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Reece Nelson




Location: Overland Park KS
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Nov, 2008 9:15 pm    Post subject: Sword sharpness         Reply with quote

Hey there everyone. I had a question regarding the sharpness of blades.

Iv been studying the manuscripts of Hans Talhoffer and Sigmund Ringeck, and within the manuscripts it shows several ways to wield a sword.

I was told that for armored combat purposes the edge of the sword was dull and that it had a sharp point, and it was about making a heavy enough blow to injure the man inside. Sending violent shock waves through his body and causing all sort of nasty injures such as internal bleeding, unconsciousness, exc.

But as far as unarmored fighting went. Would that have been the same? Or would they have been sharpened towards the tip or even fully sharpened?

I wouldn't make much since for me to have a blade fully sharpened, considering how versital it could be.

Were the one handed broadswords fully sharpened and the long swords partially sharp?
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 1:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd recommend you begin by going to the Features section and reading the profiles of all the Oakeshott types, or by buying Oakeshott's books. Different swords were designed with different uses in mind. If memory serves, only the Type XVII fit your description, and even that wasn't exactly "dull". Many blade types are an effort to compromise between various tactical potentialities that a man might encounter in battle.
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Sam N.




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 2:54 am    Post subject: Re: Sword sharpness         Reply with quote

Reece Nelson wrote:
Hey there everyone. I had a question regarding the sharpness of blades.

Iv been studying the manuscripts of Hans Talhoffer and Sigmund Ringeck, and within the manuscripts it shows several ways to wield a sword.

I was told that for armored combat purposes the edge of the sword was dull and that it had a sharp point, and it was about making a heavy enough blow to injure the man inside. Sending violent shock waves through his body and causing all sort of nasty injures such as internal bleeding, unconsciousness, exc.

But as far as unarmored fighting went. Would that have been the same? Or would they have been sharpened towards the tip or even fully sharpened?

I wouldn't make much since for me to have a blade fully sharpened, considering how versital it could be.

Were the one handed broadswords fully sharpened and the long swords partially sharp?


That would all depend on the sword itself. There are some one handed broadswords (more correctly known as arming swords) that are completely dull and sometimes may even have a triangular cross section. Specifically dull swords during the middle ages (ones never meant to take an edge) were known as estocs or tucks. Likewise, there were also some swords that could be sharpened but were dulled for armored fighting.

Most blades of either the one hand (arming sword) or two hand (variety) were made for both cutting and thrusting. Some cross-sections would be either more cut-centric (an Oakeshott type X blade) or thrust-centric (an Oakeshott type XVII) but could generally do both. The fact that these blades were attached to either one handed or two handed hilts has nothing to do with their dullness.

I would think that any sword for unarmoured combat would be quite sharp throughout, while one made for armoured combat would focus on having a very stiff cross-section and a hard and sharp tip. A sword meant for both would have a cross-section that would allow for cutting but maintain enough rigidity to stab through cracks in armour (such as an Oakeshott type XIX blade).
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Chase S-R




Location: New Mexico
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fiore talks about the "best" sword being only sharp nearer the tip if memory serves. The problem is that none (I believe) have been found as Fiore described. One also has to consider that some of the sharpness on originals may be different then when they were new, some over enthusiastic curators in the 1900s re-ground and re-sharpened many original swords destroying their original cross section and sharpness. That said their are many other swords that have not been re-ground etc. and (I do not think) their are any swords like Fiore described.
Personally (my own opinion) it sounds almost like Fiore was talking about a hunting sword. WTF?!

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Chase S-R




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the first page of Fiore's Getty manuscript is where Fiore is holding this type of weapon. My opinion on the hunting sword comes from the Pisani Dossi manuscript, carta 17B fig. 6. It looks like a boar hunting sword.
In Fillipo Vadi's Di Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi he shows a picture of a only tip sharpened longsword designed "for use against an armoured opponent"

Charles Stewart Rodriguez
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Reece Nelson




Location: Overland Park KS
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanx for all the info! That question has been bugging me for the longest time.
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Steven H




Location: Boston
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the German system of Lichtenauer, we have three kinds of attacks listed: cut, thrust, & slice.

In other words the swords had to be sharp enough to slice. Just like a carving knife in your kitchen. Try cutting steak with that carving knife without a slicing, drawing action - just press the blade downwards. You'll fail. A very sharp knife can still be held by the blade safely. I've done it. I've seen a demo where a sword is swung two-handed by the blade and then used to cleanly cut paper.

As to defeating armour it most certainly was not about delivering a heavy blow to hurt through the armour. As described in Ringeck the targets in armoured fighting are the portions not covered with plate and you use the point of the sword to puncture the gaps.

The search function here will also provide plenty of info.

Cheers,
Steven

Kunstbruder - Boston area Historical Combat Study
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James R.Fox




Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 4:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-I would remind you of the fact that during most of the Middla Ages knights carried two swords in battle, the short arming sword, (which was also used in traveling, cruizing the street, and so on) and the long war sword or broadsword The shortsword was used in tight, face to face fighting like climbina a seige ladder, boarding a ship etc, while the longsword was used for the mounted, fast moving cheauchee(sp?)
Ja68ms
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Matt Easton




Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK.
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chase S-R wrote:
Fiore talks about the "best" sword being only sharp nearer the tip if memory serves.


This is incorrect, sorry.
Fiore describes, in addition to the 'normal' longsword, two special types of sword designed purely for fighting in armour. One of these is only sharpened for the last few inches of the blade (four fingers width). You can find the translation for this part of the treatise online - on my own website linked below for example.

Matt

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Matt Easton




Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK.
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 4:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chase S-R wrote:
On the first page of Fiore's Getty manuscript is where Fiore is holding this type of weapon.


Sorry, but this is incorrect. The first folio of the Getty manuscript is the prologue text with decorative border. No figures are shown.

Matt

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Matt Easton




Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK.
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 4:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Sword sharpness         Reply with quote

Reece Nelson wrote:
Iv been studying the manuscripts of Hans Talhoffer and Sigmund Ringeck, and within the manuscripts it shows several ways to wield a sword.


Reece, if you have studied Talhoffer and Ringeck, then you will know the sword is not used to strike armour with the blade in those treatises. Nor in fact is striking armour with the edge shown in any medieval treatises that I know of.
There were specialised swords designed for fighting in armour, where sharp edges over the entire length of the blade were not important. However, these were specialised weapons, not normal swords. Normal swords were sharp for all or almost all of their entire length.

Matt

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Matt Easton




Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK.
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 4:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
Sirs-I would remind you of the fact that during most of the Middla Ages knights carried two swords in battle, the short arming sword, (which was also used in traveling, cruizing the street, and so on) and the long war sword or broadsword


Sorry, but this is wrong.
The middle ages lasted, according to most historians from AD500-AD1500. For most of that period 'knights' carried one sword, one lance/spear and a shield.
There is only a short period when some sources describe 'knights' carrying two swords (roughly between c.1280-1400), and the carrying of two swords even in that period does not seem to have been common or normal.

The primary weapon of 'knights' on the battlefield in the late medieval period was either the lance/spear or the pollaxe.

Matt

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Nov, 2008 7:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
James R.Fox wrote:
Sirs-I would remind you of the fact that during most of the Middla Ages knights carried two swords in battle, the short arming sword, (which was also used in traveling, cruizing the street, and so on) and the long war sword or broadsword


Sorry, but this is wrong.
The middle ages lasted, according to most historians from AD500-AD1500. For most of that period 'knights' carried one sword, one lance/spear and a shield.
There is only a short period when some sources describe 'knights' carrying two swords (roughly between c.1280-1400), and the carrying of two swords even in that period does not seem to have been common or normal.

The primary weapon of 'knights' on the battlefield in the late medieval period was either the lance/spear or the pollaxe.

Matt


I agree but ( Isn't there always a " BUT " coming in a reply like this. Wink ), a knight might own more than one sword and choose to carry one or the other if he expected battle or just wearing one in a semi civilian situation ?

And I do put the emphasis on " MIGHT " because depending on period having just one sword would be much more likely.

A rich Knight or High Noble I would think might own many swords and have plenty of servants or Squires or pages to carry his extra gear around until he needed one for specific conditions.

So I would make a big distinction between owning more than one sword as well as having more than one sword available with actually carrying two sword at one time. ( On horseback having a sword for use from the horse and a smaller one on the sword belt may have been not uncommon practice at some specific periods ??? )

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


Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Sun 09 Nov, 2008 8:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2008 5:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Certainly a gentleman in the late medieval period may have owned several swords. Swords came in all qualities and prices by the 14thC and could be bought for as little as 3 pence or as much as Ł2000.

There are only a couple of sources that I know of referring to the carrying of a second sword on the saddle during this period in Western Europe (carrying two swords was quite common amongst 15th-17thC Eastern European cavalry though - usually a sabre and an estoc), and Oakeshott quotes these sources. From those couple of sources we can't really say whether the practice was common in 13th-15thC Western Europe or not, or for how long it was fashionable.

As you say though - servants may have carried optional weapons for their boss - after all, many English and Burgundian 'knights' switched from lance to pollaxe when they dismounted, and you can't very easily carry both a lance and a pollaxe yourself while riding a horse. Happy One must presume that when they dismounted their servants brought them a pollaxe and took their lance away.

Matt

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Reece Nelson




Location: Overland Park KS
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2008 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I knew about striking for the openings and articulated sections of armour... I left out a few things when I first posted :P

I know that most knights and men at arms started turning more towards blunt weapons to pierce and deliver a more heavy blow, but still carried a longsword because of its versatility.


But wasn't it cheaper and took less time to produce a weapon that was designed more for defeating armour?
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Nov, 2008 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Reece,

Reece Nelson wrote:
but still carried a longsword because of its versatility.


One thing we have to be clear about is that in most parts of Western Europe (and remember there was regional/cultural variation) the single-handed sword was always more common than the longsword - at least if we trust the period art. The longsword seems to have really come into vogue in the 1370's. But 'longsword' is itself a vague term - although hilts on lots of swords seem to have got longer in the late-14thC, blades don't seem to have got universally longer (some 13thC swords with short single-handed hilts have really long blades - up to 40 inches). Is a sword with a 34 inch blade and a 8 inch hilt a longsword? Well... that's a matter of perspective Happy Medieval people weren't as wild about making categories as we are - in the vast majority of textual sources a sword is just described as a sword, regardless of what Oakeshott type it may be Happy.
So, what we can say is that from the late-14thC until the late-15thC lots of armoured men carried swords that could be used in one hand or two. Swords with long hilts and long blades - swords more likely to be used most of the time in two hands - were never actually very common in most of Europe. At least from what we can tell from surviving examples and period art work. What we might call 'bastard swords' seem to have been more common, and as you say, this was probably because of their versatility in use on horse or foot. Plus they are a lot easier to wear and carry - a very important factor when you will do most or all of your fighting with a lance, spear or pollaxe.

Quote:
But wasn't it cheaper and took less time to produce a weapon that was designed more for defeating armour?


How long is a piece of string? Happy
A basic bill is cheap to make yes, but a fancy bill or pollaxe can take just as many man hours to make as a sword. And remember that there were lots of second-hand weapons in circulation - wills and inventories are full of 'old rusty swords', valued at very little.
So really it's a bit like asking how much a car is worth. It depends on a lot of factors - age, condition, make, quality etc etc etc.

Regards,
Matt

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Douglas S





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PostPosted: Tue 11 Nov, 2008 10:25 am    Post subject: Re: Sword sharpness         Reply with quote

Reece Nelson wrote:
Sending violent shock waves through his body and causing all sort of nasty injures such as internal bleeding, unconsciousness, exc.

This is a subject that comes up every so often.

My way of thinking on this: Why would any swordsman in a fight for his life, want to rely on mere shock to stop his opponent? For my part, I wouldn't feel safe until the guy was in pieces.

On the other hand, a little experimentation will show that it's not injurious to handle a sharp sword in the manner shown in the Fechtbuchs. It's dangerous, of course. Many times they are wearing gloves.

One sword master directly commented on this. I don't recall which one (help?), but he said that it's better to have minor cuts on your hand than to be dead.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Nov, 2008 12:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Sword sharpness         Reply with quote

Douglas S wrote:
Many times they are wearing gloves.


Do you have any examples? The only medieval fencing manuscript I can think of that shows gloves is I.33, unless if you count the armoured combat illustrations (in which case they're wearing gauntlets).

Quote:
One sword master directly commented on this. I don't recall which one (help?), but he said that it's better to have minor cuts on your hand than to be dead.


I believe you're thinking of Saviolo's advice of using the hand parry against a thrust. He recommends wearing a glove, but says that even without one it is better to suffer a minor wound to the hand than a fatal one somewhere else.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
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Matt Easton




Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK.
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2008 9:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fiore dei Liberi describes fighting 5 unarmoured duels, wearing "nothing but" an arming jacket and leather clothes.

Having said that, in relation to this discussion, I consider halfswording with no gloves to be perfectly safe.

Matt

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Douglas S





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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2008 10:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
Fiore dei Liberi describes fighting 5 unarmoured duels, wearing "nothing but" an arming jacket and leather clothes.

Having said that, in relation to this discussion, I consider halfswording with no gloves to be perfectly safe.

Matt

Does Fiore not mention gloves?

There's also a Norse saga where a major character reaches into a box full of unsheathed swords and cuts his hand.
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