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Chris Arrington





Joined: 06 Apr 2007

Posts: 115

PostPosted: Thu 29 Oct, 2009 8:11 am    Post subject: Use of Brass In Complex Hilts         Reply with quote

I received my new Windlass Confederate Cavalry Saber from KOA yesterday, and it brought a question to mind (I'm quite pleased with the purchase btw). Any comments on its historical'ness?

The main point however....

I'm a huge fan of complex hilted swords from the 15th century onward, and its my impression that early hilts were made almost exclusively with iron. As you get more into the napoleonic era, you see sabers/cutlasses with brass fittings become very common and iron not used at all.

Why is that? The glitz factor?
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Christopher Gregg




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

Posts: 673

PostPosted: Thu 29 Oct, 2009 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe the simple answer is ease of manufacturing. Brass hilts and components could be cast in vast quantities, while iron hilts had to be hand forged, wrought or carved. Also, brass is much more resistant to corrosion due to weather, sea salt spray, etc., than iron. Further, with the decline of the sword as a primary, even secondary weapon in the late 18th, early 19th centuries, supply on a large scale demanded that materials be easier to use and quicker to construct for all edged weapons. Not to mention that brass was undoubtedly less expensive to use. Governments and militaries are notorious for choosing the cheaper route Wink
Christopher Gregg

'S Rioghal Mo Dhream!
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Thu 29 Oct, 2009 9:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great answer Christopher, I agree. Happy I would also like to add that brass was more heavily used by some countries, and less so by others. For example, most (but not all) models used in France and the United States in the19th century did have brass guards. In Britain, the vast majority of swords for other ranks had iron/steel hilts, with infantry officers' swords (P1796, 1803, and P1822/45/54) and P1857 Royal Engineer officers' swords being gilt brass (sometimes gilt steel). Officers in Rifle Regiments favored steel hilts, and had their own pattern which was adopted in 1827. In 1895 the brass hilted infantry officer's sword was finally replaced with a steel bowl guard (to better complement the new thrusting blade introduced in 1892). British cavalry officers and other ranks carried steel hilted swords throughout the 19th century.

Here is an interesting clipping from 1898 which details why th ebrass hilt was finally replaced (after 73 years!):

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Chris Arrington





Joined: 06 Apr 2007

Posts: 115

PostPosted: Thu 29 Oct, 2009 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thats pretty much what I figured, but leads to the next question. Then why wasn't it used in the earlier periods more? Even if your using hilt/basket designs that do not lead too casting, you could at least braze them.
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Christopher Gregg




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

Posts: 673

PostPosted: Thu 29 Oct, 2009 12:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Again, I think it had to do with industry norms. The sword smithing guilds and hiltmaker guilds needed to protect their industry, and in times when iron sword components were the standard of the day, using brass wouldn't make sense. Brass is also not as durable as iron or steel, and it would not have been the preferred choice in the time of steel-on-steel combat, so to speak.
Christopher Gregg

'S Rioghal Mo Dhream!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Oct, 2009 2:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This older topic may be of interest: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=7907
Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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