Follow-up on The Leather Purse with Metal Frame – pt 1

The original documentation that I wrote for this leather purse with metal frame project was intended to be read while actually viewing the purse. So I decided that I needed to write another article which included pictures of the purse. Unfortunately I did not have a digital camera at the time that I made the purse, so there are no “in progress” shots, but I still have the purse and have used it for many years. I learned a LOT from making this purse, including what I will do differently next time!

Since I made this leather purse with metal frame, I have seen even more types of purse frames, including purse hangers. Museums and curators often describe both purse frames and purse hangers as “cast.” Some purse frames and purse hangers are definitely completely cast, but I think that parts of the plain purse frames are just hand formed. They did cast many of the pieces that I soldered together as one piece. Soldering was a difficult process in period, so casting in one piece and riveting things together were the preferred techniques. I used silver solder to put things together, but much “low end” period soldering was done with tin and lead solders.

The leather purse with metal frame that I made is too big for me. It has a natural tendency to collect ten pounds of “stuff”, something that I have never liked even in the “real world”. The actual size of the purse lid is   7 1/16 inches wide by 5 1/16 inches tall. The purse bag portion is almost 9 inches deep with a bottom insert of 9 ¾ by 3 3/8  inches.

When I made the purse lid, I was concerned about it opening and things falling out. So I added a hand made leather toggle and a handmade silk tie to wrap around the toggle. What I discovered is that I never use it! It is just in the way when I want to get into the purse in a hurry. The weight of the purse lid and purse frame tends to naturally hold the purse closed. I suppose if I did a lot of jumping jacks or running, the flopping around that leather purse with metal frameensued might allow things to fall out. Under normal walking conditions the purse lid stays closed. If I were to put LARGE things into the purse so that it barely closes, I would use the leather toggle and silk tie. I would also use it if I was concerned about pick pockets.

The first picture that I am including is of the purse in the position that it is in when it is on my belt. The picture shows what I mean about a natural tendency to stay closed. The pivot of the purse lid is against my body and supported by the leather loops, so the purse frame and purse lid tend to naturally hang down flat.


The next picture shows the purse lid. You can see the frame and rivets clearly. The Purse lidenameled piece is also riveted in place. The rivet that sticks up in the middle of the edge of the purse frame is bent over on the other end to form a loop, and the tie (handmade red and yellow silk cord) is tied to this loop.



The inside of the lid, showing the birch board, the long rivet that has been turned into a inside of lidloop, the silk cord, the peaned over rivets that hold the enameled medallion in place and the more neatly finished rivets around the edges that hold the frame to the lid.


An up close shot of the hinge area. The support bar is slightly bent from use (it is about 12 hinge areayears old), but it was originally straight. The distance from the end of the finial on the left end of the support bar to the end of the finial on the right end is 5 7/8 inches. You can see where the upper and lower portions of the purse frame fit on to the support bar and allow it all to become a big hinge.


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Making a Leather Purse With a Brass Frame – pt 4

The support rod was made from a piece of ¼ inch round brass rod. I used a file to reduce the diameter of the rod on each end until it was small enough to fit into the holes in the stretchers. The stretchers were then slipped in place and finials were soldered onto the ends of the support rod with silver solder. The finials were made from 3/8 inch round brass rod. I used a file to shape the rod, marked the center of the rod with a center punch, and then drilled a hole in the center of the rod to accommodate the support rod.

The loops for the leather support straps were made from 3/16 inch brass welding rod. They were bent with pliers, cut with a wire cutter, smoothed and shaped with a file and then soldered to the purse support bar with silver solder. The contact points on the bar and the welding rod were flattened somewhat to allow for a greater area of contact for soldering. The welding rod was hammered and then filed, and the support rod was filed.

The purse lid required some sort of stiffening material. I chose the best piece of clear birch that I could find. I resawed it with a handsaw to make it as thin as possible and then continued the thinning process with a rasp, chisel, wood plane and cabinet scraper. I then cut the board to the proper shape and glued leather to the board. The board was then riveted to the top of the purse frame. I used a longer rivet in the center front of the purse to act as a loop for the clasp.

The roundel on the purse lid uses a design from the St. Matthew page of the Book of Kells. I etched the design into the copper round, using ferric chloride. In period they would have engraved the design, but I haven’t learned to do that yet. I chose to use red enamel for the majority of the design because it was used commonly in early Celtic enameling and was generally considered to be a high status color. [1]  White is a very stable enamel and was used extensively in ancient enamels. The enamels were placed into the etched areas and fired in a kiln. This process was repeated several times until the enamel reached the same height as the surface of the metal. At that point the enamel was ground down by hand using wet and dry sandpaper until a smooth surface was achieved.

[1] Stapleton, p. 913