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Christopher B Lellis




Location: Houston, Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 3:20 pm    Post subject: Are antique swords still springy and flexible?         Reply with quote

Has anyone here handled a very old sword in good condition before? Are they still springy and flexible?

Even if they haven't rusted through I wonder if there is another type of decay of the steel that is not necessarily noticeable to the naked eye, a kind of molecular decay. I ask this because I wonder if this Rockwell hardness is accurately determining a swords edge and other strength characteristics in that swords prime.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only antique sword I've had that kind of freedom to play with has been an Imperial Russian saber from 1917 originally issued to a Finnish dragoon regiment. At least that one's still very spry and springy.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If it's not rusted, it should be flexible, no matter how old it is... I haven't flexed anything older than about 200 years, but I often read how flexible very old swords are if in good state...
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 4:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Connolly reckoned that he had personally seen a two thousand-year old sword dredged from Lake Neuchatel "bent almost double and then flex back" (Greece and Rome ar War , p.115).

Radomir Pleiner's The Celtic Sword would be a good reference for this subject.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are very professional academics who's entire lifetime work has been spent studying the metallography of these artifacts. They know and understand very thoroughly the affects aging has on metal. Besides just hardness testing, they also have taken swords and sliced them into sections and examined them under high power microscopes, they have etched them to get an idea of composition, they have been subjected to electron microanalysis, etc...

If you are really interested I suggest you look for some of Dr. Alan Williams works, Dr. David Edge, or Hosek and Kosta's work.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Lloyd Winter




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 5:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How old is "very old"? My hands on experience really only covers swords up to 250 years, give or take

I seem to recall that Oakeshott mentioned at least one old that was a couple of hundred years old being refitted in the 14th century but memory is unreliable....

I have a Patton sabre blade that I remade into a 16th century sword back in the early 80s and I used for 20 years in stage fighting and re-enactment fighting with no ill effects. That blade was heavily used when I got it. It's still fully functional.

I've handled a number of 19th century military swords and a few 18th century swords in very good condition with excellent flex.

I have handled 2 16th century rapiers but I don't think the museum would have let me stay very long if I started flexing the blades. The blades seemed to be sound though, for what it's worth
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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 6:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The oldest I've seen was an early 18th century Scottish claymore, with a German-made blade. The owner flexed the blade almost double. Blade was in generally pretty good condition, with some darkening and pitting, but no major rust.
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 6:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've handled medieval swords, in excavated condition, that still have surprising flexibility to them. The thicker estocs seem to be a little less forgiving. The 17th and 18th century examples feel as if they could be usable today. In fact, one late 19th century Coldstreamer backsword has an early 18th century Fararra blade substituted for the standard pattern blade.

The one thing I would worry about would be stress cracks in the metal. There is only so much abuse that even a good quality blade can take. So, I wouldn't make a habit of flexing the blades of older antique swords.
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 6:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most of what I have owned (back to the mid 18th century) has shown a good spring temper., rusty of not. There is really no need to, especially to extreme even with modern mafde swords.

Springs in cars wear out. Swords wear out. It is just that simple. Doing so to extremes will eventually start to pile the steel and eventually srat a set or even just snap. I have done this with very flexy knife blades a few times.

One I use for demonstration is a early 20th century piece and I have not taken it to extreme much lately and don;t take it to 180 degrees any more. The attached picture is the sword bending just from the weight of the sword. holding it at the tip.

A couple have been pretty easy to straighten and one I think had probably been in a fire (a cheap m1902). Of many spadroons here, some are more springy than others and I do check out the properties of all to some extent.

Go back 800 years and there is probably a large amount of variation in heat treating but I am fairly confident that early modern stuff will generally be found somewhat springy.

Cheers

GC.



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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 12:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have handled some original medieval swords and, excluding estoc types, all were as springy as my albion knight.

I could easily find vibration nodes on them, I mean. I also handled quite a few schiavonas and they were even more springy, at least on average, some were vbrating like violin's cord!
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Sa'ar Nudel




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 12:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Please check this thread: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=9393
My personal post there, #11, is to the point.

Curator of Beit Ussishkin, regional nature & history museum, Upper Galilee.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 11:08 am    Post subject: Re: Are antique swords still springy and flexible?         Reply with quote

Christopher B Lellis wrote:
Even if they haven't rusted through I wonder if there is another type of decay of the steel that is not necessarily noticeable to the naked eye, a kind of molecular decay. I ask this because I wonder if this Rockwell hardness is accurately determining a swords edge and other strength characteristics in that swords prime.


A decay like that requires extreme conditions (such as extreme torsion like being left in a bent position or extreme heat). Keep in mind that many tools such as chisels and knives were heat treated to be very hard and still are, so if an antique sword does not have same level of hardness as many modern swords, then it's because the makers did it that way on purpose.

Dr. Lee Jones has a sword (I believe it is 11th century, though I don't remember off of the top of my head) that was an incredibly well made and highly functional weapon that showed no signs of every having been heat treated. No hardening whatsoever. Now, that isn't the norm, but it does suggest we modern people are missing a part of the bigger picture by assuming swords have to be a certain hardness to be functional.

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--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Christopher B Lellis




Location: Houston, Texas
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 9:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting, thanks for all this info
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Ben J.




Location: Annapolis, MD
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Apr, 2013 6:40 am    Post subject: Re: Are antique swords still springy and flexible?         Reply with quote

Christopher B Lellis wrote:
Has anyone here handled a very old sword in good condition before? Are they still springy and flexible?

Even if they haven't rusted through I wonder if there is another type of decay of the steel that is not necessarily noticeable to the naked eye, a kind of molecular decay.


The answer to a layman is basically NO.

From an engineering/materials point of view, TECHNICALLY any structure has a life-span based on it's material and construction. There is a finite limit in many cases, but it's not that the construction significantly changes in usability over time (though it may do so a bit), but rather that its overall strength is reduced over time, and is thus more likely to break. In engineering, this is described through a strength/cycles graph (S/N Curve). Wikipedia has more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatigue_%28material%29

The strength of steel, interestingly at a certain point, generally 'levels off' to somewhere in the range of 40-50% of initial strength. A good explanation of Endurance Limit is here: http://www.fea-optimization.com/ETBX/stresslife_help.html
This is important to know for say, car springs, where after 20 years, the car has hit hundreds of thousands of bumps - each bump is a cycle, and now after that amount of time, the spring is more likely to break on a big bump. It will only have 1/2 the initial strength.

So, while this is germane for cars, ships, or buildings, a sword has likely not seen anywhere near that number of cycles over its life-span, unless all its owners were drilling with it (and stressing it - solo drill or slow-play won't be enough) every day..... Moreover, even if a sword is significantly down the curve of cycles, it will not noticeably affect the swords behaviour - at least until it gets hit hard enough to actually break....
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Apr, 2013 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
So, while this is germane for cars, ships, or buildings, a sword has likely not seen anywhere near that number of cycles over its life-span, unless all its owners were drilling with it (and stressing it - solo drill or slow-play won't be enough) every day..... Moreover, even if a sword is significantly down the curve of cycles, it will not noticeably affect the swords behaviour - at least until it gets hit hard enough to actually break.


Quite true, within normal operation parameters. However, there is a tendency for much of the modern blade population to stress blades simply to see how far and how many times the steel will remain resilient. MY own feeling is that agrat many doing so have no sense of proportion when flexing a blade, just to see how far a blade will bend and return to true. Very viable swords are dismissed (as mentioned by Bill above in a different context) as lemons because their expectations don't really relate to a sword being used as a sword..

There is something to be said for a blade that will be easily straightened vs one that breaks.

Fencers do bend and break blades. It happens.

Cheers

GC
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Ben J.




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 7:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

there is a tendency for much of the modern blade population to stress blades simply to see how far and how many times the steel will remain resilient. MY own feeling is that agrat many doing so have no sense of proportion when flexing a blade, just to see how far a blade will bend and return to true. Very viable swords are dismissed (as mentioned by Bill above in a different context) as lemons because their expectations don't really relate to a sword being used as a sword..

There is something to be said for a blade that will be easily straightened vs one that breaks.


If you're talking about bending a blade far enough that it does NOT return to true, then we're in a different set of materials properties criteria: We're talking about Plastic vs. Elastic Deformations. Quick primer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deformation_%28engineering%29

More specifically to steel, here is a nice graph which shows steel at various carbon contents - basically, the higher carbon content, the higher elastic limit (Yield Strength). http://www.qualitymag.com/articles/83862-do-y...measure-up

What that chart does not show is that the Ultimate Strength is REDUCED by higher carbon content - it is more brittle (this should come as no big surprise): http://www-materials.eng.cam.ac.uk/Steels%20T...alised.htm

Moreover, the more plastic deformation and straightening over time that occurs for a given the more issues begin to build up in the item: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_hardening https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residual_stress and the more likely it is to break.....

And all of that is without getting into the effects of tempering......

None of this is meant to dispute your (and Bill's) basic points - that hardness by itself does not indicate the effectiveness or utility of a blade, and that there is a (relatively wide) range of construction of swords, historically, which were effective and usable.

I've never personally seen anyone do destructive testing on a sword they bought 'just to see if it's good'. I wonder if your experience with people doing so is indicative of many people being unaware of how to 'use a sword as a sword'?
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 7:19 am    Post subject: Re: Are antique swords still springy and flexible?         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
Christopher B Lellis wrote:
Even if they haven't rusted through I wonder if there is another type of decay of the steel that is not necessarily noticeable to the naked eye, a kind of molecular decay. I ask this because I wonder if this Rockwell hardness is accurately determining a swords edge and other strength characteristics in that swords prime.


A decay like that requires extreme conditions (such as extreme torsion like being left in a bent position or extreme heat). Keep in mind that many tools such as chisels and knives were heat treated to be very hard and still are, so if an antique sword does not have same level of hardness as many modern swords, then it's because the makers did it that way on purpose.

Dr. Lee Jones has a sword (I believe it is 11th century, though I don't remember off of the top of my head) that was an incredibly well made and highly functional weapon that showed no signs of every having been heat treated. No hardening whatsoever. Now, that isn't the norm, but it does suggest we modern people are missing a part of the bigger picture by assuming swords have to be a certain hardness to be functional.


I am playing with the idea of ordering an unhardened sword to see how that functions on some realistic targets, but I don't know what should I go with, medium carbon steel, low carbon steel? I guess wrought iron would be best but that might be a bit expensive just to see it fail under pressure... Wink
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben J. wrote:
Glen A Cleeton wrote:

there is a tendency for much of the modern blade population to stress blades simply to see how far and how many times the steel will remain resilient. MY own feeling is that agrat many doing so have no sense of proportion when flexing a blade, just to see how far a blade will bend and return to true. Very viable swords are dismissed (as mentioned by Bill above in a different context) as lemons because their expectations don't really relate to a sword being used as a sword..

There is something to be said for a blade that will be easily straightened vs one that breaks.


If you're talking about bending a blade far enough that it does NOT return to true, then we're in a different set of materials properties criteria: We're talking about Plastic vs. Elastic Deformations. Quick primer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deformation_%28engineering%29

More specifically to steel, here is a nice graph which shows steel at various carbon contents - basically, the higher carbon content, the higher elastic limit (Yield Strength). http://www.qualitymag.com/articles/83862-do-y...measure-up

What that chart does not show is that the Ultimate Strength is REDUCED by higher carbon content - it is more brittle (this should come as no big surprise): http://www-materials.eng.cam.ac.uk/Steels%20T...alised.htm

Moreover, the more plastic deformation and straightening over time that occurs for a given the more issues begin to build up in the item: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_hardening https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residual_stress and the more likely it is to break.....

And all of that is without getting into the effects of tempering......

None of this is meant to dispute your (and Bill's) basic points - that hardness by itself does not indicate the effectiveness or utility of a blade, and that there is a (relatively wide) range of construction of swords, historically, which were effective and usable.

I've never personally seen anyone do destructive testing on a sword they bought 'just to see if it's good'. I wonder if your experience with people doing so is indicative of many people being unaware of how to 'use a sword as a sword'?


It is sometimes a case of a learning curve when new collectors acquire modern swords. I could point to endless threads on other bladeforums where cinder blocks, cars and dense wood are rather accepted as how truly modern swords may perform and newcomers flocking to such displays of "goodness". In one case and when pressed on his expectations, the response was that the sword was too nice to abuse. Go figure Wink

As to the engineering aspects you have posted in the thread, they are probably useful for far fewer than will bother to read them. I don't mean to seem too dismissive of folk new to swords but my own reading so, so many having problems in simply not knowing much about steel in general. Tossing out a raft of information to explain simplicity, it is often easier to teach with simple examples, say flexing a paperclip.

If I have a point to relate to your presentation of modulus, I would wonder how many using swords in the various timelines even bothered with physics beyond some common sense.

I cannot but point to many ad hoc reviews of swords where the flex of swords is mentioned. Alarmingly to me, are the ones doing so with Japanese style swords that have soft bodies and a hard edge. It is simply a matter of not knowing what to exepect. There are gentle tests and uniformed "let's see what happens" tests both by makers and ignorant (sic) newcomers.

Take my own use a few years ago in using a very fine blade to open watch cases. I got away with using it to pry for a long time before it simply had enough of me. Bummer Happy A case of using the wrong blade for the job, no matter that it excelled at it while it lasted. Needless to say, I rotated to yet another pen knife blade and still have yet to buy the correct tool (although I really should).

Long way but more simply, take it easy on the old and new blades.

Cheers

GC



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Kjell Magnusson




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 9:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Are antique swords still springy and flexible?         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:

I am playing with the idea of ordering an unhardened sword to see how that functions on some realistic targets, but I don't know what should I go with, medium carbon steel, low carbon steel? I guess wrought iron would be best but that might be a bit expensive just to see it fail under pressure... Wink


I'd say that depends on what time period and relative quality level (ie good for it's time or not) you want to test. Alan William's "The Sword and the Crucible" is probably the book you want to determine what kind of steel the sword you want to test would have been made from. And don't forget the inclusions, by modern standards most old steels would have been full of them. This can have significant impact on the properties of the steel. Even worse, the size and shape (for a given fraction) of the inclusion can also be significant.

All said and done, accurately simulating the properties of old swords probably requires a rather faithful adherence to the old methods of both steel-making and blade forging.
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Ben J.




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Apr, 2013 5:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

It is sometimes a case of a learning curve when new collectors acquire modern swords. I could point to endless threads on other bladeforums where cinder blocks, cars and dense wood are rather accepted as how truly modern swords may perform and newcomers flocking to such displays of "goodness". In one case and when pressed on his expectations, the response was that the sword was too nice to abuse. Go figure Wink

Gotcha - now I see what you're talking about....

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

As to the engineering aspects you have posted in the thread, they are probably useful for far fewer than will bother to read them. I don't mean to seem too dismissive of folk new to swords but my own reading so, so many having problems in simply not knowing much about steel in general. Tossing out a raft of information to explain simplicity, it is often easier to teach with simple examples, say flexing a paperclip.

True, though there will be that one person who finds this and learns from it. While more info may be harder for a newbie to sort through, explaining a concept in multiple ways increases the ability to reach more people with the overall gist of the matter.

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

If I have a point to relate to your presentation of modulus, I would wonder how many using swords in the various timelines even bothered with physics beyond some common sense.

If we're speaking historically, one thing I was trying to bring across in concert with your other points - people who knew how to use the sword correctly would not need to be concerned with the end of the graph that involves failure because they'd not push the sword that much under normal circumstances, nor would they need be concerned with fatigue because under normal use in the life of a sword, it really doesn't undergo so many cycles as necessary for that to become a major factor. So unless the sword was poorly manufactured..... why worry?

One reason I believe we see so few examples of 'practice' swords that have lasted to the modern day is that they were used extensively, and did wear out and get thrown away.

In terms of the pure physics of the thing, it wasn't really understood until the late 19th century anyway.

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

Long way but more simply, take it easy on the old and new blades.

My take on that - learn what a sword is (and is not) meant to do, with some context. Even for someone not interested in learning Sword-based martial arts, remember that even a modern sword is inherently tied to the history of swords - each one is a product of its time & place. RE-PRODUCTIONS are meant to be exactly that - tied to the historical context of when & where it's inspiration came. Learn what would have been expected of the type of sword you're using, and use it within its "design parameters".

As you say, a tool for a job. Swords change (a hell of a lot) over time because the job changes. If someone wants to buy a tool to destroy cinder blocks & cars, there are tools for that, but they are not antique swords or reproductions thereof.
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