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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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Posts: 63

PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct, 2012 4:28 am    Post subject: Longswords: historical weight & lenght (average) range?         Reply with quote

Hello everyone! So, I'm wondering if there are any works out there, any solid data, on the range of weight & lenght (at least) of historical longswords?

I got this froum our national museaum - they asked me not to post any details online (something about making a publication on it and not wanting the full data to go out yet), so i'll just post the extremes and averages of 9 longswords whose specifications i got.

Length: 109,8cm the shortest, 132,5cm the longest. Average: 116,5cm
Weight: 1200gr the lightest, 1965gr the heaviest. Average: 1502gr.

Of note: while the shortest sword was the lightest, the longest wasn't the heaviest; it was a lot closer to the average weight than I'd expect.

I'd be grateful if you guys could also post a few swords with specifications - full, if you can (unlike me Razz) I'll see if i can find more swords and be able to give full specifications.

Cheers!

EDIT 1: added 4 more swords to the sample, for a total of 15swords. When i get a sampling of 20, I'll consider it more or less representative. My goal is at least 50, though.

http://metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/40006368 and http://metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/40001404

http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-content/up.../ZEF-2.pdf and http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-content/up.../ZEF-3.pdf from Zornhau, thank you Aleksei for pointing them out, Happy
More zornhau data: http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-content/up...tZEF12.pdf, http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-content/up...tZEF15.pdf

with these, we get the average lenght at 119,8 cm and average weight at 1311 gr. All extremes are still the same.

EDIT 2: adding 4 more swords. they are from a thread in this forum (http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...mp;start=0)

Quote:
XIIa.3 (Royal Armouries, Leeds, No. IX.915)
Length overall: 122.5cm, Blade length: 96.3cm, Weight: 1,710g (3lb 12oz).

XIIIa.8 (Private collection)
Length overall: 99.7cm, Blade length: 77.4cm, Weight: 1,683g (3lb 11.4oz)

XIIIa.10 (Burrell Collection, Glasgow, No. 2/75)
Length overall: 130.0cm, Blade length: 102.5cm, Weight: 1,850g (4lb 1.5oz.)

One-and -a-half-handed sword
(Germany) c. 1475-1525
Length: 1153 mm (45.39 inches)
Blade: 932 mm (36.69 inches)
Weight: 1320 gr (2.91 lbs)


average length: 117,46cm; average weight: 1574,8
Shortest sword is now only 99,7cm long (added in here because it does seem to have a long enough handle/proper proportions to be considered a longsword)

EDIT 3: One more sword, this one found at the Art Institute of Chicago's website:

http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/...;index=211

With this, I've reached the first milestone of 20 swords Big Grin

EDIT 4: three more swords, these are from "SHWERT UND SPIESS; LANDESZEUGHAUS GRAZ" publication (the sword names are quoted from the publication)

Thrust sword (inv. nr. BL 2227)
Length: 121,5cm (94,5 blade)
Weight: 1,3kg

Sword (inv. nr. 2228)
Length: 102,5cm (81,6 blade)
Weight: 1,34 kg

HAND-AND-A-HALF SWORD (inv. nr. BL 5
Length: 140cm (blade 106cm)
Weight: 2,33kg

Ok, so managed to expand the database to 27 swords! I won't post the data on every sword anymore, due to space considerations (unless i can simply give a link to the website where i found it). I also added the average blade length category.

Here are the results:

Average length: 120,6cm
Average weight: 1600,5gr
Minimum length: 99,7cm
Maximum Length: 141,3cm
Minimum Weight: 1015gr
Maximum Weight: 2608gr
Average blade length: 94,71cm


Last edited by Alen L on Mon 29 Oct, 2012 6:09 am; edited 7 times in total
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct, 2012 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is there a specific time period you would like to focus upon? Maybe 1300 to 1500, or would you like to narrow the time frame?
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct, 2012 11:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a good point. Happy 1300-1500 sounds good, that should be when longswords were most used.

Ah, I forgot one more thing: sharps only, so no feders (though feders would deserve something like this as well...)
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Oct, 2012 1:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you seen weapons specs on zornhau.de? http://www.zornhau.de/dinkelsbuhl-first-steel/#more-92 Also do you count "bastard swords" (i.e. basically single-handed swords but with hilts long enough for 2 hands) as longswords? Below are 3 different swords. The first one is clearly more oriented towards one-handed use. Second one also seems to be more one-handed than two-handed. And only the last one I would call a longsword.





But length of the hilt is not always the most important thing. For example this sword has a seemingly pretty long hilt, but the blade looks so short and narrow that this sword can probably be freely used in one hand. And on the other hand, some war swords have relatively short hilts but their weight suggests that they should be used mainly two-handed.



What I want to say is that when comparing different swords, even swords of the same general type, one might need to keep in mind their intended use. A longsword intended to be used by a mounted warrior mainly in one hand would usually be quite different from a longsword intended to be used by an armored footman as a main weapon. And that in turn would be quite different from a longsword intended to be used by an unarmored person as his main weapon in a duel or for self-defense.

Oh, one more thing. Usually for swords blade length is more important than the overall length so it would be good if you added it to your original post.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Oct, 2012 1:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aleksei Sosnovski wrote:
The first one is clearly more oriented towards one-handed use. Second one also seems to be more one-handed than two-handed.


My own opinion differs from yours. I believe both swords are more oriented towards two-handed use, but the hilts and general proportions of the entire sword allow for one-handed use when necessary.

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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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Posts: 63

PostPosted: Wed 24 Oct, 2012 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey again! I'm interested in longswords, so swords that are primarily meant for use with both hands. I've never really understood bastard swords, as the handle is usually so short it doesn't aid much in either handling nor speed/power. So, basically, swords that are intended for two-handed use, yet are not bidenhanders. I'm mainly interested in seeing how much our training tools reflect the actual longswords of the middle ages. It's more curiosity than anything else, really, as I'm sure most of our simulators fall within the specifications. Also, it might benefit folks wanting to do some DIY stuff. Happy
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Oct, 2012 2:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:

My own opinion differs from yours. I believe both swords are more oriented towards two-handed use, but the hilts and general proportions of the entire sword allow for one-handed use when necessary.


You might be right. There are only hilts on these pictures. Also looks can be very deceptive. But you can't deceive physics. Short handle won't give you enough leverage, while long hilt will be more likely to get in your way when you use the sword one-handed. Small pommel on a short hilt won't balance a heavy blade so we might assume that these swords either have POB far from the hilt or have light and/or well-balanced blades which result in an overall relatively light weapon. Also pommel on a long hilt make a sword act as a flywheel so that it becomes less manageable despite being light and having good balance. My assumptions are based on these facts.
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Antonio Ganarini




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Oct, 2012 2:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi!
Maybe this thread could be useful for your research:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8043

Ciao a tutti!
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Oct, 2012 2:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the responses! I'll check out the thread later today, currently there is a sampling of 15 swords. While the average lenght and the extremes are where i thought they'd be, I'm honestly surprised at the average weight. I thought it'd be around 1,5-1,6kg, but it's under 1,4! Also, i've included two swords that are post-1500, but not by much (1520-30)

Cheers!
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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Posts: 63

PostPosted: Thu 25 Oct, 2012 3:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry for the double post; but I've managed to break through the first barrier of 20 swords. Right now there is a sample of 23 swords, with results similar to what i'd expect. Granted, they are a bit longer on average, but not by much (i expected 115-120 to be average).

Oh, yeah, wanted to ask one more thing: What do you guys make of this sword:

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O97450/hand-and-a-unknown/

It says the blade is almost 120cm long, which woud make the whole thig around 145cm, with only 1,1kg of weight... That seem very odd to me...

Any contributions you guys can make will be greatly appreciated! Big Grin
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Oct, 2012 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aleksei Sosnovski wrote:
A longsword intended to be used by a mounted warrior mainly in one hand would usually be quite different from a longsword intended to be used by an armored footman as a main weapon. And that in turn would be quite different from a longsword intended to be used by an unarmored person as his main weapon in a duel or for self-defense.


I'm curious about this. While we do extremely specialized weapons in various period texts - especially for judicial duels - much more of the time authors happily generalize. The iconic knightly sword often appears as flexible animal capable for one-handed use from the saddle, two-handed use on foot, and self-defense out of armor. A single combatant might experience two or even all these circumstances in a single battle. What evidence do we have for dramatic difference in sword construction for these different roles? Specially on the subject of cavalry swords, the Mair manual shows horsemen wielding swords with rather long handles in one hand.

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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Thu 25 Oct, 2012 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

- We have Kal's manual where for some reason armored and mounted fighters as well as unarmored fighters with bucklers use "normal" swords while unarmored fighters without bucklers use what looks like federschwerts.
- We have some other manuals where longswords depicted are closer to montante in size and therefore cannot be used in one hand (I can make cuts and thrusts with my zweihander with one hand, but being able to strike and being able to fight are different things).
- We have a lot of different weapons surviving, some with heavy robust blades and some with very slender and frail ones. Sword mentioned by Alen L a few posts above is a good example of the latter.
- Manuals don't show the whole variety of weapons. Texts usually don't mention exact dimensions and weight of weapons and event paintings cannot tell us all the details.
- Hilt size alone doesn't define the purpose of the sword. For example long hilt might be useful if one wants to use the sword in the manner of a couched lance.
- And finally, we can rely on our own experience to some extent. I had 3 longswords, first weighing 1.65 kg, second 1.45-1.5 kg and third 1.15 kg. I could use all of them in one hand. However I wouldn't use the first one for example with buckler while being unarmored. I would be simply too slow. Though in armor I would be quite OK. The second one is obviously quicker and I might use it with buckler while unarmored, but I wouldn't do it if I had a choice. I wouldn't use it as my primary weapon in battle either because it is not as robust as the first one and might fail if I block some incoming blows incorrectly and/or accidentally deliver a strong cut at an armored opponent. The third one would be as good in one hand as a dedicated one-hander and would be quite good in two hands as well. It was also rather compact, with both hilt and blade slightly shorter than those of the first two swords. I would probably carry that for self defense if I had to. But for a duel I would choose a longer weapon and in battle I wouldn't use it as my primary weapon. One edge-to-edge block made by my opponent would very likely break it.

Generalization is good. We see it for different polearms as well, though it is obvious that some things can be done with some polearms but cannot be done with others. We also see messer and one-handed sword used interchangeably with buckler, though it is obvious that messer with its nagel and blunt false edge could be used for things that are impossible for normal sword and vice versa. Common sense existed back then so we should use it today too (though we should be careful when using modern common sense in relation to medieval stuff). Actually we see same generalization today too. For example in my country one can get a permit to carry a handgun. But it's up to him to choose what handgun he wants. One normally wouldn't carry Glock 17 for self-defense, neither would he normally carry Glock 26 as backup weapon while on a military mission. Both are handguns and both can kill, but at the same time they are very different. And so are swords. All longswords are very similar yet very different. But in the end how each one is used depends on its owner's strength and wisdom. It's more or less like choosing a car. You can choose the cheapest one, you can choose a luxurious one, you can choose 2wd or 4wd one. It all depends on your needs, taste and wealth. You can buy several different cars if you are rich enough. Or you can buy none and go for a bike instead (read: choose a grosse messer). But there are certain trends that depend on different factors such as fashion, terrain, economical situation, fuel price, taxes, etc.
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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PostPosted: Thu 25 Oct, 2012 4:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it'd be prudent to say what i wish to achieve with this undertaking. Happy


1.) make a list of historical swords with at least basic information (so the bare minimum is length/weight, preferably also handle/blade length & PoB). This, I believe, would in itself prove useful to enthusiasts or folks who are interested in a DIY project of a historical sword.
2.) get a big enough sample to be able to say "historically, a longsword was between x and y long, with z being the average, with its weight between f and p, h being the average.
3.) if the sample is big enough, to make an analysis of weight every 5 cm of length. So saying on average, swords with length between 110-115cm weighed x. 115-120, y. etc etc. For exampe, it came to me as a surprise that most cca 130cm swords weighed around 1,5-1,6kg. I thought it'd be more. Swords in the 115-120cm category seem to weigh thereabouts or a bit more. But, I need a bigger sample if I want to confirm this.
4.) If the sample is big enough, to make an analysis of weight/length in 100 or 50 year periods. (swords between 1300-1400 weighed x, between 1400-1450, y)
5.) Do a follow-up research on average height of people in the various eras, depending on how much data i get, and comparing it to the average sword length of the same era.

I agree, some generalization is good, but I can't overgeneralize - I won't put arming swords and zweihanders in, which means i need a working definition. If anyone has an idea better than my current definition (which is a sword, meant primarily for double-handed use that can be drawn from the hip), feel free to chip in. Of course, there will be borderline examples (like the 97cm sword i mentioned, which still has a 20cm handle), but some sort of definition is needed. Happy

Cheers and thanks for the help so far!
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Thu 25 Oct, 2012 11:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that just calculating average length and weight might be pretty useless. From 1300 to 1500 quite different swords were made for different purposes, and depending on how many examples survived of one type or another you might get very different results.

There are so called war swords with cut-oriented blades. These appear to be relatively short and heavy, designed primarily and sometimes even exclusively for two-handed use judging by their weight (I don't have any statistics, it's just an impression from examples that I remember). I think this design is explained by the idea that a weapon should be robust enough to survive a battle and that cutting is more natural than thrusting. Also relatively short blade would be easier to use in a tight formation. Would such a sword be a good example of what we see in fencing manuals? I don't think so.

There are what I would call horseman's swords, often with relatively short blades and handles. These had to be manageable with one hand. The sword of Black Prince (at least the replica made by Arms & Armor) is a good example of the type. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these swords were designed exclusively for one-handed use and had long grips for some other reason (fashion, balance, possibility to tuck the grip under ones arm to use a sword like a lance, etc). However a sword intended for such use does not necessarily need to be short. It can have longer blade and hilt, but then it should be lighter or wielded by a very large and strong man. Think of a solid steel drum and a flywheel of equal weight and you will understand what I mean.

A sword intended for unarmored duels needs to be long yet light to maximize chances of winning. However in a formal duel equal or almost equal weapons could be demanded and in this case it would not matter how long or heavy they are.

A sword used for self-defense could be made as long and as heavy as the owner wished. A relatively long but light blade with a short grip that still allows 2-handed use might be a good idea if one considers ease of wear important. But somebody who feels being in great danger could choose a montante-sized weapon.

Now if you happen to have specs of 15 heavy war swords and 5 "normal" longswords your average weight could be considerably higher than that of actual "civilian" longsword.

What I would advise you to do is to make multiple calculations based on your data. For example:
- average weight and overall and blade length for all swords
- same data but this time not counting the extremes (for example not counting 2 heaviest and 2 lightest swords when calculating average weight)
- divide the swords into some logical groups (by blade shape, by hilt length, by what you think was the intended use. Possibilities are countless, it's up to you to decide) and then calculate the above-mentioned data for each group.

Once you have calculated multiple statistics you can compare them and see how different are the values. For example if you see that clearly cut-oriented swords are on average considerably shorter and heavier than acutely pointed swords we usually see in fencing manuals you can quite safely ignore the former when deciding how long and heavy a sword must be that you intend to use for your longsword training.

I would also strongly recommend to calculate mean deviation when calculating statistics and include blade length as I feel it to be more important than overall length. It is the blade that defines the reach of the sword in most situations. After all effective hilt length depends on whether the second hand grips the handle or the pommel, but the most natural and often the only possible way to grip a sword is right under the crossguard so effective blade length is a constant for a given sword.
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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Posts: 63

PostPosted: Mon 29 Oct, 2012 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Finally got some new sword data!

Aleksei, all great ideas, and i had something similar in mind; however, i need more data for it to happen. Happy Right now i have 27 swords, which don't make a very strong base in a single category.

I did add the average blade length, however. Happy
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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PostPosted: Tue 30 Oct, 2012 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a quick update, yet again. Happy

Did some preliminary research on height of people in the past. The results, yet again, surprised me. The differences are really small, smaller than 5cm in most cases, and small enough to make medieval sword lengths appropriate for the modern man as well.



This is the most concise graph I found, but i did go through 3 papers on the subject, all of them with very similar numbers.

Cheers!
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Tue 30 Oct, 2012 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is one more thing to consider. Upper class was fed much better than peasants so an average knight could have been taller than an average peasant. This is just an idea that I heard somewhere though, no proof for that. In any case, personal preference and purpose of the weapon must have had much more influence on the length of the sword than the height of its owner.
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Alen L




Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
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Posts: 63

PostPosted: Sun 11 Nov, 2012 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello!

I'm writing because I've found absolutely no new data. I've found several swords, but they only have their lengths listed, which is useless for this research.

If anyone can help me by giving me some more data, from a publication or museum (maybe even depot), I'd be most grateful!
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