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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 1:41 pm    Post subject: Tell me about hilting         Reply with quote

So, the Albion Lancaster thread got me thinking about the issue of hilting.

I always find discussions on sword performance to be rather intimidating. I'm the kind of guy who understand stuff like balance and tapers and blade geometry fairly well, but when I get to stuff like nodes and harmonics and rotations, I tend to get dizzy and find an excuse to back away from my computer. But the impression I have is that making a sword -at least one that performs well- is a complex matter that involves how the various parts interact with each other.

On the other hand, I also know that historically, a lot of blades were made in one place and then fitted with hilts somewhere else by a different craftsman, sometimes in a completely different country. This is something that has been on my mind lately, since I myself do not have the resources to make my own blades, but consider myself crafty enough to maybe make my own hilts.

So I guess my question is: How much skill does it take to successfully fit a hilt on a pre-made sword blade? Does it require an in-detail understanding of how the sword should perform to get it right, to the point where you could potentially make a whole sword from scratch? Or is that stuff so to speak built into the blade by the bladesmith? Can the person doing the hilting just go by what feels right, without necessarily having to understand the dynamics involved? Or, when a blade was imported, did it come with helpful instructions like; "Maketh the cross/basket and pommel so and so heavy, or thou shall surely mess up the harmonic nodes!"?

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 2:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Speaking as someone who has been thinking about sword balance more than is healthy, but who is not a swordsmith...

My gut feeling is that it's perfectly possible to learn how to hilt a blade without learning all the details that must be taken into account in order to design a blade. Of course the hilt you put on the blade is a function of the properties of the blade, but most of the work is already done.

Think of it in terms of degrees of freedom: basically the only thing you have to adjust carefully when you make a hilt is the weight of the pommel. Maybe its shape too because it influences the location of the weight. Other than that, the cross shape is basically irrelevant (you just make it as light as you can while remaining solid, and beautiful Happy ), the grip itself is so light that the influence on balance will be minimal. On the other hand, when you make the blade you have to design its whole profile, care about temper, focus not just on balance but on edge profile too, because part of the cutting performance comes from that... It really is more complicated, a lot more I'd say. It's critical too; you can't really make up for a bad blade with a good hilt.

The one thing that is difficult with the hilt is ergonomics, learning the proper grip shapes that will make the sword easy to grasp and handle.

I believe that if you already have the experience of good swords and go by what feels right, you won't be far off the mark. It surely helps to understand the dynamics, but most of the problems are solved when building the blade.

Regards,

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually...the handle weight may not be negligible. When I switched the handle on my hanwei tinker sword to wenge, the weight of the handle was enough to utterly ruin the harmonics on my sword. I had to do some serious fiddling to get it back right. If you don´t know a lot about how swords should feel, mucking with the hilt can do bad bad things to your sword. However, how else are you gonna learn other then to muck with it? Happy
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P. Cha wrote:
Actually...the handle weight may not be negligible. When I switched the handle on my hanwei tinker sword to wenge, the weight of the handle was enough to utterly ruin the harmonics on my sword. I had to do some serious fiddling to get it back right. If you don´t know a lot about how swords should feel, mucking with the hilt can do bad bad things to your sword. However, how else are you gonna learn other then to muck with it? Happy


Grip and guard weight aren't negligible. Perhaps minor, compared to pommel, for some swords, but not something to ignore. Consider the various pommel-less swords out there.

The weight of the cross is important - since the point of balance isn't at the cross, the mass of the cross affects the final location of the PoB.

Anyway, your comment about utterly ruining the harmonics on your sword interests me. More detail please! I ask because I've never had any problems with such things - as a first approximation, I'd say that only the centre of percussion matters [1]. Changing pommel/grip weight will move the CoP around, perhaps un-usefully far, and in my experience this swamps any effect of harmonics.

Sounds like something to play with when the weather gets cooler - just the use for a couple of unmounted pell-blades and hilt bits.


[1] Centre of percussion as used in rigid body dynamics, rotation of rigid bodies etc. Assuming by "harmonics" you refer to nodes of vibration. Nodes of vibration matter, in general, when hitting objects with hitting implements, but sword being pretty stiff in the plane of the blade, don't vibrate much in any case when striking at proper angle. The three biggest contributors to "sweet spots" are centre of percussion, vibration nodes, and centre/location/point of maximum restitution (either where the most energy that initially goes into flexing the striking object gets returned to the struck object, or the least energy is lost (and not returned) to flexing the striking object - I forget the proper technical definition). The stiffer the strking object, the more like a rigid bar it will behave, where the latter two are unimportant.
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 12:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well the wenge is pretty dense compared to most wood...compared to the lightweight handle the hanwei came with, it was a noticeable difference. The primary node shifted down from at the hilt down to at my middle finger. The CoP moved down to about 14 inches from the cross...the PoB was shifted back a grand .5 inches. So yeah a handle did quite a bit to that sword. weight wise, not too much difference...but boy was the sword horrible to deal with until it got fixed.
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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P. Cha wrote:
Well the wenge is pretty dense compared to most wood...compared to the lightweight handle the hanwei came with, it was a noticeable difference. The primary node shifted down from at the hilt down to at my middle finger. The CoP moved down to about 14 inches from the cross...the PoB was shifted back a grand .5 inches. So yeah a handle did quite a bit to that sword. weight wise, not too much difference...but boy was the sword horrible to deal with until it got fixed.


Thats interesting. Wenge is a hard and dense wood. I wonder if it had some kind of dampening/stiffening effect on vibrational movement through the tang if fitted very tightly. I wonder about the state of heat treat on that sword though. interesting!

I like Vincent's comment. So much so I would like to amplify.

you can't really make up for a bad blade with a good hilt, but you can ruin a good blade with a bad hilt................

I think that hits the nail on the head! tr
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thom R. wrote:
P. Cha wrote:
Well the wenge is pretty dense compared to most wood...compared to the lightweight handle the hanwei came with, it was a noticeable difference. The primary node shifted down from at the hilt down to at my middle finger. The CoP moved down to about 14 inches from the cross...the PoB was shifted back a grand .5 inches. So yeah a handle did quite a bit to that sword. weight wise, not too much difference...but boy was the sword horrible to deal with until it got fixed.


Thats interesting. Wenge is a hard and dense wood. I wonder if it had some kind of dampening/stiffening effect on vibrational movement through the tang if fitted very tightly. I wonder about the state of heat treat on that sword though. interesting!

I like Vincent's comment. So much so I would like to amplify.

you can't really make up for a bad blade with a good hilt, but you can ruin a good blade with a bad hilt................

I think that hits the nail on the head! tr


Humm that may have happened as well. The wenge handle was fitted a lot tighter then the stock handle.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all,

When I said that the effect of the cross was usually not that important, I did not mean that there was no effect Happy Of course a different cross will change the CoG, but it just creates a different balance, not a bad one in my opinion. For one thing it does not change the CoP (rigid body sense) associated to the cross, which is one of the most significant point as far as I've been able to find out (measuring several good reproductions).

The grips on most of my swords are significantly lighter than the rest of the components, that's why I tend to neglect its effect but of course if you take a much heavier grip it changes things. I'm not sure how "bad" it makes the sword, or if it just makes it different. Probably a bit of both as there are bits of the grip near the pommel and bits near the cross...

All in all I still think it's easier to build a hilt than a blade. As far as I know the blade maker has to figure out the effect of the hilt and use that knowledge to give the proper dynamics to the blade, so it's even more difficult for him. The hilt maker just has to figure out what hilt the blade maker intended, but does not have to understand how he made the blade.

Regards,

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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Maurizio D'Angelo




Location: Italy
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 7:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I used CAD programs and programs that identify nodes harmonics. (PRO-E and ANSI 12).
Physical properties can be known before making a sword.
I realized one thing: if you make a blade as well, grip and the pommel are almost a normal consequence.
The weight of the pommel must comply with sword , within acceptable limits.
If you do this, the physical characteristics do not change much.
In according with Vincent.: The hard work has already been done on the blade.

Ciao
Maurizio
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 25 Jan, 2010 11:48 am    Post subject: Re: Tell me about hilting         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:


How much skill does it take to successfully fit a hilt on a pre-made sword blade? Does it require an in-detail understanding of how the sword should perform to get it right, to the point where you could potentially make a whole sword from scratch? Or is that stuff so to speak built into the blade by the bladesmith? Can the person doing the hilting just go by what feels right, without necessarily having to understand the dynamics involved? Or, when a blade was imported, did it come with helpful instructions like; "Maketh the cross/basket and pommel so and so heavy, or thou shall surely mess up the harmonic nodes!"?


Don't over-think it. Big Grin

You'll figure things out and develop the necessary skills as you work, solving problems as they arise. Just jump in. Some thoughts:

• Take your cues from antiques. Some have modern replacement grips, but there are plenty that have original grips. Look closely at the profile, section and length. Match grip and furniture. Don't invent--there's no need. In other words, don't take a grip idea from 1550, a guard and pommel from 1400 and a blade from 1300. It's not just an aesthetic concern. You already know that hilt and blade must be complementary for performance reasons, but not every manufacturer does. If we put a cool single-hand hilt with pommel cap on a 50" Type XX blade we can have the best hilt and Type XX blade in the world and a cool-looking sword, too, but the combination is still going to feel terrible.

• Buy spare crosses and pommels wherever you can find them. It's easier to modify than manufacture.

• Unless you have a pretty lousy blade and go far off track in the design and construction of the hilt, you'll probably end up with something reasonable.

• Don't neglect the subtleties of the hilt. It's amazing how much difference seemingly minor details can make--the placement of a riser, the change in section over the length of the grip, the size of the pommel base, the curvature of the cross, etc. Assemble and assess as you go. In my own experience, a grip core that feels perfect can feel terrible after binding with cord and covering with thin leather. I typically under-build the core slightly, depending on how it will be covered. However...

• Don't overbuild. I think we tend to imagine that swords are bigger and more robust than is often the case. It's hard to tell without some kind of recognizable scale in a photo (even a hand is useful) but historic artwork can fill in some of that information. Grips and scabbards seem to be especially prone to overbuilding--Axe Handle and 2x4 Syndrome. If a part seems bulky and awkward, something is probably amiss. If you struggle to keep a grip on the weapon when it's in motion, that's a big, red "STOP" sign. If you match an original as exactly as possible and it still seems odd, think about how that oddness might effect the use of the weapon. What's odd to us might have made perfect sense to the medieval cutler or soldier.

-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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