The last couple of evenings have been busy prepping for the weekend. This Saturday is my favorite time of the year: Scarborough Renaissance Festival. Typically I’d wait till the night before to get everything accomplished that needs to happen, but there’s a Dallas Symphony concert tonight. Shostakovich and Beethoven. Priorities, you know?
I feel like I’m super-prepared this year after so many years of trial and error. I got some spandex wrappings with gel packs so I don’t get blisters on the back of my ankles. Scroll case for the program / map (and tickets to get in the gate). Large belt pouch for my phone and the CDs I know I’ll buy. Separate, smaller pouch for tip money. And, of course, the new surcoat with my own shield on it.
The only thing I’m still trying to work out after all these years is the sword. A knight needs a sword, right? On this we agree? Ok, good. I’ve got a custom sword (as seen in the banner graphic on the home page), with a belt scabbard. I carried it on my hip the first couple of years, but the shows are bench seating, so you’re pretty much screwed if you sit anywhere other than the far left end of any given bench. Even then, you’re guaranteed to hit somebody behind you, and if you have my dumb luck, odds are it’ll be a kid or a woman in a wheelchair. Way to protect the innocent there, oh guardian of the realm… good job. It’s made worse by the fact that the belt attachment isn’t flexible at all, and I’m too short even with thick-soled boots, so while it is perfectly balanced, it also drags the ground at a 45 degree angle and lodges in the dirt if you try to turn the wrong direction. Ironically, I’d be average height or even a bit tall had I lived in the Middle Ages, so clearly this isn’t a workable scabbard.
When I kitted up as a Knight Templar, I switched to the slightly shorter Templar-themed sword. The belt attachment is far more flexible, and it doesn’t drag the ground. Still… not ideal due to the same potential audience poking and the fact that you still have to sit on the far left end of any bench (and hope that such is available). I tried a back strap scabbard for it the last couple of years. Completely useless for combat purposes, contrary to what Xena or Conan would have you believe, but it works pretty well for carrying it around provided you don’t accidentally whack somebody in the face when you turn. It’s called a pommel for a reason. There is an additional issue that came up too. You have to throw the cloak over one shoulder so the strap can go under your arm. That works ok until you actually need the cloak when it rains… like it did last year.
I’m not using that sword this year since I’m not doing the Templar thing. This year it’s back to my favorite custom blade. Of all the swords I have, that’s the one I consider to be “my” sword. In preparation for this, I got a second custom back strap scabbard not unlike the one I used with the Templar sword, but longer to accommodate the longer blade. The same problems persist as with the other one as a cloak is still a cloak, but there are some new issues that arise that make this completely unworkable. As I say, this sword is longer than my Templar sword (and still not as long as a standard rapier!), and the hilt is considerably larger and heavier, making the sword top-heavy in the extreme. Awesome for combat, not so great for Faire-wear. This extra weight then shifts, so the sword basically tilts sideways on your back. Not ideal by any stretch of imagination! I got a clip that I could use to hold the sword down in place. Due to where it attaches at the bottom of the scabbard, it’s too far from my belt, and thus too long to be functional for this need. The sword still rides sideways.
I could just loop the whole thing on one shoulder and wear it straight down, and it would be fine. I could then set it down next to me when I need to instead of having it on my back all day. While I’m certain I won’t forget it simply out of paranoia, the problem with this whole idea is that I’ll need to keep my hand pretty much locked on the base of the strap at all times. Should I need to use two hands for something, I’ll have to remove the sword, otherwise the weight will shift, and it’ll flip backwards and eventually hang upside down. Peace-knotting will prevent it from actually falling out of the scabbard at that point, but you see the problems inherent in the system.
If I can’t figure this out before tomorrow morning, the sword will have to stay at home. That seems wrong, seeing as how I bought it at Scarborough in the first place.
This, ladies and gents, is the difference between being able to properly use a sword and properly wearing one in public for display purposes. If you’re used to wielding one like I am, you already know that you’re not wearing the scabbard while you’re fighting. Historical knights had horses and squires. This is why. The scabbard could hang on the saddle in transit, and the squire would keep it while the knight was fighting somebody. The basic principle of engineering practicality applies in any age: form follows function.
And to think, people keep asking if I’m wearing armor to this? Seriously? No!
I think I’ll classify this one as “first world problems, Medieval edition.”