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Kristjanr 6th February 2019 09:03 PM

15th and early 16th century scabbard construction
I've been scouring this forum for information on scabbards from the late 15th (last half) and early 16th century (1st quarter) and their construction.

I've found some amazing stuff, like this thread:

... had a genuine *WOW* moment when I saw that Katzbalger scabbard.

What I'd like to ask you guys is:
  1. Did scabbards in this period have wooden cores? ... or were they 'floppy' scabbards simply made out of stiff leather like knife or dagger sheaths?
  2. Are there any good surviving examples of scabbards from this period that are avalable online through museum catalogues for example?

I'm mainly interested in the construction of these scabbards and surviving artefacts.

Jim McDougall 9th February 2019 10:44 PM

Interesting question, and I think you have pretty much some good understanding of wat the variables are. The reality is that most scabbards were made of materials as you have noted.....wood (timber) wrapped usually with sewn leather and securing fixtures such as chape, throat and mounts for carry rings or baldric.
As may be imagined, these from such early periods seldom survived unless they were kept in static and controlled environment. One of the most commonly replaced components for swords was obviously the scabbard.

One of the only studies I am aware of on scabbards is by J.D. Aylward in "Small Sword in England" (1945) which discusses mostly these civilian swords of 17th and 18th century and does describe methods of production, types of wood and materials. It might be presumed that these processes probably did not change that much from the earlier periods you mention.

Obviously scabbards purely of leather and such flexible materials would not do well when a sharp blade was being withdrawn without some firm support.
Knives of course were of lesser expanse and length (usually) and a firm leather scabbard sufficed.

In later periods with the advent of regulation military swords, the use of formed metal scabbards was common, however it was often the case that these actually dulled the blades. In the 18th century scabbards often had wood inserts within the metal frames.

I have not been aware of museums having catalogs of either swords, scabbards or the like 'available', but some auctioneers will occasionally have lots which comprise parts etc. from various weapons. I would contact the major houses to ask if they might have such instances, and perhaps might direct to examples they have had which had the scabbard surviving with it.

Hope this might be of some help. Best of luck, and thank you for the most interesting question.

fernando 10th February 2019 12:39 PM

Welcome to the forum, Kristjanr.
So it seems as scabbards did have wooden cores.
I read out there that "XVI century ones were built with a wooden core of thin planks, wrapped in linen soaked in glue (rabbitglue) then covered in leather."
Too bad our beloved Michael (Matchlock) has passed away and can not comment on this subject; he would certainly have a say about it.
There is a chance that Jasper (Cornelistromp) comes around and may answer your questions.
Meanwhile perhaps you wish to have a look HERE; these folks seem to be well within the matter.

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