Author Topic: Leather Scabbard Repair?  (Read 847 times)

Offline DJ

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Leather Scabbard Repair?
« on: December 31, 2021, 06:15:56 PM »
I recently acquired a bayonet for a 1900 Dutch Steyr Mannlicher.  The scabbard is a little the worse for wear (I suppose I would be too, after 100+ years) and I would like to preserve and maybe even repair it.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where to start--the leather is scuffed and flaking in places, and the seam is split for several inches up from the tip.  Is there something I can apply to stop the deterioration?  And if it is even possible to re-stitch it, is there a technique to replicate the original stitching? 

Offline St. George

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2021, 08:03:56 PM »
It suffers from 'Red Rot' - there's no coming back from that.

You can coat it with any of the popular treatments, but it 'will' continue to deteriorate.

You can re-stitch any seam separation by hand, but tugging on the thread 'will' cause a break, when you do.

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Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2022, 10:05:31 AM »
St. George--

Thanks for the reply, although the news that I have "red rot" isn't what I had hoped for.

I do metal and wood but know nothing about leather--is there a product I can use to freeze or retard the rot?  Perhaps something like wood hardener that one soaks into punky or rotting wood to harden it and keep it from getting worse? 

Also, is this something contagious like mildew seems to be, or just a function of age and storage conditions?

Thanks again for the info--

--DJ


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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2022, 11:49:13 AM »
Unfortunately, when leather gets to that point there isn't much that can be done.  As you can see from where the seam has come apart, the threads have pulled right through the leather. A LIGHT application of Lexol(R) Leather Conditioner might help, but not much at this stage.  Sorry! Wish I could offer better news.
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Offline Cap'n Redneck

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2022, 02:59:41 PM »
I wonder if You are missing a brass or steel finial at the point of the scabbard...?

Personally I think I would fix the damaged stitching by just gluing a thin strip of leather over the missing stitch part.  That would have to be done before You apply any leather conditioning.
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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #5 on: Today at 09:57:34 PM »

Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2022, 05:46:28 PM »
Yes, missing a brass finial--a related project after I figure out the leather.

It looks like there might be enough room between the blade and the scabbard to fit something in there.  I wonder if I could make something like a thin leather tube to go inside the "bad" area and then glue it in place to stiffen everything up.   Maybe even add some stitches (faux or otherwise).  Since it would be covered up I could use just about any material on the inside, but perhaps leather would work if I can keep the original from continuing to disintegrate. 

I'm not looking for a museum piece--just trying to preserve it in place, maybe improve the appearance a little, and keep the last few inches from breaking off. 


Offline SylviaWhite

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2022, 03:29:47 AM »
I wonder if You are missing a brass or steel finial at the point of the scabbard...?

Personally I think I would fix the damaged stitching by just gluing a thin strip of leather over the missing stitch part.  That would have to be done before You apply any leather conditioning.
Yeah!
I like the way you have put it. Quite understandable.

Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2022, 08:36:45 PM »
I'm probably not doing this right, but I'm taking my shot.

To start out I made a round tube of 2/3 oz leather for the lower few inches of the scabbard to go under the worst part of the damage--that turned out to be too bulky, and while I was figuring out my insert was too fat the stitching pretty much unzipped all the way up the scabbard.  I ended up cutting the insert down to a half-round reinforcement that fit under the seam.  After making the insert I brushed on some glue and slid it in so it pressed against the underside of the seam.  Then, while the glue was still wet, I glued the full length of the seam back together, edge-to-edge.  I used rubber bands over wax paper to hold it all together while it cured and inserted the bayonet to make sure it didn't get squeezed too small.  I then set everything aside while waiting for the postman.

Following up the on the lead about red rot (thanks St. George), I did a little research and found a product that supposedly retards the disintegration--the one I got is called Cellugel, but there are others with similar names.  This stuff is apparently intended to restore the leather bindings of antique books.  Anyway, it soon arrived, and I put it to work.  The product is a gelatinous clear goop that reminded me of a jellyfish--it seemed to have a little more body than edible jelly.  The instructions are sparse, and, I suspect, geared toward repair of thin leather book bindings.  They suggest an initial coating and, after it dries, a second application.  The idea is that the stuff soaks into and binds the leather fibers together.

I was concerned that with the jelly-like consistency it was not soaking into the leather as deeply as it should.  The label says it can be thinned with 100% isopropyl but doesn't say why you would want to do that.  I only had 91% isopropyl and 95% ethyl--I went with the isopropyl and will save the Everclear for a different application.  I was not precise with my measuring, but a mix of about 50-50 was thinner, but not so runny that it would drip off without soaking in.  I ended up using one thick and three thinned applications, plus I slopped some on the bayonet and inserted into the scabbard to try to get some on the inside surfaces.   

All-in-all I'm pleased with the result--still have some cleanup of extra glue to work on, need to decide on some kind of finish, and also need to figure out a finial; I'll probably just leave the stitches as-is, because I'm not really a leather-guy and would most likely just mess them up.  But the scabbard seems much more solid and like it will stay together, at least for awhile longer.

Offline Marshal Will Wingam

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2022, 10:22:11 AM »
That's a vast improvement over what it was. I'd say it's good enough for display purposes. Well done.

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Offline Cap'n Redneck

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2022, 04:19:02 PM »
Here's a link to some photos of a scabbard with the finial intact:  http://www.armory48.com/bayo/bn697.html
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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #10 on: Today at 09:57:34 PM »

Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2022, 06:24:33 PM »
Thanks for that--I've been poking around on the 'net and it seems like most of them are wire-wrapped like this, although this is the first I've seen with the pigtail bent up and left in place.  They may all be field repairs, because the number of wraps seems to vary from about a half-dozen to over a dozen, and the workmanship--how to put this politely--varies.  Some seem to be a two-piece finial while others seem to be one-piece.  I've also seen one with an external brass cap a couple inches long and held by staples--no wrapping.  I suspect that may be the original, or else someone's fantasy.

With all the variations, I guess whatever I end up doing may look authentic.

Thanks again--

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2022, 12:03:33 PM »
The external brass cap, two inches long, sounds to me like the Civil War era Springfield or Enfield bayonet scabbard finial...
"As long as there's lead in the air, there's still hope..."
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Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2022, 12:12:53 PM »
Yeah, I've only found images of one with the brass cap--it may be "wrong," but it looks like a good fit and like it may have been on there for awhile.  I doubt I will find one of those floating around, so am working on ideas for one with the wire wrapping.

Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2022, 01:10:25 PM »
I think I may have the finial issue licked.  I repurposed a round brass cap nut and ovaled it a little to mimic the original.  Some of the originals were brass and some, apparently, steel or tin (some kind of white metal, anyway).  I went with brass.  The construction is not the least bit authentic, but I'm only going for looks.  I narrowed the middle of the screw a little to give wire wrapping some purchase.  I also added a little leather at the tip of the scabbard to square it off and build up the eroded portion.  Not a pretty seam, but should be covered up in the end.

The last photo is an original showing the look I'm going for.  Guess I'm going to learn about wire-wrapping leather in the near future.

Offline Marshal Will Wingam

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2022, 03:10:37 PM »
That's going to be a good fix. Looking forward to seeing it finished.

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Offline DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2022, 08:57:01 PM »
Final installment on this project.  I cobbled together the finial and essentially screwed it into the end of the scabbard.  On my first attempt I used some "craft" copper wire to wrap the tip, but it was too shiny and I couldn't seem to dull it.  So I cut that off, stripped the insulation off a piece of single-strand wire I had lying around and used that.  The wire was a little stiff and still a little too new-looking, so before wrapping I heated/annealed it with a little torch to soften it and give it a duller finish.  The original photos I found showed wrapping from about six turns to over a dozen.  I went with twelve.  My wire looks a little thick, but not obviously so.  On the leather I used a little leather dye that had been relabeled as military stock stain to touch up the red-rotted areas, and then rubbed on a little bees wax in front of a space heater and did a quick buff to bring the repaired areas closer to the dull shine of the original leather.  Throughout my work I noticed that the more I manipulated the leather, the flimsier it seemed to get, so I'm going to pass on trying further improvements. 

I'm not sure I would pass inspection by a WWI Dutch NCO, but overall I think it now looks more like a real scabbard.

Thanks for all  your observations and suggestions.

--DJ

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2022, 07:21:14 AM »
I enjoyed your efforts and read; I have a modest collection of world bayonets.
I've worked on a few to repair, bubba sharpening attempts and buggered wood, so I know your tenacity.

My own collection is rather modest some 18 or so, late 1800's to WW2.
But the Museum I curate has a quite a number,1860's to include Cold war and later.

You did well by the old piece  :)
when planets align...do the deal !

Offline Marshal Will Wingam

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Re: Leather Scabbard Repair?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2022, 09:32:34 AM »
You did a beautiful job on that scabbard. It could pass the muster in any museum. Nice work.

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