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Thread: Leather Lamellae

  1. #1

    Leather Lamellae

    Is there any evidence of lamellar armor being made out of leather?

    If you know of any evidence, could you please let me know/point me toward it/send it to me?

    Thanks

    -Bradley
    -Bradley L'Herrou

    Finding Swetnam

  2. #2
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    There are various surviving examples of laquered rawhide lamella out of the far east (Japan, et al) from the C18/19th in the Royal Armouries in Leeds (united Kingdom).

    Anything in particular you are looking for?

    HTH
    N.
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  3. #3
    Thanks, Nathan.

    I'm more interested in armor that made it at least as far west as the Byzantine empire. Or, alternatively, was leather lamellar among the armor traded with Japan before about 1650 when trade was cut off?
    -Bradley L'Herrou

    Finding Swetnam

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    Remarkably preserved Roman rawhide lamellar armors were found at Dura Europos and date from the 3rd century AD. They retained their rawhide lacing as well. One was laquered red, the other black. They are well described in Robinson's "Armour of Imperial Rome," though I believe there are more up-to-date studies available.

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    The best info on the Dura Europos armour is in Simon James' book Excavations at Dura Europos 1928-1937 Final Report VII: The Arms and Armour, and other Military Equipment. Unfortunately this isn't evidence of leather lamellar being worn in the West. Dura Europos is in the Syrian desert. What region and what time period are you interested in Bradley? The earliest example of leather lamellar dates to the Warring States period in China.
    Last edited by Dan Howard; 06-06-2007 at 04:00 PM.

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    Acording to David Nicolle in his "Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era", large quantities of 12th-13th century leather lamellae as well as an armour made of multiple stitched layers of hardened leather were excavated in Northern Iraq.

  7. #7
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    The Chinese, Tibetans, Koreans, Vietnamese and Japanese all used leather lamellar at some point in their histories. The Chinese used lacquered leather lamellar as far back as the warring states period ca. 5th century B.C.

    Incidently, if you chk the other thread on Han dynasty armour, this is exactly what a group of us are currently researching.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liang Jieming View Post
    The Chinese, Tibetans, Koreans, Vietnamese and Japanese all used leather lamellar at some point in their histories. The Chinese used lacquered leather lamellar as far back as the warring states period ca. 5th century B.C.

    Incidently, if you chk the other thread on Han dynasty armour, this is exactly what a group of us are currently researching.
    Is there any use of un-lacquered leather for lamellae?

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven H View Post
    Is there any use of un-lacquered leather for lamellae?

    Thanks.
    Yes. I believe there's a full set of 19th century Tibetan leather lamellar armour in a museum somewhere. It is unlacquered. Quite common actually but unlacquered leather makes for poor armour, even if boil-hardened.

  10. #10
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    Interesting summary of cutting tests on leather:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=5EjGIMtKTIw
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  11. #11
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    There's a large difference between untreated leather, boil-hardened leather and lacquered leather armour. A colleague of mine is in correspondance with a prof who has been researching the transition from lacquered leather lamellar to iron lamellar. He's apparently of the opinion that the protection afforded was equal. The main advantage iron had over lacquered leather was that of thickness and therefore weight. The equivalent thickness required for iron to match the typical 5-7mm thickness of lacquered lamellar in terms of penetrative protection, was only about 2mm. This reduced the weight by up to 50%.

  12. #12
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    Hi,
    This is an 18th century Chinese leather lamellar armour in the Royal Armouries in Leeds:

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    Thanks for the photo. That's Sichuan armour. Not quite mainstream chinese armour. It's closer to Tibetan armour than Chinese. The blue coloured armour you can just see to its right is I believe, late Ming dynasty armour. That one is rather rare as it is I think the only complete Ming armour still existing in the world today, but would be more typical of Chinese armour of the period.

  14. #14
    “Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour” has a section on leather armour and a couple of pictures of lamellar leather in it.

    ¼” of hardened leather stops the quarrel from a modern crossbow. I tried it on a piece that got messed up when I made it.

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    Andy, very interesting; can we have some of the details necessary to use this as more than just anecdotal information please?

    Was it a bodkin point, broadhead or a modern field point(designed not to penetrate very far in targets)? How heavy was the shaft/head?

    How was the piece supported? Hard unyielding, hard yielding, soft?

    How much weight to the backing?

    How big was the piece?

    What was the pullweight of the crossbows (my modern ones I have owned went from 50# to 300# pull---I'm asumming you do not mean a pully bow when you said modern crossbow)

    and Finally what was the distance?

    Thomas

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    double post
    Last edited by Thomas Powers; 06-29-2007 at 12:11 PM. Reason: double post

  17. #17
    Since you ask:

    Was it a bodkin point, broadhead or a modern field point(designed not to penetrate very far in targets)? How heavy was the shaft/head? Modern field point (the type with the weird backward curve to a point) on a 15" Barnett aluminium quarrel. Head was about 125 grains and I'd guess the whole lot was 300 grains.

    How was the piece supported? Hard unyielding, hard yielding, soft? On a solid phone book on the floor. I might have put some cloth under the piece but can't remember. Shot was vertically downwards.

    How much weight to the backing? No backing

    How big was the piece? Shin pad sized. I was doing some late 13th century style leg defenses and overheated one of them, messing them up.

    What was the pullweight of the crossbows (my modern ones I have owned went from 50# to 300# pull---I'm asumming you do not mean a pully bow when you said modern crossbow) 150lb, Barnett Delta- a pretty basic recurve crossbow from a reasonable manufacturer. Probably about 50ftlb of energy.

    and Finally what was the distance? Point blank.

    The quarrel penetratedthe back by a few milimeters. It also stuck in the leather and won't come out (good thing it was a screw in point). The leather didn't crack. I was suprised as I was expecting the leather to break (simply down to the amount of energy- it has to go somewhere!) and the quarrel to go straight through.

    Note- the leather was not hardened with a 100% authentic glue. I used a modern glue with similar properties to original stuff (except that it won't go rotten, fall apart and attract rats when wet). I've made a couple of more authentic pieces and it is very similar.

    This doesn't prove that the original hardened leather will stop a period bodkin but it is interesting none the less. It does mean that hardened leather may have been suprisingly good.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Harrington View Post
    Note- the leather was not hardened with a 100% authentic glue. I used a modern glue with similar properties to original stuff (except that it won't go rotten, fall apart and attract rats when wet). I've made a couple of more authentic pieces and it is very similar.

    This doesn't prove that the original hardened leather will stop a period bodkin but it is interesting none the less. It does mean that hardened leather may have been suprisingly good.
    Hi Andy,

    That's fascinating. We're also contemplating testing leather armour against recurve bow arrows. You mentioned 1/4 inch leather. Was all that thickness leather? Or partly due to your glue etc.?

  19. #19
    It was 2 layers stuck together so they were touching but impregnated in the hardening process.

    I wouldn't expect normal leather to stand up to arrows; nor would wax hardened leather (the wax just lubricates the arrow blade).

    Soleing bend might work because it is as tough as old boots

    Another thing worth a try is multi-layered linen. I had a friend shoot sharp broadheads at 1/2" thick of layered linen (about 3.5kg/m2) and the arrows just bounced off. This was from a 90lb composite bow close up. Bodkins from a large 65lb wooden crossbow went through though.

    Andy

  20. #20
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    Pound for pound, layered linen offers far superior protection to layered leather. One only seems to find layered leather in pastoral cultures (e.g. Mongols) while textiles dominate in agricultural ones.
    For more on layered linen see here.
    http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=2630
    The Greek linothorax seems to have a lot in common with the medieval padded jack.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Harrington View Post
    It was 2 layers stuck together so they were touching but impregnated in the hardening process.

    I wouldn't expect normal leather to stand up to arrows; nor would wax hardened leather (the wax just lubricates the arrow blade).

    Soleing bend might work because it is as tough as old boots

    Another thing worth a try is multi-layered linen. I had a friend shoot sharp broadheads at 1/2" thick of layered linen (about 3.5kg/m2) and the arrows just bounced off. This was from a 90lb composite bow close up. Bodkins from a large 65lb wooden crossbow went through though.

    Andy
    I see. 1/4" of leather is 6.37mm which is about the thickness of Han-era lacquered leather which was why I thought perhaps you had something like lacquer to coat your leather.

    What was your hardening process for your layered leather? Boiling?

  22. #22
    I used the same method that Chris Dobson developed (I think he has published it somewhere). Water+ Glue then bake.

    Boiling just makes brittle leather.

    Thanks for the link to the Roman Army discussion.

    The hardened leather in the book I mentioned was layered but I’m not sure of the date or source.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Howard View Post
    Pound for pound, layered linen offers far superior protection to layered leather. One only seems to find layered leather in pastoral cultures (e.g. Mongols) while textiles dominate in agricultural ones.
    For more on layered linen see here.
    http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=2630
    The Greek linothorax seems to have a lot in common with the medieval padded jack.
    Not to be argumentative but for my own information, why were buff coats so popular during the 17th Century European wars if leather is so ineffective?
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  24. #24
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    Here in the American southwest, the Mexican "Soldados de Cuera" wore a layered leather coat similar to the english buff coat. Some consisted of as many as 20 layers of deerskin, so the shock absorption would have been considerable. In any case, they were intended as protection from Indian weapons, which were still of the wood-and-stone variety, but it's the last use of that sort of armor I know of.

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