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Danny Grigg

Joined: 17 Sep 2004

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PostPosted: Fri 20 Mar, 2009 1:42 am    Post subject: Renaissance and Post Renaissance Falchions, Cutlasses &         Reply with quote

Are there differences between Falchions, Cutlasses and Military/War Hangers in the Renaissance and Post Renaissance periods?

After reading several posts on myArmoury it is my impression that there isn't a clear distinction between these types of swords?

I understand that our ancestors weren't worried about classifying arms and armour into clearly defined categories and that we as modern day people love to categorise everything.

If there are differences / distinctions what are they?
Differences in blade shape / length etc?
Differences in the hilt and types of guards?

Speaking of hilts and guards - what specific types do we find on these later types of falchions / cutlasses / military hangers?

Are there any good books in English with excellent photos and information about these swords?


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Sean Flynt

Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Joined: 21 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2009 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Danny, here's your new bible. Big Grin;sr=8-2

This is a photographic catalog of British, German and French military swords, with multiple views, detailed stats and descriptions of everything from homemade knives to officers' smallswords, 1620-1800. It even covers scabbard types and suspensions. It's probably the most informative arms book I know, and an incredible bargain. If you look around a bit you can probably find a hardback edition for less than the current paper edition.

The short answer to your question is that short cutting swords came in an amazing variety of forms, and nomenclature is far from clear. "Hanger," "cutlass (with lots of different spellings,)" and "falchion" were used in the 17th c., and although they might have been used interchangeably, I picture slightly different weapons.

My somewhat subjective impression:

Falchion: A broad, single-edged, slightly curved or straight blade with clipped point and simple sword hilt. Not necessarily shorter than a typical single-hand infantry sword of the period.

Cutlass: A short, narrow, singled-edge curved blade, with or without a clipped point, and sheet-metal guard, often in shell form. The cuttoe/couteaux seem to be closely related, although i think those could also fall into the category of hunting hanger.

Hanger: A short blade of almost any description, often with a sheet-metal guard in shell form, but sometimes with a simple, sword-like guard, especially in Continental examples. IIRC, there were Scottish grenadier (?) hangers with curved blades and typical baskets. By the early 18th c. Germany and Britain were standardizing their military hangers, so you don't see quite as much variety. Mostly, you see a short, narrow, ,curved blade mounted with cast-brass heart-shaped guard with vestigial quillon and knucklebow and globular pommel

To get a sense of what "short" means in this context, see the stats in the book referenced above. I'm currently working on an English hanger project that's about 33 inches overall, sheet-metal, shell-form guard, pommel cap and short, narrow, straight, double-fullered blade. This would be ca. 1650.

Get that book!


Author of the Little Hammer novel
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Roger Hooper

Location: Northern California
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2009 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To add to Sean's praise of Neumann's book, unlike many of this genre it has specifications for each sword: overall length, blade length, weight(!), and hilt material, along with a descriptive paragraph. Each sword has 3 photos - each side of the hilt, and a full length shot. Basic stuff, but many books don't give you this much information. This book describes hundreds of swords.
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