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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Making a wooden akinakes scabbard, part II

Various personal business forced me to postpone further work until Monday, but work's progressed quickly since then.  The core is essentially complete.  I won't boother with photos of the front shell in progress because it's exactly the same process as the back shell.

It's still somewhat too thick in several places, most obviously the lower body, considering how thin the blades are.  I may do a little further sanding, though the very hard knot you see near the lower end has made reducing by hand evenly pretty difficult.

Although the amount of wood removed on the inside wasn't much, it still fit the blades too loosely, so I glued down a strip of felt to make it more snug before gluing the shells together - a solution cribbed from European swordmakers (though sheep and goat hide are said to be preferable, as a pointed blade could eventually catch in the felt, tear it loose and shove it down the inside, where it would be difficult or impossible to remove  - quite an awful scenario).  If the fit is correct, you can hold the scabbard upside-down without the sword falling out, yet still draw it easily.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Making a wooden akinakes scabbard, part I

Yep, I finally decided to cave and make a proper, solid wood scabbard, since I happen to have access to a band saw and belt sander this season.  Mine will be based loosely on the tamarisk wood scabbard from Egypt, but I hope to make a separate chape.  I also plan to cover it with something organic, possibly linen or rawhide, rather than the metal facing that once covered the Egypt find, because in my research it seems that isolated chapes far outnumber metal scabbard facings, and so I believe that most scabbards were entirely biodegradable other than the chape.

You'll also notice that it's considerably longer than the one from Egypt.  Although often described as swords, the few genuine findings of Achaemenid iron fighting akinakai I know of were actually small-ish daggers, so the 12-inch blade on mine is really pushing it as far as historical accuracy.  Perhaps the skill required and thus (presumably) high price demanded for forging a symmetrical double-edged sword was responsible for the preference of Persians (imputed by Greek pottery, at least) for the single-edged kopis, but I'm just running at the mout at this point.  Anyway, on with the show.

We start with a nice big sheet of sketch paper and a 1x6x48-inch plank.  On the right is my molded leather scabbard from last year.





After tracing the main sections of the scabbard, I cut out the expanded part of the throat and traced additional sections for it on the main plank as well as on a 1/4-inch linden board, as the full inch-thick reinforcement seemed like too much.  I didn't wind up using either of them; the main pieces seem to be thick enough on their own.

The pine wood is soft and cut easily even with just a manual saw, which made me wonder about its sturdiness.  These initial cuts were done just to make it easier to carry.  I plan to use the excess for a really cool retro raygun stock.

Since the band saw is best at straight cuts, I tried to get the most out of it with a set of lines for the first cutting-out phase.

The belt sander helped reduce the manual workload, but it can only take you so far.  On the bottom/left is the front blank after initial cutting and sanding; on the top/right is the back after ah hour of whittling.

Four days and literally hours of whittling, filing and Dremel-ing later, the back shell is finally done.

I know it sounds like I'm complaining, but I just want to be straightforward with you:  It is a lot of work if you don't have specialized tools.

It's at this point that I question the wisdom of asking everyone to have wooden scabbards for their akinakai.  If molded leather must be ruled out, I think a rawhide scabbard would still be a possibility, and it seems far easier.  I also suspect that a moldable material is the origin of the balloon-like expanded throat of Achaemenid scabbards.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Possible spearhead?

Museum Replicas Limited has recently introduced a Greek javelin head which just might fit the bill for our sharp spearheads as well.  It has a blade of less than five inches, a 7/8-inch socket, and weighs six ounces.  If I was sure from the site photo that it had a distinct mid-rib, I'd recommend it out of hand as a cheap option.