-- Cuir Bouilli
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Cuir Bouilli
Location: Europe
Common Construction: Vegetable tanned leather, water, and heat

Cuir bouilli is a general term for hardened leather, and can also mean hardened leather armor. The term has many variations on the spelling due to the fact that it was more important to survive than it was to come to a consensus as to how to spell "Cuir Bouilli". The invention of hard leather is commonly attributed to the Anglo-Saxons in the 10th century. If this is the case, then hard leather armor could have existed for a couple hundred years until chain mail became more widespread. However, there are no surviving examples to provide confirmation as to exactly how it was made or if hardened leather armor actually existed at all.

The creation of hardened leather in the modern day is fairly simple. It is only possible with vegetable tanned leather, other tanning methods are generally designed to create soft leather. This vegetable tanned leather is soaked in water and then either left to dry in a warm area or "baked" by heating it in an oven at low temperature (50C or 120F). Early hard leather was probably not baked because if the temperature is too high the leather shrivels and shrinks and becomes unusable. In the 10th century it was probably not very easy to produce a consistent low heat.

Some believe that hard leather armor was made by applying hot wax onto hot leather. While this does indeed produce hard leather, this is a modern technique and it was not likely that this was done in the 10th century. Wax was a much more precious commodity then than it is now and such a suit of armor would be prohibitively expensive for a poor soldier.

Armor, General Term, Mythology, Torso

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