Category Archives: Leatherwork

Finished Buckler

I finished the buckler I had been working on a while ago and took a picture of it in its glorious, unbattered state:

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I have since used it in about 20 historical fencing bouts as well as innumerable relaxed sparring encounters, and it has held up very well. Far better than the previous all metal incarnation as thicker steel for the central boss worked well. The leather rim is doing surprisingly well, only showing a few nicks and scratches despite the fact that my regular sparring partner loves his longsword. I think that I have pretty much perfected my Secret Leather Hardening process (every leatherworker I meet has one!). Here it is after considerable punishment:

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The beautiful yet fragile blue oxide coating has been pretty battered but I actually quite like the silver accents that have emerged. The leather on the front is almost untouched. On the back things look considerably more ragged. As I had to have it finished for an event, I of course only put it together the day before and as I was finishing the handle at home I realised that I had left all my leather and string at work! The only thing I could find round the house was some knitting wool which was lovely on the hand but didn’t survive for long. I need to revisit it with a tooled leather grip at some point…

Whilst rereading the previous post, I realised I hadn’t taken any photos of the fittings which was a pity as I spent a bit of time making them more period appropriate.

Firstly I hand engraved flowers around each of the rivets. It takes a little while to do with a hand graving chisel, but as Daggerandbrush noted in the comments it really does enhance the look of the whole shield when viewed close up:

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Floral motifs were extremely popular on historical weapons, and I think the entire buckler was going that way so I decided to continue with the vegetable look on the handle. The main element of this was forming and chiselling a leaf on one end of the handle, the other end forms a belt hook and needed to be bent over after riveting so I kept it simple with a little punchwork on the top:

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As a final detail, I decided not to use modern washers under the rivets as they really do stand out on an otherwise handmade object. Mine were cut, chiselled and punched out of a sheet of steel and as such are all different. Not because I am lazy and couldn’t be bothered to measure, its because its historically accurate ;). The square shape was common at the time as it is much easier to make and works just as well:

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So all in all I’m very happy about how it turned out, now I really want to make one of these:

So many projects….!

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Progress on my new Buckler

I have continued to work on my metal and leather buckler, I have now made the leather rim for the steel boss. The leather in 6mm thick veg-tanned shoulder I also use to make singlestick basket hilts. I find that at this thickness the leather loses a lot in the way of flexibility but when it is hardened it can be really tough. I started by plotting out a 12″ diameter circle on cardboard, then measured the inner rim of my boss to determine how big a hole to cut in the middle.

I cut it out, rounded the edges and gave it a light cuirbouilli treatment, enough to massively stiffen it without making it deform, crack or shrink too much. I could have used it as is, but its a nice sunny Sunday here so I sat at the kitchen table and did some really simple freehand carving that should make it “pop” a little more. I used a couple of leather gouges that I got really cheaply off eBay, and to be honest they aren’t bad at all. Here it is after carving:

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I included the circle cut out of the centre to give an idea of the different levels of colour the hardening gives. The disk is the colour it all started out as. The boiling darkened it to the mid brown at the tips of the petals, the lines were then cut into the lighter core. I also did some faded staining to give the petals additional volume. I used iron oxide (rust from the forge) in solution in water and painted on lots of thin coats to give a gradated finish. I’m glad I did as it took a pleasing design and made it fit with the boss in a way that it would otherwise have failed to do. Here they are dry fitted:

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I think the dark boss fits in nicely, I need to decide whether to engrave through the bluing or not. It would be cool, but I don’t want to make it too busy or spend a silly amount of time on what is a test run!

Here is the back, with really simple staining and engraving just to take advantage of the fact that leather is such a fun medium to work in. The holes are for the joining rivets:

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This buckler is quite a bit bigger than the last one, here is a comparison picture:

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Cant wait to finish it and have a go with it! Next time I’ll be fitting the handle and riveting the whole thing together. Any views on whether to engrave the boss would be welcome as I am really torn!

Prototype Leather Daneaxe for HEMA fencing

I study Highland Broadsword with my local HEMA group every week, and reading more Scottish and Irish history has made me want to have a go with one of the longaxes used before the Renaissance. In addition I am thinking about joining the local Anglo-Saxon reenactment group, so a Daneaxe could also be applicable within that context if I one day rise to the giddy heights of being one of Haralds Huscarls!

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The axe is made of 6mm thick veg tan leather, with two strips of 4mm leather sewn onto the extreme edge. This is useful both for recalling the forge welded steel edge of the original axes, and thickens the edge diameter to spread the force of the axe strike to minimise the sting of a strike. It also adds some stiffness to the edge which stops the axe from curling with use.

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The body of the blade was water hardened then wax hardened to give it a bit of strength for when it hooks a sword blade and to help it keep its shape. The edge is left soft to act as a cushion. After the hardening, I found that the thin section where the blade passes into the steel was too weak and brittle from the water hardening so I pinned a strip of copper to the top, before binding it on with artificial sinew. I think that it actually looks rather fetching, and I might put some inlay on the steel to complement it.

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I still need to finish the haft, its 1m20 long, it needs tapering at the top to fit the head and some sanding to smooth it down. And it still needs rivets in place of the rather ugly bolts that are holding it together at the moment!

Cant wait to give it a go!