Scabbards made of cloth/ glue- composite (linothorax); Epic Empires 2015, 2018

This page belongs to the subject area “linothorax”. The beginning would be here: composite armour


Swordsheath- building (below: so-called “half- scabbards”) is the most common use for lino; cloth- glue- composite is a cheap but worthwile alternative to leather or sewed cloth.


Above: an off- the- rack- shortsword was recoloured with acrylics and thus changed into an individual piece of equipment.
It is worn “asian way” with the edge upwards on the left side tucked into a cloth belt “obi” and fastened with a swordband “sageo”.

Short parenthesis: one can recolour (i.e. repaint) foam- weapons?

Well, some of them. At least this here and its successor. It was not carved by hand and latexed but “foamed” into a form and then sealed with topcoat. All traces of french chalk or silicone spray must be removed from the surface before painting.
I didn´t treat the newbought sword in any way but instead only washed it with dishwashing liquid. Then it felt so “clean” that I took the risk...

The blade received a blue wash (= was painted with thinned acrylics that let the original metallic surface show through). The grip´s suede wrapping was first moistened with water, then painted with unthinned colour.

Whereby I explicitly herewith allude to the danger of ruining an expensive foam sword by this treatment! “Modifying” foam- weapons can backfire and surely is no warranty case!
But for this shortswort the risk paid off; the colour adheres without problems or abrasions. It is cared for with talcum (french chalk).
Unfortunately I ruined it last year (see below for details).

And one more; credit where credit is due: I borrowed the idea to repaint swords from Mimin who described it in one of his blogs: https://miminsworkshop.blogspot.com/. “Zank ju” to Austria!

And of course the treatise on scabbard- building in the Larp- Wiki shall be mentioned:
However I do a few things different as described there.


Above: the base material is a one- handed shortsword. The scabbard is built directly onto the weapon and stays there while drying. So the first step is to prevent glue getting onto the sword.


Above: clingflm in sufficient quantities separates the sword from the building process.
Next comes volume generation: the tip of this blade for example is broader than its middle part. The scabbard has to be as broad as the blade on its strongest spot all over its length or it will not be possible to draw the weapon.


Above: the necessary volume is created by wrapping the sword into a few layers of newspaper. When a test shows that the sword can be drawn the shell is fixated.


Above: tape in uninterrupted strips is stuck lenghtwise onto the paper. This produces a robust surface the glue will not affix  to (at least not very well which is why the tape has to be applied as described ...)

My first try by the way ended in desaster: I had “protected” the newspaper surface only with clingfilm. During the building process some glue got onto the film and when pulling the sword out of the dried scabbard...


... foil and paper tore and the whole foreside of the substructure stayed stuck into the scabbard´s tip! Arrrgh!

And it was by the gods no easy task at all to get the remains out of there.

And that´s why the substructure that gets glued should be resilient enough to sustain a strong pull without tearing. Tape is qualified for the job.


Above: the scabbard´s inner side will make intensive contact with the sword´s soft foam surface and should therefore be more on the soft side too.

A suitable cloth would have a “fluffy” surface and wouldn´t well soak up glue because the adhesive shall stay on the outside (= the cloth´s underside).

The cloth is fastened with needles and then sewn (take it off the scabbard for sewing). The sheath is built higher on the hilt of the sword than necessary because later it will be cut to the correct length to achieve a clean border.


Above: last fitting. The cloth sleeve is trimmed close to the seam and gets fringed. The seam stays on the outside of the sheath  and is glued over.


Above: the cloth sleeve is positioned on the substructure and then glued over with pieces of cloth shaped like the one shown.


Above: the sewn cloth sheath is first covered with glue. I use D3 glue (water resistant, transparent drying) from a DIY-store.

Applying this first layer of glue is no fun, but the next layers  are a cakewalk.


Above: where to put the “seam” of the layers of cloth?
Two options present themselves: Either hidden on the scabbard´s inner side that is turned to the wearer or on the under narrow edge. With this sheath the junction shall be on the side that later will be the inner one. There the cloth is cut concise on the narrow edge.


Above: the cloth on the other side is not cut on the narrow edge but with a little overhang which is just turned up and glued on.
And because this sword will be worn with the edge upward on the left side, the overlap will not be visible.

P_LinothoraxSchwS_37 P_LinothoraxSchwS_38

Above: another sword, second option: here the seam will be placed on the narrow edge.

Left: again the cloth piece is placed upon the glue- covered sewn cloth sheath and cut precisely to fit onto the edge.

Right: the other side is cut with a little overlap, but this time I don´t glue it on top but....


Above left: the precise-cut side is lifted off again and

right: the overlap is glued on, then the precise-cut side is put on again.

The glue is now allowed to dry, although I tend to hang around for a few minutes to terminate bubbles should they appear.

When the surface is dry it´s time for the next layer: glue, cloth, glue.


Above: each layer is let to dry before the next one is put on (glue/ cloth/ glue/ dry/ repeat).
The swords stand semi-upright in cardboard- tubes which again are held in a cardboard box that is weightened down with water bottles (inside there´s another one).
On the left some short swords, on the right the above- shown half- scabbards.

Above right: the lino- sleeves that later become scabbards are built a little longer than necessary because they´ll only get trimmed to correct length when all layers are dry.
The sewed lining and 3 layers of glued cotton- linen will do.
I find the half- scabbards for the long blades convenient because larp- weapons have a lot more volume than real ones and with these one hasn´t a giant awkward tube on the belt when things get rough.

For drying I don´t hang the sword from the hilt (scabbard down) in order to prevent the sheaths following gravity and coming off.

How many layers make sense?

My official recommendation is: sewed lining (= the “fluffy” inner side), two layers of glued cotton- linen and the surface; either a third layer of cloth or leather or a special cover material as shown below.

Makes 4 layers. More is not necessary.


Above: inner lining with 2 layers glued cotton- linen are dry. For the surface layer I want a strctured cloth, namely this here:

P_LinothoraxSchwS(18) P_Linothorax(36)

Above left: blue jaquard- cloth with chaos- clouds! How could I resist?

“Jaquard” just means “embroidered”, and this fancywork is what I want.
If such a structured cloth is used as final layer, the elevated stitchery will be preserved under the glue and can later be highlighted when the scabbard is painted (above right)


Above: The overlap received some extra glue to achieve a good blending because the cloth is quite thick. The seam´s position is located such that it´ll be invisible on the inner underside when the sword is word edge-up on the left side.


Above: the opening “koiguchi” (= “carp´s mouth”). The edge is trimmed, then glued over. All layers are inseparably bonded and I´m glad that I used black cloth for the inside and not some leftovers with patchwork print.

With a japanese sword a metal “collar” (habaki) in front of the hilt would wedge the sword in the sheath to prevent it falling out, but this is not possible with foam weapons. My first try was to stick the sheath into a cloth belt as with the real things and the belt would compress the scabbard, thus holding the blade.
That was a mistake, because this compression has ruined the sword after 9 con- days by abraiding the surface. See the solution further down at “wearing the sword”.


Because of the shape of these weapons (they are “wooden swords”) the scabbards normally would have to have awkward square tips.

These tips have been cut off, rendering the sheaths significantly less bulky. And the openings provide the benefit of easy removal of everything that gets into the sheath but doesn´t belong there.

foldcrumple. I wanted to know. On the right the unbend, straightened scabbard. It didn´t break or tear.

This could happen theoretically if one falls during a fight with sword in hand and rolls onto the sheath. A wooden scabbard would not survive this.

The experiment took place after “only” a week´s  drying time. During the next weeks the composite will change again- it´ll get lighter because of further moisture loss and harden some more.

I wouldn´t treat finished scabbards that way for fun, but it is comforting to know what the material is theoretically capable of.


Above: the next generation (2018) after the untimely demise of the first sword.

Normally the page “scabbard- building” would be finished here, but I´d like to say a few words about “how to carry a sword”, because I´ve ruined a foam weapon...


Above: The first sword was worn “asian way” very much like the real thing: edge up on the left side with the scabbard tucked into a cloth belt and fastened with a swordband.

But in the course of this the belt compressed the scabbard´s sides. And although the sword was thus kept safely in place, every time it was drawn led to abrasion on both sides of the blade.  What I hadn´t considered was the fact that the soft blade might not like this...

And it didn´t. At all. The abrasion injured the weapon´s outer sealing on both sides of the blade:


Above: after only 9 con- days (which extended over 3 years, so it wasn´a total loss) large parts of the sealing on both sides were missing, and in this summer´s continuous rain (2017) the sword downright stuck to the inside of the scabbard- which sealed its fate: under these working conditions I cannot sufficiently implement the will of the dark gods.

At this point I want to stress that the sword´s manufacturer is not responsible for anything that happened- it was my improper treatment of the weapon that lead to the damage. And I could (should) even have known! My fault. And if this type of sword would still have been available in 2018, I´d have bought one again.

P_LinothoraxSchwS_46 P_LinothoraxSchwS_47

Above left: a real sword (a “wakizashi”, the shorter one of a japanese pair). The scabbard “saya” is mounted on the left side inside a cloth belt “obi” and fastened with a sword band “sageo”. The swordband can be employed in a number of ways; I prefer the one shown. The sword is worn edge up.

Above right: but the principle cannot offhandedly be transferred to larp- equipment because larp- scabbards have much more volume than the real thing- and we see the belt compressing the sheath.


Above: the new sword. On top the original, beneath with new colours (acrylics): wash for the blade and normal paint for the handle (which was first covered with a layer of thin cloth). The ferrules hold the colour well. The pic below is from “after the con”.

I chose this sword because of its slender blade (meaning less volume for the scabbard) and because the manufacturer declared it as “maintenance- free” which encouraged me to paint it. Until now everything went very well- I like the weapon.

But again: if one modifies foam weapons or treats them improper one is not entitled to whine when something goes awry!


Above: comparison of the old and the new weapons. The new scabbard turned out way less bulky than the first which allows for wearing a second one on the same side of the belt.


Left: and here is the plan:

Each scabbard gets a tailormade cloth tube about three fingers broad. On its backside a ribbon is attached vertically.

These tubes are threaded into the cloth belt, thus holding the scabbard. The ribbons provide the required support without compressing anything. The swordband is used in the original way to prevent the scabbard from slipping out of the belt (the tube, to be precise).


Above left: the belt with attached cloth tubes. The ribbons are tied only after the scabbards are in place.

Above right: first the smaller sword to the rear. The swordband is knotted to the tube´s ribbon and provides secure hold. The free long end of the swordband can be used to secure the sword´s handle against the weapon slipping out of the scabbard (now that the sheath is not compressed and the sword is worn almost horizontally this could happen; use a fast loosening knot).


Above: the longer sword up front. As with the original the scabbards can be moved a little along the belt which allows traditional drawing techniques that quite well reflect the murderous elegance of the real thing.

The bigger volume of the sheaths is something everybody has to live with somehow.

As with a genuine japanese saber the left hand normally rests on the sword hilts (always when I´m in motion) to stop the blades slipping out of the scabbards.
The character´s primary weapon is a halberd, and when the polearm is deployed I wear only one sword whose hilt is secured with the swordband.

I´m contend with this solution but would like to have a simple “dropout- safety- mechanism” (perhaps a sort of removable wedge...). We´ll see.


Above: once again the half- scabbards (which really seem to have existed and imo make a lot of sense). How to mount them? (i.e. how do you fasten them to a sword belt). Recherche yields countless possibillities- here´s a simple one: 2 rings (in this case cheap metal curtain rings).

The unpainted one in the middle proved unusable and had to be redone, because the rear ring coincidentally is positioned exactly in the system´s mass centre which means the anterior ring doesn´t carry any weight and the sword will “dance” on the belt.

To avoid this daft mistake and save a working step one should determine the sword- in- sheath´s centre of gravity and position the rings well before and behind it.

In this case it just meant: pry off the rear ring and refasten it a liitle more to the rear (with the same glue also used for the composite). No problem save one more day for drying.

The other half- scabbards have already proven themselves in battle (see below).

Here also the carrying method is one of the simpler ones: 2 straps directly on the main belt.

Long swords were often worn on a second, loose belt which fastens on the opposite side on the main belt so the heavy sword will not pull it down.

But with the neglectable weight of a foam weapon and the excuse that in this case the metal armour will prevent any belt- slipping I treat myself to this simple style of mounting.


Jan 2016, last edit oct 2016, may 2018, oct 2018

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