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Hector Mendoza





Joined: 14 Oct 2006

Posts: 16

PostPosted: Sun 27 Sep, 2009 10:00 pm    Post subject: Seax-type knife design, why did they stop using it?         Reply with quote

Hello friends,

From what I gather there were many types of seax knives used throughout history by northern europeans, something like this is what I know as a seax knife:



I was just wondering, why were the modern style of knives, say, this one:



favored over the seax type knife? i.e. modern knives are curved up so that the tip is on the upper part of the blade while in seaxes the tip of the blade is in the lower part and it is parallel to the rest of the sharpened blade. The only type of modern blades that I know to have a similar design to the seax blades are cutters:

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k219/dantoplus/cutter1.jpg

I just wonder why wouldn't the seax type blade be good for other activities, such like being a military knife for example with modern materials and finishes.

I wish you all a very good day.
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Stephane Rabier




Location: Brittany
Joined: 13 Nov 2006

Posts: 104

PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 12:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,
I don't know many (-any?) fixed blade knives whith that feature but it's still common on folding blade knives in England
http://www.couteaux-jfl.com/Collections/Ssp.1943..jpg

but also in France (check the bottom of the page
http://www.couteaux-jfl.com/regionaux.htm
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K J Seago




Location: Suffolk, England
Joined: 12 Feb 2009
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Posts: 95

PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i definately agree, it is a handy shape for a blade to be,which seems to be why the shape is used with stanley blades and many other useful knives i have seen in the past.
just another student of an interesting subject, Happy
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Christopher Gregg




Location: Louisville, KY
Joined: 14 Nov 2007
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 668

PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mariner's knives, often refered to as having a "Sheepsfoot" blade, have had a Seax-like blade profile for hundreds of years. So I guess the Seax style blade of a straight edge and curved back really hasn't gone away. Wink
Christopher Gregg

'S Rioghal Mo Dhream!
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Jonathan Blair




Location: Hanover, PA
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 9:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To quote myArmoury's article "Forms of European Edged Weaponry" found at http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_euroedge.html, the seax is:
Quote:
"a large war knife with a blade having a straight back, a single cutting edge, and a point of varying shape. In many cases the grip was set slightly to the rear, toward the back of the blade."


The first photo's blade shape is called the broken back seax and IIRC was prevalent in Anglo-Saxon turf. There is a second, very common seax design (seen in my attachment), from which the modern kitchen knife derives. It is similar to the second photo's blade shape. So to answer the question as asked, the sax is about as favored as any form of knife out there. However, the broken back seax is less common in its progeny than the common seax, mostly due to the fact that anything the broken back can do, the common style can do, plus, the common style is a bit more versatile.



 Attachment: 62.09 KB
450px-Seax_merowingian.jpg
Merovingian Seaxs (photo from Wikipedia)

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611


Last edited by Jonathan Blair on Mon 28 Sep, 2009 12:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Nathan Gilleland





Joined: 25 Apr 2008

Posts: 199

PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

cutting surface plays a role in my opinion. With the straight edge seax that you pictured, a very small amount of actual cutting surface is available (especially when you tilt the blade). A slightly curved tip gives you more cutting impact throughout the whole cut, much like a sabre vs a straight sword. Most knives are used to cut, so a more versatile shape that allows more cutting surface would be preferable.

Hopefully someone with more historical and practical knowledge will back me up or correct me... Wink

Seek Honor before Wealth,
Truth before Honor,
God Before all
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Dan P




Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 28 Jun 2007

Posts: 208

PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 11:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many folding knives have what is called a Wharncliff style blade, which is very similar to the ancient seax style if a bit smaller. Its a pretty functional pattern. In my opinion its not in favor with larger fixed blades because of the geometry. The way the back of the blade slopes down to meet the edge, the tip of the knife is farther from the thick spine of the blade making the point more acute than other patterns but also weaker. Many hunting knives already use thinner stock, which would worsen the problem, and a weaker tip might be inherently unmarketable in a "tactical" knife supposedly designed to take any kind of abuse. Of course with the right type of complex hollow-grinding and heat treating this problem could mostly be eliminated, but I guess most production companies don't find that economical.

On the other hand, http://www.coldsteel.com/boarhunter.html

Functionally, I think a knife with a drop point or upswept point is just a little more versatile than the Wharncliff style. It makes slicing with the tip of the knife a bit easier, but that's about it.
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The seax that you used as an example is very clearly designed as a stabbing weapon first and as a cutting tool second, similar in purpose to knives with tanto style blades which were designed originally to be able to stab through armor.

The curved edge you see on knives such as the Helle hunting knife is for two things, it gives clearance for the hand in some cutting situations and it provides a little "belly" to allow the knife to be used for skinning. Imagine using the straight edged seax to skin an animal and you'll see what I mean.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
Industry Professional



Location: Netherlands
Joined: 11 Mar 2005

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PostPosted: Tue 29 Sep, 2009 5:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wouldn't call the first knife a sax. The general blade geometry and cross-section is different, as is the hilt. Broken back saxes of the Honeylane type, which is what this is inspired by, generally don't have a straight cutting edge but a slight curve to it. The tip is usually also much longer, giving a much sharper angle of the tip.

That said, the broken back style blade is not at all unique to the early medieval Anglo-Saxons. I've seen lots of examples from the bronze age, iron age, roman period, later medieval period up until recent times. I've got various knives that have that same style blade. They were however the predominent shape for persional daggers, eating knives in the UK, Ireland and Germany around 800-1100AD. After 1100AD you don't see many large knives anymore, and the broken back shape becomes less common.

Why the broken back sax was a favoured shape is a bit of guesswork. The sharp angle could just as well be round, as in earlier saxes. That's just a stylistic feature, part of the fashion of that day. The transition from broad blade to the tip has to occur somewhere along the blade for a more or less straight edge blade, or the tip becomes too weak as already mentioned. It's the same as why a straight edged blade has the edge curving to the tip further on the blade. The straight edge has some functional advantages. As tool it makes it easy to cut sheet like materials with the tip. It's also easier to cut holes with a straight edged knive over one with a curved edge. As weapon, I can see that the tip cutting makes it a vicious cutter, making it go through clothing, leather and skin easily. Next to that, the tip makes it also a formidable thruster. That's probably why you see that design a lot in fighting knives of various periods.

The straight edge however gives a big problem when cutting f.e. food on a flat plate, as you can't get the edge down to the flat aside from the tip. So this is a good reason why many modern food related knives have curved edges instead, and straight edges are not as common these days.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Stephane Rabier




Location: Brittany
Joined: 13 Nov 2006

Posts: 104

PostPosted: Tue 29 Sep, 2009 8:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,
unfortunately, the site "la Nouvelle France" has closed. It was about the XVII-XVIIIth century artifacts found in Canada, mainly trade knives and axes. Some of those knives had a sheepfoot blade and they were called "Flemish" knives.
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