Pig bristles

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Pig bristles

#1 Post by admin » Sun May 05, 2002 11:32 am

On 06 May 2002, all posts in this topic (everything prior to 25 February 2002) were moved to the first CD archive.

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Re: Pig bristles

#2 Post by dmcharg » Tue Oct 15, 2002 9:39 pm

Attn. Al, everyone,
A source for bristles may be opening up end of this, or start of next year. I was contacted this morning by a chap who (with some friends) is preparing a submission to the Goverment to buy a large property in Queensland (Australia) and to plant trees and clear it over the following years of feral pigs. The Govt. wants them to cull 400 per year! One thing that would make their sub. stronger is being able to point out that there is a market for stout bristles with shoemakers around the world.
He (Mark Toohey) wishes to know what sort of interest there is in the Guild so that if there is enough he can put that the price is "under negotiation with the Guild but that the market is there".Also he can show the Govt. that he's not making this up Image
His idea was that you'd agree on a price you were all happy with and then fix it to get rid of fluctuations.
Mark would like to finish up the submission around the end of this weekend. All he wants at the moment is an expression of genuine interest. I'll check here and my e-mail Friday your time, or as a Guild (Admin.?) you could send direct to Mark Toohey [url=nomemark@hotmail]nomemark@hotmail[/url] .
This is a different person from my other posting for bristles who ran hunting trips.

Hope this is helpfull
Cheers
Duncan

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Re: Pig bristles

#3 Post by erickgeer » Thu Feb 05, 2004 2:04 pm

I was just getting some supplies, and the shoe repair supplier here in Chicago has a drawer of Pig Bristles, I don't know if they are usually hard to find or not, or if there is a quality issue - they're probably pretty old.

Erick

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Re: Pig bristles

#4 Post by jake » Thu Feb 05, 2004 6:41 pm

Erick,

I've never tried boar's bristle. I'm extremely happy with "cheap" fishing line (thanks to D.W.). Al is the only feller I know who uses them.

Thanks for posting the info!

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Re: Pig bristles

#5 Post by das » Mon Mar 01, 2004 11:27 am

This just in....

A firm in Liverpool, England, who are developing more shoemaking supplies, are www.algeos.com
The website is not up and running for all shoemaking supplies, but if you ask they very often have whatever. They can supply heavy and light purpose-made nylon "bristles" in packs of 100. They also have wide elastic and shoe buckles. They do on-line ordering, so that takes care of currency exchange. It will be even better when their website is finished.

Gary Lehmann

Re: Pig bristles

#6 Post by Gary Lehmann » Sat Mar 20, 2004 12:35 pm

Al,
Is this your only source for pig bristle needles or are there any others?

Also, how do you make sure these are pig bristles sufficient sturdy for sewing? Is there a stiffness standard for pig bristles to be used for this purpose or is it pretty much hit or miss?

Thanks.

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Re: Pig bristles

#7 Post by das » Sat Mar 20, 2004 4:54 pm

Gary,

My source in Pakistan [elsewhere posted] is for boar (wild, big and mean), not pig (domesticated and smaller) bristles. The latter are too small and soft for our purposes. The bristles I got from them last time was a tad thin, but useable. Be sure to specify: "8 inch long, black, extra-stiff, un-trimmed" bristle. Apparently they have to sort through a lot of bristle to get a few kilos of these, so they can cost a bit. The only reason we're still using the genuine bristle is because we're a museum shop and have to keep everything period-correct. Otherwise, at today's prices, nylon is really the more practical item. Good luck.

Gary Lehmann

Re: Pig bristles

#8 Post by Gary Lehmann » Wed Jun 23, 2004 9:46 am

Al,
I'm working at a museum as well [The Genesee Country Musuem in Mumford, NY] and so I have a similar limitation concerning nylon. Would you share your source in Pakistan? Off-line if not in public?
Gary
glehmann@rochester.rr.com
585-388-8695

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Re: Pig bristles

#9 Post by das » Wed Jun 30, 2004 6:01 am

Gary,

For the record, these are the two firm we've gotten good bristle from in the past year or two. Be sure to stipulate "extra stiff, heavy, un-timmed, 8 inch long".

BEST SOURCE INTERNATIONAL TRADING CO, LTD

4TH FL.

779# FUMING ROAD

NINGBO

China

86 574-87920509

86 574-87920510

86 574-87922177 (fax)





INDIAN AND OVERSEAS TRADING CO

"DEEP-SHIKHA"

87/294A, 294-295

ACHARYA NAGAR, KANPUR 208 003

India

91 (512) 520330

91 (512) 520728

91 (512) 5211380 (fax)

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Re: Pig bristles

#10 Post by roy_najecki » Tue Feb 22, 2005 2:18 pm

Al,

When did steel or egg-eyed harness needles begin to be used in the trade?

Regards,
Roy

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Re: Pig bristles

#11 Post by das » Tue Feb 22, 2005 6:38 pm

Roy,

Which trade? Shoemaking?

As far as I can tell "egg eyed harness needles" weren't used to *make* shoes until somebody at Colonial Williamsburg resorted to them in lieu of bristles, which he was unfamiliar with how to use, in the 1960s. Image

That said, at some time during the 13th(?) c. scanty surviving evidence suggests a change from needles to bristles by some European shoemakers--right Marc? The earliest solid quote on bristles isn't until 12-something--right Marc? Then there are needles (diamond or triangular points) for whip-stitching linings in 16thc. through 19thc. But their use was restricted to whipping linings and applying edge bindings to uppers, the rest (the making) was done with bristles.

I know it's bad form to admit to losing references, but I have lost a good one. Some 19thc. compendium of trades, English I recall, that outlined the butcher, baker, and candlestick-maker, etc. had a bit on harnessmaking. It gave a date for the introduction of "harness blunt" needles into that trade, and said "before____, they used bristles like the shoemakers" ( I paraphrase). The date for the needles in harnessmaking was given as 18__, though we know the French were using them in the mid 1700s. They divided their harnessmakers into two branches, those who stitched with bristles and "black" (dark) wax like shoemakers, and the other branch who stitched with needles and white threads beeswaxed.

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Re: Pig bristles

#12 Post by marc » Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:16 am

That said, at some time during the 13th(?) c. scanty surviving evidence suggests a change from needles to bristles by some European shoemakers--right Marc? The earliest solid quote on bristles isn't until 12-something--right Marc?


Well, until this week, I would have stuck with that as the case. *mutter* In the Testamentum Porcelli (mid-4th century) a pig is leaving his various bodily bits to various people including "sutoribus saetas" or "to the shoemakers my bristles." Then we skip 800 years before the next quote I've been able to track down. So whether they were used during the Dark Ages, who knows - probably the knowledge wasn't totally lost, but they were at least used enough by the end of the Roman period to be understood by the author and presumably his intended audience.

(Note, I got back from my vacation to find that someone had sent me this citation in my email, so the credit for this goes to a lady named Marianne Perdomo Machin).

Marc

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Re: Pig bristles

#13 Post by das » Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:05 am

Marc,

Thanks for that! Fourth century...wow. I hope all these citations are going right up on your website for posterity. I still kick myself over "losing" that 19thc. ref. to harness needles not being introduced until 18__. If anybody chances across that one, please let me know.

Help me clarify the chronology here as it seems to be developing. Though using bristles for sewing-needles seems to be a "primitive" technology that could theoretically date back to "Og" the caveman, there is no hard evidence for their use--no surviving bristled threads, or written references to them until Middle Ages(?), and now the 4th century. There are, however, ancient needles surviving, so the conservative theory is that needles came first/date back earlier than bristles based, again, on surviving evidence. Now if we could only push curved awls back as far Image

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Re: Pig bristles

#14 Post by roy_najecki » Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:56 am

Al, Marc,

That's for the info. My reason for asking is that this spring our Rev War reenactment group is having hour-long classes on various aspects of camp life. I was asked to do a class on leatherwork repair. I can teach a bunch of people to untwist/snap yarn and roll handwaxed threads, attach a harness needle, stab a hole and make a stitch in a short time. But then to hand out my precious boar bristles and try to teach all how to attach the waxed ends is pushing my luck. So I was hoping steel harness needles would be authentic for the 1770's period to do camp repairs of cartridge pouches, bayonet carriages, etc...

Roy

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Re: Pig bristles

#15 Post by marc » Wed Feb 23, 2005 1:35 pm

Help me clarify the chronology here as it seems to be developing. Though using bristles for sewing-needles seems to be a "primitive" technology that could theoretically date back to "Og" the caveman, there is no hard evidence for their use--no surviving bristled threads, or written references to them until Middle Ages(?), and now the 4th century. There are, however, ancient needles surviving, so the conservative theory is that needles came first/date back earlier than bristles based, again, on surviving evidence. Now if we could only push curved awls back as far


Yeah, good luck with that Image

I think that for the use of bristles we also have to look at what's being sewn. If you are using linen thread, you can use either bristles or needles, depending on what you've waxed your thread with. As far as I'm concerned, it's really unlikely that beeswaxed threads are going to have been bristled. Wool threads are also not likely to have been bristled unless it's a really long-haired sheep. Thonging isn't going to have been bristled. Both of the latter are found in a variety of shoes during the post-Roman and early medieval period (particularly in Britain). This is why I really want to see more chemical analysis of threads when they are found in situ - to see what they were waxed with. That's the only way we're even going see what was being used to sew and stitch with.

It is unlikely that Og the caveman was using bristles though since the evidence is thin about his using thread. The earliest leather shoes are from Spirit Cave Nevada, and as far as I can find have never been really well studied, but are about 9000 BCE. I doubt that the iceman's shoes (c3500 BCE) were made with bristles, nor were the relatively contemporaneous Jericho warriors shoes. Next in the timeline would be the 18th Dynasty Dier el Medina shoes, and I really can’t tell from the stuff I have whether those are made with thread or not.

To the best of my knowledge we have no unequivocal Greek era shoe archaeology, so who knows about them – but linen thread is at least a possibility. The Roman era and
Coptic shoes in VM's book seem to be frequently made with thread, but still no indication of what they were waxed with. But with this quote at least we can assume some Roman shoes made with bristles. With the loss of Rome, some technology is lost here and there, and apparently bristling may have been among this, for example in Britain although not necessarily elsewhere, then by the 12th century we get clear mention that at least in Paris bristles were being used for shoes, and I am willing to accept (for the sake cutting down on annoying and pointless arguments) that they may well have been a mainstream shoemaking technology about that time, but there’s no way to know for sure since we aren’t even analyzing the evidence we DO have…

I suspect ultimately that we will find that not everyone was using the same technology all the time.

Marc

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Re: Pig bristles

#16 Post by das » Wed Feb 23, 2005 1:43 pm

Marc,

Thanks. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the 1600-1800 stuff, glad you're keeping track of the earlier periods.

Roy,

If all you're teaching are expedient "camp" repairs, I don't see why not. Even using one needle and a running stitch was a common enough repair, and lower-tech still.

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Re: Pig bristles

#17 Post by danfreeman » Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:02 pm

Thanks, Al, for the information on earliest uses of needles/bristles. And thanks, Marc for the latest: I had never known bristles were used as far back as the 4th c.
Needles may well have come first. But wouldn't the harder materials used to make them--mostly bone--be far more durable than the bristles, which are merely hair? Even if bristles were used first, it's unlikely any evidence would remain.
Many disagree, but I still prefer "modern" steel bristles: used properly, they are just as good, and so much easier.

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Re: Pig bristles

#18 Post by marc » Mon Feb 28, 2005 2:09 pm

Ah, here we have a common misaprehension - metal needles are found easily back as far a Egypt. Some of the Egyptian needles -were- pierced fish bone, but masy others were bronze, copper, and silver, and these all came in a variety of sizes (including some large enough apparently that they could have been used to help sew up dead people).

What I think is really interesting is the speculation that at SOME point, whenever that was, someone came to the realization that if they could find some way to stick a bristle on a length of thread, they wouldn't have to put up with the big lumps of thread around the eye of a needle that keep getting caught on each other passing through the hole. I mean what did this technology develop out of? It's not really self evident.

Marc

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Re: Pig bristles

#19 Post by dw » Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:18 am

I agree...it's very interesting to speculate.

I think can almost make a case for the needle being the less intuitive solution...that is until you really think about what early people might have been using for thread (strips of hide, coarse thread--almost cordage, really). But early man had access to, and regularly used, all kinds of materials that would have come easily to hand if one were thinking about stiffening the end of a thread or fiber in order to make it go through a hole. Tar, pitch, etc,. And sinew, if dried, gets stiff like rawhide, doesn't it?

Once a thread had an application of pitch applied to the end (in an effort to stiffen it) and once it was seen that that was a pretty ineffectual solution, it would be no great jump of logic to add something like a bristle to strengthen and stiffen the pitched thread.

It seems of a piece with all kinds of other technologies such as using tar or pitch to affix an arrowhear or point to a stick, lashing the point on, with sinew or thread, etc..

On the other hand, drilling (hand drilling with stone points) a hole in a sliver of bone seems almost bizarre in the context of available technolgies--it's such a leap.

Anyway...that's the view from the peanut gallery...

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Re: Pig bristles

#20 Post by M. Volken » Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:18 pm

Hooray peanut gallery! One dead boar plus some linen thread and some sticky stuff seems easier and faster than making painfully small needles that will not go through the stitch holes seen on any known roman or middle ages archaeological leather object. Use the bristles once and chuck them away, always been too many of those wild pigs anyway. The smallest neolithic needles (swan leg bone) I have seen are still about the size of a modern darning needle. Ok, True, neolithic leather is running stitched with bark, thong or sinew so a needle could have been used. But the smallest roman needles ( bronze) are about the size of a large sharps. Like modern cloth needles, they are pointed and sharp, and bear no relation to modern saddler's needles which are dull in order to not pierce the thread when doing a two handed stitch.
M.

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Re: Pig bristles

#21 Post by das » Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:38 pm

M.,

Maybe I missed a few posts here...

Are you saying that the earliest needles are unlikely to have been used to sew the seams found in the early footwear, suggesting bristle use?

I love humor as much as the next shoemaker, but I'm not sure whether you're joshing or what Image

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Re: Pig bristles

#22 Post by dw » Fri Mar 04, 2005 9:06 pm

Marquita,

Welcome back, we missed you! Humour or no...I'm glad to see you posting again. Maybe I'll have to throw in some more off-the-wall, with absolutely-no-scholarly-authority-to-back-them-up, comments every now and again just to create a little interest. Image

I, for one, am glad to see the historical stuff being discussed.

more from the peanut gallery...

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Re: Pig bristles

#23 Post by M.Volken » Sat Mar 05, 2005 2:56 am

Al, DW,
Light hearted tone but not joking one bit. If roman and medieval is counted as 'early stuff', then the size of the holes and the thickness of thread seen in them totally excludes the use of any needles larger than 0.5 mm in diametre for making a two handed stitch(based on the size of both needles passing through the hole at the same time or as one needle and thread of the same thickness. If we lump nearly a thousand and a half years of archaeological fragments together in order to get some average size holes, the smallest are 0.5 mm, an average size ( for stitching uppers) varies from 0.8 to 1.2mm, sole stitching can vary from extremely fine 1.0 mm (12- 13th cent.with stp 12-14 !) up to 2.0 mm for the really huge stuff at the end of the 15th. At 2.0 mm there are two threads passing through that are larger than the holes, being compressed and knotted inside the hole. The thread impressions seen between the holes often indicate a single thread that is about 0.5 larger than the hole if not more. A needle must be as large as the thread it is pulling or the thread catches up on the eye when pulled through the hole. True, the thread can be thinned (like for making a waxed end, so why not just make a waxed end) and folded through the eye to reduce the thickness that will pass through the hole, but this isn't enough reduction A needle with a diameter inferior to 1.0 mm cannot carry the amount of thread needed to stitch a sole seam, even thinned down. The stitch holes seen on archaeological leather, and I am thinking of ones that still had the thread in various stages of intact condition, would need a needle of such small proportions that nano technology would have been invented right then and there.

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Re: Pig bristles

#24 Post by das » Sat Mar 05, 2005 5:49 am

M.,

Thank you for that data and clarification. I'm glad to have it. Having struggled sewing/stitching in my earliest days with needles, I found out PDQ that they don't give the same finished results as the archaeological material, and that alone tended to lead me to conclude they weren't the "right" technique. Bristles, on the other hand, once I "discovered" their use, yielded the correct-looking results. Secondly, yanking needles through with pliers at each hole is just slow, clumsy, and feels "wrong", besides tearing up the needles--if it was that much of a pain in the butt, sewing might have been abandoned altogether Image

In defense of needles, they are mentioned in early shoemaking lit., but late enough that I've taken them to be the "carrelets"--spear-pointed cutting needles like modern glovers' needles--used strictly for whip-stitching linings, and back-stitching edge bindings. Not seeing them much before 1600 either, and by the 1700s their use is described as above, for limited operations. The Germans called these needles "stammenadle" in the 1700s and later, and I suspect that name derived from the "uberstamme", or "uberstamme sewing needle". The "uberstamme" being the internal side-linings and other bits we whip-stitch under the uppers. This agrees with the French on the use of the "carrelet". The Brits are silent on the subject in any detail, except to say there were "needles" and even "thimbles" use by shoemakers. The thimble suggests to me that these needles, too, were being used for whipping and back-stitching--not for the double-ended, both-through-the-same-hole type of stitching we do with bristles.

I know this thread is titled "pig" bristles, but bear in mind by 1767 Garsault admonishes us that "pig bristles are too soft" and one ought to use "boar bristles". Hunting wild boar was a big sport historically, and "Russia Bristle" were imported. Brushmakers used it of course, but come to find out so did harpsichord-makers--they used thick stiff boar bristle for return springs on the hammers that hit the strings. "Russia Bristle" was shipped into Philadelphia in the early-to mid 1700s too, and was sold in 18thc. Virginia as well. The bristle I've been getting from the east [the vendor is in India, but who knows where they collect the bristle] has been the heaviest stuff, rejects from the weights selected by brushmakers.

M. Volken

Re: Pig bristles

#25 Post by M. Volken » Sat Mar 05, 2005 8:56 am

Al,
Thanks for mentioning the carrelets, I assumed that they were post 1500 and thus not 'early stuff'. Aren't they used for stitching edge binding on textile covered thin leather uppers?

I do need to clarify that the stitch holes seen on archaeological leather are the holes left by the threads -after- the leather has been compacted from wear. The original holes would have been about 0.5 mm to 1.0 mm larger and correspond to the size of the awl tip. A large number of roman awls have been found, but corrosion usually eats the tips off. And yes, there are curved roman awls, but most of the curved tip has corroded off. Medieval awls are harder to find, but I have seen the broken off blade of one from 15th century still sticking in the wood, it was only 3.0 mm by 1.5 and not hardly corroded at all. An awl, by definition must have a fine pointed or blade shaped tip in order to poke into the leather, so small holes are to be expected. As the thickness of some archaeological leathers does not exceed 1.8 to 2.0 mm, using a pair of needles to stitch a butted seam on such thin leather would need big holes and end up tearing the edges to bits, and as this isn't ever seen in the archaeological record, it would seem more logical that some sort of fine awl and extremely fine thread guides were used.

It is just as you say, if one wants to make reproduce the exact appearance of the stitch holes seen on archaeological leather than there is no alternative but boar bristles. The roman text from Marc about the poor little piggie's last will and testament was very interesting, so considerate of him to leave his bristles to the shoemakers.
M.

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