Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

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Elleth
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Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Elleth »

note: the following is copy-pasted from the unedited copy of the article. Complete version with photos may be seen in the PDF version of the newsletter:

http://budgetauthenticity.org/mers/MERS ... er2016.pdf

====================


Making the Dúnedain Need Wallet


In October of 2015 on the Middle Earth Ranger Forum, Greg began exploring “On Need Wallets and their Contents.” He begins his topic with references from the lore:

As for me, I am of the Noldor, and long must be the hunger and cold the winter that shall slay the kin of those who passed the Grinding Ice. Yet how think you that we could labour countless days in the salt wastes of the sea? Or have you not heard of the way-bread of the Elves? And I keep still that which all mariners hold until the last." Then he showed beneath his cloak a sealed wallet clasped upon his belt. "No water nor weather will harm it while it is sealed. But we must husband it until great need...”
-Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth, Part I: The First Age; Book I: Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin


Though it was a long journey, each of the Dúnedain carried in a sealed wallet on his belt a small phial of cordial and wafers of a waybread that would sustain life in him for many days – not indeed the miruvor or the lembas of the Eldar, but like them, for the medicine and other arts of Númenor were potent and not yet forgotten. No belt or wallet was among the gear discarded by Isildur.
- Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth, Part III: The Third Age; Book I: The Disaster of the Gladden Fields

From that time, I had been wrestling with creating my own interpretation of the Dúnedain need wallet. It has been a long road of trial and error, but I believe I may have finally (mostly) arrived at the destination.
merf-needwallet-finished.jpg
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Theory of the Need Wallet:

What is a need wallet? Let us first start with what it is not: it is not a "possibles bag" nor a munchies bag nor a utility pouch. It is a life preserver- a last hope thread of survival held in reserve to the last. If all goes well, the Ranger returns from a long trek in the wild never having once had to resort to opening it.

Likewise it must always be there: if the camp is scattered in the night by an orc patrol, if heavy baggage is hastily dropped in a river crossing: the contents must not be lost. It is truly first line equipage.

So what does this mean for design?

The wallet should be as small and easy to carry as possible, so as to always be there. Since it contains primarily sustenance unsealed only at great need, it is not so critical that it be immediately accessible. Some convenience can be sacrificed for the sake of protection and portability.
I thus ended up with a wallet that was about 4”x9”, worn across the small of the back and fastened to the belt with two straps. By unclasping the straps the entire affair may be removed from the belt and the contents accessed:




Construction:
The wallet contains two main portions: an inner oval pouch similar in concept to the “portmanteaus” used by Greg and others – albeit flatter to keep closer to the body. It is further protected from the elements with the addition of cover to which are sewn the carriage straps:







Method:
After cutting out all the pieces (pattern in Appendix), The inner pouch is sewn together into a cylinder: I use a modified ladder stitch to join the leather edge to edge to get the most stability possible while maintaining a single thickness of leather.

Next the end ovals are inserted into the ends of the main pouch body and sewn into place with a standard saddle stitch. Here is where you have the opportunity to decide how low the opening to the pouch sits.

You must size the end pieces carefully: if they do not match the circumference of the pouch body, you may find the pouch tapers in or out at the edges rather than maintain a consistent flatted oval profile.

Sew keepers onto the wrapper body. The exact positioning is up to you, but keep in mind how high you want the pouch to sit on the belt – the top of your belt will be approximately even with the bottom edge of the keepers: in this case the pouch rides approximately centered on a 1.25” belt.
By placing the keepers at the top of the pouch, you allow friction to keep the pouch solidly at your side even when unclasped, should you wish to access the contents as you would a normal belt pouch.
By moving the keepers to the bottom you remove some risk of rain infiltration, but upon opening the carriage straps the pouch will tend to fall away from you.

In this case, I have also tacked the carriage straps to the keepers to keep everything in place when unclasping the pouch and withdrawing it from the belt.



Next, the cover and inner pouch are sewn together. Importantly, they are sewn together along the side edges only: this does give the option for tucking a kerchief or similar material between them if desired, but more importantly minimizes the sewing holes punched through the leather that might one day leak water on the contents.

Finally, attach your desired buckles to the carriage straps. I used the “3/8” Small D Buckle” from web vendor ThorThorsHammer.com, but hope one day to replace them with custom castings.

















Finish:

In my attempt to replicate a historically plausible artifact, I have kept my methods as traditional as I can yet manage. The leather is lightweight vegetable tanned tooling leather, naturally dyed with a mix of powdered walnut and powdered madder root, and then treated with a traditional sealer/conditioner made of neatsfoot oil and beeswax. (Recipes in Appendix)

In my limited experience, I have found walnut dying of leather to be considerably more trouble than using modern commercial dyes: In this project I used a fairly thick mix of dye, the consistency of a thick grainy syrup, and actively worked it into the leather over several sessions. Others have reported soaks in the dye lasting days: this may be the approach I try with my next project.

The end shade actually looks quite close to Tandy’s “antique brown” which I suppose is no coincidence. You can see a bit more of the texture of the skin through the dye than with a commercial dye, but for those not ready to make the leap to traditional methods, I’ve found at least in this case the end result in color and texture is surprisingly similar to a basic modern finish.


Lessons learned:

Every new projects is a learning experience, and one no sooner completes it than ideas for improvements come to mind.

Were I to do it over again, I would make two changes. First, I would add a light vinegaroon wash on top of my walnut dye to get a deeper, darker brown prior to adding the leather sealer.


More importantly, I believe I would flip the pouch around inside the cover so that the seams face out:







This does expose some stitching I’d rather hide, but it would allow a secondary flap over the contents proper, thus giving a bit of extra protection from any water that might find its way in through the stitch holes on the strap keepers. It also would allow me to place the strap keepers higher on the cover, so that the wallet can sit lower on the belt.

I'm content enough with the design as it is however, and don’t intend to remake it in the near future.

Coming next issue: a dive into the wallet contents!




APPENDICES: Patterns and Recipes

Recipes:

Leather dye: 3 parts powdered walnut hull, 1 part madder root.

I use enough to make the dye bath a heavy, sludgy syrup, then let it soak for hours. In my experience it takes multiple applications to come close to the darkness of a modern leather dye. This dye CAN stain skin so I have always worn gloves, though I’ve found the solution weak enough that short exposure typically produces no stain that can’t be immediately washed off.

Contrary to advice I have read online, in my experience the dye takes better when applied to dry leather: I assume this is because wet leather is already saturated and can’t accept more water carrying the dye in suspension.

Powdered walnut husks (Juglans Nigra) and madder root (Rubia Tinctora) can be found online with a cursory websearch. At time of this writing, I was able to obtained them from Starwest Botanicals and “NaturalDyesAndFiber” Etsy store respectively.


Leather conditioner: 1 part beeswax, 1 part neatsfoot oil.
Melt the wax in a double boiler, and slowly stir in the neatsfoot oil. Use at once or pour into a sealed jar for storage – it will store at room temperature for months without issue. Whenever you need to use more, just cut out a chunk and remelt in the double boiler.

I obtained all my materials from Amazon – at the time of this writing they may be found there as at:

Neeshow Stainless Steel Double Boiler Universal Insert (item code B015LY1Q0M, $10)
Stakich 1lb Pure White Beeswax Pellets (Item Code B001LQZOLW, $11)
Fiebing’s Pure Neatsfoot Oil (Item Code B0000B3ASR, $10)
Last edited by Elleth on Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Elleth »

Notes to the article:


First, subsequent to publication I discovered an important fact in walnut dying of leather. I had seen a few scrupulously detailed "how to" articles from people who had done the process once or twice, and a few gorgeous pictures with no details from people who were well practiced, but at the time found very little detailed information.

I have since made a discovery - that is, that the "suntanning" step I saw referred to occasionally in passing is perhaps most important of all. Previously I had thought it was somewhat like dying fabric: a darker color comes form re-applying the dye. That's somewhat true - but much more important is setting the piece in the sun to dry. It will naturally "suntan" quite dark on its own. Putting it back in the dye bath after this will actually "reset the clock" somewhat, and it will come out of the second bath much lighter than it went in. It's quite the interesting process. Each cycle gets a bit darker though.

I have had very good results getting a nice DARK dye without recourse to vinegar-iron solution but -

1. soak the piece overnight in a fairly thick (doesn't need to be syrupy ) walnut solution
2. leave it out to dry in FULL SUN, preferably on a warm dry day.

Keep an eye on it - don't let it stay so long it totally dries out an starts to curl, but you get a very nice DARK brown this way.

As far as I can tell the dubbining step mostly fixes the color, but I am still in fairly uncharted (to me) territory, and will post further information as I get it.
merf-walnut-dye-goatskin.jpg
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Last edited by Elleth on Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:30 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Elleth »

Finally, I'd like to add here the part I had to excise from the print article for length: the long evolutionary path it took to get to this point.

I started a year ago playing with a concept based on Greg’s portmanteau / pantry

For several short hikes I carried several variations on the theme quickly fashioned from scrap wool to explore the concept. I made several attempts, all essentially "long pouch in a cover" variations, but still sticking to smaller portmanteau dimensions:
merf-needwallet-originalmockup.JPG
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Eventually I settled on a panelled design, which I intended both to add a bit of rigidity and lend it less “18th century luggage” look:
merf-needwallet-originalportmanteau.jpg
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I abandoned that project halfway through: partly because the finished piece was getting heavier and bulkier than I wanted for this application, and partly because the angular structures I’d intended as strengthening points left the whole thing looking more “WETA Dwarven” than I intended. So I found it a good home and started anew.

I returned to my original “flattened oval” profile and downsized the whole thing. The result not coincidentally reminds me of the pouch Strider wears in the PJ movies, albeit a skosh bigger:
Aragorn_Pouch_AlleyCatScratch.jpg
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I continue to be pretty happy with my solution so far. As I noted in the article there's some things I'd change were I to do it over - but I like where I've gotten.

Oh - for those who are curious, I originally had leather keepers on the carriage straps, but took them back off as I felt it left too modern an appearance - it started to look to my eyes more "steampunk" than "Ranger" to me. But your eye may differ.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Greg »

I loved how it came together.

I must bring a few things to attention: Credit for the original portmanteau pantry goes to Odigan, who showed me his on a trek 3 1/2 years ago, and blew my mind.

Next, I have retired my own portmanteau (though I grabbed it last-minute for out last group trek because I needed something to hold my water pump). It no longer suits my purposes for a need-wallet, since discovering the references to the unfinished tales cited at the start of this article.

Lastly, I have been wrestling, myself, with design for the specific, function-driven aspects of this particular piece of kit for some time since finding those references. The thing is, I really felt that I must get this one right. Really right. It is, after all, the ONLY piece of gear in Tolkien that is so specifically described in more than one setting, outside of weapons and tools of war. Nothing else shows up repeatedly, within one cultural context, with such consistent detail and purpose, over such a great span of time. Wouldn't you know it, it's the only piece of Dunedain gear that's really described for us at all.

Had to get it right.

Elleth, you did a superb job. I'm anxiously awaiting the details you're withholding until the next newsletter on how your packaging/arranging your waybread and cordial, and if anything else sneaks its way into yours.

As I type this, I happen to have a VERY long-awaited piece of leather sitting on my lap, which arrived in the post today. Its sole purpose is to make my own iteration (third time's the charm!) of the need-wallet come to life. I assure you, much of my final design has you to thank.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Elleth »

I think an oil tanned leather would work and look awesome for this.

I can't wait to see how yours turns out!
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

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There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Greg »

Fighting with some formatting issues first, but yes, the wiki would be a good home for the write-up as well, if Elleth would like it there.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Elleth »

How about once I complete the "contents" section, I post the description and contents to the wiki with a link here or to the newsletter for a "how to"

That way the wiki won't get cluttered with the extraneous parts. :)
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Kortoso »

I was just noticing that somebody had created a new (empty) page for "Need Wallet" already.
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Re: Summer 2016: Making the Dúnedain Need-Wallet

Post by Elleth »

And since I'm in the MERS forum anyhow..

A quick update on the needwallet: this form factor is PERFECT. It's been on I don't know how many hikes now, and I virtually never even notice it's there: but it does lend a great peace of mind, even when I'm out with nothing but what's on my belt.

It's definately getting the worse for wear: at first I was wondering if I scratched it up sitting on my favorite rock or scootching down a hillside I didn't remember, but I think what's happening is that the guard from my coustille "eket" is scratching it up. No harm done. :)
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Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
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