Friday, August 30, 2019

Class Handouts

Below are the PDFs of handouts for my classes. I will be adding to this post as handouts are created. (Not all classes will have handouts).

Class Handouts

Leathercare 101: Basic leather care for armour, garb, and more. Cleaning, conditioning, and basic evaluation.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A&S: Anglo-Saxon Seax Sheath

Anglo-Saxon Seax Sheath

Displayed at Ice Castles, Barony of Black Diamond, 19 Jan 2019

Project: Anglo-Saxon Seax Sheath

Artisan: Lady Þóra (Thóra) Hrafnsdóttir

Historical Basis:
Based on a Anglo-Saxon Seax Sheath found in Coppergate / York, England, dated to 900-1000 C.E.

Materials: leather, water, waxed linen thread, modern rivets, rubber cement  

Techniques: water forming, tooling of wet leather, leather stitching.

Tools: Modern awl and stamping tool, water, rubber mallet, steel sewing needle.  

Seax: 14"L total; 9”Lx2”W blade, 4.75” handle  

Sheath: 13.25” Long, 3m” Wide

This is a commission piece intended for regular, possibly heavy use. I chose sheath 15661 to use as my model. Some details have been modified to suit the user, while aiming to maintain a period appearance.

I used 7.5oz leather, which is the same 3mm thickness mentioned in the source material. The color was chosen to resemble leather aged with use, rather than dyed, and cut to the size of the seax it is for. It was then dampened and stretched around the seax, which I had already wrapped to protect it. Clamps held it in place after I worked with it and while the leather dried into the desired shape. The clamps left impressions on the damp leather, which I was able to work into the designs.

The designs are based heavily upon the model. The tooling design was not measured to match the original, but rather was sketched out on paper to reflect the original and yet remain roughly in scale with the new item. The design was then recreated on the dampened leather, with the sketch used as a guide. They were applied first with a dull awl, drawn along the leather with pressure applied to create a deep line. A dull awl was used in order to minimize cutting the surface of the leather. A smooth-surface tooling stamp was then used to deepen and darken the marking.

I have added a small piece of leather to the interior, at the tip of the sheath. The seax has an angled transition between the back section of the blade and the point that seems to be different from most of the period examples1 that I have seen. The additional leather has been cut to fill the space between the edge of the seax and the end of the sheath. It has been attached along the edge closure, as well as being glued to the sides with rubber cement. This was done to insure the blade could not slide past it on either side.

  1. Showing the angled transition between the back section of the blade and the point,  and how it differs from the angle of the sheath. The unfilled area is where the additional leather was added.

  1. Silhouette of the find from Sittingbourne, Britain for comparison. 

  1. And both, with the find overlaid in yellow against the seax and sheath.  It illustrates the differences in blade angle nicely. (Not to scale) 

Extant sheaths were closed with rivets, and sometimes also with tunnel stitch, which is beyond my current skill level. I have used rivets and saddle stitch, which is similar in appearance and technique to tunnel stitch. Both stitches are very durable.

The belt loops are at the length requested by the owner, and attached directly to the sheath with rivets and sewing. It is unclear if metal edgings were used on the original. I have chosen not to use them on this piece, as I do not have the supplies or skills available at this time.

Illustrations of source:
#15661, Group 1, Pg 3382:
Pg. 3383

Iron Seax, British Museum. Object 1881,0623.1.  Early 10th Century, found near Sittingbourne, in SE England.
Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York, © 2003, pp 3377-3385

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

On Avoiding Overheating on the List Field

I've had a bit of 'fun' with overheating, from being raised in colder climes and fighting in coastal SE Virginia - so, hot and HUMID. Temperatures of 90'f or higher, with humidity of 70-100%, is not unusual for our summers. We had one month in 2017 which was about 110'f and high humidity (at least, that is how I remember it!). Plus my local practices tend to be in the afternoon, in full sun.

So, here's what I do to reduce the chances of overheating:
  • Linen fight garb, as much as possible. I am trying to only wear cotton when I'm fighting in the  cold.  For me, that is not more than 40'f. Probably in the 20s and 30s.
  • Vent the armpits of shirts, brigs, etc.
  • I have put a linen pad (a linen tube stuffed with shredded linen) in my gorget instead of the foam that used to be there and that has helped a lot.
  • I changed the arrangement of padding in my helm so that it has air channels in it.
  • I use a linen headscarf. The headscarf will often get soaked in cold water & wrung out while I'm wearing it on hot days. I'll also wipe off my face and neck with it, which helps me cool off a bit. 
  • My armour is a combination of linen and leather, in addition to the metal. My chest armour is linen, my cuisses/thigh armour will likely be made out of linen at the next upgrade. 
  • I take breaks whenever I need to. It can take months or years to correct the tendency to overheat - IF it can be corrected. I've been told there are no promises on that, but the best way is to not keep overheating.
Staying hydrated and in good condition helps.

Conditioning - the better condition you are in, the better your body can deal with the heat. 

Hydration - I'm not talking just Gatorade and water. Nuun Tablets work great for me. I eat pickles, and I will sometimes drink the pickle juice. I will also eat salty things and make sure I can taste the salt. If I can't, then my salt is deficient and I need to eat more to correct that.

I start making sure I'm fully hydrated several days before the planned fighting. The morning of the event, I start off drinking the Nuun tablets unless they taste like chalk (if they taste like chalk, it means I don't need the electrolytes.). I also make sure I have plenty of water at hand. My kit now includes the tablets and two water bottles that are marked as mine. They have straws, can be squirted, and the tops lock shut for transport. This is for the events where there is no waterbearing set up, and also just for keeping up with drinking electrolytes.

Here are some other ideas that I have seen: 
  • Foam padding will retain heat. Use wool or linen instead.
  • Use light colors. Simple as it sounds, this can help a lot. 
  • Some helms have better airflow than others. It's something to look into. 
I hope this information helps!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Flax Hair Gel Recipe

Flax gel is the mucilaginous or starchy part of the cooked seed. I have been using this on my hair for years now, and have been very happy with the results.

For a leave-in conditioner, it seems to work best when warm (right after you make it) but can be used every time you shower, even when cold. I use it daily to style my hair, and it works better than the commercial hair gels I’ve used before. It also re-activates if I dampen my hair with a washcloth or damp fingers - which is great at events!

cooking flax seed

2 cups water (4 parts)
1/2 cup flax seed (1 part)

Place in pot in stove over medium-low heat, stirring often. When the white foam starts to appear, turn the heat off. Place a strainer over a bowl that will hold 16 oz or so. Pour the contents into the strainer and let it strain, then stir the remaining seed and scrape the bottom of the strainer to get the last bit of gel. Clean up promptly (the gel will need to be soaked off if it dries, but if you do it right away it comes right off). Keep the gel in closed container - I use a jelly jar. I get 8 to 12 oz of clear gel per recipe.

Also, if you cook it too long, the gel will get too thick to separate from the seeds. It took a few batches for me to get this down but it only takes about 15 minutes to make. The consistency will be about like melted cheese, or egg whites - the picture shows what I mean.

 If it is too thick when it has cooled, add water by the spoonful and stir or shake to incorporate it.

I tend to keep mine in the fridge. I've had it last a month in the fridge and up to 3 weeks on the counter. It will start to smell 'off' when it gets old enough, and at that point I throw out what is left.

When camping for the weekend, I bring a 4oz canning jar filled with gel and it is enough for the weekend. I keep it in the cooler. So far, this has worked well, including at Pennsic for just over week.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Resources: Making Armour

Period Patterns 101:  Medieval Military Garments: Includes 3 gambesons, two with optional pockets for plates inside the skirt; 4 surcoats (including a cyclas); 3 hose; 1 codpiece, 1 cuisse (thigh protection), a renal belt with pockets for plates to protect the kidneys, and a swordbelt, in sizes S-XL. verified 5/14/2018

Period Patterns 102: More Medieval Military Garments: Includes patterns for 2 coats of plates, 1 globose-breasted lentner (gambeson), 1 globose-breasted angel-wing tunic (with or without dags on the sleeves), 3 padded coifs and 1 gorget (neck protection). verified 5/14/2018

For fabric, if you will be using linen I suggest using a 7oz or heavier fabric. I've heard that the 5.3oz will wear out in a year or so; when I have used 7.1oz linen, it lasted for 3 years on my brig. Most problems that I had were from holes being rubbed through the fabric, rather than the fabric itself simply wearing out.

Jack of Plate (aka, a brig with the armour sewn instead of riveted) (Wiki link) verified 5/14/2018

Helmet Padding: Military helmet padding. I am not specifically endorsing this; however, I know a lot of folk that use it.  verified 5/14/2018

Making Brigandine Leg Armor - Brynn Tannahill, Atlantia. verified 5/14/2018 

Modar University, Armour page. Barony of Forgotten Sea of Calontir. verified 5/14/2018
Their new 'Articles & How-To' page is here. They have gobs of information - Archery, A&S, Cooking, and more. Looks like the armouring articles may be different as well, so check both.

MIA/Verify: Building your Own Armour, and other articles; via The Principality of Insulae Draconis.

Youth Combat: by Arianna of Wynthrope, OL, OP, Kingdom of AEthelmaerc. Please note, this has not been updated since 2014 - so please check the information against the current rules! The author has over 10 years experience with youth fighters, and the site has information on making both weapons and armour. verified 5/14/2018

Note: Links to stores below are to the main page, not the specific item. 

Shield Edging: PVC, low profile, aka 'Trim-Loc' and 'the stuff they use on car doors' (Yes, I have heard it called that). Available at Windrose Armoury; Munitions Grade Arms; McMaster Carr

SS Slimline Basket hilt, 1.5#s,  Windrose Armoury.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Adjustable C-belt Pattern

This is a pattern created from the belt I have been fighting in for the last 4 years. The pattern for it came from a friend who had moved here in from the East Kingdom. It has been flexible for sizing and comfortable. It has fit me from a jeans size 9 through 16, by relacing the back. Relacing does not seem to have affected how the cuisses are hung.

You can add thin (¼"-⅛") padding inside the leather if desired, just leave about 1" of leather around the padding.

ETA: For the center back (pg 5 on the PDF), you may need a slightly different shape. I helped a friend make this from the pattern and we found out that her center back needs to be slanted on the sides, and the top & bottom were fine as-is.

What we did to get the new shape was to cut out the two side pieces and put the lacing holes in each. We ran a lace through the top hole of each one, and another lace through the bottom hole. This had the effect of holding each side even.

She held the two sides in place on her as I stood behind her with the laces. Correct placement of the side pieces is important - the center of the side piece should be in line with the side seam of your pants.

I pulled the laces until the sides were lined up correctly and then tied the laces taunt to hold them there. We took the belt off of her, laid it down on paper with the laces tight between the sides, and used that to draw a pattern for the center back for her. Remember to include the overlap with the sides when you do this!

I welcome any suggestions or comments about the pattern & belt. I am always looking to improve it.

C-belt Pattern

Monday, March 6, 2017

Leatherwork - An Axe Cover for my Knight

Project: Brandarm Axe Cover

 Artisan: Lady Þóra (Thóra) Hrafnsdóttir

 Historical Basis:
     None.  This is a non-period project, as I was recreating an existing cover for this axe. The heraldry used was matched to Sir Harald's heraldry of wolf and lion. The tooling techniques used were learned many years ago in a shop class.
 Panels for new cover in front, old cover in background 

Tools used: 
     Paper patterns, utility knife, leather hole punch, leather stylus and bevellers, contact cement. Finished with waxed linen thread, craft paint, satin leather finish (sealant).

Leather stylus (far left) and bevellers 

     The overall pattern was copied from the existing cover. The leather was cut out with a utility knife, and then tooled. I created patterns for the heraldry from Sir Harald’s device. These were then traced onto the leather with the stylus, then used the mallet and tooling implements to impress the design into the leather without cutting it.
     After tooling, the leather was painted and then the paint was sealed. Two layers of paint were used for better coverage. The leather was stitched together with waxed linen thread using a blanket stitch, and the buckle and strap were prepared and attached.
     After stitching, a piece of thicker leather was water hardened and shaped to the blade. When dry, it was glued into the cover, along the seam where the blade rests, using contact cement. It was held in place by the axe while the glue set.

Tooling in progress. The dark areas are where the leather is dampened for tooling. 

Wolf, painted and tooled.

 Blanket stitching

Sir Harad with the axe and cover at Battle on the Bay 

Axe Cover and documentation, as entered at 'Best Viking Bling' Arts and Sciences competition. Spring Coronation, April 2016, Atlantia (Winning Entry)

Harald’s device

    I have learned a lot from this project. I asked for and received feedback from several leatherworkers on how to improve the cover, should I make another one. They have given me a lot to think about, and avenues for further exploration. I do enjoy working with leather and will be doing more of this.