Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Word of the Day -- Scabbard

A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.  Most commonly, scabbards were worn suspended from a sword belt or shoulder belt.  Wooden scabbards were usually covered in fabric or leather, and leather versions also usually bore metal fittings for added protection and carrying ease. Japanese blades, however, typically have their sharp cutting edge protected by a wooden scabbard called a saya. Many scabbards like the ones the Greeks and Romans used were small and light. They were designed for holding the sword rather than protecting it. All-metal scabbards were popular items for a display of wealth among elites in the European Iron Age, and often intricately decorated. A number of ancient scabbards have been recovered from weapons sacrifices, a few of which had a lining of fur on the inside. The fur was probably kept oily, keeping the blade free from rust. The fur would also allow a smoother, quicker draw.

Entirely metal scabbards became popular in Europe early in the 19th century and eventually superseded most other types. Metal was more durable than leather and could better withstand the rigors of field use, particularly among troops mounted on horseback. In addition, metal offered the ability to present a more military appearance, as well as the opportunity to display increased ornamentation. Nevertheless, leather scabbards never entirely lost favor among military users and were widely used as late as the American Civil War (1861-65).


The metal fitting where the blade enters the leather or metal scabbard is called the throat, which is often part of a larger scabbard mount, or locket, that bears a carrying ring or stud to facilitate wearing the sword. The blade's point in leather scabbards is usually protected by a metal tip, or chape, which on both leather and metal scabbards is often given further protection from wear by an extension called a drag, or shoe.

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