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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reasonable Limits of a Sword         Reply with quote

This question came up in another thread, but I did not really get an answer.

The question is, what should be the reasonable standard for testing the durability, cutting power, and thrusting ability of a medieval European-style sword? What materials, what dimensions, etc?

I am not talking about 'tests to destruction' (like cutting metal barrels) or tests meant to develop technique. What I am asking is; a sword of a given type should be able to cut through _____ and thrust through _____ without sustaining any more damage than _____.

I mention 'sword type' since likely the standards would be different for, e.g., a type X cutter and a type XVII thruster.

After years of reading on-line sword reviews, my conclusion is that the standards out there are so variable and subjective that one cannot really call them standards at all. (Unless there are industry standards that most of us regular customers are not aware of?) Maybe it is time to set those standards for the community, or at least try.

-JD
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Addison C. de Lisle




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm a little confused about what you're looking for. I understand the principle of your question, but are you looking for how far into a given medium a sword of a given type should be able to cut or thrust and what damage is sustained to the blade by the act, or how much damage is reasonable for a blade to take when cutting/thrusting into a medium an x amount of distance? It's a fine, but distinct, difference.
I also see a problem with standardization in your question. For one, what's the medium? For another, what type of cut, how hard is the sword swung. For example, an Oakshotte Type XIIIa will outperform a type XVa when cutting hard targets, but the reverse is true for cutting lighter targets like pool noodles I just don't see how standards can really be developed for something like this.

I suppose that's my round-about and hopefully somewhat coherent way of saying that I think the best we can do is try to match history in materials, proportion, and heat treat and assume that by replicating the physical variables (and tested by destructive tests such as flexing until the blade sets, or cutting metal barrels) the variables of technique can be worked out afterwards.

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Addison C. de Lisle wrote:
I'm a little confused about what you're looking for. I understand the principle of your question, but are you looking for how far into a given medium a sword of a given type should be able to cut or thrust and what damage is sustained to the blade by the act, or how much damage is reasonable for a blade to take when cutting/thrusting into a medium an x amount of distance? It's a fine, but distinct, difference.
I also see a problem with standardization in your question. For one, what's the medium? For another, what type of cut, how hard is the sword swung. For example, an Oakshotte Type XIIIa will outperform a type XVa when cutting hard targets, but the reverse is true for cutting lighter targets like pool noodles


Yes, there are two aspects to the question related to 1) durability and 2) performance. But they are inter-related. For example, if a standard was set that a European swords should be able to cut through a certain thickness of a certain standard plywood (I'm pulling this example from an old Gus Trim review) without sustaining serious damage (the durability issue) then one can then directly compare two swords with similar swings to see which cuts deeper (the performance issue).

As to which medium, and how it depends on sword type; that was in my question, so I would rather hear what other people think. Maybe two standard mediums are needed, one for testing light cutting and one for heavy cutting.

Every discipline develops standards as it matures...
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't disagree with what I believe that you are trying to do in principle. A lot of current sword models being offered seem to have published statistics and dimensions that are close enough that one might assume direct comparison in test cutting is fair.

Difficulty arises in how one decides various swords have "similar swings." An actual cut is partly a linear motion, and partly an arc, depending on the technique, type of cut, and how one steps when they do it! The CoP of the Albion Chieftain versus Theign only seem to be a few inches (about 5 inches) apart, but comparative masses and techniques of these are worlds apart (speed, mass, etc. probably different by roughly a factor of 2) in terms of what really happens when people test cut with them.

An empirical based (kinetic energy transferred ) experiment might be the fastest and most realistic way of developing a quantitative measure of the energy available at a sword's sweet spot, as wielded on average by a proficient group of test cutters. Imagine batting a cut resistant, tire tread armored pendulum and measuring how far it is displaced upon impact. Anyhow, if you can approximate how much energy is available at the test cutting "sweet spot", then you can move on to the next problems of evaluating efficiency in cutting versus plain deformation (either of target or rolled sword edges.)

I would think that the "hard target" of interest would be fresh bone. Flesh (meat or wet rolled newspaper, etc.) has not proven prone to deforming swords that I have tried out. Opponents may have tried to bludgeon each other to death by bashing on helms, etc., but I doubt "efficient cutting" through metal or wood was a standard historical expectation. I have found it hard to cut through more than 3/4" of hardwood (solid limbs surrounded by a couple of inches of wet newspaper.) Incidental contact with metal (garage door rails, garbage cans in case of missed targets, steel barrel rims, etc.) has not really been a big problem in terms of rolling my own swords' edges. I guess you have to define what you expect to cut through, any why it is reasonable to expect your period type of sword to have done so.

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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Depending on what is looked for, we may not even have to test the cutting performance at all.

If we want a sword that could be used in combat, then in my opinion the best way to do it is to reproduce the properties of the historical originals. These properties are far more objective and easier to measure than cutting performance, even though such detailed stats are almost never published.

Then test-cutting can be used just to check that the sword is solidly build and that it endures the impact reasonably well, but to use test-cutting itself as a criteria is dangerous as it could introduce a bias: swords are a compromise between impact performance and handling performance, and often the handling properties are overly important. A sword is rarely be the best tool to cut through a given static medium... It is designed to be able to cut sufficiently well in a rapidly moving, self-defending medium Wink

As to the difficulty of what you want to do, assuming the swords are designed for a sufficiently similar context:

The choice of the cutting medium is not obvious. Ideally several would have to be tested, with various amount and type of armour, various weights, etc. This multiplies the experiment to be done quite rapidly.

The human factor is of considerable importance. A given person will cut more or less well with different swords, because the techniques have to be adapted to the sword. Personal taste is also a factor here... And of course different persons will obtain different results. Obviously you can think of suppressing that by designing some sort of machine. But then the problem is that the machine will not adapt to the sword nearly as well as a competent human in general.

The cutting performance is ordinarily conceived as depth of cut, and that depends on the sharpness of the edge and the thickness of the blade at the very least. So measuring the energy as Jared suggests is good, but not sufficient. And pushing the ball away may be best done with certain techniques that would not cut.

Choosing the point to test along the blade is not obvious either. Depending on the properties of the target, the optimal spot for cutting moves around, and the versatility of a sword is also important. Why having an edge so long if you use only a small portion?

In the end, I think it would not be practical to do on an interesting, varied sample of swords. Too many parameters...

On the other hand, testing a sword's strength is possible. Once you have a very precise type of blade, it is possible to check for defect using basically a powerful impact to see if the weapon holds together. Such a method is evoqued by Henry Wilkinson in this text, unfortunately I do not have any details on the practical implementation of it. Note how this is a check for toughness and not really power, which is provided by the machine. Note also, for completeness, that the explanation of CoP is not physically correct at all Happy

Anyway, it all probably sounds very pessimistic and discouraging, but if you believe you have a way to go around these problems by all mean go for it! I know I'm stubborn with my own ideas and I mostly benefited from that Big Grin

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D. Nogueira




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 6:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Reasonable Limits of a Sword         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:


The question is, what should be the reasonable standard for testing the durability, cutting power, and thrusting ability of a medieval European-style sword?



Regarding durability:
Do you mean some kind of "modern" standard or an "historical" one? Because it is likely that a well made modern sword, with a blade made of well-tempered modern homogeneous steel, may outperform an historical equivalent.
For instance... I have a type XI sword from Leonardo Daneluz that was able to resist several perforing cuts on an iron helm's top, without any visible or perceivable damage to the sharpness of the edge but... should something like this be used as a "standard"? A sword was not meant to deliberately hit hard stationary targets, and surely some real historical examples (Especially the ones without signs of heat treatment at all) would have been noticeably damaged after doing such a thing. And they were however, real!

Anyway, it would be great to have somewhat reliable durability standards for all blades, from a safety point of view.
This would be especially important for martial artists, I imagine.

And regarding cutting and thrusting power...
I wouldn't say a sword has "cutting power" by itself (Unless when accidentally falling on somebody's foot :-P ), and "cutting power" will be determined by some complex interaction mainly between the sword features, the wielding hands of the owner, and the material being cut. So any "standard" should consider how to "reasonably" include and mix those three elements into the equation.

I personally think such a standard would hardly be called "reasonable", given the complexity of the elements... but however I think many great tips and advices about this may come from experienced people on the subject, which I am not.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 11 May, 2008 7:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Assuming good and provable quality control destructive testing of a representative sample swords should give some idea of what kind of damage a similar sword will take and continue to be useful as a sword.

When does one decide that that the sword has been ruined for use ?

One can be very strict and count aesthetic damage as enough to ruin the sword: This might be the criteria for collectors or people doing cutting exercises where their sword should have no more than very easy to clean up scratches or very minor dings that can be sharpened out.

For the " pure " collector any damage is bad !

For real fighters/soldiers a weapon is still good if it can still do the job and that the cumulative damage hasn't made him worry about it failing: Aesthetic considerations being very low as a priority even a blade looking like a saw is still good if cleaned up so as to minimize stress risers. Today a collector/shooter with a personally owned M16 may view it as in bad shape if it's all marred by scratches and dings but a soldier worrying about surviving will only care about does it shot when I want it to shoot reliably and after all " it isn't mine anyway " If the soldier is smart he will clear the gun and maintain it in good working shape. He or she may still avoid careless damage even if cosmetic damage to the weapon but won't obsess about it I think?

One thing is metallurgy: A specific type of steel properly heat treated to a specific hardness is going to have a hardness and flexibility that is predictable and test done on one should be representative of all treated the same within a narrow margin of error. Steel hitting something harder than it is, is going to notch or have the edge roll. Steel hitting very hard materials that are softer will be dulled and may roll at the edge but will probably not be notched unless too hard and in that case the edge may chip.

Except for sword on sword hard contact most things a sword would hit would be softer: Steel armour, polearm languettes, steel or iron rims on shields, leather and wood and flesh and bone. ( If one misses and hits a stone wall or a large tree trunk edge damage or blade bending or snapping is a high probability ).

Handling is mostly a matter of mass distribution independent of the metallurgical qualities that only become important on impacts.

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 3:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm talking about a modern standard, but one which could be informed by historical parameters. And let's say aesthetic damage is allowable, but not structural damage.

The above responses show the complexity of the subject, which is all the more reason for setting some (perhaps arbitrary) standards. For example in experimental science one often studies complex systems with many degrees of freedom. To make the problem manageable, it is desirable to hold all those parameters constant except the ones you are interested in (the independent variable and the dependent variable). If one does not do this properly, it leads to a 'confound' and the results are not publishable. Things that cannot be controlled (like random noise) one deals with through repetition and statistics.

So, to compare one sword against others one should hold all other factors constant, or to test one swordsman against another one should do the same.

It's not just science geeks who do this, it's everywhere in sports. If you watch a professional hockey game, one takes it for granted that each team has the same rink dimensions, net area, puck size & weight, etc etc., so we can focus on what we are interested in; skill and teamwork. The parameters don't change for every team and every game. Same can be said about any professional sport or Olympic event. It's part of what makes these 'serious' sports.

So perhaps to focus this topic, I can ask the question in a different way. Suppose there was a sword cutting event at the next Olympics (how cool would that be?). The events are as follows:

Cutting in the one-hand, double edged sword, 2.5 pound category.
Cutting in the two-hand, double edged sword, 3.5 pound category.
Thrusting in the one-hand, double edged sword category (where the sword must also meet some minimum cutting standard so people don't use sharpened bars).

The measure in each case is depth of the cut or thrust.

So now the question is, which media (and what dimensions) would you choose for this Olympic event?
- should push the limits of the sword without causing structural damage
- should be readily available to the average person so the community can adopt this standard
- should have dimensions that lead to easy measurement of performance
- should be something easy and SAFE to set up

I have a personal interest in this because I would like to standardize my own tests, but one can see where this would help lead to western martial arts being taken more seriously as a sport.

-J.D.

PS, it would also be cool to have Olympic historical fencing (seriously) but that's another topic.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
I'm talking about a modern standard, but one which could be informed by historical parameters. And let's say aesthetic damage is allowable, but not structural damage.

Things that cannot be controlled (like random noise) one deals with through repetition and statistics.


It's not just science geeks who do this, it's everywhere in sports.


I have a personal interest in this because I would like to standardize my own tests, but one can see where this would help lead to western martial arts being taken more seriously as a sport.


The sports analogy is pretty applicable. Baseball bats in particular are measured in ways that don't perfectly model the way they are swung by an athlete (held stationary while machine fires ball at the bat to measure elastic coefficient of restitution, etc.) I was surprised at how similar the historical text Vincient posted earlier was to present day sports equipment test methods. The point is, these machine type tests give relative comparisons of bats, racquets, golf clubs, etc. and are useful. For a neutral cutting test that defines structural limit versus cutting success, one could copy the principles of the Charpy impact test method. You might mount the sword guard in a pivoting vise like fixture, and affix progressively higher weights to the tip so that it would swing as a progressively heavier pendulum (more and more energy.) You could change hardness of targets this "pendulum" would have to cut through at the CoP region, and eventually define a limit of cutting energy / hardness that the blade could be expected to impart into a target before rolling an edge or suffering some form of damage. This would vary a lot with quality and depth of heat treat though.

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D. Nogueira




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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, but keep in mind that sport equipment tends to become over specialized on it's particular application.
Just a silly example: A pair of soccer shoes are so different from "regular" shoes that they may be quite annoying to use in every day's life.

Some fencing swords, for instance, may fall into sports category... but an historically accurate war sword?
Sadly as it is, and besides everything a sword may represent, it is first of all a weapon. Originally born and meant to do harm to others.
Here lies a great problem with standardization. How can someone reliably measure how well a war sword manages doing harm to others in combat?

So, as you clearly said in a previous post, such standard to measure a sword performance has to be inevitably arbitrary from the beginning.
And it should aim to provide just some ideas about a given sword's capabilities, because aiming to reliably and universally measure how "good", historically accurate or valid a sword is, would be a mistake.


A question for the most knowledgeable ones:
Are there no historical documents stating "what a good sword should be able to do"... or something of the sort... just to consider as a reference of the contemporary vision when they were still in use on the battlefields?
I vaguely remember having read something like that about katanas, but it does not apply to this post. And my memory is really lousy.

Thanks!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like the idea of this kind of standard, but establishing standards and doing the testing it will be nigh on impossible. Here's how I see it:

1) Create a mechanical testing rig with variable speed/strength of cut/thrust. The variability will be necessary when first dialing it in. The human factor is too unscientific to be used, so a machine is necessary. Test a large number of humans to find out average or typical force and speed. Use that to calibrate the machine.
2) Find a cutting medium. Ideally, I'd want to see a medium with gradations of toughness, again to help dial things in: try an easy target; if the sword passes, go to the next toughest target and try again (and again) until you establish a benchmark.
3) Test antiques. The only way to really judge a replica's performance is to test as many antiques of varying types as possible. You'd need to be able to figure out averages by type/purpose, so you'd need a large sample set of antique swords whose owners will let you strap the sword into a machine. Good luck. Happy

I think there is a ton of value to this system, which would give a scientific look at durability. But I don't ever see it happening. I think that without knowing what antiques were capable of, it's nearly impossible to set up a scenario to test replica swords. Since collectors and museums likely won't let their antique swords be used in such a fashion, I doubt this will ever happen.

To drive this point home, there is a maker at a local Ren Faire who likes to show that their swords can break concrete blocks. I'm positive that test is invalid because an antique (designed for real use by people with real practical knowledge of its effects) wouldn't pass that test. So we need to know the limits of antique swords before we can evaluate their replicas.

It's easy to say that modern steels and heat treat make many replicas better than antique swords. However, we don't have enough scientific data to really know if softer, lower carbon steels had different properties in terms of vibrations, etc. Without a thorough study objective of antiques, any rating of modern replicas will continue to be an educated guess at best or wild speculation at worst, both of which are subjective.

Happy

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 2:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
I like the idea of this kind of standard, but establishing standards and doing the testing it will be nigh on impossible. Here's how I see it:

1) Create a mechanical testing rig with variable speed/strength of cut/thrust. The variability will be necessary when first dialing it in. The human factor is too unscientific to be used, so a machine is necessary. Test a large number of humans to find out average or typical force and speed. Use that to calibrate the machine.
2) Find a cutting medium. Ideally, I'd want to see a medium with gradations of toughness, again to help dial things in: try an easy target; if the sword passes, go to the next toughest target and try again (and again) until you establish a benchmark.
.


I am in partial agreement, partial disagreement. Who wants to pay for this when the total market is probably only 1000 swords per year, and most customers probably don't care that much? (I don't, I trust the established makers I have experience with at this point.)
On the other hand, look up a Charpy impact test machine and you will see how simple it really is. Its basically a hatchet mounted on a pivot with a protractor scale to show how high up it swings after passing through the test cutting medium-target. Boiled leather (sole bend) straps, clamped across the swinging blade path, would probably do the trick without causing blemishes to a blade that was being offered as "battle ready" (if it really is.) The hatchet would be used to calibrate how much energy the straps from a particular hide actually absorb. After that, you would replace the hatchet with the sword in question and clamp weight to it to make it behave like a specific pendulum with point of cutting impact at the manufacturer's claimed CoP. I would also advocate clamping a modest weight to the grip area since I have seen a surprising amount of "battle ready" tangs and furniture fail or loosen in just a few test cuts. In my opinion, a sword should be able to expend 60% of impact toughness for the claimed heat treat and corresponding blade cross section area at the CoP, repeatedly ,without failures or loosening of furniture. If not, there are some serious issues with heat treat or assembly methods/quality. Additionally, if the sword cuts through a thinner depth of straps (say 25% of structural capability) there is a set height it should reach on the upswing. The difference between the height it actually reaches and the theoretical mark is a pretty exact (usually repeatable within better than 10% on material tests I have recently witnessed) measure of cutting efficiency of the test rig hatchet or the sword cross section under test.

These devices are especially useful in measuring toughness of spring steels. They are forgiving of surface defects and really measure the true full depth average-bulk properties. They tend to be the only way of definitively illustrating differences (when they exist for some alloys) between forged strength/toughness and milled/cast stock toughness (often recognized as very different once such a definitive test is actually utilized to settle the issue.) Kevin Cashen actually does this and has mentioned (ARMA web site article called "Interview with Master Bladesmith & Sword-maker Kevin Cashen") how valuable it is in his own development of balde making and "debunking" all of the smoke screens thrown up to excuse blades from being held to the same criteria that any other steel bar typically is when evaluating stress and strain is important.

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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A couple of quick comments fwiw. In the 19th c, when folks still occasionally relied on blades for their lives in the melee, military blades were routinely tested in bending and torsion to prove a blades temper before assembly. The sketches of the tests that Wilkinson used are easily found on the internet and in books. These are the kinds of tests that are relatively straightforward although each blade type will have its own tolerances. today, we also have a wide array of non-destructive tests that could be used to examine a blades steel properties, with the caveat that unlike steel used in construction where uniformity is generally a plus (and tests are design to spot abnormalities), the steel in a blade generally has variable properties over its cross section depending on its heat treatment prior to final grinding. These kinds of tests can help to assess "durability" the way I think of it, and I believe that is what K. Cashen is saying......

As for cutting, there are just so many variables (edge thickness, edge geometry, bevels, tapers etc) involved that standards imho would be almost impossible to develop.... not to mention that different types of blade edges are better at cutting different media, I have found there is no "universally good" one size fits all edge when it comes to cutting different media. Swords are tools in that regard. Some work better in certain applications than others and vice versa.

I say almost impossible as over the years I have developed my own personal test of blade edges that enable me to readily assess a blades performance before I swing it at the typical "soft" targets we use, i.e. mats, bamboo, noodles, rolled paper, bottles, cardboard etc. generally, I can tell by running a soft medium like a pool noodle fragment over a stationary blade edge as to whether it is even worth swinging it at a tatami mat or other similar soft target or whether the edge needs more work before doing so. The amount of pressure applied during this kind of test is obviously subjective but generally I can tell very readily whether a blade edge will perform well or whether it needs honing. Obviously a dulled edge does not make for a failed sword, just a sword which needs a little work and it is true that to a certain extent additional energy input can overcome a dull edge at least when cuttng soft media. But over time, even with soft targets, edges will dull if used routinely. Scotchbrite pad scrubbing which some folks seem to routinely do with their "workhorse blades" in WMA will also readily dull an edge.

just my $0.02. TR

p.s. you mentioned thrusting ability. That would seem to be something that probably could be standardized if one really wanted too (required axial pressure to penetrate a certain distance), but again the geometry of the blade would probably be a bigger factor than the actual steel properties of a sword. (i can shove a tine of a pitchfork readily into something - probably even easier than most swords - but that doesn't tell you anything about the quality of the steel)
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
I am in partial agreement, partial disagreement. Who wants to pay for this when the total market is probably only 1000 swords per year, and most customers probably don't care that much? (I don't, I trust the established makers I have experience with at this point.)


I don't think we disagree on much. I think that my scenario is entirely impractical and will never actually happen. Happy I was trying to make the point that any such benchmarking will likely be impossible to pull off. Neat and interesting to some, but that's about it.

Your last point about trusting the makers is one I was going to make, but you beat me to it. Happy Since I'll never be able to handle enough antiques to form my own opinions and since benchmark testing like I described above will never happen, I must trust that the people I buy from know what they're doing. The makers I deal with now are ones I know have handled enough antiques to know what they're doing. Can I ever know for sure that their experience leads to products that would perform exactly the same (or better) as a period original? No. I have to have faith. Happy

I also trust the word of people whose knowledge and cutting ability I respect. But at the end of the day, I think most people know there's more subjectivity than objectivity to the discussion of these weapons.

Happy

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Mon 12 May, 2008 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
I like the idea of this kind of standard, but establishing standards and doing the testing it will be nigh on impossible.


Chad, I am more optimistic than you. Or perhaps more fatalistic. I see this as something that will happen inevitably according to human nature. A few people adopt a standard that they like, then a few more adopt it, and then before you know it there's a critical mass and everyone else falls in line. Like Microsoft, only on a smaller scale.

The problem I see that this could grow from an unexpected and perhaps undesired quarter...like suddenly the 'concrete block' test becomes the standard except amongst a small elite. Sounds dumb, but the bigger the crowd, the dumber the behavior (of the crowd, not the individuals). In fact, I kind of see things evolving in that direction but don't want to point any fingers.

Therefore I would like to see the more academically inclined segment of this community to take some leadership. I can't claim to have the knowledge to come up with a simple, good system, so I put it out there to the real experts. It would be cool to hear from sword makers themselves about what they think their swords should be exposed to.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Tue 13 May, 2008 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this is a fair question.

I have spent time testing the durability of swords in the sub $300 category. My test is purely on durability but I do offer some personal opinions as well on sword performance. The durability test is objective. I strike the sword 2,000 times on a tire-pell over a three month period. If it doesn't break it passes. I have tested 11 swords. Two failed. One broke in 30 blows the other in about 200. I also broke a third one which passed the 2,000 hit test but broke a year later after about 30,000 blows. It was one of my oldest. Still I have others that have lasted past 30,000 blows. Any comments on performance or handling I offer are subjective since everyone has their own personal taste in that respect.

Here is a link to the website:

http://mysite.verizon.net/tsafa1/swordreview.htm


Why did I pick 2,000 hits instead of 100 or 10,000 ???........It seems reasonable to me personally.

How hard do you have to strike with a sword???...... That too is a personal issue. I imagine a worse case scenario where a mounted knight has just broken his lance and pulls his sword. He strikes while charging at 30 mph adding the horses momentum to his sword swing. He is striking into another moving target which is covered with a surcoat so he can not see the armor underneath.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Tue 13 May, 2008 8:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
I have spent time testing the durability of swords in the sub $300 category. My test is purely on durability but I do offer some personal opinions as well on sword performance. The durability test is objective. I strike the sword 2,000 times on a tire-pell over a three month period. If it doesn't break it passes. I have tested 11 swords. Two failed. One broke in 30 blows the other in about 200. I also broke a third one which passed the 2,000 hit test but broke a year later after about 30,000 blows. It was one of my oldest. Still I have others that have lasted past 30,000 blows. Any comments on performance or handling I offer are subjective since everyone has their own personal taste in that respect.

Here is a link to the website:

http://mysite.verizon.net/tsafa1/swordreview.htm


And if the sword that survived 30,000 blows is representative of all the others of the same model/maker AND their quality control is good, then this is what one should assume the other can take: Now this sword may handle beautifully, and so be very desirable, or it could be a terrible boat anchor almost impossible to destroy or enjoy wheelding !

The one that fell apart in 30 blows doesn't inspire very much confidence but surviving 2000 blows, each one of which is borderline " abusive " use of a sword, does inspire confidence as far as durability is concerned.

Bottom line for me is that a sword should be hard enough to hold an edge or at least take an edge even if it's not a long wearing edge: In battle a sword only need to be sharp, it doesn't need to be able to skin a few deer and still shave hair the way a " working " knife should. Now if the edge can stay sharp for a long time it's a plus but not essential for a sword.

The edge should be strong enough to not roll easily, but better roll than chip deeply which mean that excessive hardness should be avoided in a uniformly hardened sword: A selectively tempered sword or one of alternating low and high carbon layers can have a harder edge without chipping.

The sword should be soft enough to not be brittle but hard enough to have a spring temper that will resist bending but that if bent will not take a set unless pushed way past it's limits.

A sword should have good handling and this may be very different according to type of sword and fencing style, but should be good in the previously mentioned context.

So any standard test should be one that measures all of the above for first normal use and them with destructive testing of a representative sample.

A standard that all would agree with or one that could be imposed on all makers is something I don't think can or would happen if only that humans aren't that good agreeing about anything in a unanimous fashion.

In a way the problem can be compared to " PORN " : One can't really define it in an absolute way but each one of us can recognize it when we see it, at least for ourselves as milage will vary widely from person to person on what is or isn't porn !

Or in our case what is the ideal for defining a good sword. Wink Laughing Out Loud

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!


Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Tue 13 May, 2008 9:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Tue 13 May, 2008 9:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Reasonable Limits of a Sword         Reply with quote

D. Nogueira wrote:
Regarding durability:
Do you mean some kind of "modern" standard or an "historical" one? Because it is likely that a well made modern sword, with a blade made of well-tempered modern homogeneous steel, may outperform an historical equivalent...

And regarding cutting and thrusting power...
I wouldn't say a sword has "cutting power" by itself (Unless when accidentally falling on somebody's foot :-P ), and "cutting power" will be determined by some complex interaction mainly between the sword features, the wielding hands of the owner, and the material being cut.


It's all true! I don't see why a historical sword is better than one made with modern advancements in technology and materials. That's why they're advancements...

And a 110lb teenage girl can't swing a sword with as much force, technique or accuracy as I can. Different people will get different results.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Wed 14 May, 2008 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that the wrong questions are being asked, and being asked for the wrong reasons. As collectors, we are very temped to imagine swords that can survive our abuses and still look as pristine as the day we bought them. I have put a lot of swords, most of them my own, through some very abusive test that are as close to a simulation of what the historic orignals would have gone through as I can conceive and replicate and have up come up with a set of better questions (at least I think so).

1. Can a sword do the job it was designed for? e.g. is a XV still a XV if its point is not acute enough to slip into a 6mm mail ring?
2. How much is required to bend the sword? Does it bend too easily?
3. When a sword bends, can it be easily and quickly straightened?
4. Is the edge too brittle or is it soft/strong enough to fold and nick rather than chip?
5. How hard is the edge to repair? To reprofile?
6. How sturdy is the hilt? Do I have to keep peening/tightening the hilt after every use? If the peen comes loose, does the rest of the hilt fall apart or does it stay together?

There is no such thing as a sword that won't take a set...there are only swords that haven't taken sets yet. There is no such thing as a sword whose edge will never be damaged, only a sword whose edge has not been damaged yet. I have had very hard swords that are difficult to bend and whose edges resist rolling, but those same swords are extremely difficult to repair. I have come to prefer swords that are on the soft side..easily repaired and straightened. They perform the same as the harder swords, require sharpening just a tad more often and here's the fun part...bend/nick under the same circumstances as the super hard, super "strong" swords, but are much more easily repaired.

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Thu 15 May, 2008 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

These posts represent exactly the range of opinion that I was referring to at the beginning.

On the one end of the range we have criteria like "2000 hits on a tire pell".

On the other end we have the very complex criteria pointed out in the last posting. I agree these are all important things in choosing one's own sword, but very subjective and hard to communicate to someone else with different ideas and tastes of how a sword should behave. Moreover, qualitative impressions are easily colored by other factors.

I have seen Vassilis take a lot of criticism for his method, but from a scientific standpoint it wins out in the sense that at least he is gathering empirical data and reporting it in a quantitative fashion. (Although we would call it anecdotal, since sword durability may vary a lot from one unit to the next, especially in the range of swords that he has tested). However these durability tests do not tell me other basic things I want to know, like how well the sword cuts.

I started thinking seriously about this after reading the following review:

http://swordforum.com/summer99/dt2130.html

Here Gus Trim launched two swords several times each into a piece of plywood, and reported the depth of the cut for each swing. Not a ton of data, but the results were consistent enough (and presumably his swings were consistent enough) to convince me that one sword was the better cutter for that medium. This is the sort of thing that I would like to see more of, instead of statements like 'the sword cut well through both light and medium targets', which really tells me nothing except that the reviewer liked it.

Now, if everyone started using a few standard criteria, then we could all get on the same page, at least on the basic points. Just like CoG gives a solid clue, but never the whole story, for handing characteristics. The subtleties of a sword would still require a more qualitative review, but we would at least have a few common points of reference.
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