Monday, November 27, 2017


A weary veteran of years of service, this knapsack is a nice copy of what the British Army used at the end of the 18th century. Sadly, the original dates to 1794. Interesting thinking by learned men (Mr. Rees, Mr. White, Mr. Kirk and Mr. Melius, for starters) has shined a light on this subject recently.

This pack is towards the end of a long line of adaptations for blanket carry. War is a great innovator. It should not be too hard to shave 16 years off it's design, getting closer to the American War period.

First to go are the buff straps and all the iron buckles. We will reuse four of these, and no doubt find a home for the others. Buff scraps are great for polishing brass, &c. The pack interior needs to be removed, but the painted shell has similar dimensions to the Warner Knapsack, so it will work fine.

The new interior will stick closely to drawing in the 71st Regiment's order book. The Inverness pack has a top pouch which will go away, but that makes the two side pockets bigger. Next time the inside.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

the Curious White Ball

Among the annoying traditions of some 18th-century British Army units (including the 7th Foot,) is buff leather belting dyed bright white for field use. Soldiering, even the pretend kind, is hazardous and unforgiving when it comes to fashion.

Between the belts, the hat trim, and the small clothes, white seems a poor choice. The larval military bureaucracy came up with a solution. According to Robert Hinde's 1778 The Discipline of the Light Horse:

"Take 1 1/2 lb of Pipe-Clay, 3 Quarts of Water, 1/4 lb of Best Glue, 1/4 lb of White Soap, Boil the Soap and Glue first, till dissolved, then Mix it with the Pipe-Clay, and Boil all together for a Quarter of an Hour; when Cold put it on with a Sponge in the usual manner, and when Dry Rub it with a Glass-Bottle."

Much easier to keep painting leather belts and wool white than use something that doesn't show mud/blood/scuffs. Idle hands and all that.

 Well, we are not going to use three quarts of water. Time to get out the calculator. "Best Glue" will be translated as hide glue and "White Soap" as the old lye variety. No coffee grinders were harmed in this process.

Hide glue is weird. Fortunately, it is still popular with the wood working set. The dry stuff soaks up a bunch of water over several hours and turns into a gelatinous puck. Be prepared to sacrifice one or two (cheap) pots to the gods. And how 'bout that smell?

Here is the glue in a double boiler with the soap just added. A digital or candy thermometer is handy since the glue is happy right at 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, it's a solid; above it ceases to be glue. Keep the double boiler at that temperature while stirring and heating the water in another pot to the same temp.

Slowly add the hot water and clay to the soap and glue mess. At this point, it's best to take apart the double boiler and heat the mixture directly. Be prepared to scrape the bottom as you stir to prevent sticking.

Increase heat to boil the stinking mess for twenty minutes. The mixture is very watery at first, but thickens over a period of days. Stored in a period bottle that doubles as a polisher. Apply with a sponge dipped in warm water and alum.

White kaolin clay can be had here. Hide glue is here and many woodworking sites. Etsy is a good source for soap. A cheese grater makes short work of the soap cake.

Next, we defarb a tired knapsack.