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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Apr, 2004 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are few, or no surviving cloth armours. But there are plenty of pictures of them.
If they where as common as cloth, they would be depicted just as often.
Alas, it seems they are not.

Not that leather wasn't used in the production of armour. I just cant see that there are any sources (sources include pictures and written accounts) to sugest that it was used widely as a independent kind of armour. A leather gambeson is of course nice, but it is still a gambeson.

Yours
Elling
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Allan Senefelder




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Apr, 2004 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is that whole chapter in Foulkes "The Armourer and His Craft " on leather armour including pics . David Nicholle and
some of the other folks writting for Osprey certainly seem to think it was used independently . Or at least they keep having Angus McBride do all those pesky color plates showing it .
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Gordon Frye




PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2004 2:20 pm    Post subject: Leather Armours in the New World         Reply with quote

One useful tool for understanding the weapons and armours of a specific age and place is to look at another age and place and see what was done under similar circumstances. Concerning the use and usefulness of leather armours, one may go to the Spanish experience in the New World to see how this material was used to solve the problems of that day and place.

Although the armours in general use by Cortez's Conquistadors was primarily made of heavily quilted cotton (quite similar in fact to the armours worn by the Aztecs and Tlaxcalans themselves), as they moved North, the Spaniards adopted leather as the prefered material for "native armour". Part of it no doubt was due to the availability of cow hides as the herds of imported cattle became more prevelent, and part was out of a preference for the material (in my opinion, no specific quotes to back me here). As early as the Coronado Expedition of 1540 (which traveled from Campostela to mid-present-day-Kansas and back) there were specific references to leather horse armour, and by the Onate Expedition of 1598 it seems to have been the norm listed in the manifests. Although maille seems to have been pretty standard among the soldiers, the leather (probably rawhide) armour for the horses was the rule.

As late as the 1820's, leather jackets were issued as standard to the Presidial troops ("soldados de cuerra"), along with the leather "adarga" shield. It seems as though leather was considered to be perfectly suitable defensive armour against the common Native weapons of the day (which were of course primarily stone-age bows and lances) . One may deduce from this that leather armour was considered likewise to be a suitable defense for most of the lower-impact weapons of Europe up until the adoption of such items as the Long Bow and Crossbow, and remained serviceable against most cutting weapons as well.

Gordon Frye

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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2004 9:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Gordon you brought out some very interesting points: At different places and at different times similar solutions will be found to similar problems.

We can guess that leather armor was probably used at very early periods of Human history even if little or no evidence has survived. (Leather is nature's armor and a cave man 20,000 years ago would appreciate it's protective qualities having just barely survived the difficult killing of a thick skinned beast: It would have been obvious to take advantage of this thick skin to protect his very thin skin!)

Knowing this does not tell us what it looked like or exactly how it was put together but we can use known examples from different cultures to evaluate how effective it would or could have been.

Where history or the lack of history does not help our understanding very much we can use a different approach if our goal is not so much historical but practical: what ARE the protective qualities of leather?

I think the replies, so far, agree that leather armor can be very effective.

Specifically I am curious about the comparative resistance to cutting and piercing of Boilled leather to Buff leather
I am assuming that Boilled leather is very stiff and rigid while Buff leather can still be supple as well as cut resistant.

Boilled leather could be used for cuirasses or helmets instead of steel or bronze.(In large pieces.)

Another possible use could be as thick rigid scales attached to a base of more flexible leather combining the best qualities of both. (As mentionned previously metal rings or small platea would enhance protection even more.)

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MD Norcross




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2004 11:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't dismiss silk too quickly. Silk is one of the strongest fibers known to man to this day, stronger than steel for fibers of the same diameter. In fact, experiments continue for its use in flexible body armor. The down side of its use is that it needs a backing material, e.g. a gambeson of some type, to absorb the impact forces.
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2004 4:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

MD Norcross,

No I am not dismissing silk as a usefull material: A previous post mentionned the use of silk by the Mongols to reduce the wounding power of arrows, making the extraction of barbed heads easier.

One negative about silk would have been cost and lack of availability outside of the Orient.
I also think that it is very hot when used in usefull thickness!

I read, somewrhere, that spider silk is even stronger than silkworm silk: The problem is harvesting it in large quantities.

Modern applications depend on being able to produce it chemically.
I think there is some research currently using genetic manipulation of goats that produce spider silk protein in their milk. (Not yet commercially viable????)

Also interesting are new kevlar like materials, ceramics, glassy metals, carbon fiber etc... that could have future armor applications.

I read about about a flexible material that is sensitive to kinetic energy that becomes rigid when hit by a projectile giving trauma protection at the same time as stopping penetration. (Sorry, I don't remember the source.)

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Allan Senefelder




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PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2004 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The differences between curbrouile and buff leather are pretty much exactly what you state Jean . Curbrouile is very stiff , and ridgid ,the only down side being that that ridgity makes it break down faster in use . Buff is thick but supple ,the
downside here being that while is doesn't break down as quickly during use as curbrouile becuase its not stiff its protection against pointed attacks is not as good as curbrouile . The addition to either of small plates or rinms even in moderate density helps increase the protective qualities of either and prolong the lifespan in use . Just saw a 17th century leathed pikemans helmet the other day in Sotheby's catalog . Pretty much the exact same shape as an iron helmet
of the period but made from leather .
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Gordon Frye




PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2004 10:13 pm    Post subject: Leather vs. Steel         Reply with quote

Jean, thank you for your kind words. A few things have occurred to me on this subject, though I haven't actually put all of the thoughts together to form a cogent thesis. Hopefully this will spur some deeper thinking to pull all of the pieces together finally. There seems to be some formula of offensive vs. defensive weapons with regards to effectiveness vs. weight which I haven't quite worked out, but happens time and again. When weapons become so much more effective than wearable defense, then defense seems to be totally abandoned (18th through 19th Centuries), but when defensive arms render the wearer invulnerable, much ingenuity is put into defeating it at a reasonable cost in weight, operability and treasure (early 16th Century Men-at-Arms, tanks). So there is a correlation, but the mathmatical equation totally escapes me.

In any event, cuirboulli was considered serviceable against offensive weapons in Western Europe until some point in the mid-14th Century (I suspect that crossbows and longbows had something to do with this), while buff coats seemed to be considered to be perfectly serviceable armour for use against the swords of the opposing cavalry in the mid-17th Century. However, it was certainly not considered to be worthy of line-of-battle useage against the lances employed by heavy cavalry in the mid-16th Century. Effectiveness varies with the weapons encountered.

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Allan Senefelder




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PostPosted: Thu 06 May, 2004 5:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon , what your from the sounds of it is an arms race .

What an individual wore in terms of armour was a combination of a few things . 1) as you stated what are the most prevalent weapons systems on the field during the time period .2) what the individuals finances are . Wealth equals
better protection. A member of a noble 15th century familly has the latest plate harness, the liveried troops of his household have munitions harness bought for them by him, a member of a contract mercenary unit a mish-mash of
a few pieces he's purchased ( when his pay hasn't been gambled ,drank away ect.) what he's picked up of the field
and maybe an older piece thats been left to him . Go back a century to when peasent (sp) levies were not yet a thing
of the past and most of the peasentry has little or no armour at all .
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Gordon Frye




PostPosted: Thu 06 May, 2004 8:56 am    Post subject: Armour Effectiveness         Reply with quote

Allan; Good points. Of course, it IS actually an arms race, though usually a rather slow one. And as always, it's the richer man, or country, that can afford the best protection and weapons (though on occasion the cheap weapons are sometimes among the most effective: re. the Longbow). True enough the poor man (and the masses in general) has to make do with what he can afford or scrounge up, always has been, always will be. But on occasion that can be made up for.

Due to a dearth of decent war horses, the English couldn't compete on an equal standing with the French mounted Men-at-Arms, but with showers of arrows could at least force the French to dismount to fight on foot. The Swiss didn't have any tradition of heavy cavalry at all, but used first their halbards, then pikes, with aggressive tactics and tight discipline to defeat both Austrian and Burgundian armies. Likewise the Germans of 1914-1918 couldn't hope to win a general action with the Royal Navy's Battleship Fleet, yet by using the U-Boot, changed the complexion of the war at sea completely. So as arms and armour become more effective in one area, ways around it are found in other areas. Then it begins again.

Anyway, straying far from the original topic here of Leather Armour and its effectiveness... I'll start a new thread on Armour in general.

Thanks!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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Russ Mitchell




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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2004 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

would be quite interested to see what folks are using when they make buff coats... my research thus far hasn't turned up much I could see as really reliable...
10,000 lemmings can't be wrong.
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Allan Senefelder




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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2004 5:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

During the 17th century the best buff coats were perported to be made from elk hide . Buff leather armour (mostly coats and gauntlets ) predates the 17th century but the only references i've ever encounted regaurding the hide used were
of 17th century origin .
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Gordon Frye




PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2004 5:55 pm    Post subject: Buff Coats         Reply with quote

The earliest reference I have found to the use of Buff Coats is from CWC Oman's "History of the Art of War in the 16th Century", where he quotes d'Aubigne's interview with a Huguenot prisoner in 1562:

"The ranks behind the flag of this unit [which he was describing] are filled up with men who have only buff coats and pistols; of gentlemen wearing cuirasses and closed helms, and with horses worth 50 gold crowns, there are, exept in the very largest cornets, not more than ten or a dozen. These are called the 'Gens de Combat' and they decide the day"
(Footnote, pg. 406)

An obvious comment on the perception of usefulness in battle by the gentleman.

There is also a good rendition of a fellow wearing a buff coat in one of the paintings of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, where the subject is riding with a sword held above his head, ready to smite a heretic. Further evidence is provided in the funerary march of Sir Phillip Sydney in London in 1587, where members of his troop wear their buff coats, but not the cuirasses.

A good friend of mine has a beautiful buff coat that was made for him by a friend in New Zealand from buff leather purchased in England. The leather is tanned with a method involving fish-oil some how, but I don't know the particulars. It does result in a beautifully thick, but still pliable leather. I can well see it resisting most cuts and even blows. Bullets on the other hand, no.

Gordon Frye

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jessica S.




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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 12:43 am    Post subject: Re: Buff Coats         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:

"A good friend of mine has a beautiful buff coat that was made for him by a friend in New Zealand from buff leather purchased in England. The leather is tanned with a method involving fish-oil some how, but I don't know the particulars. It does result in a beautifully thick, but still pliable leather. I can well see it resisting most cuts and even blows. Bullets on the other hand, no.

Gordon Frye


Cod-liver-oil is used to fight a too big brittleness of the leather after a cuirboulli treatment. I have got a leather cuirass hardened with wax and water and had to put that yummy-smelling cod-liver-oil on it for the leather suffered somewhat from the treatment. After two smelly days on the balcony it is really good now.

If fire does not cure it, a sword will.
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 5:00 am    Post subject: Ringmail Coat purchase         Reply with quote

Shamelessly resurrecting an old topic I started quite a while back. ( Sorry if I repeat stuff said months ago as I didn't re-read all the posts. )

I just ordered a Ringmail Coat from Allan at Mercenary's Tailor and what seem new is that short sleeves can be added as an option.

I know that the historical proof for these is weak to non-existant but I'm more into Alternate history / Sci. Fi. / It looks cool school of just having fun with armour ........... etc. Razz Laughing Out Loud

In any case I tend to believe that the use of Leather, bone, wood and any other organic matter would have been used at some point in early history: The actual " style or look " of the stuff is unfortunately mostly guesswork. I would think that what we imagine is based in what would / could be the obvious things to do with the materials.

I can see Neolithic peoples who built the very first stone walls to protect their cities would have used the obvious weapons of spear, bows, slings, maces, axes and shield of hide, wood or wicker. So is it such a stretch to think they might have used thick hides reinforced with scales of hardened leather or made laminar armour using bone or antler ?

Our ancestors may not have had the benefit of our technology but they were not dummies who would not see advantages to some form of armour.

In any case, Allan sent me a reply with an interesting story about using Ringmaille over hauberk and Gambison and I don't think he would mind my quoting this story and he might entertain us with other stories of hitting people. Eek! Laughing Out Loud

QUOTE BELOW:
" We fitted out a guy two years ago who did arming coat, maille and the ring maille over the lot. He asked us to punch him in the chest while suited up(he didn't have to ask twice we never pass up the opportunity to smack someone around) so we took turns for a few minutes. At first of course we kinda pulled the hits a bit but the harder we hit the only thing it did was push him back. He said he only had the sensation of pressure with each blow and nothing else. Blunt trauma of course but it gives you some idea of how it works in a layered fashion. "

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Hisham Gaballa




PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What about Indian shields (dhals)? these were used until the 19th century and were often made of buffalo hide. They seem to have offered excellent protection against most weapons.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 5:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Ringmail Coat purchase         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Shamelessly resurrecting an old topic I started quite a while back. ( Sorry if I repeat stuff said months ago as I didn't re-read all the posts. )

I just ordered a Ringmail Coat from Allan at Mercenary's Tailor and what seem new is that short sleeves can be added as an option.


The term "ring mail" suggests that it is made with interlocking links (since "mail" means "mesh"). If it is made from individual links attached to a foundation then the correct term would be "ring armour." This did not exist during the medieval period in Europe but was was worn (rarely) in Asia. During the Renaissance there was the "eyelet jack" that could be classified as a type of ring armour. There are images in this essay. http://www.knights.arador.com/materials/chainmailandringmail.pdf
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 6:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Williams gives some figures for the energy needed to penetrate various materials on p.943 of Knight and the Blast Furnace.

Material.................Blade............Lance............Arrowhead
Buff leather.............70 J.......................................30 J
Horn.....................120 J.....................................50 J
Cuir-bouilli...............90 J............30 J
layered linen (16)......80 J............50 J
jack........................200 J

It seems that 16 layers of linen offers better protection against thrusting attacks than cuir couilli but cuir bouilli is better against cuts.
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Andrew Kephart




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The most famous example of arms failing in the modern sense that I can think of is during the American invasion of Tarawa. When the troops were heading to shore in landing craft, the Japanese were shelling them with airbursting artillery shells. The shells had too great of a powder charge and instead of merely exploding into deadly shrapnel, they were completely vaporizing themselves. My grandfather, who was in a landing craft at the time, said it felt like sand was raining down on them. Good luck for the US troops, who would have been slaughtered in the open-topped landing craft, bad luck for the Japanese.
Dulce Bellum Inexperti
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan;

Oh, I'm not making a case for historical accuracy of " so-called " Ringmaille and any comments about proof or lack of proof for fantasy types of leather and ring reinforced armour is completely O.K. with me as learning as much as we can about historically accurate to period and place is important.

Making the differences clear between historically proven & accurate versus Fantasy designs and unsupported by fact designs is very important as far as making sure that people new to the subject won't be confusing the two.

I'm just buying the " Ringmaille " because I just like the look: So Ring Armour is a more accurate term for it !

My wider questions / speculations involve the usefulness of leather and other materials and the argument previously stated that it's hard to believe that some form of leather armour wouldn't have been used even if we have NO idea what it actually looked like: Going back to stone age, bronze age, iron age and primitive backwaters until very recently.

If we limit ourselves to Medieval Europe ruling out some designs as pure " Hollywood " or fantasy is the reality based thing to do.

I know that it's unfair to ask one to prove a negative: Prove that leather armour was never used or what it looked like when little or no surviving samples or even decent artwork or even literary sources.

It just that if nothing better is available whatever can be made into useful armour would have been used somewhere / sometime. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Oh, and thanks for the link I will go have a look.

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