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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 4:15 am    Post subject: Is it worth DIYing a sword...?         Reply with quote

Hi all... I've been pondering something for a while now - is it worth buying bare blades and sourcing hilt furniture to construct your own sword or is it a whole lot of work with minimal gain?

I ask because I need a sidearm for Agincourt 2015 and as an archer I either want something big and whacky (technical jargon for maces, hammers etc) or a short sword as a backup weapon. Now, considering that Agincourt was 1415 I guess the swords were starting to be less like the 14th century types with long fullers and more hollow ground with sharp tapers eg XV/XVIII and so on. To buy something that fits seems tricky - there's the beautiful Albion Poitiers (bit over the top for something like Agincourt 2015!) or various "Henry V" types from other dealers. I love the Poitiers - it's perfect with its simple, clean guard and pommel and XV blade but just crazy expensive, and I really dislike the Henry V style hilt so I'm looking at options for putting together something myself.

I make my own bows (mostly light 70# yew bows but I've just started making proper bows around 120#) so I'm quite happy putting in the work and effort but I've never done a sword before. I've done a few grip wraps and some basic customisation of guards etc but of course that doesn't compare to actually building one from components. Is it something that really needs a whole heap of experience?

If it's doable, where would you suggest I get the right blade from? Albion bare blades look great but there's nothing that quite fits the XV look - the XVIII are either too short and wide or too long - and I can't find anything else similar! I was thinking of buying a cheap Henry V style sword (or maybe the Darksword Poitiers or Windlass Oakeshott?) and pulling them apart but I'm not sure how well that would work...

Advice, thoughts, opinions all very welcome!

Thanks!

P.S. I'm in the UK so that limits my options a bit!
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 4:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, it's not that short, but I would recommend Hanwei Tinker Bastard. And if you would want to, you could shorten it yourself.
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Luka! Is the H/T blade fullered? I can't tell from any pics on KOA.
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Will S wrote:
Thanks Luka! Is the H/T blade fullered? I can't tell from any pics on KOA.


There is both fullered and un-fullered version.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Hanwei-Tinkers are really fabulous bare blades for the price. The XII single-hander blade would also be fine for your period; slightly late but not too out of place for an archer who may be wearing an inherited weapon.

Another possible source of a short XVIII blade would be a Windlass 'Cobra Steel Kindjal'. This one would require a bit more work but it's a very serviceable... 20-22"? blade IIRC. I have one, beat the heck out of it and it's still going.

If you can afford it and have the patience (his backlog is now fairly long), Yeshua's Sword would probably be able to knock off a few simple hilt components for a reasonable price.
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jeffrey. It was actually looking at Yeshua's website that inspired me to try this myself - I really like the idea of having a sword that I've put together, it feels very organic and individual! I actually teach guitar to a guy who works in a milling factory so might possibly be able to get him to make me some cheapish hilt parts. If not, then Yeshua's stuff looks amazing for the price.

Let's assume I were to get the Hanwei Replacement Bastard blade - would this need much work to make it single-handed? I'm assuming if I were to cut the tang down the balance would be all over the place? This is the stuff I have really no idea about!

Edit: In fact, while we're on the subject, does anybody have a decent pic of the Hanwei Bastard blade (non fullered)? I can't tell from any pics what the ridge is like - whether it's kinda soft or hard edged if that makes sense?
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 9:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would suggest a ballock dagger as an historically appropriate sidearm for an English archer. That has the added benefits of affordability for a fine, complete reproduction from Tod's Stuff/The English Cutler, or an even more affordable kit with instructions (if he still sells those).

http://www.todsstuff.co.uk/theenglishcutler/knives/knives.htm

In answer to the broader question--yes and no. Big Grin
You can spend more on new parts than you would for a complete sword from, say, Windlass Steelcrafts that could be easily upgraded and be better than what you'd make. Those swords are not the bargain in the EU/UK that they are in the US, so that might be a moot point.

But it's true that with careful research, simple tools, shrewd buying/trading and LOTS of patience you can save a great deal of money over what it would have cost you to commission a custom piece. Personally, I don't think it would be worth the hassle to build from scratch a sword you can buy cheaply and upgrade a bit.

Yes, the Hanwei-Tinker bastard sword blades are wonderful project blades. I much prefer them over anything from Windlass, and they (Type XVIII) work in a large historical/cultural range. Put a simple hilt on the plain bastard and I can see that on a well-equipped archer. There are certainly tons of those on display in the Froissart illuminations of ca. 1480. Too late for your impression, but shows how those plain infantry weapons were finished and carried in the next generation. The hilt and scabbard of your reproduction would be the main focus for placing your weapon in the right historical context.

By the way, it's very easy to cut some round bar stock and drill a couple of holes, finish with files or Dremel and hammer down onto the tang to create a serviceable and attractive cross. That plus a ball pommel makes a simple generic hilt. Facet the cross and/or pommel to dress it up a bit. Big, round pommels seem to be common on English swords from some time in the 15th c. up through the reign of Henry VIII, apparently, so that might be a good way to get something unique that's also cheap, easy to work with and historically appropriate. There's an interesting, plain little sword at the RA-Leeds that is the very picture of a sidearm for an English archer or billman. It appears to be a relatively flat Type XVIII. Dating and purpose are tentative. I don't know why this couldn't be an adult sidearm. I can't share a photo but RA-L has a major photo database project under way so maybe with the accession number below you can find it soon. The sketch below will give you a good idea of the artifact.


IX.5427 Medieval child's Sword. Probably English, 1475-1500 ?

Excavated from the Thames foreshore at Queenhythe. Flattened spherical pommel, and exposed tang (grip lacking). The rectangular-sectioned quillons curve towards the blade aproximately through a right angle. The quillons formed in one with a triangular "quillon block": their width increases and their thickness decreases towards the ends. Quite short, straight two-edged blade of flattened diamond section. Because of the short blade of the present sword, it has been suggested that it was made for a child.

Dimensions: Overall length: 62 cm. (24.4 in.)
Exposed blade length: 47.7 cm (18.55 in.)
Max. blade width, near hilt: 3.6 cm. (1.4 in.)
Max. across quillons11.1 cm. (4.4 in.)
Weights: 820 g. (1 lb. 12 3/4 oz.)



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-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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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, awesome reply, thanks Sean! Very appreciated.

I actually picked up a nice ballock dagger from Tod at the recent TORM, so I've got that covered Big Grin

I wanted something a bit more substantial that would have been used perhaps for civilian affairs alongside battlefield use and for whatever reason I'm leaning more towards a sword than a hammer/mace etc.

It's possibly worth mentioning I do already have a cheap Windlass European Sword that is just a touch too early I think (unless I wanted to insinuate that it's a hand-me-down or something) and it's that lovely ridge as compared to a fuller that makes the XV so attractive to me. I've attacked the guard with files to smooth it off as per JE Sarge's "melt job" Windlass and weathered it etc so I'm very happy with it but I just don't think it'll pass scrutiny as a late 14th/early 15thC side sword (plus let's be honest... I want a new sword...!)

I'm digging around looking at the Hanwei blades, and they look pretty good, and the price is great too over here so I'm close to jumping in. I'm just still not sure how much modifying you can do to one - I'm guessing that as it stands the grip will be too long for a single-hand sword so would need chopping a bit, and I'm definitely wary of upsetting the balance unless I use a brick for a pommel.

(If I'm being a bit block-headed and stubborn going on about a DIY project please let me know! I have no idea what I would be getting myself into and although I love the idea of doing it myself and getting the satisfaction as a result, if it really isn't viable then somebody telling me straight might be the best option!)
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 10:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not the one to discourage people from undertaking daunting DIY sword projects! Laughing Out Loud Search elsewhere for sanity! My projects drag on forever, though often with nice results. It's really not all that difficult. It just takes time, most of it spent in books, online and in your own head.

The HT bastard is a nice, robust blade with good thickness--especially compared to Windlass. Good distal taper, balance, etc. As a bastard sword, it's a single-hand blade with a hand-and-a-half tang. I think the length would be fine for a SH project, with the right pommel. I'm tentatively planning to use that blade on a single-hand Henrician project with a cheap Alchem 1.75" ball pommel and cross like that of the RA sword shown above. A badly damaged/corroded sword of this general description was recovered from Mary Rose, so it's the rare sword with a solid date attached. In fact, "Weapons of Warre" cites the RA sword as an example of the weapon found on MR.

Since you already have the Windlass sword, you might want to try the guard and pommel on the HT just to see if you like it.
To strip a peened Windlass sword, start by chiseling off the grip (one or two hits will take it off). The pommel will drop down the tang and a few passes with a file on the edges of the peen will allow the pommel and guard to come off. Don't like the switch? Rebuild the Windlass with upgraded finish and vastly superior homemade grip and sell. Use the dough to acquire the hilt you want for the HT. That also gives you hands-on building practice with something you don't care much about before you tackle the desired project.

-Sean

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


Last edited by Sean Flynt on Thu 27 Feb, 2014 10:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 10:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent, you've convinced me that it's both insane and worthwhile having a go at this and that's enough for me!

One final question if that's ok? Do you have any recommendations for sources where I can bury myself for a bit? Things like finding period-specific guard styles, pommel styles and so on? Artwork is obviously gonna be my first port of call, along with some Oakeshott research but anything solid and trustworthy you'd personally look at?
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 11:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I made a little addition re: your Windlass--Try that furniture on the HT.

I'd definitely go to Oakeshott's ROTMS, but I'd also dig deep at IMAREAL: http://tethys.imareal.sbg.ac.at/realonline/

Working from the bottom-up:

"Zeitraum?"
von 1400 bis 1430 (or enter whatever dates you think are reasonable)

next, under the heading at the top (" Digitales Bildarchiv - Katalogsuche") choose "Materielle Objekt"

That will pull up a search box at right. Type "schwert" and return/enter. The text box above will jump to "schwert". Click "Zeige Bilder" to pull up all of the images with swords for those dates! Click on any image to enlarge. Click the "Weitere Bilder" button at the bottom of the page to see more images. (have food and drink close at hand if you start working with IMAREAL)

Here is only a small sampling of the infantry-quality swords you'll find with that exact search. Keep in mind that these are all German/Austrian. Most are exactly in your date range, though. Note the almost universal presence of chappes in the swords of this culture. I don't know if that would be true of English swords of the period, so caveat emptor. Wise to steer clear of the more unusual types and forms here as well--the messer and "T" shaped hilt is what I'm thinking of. But for more common types and forms as well as decoration, scabbards and suspension, I think these could be very useful in building a sword for your period.



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-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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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You, Sir, are a hero.

I've only just joined this forum but if this level of generosity and help is common here I think I'll be stickin' around!

Thanks so much Sean - really couldn't have asked for better responses. I'll get my head down and dig through this stuff. Interesting that you mention the Windlass furniture possibly working - if it does, and is correct for the period that would be awesome as I really like the simplicity and grace of the soft downturned cross and wheel pommel so I'll try it and see how it looks!
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 1:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You don't really need to cut down the bastard blade a whole lot to make it a serviceable single hander; an inch or two at most will make it approximately 32", which is perfectly reasonable. You may have to experiment a little with the weight of your fittings to bring its balance to an ideal for you, but other than that you're probably good.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 1:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have handled the H/T Bastard and I think if you buy the whole sword, not just a blade, you could use it's original pommel with some modifying for the peening. It's really not a heavy blade, even with its robust geometry, because it's narrow. So original fittings might work well even with shortened tang. Btw, leaving it bastard sized is also a solution you should think about. As Sean said, a veteran, well equipped archer often had a hand and a half sword as his sidearm.
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2014 3:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cheers guys! It's funny you mentioned that Luka - while I was looking for the best price bare blade I came across a website doing a clearout and they had the non-fullered bastard sword (complete) for cheaper than the bare blade! Way too good a deal to miss out on, and as you said it might well save me having to get furniture made for it.

I get what you mean about keeping it full length - I just always wanted a nice nippy single-hander so I think at the very least I'll be cutting the tang down a good few inches. The blade is actually the same length as my Windlass European which works exceptionally well as a single-hander, so I think I should be fairly safe copying measurements and weights for hilt furniture from that, but I get my nice non-fullered blade profile at the same time.

Really looking forward to starting on this now, will hopefully be posting pics as I go. Thanks to all of you guys for the help and advice!
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2014 6:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FWIW, here's the bastard sword blade with my prospective hilt furniture resting on it. With a grip of approx. 3.75", this has an OA length of 39" (assuming a peen button) and POB 4" below the cross. That balance includes the surplus tang shown here and doesn't include a button and grip. I wouldn't expect the POB to shift very far down the blade when that tang comes off. I'm guessing final POB would be around 4.25" for this single-hand setup.

That pommel (seen here from the top) is 1/75" diameter, with only a shallow, narrow pilot hole. Drilling and minor filing will reduce the weight very slightly--not enough to move POB to any degree I could measure. As you can see, an equivalent bit of casting sprue will come off of the cross.



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-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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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
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PostPosted: Sat 01 Mar, 2014 3:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hoping I'm not talking out of turn but why not go to TORM and talk to Tod, his advice would be invaluable and he's a friendly chap.

Griff
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Will S




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PostPosted: Sun 02 Mar, 2014 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Next time I get the chance to get to TORM I probably will do that. I was introduced to him only very briefly but he seemed very approachable and helpful.

I've had a thought re a late 14th/early 15th C project - while looking in detail at the H/T Bastard blade, and comparing it to both artwork, Oakeshott descriptions and photographs of swords from that period I can't help thinking that it's just a bit too narrow and slender. I may be completely wrong on that however, but it was enough of a concern for me to cancel my order of the super-cheap, deal-of-the-century, mad-not-to-buy-it Bastard sword....

I have, however, discovered the Windlass Erbach sword. Sean has posted a lot of threads regarding it, and it seems far more suited to a project involving this time period than the Hanwei. It's hollow ground, without a fuller, seems to have the right width at the base of the blade (albeit a slightly loner blade than perhaps necessary for a single-hander) so I have a quick question - with some modification (removal of the Austrian style wrought cross and faceted scent-stopper) would this blade be a good match for a 1415 blade, provided the hilt furniture is researched and executed properly?



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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 02 Mar, 2014 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, it's appropriate. But I haven't handled it and I have no idea if it's light enough for a singlehander.
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Mar, 2014 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks again, Luka. Good to know its period-appropriate. I'm in no rush yet so I'll wait until somebody like Sean who has handled it offers opinion on whether it would work single-handed. Although as you said, there s no reason not to keep it bastard-length with a more suitable hilt.
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