A light in the dark

Hey there!

We are working hard to make our 10-year anniversary special for you! Last weekend one of our oranizer groups met to make candle holder replicas from Swedish finds, and this weekend we will meet to make candles! And do you know what you must do? Come to the party and see our pretty ugly candle holders. Plus have a drink. Or four.



Är du nyfiken på hur man syr medeltidskläder? Har du funderingar över hur de ser ut, vilket material man ska använda och vilka färger som var vanliga? Detta – och en hel del annat – kan du läsa om på Sarahs blog Som när det begav sig. Missa inte!

Carrysack from Martebo

We all have things to carry with us when we travel. How they did it back in 14:th century is not always easy to know though. A chest is great for packing stuff in, but somewhat unwieldy to lug around. Some sort of backpack would be handy in those cases, but how did they look back in 14th century?


On Martebo church, on the island of Gotland in Sweden, a lady is depicted in a line of travellers. Over her shoulder she has slung a sort of double sack. This sack is perhaps later known as a ‘fässing’ traditionally in some parts of Sweden. Although it might be have just intended for carrying on foot, it is almost perfect for use on horses to. The picture above is from the first part of 14th century. The sack is very versatile and easy to make. The double compartments make it easier to carry and things will not fall out if it is placed on the ground. There are some different interpretations about where the opening is situated, on one side or centred. I have chosen to have it centred on mine since it is easier to pack and unpack. Especially when used on horseback.

The sack



If it is loaded heavily it will become a bit straining on an untrained shoulder. Changing shoulders will be needed from time to time. Care should be taken to load each side basically equal in weight. When used on a horse, it might be a good thing to have the opening downwards (that is; facing the horse, not the sky). If you have things you want easy access to though, the opposite will be true. As long as it is not raining it will not matter.


The making of the sack

The sack is incredible easy to make. I’ll throw in an instruction just in case someone did not deduct it from the pictures.



This article, written by Johan Käll, was peviously posted on our old webpage.

The reconstruction of a 14:th century gauntlet


This is a short text about reconstructing a type: 1 gauntlet of the Visby massgrave findings. It is not an exact copy, but a reconstruction of a gauntlet ‘of that type’. Only the right hand gauntlet was found, but Thordeman nevertheless describes it as follows: “All plates have rivets on the outside and were, consequently, fastened to a covering”, which means that all the plates where covered by leather or cloth. Some other gloves in the excavation was thought to have parts covered by leather/cloth and parts riveted onto the leather/cloth. This is not specific to these excavations and other gloves have been found where this has been the case.


Schematic drawing of the gauntlet in question

The reconstruction misses the buckle and has some fancy looking cosmetical plates to some rivets. Also there was no cuff found close to this gauntlet. This can mean that it had no cuff, that the cuff was of a material that perished or that it has gotten lost along with part of one finger. The small strip at the wrist Thordeman thinks “It is possible that they form the transition to a cuff, if such existed. They may also concievably have formed the stiffening of a small cuff.”

I have opted to make them the transition to a cuff and have chosen a stiff full metal cuff as the one found on gauntlet no 10. riveted to the inside of the leather.


Other cuffs of leather, probably with metal reinforcements, from a 1340’s manuscript

The making of the glove was done by firstly getting an inner ‘lining glove’. Thordeman doesn’t think metal was carried next to the skin and I agree. After this an outer glove was made in thicker cowhide. A glove corresponding to the outer part of the inner glove was cut out, leaving the palm free. This was then made soft by soaking in oil (normal run of the mill olive oil). After this the plates was riveted into the outer glove, making sure they could move over each other in the joints. After this was done, the outer layer (with the riveted in metal plates) was sewn onto the inner glove.


The thumb of the glove showing the yellow felt lining between the gloves

To get a little padding a layer of felt was put between the layers. This is really good, because they might be a tad uncomfortable without. The cuff was left unlined though.The round decorations was put on to give them a more fancy look. That is also why I opted for brass rivets. The original have iron rivets all over.


The finished glove, a little beaten up and dirty after some seasons on the battlefield

So… How do they work? They do not have the same flexibility as gauntlets having the plates riveted to the outside. The outer leather doesn’t let the plates move so well and they can feel a bit sluggish in response. On the other hand they don’t crave as much polishing as all parts are covered. Also I used way to small rivet heads and they have eaten through the leather on several places.

This article, written by Johan Käll, was previously published on our old webpage.

Late medieval chest

Kista 01

This chest is dated to 15:th century but is of a form commonly used in the 14:th century. The chest has probably seen use as a vestment coffer, serving as storage for the priestly wardrobe. It is made out of oak and relies on square plugs in round holes to keep the parts in place.

The body of the chest

The front of the chest is based on the ‘legboards’. These are probably slotted and the three face boards slid down the slots. The upper and lower plank is then plugged in place.


Red arrows denote these plugs in the picture, the green/yellow shows the sidebeams that are described below

The front and back are joined together by side beams that are slotted into the legboards and plugged into these with a plug driven in diagonally from the side of the board.


Seen here is the inside of the sidebeam as it is slotted into the legboard. The plug on the inside has been left ‘unpruned’

Between the horizontal beams vertical ones are inserted to stabilise and distance them (see picture above). On the inside of the beams ordinary planks form a wall. How these are fastened I do not know.

The Bottom

The lower face and backplank has a ‘shelf’ cut into them as well as the legboards. The bottom planks rest against the shelf and a beam running over the middle. The beam is haphazardly plugged into the front and back with uncut plugs.


The shelf and underlying beam

Other chests from the same age have two beams under the bottom but this particular one sport just the single one.

The lid

The lid is made of planks attached to an underlying beam on the shortsides. This is so short it passes down between the frontboard and backboards.


The lid, marked red. This picture shows how the beam fits into the chest body

The hinges are made of iron and is attached to the inside of the lid and the backside of the chest. On other chests of the same construction the hinges are mostly on the inside in both fastenings.

Final comments

This document does not have any measurements as it is only to show the way the chest was built. A guess of its size would be that it is about 1,60 m long, about 0,5 deep and 0,90 high. The boards may have been glued as well as plugged, Although it does not seem likely. Since we could not open the chest some details of construction is still a mystery.


The boards to be slotted into others are generally cut in an easy way, as shown on this simple rendering. It is cut by sawing, rather than by using an axe or another edged tool

Even if this is a chest that was used in a church, pictures from the time tells us it was also in secular use.



This picture taken by Thomas Hagaeus of a chest in Transylvania, prob. 14:th century, shows how the planks are fitted into the beams


Other chests of similar construction from the National historical museum, Sweden

This article, by Johan Käll, was previously published on our old webpage.