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I Sam





Joined: 12 Oct 2008
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Oct, 2008 4:40 pm    Post subject: Black swords? Armor "harnesses?"         Reply with quote

I'm new to the historical, recreation, collector, "real" sword world, although since I can remember I've loved them - but more in a Conan, or Boormans Excalibur sense than a scholarly sense. But this latest iteration of my love of swords has come with overtones of historical realism - although if I had a spare $3k laying around I'd drop it on the Atlantean in a heartbeat!

Anyway, in all the little bits and pieces of reading and research I've done into historical, antique swords, I've been unable to ken the answer to this simple question: Why are they all black? Is that what rust looks like after 300+ years, or something?

And another dumb question (I know - no such thing as a dumb question [just dumb people asking questions! Razz ]): What is the etymology of "harness" for a suit of armor? And is "harness" used just for plate armor?
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Oct, 2008 6:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The color of an antique sword blade is determined by its condition, how it was preserved, and its history of "restoration". They are not all "black" in color. Looking in a museum or book or this site reveals antiques with sword blades in all types of condition including blades that are 500 or more years old that look very nearly pristine.

River-find swords are often heavily corroded and appear very dark or even have a spotting of gray and near-black/dark brown areas. The type of patination found on these swords and the general state of preservation is affected by factors including soil and water composition, depth of burial, and so many other things. Swords preserved indoors obviously fair much better and can often look very nearly new. Some swords that have been "restored" often are quite bright due to aggressive polishing. Others are a very dull gray or even brown/black due to being treated with various varnishes, waxes, or other forms of preservatives. Sometimes these materials will age and turn dark themselves, even collecting dust and other materials that have caused their own form of degradation to the blade.

Another very important point if looking at swords only in photographs is that because of the manner in which light is reflected off the surfaces of the blade, blades can look very different than they would in person. A mirror-polished blade can look completely black in a photograph if the photo is taken off-axis and is reflecting something dark/unlit in the room.

Examples of photos of antique swords: (not to scale)









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Zac Evans




Location: London
Joined: 26 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Wed 22 Oct, 2008 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Armour is a Harness and not a Suit, because it is "harnessed" onto you. Like a horses harness everything is attached with ties and buckles. A suit suggests just stepping into it and being ready to go. A harness takes time to put on.

I believe that most armour types are described as Harnesses, but as I only do late 15th century I'm not the best one to answer that question.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2008 3:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Heavily rusted iron is frequently chemically treated (by acids) to turn the red oxides to more stable black oxides. When found in the ground, they are just big red lumps of rust, soil with if lucky remains of the original iron inside. After the rust and soil is removed, the blade gets all kinds of treatments like mentioned above to preserve it.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2008 5:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Armour is a Harness and not a Suit, because it is "harnessed" onto you. Like a horses harness everything is attached with ties and buckles. A suit suggests just stepping into it and being ready to go. A harness takes time to put on.

The word "harness" comes from the German harnasch which, as far as I can tell, simply means "armour", but may have specifically referred to plate armour. In other words the English borrowed a German term to describe plate armour. This is unusual since most English armour terms are derived from French. It is unlikely that it has anything to do with it being "harnessed to you." It is just another example of English using the same word to describe two different items.
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Zac Evans




Location: London
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2008 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Having just looked it up, Harneis is the old french for military equipment, which is likely where the term of harnessing a horse comes from. It would seem that my assertion is correct, but that it happened the other way around. When we say "harness" its actually derived from the military terminology rather than the other way round.

Who knew?
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Chris Fields




Location: Tampa, Fl
Joined: 03 Aug 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2008 9:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is another question on this topic. I know some armours were blackened or painted to preserve the steel underneath. Are there any historical examples of swords that were blackened or were painted to preserve the blades, guards, and pommels? I have not personally seen any, but I am curious if they exist. Thanks
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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2008 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris Fields wrote:
Here is another question on this topic. I know some armours were blackened or painted to preserve the steel underneath. Are there any historical examples of swords that were blackened or were painted to preserve the blades, guards, and pommels? I have not personally seen any, but I am curious if they exist. Thanks


"Japanning" was a common method of finishing hilts in the 16th --17th centuries, especially complex hilts (ie English and Scottish Basket hilts), basically it was a thick, black lacquer applied to the hilt. Chemical processes such as browning and bluing later came into vogue.

David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe

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I Sam





Joined: 12 Oct 2008
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Oct, 2008 3:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great answers, guys. Thanks. I'm a much smarter man now than I was last night!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 31 Oct, 2008 7:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris Fields wrote:
Here is another question on this topic. I know some armours were blackened or painted to preserve the steel underneath. Are there any historical examples of swords that were blackened or were painted to preserve the blades, guards, and pommels? I have not personally seen any, but I am curious if they exist. Thanks


Try reading this old thread:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=861
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