Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

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Elleth
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Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Elleth » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:51 pm

So I was recently re-reading Gerry Barker's "Some Thoughts on Scouts and Spies" and came across this line:

Everything should be in dark colors: no beadwork, quillwork, or bright metal - ANYWHERE!


That naturally reminded me of the description of the Grey Company of Aragorn's Rangers: "There was no gleam of stone or gold, nor any fair thing in all their gear and harness."

While of course that most obviously means that they're not carrying jeweled swords or anytihng, I wonder if it implies that ash arrow shafts or steel sword hilts are somehow darkened, so as not to stand out in the woods. Regardless, I rather suspect our little band might wish to be doing so - I've certainly been surprised at how easily a blade can catch moonlight.

... to that end, does anyone know of a period-correct way to darken wood and subdue the gleam of steel? Ursus, I recall you mentioned you darken your arrows somehow: would you mind elaborating on the process?
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Ursus » Sat Jan 26, 2019 7:58 pm

My kit kind of lives by that quote from Mr Barkers wonderful book.

For arrows I wipe down the shafts with walnut dye. This is a special batch that I continually boil down until it’s a thicker paint like consistency. I imagine something like Udwin’s birch bark dye would do well also. After they dry I oil them lightly with linseed oil. I also use this dye on all my leathers that are lighter in color. Most of the rest of the little metal that is exposed in my kit from my sword hilt to various buckles are bronze that I mute the color of with a store bought bronze ager.
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Greg
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Greg » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:51 pm

I dunno. It's not a bad concept to follow, but I wonder at the wisdom in all applications.

FYI, Udwin's birch oil is a sealer, but not really a dye. I barely darkened my bow a noticeable shade...just added a subtle glow and a hint of tackiness to the feel.

Being a professional hunter and traveller (you just KNEW that was coming, didn't you?), some techniques left unwritten must exist that he would've employed for things such as the hunt. Darkening sword furniture via antiquing isn't a new concept, though the Barrow blades suggest to me that the Dunedain, at least historically, had a penchant for age-proofing their swords.

As for arrows, I want my shafts brighter than the underbrush specifically for hunting. Arrows are expensive, even in period, and so I would want a bare-wood gleam to help me retrieve arrows (and, in kind, find the start of blood trails, etc.) Since quivers cover most of the shaft, I could see dyeing the crest/cap of the shaft, but leaving the forward 2/3rds light for utilitarian purposes.
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Ursus » Sat Jan 26, 2019 11:48 pm

Greg wrote:I dunno. It's not a bad concept to follow, but I wonder at the wisdom in all applications.

FYI, Udwin's birch oil is a sealer, but not really a dye. I barely darkened my bow a noticeable shade...just added a subtle glow and a hint of tackiness to the feel.

Being a professional hunter and traveller (you just KNEW that was coming, didn't you?), some techniques left unwritten must exist that he would've employed for things such as the hunt. Darkening sword furniture via antiquing isn't a new concept, though the Barrow blades suggest to me that the Dunedain, at least historically, had a penchant for age-proofing their swords.

As for arrows, I want my shafts brighter than the underbrush specifically for hunting. Arrows are expensive, even in period, and so I would want a bare-wood gleam to help me retrieve arrows (and, in kind, find the start of blood trails, etc.) Since quivers cover most of the shaft, I could see dyeing the crest/cap of the shaft, but having the forward 2/3rds light for utilitarian purposes.


Likewise, not a bad concept being left natural. Shafts tend to weather with use anyways. I'm just extremely particular with color.

I was only going on a video I once saw of a chap using birch oil to dye an axe handle.

I suspect like so much more it depends on the individuals need and performance in the environment. I am not the greatest traveler and huntsman of the age after all but I do consider myself very professional. As someone who would likely spend much of their time lying in concealed observance or in careful motion I see the advantage of intentionally muting colors of ones clothing and gear. I like to think of a professional Dunedain ranger not having "off the shelf" gear that hasn't been modded to blend adequately into the woodlands but rather it all being very purpose built and colored with little left to chance. But that's just me. I may have natural colored hunting arrows for around home and special ranging arrows for on the trail. I guess another thing is that I don't really tend to think of epic months long rangings were I'm hunting to supplement but rather short aggressive scouts over specific tracts where I've packed ready to eat foodstuffs accordingly while being prepared to hunt at need.

One thing to note here that I should have mentioned with my set up is that I leave the inside of the nock natural and sand the the very butt end to its natural color as well. This gives something to draw the eye. Comined with keeping a good eye on my flight from string to destination has never given me a lost shaft in a typical woodland shooting space. I have lost an arrow to the odd glacing shot or had it buried deep in grass or underbrush but shaft color has never aided me in those types of recovery. Of course if you dont want to dye shafts you can always leave your arrowbag tied shut as well I suppose.
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Greg
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Greg » Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:32 am

I was just thinking about painting the insides of nocks white! Great minds think alike.
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Iodo » Sun Jan 27, 2019 8:33 am

Interesting, I always imagined that a sword hilt wouldn't be darkened, it would just be hidden behind a cloak.

I learnt the benefit of making sure everything is dark about a year ago when I was walking in the forest in kit and decided to sneek up on my family for a laugh, so I left the path and circled round in the trees, with the aim to come out just in front of them. I could hardly see them through the undergrowth, they shouldn't have been able to see me, but my brother pointed right at me and said "there she is" and he isn't even observant, I'd thought he must have heard me but when I asked he pointed out that the thin light cream hemp rope I had for a pack strap was blindingly obvious in the dark of the trees and had been the only thing he could see, I quickly changed that for dark leather cord :P

About darkening arrows, there's a longbow archer at my club who creates a kind of motteled effect on his shafts using a candle flame, I've never tried it myself so I'm not sure how easy it is???


I really need to get that book :mrgreen:
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Udwin » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:37 pm

FWIW, like Greg said, birch oil while great for everything, won't truly stain wood. Like any oil I guess you could say it will 'deepen' the wood's color but once soaked in won't darken it more than a few hairs.
As for bluing or de-shining metals, I have experimented years ago with bluing ferrous metals with very very green American persimmons...which produces a dark purpley blue color, but unfortunately seemed to only be temporary as it would flake off. I don't know if there are any European fruits which might have similar extreme astringencies (due to acids (tannic?) I would imagine) that would do the same.
-Dulling red metals is easily accomplished with ammonia, which is likewise easily produced...just save your piss for a few weeks and keep a lid on it. Ta-da, now you have ammonia! Mordant cloth and brown your bronze!
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Greg » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:41 pm

Iodo wrote:Interesting, I always imagined that a sword hilt wouldn't be darkened, it would just be hidden behind a cloak.


There's an app for th...I mean, there's a reference for that!
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Peter Remling » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:53 pm

Traditional browning of steel and irons has been known for centuries and might be a better solution:

I'd only use it on the guard and pommel. The sight of a gleaming blade has a psychological advantage.

In Europe, this process was originally called "russetting" and the term "browning" came to be used later.

The formula for the solution used for the Brown Bess musket (taken from General Regulations and Orders for the Army, 1811) is as follows:
Nitric acid - 1/2 ounce
Sweet spirits of wine - 1/2 ounce
Spirits of wine - 1 ounce
Blue vitriol (a.k.a. copper sulphate) - 2 ounces
Tincture of Steel - 1 ounce
Water is used to dissolve the copper sulphate first and the rest of the ingredients are added to the solution and more water added to make up 1 quart of solution. Other solutions may also be used depending on the type of iron or steel alloys used in the weapon.

The browning process starts as follows: The barrel is first removed of all greasy impurities by washing with soap or detergent. Then a plug of wood is placed on both ends of the barrel to make sure that the insides are sealed and only the outsides are rusted. The barrel is hung in the air and then the browning solution is thoroughly applied to the outside with a clean cloth or sponge. The barrel is left exposed in the air for about 24 hours, after which a thin layer of reddish brown rust is formed on the surface. After this, the barrel is "carded" by rubbing it with a hard brush or steel wool, which removes the acid from the surface. The whole process is repeated for two or three times to get the desired shade of reddish-brown finish on the barrel. The barrel is then cleaned and oiled. The same process may also be carried out on the other iron or steel parts of the gun as well.
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Ursus » Sun Jan 27, 2019 3:16 pm

Here’s the video I was talking about concerning the birch oil as a dye. Also these are great axes for the money and a blast to mod.



https://youtu.be/QOr4_uVq2EA
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Elleth » Sun Jan 27, 2019 3:42 pm

when I asked he pointed out that the thin light cream hemp rope I had for a pack strap was blindingly obvious in the dark of the trees and had been the only thing he could see, I quickly changed that for dark leather cord


yikes!

I'm mostly out alone, and other than a period years ago when I was doing overnights alone in public backcountry wasn't paying much attention to trying not to stand out. Re-reading, I'm getting reminded of how important that was, and it has me rethinking things. I think I need to start doing some experiments in the near future. If anyone's done any kind of experimentation looking for friends in various kinds of period clothes, I'm curious how it went. I've a sneaking suspicion some colors might not stand out as much as I'd expect - deep dull plum-madder reds for example - but I really have no idea.

As for arrows, I want my shafts brighter than the underbrush specifically for hunting. Arrows are expensive, even in period, and so I would want a bare-wood gleam to help me retrieve arrows (and, in kind, find the start of blood trails, etc.) Since quivers cover most of the shaft, I could see dyeing the crest/cap of the shaft, but leaving the forward 2/3rds light for utilitarian purposes.


I think a lot of that is context. For our roving use - and yes, hunting - I think bright arrows are absolutely the win.
(In fact, for just plain roving practice I'm still stuck with using my modern arrows and recurve bow, as the arrows are more disposable and the bow weak enough not to break them should they hit something harder than expected - and I get to use those marvelous wire dont-get-lost heads. )

That said, it seems to me that an arrow light enough to stand out amongst the leaf litter for retrieval is almost by definition I'd say light enough to catch the eye of an orc should one find oneself more hunted than hunter. 2/3 is an interesting compromise. Hrmm... I'll have to think on that. Certainly the bag does help a lot.

I will be trying that dye Ursus, at least on my next batch. Thank you! It's just walnut powder boiled down to a paint consistency? Do you wipe it off after letting it sit a bit to stain, or do you actually use it as a paint? I assume you glue / bind the fletching after?

The one frustrating thing is I'd finally gotten my eye trained out of seeing light-colored ash as "wrong" compared to all the TV dramas from way back when.
Or maybe I'm just overthinking things. Anyhow, nothing for it but to try.


Greg wrote:
Iodo wrote:Interesting, I always imagined that a sword hilt wouldn't be darkened, it would just be hidden behind a cloak.


There's an app for th...I mean, there's a reference for that!


Ha! :)
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Ursus » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:26 pm

Correct. As you boil it down you may add more hulls or powder as needed but go easy on the water, less is more. Once you strain it you can add more hulls and repeat. Mine ends up the consistency of a thinner oil based paint.

I use a swatch of sheepskin with the wool still on and wipe them down several times and then let the linseed oil take them to the final desired color. This lends itself to an eye pleasing inconsistency I find.
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Iodo » Sun Jan 27, 2019 5:51 pm

Elleth wrote:I'm mostly out alone, and other than a period years ago when I was doing overnights alone in public backcountry wasn't paying much attention to trying not to stand out. Re-reading, I'm getting reminded of how important that was, and it has me rethinking things. I think I need to start doing some experiments in the near future. If anyone's done any kind of experimentation looking for friends in various kinds of period clothes, I'm curious how it went. I've a sneaking suspicion some colors might not stand out as much as I'd expect - deep dull plum-madder reds for example - but I really have no idea.

I haven't done experiments with period clothes but I have done them with which colors are best for remaining hidden in dark/low light conditions, It wasn't related to rangering but as an attempt to cosplay a character from a book who was described as wearing dull colors that rendered him almost invisible darkness/low light, the author didn't say what the colors were. I thought the results were quite surprising. Your right to say that deep reds work well, especially in a forest. Other colors that work well are both dark and light greys, browns, earth tone greens and dark blue and purple (perhaps why ninjas wore blue/purple). Just not black, black seemed to appear darker than shadows and somehow stood out even at night? I guess the compromise it to choose colors that work in both light and dark conditions.

The other thing that seemed to help was breaking up someone's outline. If someone was wearing an army shirt/army pants, it was all the same tone and the human silhouette was instantly recognizable, however if the person changed to a dark grey block color shirt with a sleeveless army shirt over the top they were more difficult to spot because there's no longer the single tone human shape. I guess this is why rangers use cloaks/surcoats

[EDIT] Sorry, I think I just derailed the thread
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby HuerTa » Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:56 pm

When it comes to darkening metals, there are a few modern quick solutions such as Gun Blue which work really well. I've used it with good result on guards, pommels, and blades. Here's one I did a while back :

ImageUntitled by Steven Huerta, on Flickr

Mustard and vinegar also work well to darken non-stainless steels though I've never personally used them.
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Re: Suduing wood and metal.. thoughts?

Postby Ghostsoldier » Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:12 am

HuerTa wrote:Mustard and vinegar also work well to darken non-stainless steels though I've never personally used them.


I've used this mixture to dull-down a nickel plated Denix '73 Peacemaker clone several years ago; I can attest that it will definitely work, and the longer you let the parts soak, the duller it will become.

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