Thursday, February 21, 2013

Historical Accuracy, and Schedule Note


We're confirmed for CodCon, the annual gaming convention at the College of DuPage, which has a significant attendance from LARP and Cosplay groups. Looking at the records for last year we sold . . . a little bit of everything.  Ok then.

Historically Accurate Stuff:

Our pouch designs are not historically accurate, they're creations of our (deranged) imaginations, and very few of them even have latches that appear accurate, with the possible exception of antler pegs and brass studs. This proved to be somewhat problematic at Military History Fest - I think we'd have sold more pouches, at least hard ones, if we'd had at least different latches.

So, one of the plans is to make more pouches that close with buckles or tabs over studs. That won't hurt for selling at SCA events, either.

Another consideration is making more documentable things, like cartridge pouches. Like these linked below that we made that are Civil War era: 
The black one has some hardware issues, and the brown one is pretty much a color fail, while sharing the hardware issues. OTOH, we made those because we could, not really thinking about authenticity at the time.

Civil War cartridge pouches were usually black, made out of leather that was in some cases only dyed on one side. The studs we used are passable, if not perfect, but the buckles should be black iron or japanned (a type of finish that I think is enamel) black.

I've found a source for buckles, and ordered some Monday, along with better studs in two styles. Unfortunately the guy only had one pair of buckles available, and was also out of out of the larger studs like you'd put on a cartridge box. Grumble, grumble, I want instant gratification, dammit!

I also ordered one each of three styles of Colonial-era buckles. Why only one of each? Because there were only pictures available of one style, so I'm going to see which I like best before ordering more.

So, back to cartridge pouches. I've been charging $90, including the shoulder strap (which I've also learned has a funky non-obvious but much nicer way of buckling onto the pouch). Some vendors at MHF had them in the $30 range, but Ron said they were pretty obviously cheap imports. Sewn with white thread. Now, to me, white thread on black leather is Just Wrong. 

So I started doing research. 

First up, to a Dover reprint of a pair of books on saddlery and harness making by a gentleman that worked in Britain pre-WWI, to find a discussion I remembered that wax with black goo in it was used to make thread black for sewing black saddlery (and shoes). 

Somewhere on-line, which I did not save and haven't gone hunting for again, I found a mention that you often see black in the recesses of the stitching, which to me and Ron supports the idea that the black wax has worn off of the white linen thread over the years. 

I've found, in one of the U.S. Army Ordnance Manuals and supplements I previously found while looking for cavalry equipment information, a list of supplies to be carried by a (mumble size unit) saddler, which includes a bunch of black wax. 

I also ordered a book, "Civil War Cartridge Boxes of the Union Infantryman" (why yes, I am both a nerd and a bibliophile, why do you ask?), ISBN: 0-91712-79-5. Unfortunately, all but the cover photos are black and white, so it's not exactly helpful on the color of the backside of the leather (is that dark because it was dyed black, or because the leather is old and dark brown?), and not definitive on thread color. Some pale, some dark. I'm skimming the text currently, but I'm afraid its quiet on the issue of thread color. 

If I can't find any mention there, I'll probably see if I can (e-) mail the author and ask.

What I have learned from the book so far, is that there were three main patterns of cartridge pouches, but there was a lot of variation even so, as they were produced by the Army itself by staff at least two different arsenals, and umpty contractors. Which led me to the statement that, if anybody ever tries to tell me that all cartridge boxes were thus-and-thus, I'm going to bludgeon them to death with my copy of the book. 

I've also poked on-line and looked at various photos, mostly of replicas by people said to be trustworthy by reenactment groups with more or less strict standards. Lots of white thread, also a fair number with black. (And my price isn't far too bad, it turns out)

None of the groups, however, mention thread color.

I'm leaning toward using black thread, since I can't find definitive evidence either way, and I trust my gut. All the leather I can buy already dyed black is dyed both front and back, so I'm waffling, but leaning toward dyeing vegetable-tanned leather on the grain side only.

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