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R. Kolick





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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 12:06 pm    Post subject: viking sword tips         Reply with quote

im currently on holiday in Scandinavia and while in Stockholm i visited the historika museum and there new viking exhibit was both stunning and enlightening but it brought up some questions. most high-end replicas have very rounded tips (albions, A&A, etc) and some of the blades i saw tapered to a much finer point than on the replicas (parts had been deteriorated but you can tell that the blade would have been an effective stabbing sword) so what im wondering is why do we assume that most viking swords would have that same rounded tip that early spathas have rather than a sharper point more suited to piercing chainmail an that is exhibited in several viking swords?
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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 3:05 pm    Post subject: Re: viking sword tips         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
im currently on holiday in Scandinavia and while in Stockholm i visited the historika museum and there new viking exhibit was both stunning and enlightening but it brought up some questions. most high-end replicas have very rounded tips (albions, A&A, etc) and some of the blades i saw tapered to a much finer point than on the replicas (parts had been deteriorated but you can tell that the blade would have been an effective stabbing sword) so what im wondering is why do we assume that most viking swords would have that same rounded tip that early spathas have rather than a sharper point more suited to piercing chainmail an that is exhibited in several viking swords?


Mostly, I imagine, because of the whole "never assume anything and always go off what evidence you have" thing you have in serious science/history... there is a low number of sharp-pointed Viking era blades versus a high number of rounded points. Of course, these rounded points may be the result of erosion/damage/rust/what have you, and the blade may have been more pointy before this damage happened, but do we KNOW?
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Tanner Sheltry




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They have broad flexible blades that a better for cutting not thrusting.
the more skill a man has with his weapon the more gentle and courteous should he behave, for in truth this is rightly the honour of a brave Gentleman, and so much more is he to be esteemed: he must not be a bragger, or lier, and without truth in his word, because there is nothing more to be required of a man than to know himself" - Vincentio Saviolo
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's interesting how this typical viking age misconception has been so dominant on the market.
No, not all swords had roundish or fatty tips, especially not those from Sweden during the later part of the Viking age.

Here's a narrow thick bladed Viking age sword with no apparent fuller found near Adelsö (near Birka).







Link to the Kringla website:
http://www.kringla.nu/kringla/objekt?text=sv%...ect/263029

It seems to me a sword like this would be well suited for thrusting and could be quite rigid.

Hopefully we'll see more tip diversity from the manufacturers in the future.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge


Last edited by Johan Gemvik on Wed 05 Jun, 2013 4:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oakeshott noted a term, maekir, that Viking-age cultures seemed to have used to refer to pointier swords. See this thread for info: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=27562 .

So not all were rounded.

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 4:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Chad.
The photos I just posted, that would be a Maekir then? It almost looks like a sturdy Rapier even.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a couple more pics of viking swords with pointy tips for you...


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Matt Lentzner




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jun, 2013 10:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I always wondered why a sword would be made with a rounded tip anyway - even if a dedicated cutter. What's the downside of having a point? It might come in handy.

Although the point was certainly not for defeating mail. In an era when a helmet was a luxury you wouldn't need it often enough. That's an entirely different design with a stiff sword that tends to be thrust oriented.
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William Swiger




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jun, 2013 1:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding of the rounded tips is they delivered devastating cuts.

I personally like and appreciate both styles.
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jun, 2013 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William Swiger wrote:
My understanding of the rounded tips is they delivered devastating cuts.

I personally like and appreciate both styles.


I have also heard this. Not sure if its ever been truly vetted out, but I have seen cutting videos and examples of "nipping" type cuts, cuts utilizing just the tip section with rounded tips and the results were impressive. Now the question is, does a rounded tip make for a better cut using the tip, or would you get similar results with a more pronounced pointed tip?

Not sure, it would be interesting to find out.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jun, 2013 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I completely agree with this observation: Not all viking period swords had spatulate points.

A shaped almost like a gothic arch is something that some/many viking period blades share with roman spathae as well as many celtic long swords.
This cuts across the general notion that celtic long swords lacked a point all together and that the roman spatha had a triangular point.
Typical examples of "truths" that are being repeated over and over again until they are accepted as reliable facts, despite what actual swords from the period look like.

It is funny to hear that Albion is used as an example of swords that are too blunt in their points, as I have also heard critique that they are too pointy! :-)
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jun, 2013 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How rounded is a rounded tip anyway? Just the very tip rounded or a broad "U" end? No point at all just like live steel blades with safe tips?

I have swords with almond shaped tips, like the lower example of the two Tim posted above.
I'd call this a clear but broad thrusting tip that cuts as much as pierces when you stab with it into a target. When thrusting you go through 15 layers of cloth like butter with these as long as the tip edges are kept razor sharp.

These swords cut great. Pork meat and bone, tatamis, wet rolled up newspapers, plastic bottles, wooden dowels (well the dowels break rather than bifurcate) whatever you want. But I always cut at the outer COP, not at the tip as these type X broadswords just flex and lose a lot of power for that type of cut. The cuts lose something like 70-80% of the cutting power from flexing rather than shearing using the tip compared to the COP. It might still be enough to end a fight, but it might also jar the blade out of your hand and you won't cut bone with a cut like that.

A thick spatha style sword with no fuller or even with no distall taper would probably cut well with a U-tip if it was sharp edged though.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Jun, 2013 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

After reading through the posts on this thread I quickly scanned though my copy of Ian Pierce's "Swords of the Viking Age". While I did not count, the photographs in it appeared show as many swords with pointed tips as wih spatulate tips. My personal favorite, the Witham 1848 find, is a prime example. I have a reproduction of this sword (not a terribly great reproduction, but the blade profile is quite similar) that I've cut with a number of times. While cutting up a pumpkin sitting on a wooden picnic table I learned that a pointed tip can also deliver quite a "nipping" cut (as Bryan describes it) when the last 1/4" tip of the blade scored a deep arc in the wood surface while the broader part of the blade cut clean through a 50 lb. pumpkin. I am not claiming that his constitutes a basis for comparing the tip cutting ability between blade types, but in my mind it is evidence that the configuration and weight distribution of a more pointed blade type is capable of delivering heavy tip cuts without sustaining blade damage. The tip of my blade showed no sign whatsoever of the long cut through the wood.
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R. Kolick





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Jun, 2013 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

on the rounded tip and more flexible blade makes a sword cut better, i just want to understand why this would make sense on the rounded tip part this seems to me that it has very little credibility the reasoning ive read on threads or in articles is that it adds mass to the point giving more momentum to the slash but when looking at the weapons the blade doesn't need a round tip to do that in fact it works the reverse if you taper the tip you make the blade longer and moving the mass farther from the fulcrum creating more power in the cut using the same amount of material now i may have my reasoning wrong so feel free to correct me and with flexible blades this tends to work against the swords cut a stiff sword cuts more effectively because it wastes less energy on the vibrations that being said the vibrations from a more flexible sword will make the wound larger even if its not deeper so that might be an explanation but i guess that would depend on what you want out of the blade
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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jun, 2013 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is an excellent discussion, well done Mr Kolick for posing such an interesting question. One possibility that I've considered that is a bit off the beaten path :

Could the rounded point reflect the practical limitations of the materials used in crafting the weapon? Think about it... the Vikings were incredibly skilled metal workers, but ,as far as my understanding goes (and I could be entirely incorrect,so let me know) most swords of the viking era were forged with an iron core,and hardened (carburized) edges. I would assume that with a soft iron core, the sword would be prone to bending,even with heat treated edges. A wide tip would ensure the maximum amount of strength from the materials. In this sense,the rounded tip seems very practical,especially since powerful,slashing attacks would be stressful on a thin tip.

Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
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Matt Lentzner




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jun, 2013 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is from Wikipedia on the Spatha:

Quote:
While the infantry version had a long point, versions carried by the cavalry had a rounded tip that prevented accidental stabbing of the cavalryman's foot.


Which is weird since cavalrymen of other armies didn't seem to have this problem. It would also suggest that Viking swords with spatulate tips were quite old and had been Roman cavalry swords at one time.

Another speculative idea I had was that, along the same lines at commented above, the tip was a weak point that often broke. If it broke you certainly wouldn't throw an incredibly valuable and prestigious sword away - just grind it smooth and you can still slash with the tip. Considering how these swords were heirlooms and kept for generations it could certainly seem intentional from a historian's point of view. How thin is that?
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jun, 2013 6:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Lentzner wrote:
I always wondered why a sword would be made with a rounded tip anyway - even if a dedicated cutter. What's the downside of having a point? It might come in handy.


If the tip of the blade is thin and broad, you can cut very well with it. The same applies to the rest of the blade, too - thinner means better cutting, as long as it doesn't become too flexible. Thin and broad means you can have more acute edge angles, and the thinness means that you don't need to push much material of the target aside.

If you want the blade to be thin and broad all the way to the tip, you need a rounded tip. If you have the tip being thin and narrow, it can be weak. In particular, it can fold on thrusting - a broader rounded tip can be better for thrusting than a pointy tip, if they are of the same thickness and very thin.

If you want pointy, you want the tip to be thicker. An extreme of this is needle-pointed longswords, where the blade is almost square in cross section near the tip.

Lots of British 1796 pattern cavalry sabres were converted from the original hatchet point (a broad thin point) to a spear point to improve thrusting. From lengths I've seen, they seem to have lost a couple of inches of length in the process, more than needed to just get a pointy tip. The extra lost length will give a thicker tip, as you would want for it to survive thrusting.

"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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R. Kolick





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PostPosted: Wed 12 Jun, 2013 1:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isaac H. wrote:

Could the rounded point reflect the practical limitations of the materials used in crafting the weapon? Think about it... the Vikings were incredibly skilled metal workers, but ,as far as my understanding goes (and I could be entirely incorrect,so let me know) most swords of the viking era were forged with an iron core,and hardened (carburized) edges. I would assume that with a soft iron core, the sword would be prone to bending,even with heat treated edges. A wide tip would ensure the maximum amount of strength from the materials. In this sense,the rounded tip seems very practical,especially since powerful,slashing attacks would be stressful on a thin tip.


that is true for some blades but to what degree im not sure (to test that it would require a lot of quality blades hand made with period materials and would cost a fortune) but there where some sword Ulfberht swords for example where made from crucible steel (pure steel with no slag) which the vikings got through trade routes to the east through Russia down to Constantinople and Baghdad or Damascus along with every stop in between (not sure where one of the furnaces where found it was Eurasian for sure just cant remember where) this steel was far superior to any steel used at the time or for that matter any steel till the industrial revolution but those are by far the minority im interested to see where this idea goes you bring up a very good point and thank you for the compliment
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Peter Anderson




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Jun, 2013 4:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
Isaac H. wrote:

Could the rounded point reflect the practical limitations of the materials used in crafting the weapon? Think about it... the Vikings were incredibly skilled metal workers, but ,as far as my understanding goes (and I could be entirely incorrect,so let me know) most swords of the viking era were forged with an iron core,and hardened (carburized) edges. I would assume that with a soft iron core, the sword would be prone to bending,even with heat treated edges. A wide tip would ensure the maximum amount of strength from the materials. In this sense,the rounded tip seems very practical,especially since powerful,slashing attacks would be stressful on a thin tip.


that is true for some blades but to what degree im not sure (to test that it would require a lot of quality blades hand made with period materials and would cost a fortune) but there where some sword Ulfberht swords for example where made from crucible steel (pure steel with no slag) which the vikings got through trade routes to the east through Russia down to Constantinople and Baghdad or Damascus along with every stop in between (not sure where one of the furnaces where found it was Eurasian for sure just cant remember where) this steel was far superior to any steel used at the time or for that matter any steel till the industrial revolution but those are by far the minority im interested to see where this idea goes you bring up a very good point and thank you for the compliment


Great steel is still beholden to the laws of physics. The thinner it is, the more likely it is to break or bend. Otherwise, the Ulfbehrt and Damascus blades might as well have been paper thin and pencil wide their full length. This is still true with modern steel at our best capability. It's just a fact of the steel.
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Nicholas A. Gaese




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Jun, 2013 5:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
Quote:
but there where some sword Ulfberht swords for example where made from crucible steel (pure steel with no slag) which the vikings got through trade routes to the east through Russia down to Constantinople and Baghdad or Damascus along with every stop in between (not sure where one of the furnaces where found it was Eurasian for sure just cant remember where) this steel was far superior to any steel used at the time or for that matter any steel till the industrial revolution


This is a bit off topic, but while a Eurasian source is very possible for the Ulfberht blades it's also equally possible for them to be Frankish blades. Frankish swords were of very high quality at the time and were highly sought after by everyone outside of the empire, even in the middle east. While crucible steel was made in Eurasia it was also believed that similar methods were used to create similar materials along the Rhine. It's difficult to find evidence for this, but when you compare the differences in development between these two locations it's not hard to wonder why. There is nice discussion about this in a thread on this forum, if you look up "Ulfberht" I'm sure something would come up, it sure was an interesting read.

As to my take on the difference in tips, I think it has to do with a change in trends. On the European mainland swords with a less broad tip were also starting to show up, be it for fashion or function. Naturally these changes could have effected Scandinavian tastes and thus different swords appear. A simple shift in styles and focus I guess.


Regards.
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