Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Making a gorytos, part I

Over the coming months I'm planning to make an all-new gorytos for Marathon 2015.  While the gorytos was used for many centuries and came in several shapes, I only know of one that is attested in Persian art.
Relief on the Persepolis apadana

One of essentially the same shape is attested in some Greek pottery.  As near as I understand, these were made of soft leather with a wood spine sewn into the top to prevent sagging
Archer and hoplite kylix
Scythian on an amphora
Another Scythian

The upper edge is seamed; the main body may be a single piece folded up from the bottom or a front and back half.  Note in the second image that the bottom edge (the side facing down when the bow staff is worn horizontally) appears somewhat shaped to the bow staff.  This may be the result of leather being stretched, or it may be that the leather is seamed there - it's my understanding that fat-cured leathers don't mold well like veg-tan, and failing to stretch the leather sufficiently would leave the bow difficult to remove.  Many gorytoi seen in Greek art are shaped in this manner

A more extreme example that clearly illustrates the principle:
The bow- finding of olon kurin gol- some additional experiences and thoughts
This one is made with a wide, external wood spine.

Based on these, I've come up with some possibly reconstruction methods.

The choice between one- and two-piece construction and the exact widths required informs the choice of hides.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

An ivory chape at the MFA

Not sure whether there's any practical value in posting this, as it's unlikely any of us will be replicating it, but it does demonstrate the existence of isolated chapes made of solid ivory.  It's the standard goat motif - again - although exact provenance is not provided.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Minnetonka, the final chapter

Earlier this year, I noted that the Minnetonka "classic fringe" boot could be improved by replacing the laces with flat thongs, and more recently that the side openings are actually accurate for the standard Medo-Persian shoe.

Art from the period of Darius to the Alexander Sarcophagus does not indicate shoelaces run through slits or eyelets.  Thus, to the best of my knowledge, the thongs should probably be just stitched around the upper edge of the shoe.  So this is what I've done.

Before doing this, I also managed to pull off the heel layers.  I believe that this is the maximum extent to which this particular model can be improved.  I tend to work slowly, and I estimate the total time in this case to have been about six hours.

Conclusion:  If you find yourself in a hurry, the earlier slit method is still okay, but otherwise what you see above is what I'm going to recommend if you don't have the skills to make shoes yourself.  (Again, the hardsole version seems to have been discontinued; softsole boots can be used as-is or you can tunnel-stitch or glue a leather or rawhide hard sole to them.)  The significant remaining flaws are that the soft sole wraps too high up the sides, resulting in something of a "moc toe" look, and that the forward edges of the quarter slant forward instead of backward.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Making a wooden akinakes scabbard, part III

Next up is finishing the tab.  Drilling a large enough hole for the attachment is simple enough.  But since the little ear where the suspension is actually attached looks like a weak point to me, and furthermore pine is a rather weak wood to begin with, I'm trying to reinforce it, using sheet brass and epoxy.  I don't know of any evidence for this sort of feature; probably the originals were made of a stronger wood.  But it'll be covered with something (probably leather).


The chape is proving problematic.  The originals were most commonly made of bronze and sometimes bone.  Since I can't cast bronze yet and am having trouble finding a useable lump of bone (it should probably be made of the knuckle end of a cow, sheep or goat leg bone) here I'm using wood as a stopgap measure.  Wood is only this side of allowable on the precedent of the scabbard from Egypt, and it should be replaced presently.


Again it's the very common goat motif, though others are sometimes attested.  Unfortunately, what I thought was maple has turned out to be something quite a bit softer and more open-grained, also of less uniform hardness, so this carving is cruder than I'd like.  I'll probably attach it with rubber cement so it can be easily pulled off when the time comes.  A good friction fit will do most of the job, but a little adhesive is necessary, as I learned by nearly losing my pewter chape in the sand at Marathon 2011.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Just to pass the time

Since I'm at a standstill on my new akinakes scabbard until I can figure out whether to cover it in leather, parchment or linen, I redid the hilt yet again.

The new grip is made from a one-inch dowel of some very pale, soft and lightweight wood, probably poplar, which is almost certainly not a great choice but was all I had on hand.  If it breaks, I can always go back to the old one.  It's finished with linseed oil.  And yes, it is slightly askew.

It occurs to me that Persian (aka English) walnut would be a good material for small carvings like this.

The pommel and guard are the same scrap maple ones it's had from the beginning, with a modern polyurethane sealer.  The grip and guard are based on those seen at Persepolis (check out the last picture on this page).  The pyramidal pattern is actually very easy to make with a straight chisel blade on your art knife once all the long grooves have been filed.

Since the akinakes guards are always hidden inside the scabbard throats, I copied the rimmed edge of the guard from one seen on the golden-hilted iron sword here.  It's probably Scythian, but the grip and overall shape are not unlike Achaemenid examples.

The securing nut is also further ground down and partially sunken.  It's still rather protrusive, but no longer resembles a nut so much as a small, shapeless lump.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Leather and shoes, further updates

I've been in a lengthy and very informative discussion about leathers over at RAT, and it seems that grained leather may be on the table again.  This is not inconsistent, since what I've read from brain-tanners is only that it's not easy to get the same softness from a hide without scraping the grain off; they never said it was impossible.  Member Ivor (Crispianus) brought to my attention two things I found surprising:  a modern repro of an Iron Age shoe, tanned with fish oil with the outer grain intact, and a detail from a piece of Hellenistic statuary showing a pair of Iranian shoes from the side.

It is a scan from Skulpter des Hellenismus.  It shows that the ankle shoe in this period was made not from a one-piece upper (a la the Plains moccasins and Hedeby shoes I'd been using as a model), but from a separate vamp and quarter.  This allows the quarter to rise as high or low as you like, whereas a one-piece upper has to have extensions sewn on if more than a certain height is desired.

(It further means that the Minnetonka moccasin boots are less inaccurate than I thought, and with a little modification, are actually the only off-the-shelf shoes I've seen that are anything like acceptable.  I managed to pull the heels off mine recently, but since they only appear to be available in soft sole now, you could just glue or tunnel-stitch your own leather/rawhide soles without having to potentially rip the bottoms up.)

For comparison, I went searching for high-res pictures of the Alexander Sarcophagus, which is one of the best sources for Persian clothing at the transition of the Achaemenid and Hellenistic periods.  In the restored-color versions by Vinzenze Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, the straps appear to encircle the ankle like those on Median shoes on the reliefs at Persepolis, but without the "branches" going down the sides.  However, there is an extreme closeup over at Wikipedia which appears to show a faint vertical ridge on the central figure's shoe.

With regards to the Persepolis reliefs, Ivor pointed out that the vertical branches could easily be interpreted as strips of reinforcement running down the front edges of the quarter.  The ankle strap itself - as he demonstrated by sewing an example - was probably just stitched to the top edge of the quarter rather than running through slits (as per moccasins).

The later example above is slightly modified, with the lace running through a single pair of eyelets, essentially making it a very simple chukka.  In this configuration, the eyelets are under much more stress than in the first, since they are pulled forward to hold the top around the ankle, whereas when running the thong around the ankle (either through slits or sewing it on) doesn't pull the shoe leather, but merely squeezes it against the ankle, like a drawstring.  Therefore, the later configuration would do well to have a reinforced eyelet.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Update on Windlass javelin head

Kult of Athena has the new Windlass javelin or small spearhead for sale, so we get some better-quality pics.  And, sadly, it has no mid-rib at all.  As such, it's not really what we're looking for.  Sorry.