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Tunji S.




Location: Pembroke Pines, Fl
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 1:26 am    Post subject: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

Hello everyone, I'm in a lack of knowledge position that only experts can help me with. I've been writing a fantasy (i use that genre loosely) book for a few years now and i'm at the point in the book that i need help with weapons and armor. I'm a huge history buff and have been fascinated with history since i can remember. Because of this, my historical half wont allow me to write, describe, or create crazy fantasy swords that would be completely useless in real fight. In fact, I've taken it upon my self to be as historically accurate with the arms i'm writing about, as i can manage without interfering with the story. This site has been instrumental in teaching me about arms and armor but i have some questions that i cant find on the site so any help to some questions will be much appreciated. I may post some questions that may sound aberrant, but i assure you, their for the greater good (of the world!)

Here are just a few questions I've been wondering about and please feel free to give me an answer even if your not 100% sure. You can answer one or all, you can also message me as well. Oh and there are general questions for history as a whole. if the answer to a question is "yes" in one period, and "no" in another, please let me know and elaborate as much as you wish.

1.) Are European swords the only kind to be worn off the hip with a belt and or rings.
2.) Were the Japanese the only ones to tuck their swords in sashes.
3.) Aside from samurai, did any other culture wear two swords. and if so how were they worn
4.) Were small swords or rapiers only used for stabbing or were they semi-useful at slashing
5.) Were large swords worn on an individual to the battle field or were they carried in the hand or by horses.
6.) Did people really name their swords, and if so, were names only given to heirlooms and or ceremonial swords.
7.) Was it common to wear swords where ever one went (in any period in history). i mean would you have carried it around like we do cell phones today
8.) Was there a general size swords were manufactured in. (pick a period if you wish)
9.) Were women ever armed for any reason
10.) Were inscriptions on blades common
12.) Were designs on scabbards common
13.) I read somewhere that most swords worn by solders were one handed, but left room on the grip for two handed swings. is that true?
14.) Around what time did armorers shift to steel from iron (a century will do)
15.) Does anyone have any pictures or information about sword belts and scabbards, i'm having a hard time describing how they were worn and what they would have looked like in detail. (any time period will do, i just need a wide variety of ideas to work with)
16.) Is there a correct name for a sword belt or were they just known as sword belts
17.) How were small blades (maybe a few inches long) kept on ones person
18.) Were scabbards always wood wrapped in leather or was steel used as a core

That's all i can think of now, i'm sure ill run into more in the future. Thanks in advance

Only gods and generals are immortal.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 2:26 am    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

Tunji S. wrote:

1.) Are European swords the only kind to be worn off the hip with a belt and or rings.


No. Same was done in China, Korea, Japan (tachi, not katana), and probably elsewhere.

Tunji S. wrote:

2.) Were the Japanese the only ones to tuck their swords in sashes.


No. This is/was common through much of Central Asia, Philippines, India, Middle East, Balkans, and IIRC Iron Age Europe. Probably elsewhere too.

Tunji S. wrote:

3.) Aside from samurai, did any other culture wear two swords. and if so how were they worn


India and China. There is some info on Indian wearing of two swords in Egerton, with the second sword being a softer and less fragile steel. I have been told the Chinese did the same.

Tunji S. wrote:

4.) Were small swords or rapiers only used for stabbing or were they semi-useful at slashing


Some rapiers will be quite OK at cutting. (A rapier is very different to a smallsword.)

Tunji S. wrote:

7.) Was it common to wear swords where ever one went (in any period in history). i mean would you have carried it around
like we do cell phones today


It's been done. Especially when the sword is also a working tool (e.g., golok).

Tunji S. wrote:

9.) Were women ever armed for any reason


Yes. Reasons include self-defense, weapons as symbols of status, women being armed because they are soldiers, hunting weapons. Sometimes they carried special "women's weapons", and sometimes the same kinds of weapons as men.

Tunji S. wrote:

12.) Were designs on scabbards common


Yes. Common into modern times.

Tunji S. wrote:

13.) I read somewhere that most swords worn by solders were one handed, but left room on the grip for two handed
swings. is that true?


No. Most European military swords, 17th century and later: purely one-handed. Most Indian military swords: purely one-handed. We see some European Medieval swords with long grips, many Chinese swords with long grips, and many Japanese swords with long grips. That makes a large minority, but I think a minority rather than a majority.

Tunji S. wrote:

14.) Around what time did armorers shift to steel from iron (a century will do)


Armourers kept using iron until the end of body armour. So it isn't a shift from iron to steel, but rather than addition of steel, while keeping iron in use.

Tunji S. wrote:

18.) Were scabbards always wood wrapped in leather or was steel used as a core


I don't know of any steel core scabbards. There were iron and steel scabbards, with wooden linings. Wood core and leather was common (Europe, India, China, Korea), but other types of construction were used too: all leather (Europe, Mexico, Philippines, China), all wood (SE Asia, Europe, Japan), wood core and fabric cover (Europe, India, Central Asia), wood core and cord wrap, wood core and rattan wrap, wood core and wire wrap, one-sided wood open on the other with blade held by wire or similar (Central Asia, Taiwan, SE Asia), and wickerwork sword-baskets.

"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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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the compact German/Austrian swords known as Katzbalgers sometimes were worn tucked into a sash in the first half of the 16th c.

In the same period, some men who used the large two-hand swords (carried on the shoulder like a rifle) also wore the Katzbalger at their waist.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Kuo Xie




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

1.) No, this is a common way to wear a sword
2.) Don't know
3.) Many cultures wore two swords. The Philipino martial art kali teaches the use of two shorter blades, although I am unsure how these were worn in period. Another example is the rapier/long dagger combination of the European Renaissance, worn on the belt in a suspension of leather straps.
4.) 'Rapier' is a catch-all term and covers many different blade types so it's hard to answer the question. Smallsword is definitely thrust-oriented
5.) Generally speaking they were carried into battle on the saddle or in the hand, not worn
6.) Yes, many swords were named
7.) Highly dependent on the time and place
8.) No
9.) Yes. The Japanese naginata, for example is traditionally a woman's weapon
10.) Yes
12.) Yes
13.) No (tentative). dedicated one- or two- handers SEEM to me to be more common than in-betweeners.
14.) Steel has been around as long as iron has, but the process of deliberately introducing carbon into iron to make steel was haphazard until the 14th century when the blast furnace was invented in Europe (it had been invented in China 1000 years previously)
15.) Look a the 'kits and harnesses' thread on this site
16.) Don't know
17.) Don't know
18.) Metal scabbards housing mass-produced military sabres and such appear in Europe with the rise of powerful nation states and state armies, I want to say in the 17th century. Before that they were rare.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 3:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The subject in the header doesn't have any relevance to the actual questions that were asked.
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Kyle Eaton





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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

4. Depends on the sword, some rapiers could be created to cut as well as stab, and some small weapons could be designed to block as well. Many swords especially in the high medieval ages, Renaissance and so on had cross hilts just for blocking. A parrying dagger is a good example.

6. Some people do and some do not. The Norse Vikings were known for naming their spears, swords, and axes.

7. Depends on the prosperity of the place and if the people were rich enough to own a sword. Swords were tools for war, protection, and ceremonial use. It could be as common as people owning a handgun to protect themselves in Modern days. Depends whether the person was paranoid enough to carry around a long piece of metal by their waist.

9. Norse women during the Viking Age used weapons.
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Harry Marinakis




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 7:24 pm    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

Tunji S. wrote:
10.) Were inscriptions on blades common


No.

Late in the Medieval period there were some inscriptions on blades with decorative metal inlays. Obviously this had to be done after the blade was forged. But this practice was brief and not common. Often these inscriptions were religious in nature.

Other methods marking sword blades were much more common than inscribing.

Early in the iron age, the maker stamped his blades with a small maker's mark, but these marks were often hidden under the sword's handle.

Probably the most common method of marking the blade was to chisel words and/or symbols into the blade during the forging process. The ULFBERHT and DOMINI blades of the migration period are great examples. The ULFBERHT words are thought to be the bladesmith's name (or the bladesmith's forge or guild). The DOMINI blades were religious incantations.

So... to answer your question... inscriptions on blades were present only in the later Medieval period, and it was NOT a commn practice to inscribe a blade.

Tunji S. wrote:
14.) Around what time did armorers shift to steel from iron


Depends of what object you are asking about. Generally there was a transition over centuries. In the iron age it was all iron. Then there was a transition period when iron and steel were both used (e.g., pattern-welded swords, and iron knives with steel edges). Each metal object had its own transition history. For example, pattern-welded swords were being made in the 2nd Century but pattern-welded knives were still being made in the 12th Century long after swords were all being made out of steel. (Pattern welding is an attempt to mix a little bit of steel with iron during the forging process to make a stronger weapon, but without the cost and forging difficulties of using all steel.)

So to answer your question... the transition was approx between the 2nd and 12th Centuries.


Last edited by Harry Marinakis on Fri 28 Jun, 2013 8:25 pm; edited 8 times in total
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 7:56 pm    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

The more I think about many of these questions, the more I think the answer will be "It varied!" and "It depends". Frankly I think you'll be a lot happier, and have a much more readable book, if you let history guide through what's possible or unlikely, and have fun beyond that. You also may be getting into WAY too much detail--there are fabulous books out there that never get any more detailed than "sword".

Tunji S. wrote:
3.) Aside from samurai, did any other culture wear two swords. and if so how were they worn


Wasn't it common in the 14th and 15th centuries to wear a shorter sword like the estoc on the belt, and have the long "sword of war" hung from the saddle?

Quote:
7.) Was it common to wear swords where ever one went (in any period in history). i mean would you have carried it around like we do cell phones today


This varies wildly depending on time, place, and social class, from "mandatory" to "forbidden". As I understand it, medieval noblemen could carry a sword as a matter of habit. It wasn't paranoia or even really for protection, that's just what a gentleman did. But the practice of going armed is quite ancient--it was common for free men in Saxon England to carry spears in public, and there were laws to say who was to blame if anyone was wounded by your spear. Later there were militia laws in England (and elsewhere) laying out the weapons a man was required to own. There were also times and places where a peasant could be hung if caught with a sword. In the Roman Empire, most provincial areas were disarmed (theoretically!), and it was against the law to carry weapons openly in Rome itself. But anyone who had to travel the city streets at night went with a couple burly slaves with cudgels, and any wealthy residence had a respectable arsenal in case of civil unrest or a REALLY important election. Out in the provinces, soldiers were typically allowed to carry weapons off-duty, while civilians were not.

Quote:
14.) Around what time did armorers shift to steel from iron (a century will do)


Roman lorica segmentata plates from the first century AD are generally a low-carbon steel, and harder on the outside than on the inside.

Most of the rest of the answers are "It varied!" Sorry about that... If you're just looking for some basic examples of various things, a few decent books or a little Googling will turn up quite a few possibilities.

Matthew
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 9:42 pm    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

Harry Marinakis wrote:
Tunji S. wrote:
10.) Were inscriptions on blades common


No.

Late in the Medieval period there were some inscriptions on blades with decorative metal inlays. Obviously this had to be done after the blade was forged. But this practice was brief and not common. Often these inscriptions were religious in nature.

Other methods marking sword blades were much more common than inscribing.

Early in the iron age, the maker stamped his blades with a small maker's mark, but these marks were often hidden under the sword's handle.

Probably the most common method of marking the blade was to chisel words and/or symbols into the blade during the forging process. The ULFBERHT and DOMINI blades of the migration period are great examples. The ULFBERHT words are thought to be the bladesmith's name (or the bladesmith's forge or guild). The DOMINI blades were religious incantations.

So... to answer your question... inscriptions on blades were present only in the later Medieval period, and it was NOT a commn practice to inscribe a blade.

Are you trying to make a distinction between uninlaid engravings, and inlaid inscriptions? I am unsure, but it seems likely the OP is asking about any form of inscription, including inlaid inscription...

Inlaid inscriptions and symbols were quite common starting in the late-early medieval (aka Viking Period) through the High Medieval and Late Medieval. By the 11th C,silver, latten, or gold inlays were replacing the early iron inlays of the Viking period. These soft metal invocations and symbols were not at all uncommon if the swords we have available to us now are at all representative.

Now, true "engraving" without any form of inlay is rather rare, but as a whole inlaid inscriptions or symbols are quite common up through atleast the 14th C

Also, ALL inlaid swords (except perhaps the earliest VLFBERHTs) date after the Migration period. The INOMINIDOMINI swords are primarily believed to be from the 11th C, well after the migration period had ended.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Harry Marinakis




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 10:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the clarifications Robin.

The OP asked about inscription, which is printing or engraving of letters, words or symbols.

Inscriptions were no where near as common as chiseled & welded inlays. And if I recall correctly, ULFBERHT started producing inlaid swords around the 7th Century AD, which is during the migration period.

Now that you mention it, wasn't DOMINI something found on the early Crusader's blades?
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 11:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harry Marinakis wrote:
Thank you for the clarifications Robin.

The OP asked about inscription, which is printing or engraving of letters, words or symbols.

Inscriptions were no where near as common as chiseled & welded inlays. And if I recall correctly, ULFBERHT started producing inlaid swords around the 7th Century AD, which is during the migration period.

Now that you mention it, wasn't DOMINI something found on the early Crusader's blades?

Only iron and pattern-welded inlays were welded. Later soft metal inlays were simply inlaid "cold".

The first VLFBERHTs appeared on hilt types and in contexts that indicate manufacture in the late 8th C (which is why I said the "except perhaps the earliest VLFBERHTs"), but this is the very tail end of the Migration era. However, out of the hundreds of surviving VLFBERHTs this is only a small handful. The majority, including the vaunted crucible steel H+T variants, were later in the heart of the 9th-10th C.*

Yes, the INOMINDOMINI inlays tend to appear on hilt and blade forms that suggest 11th C or early 12th, so potentially they could have belonged to early Crusaders.

I think our major disagreement is you interpreted "inscription" more narrowly than I. What you are speaking of, I would usually call an "engraving". Semantics, meh....

*Which brings up a personal pet peeve of mine that I have posted here before. Recently, in the wake of that documentary, people have been led to believe that the crucible steel VLFBERHTs were the "originals" and other variants were "knock offs". However, all VLFBERHTs of crucible steel construction have H+T signature variants exclusively. This variant is associated mostly with later hilt styles like the Type X. Now one could say "well they were rehilted in later styles because they were so treasured" or somesuch, however... The vary earliest VLFBERHT examples appear to correspond to the HT+ signature and appear to be quench hardened bloomery steel on a lower carbon piled core. So far the evidence points to that variant being "the original" and the crucible steel variants being the "knock off". But I suppose that's really for another thread...

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Tunji S.




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 1:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the answers everyone, i really appreciate it.
Only gods and generals are immortal.
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Tunji S.




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 1:31 am    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
The more I think about many of these questions, the more I think the answer will be "It varied!" and "It depends". Frankly I think you'll be a lot happier, and have a much more readable book, if you let history guide through what's possible or unlikely, and have fun beyond that. You also may be getting into WAY too much detail--there are fabulous books out there that never get any more detailed than "sword".

Tunji S. wrote:
3.) Aside from samurai, did any other culture wear two swords. and if so how were they worn


Wasn't it common in the 14th and 15th centuries to wear a shorter sword like the estoc on the belt, and have the long "sword of war" hung from the saddle?

Quote:
7.) Was it common to wear swords where ever one went (in any period in history). i mean would you have carried it around like we do cell phones today


This varies wildly depending on time, place, and social class, from "mandatory" to "forbidden". As I understand it, medieval noblemen could carry a sword as a matter of habit. It wasn't paranoia or even really for protection, that's just what a gentleman did. But the practice of going armed is quite ancient--it was common for free men in Saxon England to carry spears in public, and there were laws to say who was to blame if anyone was wounded by your spear. Later there were militia laws in England (and elsewhere) laying out the weapons a man was required to own. There were also times and places where a peasant could be hung if caught with a sword. In the Roman Empire, most provincial areas were disarmed (theoretically!), and it was against the law to carry weapons openly in Rome itself. But anyone who had to travel the city streets at night went with a couple burly slaves with cudgels, and any wealthy residence had a respectable arsenal in case of civil unrest or a REALLY important election. Out in the provinces, soldiers were typically allowed to carry weapons off-duty, while civilians were not.

Quote:
14.) Around what time did armorers shift to steel from iron (a century will do)


Roman lorica segmentata plates from the first century AD are generally a low-carbon steel, and harder on the outside than on the inside.

Most of the rest of the answers are "It varied!" Sorry about that... If you're just looking for some basic examples of various things, a few decent books or a little Googling will turn up quite a few possibilities.

Matthew


As it turns out, i know i am asking a lot since it depends greatly what period of history one is talking about, that's why i said you can answer a question related to any period you want. i would just like to have answers and ideas about what i'm writing about. the majority of my book is fiction but weaponry as well as transportation, governments and such are historical in nature. But since i'm not bound to any period in history, i can mix and match certain ideas and occurrences that may very well never have happened in history but as long as i know what i'm talking about, then i'm in a much better position to entertain an audience.

When it comes to the details, you have to consider that yes i could just write the word sword, or say "His sword was great." but trust me, it only works if that's what your going for. Many books don't get to detailed and work fine, while others get very detailed and work fine as well. My book just happens to be the latter so i need details in everything, even if i use it in the book or not. Trust me, it is a lot easier to skip extreme details, but if i have to to spend half a page describing a sword, i need to know the most i can about it to help the audience see something that resembles what i see

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Kyle Eaton





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A side question: I have read observed and read sources stating that early human civilization learned to work steel. Then I have read sources that state that what people have described as iron is actually a type of steel. What is the difference between iron and steel? Is it determined by how much impurities were removed from the metal itself?
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Iron is without carbon. When you have any trace of carbon in iron, it is already a low carbon steel...
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T. Kew




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 8:29 am    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

Tunji S. wrote:
When it comes to the details, you have to consider that yes i could just write the word sword, or say "His sword was great." but trust me, it only works if that's what your going for. Many books don't get to detailed and work fine, while others get very detailed and work fine as well. My book just happens to be the latter so i need details in everything, even if i use it in the book or not. Trust me, it is a lot easier to skip extreme details, but if i have to to spend half a page describing a sword, i need to know the most i can about it to help the audience see something that resembles what i see


With respect to your literary talents and so on, I really don't think this is a good approach unless you're very familiar not only with specific details about the clothes, weapons, armour and so on you're describing, but also the implications of these. Cherry-picking interesting things and describing them in detail leads to nonsensical combinations - I'm reminded of a scene in an early book in the Game of Thrones series, where a knight is fighting a duel in lavishly described full plate armour, wielding a fairly accurately portrayed longsword... and using a kite shield. The author's attention to detail leaves the scene ringing false, because while each of the items included is fairly accurately described and very visually evocative, the collected set just doesn't work in any sensible way. Extensive description also has a tendency to kill dramatic pacing - a cowboy who quickdraws his gun and shoots an assassin is a classic scene, but it loses much of its power if there's a two-page interlude describing the ornate etching on the cylinder, technical details of the gun, and specific features of his custom hand-loaded ammunition.

By all means, do extensive research and have a very good personal idea about the equipment you're equipping your heroes with, how it works and is used, what it implies about the rest of their equipment or their attitudes to fighting or life (e.g. if you want to equip someone with a large shield, that tends to mean they aren't armoured beyond mail or so, as plate makes shields relatively irrelevant). That can be used to make what descriptions you give more depth and believability. But for books in particular, don't feel that you need to be giving the readers a perfect description so they have exactly the same mental image as you do - it takes up lots of their reading time which they might prefer to be spent advancing the events instead, and it doesn't really gain anything in most cases. If you describe "a longsword with a golden crown inlaid on the blade", it doesn't really matter if I picture a wickedly fast type XIX with side rings, someone else thinks of a large cleaving XIIa, but you were thinking of a high-medieval XVa. Indeed, most of the time it'll probably be fine if yet another reader is thinking of a type XI single-handed crusader sword, and a fourth is instead picturing Conan's sword. And by only laying down enough of a basic description for people to be getting on with, you avoid many flaws of inconsistency that over-detailing can lead to, and let the pacing and dramatic tension of a scene flow without interruption.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Iron is without carbon. When you have any trace of carbon in iron, it is already a low carbon steel...


To clarify further, "any trace" is usually taken to be 0.05% or 0.02% or 0.008% (this last is the maximum carbon content for "pure" iron, I think be ASME standards). These levels are far too low to let you harden anything; for that, try above 0.3% carbon. In between, you have mild steel. These low carbon steel will often be called "iron", but by modern industrial standards, they are steel. Plenty of ancient iron was, by these standards, steel.

We use mild steel rather than iron because we make steels via decarburisation of cast iron (which is neither an iron nor a steel, since it's over 2.1% carbon, which is the usual upper limit for steels in modern standards), and once the carbon content is low enough to not matter, there is no point in spending more money to reduce it to zero (or below 0.008%) except for special purposes. This makes the distinction between iron and mild steel important now, but the useful ancient and Medieval classification would be based on whether or not it could be hardened by quenching (and also whether or not it could be usefully work-hardened, or would undesirably work-harden).

"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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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo is right. The way iron and steel is defined today seems completely arbitrary. It has nothing to do with carbon content; what we call "cast iron" has a higher carbon content than "mild steel, but pretty much all iron has some level of carbon in it. The only sensible definition would be to classify steel as an alloy of iron and carbon that is capable of being hardened by working and quenching. If you use this definition then the ancients have been working with steel since the very beginnning of iron working. We have Hittite blades made from steel dating back to the Bronze Age.

Steel is steel; it isn't magic. The only thing that changes as time goes on is the ability to control the process. A good quality Renaissance blade is no better than a good quality La Tene blade. More advanced technologies and techniques just mean that they get easier to produce so they become cheaper and more widely available. It isn't until the modern era with the ability to use modern chemistry and modern tools to precisely control alloying elements and hardening processes do you see a marked improvement in steel.
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Tunji S.




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Jul, 2013 12:55 am    Post subject: Re: I need help with armor for a book i'm writing         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
Tunji S. wrote:
When it comes to the details, you have to consider that yes i could just write the word sword, or say "His sword was great." but trust me, it only works if that's what your going for. Many books don't get to detailed and work fine, while others get very detailed and work fine as well. My book just happens to be the latter so i need details in everything, even if i use it in the book or not. Trust me, it is a lot easier to skip extreme details, but if i have to to spend half a page describing a sword, i need to know the most i can about it to help the audience see something that resembles what i see


With respect to your literary talents and so on, I really don't think this is a good approach unless you're very familiar not only with specific details about the clothes, weapons, armour and so on you're describing, but also the implications of these. Cherry-picking interesting things and describing them in detail leads to nonsensical combinations - I'm reminded of a scene in an early book in the Game of Thrones series, where a knight is fighting a duel in lavishly described full plate armour, wielding a fairly accurately portrayed longsword... and using a kite shield. The author's attention to detail leaves the scene ringing false, because while each of the items included is fairly accurately described and very visually evocative, the collected set just doesn't work in any sensible way. Extensive description also has a tendency to kill dramatic pacing - a cowboy who quickdraws his gun and shoots an assassin is a classic scene, but it loses much of its power if there's a two-page interlude describing the ornate etching on the cylinder, technical details of the gun, and specific features of his custom hand-loaded ammunition.

By all means, do extensive research and have a very good personal idea about the equipment you're equipping your heroes with, how it works and is used, what it implies about the rest of their equipment or their attitudes to fighting or life (e.g. if you want to equip someone with a large shield, that tends to mean they aren't armoured beyond mail or so, as plate makes shields relatively irrelevant). That can be used to make what descriptions you give more depth and believability. But for books in particular, don't feel that you need to be giving the readers a perfect description so they have exactly the same mental image as you do - it takes up lots of their reading time which they might prefer to be spent advancing the events instead, and it doesn't really gain anything in most cases. If you describe "a longsword with a golden crown inlaid on the blade", it doesn't really matter if I picture a wickedly fast type XIX with side rings, someone else thinks of a large cleaving XIIa, but you were thinking of a high-medieval XVa. Indeed, most of the time it'll probably be fine if yet another reader is thinking of a type XI single-handed crusader sword, and a fourth is instead picturing Conan's sword. And by only laying down enough of a basic description for people to be getting on with, you avoid many flaws of inconsistency that over-detailing can lead to, and let the pacing and dramatic tension of a scene flow without interruption.


I take your words into full consideration and wholly agree with you. I actually don't over describe many of the weapons and armor i write about. I only give great detail to the weapons and such, once if they are important or reoccurring, and only in slow paced scenes where the intent is to deliver information. I give short refreshers where i feel its needed. I would never purposefully slow the pacing of scene to add detail, but i feel i can add it every now and then where it counts. I do believe that less strong detail, is better than long winded ones but there are times where you have to take a page to describe something if a lot of elements are in play. That's why i wrote this post so in those rare instances where i need to go into great detail, ill know how to deliver the information as short and concisely as possible. I dont know the difference between the XVa and the XIIa ( i know its on the site) so i wont go into such detail because i know the majority of my readers wont either so i try to walk a fine line, but that why we have revisions. By the way, i felt Game of Thrones did that whole over detailing thing in the first two books but Martin got wise and cut it out in the later books. unfortunately his characters are still lost on a hamster wheel, but that's a discussion for another time.

Only gods and generals are immortal.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Jul, 2013 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you still have this many questions to ask before writing your novel, I think you're subconsciously feeling that your knowledge is still inadequate to tackle the task. So go easy on yourself. Put the project aside, go buy more books and visit more websites, and come back to it when you're more comfortable with the knowledge you've gained in the meantime. Or narrow down your interest to a much more specific place and period in history to model your fictional setting on. You can start with the recommendations here:

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_books_team.html

Of course, you don't have to know everything about your fictional world before you start. Many writers are perfectly comfortable just making things up as they go and then rewriting/revising the draft for consistency. But if you prefer extensive preparation, don't force yourself to go ahead when you're not ready yet.
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