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Thread: Question about haversack buckles

  1. #1
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    Default Question about haversack buckles

    On reproduction federal haversacks, I have seen steel, japanned, and enameled buckles. I would like to know which variety was the most common and if any of them are considered early, mid, or late war. Thanks.
    Daniel Duke
    Liberty Guards Mess

  2. #2
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    Original specifications called for jappaned buckles, but jappaning wears off over time, leaving a basic iron roller buckle (or in some cases a double roller buckle as at least one patented contractor variant haversack had). Enameling wasn't done very often on military buckles, as that is basically painting a buckle, which wears very quickly. Plain iron buckles rust, so jappaning was done to preserve the buckle. Today you find a variety of buckle finishes on reproductions due largely to the inability to get proper jappaned iron buckles. As we often say, don't use reproductions as your guiding force in research, use the originals....
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

  3. #3
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    Thanks, I was using reproductions to compare with since original haversacks seem to be rare and I haven't been able to find any info specifically on the buckles.
    Daniel Duke
    Liberty Guards Mess

  4. #4
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    If you have a haversack with a plain steel, or chrome plated, buckle. You can get a pretty good approximation of a jappaned buckle by heating it cherry red with a blow torch and quenching it in dirty motor oil. The dirtier the oil, the better.

    Do this job outside, especially if you are doing a chromed buckle. The fumes from the burning chrome ain't healthy.

    Some repop haversacks come with a cast buckle. Depending on the metal, the above method may just melt the buckle!
    Bill Rodman, If you need a really bad example.
    King of Prussia, PA
    wrodman1@aol.com

  5. #5
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    Default buckles

    Ross is correct the buckles were jappaned. Raw iron/steel buckles and vegetable tanned leather are not a good mix and this is the reason for japanning or tinning the buckles. When you have raw steel or iron in contact with vegetable tanned leather the iron transfers to the leather creating a black spot called iron tannage. Iron tannage causes the leather to become brittle and crack over time. This problem was well-known at the time and the reason for the japanning of all iron/steel. This is one of those questions that needs to be answered but all so shows how much knowledge has been lost over time.

    The original haversacks with the strap and buckle attached by rivets that I have examined, the buckles had a tin or zinc coating. The English used a tin coating on buckles at times and at other times a japanned finish. Watertown Arsenal went to all the trouble in 1862 to coat the rivets with tin all in the hopes of keeping down corrosion from the interaction between leather and copper which damages the leather. The Ordnance Dept. was keenly aware of the problems caused by leather and metals. Problems with the tin coating on the rivets must have stopped its use or the terrible workmanship issues at Watertown Arsenal during 1862 caused all of the pieces to be rejected.
    Thank You
    David Jarnagin
    djarnagin@bellsouth.net

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dkjarnagin View Post
    Ross is correct the buckles were jappaned. Raw iron/steel buckles and vegetable tanned leather are not a good mix and this is the reason for japanning or tinning the buckles. When you have raw steel or iron in contact with vegetable tanned leather the iron transfers to the leather creating a black spot called iron tannage. Iron tannage causes the leather to become brittle and crack over time. This problem was well-known at the time and the reason for the japanning of all iron/steel. This is one of those questions that needs to be answered but all so shows how much knowledge has been lost over time.

    The original haversacks with the strap and buckle attached by rivets that I have examined, the buckles had a tin or zinc coating. The English used a tin coating on buckles at times and at other times a japanned finish. Watertown Arsenal went to all the trouble in 1862 to coat the rivets with tin all in the hopes of keeping down corrosion from the interaction between leather and copper which damages the leather. The Ordnance Dept. was keenly aware of the problems caused by leather and metals. Problems with the tin coating on the rivets must have stopped its use or the terrible workmanship issues at Watertown Arsenal during 1862 caused all of the pieces to be rejected.
    Thank you posting this Mr. Jarnagin. I couldn't remember what I'd heard in reference to tinned rivets, whether they were coated or actual tin rivets, but do remember having a long discussion about them once with another period leatherworker. Thanks for clearing that up.
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the info Mr. Jarnagin. Where the buckles on leather canteen slings every japanned?
    Daniel Duke
    Liberty Guards Mess

  8. #8
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    Default Buckle

    Yes, they were. The slings were fair leather.
    Thank You
    David Jarnagin
    djarnagin@bellsouth.net

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