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Jim S.




Location: La Antigua Guatemala
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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 10:58 am    Post subject: Why double edged blades on Baskethilt swords?         Reply with quote

I've had a nagging question in my mind for a while. So, I thought that I'd trouble you all with it and maybe you may have the answer, or may point me to sources that I can study. I've "googled" and "yahoo'd", read some of sources that I have, but I haven't been able to find a satisfactory answer.

The question....why do many period baskethilt swords - whether Highland, German, Italian and others - have a double-edged blade? Other ancient double edged swords, like the “Viking” types, have simple crosses that will allow the swordsman to make use of both edges by simply changing his grip to use the other edge The baskethilt pretty much restricts him to fully using only one edge. With some difficulty, one can cut with the “upper” edge of the blade. But a "regular" back-edge bladed sword, with the top edge sharpened 10 inches or so, is also quite sufficient for that cut. I do not see a really logical reason for having the upper/back/top/short edge sharp for much of it's length on baskethilted swords. A few possible explanations that I’ve come up with…...

1. Double edged blades were traditional, so some people were inclined to use that form of blade. Although single edged blades had been around and used as sword blades in Europe for many, many years.

2. Once the cutting edge had received a lot of damage, the hilt could be dismantled, the blade "flipped" around, the hilt re-attached, and the formerly back edge is now the new cutting edge, prolonging the usefulness of a blade. Although, if the former cutting edge had received this much damage, the strength of the blade in general may have been sufficiently compromised as to make it useless.

3. There is some technical reason that makes the double-edge blade superior, although I have never read anything along this line.

Thank you for any answers or suggestions.
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Grayson C.




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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Jim

One of the main reasons why you see basket hilted swords with double edged blades is that the strong edge (the edge you would naturally strike with on a basket hilt) is not your only means of attack. The false edge has numerous techniques that can be utilized to give the wielder a small advantage over his opponent. I'm not very well versed these typesof sword techniques so you may have to wait to get a more detailed explanation.



edited for being silly


Last edited by Grayson C. on Fri 15 May, 2009 11:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm not very familiar with such weapons either, but I've seen some Messer videos that show a variety of grappling techniques as well as "normal" sword-play. Seems to me if someone got in close they could easily do a draw-cut with the entire length of the back edge in situations where the front edge is unusable. Such techniques might not be used very often, but could still be a lifesaver in a pinch.

I would also mention some techniques such as attacking from a Roof guard (or whatever they call it with such a sword), but those are more stabbing and don't really need the back edge sharpened or could readily be used with only the last foot of the blade sharpened, as you say.
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Jason G. Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 12:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can't speak for the baskethilted styles, but in my dei Liberi and other Renaissance Italian sword studies, there are many and sundry cuts using the false edge. These cuts are from from difficult if practiced diligently.

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... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache
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Christian Callender




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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the case of some Scottish Basket Hilts, the double-edged blade was sometimes recycled from a formerly cross-hilted sword. This was apparently the fate of some two-handed Claymores, especially those with broken tips. There is a wonderful collection of Scottish Basket Hilted swords (still sometimes called Claymores) at the museum at Culloden Moor and indeed some of the blades are recycled in the manner I described. The Scots, long-reknowned for their frugality, certainly would have tried to get the most use out of a blade that they could, but I'm sure there are people in other countries who did the same thing.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 1:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Speaking from only first-hand experience and not historical study, the dynamics of a double-edged sword that has the same basic dimensions and a similar mass to a single-edged sword are quite different. The difference isn't really just the edges, but the changes of dynamics of the blades caused by mass distribution and cross-section. Stiffness and flexibility are different. I'd suspect that some customers were used to certain dynamics and would prefer a double-edged blade on the basket-hilt. Others preferred the single-edged dynamics.

As noted, many blades were recycled from older blades. On top of that, I'd throw out the notion that a a sword with a damaged blade could possibly be disassembled and reassembled with the blade rotated for a working solution. I've done his before, not because the sword was damaged but because the leading edge was dulled from use. Rather than try my hand at sharpening, I flipped the blade around and used the sword until I dulled the other edge. Then I gave the sword to a person much more skilled than me at sharpening to do both edges at once.

All speculation and guesswork. Nothing more.

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Fri 15 May, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Speaking from only first-hand experience and not historical study, the dynamics of a double-edged sword that has the same basic dimensions and a similar mass to a single-edged sword are quite different.


Would the mass be similar for two swords of the same overall dimensions? I have practically no experience with backswords...it strikes me that their cross-sectional geometry might make them more blade-heavy compared to a double edged blade.
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Sun 17 May, 2009 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A friend of mine had the fortune to have a handling session at the royal armouries. He found a sword that had had it's blade turned round after it had been damaged. Most of the historical basket hilts I have seen have been backswords. I'm looking through my treatises now to see if there are any mentions of false edge cuts. I don't think there are but they certainly happen in free bouting.
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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Sun 17 May, 2009 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

for starters, a sharp double edged blade is a heck of a lot harder to hold onto if someone tries to grab your sword and is harder for someone to execute a good bind against your sword without them getting slashed. but there also plenty of opportunities for false edge cuts especially in various angles close to reverse mittelhau. most people can generate more power in reverse mittlehau with the palm up in quarte. also as hanging guard is a primary guard in most baskethilt fencing systems, there are opportunities for quick slashing cuts downward cuts from hanging guard using the false edge. but in the end the blades do tend to handle a little different - given similar blade thicknesses - backswords tend to have linear distal taper and be a bit stiffer (which could be advantageous with certain types of parries and in the thrust) and broadswords of the period tend to have non-linear distal taper and be a little more flexible (which can be advantageous for winding and disengaging or sliding off an opponents blade for a quick counterattack). This is not always true of course but generally true. just my $0.02. tr
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 17 May, 2009 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
Nathan Robinson wrote:
Speaking from only first-hand experience and not historical study, the dynamics of a double-edged sword that has the same basic dimensions and a similar mass to a single-edged sword are quite different.


Would the mass be similar for two swords of the same overall dimensions? I have practically no experience with backswords...it strikes me that their cross-sectional geometry might make them more blade-heavy compared to a double edged blade.


All things being equal, then yes the overall mass could be the same. But the distribution of that mass would be quite different and so the dynamics would be quite different.

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Jesse Eaton





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PostPosted: Sun 17 May, 2009 11:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Because of the number of remarks about doubts over back/false edge strikes, I'm tempted to start a whole new topic discussion on the subject. It isn't an 'if' question. There are many instances of back/false edge strike throughout medieval, Renaissance, and later period manuals. One type of back edge strikes are easily made with only a slight drop in power and a little bit less reach. If you try a strike from left to right, it is the same trajectory path as if it were from the right to the left. In this case, the blade flips at the beginning, instead of near the end Try this with a simple stick, baseball bat or any one handed weapon of the cutting variety. I can make lightning fast solid cuts with my 3lb hand and a half and its even better with an arming sword or cut and thrust blade.

This link is to a demonstration of a different kind of false edge strike by Vassilis Tsafatinos. Some might argue that the SCA is not a good source for medieval combat, but in this respect, I think it is accurate. SCA 'wrap shots' are effective at both getting past shield defenses and capable of delivering an enormous amount of force quickly. I really have a hard time imagining that medieval warriors didn't use them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx_DcrijSI4

For those that still want to argue, open the attachment and do a search for 'false edge'. The attachment is a copy of Manciolino's instructions for a number of fighting styles and it is replete with false edge strikes.

I don't think that back/false edge strikes were the only reasons for the double edge construction, but it definitely serves the purpose.
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Jim S.




Location: La Antigua Guatemala
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PostPosted: Mon 18 May, 2009 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the topic of back/false edge strikes.... I am far from being knowledgeable on the use of basket-hilted swords. My only knowledge is via reading some of the works of period masters of the Highland baskethilt - MacGregor, Angelo, Taylor, Mathewson, the Highland Officer, and McBane. Also through my study of the great volume of information provided by Christopher Thompson and The Cateran Society relating to the techniques of the Highland swordsmanship. So, my little knowledge is confined to the Highland baskethilt and the techniques taught by the period masters, and some little practice. Not of the many other baskethilt swords of other parts of Europe.

My study of these works indicates that the Highland baskethilt sword was principally a cutting and thrusting weapon, with the emphasis on the cut using the front or main edge. I am sure that a Highland warrior would take advantage of any opportunity to enhance his chance for victory, even using moves that were not a regular part of his training. Such as making use of the back/false edge in grappling situations, as has been mentioned before, or any other situation where it could be used to wound the opponent. A swordsman would also take advantage of other moves, such as striking with the basket and pommel, striking with the off hand, throwing dirt into the face of the opponent, gouging the eyes, ect.

This was one of the reasons for my original question as to why the double edged blade on a sword with a basket hilt. To me, if one wished to use the back/false edge, a backsword blade with a fairly long sharpened back edge would suffice in most cases. From the answers so far kindly given, it seems that the double edged blade was chosen basically for personal preferences....a blade from an old sword was available to use..the double edged blade was traditional so more trusted by the owner ( Kind of like with me and revolvers. I'm an old man who "grew up" and trained with revolvers, so I just trust them more. )..the double edged blade is perceived as superior to the single edge by the user.

I'm sure that there must many other reasons for the early use of the double edged blade on the Highland baskethilts anyway. I do like the double edged blade and own a several, including a Highland baskethilt. I thank those who have posted as I have benefited greatly from this discussion.
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