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Caligae factum sunt ad ambulandum!
I did a gladiatorial show/demo this summer, as part of a theatrical production, after being caught at a weak moment (OK, in the pub after another show!)


Some suitable footwear was needed, and a quick exercise of my Google-fu revealed that anything authentic was to say the least, pricey Confusedhock:
So - a pair of caligae based on the Mainz ones, courtesy of the patterns posted by those kind folk at the Legio Tricessima website.
4mm cowhide throughout, except the 7mm soling bends. Hobnails are from LePrevo Leather, and are a reasonable facsimile, albeit truncated cones rather than fully conical.
Laces are 4mm round thonging.
No dye used - all colour is from soaking in neatsfoot oil.
There are a few decidedly non-authentic bits, in the interests of ease of manufacture, although you might need to look very closely:
Firstly, all seams are glued, then stitched, 'cos that's the way I always do them.
The back seam is bevelled and through-stitched, not butted. You can't actually see this, as I have put a reinforcing strip up the outside of the seam.
I'm not sure that saddle-stitch is authentic either, but I didn't want them falling apart!
Finally, the out-sole is stitched through, not tunnel-stitched, as I don't have the requisite curved awls and needles :oops: In terms of longevity, I don't think it will be an issue, as the stitch line runs in a groove, which is then protected along most of it's length by the hobnails - the head of the nails overlap the stitch groove.

They took a bit of breaking in, but they ended up comfortable enough to wear for reasonably long periods.
These are NOT good on polished floors Tongue

They actually turned out slightly too long for my feet, but that is mainly due to my miscalculation of the scaling factor on the cutting pattern - I have very short, very wide feet (UK 8.5 in length, UK10.5 in width...)

Still, I think I know where I went wrong, so the next pair will be better!

[Image: Caligae_01.jpg]

[Image: Caligae_02.jpg]

[Image: Caligae_03.jpg]

And a quick pic of them on my feet:

[Image: Morituri.jpg]

Oh, and yes, I know the shield is too small, but my daughter couldn't use it at it's original size, so I cut it down.
The absence of a secutor helmet is due to my panel-beating skills not being up to it: after several failures in raising the sides, I plain ran out of time before the show went up.
I also realise, having read some of the threads in the appropriate forum on here, that I should not be wearing a scale manica with a galerus, but you live and learn - wish I'd found the RAT combat sports forum earlier!.
Peter Nicholson

Stuff I have made
Videntes bonae sunt!

I'm glad someone has made good use of the web pages that I setup. By the way, the curved needles are available from craft stores, look for "beeding needles". The curved needles that I use to make the tunnels are suture needles, you should be able to find these on-line.
Titus Licinius Neuraleanus
aka Lee Holeva
Conscribe te militem in legionibus, vide mundum, inveni terras externas, cognosce miros peregrinos, eviscera eos.
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Very nice Peter! they certainly look a great deal better than my first attempt using Neuraleanus's page. I've been meaning to put mine up here for a while now, so this is as good of time as any:

My girlfriend chronicled my project on her blog (, however here's the process -

I stared with the same Legio Tricessima website pattern.This is where I made the first mistake, trying to translate the pattern from the internet to my foot. The pattern came out much too large, I didn't realize it at the time. My drawing hand isn't that great, so my girlfriend Sara used her art skills to get the pattern close to what we wanted.

I started with an upper of 8-9oz. cow leather. This was a rather laborious process of drawing and cutting. Some of the rounded bits were cut with a set of balsa wood chisels I'd gotten at the local craft store. I was afraid they'd be too weak, but it worked well enough.

(More of the cutting and a better view of the pattern)

Out of order, but I was using a straight awl to line up the holes from the 11-12oz. out-sole to the upper. I had wanted a sole with thicker leather (16oz.) like in the instructions, but Oregon Leather Co. didn't have much thicker than 120z. at the time. :-(

I'm using the straight awl to put in the back seam holes at a 45 degree angle. These holes were a pain-in-the-glutes to get right. In retrospect, I shouldn't have oiled the leather yet because while punching the holes with my awl certainly was easier, the area was weaker as a result and I did damage a few holes too much by weakening the structural integrity of the leather. You REALLY have to be careful threading this area and not pull too tightly.

I'm stitching the out-sole to the upper. I was actually very lucky, because I just used a curved awl (From Oregon Leather) for the tunnel stitch without breaking it. I had to soak the soles for a day before they were soft enough, and in retrospect I'm not sure if I could have gotten through a thicker sole. There was a lot of elbow grease used to make the holes. After that, I came back through with a curved needle. There was difficulty in trying to stitch with very tight confines, so I used a generous amount of thread to connect the sole to the upper like puppet strings. this allowed me enough space to stitch everything before tightening it up.

This is a better view of my stitching job. You can see the slack I was talking about at the heel, as well as heel reinforcement strap. Unfortunately, since the size was off the caligae developed a bad case of that back heel 'bump' seen on some poorly made pairs.

You can see the finished product here, and how poorly they fit. They're obviously too big because the base sole-pattern was drawn much too large (I figured better too big than too small at the time...funny how you can get leather to stretch, right?). I also had a bad time with the hobnails. They're the full cones (I got the batch from Matt Lukes), however the place he'd got them from didn't taper the shafts until the very point, so clenching them was very difficult. I was also operating using the horn of a traditional anvil since I lacked a shoe anvil at the time (I've got one now as a result), and as a result a good many of the nails clinched at an angle instead. It was extremely difficult to get the tight areas at the heel to sit properly (Lacked a setter for the hobnails as well).

The black laces really look bad, and I don't know what I was thinking when I got them - Stick to natural colored laces. I've already mentioned the heel bump, but the last issue came with the insoles; because the hobnails didn't clinch properly, it raised the insole too high and allowed too much space between the bottom of the upper and the insole when I tried to glue it on. I also got impatient and didn't give the barge cement a full 24 hours to set up before trying them out, so they separated and slide about as I walked. Despite all the problems I still think it was a very good first attempt considering I had never made a pair before and was using only an internet tutorial. I hope to make a better pair eventually, but for now I made a pair of calcei (I'll post that project later) that fit much better. Lastly, take pictures at every step! One of the problems I had was working too fast at night for Sara to keep up, and as a result we didn't get very many good pictures to illustrate exactly what I was doing.

-Quintus Claudius Britanicus

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-Cave a sinistra manu utebatur pro bellator.
Lee: Thanks! Your site was my main source of information on this project. My usual supplier does have the curved needles and awls, but I forgot to add them on to the order!

I also decided, after some reflection, to stick with techniques I am familiar with on what is my first ever footwear!

Quintus: nice caligae! You were a lot more conscientious about taking photos than me: I always forget, and then wish I'd taken some WIP shots along the way...
Peter Nicholson

Stuff I have made

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