I made the handle of my fencing dagger over a campfire at Pennsic, a two-week medieval camping event I go to every year. My campmates were thoroughly entertained. 🙂
The handle was made of many compressed leather discs. The first step was to soak leather scraps in beeswax. I bought beeswax at the Pennsic marketplace, and got to melting it in a tin foil bowl over the campfire.
The melted beeswax was poured over both sides of the thick leather scraps.
After a short cooling-off period, I cut a lot of little leather discs out of the waxed leather, punching a hole in the middle of them. When first slid onto the tang (the round metal portion of the dagger that extends into the center of the handle), the discs were very uneven.
The handle truly started to come together with filing. Lots and lots of filing. The friction of the filing heated up the wax in the leather, sealing and smoothing together the edges of the leather discs. The resulting handle was extremely comfortable – firm, but with a slight give as you squeeze it, molding itself to your palm.
I also created the hand guard. It was made out of wet-formed thick veg-tanned leather. I took a leather scrap that was roughly the size I wanted, and soaked it in water for ~20 seconds until a lot of bubbles came out and it was floppy and stretchy. Two holes were cut in it, and it was wedged onto the tang, after I carefully removed the leather discs in chunks and then slid them back on in the same order.
I wet-formed the shape by shoving a block of wood in between the guard and the handle. I wanted to have plenty of space to move my hand around inside the guard and accomplish different angles and grips. The leather “quillons” were created by tying a string around the top part until they curved how I wanted them too. A string along wet-formed the bottom of the guard so that it curved down, giving me enough room to extend my hand down next to the pommel (for reaching out during lunges, etc).
I love how leather can be formed in so many different, interesting ways to create different effects. I haven’t used my dagger much yet (I’ve been focusing on learning case of swords lately, not dagger fighting), but I love the feel of it in my hand whenever I do pick it up.
What interesting things have you done with leather lately? ~Birke