Lea-Hardware-art - 10/6/07
"Leather ‘Hardware‘ for the Woodworker" by Master Sven Odin Eye.
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: http://www.florilegium.org
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.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Leather ‘Hardware‘ for the Woodworker
by Master Sven Odin Eye
We see many folks with trunks, chests and boxes that have lift off lids. Most of the time that is because folks don’t have easy access to period style hardware. It is a terribly inconvenient when your lid crashes to the pavement as you are lugging your chest across a parking lot, or some such place. Some of us use leather ‘hardware’, such as hinges and hasps, on some of our wood working projects.
One of the advantages of a leather hinge is that it’s quite easy to make and any leather hardware bespeaks ‘handmade’ and adds greatly to the medievaloid appearance of your project.
On small boxes you can simply nail the leather on with decorative upholstery tacks for a nice look. For the larger chests and trunks you need a more robust attachment.
You need to use appropriate leather. A nice soft flexible leather is fine on a small box, but just won’t hold up on the larger projects. You can get your leather from various leather shops and some give discounts to SCA folks if you ask for it. Another good source is thrift stores, old jackets, mostly way to thin for anything but the small boxes, and look for belts, some of these are so thick that they can be difficult to use. You want something about 1/8” thick, you can use it a bit thinner, but I don’t recommend thicker.
The best nails are some of the modern ‘hand made’ nails made by machine that have bodies and heads like the old hand hammered ones, then there are the ‘rose head’ nails that have a raised oval head (more Elizabethan). Specialty woodworking stores often carry this type of nail, call to check. If you want a wider variety of choices I recommend that you go with mail order from Lee Valley, call for a catalog 1-800-871-8158 or go to www.leevalley.com, they also have the bronze ship rivets and I sometimes use those instead of nails. I’ve dealt with these folks a lot and highly recommend them for good prices and excellent service.
If you just nail on the leather it may tear out too easily, I recommend using a washer of some kind under the nail, this greatly increases and strengthens the holding area, much like a grommet in canvas. I have used brass washers on occasion, but I prefer pennies. As I have a small metal hand punch it’s easy to bang out a bunch. It’s also easy to drill through them. And no, it’s not illegal; it’s only illegal to deface money for purposes of fraud. They look fine and age well (at 1 cent ea.), and they are not the modern looking store bought galvanized steel (at 5 – 7 cents ea.).
It annoys our modern sense of tidiness but it is best if the nails go clear through the wood and are clenched (bent) over on the inside. This was period practice for all times and all cultures using metal nails for non-decorative purposes. While trying to bend over the nail it wants to back out some, to avoid this use a type of anvil. I usually use a large bolt held in a bench vice. It is relatively easy to hold the nail head on this aerial anvil while you smack it tight on the inside. On larger projects I hold a large hammerhead tight against the nail head with one hand while hammering the inside with the other, this works remarkably well.
The floppier a hinge is the easier it is to cause damage to it. That is why I always put nails on the back edge of the lid too. And no, you cannot clench these but by driving them in at a bit of an angle, in opposite directions, they do not have a straight pull out and hold well enough.
There are two types of hasp, the vertical and the horizontal orientations. I prefer the vertical. The keeper pin, usually an antler tine, stays in better. Also it can be harder to get the stationary part through with the horizontal lay as that part can become more relaxed in time and tend to collapse behind the hasp rather than stick through it. You usually have to nail the top part of the hasp to the front edge of the lid too, it just holds it in place for a better look and it works better that way too. This is the same thing you did to the hinges, but it is not structurally required here.
On a simple tool box, like the one in the photos, you don’t need any added support, but on a large chest the leather hardware needs more help from the lid than metal hardware does. Still, the metal stuff will last a lot longer too if you add a bit of support to the lid. You just need two little keeper strips on the inside ends of the lid. These hold the lid in place while closed so that the shifting weight of a person, or baggage, on the top can not put stress on the hardware. You need a slight angle on the end of these supports to aid in entry and exit to/from the chest carcass. With a standard chest the lid lays on both sides and both ends giving it enough strength to easily hold a large person in mail and armor, but the Viking style chest needs some additional support. On the inside ends of the carcass you put two more support strips, so the chest lid won’t be able to break down the middle lengthwise. Make sure your lid supports do not interfere with these. You do want to keep the lid supports as close to the edges of the cavity as you can get them, this is what holds the lid firmly from moving around on a horizontal plane and thus saving your hardware from undue stress.
Leather ‘hardware’ can give you good service for a lifetime. I have another toolbox I use for blacksmithing at events. Falling off the roof of a moving car at about 35 – 40 mph did break up the woodwork more than a bit, but the leather components did not fail. I glued it back together and it’s back in service.
Copyright 2007 by Master Sven Odin-Eye, 1044 NE Sunrise Ln., Hillsboro, OR 97124. <wdlndbks at aol.com>. 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 receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate 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.