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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Nov, 2013 6:01 am    Post subject: Appreciating the width of the blade         Reply with quote

I was thinking about how wide blades look much more powerful and heroic, and I thought I might ask here if there is any historical proof that width of the blade was used similar as decoration, too make an impression of wealth, power, strength? For example, viking age swords have blades ranging from for example 4.5 to 6.5cm. There are high class swords from that era both narrow and wide. Is the width just a functional aspect, used with other elements to provide satisfying cutting ability, mass distribution and flexibility/stiffness or is it also an estetic choice? Makers, I would love too hear your opinion too if you read this. Thanks in advance to all!
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D. S. Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Nov, 2013 11:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting question and I'm looking forward to hearing people's thoughts as well.

Aesthetically I like a sword that leans towards the narrower end. In fact that is the primary reason I've never bought an Albion Type XIV, like the Sheriff, whereas I love the looks of the Earl. But I would agree with you that once they get too skinny, like a rapier, they don't look "powerful" at all, and I don't care for them either. If I had to take a guess I'd think that the width was more function driven than form.

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Nov, 2013 11:38 am    Post subject: Re: Appreciating the width of the blade         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
I was thinking about how wide blades look much more powerful and heroic, and I thought I might ask here if there is any historical proof that width of the blade was used similar as decoration, too make an impression of wealth, power, strength? For example, viking age swords have blades ranging from for example 4.5 to 6.5cm. There are high class swords from that era both narrow and wide. Is the width just a functional aspect, used with other elements to provide satisfying cutting ability, mass distribution and flexibility/stiffness or is it also an estetic choice? Makers, I would love too hear your opinion too if you read this. Thanks in advance to all!


Well, I'm with you in the esthetics department. I'm looking at my Albion St. Maurice right now and it looks pretty heroic. On the other hand, some long slender swords of that era, like the original inspiration for Albion's museum line XI, are very elegant.

In the Arn stories, the old-fashioned Swedes and Danes are associated with wide heavy hero swords (X?) whereas Arn is taught to fight with a longer slender sword (XI?) but this appears to be more writer's imagination than history.

One does see some rather wide and huge bearing swords, presumably to impart the kind of visual presence you are talking about, but when it comes to real fighting swords I suspect it was more about fighting style, the owner's build, and personal preference.
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Nov, 2013 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"You are not holding a battle axe! You are holding"

"A Needle."

"Very good!"

"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Nov, 2013 3:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I personally like the wide bladed 'Gothic' type sword. Wide at the guard and narrowing to a point makes for a very lively feeling weapon in-hand. Like the old 'Dracula' sword from days gone by....love that sword. Big Grin ..........McM
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can only speak to my own appreciation. While I would truly like to know about the historical aspect of this question, I certainly do not today.
I am drawn to the Viking age blades, and especially those at the wider end of the range, that taper to a narrower point, much like the River Witham find, fig.58 in Oakeshott's "Archaeology of Weapons". I am not the first or only one to to appreciate the form of this type of sword, it has universal appeal. Of course when utility and beauty blend indistinguishably we find elegance, and while elegance certainly can be found in a number of different sword configurations we would be obtuse indeed not to recognize that when we find elegance in an old object, the people of that time found that same elegance. I'm sure that "got to have it" feeling hit a sword shopper a thousand years ago much like it does today.
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
I can only speak to my own appreciation. While I would truly like to know about the historical aspect of this question, I certainly do not today.
I am drawn to the Viking age blades, and especially those at the wider end of the range, that taper to a narrower point, much like the River Witham find, fig.58 in Oakeshott's "Archaeology of Weapons". I am not the first or only one to to appreciate the form of this type of sword, it has universal appeal. Of course when utility and beauty blend indistinguishably we find elegance, and while elegance certainly can be found in a number of different sword configurations we would be obtuse indeed not to recognize that when we find elegance in an old object, the people of that time found that same elegance. I'm sure that "got to have it" feeling hit a sword shopper a thousand years ago much like it does today.

I firmly disagree for the simple reason that non are attached to the realities of what these things were used for, for us, a sword
is something of song, for people back the because of the nature of warfare and strife, I think more people would more apt to either restraint themselves or not have that kid in candy store feeling because then your skills and your shopping decision could mean life or death.
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Phil, then why were elegant swords made? Why were there periods in which they were decorated so finely? I doubt men have changed so much in the way we think.......
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 6:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
Phil, then why were elegant swords made? Why were there periods in which they were decorated so finely? I doubt men have changed so much in the way we think.......

Let me ask you this, who were the possessers of these fine jeweled swords? Would you think a soldier would examine the same thing in purchasing gun then pimp would? Why do you think there are more hyper embleshed extremely fragile swords on
the market than less embelished yet better handling more durable ones? Do you think if you just picked a random person of the street and showed him a picture of a Albion and say... the Buster sword, which do you think he would say he would buy? why do you think people who collect huge racks of firearms are labelled so often as gun nuts? Do you think most people nowadays or then could tell you more about something that is utterly removed from their life and livelihood than not? People's thinking hasn't changed, but the world around them has and people in general, adapt thier actions and though processes, the reasons they do what they do optimaly adapt to a changing world.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 7:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Greg Ballantyne wrote:
Phil, then why were elegant swords made? Why were there periods in which they were decorated so finely? I doubt men have changed so much in the way we think.......

Let me ask you this, who were the possessers of these fine jeweled swords? Would you think a soldier would examine the same thing in purchasing gun then pimp would? Why do you think there are more hyper embleshed extremely fragile swords on
the market than less embelished yet better handling more durable ones? Do you think if you just picked a random person of the street and showed him a picture of a Albion and say... the Buster sword, which do you think he would say he would buy? .

You are creating a false dilemma when you attempt to equate less embellished with more durable. Looking at Migration period, through Viking and on into early High Medieval, there is no correlation (inverse or otherwise) between level of embellishment and metallurgy, hardness, balance or any other measure we can use to assess quality.

The problem seems to me that you are drawing a parallel between the fighting elite of a time gone by with the modern professional soldier. If anything, the parallels are probably more in line with modern street-gangs. Flash equates to success. These swords were often tangible representations of their success as warriors, and thus the ability to afford and display an embellished sword may have been equated with their ability as a warrior.

This is especially true in the Migration and "Viking" periods, when swords in particular were gifts from your lord and conveyed status and power, but they also cemented the lords position. There was no "divine-right" concept yet at this time. Kings were kings because they commanded loyalty, and loyalty was often bought by handing out the best bling.

Swords in the early period seem to be man jewelry that one could kill someone with if the need arose.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I often wonder how durable inlay techniques are, especially in the blade. It seems to me that two metals, which have different properties and are unbonded, might not be particularly fast.

Would copper/gold inlay 'pop-out' of a sword blade in a flex?

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2013 8:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ian Hutchison wrote:
I often wonder how durable inlay techniques are, especially in the blade. It seems to me that two metals, which have different properties and are unbonded, might not be particularly fast.

Would copper/gold inlay 'pop-out' of a sword blade in a flex?

It doesn't when my modern swords are flexed... I have swords with inlay, and I can flex them without any affect on the inlay. Now granted, i don't do 90 degree flexes just for fun.

Unwelded soft metal inlays were clearly considered up to the task, or else the would not have replaced welded inlays.

If you deflect the point of a sword say 6 inches off true, go look at the area that the inlay is typically in. The deflection over any given inch is quite minor.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Nov, 2013 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ian Hutchison wrote:
I often wonder how durable inlay techniques are, especially in the blade. It seems to me that two metals, which have different properties and are unbonded, might not be particularly fast.

Would copper/gold inlay 'pop-out' of a sword blade in a flex?

Not really an issue. For one, the inlaid material is always a more malleable metal than the tempered steel around it, so it'll follow any flex just fine. Also, it's actually quite firmly fixed; the basic method is explained in this article at Hurstwic.

Where most loss occurs is with heavy corrosion - silver and especially gold just don't decay the same way iron and steel do so the inlays tend to get pushed out over the centuries when exposed to the elements, kinda like nails out of old wood.

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Mon 18 Nov, 2013 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Greg Ballantyne wrote:
Phil, then why were elegant swords made? Why were there periods in which they were decorated so finely? I doubt men have changed so much in the way we think.......

Let me ask you this, who were the possessers of these fine jeweled swords? Would you think a soldier would examine the same thing in purchasing gun then pimp would? Why do you think there are more hyper embleshed extremely fragile swords on
the market than less embelished yet better handling more durable ones? Do you think if you just picked a random person of the street and showed him a picture of a Albion and say... the Buster sword, which do you think he would say he would buy? .

You are creating a false dilemma when you attempt to equate less embellished with more durable. Looking at Migration period, through Viking and on into early High Medieval, there is no correlation (inverse or otherwise) between level of embellishment and metallurgy, hardness, balance or any other measure we can use to assess quality.

The problem seems to me that you are drawing a parallel between the fighting elite of a time gone by with the modern professional soldier. If anything, the parallels are probably more in line with modern street-gangs. Flash equates to success. These swords were often tangible representations of their success as warriors, and thus the ability to afford and display an embellished sword may have been equated with their ability as a warrior.

This is especially true in the Migration and "Viking" periods, when swords in particular were gifts from your lord and conveyed status and power, but they also cemented the lords position. There was no "divine-right" concept yet at this time. Kings were kings because they commanded loyalty, and loyalty was often bought by handing out the best bling.

Swords in the early period seem to be man jewelry that one could kill someone with if the need arose.

Why does it seem like when people talk of the Dark Ages people look over the fact that all of western Europe wasn't small bands of men. There are allot of tribes competing for land but there that sizable organized state just a bit west of Russia ie the Holy Roman Empire. Also there many other things traded in which a chieftain,Duke, or king would and i confer loyalty, foriegn women, slaves, territory grants, promotions, position or threat of damnation from a new god. Also the person I was talking to said sword shoppers and as we know, sword during the Migration period and Viking age were extremely expensive and most people wouldn't have one and even more people wouldn't have one encrusted with jewels and inlays. Also, your point about quality thing proves my point. Making a blade martially usuable for anyone to by it because steel was expensive and it was likely you would have to use that item to preserve your life. Today, it's the opposite, steel is cheap and swords are almost useless as a combat item so most people have no clue of matrial atrriubutes and would probably perfer what we would call a piece of junk over becuase it looks cool to them.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Nov, 2013 8:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Robin Smith wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Let me ask you this, who were the possessers of these fine jeweled swords? Would you think a soldier would examine the same thing in purchasing gun then pimp would? Why do you think there are more hyper embleshed extremely fragile swords on
the market than less embelished yet better handling more durable ones? Do you think if you just picked a random person of the street and showed him a picture of a Albion and say... the Buster sword, which do you think he would say he would buy? .

You are creating a false dilemma when you attempt to equate less embellished with more durable. Looking at Migration period, through Viking and on into early High Medieval, there is no correlation (inverse or otherwise) between level of embellishment and metallurgy, hardness, balance or any other measure we can use to assess quality.

The problem seems to me that you are drawing a parallel between the fighting elite of a time gone by with the modern professional soldier. If anything, the parallels are probably more in line with modern street-gangs. Flash equates to success. These swords were often tangible representations of their success as warriors, and thus the ability to afford and display an embellished sword may have been equated with their ability as a warrior.

This is especially true in the Migration and "Viking" periods, when swords in particular were gifts from your lord and conveyed status and power, but they also cemented the lords position. There was no "divine-right" concept yet at this time. Kings were kings because they commanded loyalty, and loyalty was often bought by handing out the best bling.

Swords in the early period seem to be man jewelry that one could kill someone with if the need arose.

Why does it seem like when people talk of the Dark Ages people look over the fact that all of western Europe wasn't small bands of men. There are allot of tribes competing for land but there that sizable organized state just a bit west of Russia ie the Holy Roman Empire. Also there many other things traded in which a chieftain,Duke, or king would and i confer loyalty, foriegn women, slaves, territory grants, promotions, position or threat of damnation from a new god. Also the person I was talking to said sword shoppers and as we know, sword during the Migration period and Viking age were extremely expensive and most people wouldn't have one and even more people wouldn't have one encrusted with jewels and inlays. Also, your point about quality thing proves my point. Making a blade martially usuable for anyone to by it because steel was expensive and it was likely you would have to use that item to preserve your life. Today, it's the opposite, steel is cheap and swords are almost useless as a combat item so most people have no clue of matrial atrriubutes and would probably perfer what we would call a piece of junk over becuase it looks cool to them.

You attempted to make a dichotomy between a durable sword and an embellished one. However, the evidence does not bear this out. Embellishment is common on swords of low quality and high.

Extremely rich "princely" warrior graves are often found with swords of rather low metallurgical quality. It would seem to me that the qualities we think of as important for "quality" (ie good steel, reliable heat treat, etc...) is not necessarily what they were placing value upon.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2013 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Robin Smith wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Let me ask you this, who were the possessers of these fine jeweled swords? Would you think a soldier would examine the same thing in purchasing gun then pimp would? Why do you think there are more hyper embleshed extremely fragile swords on
the market than less embelished yet better handling more durable ones? Do you think if you just picked a random person of the street and showed him a picture of a Albion and say... the Buster sword, which do you think he would say he would buy? .

You are creating a false dilemma when you attempt to equate less embellished with more durable. Looking at Migration period, through Viking and on into early High Medieval, there is no correlation (inverse or otherwise) between level of embellishment and metallurgy, hardness, balance or any other measure we can use to assess quality.

The problem seems to me that you are drawing a parallel between the fighting elite of a time gone by with the modern professional soldier. If anything, the parallels are probably more in line with modern street-gangs. Flash equates to success. These swords were often tangible representations of their success as warriors, and thus the ability to afford and display an embellished sword may have been equated with their ability as a warrior.

This is especially true in the Migration and "Viking" periods, when swords in particular were gifts from your lord and conveyed status and power, but they also cemented the lords position. There was no "divine-right" concept yet at this time. Kings were kings because they commanded loyalty, and loyalty was often bought by handing out the best bling.

Swords in the early period seem to be man jewelry that one could kill someone with if the need arose.

Why does it seem like when people talk of the Dark Ages people look over the fact that all of western Europe wasn't small bands of men. There are allot of tribes competing for land but there that sizable organized state just a bit west of Russia ie the Holy Roman Empire. Also there many other things traded in which a chieftain,Duke, or king would and i confer loyalty, foriegn women, slaves, territory grants, promotions, position or threat of damnation from a new god. Also the person I was talking to said sword shoppers and as we know, sword during the Migration period and Viking age were extremely expensive and most people wouldn't have one and even more people wouldn't have one encrusted with jewels and inlays. Also, your point about quality thing proves my point. Making a blade martially usuable for anyone to by it because steel was expensive and it was likely you would have to use that item to preserve your life. Today, it's the opposite, steel is cheap and swords are almost useless as a combat item so most people have no clue of matrial atrriubutes and would probably perfer what we would call a piece of junk over becuase it looks cool to them.

You attempted to make a dichotomy between a durable sword and an embellished one. However, the evidence does not bear this out. Embellishment is common on swords of low quality and high.

Extremely rich "princely" warrior graves are often found with swords of rather low metallurgical quality. It would seem to me that the qualities we think of as important for "quality" (ie good steel, reliable heat treat, etc...) is not necessarily what they were placing value upon.

But many people here have noted that value is varying term. A jeweled scepter fragile sword to a military man of the period would be useless. Also, has anyone examined these graves for edge or flat damage? Also, I think you are conflating how people today, even those who buy swords, know or care all the attributes you are speaking. A bejeweled sword with low quality steel would be as diplomatic gift by to noble of a lower class, which has been historically noted to engage in combat more often, would be detrimental. Value is subjective term and I would bet most would value then because of technological and social conditions would be different than now.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2013 2:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem is, too many swords from these times are not preserved well enough to know if their edges saw regular use. And another problem is that we have little idea what they expected out of a sword's steel to be considered "battle ready". And if they even tested swords and how rigorously to be aware how durable is it...
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2013 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Read the Old Norse sagas. In them, Kings and their sons give and receive elegant, decorated weapons, and use them for their intended purpose. They also speak of the appreciation, even envy, these weapons evoke in others. The only question worth debate here is the question Luka originally asked - was the elegant design executed with the intent of enhanced esthetics? Again referring to the Old Norse sagas, if the makers were not exploiting that aspect of the marketplace they were missing an opportunity recognized by casual observers.....
Luka, please forgive me if I've butchered your post with my interpretation.......
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