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R. Connors




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Aug, 2010 5:05 pm    Post subject: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

Good Day. I have read that the store rooms of museums are filled with mediocre swords. The experts who are privileged to visit these stores have claimed that the blades that see the limelight were made for important, or wealthy noblemen. The rest do not see the light of day, and are many. I have searched for images of these swords that were supplied to the basic warrior, which very well might have been a menial farmer or labourer. I can't find anything online, and I am a newbie who does not own a lot of historical literature. I would like to initiate a conversation about these plain swords, and would love to see some facts or images of them. It is said that the carbon content and hardness was all over the place. Does anybody have info or pictures of these menial blades that likely were the mainstay of medieval warfare?

Thank you, and please excuse my lack of education.

Randy.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Aug, 2010 10:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes that would be interesting and I would be curious to see if one would see some surprising things like complex or very early complex guard at earlier periods than we assume they where common: So " soldiers " swords do seem to have knuckle bows or finger rings or Z shaped guards at a time when most sword associated with Knights or Nobles seemed to almost all be of the simple cross type.

I could be completely wrong about the above based on only some swords seen in the Del Tin line of early falchions, back swords or
" infantry swords ".

Link to Kult of Athena general Del Tin page as it's more efficient than linking to multiple swords on that page, just scroll down and you will see a few swords that are described as infantry sword etc ...
http://www.kultofathena.com/deltin.asp

I sort of speculate that the lowly soldier, being less well armoured or not armoured at all and specifically rarely using gauntlets, would find a more protective guard with better hand protection useful.

If we could see all those munitions swords being stored in sub-basements of Museums we might find some types we are not even aware of ?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 11:13 am    Post subject: Re: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

R. Connors wrote:
I have searched for images of these swords that were supplied to the basic warrior, which very well might have been a menial farmer or labourer.


No way! Even the "basic warrior" was quite a long way up the social scale--he would have been a respectable free farmer or a townsman, with a fair amount of fortune under his belt and enough income to afford a modicum of armor along with the sword, or a non-chivalric retainer of a noble or knightly family who could reasonably expect his employers to arm him to a decent standard. Even rootless mercenaries seldom came from the lower classes--they were usually younger sons of respectable families, or the member of an impoverished aristocratic family seeking to restore the family fortunes, or something like that. The real lower classes were normally disenfranchised not only from politics but also from the right (and obligation) to bear arms.

So, in the end, cheap swords did exist, but there was a limit to how cheap they could get, and somebody who could easily save to afford even the cheapest workable sword was generally somebody with enough income to put him significantly above the average standard of living for menial workers.
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A. Spanjer




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 1:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This thread may be of some interest.

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=20277

Na sir 's na seachain an cath.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thinking broadly of "medieval era", I think we can progress from something like "Dark Ages" and Carolingian era, when swords were objects of status (a vast numerical majority of the recently found English-Saxon hoard objects being sword fittings and belt buttons/pyramids being of gold with much garnet cloisonne and elaborate decoration).

Through the 14th century, when "basic" warriors were career professionals, pay scale is hard to equate to anything modern. But military campaign indenture or contract fees (discussion of this can be found in books such as the "Last Knight", by Norman Cantor) about were on par with median pay for reasonably well paid construction workers. If you think about the construction profession today, their tools are typically not gold gilded or decorative in non functional ways, but are typically high quality in terms of durability, design ergonomics, and performance. I would expect similar of military profession tools just as we see that today soldiers' gear in wealthy nations is of high quality, even if it is not elaborately ornate.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 11:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
But military campaign indenture or contract fees (discussion of this can be found in books such as the "Last Knight", by Norman Cantor) about were on par with median pay for reasonably well paid construction workers.


The key word here being "reasonably well paid"--middle-class craftsmen rather than the lower-class menials mentioned by the original poster. Seen this way, the sword in the later Middle Ages was still a status symbol that separated the upwardly mobile middle class from the lower classes that were only marginally less downtrodden than before.
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Gabriele A. Pini




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Aug, 2010 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I often find useful to explain the cost and value of a sword in the middle age to paragon it to the value of an automobile during the '900 in the European society: except the very first prototypes, at the start it (the automobile) was reserved as a status symbol or for the ones who absolutely need it (like the army and some professions, like the medics). Nowadays pratically everyone can afford one, from a Fiat Panda of the '98, bought only to go to work, to a Ferrari FX, an auto that you buy but can't drive home.

Its the same for swords: from very costly items, reserved to the one that can, or need to, buy one, to popular weapons produced in every range of prices.

OT: guess what auto I drive? Big Grin
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Aug, 2010 5:10 am    Post subject: Re: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

R. Connors wrote:
Good Day. I have read that the store rooms of museums are filled with mediocre swords. The experts who are privileged to visit these stores have claimed that the blades that see the limelight were made for important, or wealthy noblemen. The rest do not see the light of day, and are many.


If you look at Geibig's "Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter", which I think provides a rather complete overview of early medieval swords in German museums, you can see a lot of swords that are not usually on display. These fall broadly in the various categories:
1) Swords that are rather badly preserved and/or fragmented and therefore not deemed suitable for display
2) Swords are reasonably well preserved but lack important parts like guard or pommel
3) Swords with rather strange proportions that are not really aesthetically appealing

The third category is of course the most interesting, but I can't say that these would have been "low quality" swords. That's like calling a Toyota a bad car because it looks unimaginative, whereas a Jaguar would start rusting sooner...

I can't say just by looking at a picture whether a sword is good or bad.

R. Connors wrote:
I have searched for images of these swords that were supplied to the basic warrior, which very well might have been a menial farmer or labourer. I can't find anything online, and I am a newbie who does not own a lot of historical literature. I would like to initiate a conversation about these plain swords, and would love to see some facts or images of them. It is said that the carbon content and hardness was all over the place. Does anybody have info or pictures of these menial blades that likely were the mainstay of medieval warfare?


I think that the guild system more or less prevented really low quality items from being made in large quantities.

Personally, I think that the "lower classes" rather used swords that were old-fashioned, in disrepair or otherwise hand-downs from the higher classes.

For instance, if you look at Durer's famous engraving of the three farmers, you can see the one on the left with a rather old-fashioned sword with a damaged scabbard. Whereas the rich farmer on the right (with the spurs and the basket of eggs) has a fashionable messer: http://www.wga.hu/art/d/durer/2/13/1/017.jpg
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R. Connors




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Aug, 2010 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow! Thank you all for those directions. That is plenty for me to start learning about this. I do not have the knowledge to discuss this, but will take this to begin, and try to get some books.

Apologies for missing Sarge's topic, which is similar.
Thanks again.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 7:47 am    Post subject: Re: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
R. Connors wrote:
Good Day. I have read that the store rooms of museums are filled with mediocre swords. The experts who are privileged to visit these stores have claimed that the blades that see the limelight were made for important, or wealthy noblemen. The rest do not see the light of day, and are many.


If you look at Geibig's "Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter", which I think provides a rather complete overview of early medieval swords in German museums, you can see a lot of swords that are not usually on display. These fall broadly in the various categories:
1) Swords that are rather badly preserved and/or fragmented and therefore not deemed suitable for display
2) Swords are reasonably well preserved but lack important parts like guard or pommel
3) Swords with rather strange proportions that are not really aesthetically appealing

The third category is of course the most interesting, but I can't say that these would have been "low quality" swords. That's like calling a Toyota a bad car because it looks unimaginative, whereas a Jaguar would start rusting sooner...

I can't say just by looking at a picture whether a sword is good or bad.

R. Connors wrote:
I have searched for images of these swords that were supplied to the basic warrior, which very well might have been a menial farmer or labourer. I can't find anything online, and I am a newbie who does not own a lot of historical literature. I would like to initiate a conversation about these plain swords, and would love to see some facts or images of them. It is said that the carbon content and hardness was all over the place. Does anybody have info or pictures of these menial blades that likely were the mainstay of medieval warfare?


I think that the guild system more or less prevented really low quality items from being made in large quantities.

Personally, I think that the "lower classes" rather used swords that were old-fashioned, in disrepair or otherwise hand-downs from the higher classes.

For instance, if you look at Durer's famous engraving of the three farmers, you can see the one on the left with a rather old-fashioned sword with a damaged scabbard. Whereas the rich farmer on the right (with the spurs and the basket of eggs) has a fashionable messer: http://www.wga.hu/art/d/durer/2/13/1/017.jpg


Interesting picture! The poorer peasant's sword looks like a 13th century Xa or XII sword...
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just like new armour there were several grades of weapons around the market. In London in the 14th for example swords can range from a few pence to a pound. They are all right off the ship so to speak so one can only assume they are of different quality. That said maybe one was just very simple and the other very nice, who knows. My guess is that it includes the actualy blade quality itself but the accounts do not say for certain. Guilds to a certain point do make sure a MINIMUM quality is met but that does not mean they are excellent blades.

RPM
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 9:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I really don't have any thoughts, per se. On the OP but maybe it's worth noting that guilds really weren't so well established until the 14th. C.

Who knows if this increased control of the craft would have been relatable to the quality of the arms. Certainly, it does appear that as early as the Vikings there was a drive to provide some kind of recognizable standard.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Aug, 2010 3:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Interesting picture! The poorer peasant's sword looks like a 13th century Xa or XII sword...


It seems more like the tip of the scabbard's wooden core beneath the damaged leather covering.
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Nathan Gilleland





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PostPosted: Wed 18 Aug, 2010 7:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Luka Borscak wrote:
Interesting picture! The poorer peasant's sword looks like a 13th century Xa or XII sword...


It seems more like the tip of the scabbard's wooden core beneath the damaged leather covering.


I would have to disagree. The fuller seems clearly depicted in the center of the blade, and though it seems to run rather close to the tip of the sword, it appears IMHO to be more suggestive of a blade than a wooden core. There is no risers depicted on the rest of the scabbard that follow the same lines, which supports the theory that this picture depicts a sword blade protruding from a broken scabbard.

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Truth before Honor,
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 5:30 am    Post subject: Re: Munition grade Medieval swords.         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
I think that the guild system more or less prevented really low quality items from being made in large quantities.

Personally, I think that the "lower classes" rather used swords that were old-fashioned, in disrepair or otherwise hand-downs from the higher classes.


This, precisely.

In my opinion the concept of 'munition' swords doesn't really stand up until at least the middle of the 16thC. There were thousands of swords in circulation by the 14thC - the rich bought new ones and the poor got the hand-me-downs. This was also true of armour to some extent. Basic items like mail, helmets and swords could stay in circulation for a very long time, as evidenced both by archaeology and by the records such as wills.

Archaeology is perhaps the least bias way of answering this question. If we simply ignore the examples kept in arsenals and museums, and only look at the examples pulled from the earth and rivers we can see the range in quality of medieval swords, from peasant knives and messers up to knightly swords. Generally speaking I would say that the quality of medieval swords was high in terms of function, because no business model then could support producing poor quality tools for long. Aesthetical qualities are a whole different topic - in many cases it seems people then were not as obsessed with symmetry as we are, but they were almost certainly concerned with function - that a blade not be too heavy, that it not break and that it keep an edge well.

There were huge numbers of weapons being traded in medieval Europe - a dealer selling sub-par stock simply would not have been bale to compete in the market, or as Paul says, to be accepted by the guilds.

Matt

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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 5:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

p.s. In my researches I found a will describing 'an old sword' worth 1d (one penny). The most basic English soldier of the time was paid 3d per day, and trained archers were often paid 6d per day. So at that time in England an archer could have afforded to buy 6 swords every day! Swords could be got cheap, there was no need or demand for any sword maker to be making crap swords.
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
p.s. In my researches I found a will describing 'an old sword' worth 1d (one penny). The most basic English soldier of the time was paid 3d per day, and trained archers were often paid 6d per day. So at that time in England an archer could have afforded to buy 6 swords every day! Swords could be got cheap, there was no need or demand for any sword maker to be making crap swords.


Even with the reference, I find the economics of this incomprehensible. If an archer or basic soldier is paid daily enough to buy, at retail, three swords, what does this say about the sword maker's wages? If he has to make three swords in ONE day, just to equal the wages of a mere soldier, possibly lightly or barely skilled, then it would make more sense for the sword maker to quit making swords and become an archer or soldier! I mean, ask any sword maker on this list if he can make a decent sword in just one day, much less at least three! Even with a production-line type facility, a sword making "company", like might be in Germany or Italy, let's say, would have to crank out dozens of swords each day just to remain viable/profitable. And let's also not forget that the steel industry was one of the most high-tech trades in Medieval times, one that took years to train in and master.

I certainly would not want to work in such a skilled trade for less money than a mere soldier makes in a day. That's jut MY 2d! Eek! WTF?! Big Grin

Christopher Gregg

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 7:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Gregg wrote:


Even with the reference, I find the economics of this incomprehensible. If an archer or basic soldier is paid daily enough to buy, at retail, three swords, what does this say about the sword maker's wages?


Well, it does say "old sword" which probably meant "used sword" or "surplus sword." Which means prices would be lower than new stuff sold at retail.

Happy

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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But making swords is better for the health than using them. Make a mistake at the forge and you start over. Make a mistake in the field and, hey, there go your intestines.
-Sean

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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Must have been a lot of really crappy old swords available to buy back then (well, not too different from today, eh?) Razz

As for me, I'll take an Albion, thanks!

Christopher Gregg

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