Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)



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Taurinor
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Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Taurinor » Sat Apr 08, 2017 7:37 pm

One of my goals for this year's skills challenge (well, last year's, actually...) was to make a new costrel. I decided to go with the 3-piece barrel-looking cylindrical costrel rather than the 2-piece flacket costrel that a few folks here on the forum use. I had made one previously, but the construction method I used the first go 'round resulted in some leaking spots that I just couldn't seem to fix, so I took another stab at it. I even remembered to take pictures this time!

I'm happy with the way my new costrel turned out, but as a warning, it's very plain. If you want to see some beautiful costrels, go check out the costrel collaboration Ringulf and Caedmon worked on a while back!

I based my costrel on a few images from medieval artwork and a couple extant examples -

Image

Even though most of those examples look to be round (although the extant ones are kind of squashed), I decided to put a flat bottom on mine so I wouldn't have to worry about it rolling around too much. That's pretty common in later (18th century) examples, but I don't know when that started.

In order to make the ends of the costrel fit without cutting or folding them (that's what caused the leaking issues in the first one), I made a (very) rudimentary jig to shape the ends -

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Woodworking is not one of my gifts. Here is a piece of wet leather being shaped in the jig -

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I cut it deliberately large so I could trim it after the fact and not have to worry about precise placement. The jig wasn't pretty, but it got the job done -

Image

I forgot to take a picture of the main body of the costrel before stitching the top, but it was effectively a long rectangle with matching shaped ends. I punched all the stitching holes, then stitched the top of the costrel to make it easier to fit the sides into place.

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I trimmed the excess leather off the shaped ends -

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You may notice the end does not have stitching holes punched - due to the curves of the ends, the space between the holes needed to vary to match the outside holes, so I punched the holes with an awl as I went.

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One end in, one to go!

After attaching both ends, I wet the costrel thoroughly then packed it full of barley -

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This stretched the leather outwards a bit, slightly increasing the capacity. It also helped prevent the ends from collapsing inward during sealing.

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A LOT of barley fit in that sucker!

Shaped and ready for sealing -

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The creases at the base of the neck were bothering me, but then I saw that they were present on some extant examples, so it may just be a product of the stretching process. I sealed the costrel with a mix of beeswax and brewer's pitch. I aimed for a mix of 1 part pitch to 2 parts wax, but it was all by eye.

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I initially used a cork to close the costrel (it worked well enough for the March overnighter), but I wanted something more authentic, so I carved a stopple out of red cedar. I don't know how long it'll last, since cedar is a little soft and it already seems to have a small crack in it, but I figure I'll use it till it starts giving me trouble.

Image

It holds about 2 liters/half a gallon, which was more than I was expecting! It doesn't seem especially bulky for how much it holds, though, and it rides pretty well on my belt.
Last edited by Taurinor on Sat Aug 19, 2017 4:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Greg » Sun Apr 09, 2017 12:03 am

Been looking forward to this! Very nicely executed. I've been considering doing a costrel in this style to add some flavor for awhile. If I can put a few projects behind me, I'll probably give it a go, thanks to you.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Udwin » Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:41 pm

Not too shabby, man! That came out Great! You can be very proud to carry that on the trail.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Straelbora » Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:44 am

Wow. I'd say you can repost this as a 'how to' for making a costrel.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Elleth » Mon Apr 10, 2017 3:55 am

oh very cool! It looks fantastic!

I'm curious: I cant tell for certain from the photo, but it seems it may be a lighter weight of leather than the leather vessels I've seen in the past (maybe they were too chunky?).

anyhow, was the weight you chose a deliberate decision, or simply what you had on hand? Have you noticed any practical differences?
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Kortoso » Mon Apr 10, 2017 4:27 pm

Very nice!

Even barley instead of rice? That's extra authentic! :P

I'll bet there's even a way to calculate the volume of the vessel while the leather is being cut.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Taurinor » Mon Apr 10, 2017 5:30 pm

Thanks for the kind words, y'all!

Elleth wrote:I'm curious: I cant tell for certain from the photo, but it seems it may be a lighter weight of leather than the leather vessels I've seen in the past (maybe they were too chunky?).

anyhow, was the weight you chose a deliberate decision, or simply what you had on hand? Have you noticed any practical differences?

Good eye! The leather I used was about 4-5 oz, I'd say, and a lot of the how-to write-ups I've seen online use 7-8 oz leather. Short answer - it was just what I had on hand. Slightly longer answer - I made my previous costrel out of a similar weight leather, so I knew it was possible. The wetting and stretching process stiffened the leather a bit, and the lining hardens it some. If I were going to tool it, however, I'd definitely go up to 7-8 oz; I wouldn't have felt comfortable trying to make decorative cuts in this lighter weight leather.

The lighter leather may make it less durable over time, so I'll have to keep an eye out for that and report back! One thing I have noticed is that the "wings" that the strap goes through are still pretty flexible, since they weren't hardened like the body in the lining process. If I were to make another in this weight leather, I'd sandwich additional pieces of leather there as I stitched it up, one on each side of the neck, just to give that part a little more rigidity.

Kortoso wrote:Even barley instead of rice? That's extra authentic! :P

And extra cheap! :mrgreen:

Kortoso wrote:I'll bet there's even a way to calculate the volume of the vessel while the leather is being cut.

I did do a few calculations to get a guesstimate of how much it would hold while I was making the pattern:

costrel capacity.jpg
costrel capacity.jpg (28.85 KiB) Viewed 1207 times

I ended up shaping the ends like circles with corners, so to simplify it I just pretended that the costrel was going to be a cylinder. I knew I wanted it to hold at least 1.5L, so I played with the length and the diameter of the ends until I found something that seemed reasonable to carry that would hold that. I worked in metric, since a cubic cm is a mL and that made the calculations a little easier, then converted the final measurements from centimeters to inches, rounded up, and made my pattern. I knew the rounding up and the corners and the stretching would increase the capacity, but I'd prefer to be to carry a little extra water than to not be able to carry enough.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Elleth » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:27 pm

Taurinor wrote:The lighter leather may make it less durable over time, so I'll have to keep an eye out for that and report back! One thing I have noticed is that the "wings" that the strap goes through are still pretty flexible, since they weren't hardened like the body in the lining process. If I were to make another in this weight leather, I'd sandwich additional pieces of leather there as I stitched it up, one on each side of the neck, just to give that part a little more rigidity.


Fascinating, thank you!

It seems the thickness of the leather may not be overly important in actually holding the water: I don't think the skin walls of my bota are much different from your costrel: all the magic is in the fur and pitch, with the skin serving pretty much as a carrier for the lining. I imagine yours is doing something similar.

Really like the stoppel to - looks grand!
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Kortoso » Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:46 pm

Nice to see the double stitching. I neglected this on my leather bottel, and I needed extra pitch/wax to seal it.
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Re: Barrel-shaped leather costrel build (pic heavy!)

Postby Taurinor » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:10 pm

Elleth wrote:It seems the thickness of the leather may not be overly important in actually holding the water: I don't think the skin walls of my bota are much different from your costrel: all the magic is in the fur and pitch, with the skin serving pretty much as a carrier for the lining. I imagine yours is doing something similar.


I think the same could be said for wooden canteens - they're usually sealed with pitch or wax, as well.
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