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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2012 6:54 pm    Post subject: Opinions on finish         Reply with quote

Would you find a finish such as is seen on the following historical pieces acceptable on a replica?


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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2012 6:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some more examples. I would especially want to know what people would think of a replica with a pommel attachment like the one below. On a related note, a link to the thread on asymmetry in originals: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...=asymmetry
If anyone else has some good pics of the finish on originals or replicas, I would love to see them.



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Jack Savante





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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2012 7:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I personally love the texture and richness of hand finished objects.

It's unfortunate to see sword reviewers say such things of hand made swords as "I can see a few file marks if I look at the sword from a certain angle in the right light." HA! Can you imagine someone criticizing Rembrandt for failing to conceal all his brush strokes?

I really don't like my swords to look like surgical implements, and have sold all my CNC milled swords because I now find them too perfect, and without a warm soul; lacking personality.
No historical sword was perfect, and that was an important reason why they were so beautiful.

Can you imagine the reviews swords like the ones you posted might get in today's climate of fastidious and hyper critical reviews? But this is such a strange irony given that the beauty of the originals is so strongly linked to their imperfections.
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2012 9:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Depends on the purpose of the piece. Is it supposed to accurately represent the original, including character? If so then the finish is fine. If the reproduction is supposed to be "inspired by" then I'd be inclined to want an improved finish.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2012 9:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a complex question and I suspect you won't find total consensus. I have pieces that have filemarks on them that many people would consider unacceptable. I don't mind them, because I've seen worse on period pieces in museums and in the antiques I've been lucky enough to handle.

I think the answer to the question of why we don't see more of that kind of finish is multi-faceted. In no particular order:

1) Method of manufacture: Modern tools make it easier to get a uniform finish. There is, in some cases (not all by a long shot), less handwork and more machine work in today's pieces.

2) Modern people who collect swords tend to live in neat and tidy parts of the world. Few people today would accept a car with an uneven paint finish or sloppy fit of the doors to the body or a DVD player whose tray doesn't close evenly/fully. This ties into #1: we have tools and processes that make precision more widely available and our world looks more precise. The expectation in most consumer goods is a level of precision.

3) Swords are often (not always) viewed by collectors as something of a luxury item. We pay handsome sums for them in many cases. For some people (not all), a marked-up finish is a sign of sloppy work. In a luxury/prized possession/this-cost-a-lot-for-an-item-that-isn't-a-necessity context, a sword with an even, lovely finish better fits with many people's ideas and expectations, for better or for worse.

4) Many people haven't seen antiques up close or in detailed enough photos. The books that are widely available and widely read because of their cost tend to show items without a ton of up-close detail. Because they often show a four foot sword via a four inch picture, details like surface finish is lost. Many people don't go to museums either so they haven't seen this stuff up close.

5) The idea of craftsmanship may be warped. Often, people think of good craftsmanship as being how close someone can get to perfect in terms of symmetry, fit, and finish. Because you often pay more for a hand-crafted item than a mass-produced one, the expectations go up with the price-tag. A better finish usually takes more work and can enhance the feeling of extra value/luxury. That ties into #3 as well.

What would I accept? Like Joe, it depends. If I'm buying from someone who uses a healthy dose of modern tools and methods, I'd expect a high level of finish because that's attainable, can be attractive in a way, and is easier to maintain in some regards. If the order is with someone working more with period techniques, I'd expect a result closer to that of a historical piece.

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David Sutton




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 7:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think another point to consider is the providence of such marks. Are they an artifact from the original finishing process or are they artifacts of the swords working 'life'?

Some of the swords which now bear those kind of marks may not have left the swordsmith's/cutler's workshop looking like that. Being used in combat; carried on campaign through the rain, mud and dust; sharpened or repaired under less than ideal circumstances, by relatively unskilled people; the simple passage of time and perhaps the later miss-treatment of the sword by those ignorant of its value as a relic all leave their mark.

I think we should be careful not to assume that pre-modern necessarily means roughly finished or that the piece in question has come down to us in anything like the condition that it left the craftsman's workshop. I've seen period swords which have a level of finish which was comparable to modern standards. I'm often amazed at how well made many pre-modern items are.

Another point to think about is how many people who are substantially interested in swords would actually object to something coming closer to historical levels of authenticity? We tend to have a concept of a generic contemporary person, who strongly objects to anything which is not immaculate or perfectly formed etc. But I certainly have no objection to something being more authentically finished and when topics like this come up I'm not sure I recall many people who do (though thats just off the top of my head). I guess people who have a genuine interest in swords, usually like historical things in general, which means they usually have an understanding that until around 200 years ago everything was hand crafted and appreciate that fact in modern reproductions.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Sutton wrote:
I think another point to consider is the providence of such marks. Are they an artifact from the original finishing process or are they artifacts of the swords working 'life'?

Some of the swords which now bear those kind of marks may not have left the swordsmith's/cutler's workshop looking like that. Being used in combat; carried on campaign through the rain, mud and dust; sharpened or repaired under less than ideal circumstances, by relatively unskilled people; the simple passage of time and perhaps the later miss-treatment of the sword by those ignorant of its value as a relic all leave their mark.


This is an important point, and one I considered as I was trying to fall asleep late last night after I posted in this thread. Happy

I think because we don't have consistency from historical examples and because we don't know exactly how the finish issues got in place, it's dangerous to assume all medieval swords/daggers did/should have a bunch of filemarks and/or scratches. Some swords show mirror-like finishes, like the unrusted sections of this sword:



Another thing to consider is the audience. The educated collector who understands the vagaries of historical finishes is almost certainly a minority in the industry. To hit the largest audience, makers often have to target less learned collectors: those who may simply want a shiny wallhanger.

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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 10:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very true, Chad and David. I have seen some pics of swords from the same area and time period with practically perfect, mirror-like or satin finishes. The few 16th C swords I have seen in person varied a good bit in finish, but were somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. I am pretty sure the marks on the swords above are artifacts of the finishing process because blades I have finished with traditional methods (file, stones, abrasive on leather or wood) look exactly like that at a certain point in the process. Probably 3/4 of the process is getting it from this stage to a fine satin finish. Working life dammage is more likely to take the form of nicked, curled or chipped edges, transverse scratches, dents and gouges than almost perfectly parallel scratches running down the blade.

Thank you all for your well thought out replies.

Edit: Here is a more balanced selection of closeups of finish. Some look like they were originally very finely finished. I have heard that 19th C museum personnel sometimes got pretty carried away with polishing, but I doubt that that could account for a very large proportion of these smooth pieces. It would take a lot of grinding to clean up some of the rougher examples above. So while in many cases we will not be able to know exactly what the pieces looked like originally, I think it is safe to say that renaissance cutlers used a wide range of degrees of finishing, probably signicantly wider than we are (in general) willing to tolerate today. Still, if your responses are a good indicator, there are some people, especially those with more experience seeing originals, who could appreciate a less perfect finish on certain swords. Thanks again for your input.



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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally..as long as the weapons aren't totally corroded through neglect, I'd consider any..blemishes..as being honestly acquired through the swords life and just as valuable in a non-material way as the sword itself. A sword was a tool to be used..and any such use should be valued for itself. ( I'm not dismissing those much older, excavated swords that may be heavily corroded - the 'damage' to them has been "honestly' acquired)
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would accept such a finish in a replica only if it was advertised as a slightly antiqued or "restored antique" finish. It would probably be inaccurate to present such finish as being true to originals when they were freshly made. At least decent quality originals. Big Grin
That being said, I do like that kind of finish if it is done right.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to be clear, I am not talking about corrosion or patination. I am talking about actual artifacts of the production proccess that would be seen on a sword fresh from the cutler's shop. I would not consider any of the swords shown to be less than decent quality, quite the opposite, they are all high-quality weapons. I tried to find pics of swords with minimal corrosion, patination and dammage from working life or after to give us as good an idea of possible of how they would have appeared when new.
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Addison C. de Lisle




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 7:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally I don't mind the odd filemark or hammer mark as an artifact of the making process. However, I would not be pleased with the choppy engraving because I know it can be done better using the same tools available at the time. I feel the same way about guards that don't sit cleanly with the blade, sloppy peening of the pommel, etc. There is a huge difference between something looking handmade and crude work.
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Dec, 2012 9:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That bent over peen looks like it is supposed to be the stem on a piece of fruit. Those look like leaves chiseled into the pommel. That's a pretty clever concept, and I like it, but I wouldn't be keen on having one, it looks like it could catch on your palm.

For that to be acceptable I would want to feel it in hand.

If it's on a single hander, that would make sense, and I would like it.

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 1:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have replicas with comparable finishes, or that came with comparable finishes.

For some style swords/knives/polearms, it can be appropriate for an as-new example. For other style swords/knives/polearms, it isn't appropriate for an as-new example, but might be for a pseudo-antique look. For some styles, finishes like that wouldn't be appropriate even on antique examples; they'd be considered junk blades rather than collectable.

Sometimes I accept defects that come along with a very low price tag, even if they aren't appropriate. Sometimes I improve the finish.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Jack Savante





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 4:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It should be noted however that the swords that have beautiful finishes invariably belonged to persons of Royal lineage. The finishes are not mirror like, but straight grained. They also appear to be parade swords. Something to keep in mind.

I think the Medieval mind saw a sword as above all else as working object, in the same way that a horse is. A horse is also valuable and beautiful but primarily it must be able to convey its rider and carry heavy objects. If a horse has some imperfections, these are acceptable as long as the horse is fit for purpose.

It's very easy to apply a filter of modern thinking to medieval things. We see soul-less mass produced objects everywhere in our lives, but medievals did not. Their priorities and concerns were unlike ours.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Savante wrote:

It's very easy to apply a filter of modern thinking to medieval things. We see soul-less mass produced objects everywhere in our lives, but medievals did not. Their priorities and concerns were unlike ours.


That is exactly the reason why every warrior would want his weapon to look as good as possible. They didn't live in mass production world where every product is finished to a minimum level of acceptance. Sword in itself is not a weapon of low born peasant levy warrior but of a man whose business is war.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack, I would love to see any evidence you may have to support your assertion. It seems that there are far too many weapons with excellent finish for them to have all belonged to royalty and high nobles. I am sure there were some who took a very practical view of their weapons, but just as many must have been every bit as concerned with aesthetics. I think it is safe to say that attitudes toward weapons varied as much then as they do now.

Luka, here is one exception at least (attachment below.) This guy does not appear to have given his sword the best upkeep though Wink
Judging by the swords features, it could easily be a couple hundred years old at this point. I wonder if there are any documents from the later middle ages or renaissance that mention swords being sent out for polishing? Or maybe people spent a lot of time maintaining their swords themselves? I really like the look of well-used and "over-polished" swords, with rounded, softened lines and a more "complex complection" for lack of a better term.

Mathew, I find your observation on that peen quite interesting. So maybe it wasn't a labor-saving shortcut but an intentional decorative feature. I agree that something like that could be pretty cool on a single-hander, maybe one with writhen cross or a German style basket-hilt with a floral or plant theme.



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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 3:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Woodruff wrote:
Jack, I would love to see any evidence you may have to support your assertion. It seems that there are far too many weapons with excellent finish for them to have all belonged to royalty and high nobles. I am sure there were some who took a very practical view of their weapons, but just as many must have been every bit as concerned with aesthetics. I think it is safe to say that attitudes toward weapons varied as much then as they do now.

Luka, here is one exception at least (attachment below.) This guy does not appear to have given his sword the best upkeep though Wink
Judging by the swords features, it could easily be a couple hundred years old at this point. I wonder if there are any documents from the later middle ages or renaissance that mention swords being sent out for polishing? Or maybe people spent a lot of time maintaining their swords themselves? I really like the look of well-used and "over-polished" swords, with rounded, softened lines and a more "complex complection" for lack of a better term.

Mathew, I find your observation on that peen quite interesting. So maybe it wasn't a labor-saving shortcut but an intentional decorative feature. I agree that something like that could be pretty cool on a single-hander, maybe one with writhen cross or a German style basket-hilt with a floral or plant theme.


I love this picture. Big Grin Great excuse for someone reenacting both 12th and 16th century German to wear the same sword for both kits. Wink But it actually goes along with my point as this peasant wears sword no professional would use if he could afford anything newer. Happy
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Savante wrote:
It should be noted however that the swords that have beautiful finishes invariably belonged to persons of Royal lineage. The finishes are not mirror like, but straight grained. They also appear to be parade swords. Something to keep in mind.


Simply put, this is not supported by evidence. There are many extant meticulously detailed and finished pieces with absolutely zero attribution to anyone important that are not processional weapons. Likewise, the examination of many of the most detailed pieces made for the most important people from history reveals the very same characteristics as found on any other piece from the period. The variance is wide and seemingly not related--certainly not with any direct correlation--to the status of the owner of the weapon or its role as a processional piece.

Quote:
I think the Medieval mind saw a sword as above all else as working object, in the same way that a horse is. A horse is also valuable and beautiful but primarily it must be able to convey its rider and carry heavy objects. If a horse has some imperfections, these are acceptable as long as the horse is fit for purpose.


This is also not directly supported by evidence and in fact the opposite is true. Many period works elevate the status of the sword even in the hands of the typical man-at-arms.

You are trying to apply modern thinking to the medieval person's attention to detail, value or even interpretation of "perfection", etc, etc. This is a mistake.

Who is to say that form, shape, and proportion were not monumentally important to the medieval person's perception of what is visually appealing and that the minutia of detail was less so? This would appear to be true to me.

Quote:
It's very easy to apply a filter of modern thinking to medieval things. We see soul-less mass produced objects everywhere in our lives, but medievals did not. Their priorities and concerns were unlike ours.


On this, I agree, but would caution you not to do the same.

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Jack Savante





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 5:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Probably the best example of Royal swords being the swords receiving the most attention is the sword from the cover of Oakeshott's 'Record of the Medieval Sword.'

I'd love to see a medieval sword belonging to the rank and file finished to that level if anyone can show me one...
(Swords that have been refinished in modern times naturally don't count...)
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