Monday, October 19, 2015

Making a gorytos, part V and last

The gorytos body needs to be carefully fitted to the spine.  Mine required extra trimming since it was initially planned to wrap around a hidden spine.

I used rubber cement rather than true contact cement, both because I was working indoors and because rubber cement allows the glued surfaces to be slid around a bit after contact rather than bonding instantly.  Check again to be sure the bow fits and slides out easily enough without being too loose.

I marked for the line of stitching by pinching my thumb and forefinger together, putting one on the edge of the leather and pressing the other into the surface, then running them along the edge to make a shallow groove.  This is obviously not a method guaranteed to give nice neat results, but it worked tolerably well.  I then marked for the stitch holes with a pen, 1cm apart.

Drilling for stitch holes would've been much easier if I'd had a drill press, as holding a heavy power drill stable while pressing it down via a thin metal rod was precarious, and I broke one drill bit in trying to do so.  The size of needle and artificial sinew I used worked best with a 5/64-inch bit.  Not to mention a drill press would've allowed the holes on the back side to come out in a neater line.

On the other hand, I soon found that the leather edge on the back was a little further back than on the front, so with the power drill I was able to angle the holes in slightly.

In Greek art, gorytoi often feature a decorative crenelation and, on at least one example, a row of dots lined up with it.  Such a design might have been appliqu├ęd or done in hide glue paint.  Although there's no way of knowing, it's possible that the gorytoi at Persepolis once featured such decoration as well.

I worked up the design on mine lightly in ink, with a little calculating of the available space for each square and measuring to keep the dots exactly halfway between the squares and the gorytos' edge.  The paint would go a little bit over the lines to cover them up.

Finding the correct point of balance for the belt attachment required inserting the bow and full allotment of arrows and hanging the leather for the cover over the bow.  I unfortunately failed to take any process photos while nailing the attachments down, which was a tricky process, especially on the back (having done the front first, the big domed tacks prevented the front from lying flat while I was nailing the attachments to the back, and the tacks kept shifting and bending).

At this point, the bowcase would be functional and ready to take to the show, but not quite finished to the degree that I would like.

Making the cover:  The German-tanned buckskin is soft enough that it can be easily basted into place with a common desktop stapler (no, this is not a product endorsement).  I based it with the slightly rougher side out, since I intend to invert it after stitching - the originals in art don't show any seams.

To prevent the fit over the bow from being too sloppy, the seam should be no wider than necessary, so some trimming can be done at this stage.  I can't say I know for certain what a good width would be, as mine didn't turn out with a good precise fit anyway, but a quarter-inch seemed about right for strength.

Mark the seam as above.  Using more ink is fine, since it won't be visible on the finished cover.

The stitch holes are a centimeter apart, though for light stitching like this, a closer spacing might be preferable.  Without a thick slab of wood between the leather layers as on the bowcase's body, the stitch holes can be poked with a simple hobby awl.

The finished product.  Note the slightly sloppy fit of the cover.  I should have made both it and the sloping top corner of the spine that it sits over a bit longer, so that the cover doesn't slip off the spine as readily, but all in all, I think it will prove sufficient.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Making a gorytos, part IV - spine construction

I've had some difficulty keeping in contact with custom woodworkers to get this spine made, but if a reciprocating or band saw is available (luckily my uncle had one), a flat J-shaped spine may be pieced together from a plank.

To begin with, the leather gorytos body is used to trace a cardboard pattern.

The pattern is traced in sections onto a 48x6x1/4-inch poplar plank (the ones from Home Depot actually measure 5.75 inches wide).

The cut pieces are to be made into a two-ply spine with the grain of the two layers running perpendicular to each other, to hopefully reduce the risk of splitting.  The lengthwise-grain pieces will be on the left (outside) of the spine when the gorytos is worn on the left side of the body with the curved end pointing forward.

Due to the aforementioned slightly inaccurate labeling, an extra 1/2-inch-wide piece needed to be added to the lower end of the curve on the lower face.

The spine is glued together with a waterproof wood glue, and placed on a flat surface to dry.  Using scrap wood, half an inch of shims are placed all around it to make sure the weights sit evenly.

Twenty volumes of an encyclopedia form the weights to try to keep the spine completely flat as it dries.

I let the spine dry for two days to be absolutely sure it wouldn't warp.  Since the inside edge won't be visible, it only requires further cleanup if there are any large pieces jutting inward.  The outside should be shaved and sanded if necessary to achieve evenness between the two layers; the edges can also be rounded.

Either the floor or distribution of weights must not have been perfectly flat.  Lamination failed at one point where the back layer bent away from the front.   I worry that if this bit is allowed to flex in relation to the rest of the spine, it could crack.  I think this is an unlikely concern, but there's no point in risking it.

After the wood putty dries, the area is shaved and sanded down.

Applying a modern stain may seem like cheating, as it's basically trying to make one species of wood look like a different species, but that grey and green poplar is gross-looking.

Ordinarily, I would be finishing up with linseed oil at this point, but time is running very short, so tomorrow I'll apply a quick-drying varnish to protect from moisture and then get to final assembly.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Making a wooden akinakes scabbard, part V and last

Here you go:

The scabbard is finished with paints, in imitation of hide glue paints which we know were used on brain-tanned leather in more recent times.

My cast bronze chape from last semester is held in place with a pair of wooden pegs which pass through the front board of the scabbard and are glued down.  (Since none of the chapes I've seen which feature holes for these pegs have metal rivets or nails in place, I assume the pegs were organic.)

Lastly, a braided cord (cotton, unfortunately, but it's all I could find - and it is a period material, though preferably for high-status impressions) is tied tightly around the scabbard, with its knot in the back.  Both ends of the cord are sewn and tied off to prevent fraying, but on the long end, this step should be deferred until the cord is cut to its final length.  A little experimentation is needed to find the right length so the long end can pass comfortably around the thigh but not hang much below your knee or allow the scabbard to swing wildly when you run.  The short end is waxed so that it can compress enough to pass through the fluted brass bead and be knotted on the other side.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Update: Cappadocian cloaks

Two years ago, I wrote that the Cappadocians wore square cloaks.  Experiments with unstitched fabric demonstrate that I'm an idiot.  Since only two corners are visible hanging in the front, and the lower hem appears to wrap straight around the body, the Cappadocian cloaks were apparently semicircular.

This will make cutting and (if necessary) finishing the edges a bit more complicated.  The semicircular version of the Roman paenula was similar, if longer - going by the Persepolis reliefs, the Cappadocian cloak was shorter than the knee-length tunic - so we should be safe using a paenula pattern.  Together with the arm fibula, this is what I intend to wear as rainwear to Marathon 2015.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Just came across this shop on Etsy that features bronze Central Asian knives and akinakai which might be good for certain Scythian subgroup impressions. They are small but look nice.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A bronze shield cover from... ?

I've finally tracked down the Axel Guttmann violin-like shield I mentioned back in 2012.  It's not quite the shape of the violin shields seen at Persepolis and is much smaller (only 18 inches/46cm across).  Other differences are obvious upon viewing, and running the page through Google Translate I find that a "Prof. P. Schauer, Regensburg" (presumably Peter Schauer) assigns it a Hittite origin.  I don't know much about Hittite shields in the Iron Age, but in the late Bronze Age they used shields of a similar shape.  FWIW, Matt Amt has suggested that these gave rise to the Dipylon/Boeotian shield of Greece, thus raising the possibility that the Greek and Persian shields derive from a common ancestor.