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The handout for attaching aiglets

If you made or purchased aiglets, you need this: Attaching Aiglets.

Congress on Medieval Studies

Hosted by Western Michigan University's Medieval Institute, the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies is an annual gathering of around 3,000 scholars interested in medieval studies.

The 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies

DISTAFF session 1, The 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 12-15, 2016.
Paper 4: Techniques for Manufacturing Aiglets in Sixteenth-Century England: Comparisons and Conjecture
Gerald A. Livings, Independent scholar.
Session 456, Saturday 3:30 p.m. in the Schneider building room 1120.

This is my first paper I have presented so please be forgiving of any grammatical errors. I suspect it will have a few flaws but as a non-writer I am happy with it. Please see the links at the top of the page.

Please note the paper name has changed from "Techniques for Manufacturing Aiglets in Sixteenth-Century England: Comparisons and Conjecture" to "Aiglets: Medieval, Post Medieval, and Modern". The name of my presentation did not change.

Polishing Copper For Aiglets

Here is a link to a PDF about some research I have been doing about surface finishing on aiglets. Polishing Copper

Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report

Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report 88 / 90. An examination of the copper alloy lace tags from Acton Court.
This is notable for two reasons.

  1. Many of the lace tags were riveted with copper alloy rivets.
  2. Four of the type one lace tags may have been decorated with the use of "ridged pliers". Decorated, not manufactured, but this is the first suggestion that pliers of any sort may have been used in the manufacturing or decoration of aiglets (lace tags). The sketch of one of the aiglets do not show the decoration but do show an un-remarkable type 1 aiglet.

Did you know that aiglets can be grouped into three types? The information below is just a small bit of the information I have discovered.

The current definition of aiglet types used by scholars today is:

(Margeson, Sue. 1993. Norwich households: the Medieval and Post-Medieval finds from Norwich Survey excavations, 1971-1978. Norwich: The Norwich Survey/Norfolk Museums Service, Centre for East Anglian Studies, University of East Anglia, in conjunction with The Scole Archaeological Committee, page 22-24)
Examples are found in huge numbers in late and medieval and early post-medieval contexts. The typology used here follows (and extends) Oakley 1979a, 262-3. Type 1 is of slightly tapering form with the lace secured by a transverse rivet at the top, and the edges overlapping only at the base (according to Oakley, mainly 15th century, with some of 16th and 17th-century date). Type 2 is cylindrical in form, securing the lace along its length, with both edges folding inward to grip the lace (according to Oakley, mainly 16th and 17th centuries). Type 3 (not Oakley) is cylindrical with edges overlapping along its entire length and is much less common.

The above classification scheme is problematic as the descriptions are too inclusive and at the same time exclusive. For example, a tapered aiglet with a transverse rivet, securing the lace along its length, with both edges folding inward to grip the lace would count as both a type I and type II aiglet under this classification. And it is also excluded as a type I and type II aiglet under this classification.
The shape of the aiglet (I.E., whether tapered or cylindrical) is not clearly addressed and both shapes could be grouped together in the above scheme. This system also utilizes attachment methods to help define the types. While there currently does not appear to be evidence to support a discussion of attachment methods as a method of determining classification and provenance, additional research into the topic is warranted.
There is no simply logical way to classify the different forms aiglets take as the current system developed over time. Aiglets made from materials other than sheet metal, decorative, and non-metallic materials need to be addressed. While copper and copper alloy aiglets were very common, there is little mention in print about aiglets made from materials such as wire, cast, or made from other metals or non-metallic materials.
Under the above classification there is too much overlap in the classification for aiglets therefore I propose the following definitions for types of aiglets.

One of the main points of my research so far has been that I do not believe that pliers would have been used in the manufacturing of aiglets during the 14th to 18th centuries. For this reason, I made a tool to burnish the metal of the aiglet over the mandrel. Also, as these would have been made in quality, having to constantly drop one tool to pick up another would not be an effective use of time.
I have discovered that type one aiglets do not require pliers to manufacture them but type 2 and type 3 aiglets may have been manufactured with pliers. So my first impression was correct. For the first type of aiglet I learned about. But with more research it became clear that pliers may have been used for some.

I have seen a few aiglets on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website with a simple line and dot pattern. After an email conversation with a gentleman from England (who has been making aiglets for many years), I decided on that pattern as it is a easy design to stamp into a die. Due to not having a proper set-up yet for stamping the blanks, only a couple of the aiglets have a design on most of the metal.

Overall I am very happy with the quality of the aiglets. They required a second annealing after the stamping so they are a bit more labor but I think they will be worth it. (And if you need aiglets, do not forget my Etsy shop! Livingston Jewelers on Etsy! )

Some images

Jerry's Basic Jewelry Bench-work 4: Making Aiglets

If you are a historical reenactor, making aiglets can be hard to do if you have never done it. This video will show you how to take a flat piece of brass and form a completed aiglet. This video works on the assumption that you have already made a mandrel, pattern and have cut out some blanks.
The video entitled "Making Aiglets" is available on YouTube at this address:

Aiglets from the Thames Foreshore, London England

Collected by London Mudlark. provenance is unknown as these were collected mud-larking on the Thames Foreshore in London England. As to how they made their way into the Thames, being dumped into the river with garbage is most likely. Another possible cause was the loss of aiglets and then being flushed through the city sewers into the river. Ironically some may have lost by mudlarks who were searching for items to sell. Please visit the London Mudlark FaceBook page for more interesting items that came from the Thames.

As I obtain more images I will post them. I hope to have images from a scanning electron microscope soon as well as detailed material analysis. Please excuse the quality of the pictures as they are the best I could take with the equipment I have.

Thames Aiglet #1

This aiglet is a type 1 and comes to a very fine point. The seam is almost perfectly straight and there is a rivet that would have held it to a cord. There is a very slight bit of overlap at the end above where the rivet is located. The rivet is still in place and looks to be made from a piece of small gauge wire. Testing will determine what the metal is. It did not react to being placed near rare earth magnets so if it is an iron rivet, it has little to no carbon content. One side of the aiglet where the rivet is visible has the top of the rivet flush with the metal of the aiglet. This indicates the aiglet was placed with this side down on a small bench block or anvil for riveting and was not turned over. The other side of the aiglet is much more interesting! You can see faceting on the rivet indicating that it was struck several times. The rivet is again flush with the top of the aiglet but there is a depression that is vaguely oval shaped around the rivet. Questions for later: Was this done with a punch that formed the holes for riveting or was it made when the rivet was peened over? What is the purpose for this depression?

Thames Aiglet #2

This aiglet is notable for several reasons. First, it is copper. I think it is not an alloy of any kind. Unless it was metal that was reused, I suspect that we will not find more than trace impurities in it. Second, The transverse rivet that fell out when this was cleaned is not copper. It is either brass or bronze. The rivet itself is 0.64mm in width so it is very close to 22 gauge wire. Through experimenting before I obtained this extant rivet, I had experimented with different aiglet and rivet sizes and determined that I thought that 22 gauge was probably the best wire size for ease in use, malleability, and the most appropriate size for riveting aiglets. This shows that I have been able to accurately determine a very small part of the correct materials and process for the 16th century. It is also notable hat this is a type 1 aiglet where the seam is defined by the edges of the metal coming together but not overlapping. The metal edges of the the aiglet can be burnished down until the seam is entirely flat but this one it is apparent that the metal of the seam are touching but not completely burnished down. I have seen this many times before when I have made aiglets. If the metal blank is cut slightly too wide, the metal edges that define the seam will touch but will not will burnish down to lay flat on the mandrel. this indicates that a burnisher was used to make this extant aiglet before it was used and then lost. The small tip of the aiglet has been formed in such a way that it looks like the end could be burnished on a smooth plate to close it up. It looks like there were some tabs but the metal has corroded away a little bit.

Thames Aiglet #3

Very shiny even with being submerged in the river for a very long time. This aiglet is tapered and it has been smashed flat. When cleaned, this aiglet had a small bit of dark coloured fibre still attached. Because this one has been so damaged, it is a good candidate for flattening out to use as a pattern. That is also the only way to determine the finished size when it was first made. It may have been a type 2 or 3 aiglet.

Thames Aiglet #4

This is the first aiglet where I suspect the top edge was in some way crimped or bent in with a burnisher to help hold the cord. It is only 3 places where it looks like it may have been manipulated.

Thames Aiglet #5

I am surprised by the smooth taper of this aglet. How did they make these? The metal is folded in on both sides to almost fill the aiglet. So this must have been formed around the cord it self. But how!

Thames Aiglet #6

This aiglet has the metal of the seam slightly overlapping for about 75% of it's length. The top 25% has one side of the metal bending down into where the cord would be.

Thames Aiglet #7

Anther very bright aiglet. I suspect that the metal is similar to the metal of aiglet #3 The small end looks as if it had been filed slightly to make it smooth and rounded.

Thames Aiglet #8

This is a type 3 aiglet where the entire length of the aiglet appears to have had one side of the seam folded down to hold the cord. The small end has been rounded and you can clearly see where the one side of the seam has been folded down.

Thames Aiglet #9

This is a type 1 aiglet and looks like the 2 holes for the rivet is uniform and has not been bent in any way. It could be just that it was not riveted or used. The small end is missing some metal so it is hard to determine where the end was. The metal at the small end is slightly rounded so is it missing the entire end or is it just missing a small bit due to corrosion?

Thames Aiglet #10

This is a unremarkable type 2 aiglet that tapers.

Thames Aiglet #11

This type 1 aiglet has almost no taper. The smaller end has a very small amount of overlap. The top is notable because it has 4 holes for attachment. Each side has two holes, one above the other. It looks as if the rivets were slightly over sized and when inserted in the top side of the aiglet, they dimpled the metal twords the inside. it looks that while the top of the rivet was peened over, the bottom of the rivet dimpled the metal of the aiglet out as well. Questions for later: Was this intentional? Why two rivets so close together? Does this affect the strength of the join to the cord or was it merely decorative?

Thames Aiglet #12

Again, an un-remarkable type two aiglet

Thames Aiglet #13

Again, an un-remarkable type two aiglet

Thames Aiglet unknown substance

When cleaning several of the aiglets in an ultrasonic cleaner filled with plain hot water, I saw what appeared to be a small gelatinous substance floating in the water. I carefully used a steel wire to hook this and pull it out of the water and place it into a clean glass vial. Questions for later: Is this a bit of contamination that I introduced into the water from my shop? Is this from one of the aiglets? If so, is it modern contamination from something in the Thames river? Is this some sort of adhesive from one of the aiglets? Is this proof that some sort of adhesive was used in addition to riveting and folding the metal over to hold the cord?

Additional information about the aiglets found on the Thames Foreshore, London England.

I have found the classification system by Oakley and Sue Margeson to be a bit hard to use. I have simplified their system and have proposed two additional classes that I hope are much easier to understand and use.

Extant aiglets from the Thames Foreshore. Average thickness is 0.175mm (not including the two that are thicker metal). (Between 33 and 34 gauge). Two are very thick at .28 mm (about 29 gauge). The brass sheet I use is 0.26mm thick (0.010 inch). This makes it right about 30 gauge. So the ones I have been making are just about the same gauge as the thickest extant aiglets I have.

Thames aiglets information
Length Top max Top min Bottom max Bottom min Weight MM (gauge) Type notes
Thames 1 28.02 2.15 1.96 0.78 0.58 0.222 0.19(33) 1 Still has rivet
Thames 2 25.84 2.62 2.21 1.91 1.60 0.258 0.28 (29) 1 Still has rivet, rivet gauge is .64mm and 0.006gms
Thames 3 21.29 4.45 --- 2.35 --- 0.122 0.06 (---) --- Flattened along entire length
Thames 4 25.83 3.08 2.73 2.45 2.19 0.392 0.19 (33) 2
Thames 5 28.74 3.07 2.61 1.82 1.71 0.376 0.12-0.14 (35/36) 2
Thames 6 37.02 3.49 2.03 2.22 1.66 0.342 0.18 (33) 3
Thames 7 33.00 3.47 1.83 1.48 1.30 0.466 0.12 (36) 2
Thames 8 27.41 2.97 2.85 1.50 1.43 0.440 0.23 (31) 3
Thames 9 19.45 1.81 1.52 1.53 1.52 0.096 0.21 (31) 1 Small end is missing
Thames 10 34.07 2.61 2.39 2.03 --- 0.366 0.20 (32) 2 Small end is flattened, length is approximate due to aiglet being bent
Thames 11 28.17 1.94 1.84 1.80 1.76 0.226 0.21 (31) 1 length is approximate due to aiglet being bent, has 4 holes for attachment
Thames 12 31.72 3.01 2.62 2.58 1.52 0.428 0.28 (29) 2
Thames 13 30.83 2.78 2.37 1.73 1.43 0.426 0.18-0.21 (33/34) 2