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Daniel Michaelsson




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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 7:01 pm    Post subject: Your feelings on sword stamps/ marks         Reply with quote

Disclaimer: This discussion isn't really about later swords which were frequently marked but rather early medieval and before when such marks rarely existed.

I personally don't like modern stamps on swords, I think they're an unnecessary anachronism and detract from the sword as a whole. I realise some marks did exist i.e the Ulfberht swords, but they are the exception not the rule and modern sword maker's marks are almost universally recognisably modern. For example (and without any disrespect to the respective smiths):

http://www.templ.net/pics-certificates/antiqu...tamp-v.jpg
^Patrick Barta's blade stamp

http://www.myArmoury.com/view.html?reviews/alb_hers_d.jpg
^Albion's Next Generation mark

http://www.kirbywise.com/new/slab%20woodhandle%20sax.jpg
^Kirby Wise stamp on a seax

For me these almost ruin fantastic pieces. Does anyone feel the same as me or am I just a pedant?

Also, I have noticed a strong resistance among several sword smiths when asked to refrain from including such a mark. I'm not entirely sure why - is the suggestion considered insulting, or is it simply a matter of wanting to advertise?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 7:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Smiths of the high middle ages frequently marked their blades. Armour was also marked more often than not. Many good museum catalogues make a point of showing those marks.

Some modern marks are too modern-looking in my opinion. Some aren't. For example, Albion's is a little modern for my taste. Tod's Stuff's mark is not.

Part of that is because Albion etches their onto the blade with a modern process and modern result. Part of that is the design itself.

A&A's old mark was stamped onto the blade the old fashioned way and was a less modern design. I liked it a lot. Of course, they don't use a mark these days.



Tod's mark is similar to maker's marks seen on 14th century English knives. It's cut or stamped into the blade, not etched.




For me, sometimes the modern look of the mark is due to the way in which it was applied. Sometimes it's the design itself.

If you look through this thread, you can see a diversity of marks. Some are more modern-looking than others.

As to why some smiths insist on marking their blades: why wouldn't they want to? Would Honda or Ford ever seel a car they've researched, designed and built without proudly stamping it with their badge? Also, if the blade is marked, it's clear to see who made it and it can't be passed of as someone else's work.

Happy

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Daniel Michaelsson




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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Smiths of the high middle ages frequently marked their blades. Armour was also marked more often than not. Many good museum catalogues make a point of showing those marks.


Yup, very true, but that's why I said 'early medieval and before'. I suppose we all have different conceptions of what constitutes that period, for clarification was referring more to pre-1100.

Chad Arnow wrote:
As to why some smiths insist on marking their blades: why wouldn't they want to? Would Honda or Ford ever seel a car they've researched, designed and built without proudly stamping it with their badge? Also, if the blade is marked, it's clear to see who made it and it can't be passed of as someone else's work.


I can certainly see why they'd do it as standard, it makes perfect sense to do so, but I can't understand why they wouldn't if a customer specificall requested. The Honda analogy works only so far, they are afterall mass-produced and it would be a great difficulty to do one without - sword manufacturers generally don't have this problem.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Michaelsson wrote:
I can certainly see why they'd do it as standard, it makes perfect sense to do so, but I can't understand why they wouldn't if a customer specificall requested. The Honda analogy works only so far, they are afterall mass-produced and it would be a great difficulty to do one without - sword manufacturers generally don't have this problem.


Perhaps a maker will chime in with their perspective, but there's a lot that goes into the decision. I think the main thing is that they want it acknowledged that an item is their work so it can't be passed off as anything else.

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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2009 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I must confess I am strangely provoked by the question as it goes against what I find a crucial aspect of the craft of the sword today. Still, it is a valid question, I guess. I will try to provide an anwer as best I can, why I think the marking of the blade is important.

First, I do not understand why the craftsman should be anonymus. Creating swords today, is nothing that comes for free or in any way easily. Those who dedicate themselves to this craft do so through the process of some difficult choices. Staying in business and striving for excellence is not the quickest and most certain way to generate an income or lead ones life. The result of the craft: the well made blade merits the clear mark of origin by the maker. The blade is a statement of dedication and skill. It is not just any product made for a ready and hungry market. It is a rare and rather exclusive thing made against the odds, many times. Swords made today are dreams made solid in steel.

My personal stamp is a crowned P, and I use it for several reasons. Examples of stamps of this type is also plentiful in the historical material.
My reasons to use a stamp on my work are these:
-Firstly, it is the traditional thing to do. By marking my blades I follow the tradition of the blade smiths through the ages and take upon myself to continue the same ancient profession into our modern age.
-Secondly, it is a way for me as a maker to clearly state that I stand behind my product (also the reason why swords were marked through out history).
-Thirdly, it is a way for me to make it less probably that some one would try to make modern "antique" out of my sword.

The stamp is part of the identity and character of a sword. The stamp is a witness it has originated from my abilities and understanding of the craft. It is a mark to clearly show the origin and context of the blade.
Personally, I have strived to design my stamp after historical examples, so that it will not detract from the overall impression of my hand forged traditional swords.
If I would make contemporary swords, that do not aspire to closely follow a cultural, goegraphical, or period style, I might contemplate using another type of stamp that also reflect the contemporary character of the sword. On the other hand, I may also use my normal crowned P as a reminder that the design and essence of the sword is still deeply rooted in the tradition of the craft.
I can also fully understand why someone might prefer to use an obviously contemporary symbol to mark their blades: this might be perfectly in line with the idea and identity of the sword.

Letters, with or without other combining features were rather typical, that or a single heraldic device, a heraldic animal, a simple shield, a fleur de lys, or a geometrical form were all used by ancient smiths to mark their work. In some periods you see the tang being stamped by the smith and the blade being engraved by the local quality control or the cutler, in other cases the blade smith stamp is found on the blade. Sometimes inlayed with latten, sometimes simply struck into the blade. During some periods the stamping of blades was very common, in other periods less so. It is a practice that rise and fall in popularity through out the history of the sword.

The blade marks I developed for Albion are also made to follow the example of historical marks: letters used with geometric marks or in combination with other letters. They are etched into the blades, but placed in the same locations and same orientation you find marks on historical blades, when they do occur. The size of the mark as well as the "type face" also follow the example of marks used through out high and late medieval period. Personally, I am actually rather happy with how they turned out: to me they look rather authentic, despite the fact they are etched. My hope is that they can be seen as a somewhat playful comment to ancient marks without departing from their traditional shape: in a way fulfilling the identity and character of the swords Albion produce: making use of some modern techniques, while still making the best use of skilled hands and experienced eyes, following the example of traditional designs. A merging of the ancient and contemporary: historical example and style takes shape in a contemporary product. Again: the mark is a way to express the identity of the product.
If you are familiar with the look and character of authentic blade marks, my hope is that you will recognize the influence of that style in the ones used by Albion.

In a time where you see designs being robbed and brand names invaded, the mark is a clear dedication from the maker to the customer: this product is genuine. It shows that the sword is a true example of the ambition and dedication of the maker.
I think the mark on swords produced today fill an important role. It is a sign of the sword being the opposite of the impersonal, virtual and replaceable. It is a result of a dedicated person, an example of the human experience reflected through history .
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2009 7:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is tantamount to asking an artist to create a painting and not sign it, most self-respecting artists would refuse out of hand. If you want their work, their signature goes with it. Ditto for many knife and sword-makers, whose pieces are made by hand, not marking it would be like having a child and not naming it.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2009 9:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
but I can't understand why they wouldn't if a customer specificall requested.


I can tell you one reason. I had a discussion with Luther Sowers a number of years ago about a sword he'd done back in the 70's that I came into possesion of. He had his makr on one side of the blade, date on the other and it turned out three more hidden stamps all becauase he had become aware that people were " antiquing " his work and selling it as original material. He had actually stumbled on one of his pieces in and antique store being sold as and original item.

Quote:
It is tantamount to asking an artist to create a painting and not sign it, most self-respecting artists would refuse out of hand. If you want their work, their signature goes with it. Ditto for many knife and sword-makers, whose pieces are made by hand, not marking it would be like having a child and not naming it.


Secondly, what Justin said.
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Daniel Michaelsson




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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2009 10:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Truthfully the justification seems to me like a derivitive of modern sentimentality, afterall pre-1100 blades (and that's what I'm really discussing here) were not usually marked and in reproductions from the period strike me very much as an anachronistic affection. I'd also have wonder what the motivation for a high and late Medieval sword smith was - to mark his art, or advertise? I'm guessing it probably was the latter. As much as I sympathise with the view point I still regard period authenticity as superceding those concerns, and as such find it odd that a customer specifically requesting this would be rebuffed.

As for antiquing: yes, there are unscrupulous individuals but a) I don't really see how it is a pressing concern for a sword smith b) people should have it investigated by an authority on swords/ know enough about swords themselves before handing over the kind of money a genuine antique requires.

(As before, absolutely no offense intended)
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2009 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't forget those that might take pictures of a nice high end sword and then sell a SLO, something similar, but worlds apart from the same thing advertized on the web site.
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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2009 11:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think legitimate request to have a blade unbranded by the buyer, for reasons dear to him.
I think by the legitimate manufacturer refuse an order without his mark on the sword.
Perhaps it is so simple?
In all cases it must be marked in a way: soft.
A trademark deep and too visible makes only advertising is not a distinguishing mark for the righteous work.
My thoughts
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Witek Chmielewski





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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that if I ever felt a visible mark to be anachronistic, I would certainly suggest that the maker added it to the tang instead. That might be considered a valid compromise.

W.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 5:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
As for antiquing: yes, there are unscrupulous individuals but a) I don't really see how it is a pressing concern for a sword smith


So if i'm understanding you correctly, a smith having integrity or or ethics is something you're casting at best as unecessary and at worst as a negative, is that correct?

Quote:
As much as I sympathise with the view point I still regard period authenticity as superceding those concerns, and as such find it odd that a customer specifically requesting this would be rebuffed.


It seems that prior to starting the thread you had already drawn what conclussions you wanted, what is it that you're hoping having others opinions about the subject will perhaps do for you? You don't seem particualry receptive to differing view points on the subject including the opinion of one of the rather better known smiths on the planet today as it does not jib with your prior conclusions, so what is it that folks can put forward in this thread besides agreeing with you thats going to yield something of substance for you?
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Ben Sweet




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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it was also a way to advertise which is still in practice today
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Daniel Michaelsson




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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
So if i'm understanding you correctly, a smith having integrity or or ethics is something you're casting at best as unecessary and at worst as a negative, is that correct?


It's like telling a car manufacturer they're unethical because people get into accidents - it's just flawed logic. It has nothing to do with said manufacturer if people get into accidents using their product, the true in this situation; if people use the sword for nefarious purposes it doesn't make the maker immoral or in any way responsible.

Allan Senefelder wrote:
It seems that prior to starting the thread you had already drawn what conclussions you wanted, what is it that you're hoping having others opinions about the subject will perhaps do for you? You don't seem particualry receptive to differing view points on the subject including the opinion of one of the rather better known smiths on the planet today as it does not jib with your prior conclusions, so what is it that folks can put forward in this thread besides agreeing with you thats going to yield something of substance for you?


I'm not asking to be proved correct or incorrect, I'm simply asking for opinions. Make of that what you want.

Witek Chmielewski wrote:
I think that if I ever felt a visible mark to be anachronistic, I would certainly suggest that the maker added it to the tang instead. That might be considered a valid compromise.

W.


That certainly seems like a better, if not ideal, solution.
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Adam S.





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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If anyone has photos of pre-1200CE maker's marks/stamps I think that would clear a few things up. I'd love to see them at any rate, especially since my copy of Records is still out of my reach and that's the only reference I know of with any in it.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm not asking to be proved correct or incorrect, I'm simply asking for opinions. Make of that what you want.


Oh, I guess it was statements like this
Quote:
Truthfully the justification seems to me like a derivitive of modern sentimentality, afterall pre-1100 blades (and that's what I'm really discussing here) were not usually marked and in reproductions from the period strike me very much as an anachronistic affection. I'd also have wonder what the motivation for a high and late Medieval sword smith was - to mark his art, or advertise? I'm guessing it probably was the latter. As much as I sympathise with the view point I still regard period authenticity as superceding those concerns, and as such find it odd that a customer specifically requesting this would be rebuffed.

As for antiquing: yes, there are unscrupulous individuals but a) I don't really see how it is a pressing concern for a sword smith b) people should have it investigated by an authority on swords/ know enough about swords themselves before handing over the kind of money a genuine antique requires.


in response to
Quote:
It is tantamount to asking an artist to create a painting and not sign it, most self-respecting artists would refuse out of hand. If you want their work, their signature goes with it. Ditto for many knife and sword-makers, whose pieces are made by hand, not marking it would be like having a child and not naming it.


and Peter's post as well as your above post regarding antiquing in response to me that led me to the impressions that you had a defined opinion on the subject as you were responding to statements that were counter to your assertion of
Quote:
I personally don't like modern stamps on swords, I think they're an unnecessary anachronism and detract from the sword as a whole. I realise some marks did exist i.e the Ulfberht swords, but they are the exception not the rule and modern sword maker's marks are almost universally recognisably modern.


You can see how this might confuse a person into thinking you might not be after contrary opinions.

Quote:
It's like telling a car manufacturer they're unethical because people get into accidents - it's just flawed logic. It has nothing to do with said manufacturer if people get into accidents using their product, the true in this situation; if people use the sword for nefarious purposes it doesn't make the maker immoral or in any way responsible


Museums restorationists do the exact same thing as the smith I mentioned for the exact same reason, so that if a restored piece is deaccessioned and sold off, the piece cannot be unscrupulously sold on as something its not, that being, 100% original. Theres an excellent article in The Armour Research Society's journal documenting the restoration of a Turkish bazu band, which shows exactly how the restoration was marked. In your opinion should this practice end?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2009 6:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If the question is just personal preferences:

1) Large very modern looking markings by production makers are not appealing but the ones put on by Windlass have the virtue of being easy to scrape off. Don't like them as they can make an acceptably period looking sword look too obviously modern.

2) Custom makers and expensive custom swords; I sort of like the sword being identified as being made by a known maker for various reasons, including being proud of having their sword, and one other being that if I ever wanted to sell it I can point to the mark to identify the maker.

( if the maker doesn't mark his blades I can live with that just as well ).

3) In period marking or not might depend on period and place as well as quality, low quality swords might even be fraudulently marked as being made by a famous smith.

Personally I have no strong feelings either way, but if marked, something that looks somewhat period or is aesthetically pleasing is a plus and I don't see a mark as defacing the surface or lines of a sword unless really big and/or ugly.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2009 2:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I feel that a historical piece needs a historical mark, anything else is an anachronism and nothing ruins a nice piece as quickly as a laser etched 'J.Blxxxs, Wisconsin'. Not a copy of an existing mark, but one devised within similar rules of style and construction.

Most pieces had marks some did not, so I am not consistent either in whether I do, or do not have marks on any particular piece. However if I do mark my blades I do it clearly, prominently and I hot stamp it with a my mark, which is very similar to, but not a copy of, a 14thC mark. A stamp was a statement of a few things but one was definitely 'I made this' and that is not acheived by carefully making a small mark near the guard in a hardly visible place, it is acheived where it sits heavily in the eyeline when you look at the piece - down from the guard and in the middle of the blade or a blade face.

Historically marks had a few puposes, advertising is one and a gaurantee of quality is another and indeed preventing the fraudulent passing off of one thing as another were all valid reasons, then as today and for this reason I think makers should mark their pieces, but it should be done sympathetically to the period they are working in.

Roughly

1050 - 1250 basically don't mark your work
1250-1350 can be marked or not, but appropriately
1350 - present, usually mark with an appropriate style and technology noting that this changes,

Tod

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Dustin R. Reagan





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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2009 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
Quote:
I'm not asking to be proved correct or incorrect, I'm simply asking for opinions. Make of that what you want.


Oh, I guess it was statements like this
Quote:
Truthfully the justification seems to me like a derivitive of modern sentimentality, afterall pre-1100 blades (and that's what I'm really discussing here) were not usually marked and in reproductions from the period strike me very much as an anachronistic affection. I'd also have wonder what the motivation for a high and late Medieval sword smith was - to mark his art, or advertise? I'm guessing it probably was the latter. As much as I sympathise with the view point I still regard period authenticity as superceding those concerns, and as such find it odd that a customer specifically requesting this would be rebuffed.

As for antiquing: yes, there are unscrupulous individuals but a) I don't really see how it is a pressing concern for a sword smith b) people should have it investigated by an authority on swords/ know enough about swords themselves before handing over the kind of money a genuine antique requires.


in response to
Quote:
It is tantamount to asking an artist to create a painting and not sign it, most self-respecting artists would refuse out of hand. If you want their work, their signature goes with it. Ditto for many knife and sword-makers, whose pieces are made by hand, not marking it would be like having a child and not naming it.


and Peter's post as well as your above post regarding antiquing in response to me that led me to the impressions that you had a defined opinion on the subject as you were responding to statements that were counter to your assertion of
Quote:
I personally don't like modern stamps on swords, I think they're an unnecessary anachronism and detract from the sword as a whole. I realise some marks did exist i.e the Ulfberht swords, but they are the exception not the rule and modern sword maker's marks are almost universally recognisably modern.


You can see how this might confuse a person into thinking you might not be after contrary opinions.

Quote:
It's like telling a car manufacturer they're unethical because people get into accidents - it's just flawed logic. It has nothing to do with said manufacturer if people get into accidents using their product, the true in this situation; if people use the sword for nefarious purposes it doesn't make the maker immoral or in any way responsible


Museums restorationists do the exact same thing as the smith I mentioned for the exact same reason, so that if a restored piece is deaccessioned and sold off, the piece cannot be unscrupulously sold on as something its not, that being, 100% original. Theres an excellent article in The Armour Research Society's journal documenting the restoration of a Turkish bazu band, which shows exactly how the restoration was marked. In your opinion should this practice end?


As the original poster has stated over and over again (by now, at least 3 times), he is talking about maker's marks on reproductions of pre-1100 weapons, which, historically, were rarely seen. He was asking for opinions, and just because he (apparently?) did not agree with yours, doesn't mean that he did not take it into consideration. It seems that you are making quite a few assumptions.
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Dan P




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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2009 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know about the history of maker's marks on blades by time period.

But I do feel that anyone who makes something he stands behind, has a right to put their mark on it, and who am I to tell him otherwise.

It's just not something I would really think of asking. Sure, it might be an exacting reproduction of an antique sword, but it's made in modern times by a modern craftsman who deserves consideration and recognition by modern standards. I guess a museum or a 'hard core' collector might feel differently than me about this.

As long as its not a "blade billboard" like some knife companies like to slap on. That's a pretty big deal breaker.
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