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I Sam





Joined: 12 Oct 2008
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2008 12:20 pm    Post subject: Sword longevity         Reply with quote

Broadly speaking, how long might one reasonably expect ones sword to last, back in the day when one lived or died by ones sword? And, by "last" I mean, until the surfaces of the blade are so worn, pitted, chipped, ground and re-ground to sharp, etc. that the fundamental geometry, balance, and other characteristics of the blade are so far removed from its original state that it has become, in essence, a different weapon; or the risk of catastrophic failure becomes too great; or any number of things that might make one hang up one's blade and get a new one.

Now, I realize there are countless factors involved: climate, quality of material and craftsmanship, care of the weapon, amount and type of usage, just to name a few. But even so, surly someone can hazard a general, ball-park guess?

Maybe an easier way to ask the question would be: How many swords might a warrior go through in his lifetime? Assuming, first of all, that lived to retire before he got cut down, of course. And assuming, secondly, that he went though one blade at a time, vice rotating weapons over a period of time.

As an aside to that: How about the grip? I'm sure the leather/wire/wood would need replacing from time to time. How long might one reasonably expect that to last? Months? Years? Decades?

Any ideas?
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2008 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are many examples of swords with blades predating the hilt by decades or even centuries. Good steel was likely to be recycled for a very long time. Even a broken sword blade can become a dagger or two.

It has been pointed out elsewhere here that although we tend to imagine the medieval period as being consumed by constant warfare, men didn't strap on their swords and go use them in combat every day. A weapon certainly might break in combat, but I would think it otherwise unlikely that a soldier would outlast his blade, wearing it down to nothing simply by nicks and honing.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Chris Fields




Location: Tampa, Fl
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2008 1:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would have to say, with proper care and maintence, and assuming no major accidents like hitting your edge on a hardened grade 8 bolt, then your blade should last a lifetime, or more. Handles and grips may last several years before being redone. A leather handle would be the quickest to ware out, though again, should see years of use.
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Steven Reich




Location: Arlington, VA
Joined: 28 Oct 2003

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2008 5:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think that there is a simple answer to this question, as there are many variables. In times where a sword could be a family heirloom, then enough care and attention must have been given to ensure the careful use and longevity of the weapon. However, some systems are rather hard on swords and I can imagine them accumulating a fair amount of damage. For example, there are a lot of blade-one-blade actions in the Bolognese system that can potentially result in a significant amount of damage to the weapons being used--not enough to damage beyond repair in one use, but certainly enough to "use up" a blade utilized in constant practice. Additionally, Viggiani discusses a particular type of edge-on-edge parry which he says stands a decent chance of breaking the opponent's sword.

Steve

Founder of NoVA-Assalto, an affiliate of the HEMA Alliance
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Doug Lester




Location: Decatur, IL
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2008 5:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would really be hard to say. There are records of swords being used for generations in one extended family, buried with one of the members for several decades, dug up and used for generations more. Oakeshott sites a 10th century Norse blade that was rehilted as a katzbalger sometime in the 16th century.

Doug Lester
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I Sam





Joined: 12 Oct 2008
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Nov, 2008 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies, fellas. As I was afraid, so you confirmed: A sword could last somewhere between a few hard fights (Viggiani's edge-on-edge parry) and a few centuries (re-hilted heirlooms)... WTF?!

Laughing Out Loud
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Herbert Schmidt




Location: Austria / Europe
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Nov, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You can't really answer this question.

There is one part of the question that makes all the difference and can't be answered:
- How often was the sword used.

Fighting technique, craftmanship, armour of opponent, maintenance etc. all make a huge difference but it really boils down to how often the sword was used. As this is totally different for each person/weapon every answer you receive is as good as the other.

So: you don't know.

You could only give a lifetime in terms of usage: so and so many hours of use. And to be honest I don't feel confident in answering this question either.

sorry, but thats just reality....

Herbert

www.arsgladii.at
Historical European Martial Arts
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