. You

might also want to contact the Royal Armouries, Leeds. I think they have

some existing ones, or Dave Edge at the Wallace in London. Try to avoid

mentioning the SCA, try the reenactment tack, there is a greater respect

in that arena. I think that a few too many special cases have spoiled it

for the more seriously minded.


Good Luck, Mike T.



Subject: [medieval-leather] Cameron's sheaths and scabbards

Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2000 16:06:07 -0500

From: Marc Carlson <marc-carlson at utulsa.edu>

To: medieval-leather at egroups.com


In the advertisement supplement in the latest Antiquity, Archaeopress,

publishers of BAR (http:www.archaeopress.com) have announced the release of Esther Cameron's

_Sheaths and Scabbards in England AD400-1000_ (ISBN 1841710652) for £35.


POB 920 Oxford OX2 7YH +44 1865 311914

or Hadrians Books, 122 Banbury Rd Oxford OX2 7BP +44 1865 316916



Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000 22:05:46 -0500

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

To: "- Stephan's Florilegium" <stefan at texas.net>

Subject: [Fwd: Something of Interest - Sheaths and Scabbards]


Something of Interest - Sheaths and Scabbards


Cameron, Esther A.: BAR 301, 2000  Sheaths and Scabbards in England AD

      400-1000; ISBN 1841710652. £35.00 Archaeopress.com / Oxbow /

      David Brown Bk. Co. . "This is not exactly coffee-table stuff,

      but contains an interesting chapter on cuir bouilli, and

      another on the development of vegetable-tanning in Europe

      (not as straight forward as one might think), apart from an

      exhaustive list of known evidence of sheaths/scabbards and

      discussions of       same. It is essentially my PhD thesis (or DPhil

      as they like to call it in Oxford) and is to be published by

      Archaeopress, Oxford, as a BAR report (British

      Archaeological Report) and will be marketed by Oxbow Books

      which has outlets in the US."

      Archaeopress, POB 920 Oxford OX2 7YH +44 1865 311914 or

      Hadrians Books, 122 Banbury Rd Oxford OX2 7BP +44 1865 316916




FYI, I already have mine. About 5/8" thick full sized.

Has lots of archaeological style drawings of remnants and

fittings, discussion of leathers, liners, wood, etc.


David Brown Book Co.

P.O. Box 511, Oakville, CT  06779  

1-800-791-9354,  860-945-9329  or

Fax at 860-945-9468 -


M. Magnus Malleus, Atlantia, GDH - just a customer



Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 21:32:20 -0500

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

To: medieval-leather at egroups.com

Subject: Re: [medieval-leather] In regards to Esther Cameron's Leather Scabbard



jamesahowell at juno.com wrote:

> I have been going through my archives, and this reminded me-has Esther

> Cameron's Thesis ever come out?  Anyone seen it if it has?  Just curious!

>                                                   Regards, Finnr


Yes, I've had my copy for at least a month now.


Cameron, Esther A.: BAR 301, 2000  Sheaths and Scabbards in England AD

      400-1100; ISBN 1841710652. £35.00 Archaeopress.com / Oxbow /

      David Brown Bk. Co., 237pp., 80 illustrations and pictures,

        extensive bibliography.

      Archaeopress, POB 920 Oxford OX2 7YH +44 1865 311914 or

      Hadrians Books, 122 Banbury Rd Oxford OX2 7BP +44 1865 316916


Remind me and I'll bring it to Twelfth Nite in Attilium along with

Cutlery for the Table by Moore which includes some hanging and folding

knives from Celtic times on to 18th C. or so. I saw a copy of this

in Master James's hands and ordered it since last University here.


Moore, Simon: Cutlery for the Table / A History of British Table and

Pocket Cutlery 1999 The Hallamshire Press, Broom Hall,

Sheffield S10 DR England  Amazon.UK ISBN 1874718563    

320 pp.  35.00 GBP, Shipping  4.95 GBP  Total:  39.95 GBP total.


Magnus, who does full citations so people can find the damn things.



Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 08:38:25 -0400

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

CC: - Medieval Leather List <medieval-leather at yahoogroups.com>

Subject: Re: Best stitch for sword scabbard?


Sean wrote:

> I'd try going through the grain and sides, but my scabbard

> leather (for wooden cores) is typically too thin for that.  

> I'd be afraid it would tear through.  The baseball stitch

> is a great idea, though, and probably perfect for the

> task. Any more suggestions?


According to Esther Cameron's Sheaths and Scabbards in England

600-1100 AD (Archaeopress.com) my exact method would not be

pre-1100. How period it might be else I don't know for sure

quite honestly. But I've used the baseball stitch over a wood

core. I like to imagine that the wood scabbard might be

temporarily useful as a defense for that side if needed as

well. It looks good and works very well. I did it this way

for a Catalonian sword circa 1350 or so from Del Tin Armi

Antique. At the time I had the same limited information as

most folks, excepting the more modern leather-only scabbard

construction after John Wilkinson Latham I posted about to

the Leather list long ago, and the Archaeology of Weapons

by Oakeshott. Maybe a -few- other books, but long before

the Museum of London's Knives and Scabbards or Cameron's 2000

doctoral thesis/book. So I was going pretty much on the guess

work many of you may be going on now. Back before I also

bought most of the seminal leatherwork books I have now.


I might note though that I have never seen a sword scabbard

made in period as most are sold with these days. Two layers

of leather on either side of a strip the thickness of the

blade, run through a shoe sole stitching machine and very

obvious from the front and sides. My method looks nothing

like that.


When I did my second scabbard for a sword years ago I started

by picking basswood which is a fairly soft hardwood that is

relatively non acidic unlike the tannin producing woods -

oak, walnut, ash etc. An English equivalent would be limewood.

Easily carved and worked. Latham mentioned high quality

coniferous softwood I believe. For the non woodworking

among you, deciduous or leaf bearing woods are referred

to as hardwoods - regardless of relative actual hardness.

Coniferous, or cone bearing, trees are referred to as

softwoods - even though a few of them such as yellow pine

may be harder than many hardwoods. Softwoods are often

referred to as SPF or Spruce/Pine/Fir.


I began by taking a one inch thick piece half an inch longer

than the blade and half an inch wider and slicing about 5/16"

off of one side. Discounting the 1/8" sawblade kerf this

left 9/16" for the other side and the thickness of the blade

to be taken out of one face of it.  

Note that I planed it down to suit the handle and quillon later.


In period it might have been done in two equal halves,

clamshell-wise to the blade shape much as the Japanese do

theirs. In this case the material is chiseled out from each

side in pairs of bevels to fit the blade shape. Very little

is left to glue together. Experimenting a bit with Iado drawing

techniques you can actually have the blade come through the

scabbard glue seams. Trust me on this, I decided I would prefer

just a bit more. I expect that later in period when the long

pointed thrusting swords developed to pierce the plate armor

it may well have been so. Those scabbards look diamond shaped

in cross section. Perhaps Bob Charette knows.


I've never had my hands on a real scabbard of the medieval

period. I've seen lots of previous contents however in museums.

I could be wrong but I believe they had wood scabbards wrapped

in leather. The surviving Spanish swords from the royal tombs

appear to be. So do some others I have pictures of.


I first drew the outline of the sword blade on the wood, then I

proceeded to rout and chisel out the profile. Having done a lot

of precision work in my life (within thousandths of an inch, or

less) I left about 1/32" room at the mouth of the scabbard for

play in either dimension. There is a short rectangular shape

at this point. The scabbard has never warped and it remains

easily drawn.


I then glued the two sides back together and planed a taper to

them both ways all four sides. In the end I had a scabbard just

wider than the quillon and smaller at the chape end. As I

wanted a raised leather mouth on either side of the quillon

this worked out just right. For those of you with proper

schooling this would resemble a bell curve or a sine wave.

I then rounded the corners of the scabbard with a round-over

router bit, all the way down both sides and the tip. The

mouth end I left with a square surface to be covered later

with a leather oval piece later. This has conformed to the

shape of the steel quillon and seals the opening tightly.


I chose some 2-3 ounce vegetable tanned leather. I marked the

center line on both my scabbard front and back at the ends

- mouth and chape end - AND on the leather I intended to glue

to it. Using ordinary Barge cement, I then coated ONE side of

the scabbard and aligned the marks on the scabbard to the

leather. The leather was wider and longer than I needed at

this point.


Barge cement looks and smells just like contact cement to me.

I was a cabinetmaker/furniture shop foreman for a number of

years. But I still used Barge. Contact cement you usually

stick together when it dries just tacky to the touch. Barge

you just rough up the surfaces and glue away in my experience.

If you were to use real contact cement put sticks, waxed paper

or kraft paper between the pieces until you align the marks

then slide it out carefully and press together. This is how

laminate is applied in cabinet work. Start from the center

and press towards the ends and sides. Takes out the wrinkles.


In period the glue might be hide and hoof glue, or fish glue,

unless perhaps you were in Japan where it might be rice paste

glue, quite literally mashed from freshly prepared cooked rice

and used immediately.


Once the initial glue had set up I proceeded to apply glue to

the curves of the scabbard sides and pull the leather around

it. At this point I seem to remember coating both surfaces

and joining them when nearly dry.


I did not glue the back side yet. I wanted my leather to meet

in the center of it. I had yet to trim it.


Once the leather had stuck to the rounded sides I folded over

one side and laid a metal straight edge over it at the

centerlines I could still see on my wood scabbard ends. I cut

the leather with a knife along the straight edge and let it

go loose. I then folded the other side over and cut it just

a bit short of center to allow for the stitching. The leather

still sticks over both scabbard ends at this point.


I cut it slightly short on the back seam because I wanted to

make sure I had room to pull the leather together when I

stitched it with a baseball stitch. In practice the stitch

resembles a figure eight - weaving up through and over one

side and under and up through the next side only to return

under the first side. You will find you have to leave some

slack in the stitches to pull as you sew futher on later.

I have never like the through stitch which causes a ridge

of leather to stand up against the side of your hip when

you sew through both leathers at once bent at a right angle

to the scabbard back. I have it on some post period scabbards

and I knew it was not what I wanted.


I applied glue to both sides of the scabbard back, but not the

roughly 3/4" in the center, and folded the two leather sides

over and weighted them until the glue dried.


I then proceeded to stitch from the dampened middle towards

both ends using the baseball stitch. In the light leather I

had two stitches pull through with me, but it's not terribly

noticable. Spacing was about 6-8 to the inch. The seam closed

up very well. I seem to remember someone suggested wetting

the leather with a solvent like lacquer thinner to soften it

and form it. I can't recall if I did this. If I did it would

have dried very rapidly.  


When I got to the chape end I trimmed the leather to conform

to the double curve and stitched the end seam towards both

sides as well. This was later covered by a metal chape I

hammered to shape and glued on. I suggest starting with a

paper template. Before attaching the chape was when I dyed

the leather. I had been careful not to get glue on the outer

surface and it dyed just fine.


The other end was where I wanted the mouth to rise around the

quillon sides. Initially I cut and started to stitch the rim

to shape. Then I realized that with the thin leather it

didn't need it. Wetting it and folding it over it simply

stayed in shape. I had left a bit of the very top of the

scabbard unglued so I could fold it down at the sides while

it rose front and back in the bell curve shape. Before

bending the mouth leather I had cut a mouthpiece of leather

for the quillon to seat to and glued it in. Cutting the hole

for the blade was relatively simple later. I inserted a craft

knife blade in the center and trimmed the leather carefully

to the sides of the opening.


Since I had a good gradual taper to both sides I told myself

I'd make a temporary frog to hold it until I made the rest of

the metal fittings. I cut a piece of thicker leather to reach

around the front to the middle, but not quite join, to a shape

I liked and riveted a strap at an angle to the back of it to

fit my belt at a slight incline. I then, unperiodically I think,

punched a bunch of holes on either edge of the front of the

frog where the sides met and laced it up with a leather thong.

I keep telling myself I'll replace it with a metal fitting one

day. I did put a pierced silver engraved decoration on the

scabbard front. Right about where I'd attach the lower strap

side of the right belt end now as luck would have it.


Looking back at it many years hence it has proved to be a very

functional scabbard. I seldom wear it because I don't need it

in the way, or to worry about it walking if I put it down,

and the macho of wearing a large sword doesn't really matter

to me. A side knife is enough. It's held up extremely well,

and the blade neither rattles in it, nor has it ever rusted.


Since I don't believe in dull weapons that have decent alloys

in them I had sharpened it on a waterstone soon after I'd bought

it. The quarter inch of surrounding wood has protected me

quite nicely and the scabbard itself is light and strong.

Maybe lighter than some utilitarian scabbards sewn through

the front.


If I were to do it again I would still do a lot of it the same

way, with an exception. I would make the top of the scabbard

unglued in places and pierced to receive the three thongs of the

left side of the belt after Oakeshott, and then I would attach

the right side of the belt a bit lower around the scabbard and

adjust it for hang.


There are much clearer depictions of how this is done, but it's

in a German costume book, not Oakeshott. This depicts two methods

and one thing not so clear in Oakeshott is that the width changes

down the length of the upper belt straps. One is thicker in the

middle of it's length. These would also be the belts worn without

buckles. The belt has two slits on the left half with two tapering

ends of the right half tied through them. Of course if you should

decide to go with this method I don't recommend any sudden body

weight changes. ;) Some of my aging friends have put on enough

weight to have to hang their work that once fit nicely around

their middles around their necks. ;) Either that or cut and piece.


Ditmar-Traut / Rustung Gewandung Sachkultur des Deutches

Hochmittelalderen  ISBN 1851771936  About thirty dollars from

David Brown Book Co. / American source for Oxbowbooks.com

P.O. Box 511, Oakville, CT  06779  

1-800-791-9354,  860-945-9329  or Fax at 860-945-9468


The title means roughly Armor, Costume and Material Culture

(meaning everything else - jewellery, furniture, lighting,

cooking and eating utensils, etc.) of the German High Middle

Ages. The book is reflective of the times of the troubadours

and a large part of it is concerned with the Manesse Codex

(also known as the Heidelberg Songbook). It also has

illustrations from about 800 to about 1400 AD from numerous

other manuscripts, sculpture and paintings, sometimes leaving

out the faces. Saint Maurice, who was black, is left faceless

in a depiction of the sculpture of him in his armor.


Is it a good book? Well, I have three more ordered for friends

who saw it at one event. It's also one of the few books on

German costume, but is by no means the paragon of depiction.

It's a good place to start. German history seems mostly to have

started with Bismark and of course largely concerns German

Militarism since in the bookstores in English works. Anything

illustrated remotely medieval is infrequently found. Prior

to Bismark's consolidation Germany emerged from the middle

ages in a great many small political entities much like



Those of us who have the books in color depicting the

Manesse Codex pictures (all 137 of them) can add the color.

Most of you who have looked at books on the Middle Ages

would recognize the pictures immediately. Several are

frequently printed, and currently Chivalry Sports is doing

a series of them in tapestry throws. I missed the first and

almost bought the second until I realized that their logo

and name were woven into the tapestry scene, which I think

is extremely tacky. http://www.renstore.com/ Search Manesse.


The best Manesse Codex book I have is:


Walther, Ingo F. u. Gisela Siebert (Hrsg.). : Codex Manesse. ;

Die Miniaturen der Großen Heidelberger Liederhandschrift

herausgegeben und erläutert. (Ffm.), Insel (1988).

4°. XXXVII, (1), 281 S. mit 137 Farbtafeln. Farbig illustr.


Means roughly the Codex Manesse, the Miniatures of the Great

Heidelberg Manuscript. Quarto. 37 pages introduction, with

281 pages and 137 illustrations of the almost all color pictures.

A couple were never finished or colored. Descriptions of what

is thought to be happening in the pictures accompany each in German.


Used, my copy cost me about $20 from Germany and had all the

pictures, as opposed to the forty or so I had assembled from

photographing illustrations in other books. The Manesse Codex

depicts a number of these sword/belt combinations including

a knighting with one being tied on by attendants.


Since bibliofind.com has now sadly gone to Amazon, may I

recommend either http://www.Amazon.de/ or better yet

http://www.Bookfinder.com ?


Master Magnus Malleus, OL, GDH, Atlantia / © R. Howe

** I do NOT want my postings forwarded to open newsgroups, in

particular the Rialto, or to the SCA-Univesitas list. Closed

subscriber-based email lists within the SCA or re-enactor

community are fine. Inclusion in http://www.Florilegium.org/

is also permitted. Email me about newsletter use.**



From: David Chessler <chessler at usa.net>

Date: January 14, 2008 2:39:15 AM CST

To: Stefan at florilegium.org, ana_deissler <anahay at btinternet.com>

Subject: Your article [medieval-leather] DIY instructions for Seax Scabbards with Metal Edge Binding


I read your article as posted for the SCA in Stefan's Florilegium. http://www.florilegium.org


I have a few alternatives based on my own experience. I can't say they're better, but they are different.


I have some experience making leather scabbards for large knives, up to the size of machetes. One technique that was commonly used as recently as the 19th century was to cut a strip of leather about a half-inch wide (12 mm), and rivet it between the front and back, so the edge of the blade rested against it. This prevented the blade's cutting the leather scabbard from the inside, and also protected the blade's edge from damage on the rivets. This MIGHT explain why no metal edging has ever been found.


You can sew the seam by punching holes with an awl and stitching with sinew, or waxed thread (probably linen), or, when not trying to make a reproduction, with metal wire (copper will be easier than steel). Do this before the rivets are put in: it's easier.


Strips of copper or brass are commonly available in the US in crafts stores, hobby shops, and hardware stores (ironmongers).


Knife sheaths, as recently as the 19th C, were made by bringing the leather up the handle about half way. When the leather was molded to the handle, the knife would be held very securely, yet would be easy to remove with the thumb and one or two fingers. Again, I have done this many times, but never with a knife that would be worn horizontally, or even with the handle below the horizontal. My machete sheath has no special provision to hold the machete, but, with a 22 inch (55.8 CM) blade, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide, there is ample friction to hold the blade.


Davitt il Bigollo da Pisa

Procurator parumper aurifex in Portus Liburni

Officina pro Moghul terra

Curalium quod Smaragdi ex Indicum quod Serenus


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org