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A Visser




Location: Amsterdam
Joined: 22 Jun 2009

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Wed 15 Jul, 2009 6:18 am    Post subject: How sharp should a type X blade be?         Reply with quote

Hi all.....for a long time I have been one of those 'silent' members. Reading a lot of useful information on this great website.
But now.....I have decided to break this silence...... Razz

This is why:
For about two years now, I can call myself the proud owner of an Albion Reeve.
This is a great looking sword. I really like those type X blades a lot.
It is also the first 'real' sword of that type I have ever had my hands on. But it feels very nice.
Because of limited space I've only had it on display. Until I moved. Now instead of a balcony I have a nice garden.

So, I decided to give it a go and kill a few water bottles. I have seen dozens of examples of this on youtube.
Here they almost effortlessly cut through all sorts and sizes of water filled plastic bottles.
Then, why couldn't I manage much more than a big dent? Is it poor edge alignment? isn't there enough speed in the cut? Is it a combination of both? Or is my Reeve not sharp enough?
I have seen Albion swords cut paper. I also have seen a clip where a non sharpened sword cuts through a tatami mat. So, what is it?
Also......cutting mats and bottles is fun enough, but.......how sharp were swords at that time?
I have followed a few discussions about this issue already. And an answer I frequently encountered was: They were as sharp as they needed to be. WTF?! Sure......but that still doesn't tell me anything......I need some sort of a reference. Could they cut though paper? or could you draw the sword over your arm without cutting yourself (like mine)? or maybe something in between?

Together with the Reeve, I also tested my own creation (a Scottish dirk). This little monster cuts through a water bottle like it's butter. It is sharp.....quite sharp. But does this make the difference?

I'll include a picture of my work. I's the second knife I have made. I started with a sgian dhu.
On this one I altered an existing blade. I added a full tang and slightly altered the tip.
For the rest of the design, I have been reading this website..... Big Grin

Cheers!

Arno



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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jul, 2009 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You mentioned several possible answers, and any one or all of them could be the source of the problem. However, it's always worth pointing out the the Reeve and other researched reproductions of historical blades aren't designed to do anything other than what the originals were designed to do--namely, destroy living human flesh and bone and whatever organic fabric might be in the way. If an edge is optimized for cutting water bottles it isn't necessarily optimized for its historical mission. Use the search function of this site to find Peter Johnsson's recommendation of cutting targets made from wet newspaper wrapped around a certain kind of synthetic pipe material. That's probably a better place to begin your cutting. From there, at least, you can figure out whether the problem is the edge or your technique. I would bet that it's your technique, just because I tend to assume that if we can't make historically accurate technology work properly, the fault is likely to be in our understanding/technique.

Good luck!

PS: Nice dirk!

-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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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jul, 2009 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, as you say, you can draw the sword over your arm without cutting yourself, so I'd say it's way too dull (at least for our water-bottle killing purposes). I had a similar situation where I half sharpened a sword-like-object and tried cutting with it, then with a couple of pre-sharpened Windlasses. The dull SLO tore and smashed its way through the bottle, but the sharpened sword actually cut. The sharpened swords I have would land you in the hospital if you tried drawing them across your arm. They will cut paper and such.

However, a good edge isn't everything. As you note, there are other factors. Concerning technique, like Sean mentioned, I find I cut better with my Five-Lobed Viking sword than with my English Baron. For some reason I don't always get the edge aimed right with the Baron, but the Five-Lobe is a bit easier. In my cutting it's like I have horrid grouping while shooting. Sometimes I make a perfect cut I barely felt and left the top piece still sitting on the bottom like nothing happened, sometimes I make a big dent and send the bottle flying (it is sort of cool to do that and see how the water rushes up and shatters the cap to get out when the bottle doesn't cut). Maybe more practice will improve my scores so to speak, or maybe I'm a lost cause. Time will tell.
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Michael Edelson




Location: New York
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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jul, 2009 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords like the Reeve should be very sharp, as in period they would have been used against people in various textile defenses, ranging from several layers of wool (clothing) to perhaps a gambeson. How sharp? It should slice through paper with little effort.

If your sword is not that sharp, you can easily get it there yourself with a little patience and research, but if you don't want to mess with it, or risk scratching it or ruining the edge, you could always send it to Albion. If it shipped dull, they might even do it for free, since they are supposed to ship sharp.

Their turnaround for this kind of work is super fast...usually just a day or two. At least it was a year or two ago.

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Aleksei Sosnovski





Joined: 04 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2009 12:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That sword should be as sharp as it only can be or as you wish it to be (considering its edge geometry of course). I guess your sword is simply dull, which means that it can be sharpened without removing a lot of metal. It can be easily done with a sharpening stone or even a good file or sand paper as long as you do not care too much about scratches. Well, you have made a couple of knives so you should be able to sharpen a sword and sand it to a good satin finish without any scratches. Just take your time. When your sword is properly sharpened, you should be able to sharpen a pencil with it. This can be harder or easier depending on the edge geometry, but with your sword it should probably be very easy (I never handled that particular model or any other Albion sword, just guessing from the type of the sword). And of course you should be able to cut yourself if you draw the sword along your hand applying some pressure. After all, even my self-made cut-and-thrust sword that has thick and narrow end with diamond cross section cuts water bottles as if they were butter. You most likely can sharpen your sword so that it will cut paper, but it is up to you to decide whether you want your sword to be that sharp or not. Such sharpness is not mandatory for the sword to do its job (which is cutting cloth, flesh and bone), but for most people sharper sword = easier to cut = more fun.

Oh, one suggestion. You can do some test cutting of different targets at different stages of sharpening. This way you will make clear for yourself what is the difference between a dull and a sharp sword and how sharp is sharp enough for you.
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A Visser




Location: Amsterdam
Joined: 22 Jun 2009

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2009 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks guys for your replies.
I can see ideas differ a bit....
For the most part I myself was thinking like Sean suggested, that it is my technique.
Cutting with sword is a bit different from cutting with a (very long, really sharp) knife. And in that I'm only a beginner.
I was mainly confused by watching all those youtube clips where swords (also Albion) cut paper.

My Reeve is not really, really dull I think. I have once cut myself at the very tip op it. But lower down it's less sharp.
I hope you guys understand, I do not dare to put a lot of pressure on it when I run my hand over the edge.
Because there's still a chance the sword will bite. Eek! I'm not very keen on finding out the hard way it wasn't so dull as I thought. But it cannot slice through a sheet of paper.

I'm a real sucker for authenticity, so if they fought Hastings with swords as 'sharp' as mine, I'm leaving it this way. Otherwise I'm not going to have any problems making it a bit sharper. But since an Albion is just a bit too expensive to experiment with, I want to be absolutely sure.
I also have no doubt about what the sword in this state will do to a person.

So, probably a few things on the agenda.
- finding more different things to cut. (thanks Sean for the wet newspaper hint)
- practice cutting......
- maybe extending my collection with a few other 'toys' (which is always a good idea, I think)

Can anyone recommend me a type X blade which performs well in cutting practice, and is nicely priced?
And I mainly care about the blade. the rest I can alter myself...... Big Grin

Cheers!

Arno
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2009 10:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Get some tatami omote mats like these shipped your way. Soak them and try to cut. Take it slow, visualize your angles. Tatami omote is great because it clearly shows how your angle works through the target, and doesn't rip or tear as bad as the plastic jugs do.

That will tell you a lot about your technique.

M.

This space for rent or lease.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2009 7:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A couple of suggestions:

First, as I've mentioned elsewhere, water bottles are not the easiest cutting medium to start out with. The fact that they tend to have rounded edges means that they'll bounce around a lot when you strike if your cutting technique is not so good. If this is a problem you've been having, one thing you can try is not filling up the bottles completely full with water. Or try cutting on other media- even a gallon or four litre plastic milk jug works for this purpose.

It sounds, however, like your problem is more one of penetration. Try steepening the angle of your cut. Descending diagonal cuts are most effective when delivered from a steep angle, somewhere in the area of 80 degrees: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...s.svg.png.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2009 7:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Swords like the Reeve should be very sharp, as in period they would have been used against people in various textile defenses, ranging from several layers of wool (clothing) to perhaps a gambeson. How sharp? It should slice through paper with little effort.


I'm not sure that I'd buy into this. I know that Peter Johnsson has stated that the Reeve and the Bayeux are made for cutting against lightly armoured targets, and that they're not specifically designed to face mail. Nevertheless, a sword sharp enough to cut paper with ease has an extremely fine edge, one that probably would not hold up too well in the field. If the sword came into any sort of resistance with another object at all, the odds are very good that it would suffer a significant or serious edge failure. That's not necessarily the end of the world; it can be possible to still cut effectively with a sword whose edge is damaged, but it also creates the possibility of a more serious failure in the sword ocurring.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2009 8:08 pm    Post subject: adw         Reply with quote

A Visser wrote:
I do not dare to put a lot of pressure on it when I run my hand over the edge.
Because there's still a chance the sword will bite. Eek!


Avoid "drawing" the blade against your flesh as in sawing or slicing when testing the edge. Think instead of moving the skin versus blade edge linear or perpendicular against it as one would do with a razor for the purpose of shaving. You can test sharpness against the cuticle of your fingernail or a variety of other things in comparison to shaving hair, as long as you do not draw or saw the cut.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2009 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
I'm not sure that I'd buy into this. I know that Peter Johnsson has stated that the Reeve and the Bayeux are made for cutting against lightly armoured targets, and that they're not specifically designed to face mail.


Hi Craig,

No sword was made to cut mail, swords can't do that. However, even normal medieval clothing (several layers of wool and linen) would be a challenge for a sword that is not extremely sharp. A significant challenge, in fact.

Quote:
Nevertheless, a sword sharp enough to cut paper with ease has an extremely fine edge, one that probably would not hold up too well in the field.


That is a myth...an edge can be relatively obtuse and yet extremely sharp. I have a sword, a Talhoffer, with a 60-70 degree appleseed edge that will slice paper with ease, and such an edge is quite durable. I have slammed that sword in to cast iron bars and stailness steel sheet metal without visible edge damage. Not full force, of course, but I didn't just tap it either.

Arno,

I too have a Reeve, and it was quite sharp (came straight from Albion). It slices paper very easily.

New York Historical Fencing Association
www.newyorklongsword.com

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http://newyorkbattodo.com/
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Mike Harris




Location: Texas, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2009 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would echo Michael's thoughts on this, especially related to the Reeve. I got a Reeve from Albion during the last 25% sale. It had trouble with water/soda bottles and would not cut a single rolled tatami mat, no matter how much I concentrated on edge alignment and speed. It felt sharp to the touch, but wouldn't slice paper, no matter how I tried.

I marked it up to whoever sharpened it at Albion being in a hurry, as It arrived at my house 3 weeks after it was ordered. Luckily, the edge only took half a dozen strokes on each side with 600 grit paper on a sanding pad to bring it to sharpness. It would just barely start to slice/tear paper but its performance improved dramatically on all types of cutting targets. It cuts fine now.

It's my opinion that the sharpness of early Type X blades (and any other cut-oriented blade type) would have been a matter of personal preference. Some may have liked their edges to be sturdier, but many would have wanted as sharp an edge as practically possible. Based on testing against various textile and leather armour, it seems that paper-slicing sharpness, which is not really that sharp, would have been preferable. I prefer my heavy-use cutting swords to be able to barely slice standard printer paper. Not sharp enough to slice little slivers off, but at least to be able to cut a sheet in half that's held in one hand. Those edges, when created with enough of a convex or "appleseed" geometry, have proven to be very durable against the accidental (extremely) forceful encounter with boards, concrete and various metal surfaces.

So to sum up this rather rambling post, it seems to me that a lightly constructed sword like the Reeve/Bayeux would have made a poor impact weapon, and would have had to rely much more on slicing technique. And that seems to require an edge that can slice effectively.
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2009 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would suggest giving it at least a quick honing. Why wonder whether it is your technique or your sword? I would think it would be more productive to eliminate the one variable so you can concentrate on your form.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2009 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Hi Craig,

No sword was made to cut mail, swords can't do that.


Apparently, there are accounts of swords cutting mail such that they could cause a wound. I do not believe this was in the sense of actually severing the mail links in half, but rather cutting in such a way that links were burst open, and a wound was caused to the body of the person wearing the mail, along the lines of some the gashes and wounds illustrated in the Maciejowski Bible: http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images...amp;d.gif. Since the research is not mine, however, I don't have any more specifics on it.

Quote:
That is a myth...an edge can be relatively obtuse and yet extremely sharp. I have a sword, a Talhoffer, with a 60-70 degree appleseed edge that will slice paper with ease, and such an edge is quite durable. I have slammed that sword in to cast iron bars and stailness steel sheet metal without visible edge damage. Not full force, of course, but I didn't just tap it either.


Thinking back, there has been a time when I've cut through a target with my Knight and impacted against the concrete block beneath the target, which astonishingly seemed to cause no real harm to the edge. On the other hand, I've seen significant edge failures occur from forceful impacts. It sounds as though the angle of the edge makes a significant difference in terms of whether there's a failure or not.
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A Visser




Location: Amsterdam
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 5:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hearing all this form fellow Reeve owners, I'm thinking to just give it a bit of honing.
Also, what Justin says makes sense......

I'm still wondering about about period swords. There are still a few in good condition.
How about the edge on those?

Even though the majority on a battlefield in that age might be clothed in wool or linen, you might also expect to face an opponent waring mail. When you own a sword, you probably also have the means to get yourself a nice mail shirt.
If your edge is going to be damaged by hitting a mail shirt, you'll keep yourself from making that sword too sharp. But, if the edge does not sustain any or maybe very little damage, then why not make it sharp?

I have seen some test cutting with mail. I only know that I don't want to receive a sword blow even when clothed in mail and a nice thick padded gambeson.

I'm only not sure about the slicing part. If it was slicing they wanted, wouldn't they have developed curved blades like the katana? from the migration era all through the viking age they used the same kind of blade. Which was dedicated to the cut. This is the same blade as the Reeve has.
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Hadrian Coffin
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a bit difficult to put into words. From the dozens of original type Xs I have seen, they all seem to be quite thin and quite sharp. The difficulty is that "quite sharp" is a very subjective term and may mean something very different to me than to you. I have seen the Albion Reeve a few times and the examples I have seen are equally sharp to most originals and very capable of cutting paper. Keep in mind that quite often only the final third of the blade (near the tip) is what is sharp. The rest of the blade, while thin, remains a bit dull. The final third of the blade is going to be the part that is most used to slice and chop. Many of the blades I have seen show (often heavy) amounts of edge damage, the nicks and such seemed to be of little concern to 11th century soldiers as they could easily be sharpened out and in general were only superficial, leaving the blade structurally sound.
I hope you understand my explanation,
Best,
Hadrian
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