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Rich Knack




Location: Charlevoix, MI
Joined: 14 Apr 2008
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Posts: 86

PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 3:21 pm    Post subject: Custom grosse messer (ongoing project)         Reply with quote

Nearly two years ago I was looking for a reasonably priced grosse messer. My family on my father's side is of German descent. In fact, my father's mother's family, the Strieters, were from Wurttemburg, from a (then small) town called Affalterbach, in Marbach. Evidently they ware always considered to be well-off. Affalterbach was abandoned during the 30-years' War, and when the war ended, the Strieters were among the first to return. One of them, Martin Strieter, became mayor of Affalterbach, and there is a memorial to him outside the present-day town hall. Affalterbach, incidentally, is the current location of Mercedes-AMG. I wanted a sword that spoke of my common, though well-off, German roots.

I am really not a fan of longer blades, so the Cold Steel version was out (besides that, I have heard of quality problems). I wanted something that would fit my budget of $300, but wasn't finding anything I liked. Then, forum member Scott Woodruff offered to take it on as a "let's try this out" project. Now, Scott is busy with his job, so the going has been slow, and every now and again he sends me photos and progress reports and asks what I would like done on this or that aspect of the project. He said he doesn't want to do commissions after this, and that it's more of a hobby project (too many headaches trying to juggle this plus everything else - can't say as I blame him one bit; been there, done that). Anyway, here are the photos he has sent me thus far, from earliest to the most recent ones from a few days ago:

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The messer blade is 21-1/2" long (a length that I like), and was made from an antique hay-knife. Not sure what steel the by-knives and pricker are made from. The pommel is antique wrought-iron. Grip scales are elk antler. Scott is currently working on the nagel and the scabbard and belt (which actually puts the cost over the original price, but worth it, IMO!). The large whittle-tang knife in the last photos is one Scott made several years ago, and which he is giving to me as an "extra" just for being so patient!

Will post more photos as I get them. Great work, Scott, and thanks!

"Those who 'beat their swords into plows', will plow for those who don't."
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 2:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Are there examples of historical grosse messers with crosses like the one on your reproduction?
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Rich Knack




Location: Charlevoix, MI
Joined: 14 Apr 2008
Likes: 3 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 86

PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Are there examples of historical grosse messers with crosses like the one on your reproduction?

Similar, though not necessarily identical. There was a pretty wide variation in styles, from what I have seen of surviving specimens: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showpost.php?p=...ostcount=1. I believe some of the details on this sword came from the Talhoffer fechtbuch, as well.

"Those who 'beat their swords into plows', will plow for those who don't."
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Are there examples of historical grosse messers with crosses like the one on your reproduction?


That bowtie shape is pretty unique.

Perhaps it's an interpretation of something like this one

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Scott Woodruff





Joined: 30 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Sep, 2014 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for posting the pic of that messer from Iceland, Nathan. I had not been able to find any evidence of "bowtie" crosses on messer's, other than the almost "bowtie" cross on the one Rich refered to, but did one because Rich had suggested it. Quite a few have crosses that are similar except that they flare in 2 dimensions, making a more clubbbed end. I like Rich's idea to use a bow-tie cross, it adds some originality without making it implausible.

Rich, the by-knives are a type of unspecified vanadium steel, the pricker is W-1, and I ended up going with regular mild steel for the pommel so it would match the cross.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Sep, 2014 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Woodruff wrote:
Thank you for posting the pic of that messer from Iceland, Nathan. I had not been able to find any evidence of "bowtie" crosses on messer's, other than the almost "bowtie" cross on the one Rich refered to, but did one because Rich had suggested it. Quite a few have crosses that are similar except that they flare in 2 dimensions, making a more clubbbed end. I like Rich's idea to use a bow-tie cross, it adds some originality without making it implausible.


The Icelandic one isn't bow-tie shaped as far as I can see. It's of a more rounded/squared cross-section with flared ends. I don't really see the other example as a flattened bow-tie either, but that's just me.

I dislike the word "implausible" when there aren't any examples presented to make it "plausible". For something to be historically plausible, I prefer to see multiple examples of a detail (or better, sets of associated details) and have them combined in a manner that is also consistent with other examples.

Albion's Next Generation line uses this philosophy in that the swords are not based on single extant examples but instead based on multiple examples that are associated with one-another and consistent with many extant originals.

In my opinion, the use of the phrase "historically plausible" requires more background information and examples to draw upon, not fewer.

(Note that I am not claiming that bowtie crosses cannot be found on grossemessers. I really have no idea other than I've never personally seen an example so said that the choice is unique.)



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GrossemesserIceland.jpg


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Rich Knack




Location: Charlevoix, MI
Joined: 14 Apr 2008
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Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 86

PostPosted: Fri 19 Dec, 2014 8:01 pm    Post subject: It's done! :D         Reply with quote

Got a nice little package in the mail a few days ago: the messer! Along with it was a small whittle-tang eating knife and a sweet little semi-spatha that Scott had made earlier (no scabbard - anybody got info on late Roman-period short-sword scabbards?) and gave me "for my patience". I have to say, the messer was VERY well worth the wait! Blade is 21-1/2" long - only 1/8" shorter than my 16th century wakizashi, and much wider. P.O.B. is only 2" ahead of the guard, so although the blade is substantial it feels very light and quick. Decent amount of distal taper, and a very nice set of accessory knives+pricker and scabbard besides. This is easily my favorite sword in my entire collection, for looks, handling, and uniqueness. Great job, Scott! Happy



















And the semi-spatha. 16" blade, so it's a tad shorter than my Strongblade "coustille" ( a direct copy of the old model MRL coustille), but of the two I think the semi-spatha is by far a nicer - and honestly more sword-like - blade than the coustille:


"Those who 'beat their swords into plows', will plow for those who don't."
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Sat 20 Dec, 2014 12:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a nice looking kit there Rich, congrats!

Scott: how did that hay knife treat you? I had an old timer tell me they were usually mild steel, just hard enough to be good hay cutters and little else, then he gave me hell for grinding an old (antique) cleaver into a rugger-like thing. So I've shied away from antique hay knives as potential blade material... Just curious what it was like to re-work, and if you have a guess as to hardness?

Best,
Eric
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Scott Woodruff





Joined: 30 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Dec, 2014 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Rich, I am very glad you are happy with it. It was a very fun project and I definitely learned a lot in the process.

Eric, this one was definitely some sort of carbon steel. It did not get as hard as 5160 would have with a similar quench, but it seemed roughly similar to some 1055 and 19th c shear steel that was similarly treated. I used a fairly moderate slack quench, with the thinner parts only heated fully to critical. The object of this sort of quench is to get martensite or upper bainite in the edges and bainite or a mixture of bainite and pearite in the thicker body. This is a fairly common structure in period blades that have been subjected to metallographic analysis, but without such an analysis on this blade I can not definitively know how close I came. Speaking subjectively, the percieved edge hardness and degree of springiness are not inconsistent with what is expected of such a structure. My experience in general with using 19th and early 20th century tools as raw material has been that you never can know what your material really is or how it will behave until you start working with it. I will usually cut off some small bits so I can see how it feels and looks in the forge, do a spark test and polish and etch a differentially hardened piece. After this, I have at least a rough idea of what I am dealing with.
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Wed 24 Dec, 2014 10:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the insight Scott. Sounds like you know your stuff. I've long contemplated these knives, every one I've seen has some pretty nicely done distal taper- maybe I'll take a chance if I find one that doesn't beg to be preserved (I've seen a few with obviously - and badly done - replacement handles). I've long thought one would be a good start to a poor soldier's hanger.

Happy Holidays!
Eric
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