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Hector Mendoza

Joined: 14 Oct 2006

Posts: 17

PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 3:13 pm    Post subject: Defects         Reply with quote

Hello fellow forumers,

I've got a question for you guys who have experience buying swords, what kind of imperfections or defects can you expect in a sword or dagger due to it being made by hand?

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Hadrian Coffin
Industry Professional

Location: Oxford, England
Joined: 03 Apr 2008

Posts: 403

PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 5:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Depends on the price and style of the piece. I have much higher expectations for $3,000 swords than $1,000 swords; and much higher expectations for $1,000 swords than for $300 swords. If it is a sword made using authentic materials I am more...ok...with slight imperfections, than I am with CNC milled blades using high carbon modern steel.

Historia magistra vitae est
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Tim Harris
Industry Professional

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 168

PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 6:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As a hand-working swordsmith, I'd have to say "it depends on what you'd call a defect".

Broadly speaking, a hand-made weapon may tend to lack the precision of a CNC milled piece. Note the use of the words "may tend to", because there are no absolutes. Hand-made swords that show absolute symmetry and flawless surfaces can certainly be had, and you can expect to pay more for them. By the same token, there are plenty of machine-made items that are less than immaculate (for which you could expect to pay less).

By way of example, it would not be unusual for a blade of mine to show one or two forging inclusions. They would only be defects to me if they were to effect the strength of the blade, in which case I wouldn't be letting anyone have it anyway. For someone expecting an absolutely spotless surface, they'd be defects. To me, one or two spots are acceptable. A blade full of them is not. I see them as indications of how the piece was made - i.e. by individual human hands. That is not to say this makes such work superior to something made another way - just different.

Poor workmanship will be evident, no matter how the work was done. I'd like to think that those of us who are serious about our craft wouldn't be letting poor work out of the shop.
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Dustin R. Reagan

Joined: 09 May 2006

Posts: 264

PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 6:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a list of possible "defects" in hand-made blades:

-Hammer marks
-Surface inclusions & pitting (where "scale", or oxidized material has been pounded into the steel)
-Various asymmetries <-- virtually impossible to *completely* eliminate this in a 100% hand-made blade.
-"Wavy" surfaces due to imperfect grinding.
-File marks and grind marks from heavy-duty grinding.

As Tim Harris explains, the relative severity of these 'defects' will probably co-vary with the level of craftsmanship and price of the object.

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Paul Watson

Location: Upper Hutt, New Zealand
Joined: 08 Feb 2006

Posts: 395

PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 7:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hector, it comes down to them managing to meet your expectations. You're the one spending the money so I would outline to any smith what was and was not acceptable, they can tell you what is possible and if more cost (i.e. more time) improves the quality. Some thing will be possible, some will not regardless of the skill of the smith, money and time spent and materials used.

For me the best possible structural integrity within the given parameters of a historical recreation is an absolute requirement. I do prefer as few casting flaws as possible and a well executed blade (symmetrical, suitably formed fullers or hollow grinding), but if a sword has the odd casting flaw it would not bother me. Of the 4 Albion's I have owned, I have only seen a couple of pin head sized casting flaws in total. This is probably much better than the equivalent medieval sword and probably impossible to remove or rectify. Did I expect Albion to scrap that component and cast another one with absolutely no way. I would consider that very unreasonable on my part.

As an example the Sovereign I used to own (it has since been sold and the reason had nothing to do with any failing on the swords part ) had a not quite symmetrical grip core, it took me a while to notice it, it did not result in any discernible difference in feeling or handling whichever way I held the sword, it did not detract aesthetically in my opinion so it did not bother me at all, and I continued to think of my Sovereign as one of the most kick ass swords ever made. Whereas someone else may have had a complete fit over such a feature ( I refuse to call it a defect) and demanded Albion to rectify it.

If in doubt you should specify what are acceptable margins of error for what you consider important aspects of the finished product so the smith can meet your needs or if they can't they should tell you that you need to get someone else to make a sword for you.

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, but that which it protects. (Faramir, The Two Towers)
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