Vol. VIII, no. iii, March 1998
HAPPY IDES OF MARCH!
If you get this before heading off to MTA, remember to bring along your volunteer application form, or you'll just have to fill out a new one when you register. And bring your caligae, and your helmet, and...
It is with much frustration that I pass along a report from Darren Nunez: Moore Push-Pin Company no longer carries hobnails! They discontinued their #196 Antique Nail, the nearly perfect Roman hobnail, because of slow sales. All readers are hereby conscripted to search for a new hobnail source, and to alert the Roman world (particularly this Editor) when such a source is found. Don't think I'm kidding, either.
FIRST TRUMPET--ROMAN DAYS
Well, you've been hearing the rumors, and many of you recently got confirming announcements--ROMAN DAYS is on. On June 13-14, Legio XX will be hosting a gathering of ancient reenactors (that's pre-medieval periods, not reenactors over age 30!), classicists, and miscellaneous ancient history buffs, at Marietta Mansion in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Tactical demos, domestic displays, Olympic games, whatever we can think of. Naturally it will be open to the public (10 AM to 4 PM), but the hobnobbing will go on long after the visitors go home.
The whole Roman World is invited! Other groups and lonely individuals are my first targets, but you don't have to be a reenactor or have funny clothes to attend or even participate.
On Saturday March 28 we'll be doing a demo at a "Certamen" or high school Latin competition in Harrisonburg, VA, about 3 hours west of DC. The latest schedule has us setting up about 2 PM and doing a formal demo from 3 to 4--clothing and weaponry talk, tactical and drill display, questions and answers. Then we'll hang around for as long as anyone wants to talk and look at stuff. Sounds like a long drive for a pretty short event, so we'll have to see if it's worth doing in the future. I don't have directions yet, but I should soon.
GET A GRIP
Have you been pining for a nice bone grip to dress up your gladius? It's easier than you might think. First, go to a pet supply store and head for the doggy chew section. Look for plain white bones four to eight inches long (not the flavored or filled kind), for two or three bucks each. The best ones have a nice squarish cross-section, though the more oval ones should be usable, and long ones can be cut to length with a hacksaw. You may have to check several stores.
On your way home, stop by your favorite hardware store and buy a half-round rasp about eight inches long (and a handle if necessary). This rasp is the "secret weapon" of grip-making, and a new one will make life MUCH easier than an old one. You'll also need a medium-coarse half-round file, but if you have one already a new one is not vital. Grab a dust mask, too.
Check to be sure the bone fits on your sword tang, and enlarge the hole if necessary. Usually the hole is plenty big--if you're worried about it wobbling on the tang you can pack the hole with wood shims. Cut it to the length you want--originals run 3" to 4". Now study one end and pencil on a cross-section that suits you and your bone. Octagonal seems to have been the most common, either more or less equilateral or sort of square with the corners angled off (i.e., four wide sides and four narrow sides). Hexagonal, septagonal, and round or oval grips are also known. Remember to check the thickness of your pommel and guard, so that the grip doesn't overhang them.
Clamp the bone in a vise or onto your workbench using leather or wood scraps to pad it, and get to work with the flat side of your rasp. Flatten one face at a time, watching to avoid any face becoming curved or twisted. You don't need to worry too much about perfect symmetry, because most lopsidedness will be hard to see once the pommel and guard are in place, and your hand probably won't be able to tell. Don't bother filing off the rasp marks, either.
Now use a ruler and pencil to divide the length into four equal segments, and draw the lines all the way around the grip. These mark the crests or peaks between the finger grooves. Clamp the bone down again and rasp out the grooves (with the round side of the rasp, right?), working carefully to avoid going too deep or letting the rasp skip over the crests. Make the grooves evenly curved and not too deep--those on original examples tend to be shallower than on some reproductions. The peaks can be sharp or slightly rounded, but in either case most of the pencil lines should still be visible.
At this point your grip will be looking a little rough, and you might be thinking, "Hmmm..." Fear not. Switch to your half-round file to clean up each groove in turn, and you will very shortly be saying, "Ahhh!" Again, work carefully near the crests, and try to make them run in relatively straight lines around the grip. If necessary reverse the grip end for end for a better work angle. Once you have filed the grip to a lovely shape and removed all the rasp marks, use 150 and then 220-grit sandpaper to polish it. Looks good, doesn't it?
I have found this method to be just as easy and vastly neater than using power tools (not nearly as stinky, either!). Most of the bone dust lands in two neat piles, behind and under the vise. Sweep it up and sprinkle it in the garden, the roses love it. A word of caution: Bone dust is highly abrasive, so please wear a dust mask and don't expect your tools to last forever. If you don't trust yourself to do a good job with bone, try wood first. Gussying up the grip from an Indian-made gladius will probably take about an hour, and it will look SO much better! But since a bone is only a $3 investment, why not give it a try?
You probably don't want to worry about this until after MTA, but Marching Through Time will be on April 17-19 at Marietta Mansion. Friday the 17th is when groups of school kids get brought in to see whatever reenactors can be there--Mike and I can handle it if no one else is available. The real action is Saturday and Sunday, as usual. Public hours are 11 AM to 5 PM, and admission (not for participants) is $5 for adults and $2 for students.
Parking for MTT is at the rec center "next door" to Marietta, and shuttle vans will be running all day. You can also park along Rt. 193, but in either case all cars must be off the site by 10 AM.
Marietta Mansion is at 5626 Bell Station Rd. in Glenn Dale, MD. From I-95/495 (Capital Beltway) take Exit 20 A onto Rt. 450 East, go about 4 miles and turn left onto Rt. 193 West. Then either take the first left onto Bell Station Rd. and into Marietta, or take the second left into the rec center parking lot. Marietta's phone number is 301---, and Matthew's is 301---.
ADLOCVTIO is the official newsletter of the Twentieth Legion, and is published on the Ides of each month, or shortly thereafter. The Editor and main writer is Matthew Amt, Commander of said Legion, and sometimes my lovely wife Jane Walker gets a chance to proofread. NEW EMAIL ADDRESS::: (The old one should work for a couple more years, at least.) Legion website: www.geocities.com/Yosemite/3761/legndx.htm