Bringing Encased in Steel to its Conclusion

We opened Encased in Steel on the 17th of February 2011, meaning that the blog has been running and posting on a weekly basis for slightly more than six years. However, we are now going to draw the blog to its conclusion, and will no longer be posting on a regular weekly basis. There may still be some new updates from time to time, but it will not be a regular thing.

We will continue to host the blog, and the better quality articles will remain accessible and free of charge, although we may take down some of the older, less relevant and lower quality articles.

I fully intend to keep writing my own thoughts and articles on my own personal blog, over on my new website. Again, it may not see regular updates, at least not in the near future, but I will be continuing to write and to make my thoughts on martial arts available to the community.

It has been a pleasure writing for the community over the last six years, and thank you to everyone who has engaged in discussions resulting from our articles. It has helped us come to terms with our own understanding of HEMA and history, and we hope the blog has helped others in their own journey too.

Editing a Facsimile

Last time I discussed the setup I was using for creating the Roworth 1798 facsimile. This week I will go into detail of the page processing which is done after the pages are photographed. Part of the reason for me writing this post is so that those who contributed to the campaign can understand the process being undertaken to produce facsimiles of a high quality and also so that I have a guide to return to in future the next time I am working on a facsimile project.

For those considering their own facsimile project please understand that it is a massive undertaking to create a photo facsimile (I am also working on a reproduction of a text from the same time period and am finding it quicker, on a page by page basis, to reproduce the type by hand than using the photographic facsimile method). I should also state that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I have been working with photoshop since highschool and am fairly adept with it, this is the method I worked out that worked best for me in the confines of this project.

I did try programmes such as Scan Taylor which would be great if this wasn’t preparing a book for print but just making something for personal research, I have also attempted every method of batch processing I can come up with but unfortunately this project just doesn’t lend itself to automated processes at all.

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How to write an Encased in Steel blogpost

This article has been written and submitted by Daria, one of the instructors within the Academy of Historical Arts.

Writing may seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it in a long while (or at all). It often seems to be a large, time-consuming, but surprisingly nebulous task. If you are interested in submitting a guest article to Encased in Steel, this little how-to is meant to encourage you and make the task a little bit easier. What I propose here is by no means the only way to approach the problem. Some steps can be omitted entirely, or they can be rearranged, especially as you become more experienced and more confident as a writer. But it does outline a natural progression of tasks that may be a little bit easier to tick off than just ‘WRITE!’.

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Poor Man Book Scanner

This week I am going to discuss the construction and use of a very primitive book scanner.

As some of you may know we have been running a crowdfunding campaign over the last fortnight to fundraise towards the purchase of two antique texts. As the perks for this campaign involve facsimiles of the items I have found myself in a situation whereby I have to photograph and create high quality facsimiles. Now this does not sound very difficult and at first I just planned to use my trusty digital camera (a 2005 3.2mp Cannon Powershot A510…ah the trappings of wealth for a charity director) the problem with this is that perspective is a nightmare, setting up a shot takes far too long and shaking causes letters to blur no matter how minimal it is.

The solution was to look at what others used and this was when I began to learn about book scanners and the book scanning movement (as with everything on the internet there is a movement of people who take this hobby to quite fantastic extremes). Now normally I would pick a design, make my way to Home Depot or B&Q and build it. At the moment however, we are currently moving premises and I finally have my house as a home and not a workshop/warehouse. As such I have extremely limited access to my tools and no desire to undertake such a project.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention though and as I need to create these facsimiles even with my reduced setup I have had to come up with another method which I will share here.

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Development of Ghillie Brogue Pattern

This week I will be looking at the development of a pattern for a Scottish Highland style shoe. Before that though I want to apologise for the late posting. WordPress sites have come under a large attack this year and our host implemented a safety measure to protect us which unfortunately activated itself before I could post yesterday and has only just deactivated. We remain commited to our regular Friday posting schedule and will continue to maintain it barring circumstances such as these.

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A Brief History of Crafting

The article for today is a very brief introduction to the history of crafting, and has been written by Catriona Hogg, one of our crafting instructors.

The crafting aspect of the AHA is not one which gets a lot of press. There is only one club which has any crafting instructors and there are only three of us. Now that we have more people who are interested in the crafting and we are increasing in number it seemed like a good idea to increase the number of crafting blogs on Encased in Steel. To give people a little bit of background about the crafting aspect of the Academy: it started alongside the combat when Ben Kerr and others set up the society now called Glasgow University Historical Arts Society away back in 2007. It has been running in the Glasgow group ever since but we haven’t quite managed to expand outwards to other groups yet. There are only three of us full crafting instructors with a couple more joining the ranks within the forseeable future. Throughout the years we have tackled many different crafting disciplines, most of which includes basic crafts like sewing, knitting and chainmaille but we do teach complex crafts like making crossbows and different kinds of armour. Obviously the more complex the craft the more time, money, materials and equipment have to go into making it.

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Scottish Sword Project – The Design

Hey Folks,

First let me apologise for the delay in posting this week, in preparing the various graphics for the post sadly my laptop decided it had had enough and I had to fight it to get the work back.

This week we are looking at part 2 of the Scottish sword project, the Design. In the first article in the project (, we considered the source material and now it is time to put that understanding to use. Before I begin though I would like to clarify a few points:

1)      I did the design for this on paper first and then moved it to the computer using a series of CAD programmes and photoshop. As such I am aware that some of the lines don’t match up perfectly but I have gotten them as close as possible to the original paper design.

2)      The design method is based on the research undertaken by Peter Johnsson and although my understanding of this research is nowhere near as good as his I have tried to apply the spirit of the method as much as possible.

3)      In the spirit of Peter’s method I did my best to design only with a pencil, eraser, compass and a straight edge and after a bit of trial and error found these to be the only tools needed.

4)      I aspire to be a cutler and not a blade smith, as such the blade for this project was bought in from Albion, it is a type X bare blade. I had them heat treat the blade and then I polished it myself. Contrary to popular opinion it would be unlikely many swords were made from start to finish by the same person and so by focusing on the hilt work rather than producing the blade myself I feel I am taking a more historical approach…plus I really dislike making blades.

So here is a small graphic to show off the process, I will in this post hopefully explain the process correctly and with decent detail, although it is honestly probably more worthy of an in-person lecture than a written description.

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Scottish Sword Project – The Sources


So this week I have decided to write a post with the beginning documentation of a long term project I am working on. A few years ago I purchased a bare Type X blade from Albion, and have been waiting for a project worthy of the blade so I can hilt it. At fightcamp in August the perfect project appeared while I was visiting a private collection and saw a wonderful example of a Scottish style medieval arming sword. Seeing this example reminded me of something I have often wondered about why Scotland chose a fairly unique sloping hilt style for its medieval swords and more importantly how this would have effected the style of swordsmanship practised. Before I go any further I should warn the reader that this will be a long project and will undoubtedly take at least six months for me to complete, so roughly May 2014. Once I have finished however I will put links to all my posts on the topic here so that they can easily be read in order.

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The History and Cultural Significance of Chinese Jade

The jade works of China are probably China’s most famous form of artistic expression. Chinese jade is defined as any jade artefact created during the Neolithic period and onwards. Chinese jade has long been mined from four famous mines, perhaps the most famous of which is the Dushan mine in the Henan province. Dushan jade has been mined since the Shang dynasty and is now extremely rare. Dushan jade is known as Henan Nanyang Jade. The other most famous jades are Xinjiang Hetian jade, Shanxi Lantain Jade and Liaoning XiuYan Jade.[1] Despite the comparative fame of Dushan jade, Hetian jade is considered superior due to its density and wider variety of colours.[2]

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Cuir Bouille

Water hardened leather mask

Water hardened leather mask

This week’s article sets out to describe the research and development of the historical technique of forming leather through the application of water and heat, often referred to as Cuir Bouille. I was inspired to undertake this research due to mention in the Tournament Book of King Rene of Anjou (1460), of a helm being worn formed entirely of leather to participate in the tournaments of the day in Brabant, Flanders and Hanault.

“ Et quant à leurs armeures de teste, ont ung grant bacinet à camail sans visière, lequel ils atachent par le camail dessus la brigandine tout autour, à la poictrine, et sur les espaules à fortes agueilletes; et pardessus tout cela mettent ung grant heaulme fait d’une venue, lequel heaulme est voulentiers de cuir boully et pertuisé dessus, à la largeur d’ung tranchoires de bois, et la veue en est barrée de fer de trois dois en troys dois, lequel est seulement atachié devant à une chaesne qui tient à la poictrine de la brigandine, en façon que on le peult gester sur l’arczon de la selle pour soy refréchir, et le reprandre quant on veult. “

English Translation:

“And over all this they put a great helm made all in one piece of cuir bouilli and perforated below, the size of a wooden trencher, and the eyeslot is barred with iron in a grid three fingers square, which is attached in front by a chain to the breast of the brigandine, so that you may hang it from the saddle to refresh youself, and put it on again when you wish.”

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