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Jimi Edmonds




Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Jan, 2015 7:38 pm    Post subject: How sharp was a sharp sword and hand sharpening?         Reply with quote

Ok as there has probably been untold threads about this and because I just don't want to wade through many seeking an answer so I ask this; How sharp was a sharp sword?, now to narrow that down to say swords from 1350-1450s.

I read that swords were either super sharp or not that sharp, now was the medieval sword sharp but not sharp enough to cut through today's mediums ie; milk containers and other plastic bottles like coke bottles, but sharp enough to lop off a limb?

And leading to why I ask, I have an Albion Sempach, yes I have read that they (Albion) are not the best at making a sharp sword SHARP, but for the likes of a sword that was said to be made for puncturing armour, did it need to be hair shaving or bottle cutting sharp?

As my sword can't cut paper!, I can bare handed half sword with it without much worry, and would much rather the sword be historically sharp for this type of weapon than more sharp than modern standards say they should be. But should this sword ideally have been sharper I'd like a good instruction on how to sharpen such a weapon by hand.

I'm not overly worried if I can or can't cut with thus sword, just keen to have it represent! (but if so cutting it will do!)

I have seen a few instruction clips and read some but still leaves my lacking and not yet wanting to touch my blade with a stone, although I had thought about that, running a stone (whetstone) down the blade.

So what say you learnerd peoples out there that have far more knowledge on this than I
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Jan, 2015 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A milk jug is probably one of the easiest things to cut through, even if the blade is dull. This is because the material is really quite wimpy when immobilized or full of water. Flesh and bone, on the other hand, are quite formidable targets. I'd actually recommend watching the cutting experiments available on The ARMA's website:

http://www.thearma.org/Videos/NTCvids/testing...erials.htm

Therefore, think of it like this: imagine yourself in the middle ages, and understand what a sword is traditionally supposed to do: cut through flesh and bone. Now, ask yourself if it's supposed to be sharp... the answer is most certainly should be, "yes!" If the sword is not sharp enough for you, learn to use a sharpening stone, probably a softstone. To keep things easy, if you can identify the edge bevel, just keep rubbing the stone parallel to that , maybe cutting into it if you can for starters. Here's a better idea: if you have some pocket knives or kitchen knives which need sharpening, start with those for pratice. At the end of the day, a blade is a blade, and you grind off material, maybe strop it a little once it has been ground, to get it sharp. If you can't sharpen a knife, it would be a good idea to change that before you do something silly to an expensive sword blade.

As per the sword's usage as an armour-piercing weapon, consider that widespread armor on the battlefield is a question of the times. If everyone on the battlefield is covererd in plate, you should not be using your sidearm (and a sword is in most cases a sidearm) as your primary weapon. Instead, you really ought to have a mace, hammer, or pollaxe handy, as a proper knight would. The sword is sharp because it is there to be used on the battlefield against soft targets or as a backup. Off the battlefield, it needs to be able to deal with adversaries who will likely not be wearing armor, much like you would be if off the field. Keep Dobringer's commentaries on Master Liechtenauer's verse in mind: "know and note that not one thing on the sword is without its use or reason." A blade which has an edge ought to be sharp, for it is made for cutting.
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 6:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no categorical answer besides "medieval swords were sharp enough to do their jobs". Different medieval swords were not only sharp to different degrees, but also in different ways - your Sempach will never cut like the Baron or the Knecht no matter how sharp you make it, nor is it supposed to.

BTW, the sharpness of the sword doesn't actually have any real bearing on halfswording, as demonstrated here by Skallagrim. Happy

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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Jimi Edmonds




Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

See this is the problem, to me my sword cannot cut paper, but if I layed it on an arm and with a downward slice I'm sure it would cut as would if I struck at and opposing swordsman it would cleave, but it's not so sharp that I cut my thumb by running it down the blade, maybe with more pressure then it would?.

This comes back to 'how sharp must it be for it to do the job that it's intended for?', I'd like it to be a little sharper, and what has just occurred to me is, wouldn't it also have come down to the preference on the man (or woman) behind the sword on how sharp SHARP they wanted?
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I will confess that an Ontario Pilot Survival Knife I have will not cut paper terribly well (though it does indeed cut), but it is sharp. The problem is that the edge is thick and the pitch is not very extreme - one can still put a razor edge on such a blade if they are so skilled. Similar to your sword, I have a type XVa; if I was to try and slice paper, it might tear more than slice, but that again is because of the thick diamond cross section running throughout the blade.

From the sounds of it, though, your sword was not well sharpened by the manufacturer. The family of swords we are using may be "sharpened crowbars," but they still should be sharp. Yes, swing a sword fast enough and you will slice through things - I made many "swords" out of curtain rods and conduit as a child, and I would hack down saplings in the forest. But, as you can imagine, that's not really the way to go about it. You probably ought to spend a few hours with the stone and give your companion some care.
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Erik Heller





Joined: 10 Jun 2013

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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 10:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a Landgraf and although it sounds like it may be a bit sharper than yours, I wouldn't want to run my thumb down it, it won't cut paper, or it just kind of rips it. I have tried cutting with it though and it cuts great. I don't imagine it cuts as well as some of the more cut oriented blades though. These blades are very narrow, but thick, so I think Michael may have a point about the geometry.
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In general, swords should NOT be sharpened like knives! Do a search under 'apple seed edge' and see what you come up with. European cutting edges usually have a version of what the Japanese call 'hamaguri-ba', a slightly convex edge, NOT a flat bevel. Flat bevels handle impact very poorly.
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Gossart Pierre




Location: Belgium
Joined: 19 Mar 2013

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a sharpening and a shape (take for example two axes ,one for cut wood ,the other to split logs) for every use but in summary ,the most the edge is sharp ( to cut paper for example) the most he is fragile
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The advice I keep seeing - and watching the people who use it cut is fairly compelling - is to have a 20 degree edge angle (so the total angle is 40 degrees), and as close to a mirror edge polish as you can be bothered to get.

The 20 degree angle is more than strong enough to stay in shape for plenty of use, and the mirror polish is what lets it still trivially slice through paper, fabric, and other such barriers.

It's easy to get this if you have a slack belt grinder, but I'm sure hand stones are up to the job as well, although they'll doubtless take a lot longer. But what you end up with is a strong edge that can nonetheless slice through linen protection - ideal for almost any sword.
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Hector A.





Joined: 22 Dec 2013

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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A sword edge needs to survive what your going to put it up against, this is achieved threw blade and edge geometry.

Once that's taken care of there is no limit to how polished it should be, the more the better! There is however a minimum, the most difficult thing your sword will cut is textile, especially linen, but historically they also faced wool, leather and silk.

For a 40 degree edge to be able to achieve efficient cutting of linen it will need to be polished to 2000 grit + stropping. You can get away with less grit if your angle is smaller, but you can't go under 30 degree and expect your sword to survive much cutting on basic targets, like flesh bone and clothing ( including metal parts of clothing like buttons, zippers, rivets etc... ).

As to why a sword should be as polished as possible, because there is no disadvantage to it... You will cut will less force which in a fight means you will tire slower, you will cut deeper with the same force you would with a less polished blade, your blade will suffer less vibrations, which would fatigue both your hand and the blade, and the list goes on...

As for a sword not being supposed to cut paper that's really really really stupid and a testament to your inability to sharpen properly, the very definition of a sharp tool ( sword or other ) is that both planes on edge meet together in the middle (regardless of the angle), now when that is the case you can cut paper, the lowest grit i have at home is 40, and I can cut paper with it...

As you go up the grits the point of still cutting paper is to check if the character of the cut has changed, the more the edge is polished the less of a pulling motion is needed to cut paper, once on the other side of the spectrum you get the feeling your pushing threw paper, this also coincides with when the edge can shave hair and cut textile.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 7:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hector A. wrote:
A sword edge needs to survive what your going to put it up against, this is achieved threw blade and edge geometry.

Once that's taken care of there is no limit to how polished it should be, the more the better! There is however a minimum, the most difficult thing your sword will cut is textile, especially linen, but historically they also faced wool, leather and silk.

For a 40 degree edge to be able to achieve efficient cutting of linen it will need to be polished to 2000 grit + stropping. You can get away with less grit if your angle is smaller, but you can't go under 30 degree and expect your sword to survive much cutting on basic targets, like flesh bone and clothing ( including metal parts of clothing like buttons, zippers, rivets etc... ).

As to why a sword should be as polished as possible, because there is no disadvantage to it... You will cut will less force which in a fight means you will tire slower, you will cut deeper with the same force you would with a less polished blade, your blade will suffer less vibrations, which would fatigue both your hand and the blade, and the list goes on...

As for a sword not being supposed to cut paper that's really really really stupid and a testament to your inability to sharpen properly, the very definition of a sharp tool ( sword or other ) is that both planes on edge meet together in the middle (regardless of the angle), now when that is the case you can cut paper, the lowest grit i have at home is 40, and I can cut paper with it...

As you go up the grits the point of still cutting paper is to check if the character of the cut has changed, the more the edge is polished the less of a pulling motion is needed to cut paper, once on the other side of the spectrum you get the feeling your pushing threw paper, this also coincides with when the edge can shave hair and cut textile.


http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=
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Hector A.





Joined: 22 Dec 2013

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Hector A. wrote:
A sword edge needs to survive what your going to put it up against, this is achieved threw blade and edge geometry.

Once that's taken care of there is no limit to how polished it should be, the more the better! There is however a minimum, the most difficult thing your sword will cut is textile, especially linen, but historically they also faced wool, leather and silk.

For a 40 degree edge to be able to achieve efficient cutting of linen it will need to be polished to 2000 grit + stropping. You can get away with less grit if your angle is smaller, but you can't go under 30 degree and expect your sword to survive much cutting on basic targets, like flesh bone and clothing ( including metal parts of clothing like buttons, zippers, rivets etc... ).

As to why a sword should be as polished as possible, because there is no disadvantage to it... You will cut will less force which in a fight means you will tire slower, you will cut deeper with the same force you would with a less polished blade, your blade will suffer less vibrations, which would fatigue both your hand and the blade, and the list goes on...

As for a sword not being supposed to cut paper that's really really really stupid and a testament to your inability to sharpen properly, the very definition of a sharp tool ( sword or other ) is that both planes on edge meet together in the middle (regardless of the angle), now when that is the case you can cut paper, the lowest grit i have at home is 40, and I can cut paper with it...

As you go up the grits the point of still cutting paper is to check if the character of the cut has changed, the more the edge is polished the less of a pulling motion is needed to cut paper, once on the other side of the spectrum you get the feeling your pushing threw paper, this also coincides with when the edge can shave hair and cut textile.


http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=


Yes i used the better part of last year to read, learn and practice everything i could about sharpening, to a point i am confident i sharpen extremely well and more importantly i UNDERSTAND sharpening. I have tremendous free time to pursue anything my heart desires, and sharpening due to the internet being filled with bad advice and more importantly a non unified lingo on the matter, makes its very complicated to understand, anybody who has researched sharpening will say that any two posts are not alike and extremely confusing, often contradicting each other, using different words for the same thing etc...

If your idea of trying to discredit someone is to show everybody the research he did then i think your reasoning is faulty... lol
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Jimi Edmonds




Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Joined: 25 May 2009
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Awesome, cheers Glen those links are very handy. So in thinking if I polished the blade it would bring better cutting right?

I will more than likely try the use of the stones and ceramic rod etc. I already use just a standard stone (unsure of grit, but has both light and heavy) on my Slasher and other knives, but I can never get a nice polish finish, though I haven't hit it with paper.

I'll look into some shaped stones, any advice on a standard get at the hardware store type stones?

cheers.
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Guy Bayes




Location: United States
Joined: 07 Oct 2012

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

a corollary is "how long would a sharp sword stay sharp in a battlefield"?
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not long once it starts encountering blades and armor, it'll burr and deform quickly and won't work as well against cloth but still be very dangerous to bare skin. I suppose that's one argument for using the point.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hector A.-
I need you to change the way in which you're expressing your opinions on this site. You're often doing so with a disdain for the opinions of others. People who disagree with you are not necessarily stupid nor ignorant; they simply disagree with you. My expectation is that all members of this site will demonstrate respect for others.

Everyone-
I'm not looking for artful, passive ways of disagreeing with others; matter-of-fact works just fine. There is no place for condescension, name calling, or insult on this site. I encourage debate and disagreement. I want multiple opinions expressed. I just want it done in a respectful manner.

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Hector A.





Joined: 22 Dec 2013

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Hector A.-
I need you to change the way in which you're expressing your opinions on this site. You're often doing so with a disdain for the opinions of others. People who disagree with you are not necessarily stupid nor ignorant; they simply disagree with you. My expectation is that all members of this site will demonstrate respect for others.

Everyone-
I'm not looking for artful, passive ways of disagreeing with others; matter-of-fact works just fine. There is no place for condescension, name calling, or insult on this site. I encourage debate and disagreement. I want multiple opinions expressed. I just want it done in a respectful manner.


I will be honest Nathan its very hard, the things i'm saying have been said and proved before by more prominent people than i am, not to mention its pretty much common sense if you have ever test cut with a sword against the proper medium, yet some people cling on to there ideas based out of lack of education, because they haven't test cut against linen, heck most have only cut vs bottles, a crowbar will "cut"(more like tear) a milk carton, what conclusions shall we make? Might as well go back 100 years and assume medieval swords where crowbars.

I came to this forum initially for good information on European swords, i consider it to be the best on the internet on this subject, and i have learned a lot from it, but sometimes bad information gets spread and this is one such time.

I can avoid being passionate about the subject if you wish, but i truly can't explain it in 100 more different ways, I've explained it with exact lingo, I've explained it with common lingo and i gave practical reasons for it, if people still can't understand it its like trying to explain a fish only breaths under water to someone that is convinced it doesn't ^^.
He's clearly wrong but won't accept reason.

Most people know for a fact what im talking about but wont be bothered to explain it, i understand why now.

For those who simply won't convert, i understand your 600 grit is more than enough for bottles ( and your right ) but at least avoid saying that's how they SHOULD be sharpened for everything else, until you don't cut linen you don't get to say that, many people read these forums you owe it to them to teach them correct information. Im thankful for what i learned on this forum, it was quick, free, helpful information, but i still despise the countless hours i lost when i learned "bullshit", like parrying on the flat, thick swords don't need to cut or "sword sharp".
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hector-

Regarding my administrative post, please take note that it was not a request.

-----

As for your opinion: You do not need to explain it 100 times. If you do, that would be quite annoying.

People disagree with you. That is life. Deal with it. This forum is intended for discussion. It is not a database of published knowledge and peer reviewed articles. It is a meeting place for like-minded (including those of varying opinion) to express opinions, ask questions, seek advice, explore ideas, and share information. It is not a place to pursue crusades, change the hearts and minds of others, or demand that people think or act in the same manner in which you do.

-----

I don't understand your last post (the one in which you are responding to me). I have said nothing about cutting bottles. I don't do this, myself, as it isn't interesting to me nor is it consistent with what I'm looking to do with a sword. I don't know why you would type that to me.

As for me, I will state that I happen to also disagree with much of what you said as well. I say this because my own interests lay with historical swords. Extant antique swords demonstrate qualities that vary with what you are describing. Your opinions simply are not uniformly consistent with what antiques show us.

Frankly, I don't think you've taken enough time to read the opinions expressed in this topic. For the most part, people are saying that swords from history were sharpened and finished in a manner that is designed for their specific use (that is to say, their martial usage, their intended target, etc. ) This, as a matter of fact, has resulted in antique sword edges that vary greatly from one to another.

I would never discourage a person from stating which qualities he or she believes makes the best sword. That is a matter of opinion. There's a lot of room for opinion in this matter.

My own opinion is that what I care for a sword is one that mimics something from history. This is my personal preference and quest. Mileage varies, of course, and this may be of no interest to others. I'm okay with that.

Having said that, any person who states that antique swords exhibit one type of edge (or any other quality, for that matter) is absolutely wrong. It is a matter of fact that extant antique swords show a great variety of qualities including edge qualities. These qualities extend well beyond super-sharpened straight beveled edges.

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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jimi Edmonds wrote:
Awesome, cheers Glen those links are very handy. So in thinking if I polished the blade it would bring better cutting right?

I will more than likely try the use of the stones and ceramic rod etc. I already use just a standard stone (unsure of grit, but has both light and heavy) on my Slasher and other knives, but I can never get a nice polish finish, though I haven't hit it with paper.

I'll look into some shaped stones, any advice on a standard get at the hardware store type stones?

cheers.


Hector has provided a number of opportunities for all to consider ways to sharpen a blade and one thread in particular showed how some approach it. There are many sharpening threads here at myArmoury and tutorials across the internet. My intent was not to shame anyone, we have all been there with questions and learning to excel.

I have no ready work space to set up a belt grinder but there are inexpensive machines out there. Any with the space and interest might give them a go. I am no novice with grinders but manage well with various stones and files. There is a learning curve with any method. My first exposure was in the Boy Scouts manual back in the '60s recommending a shallower angle. Enter convex grinds, sabre grinds and chisel grinds on knives. Axes, scythes, needles, chisels, drills, shovels; what have you, metal is metal.

Metal removal and polishing can be done a lot of different ways. I have used concrete to remove heavy rust and granite curbs to grind and polish. Scary sharp can be cool but a toothier edge can get the job done.

After many decades of hand sharpening, I have come to love diamond plates for field maintenance and tune ups at home. A ceramic rod for those end, or beginning of the day dressings. Keep 'em sharp. Some edges and steel go a long time with no issue. A 13 year old katana in the hands of many has had a diamond dressing maybe four times (including a point in the gravel event) and a few swipes with the ceramic from time to time.

There has been some thought that belt grinder sharpening, even at slow speeds and intermittent cooling is not as friendly to the steel as constant cooling will be. There is something to be said for slow and steady.

I am the last to say my way is the best but at this juncture after fifty years, I use a variety of stones and sometimes paper. I sometimes strop shorter blades. I prefer water and dry over light oil.

After a roommate watching me tune my kitchen knives with a natural water stone, he gifts me a brand new Norton 2x6 carborundum and a can of oil WTF?! Laughing Out Loud It's the thought that counts, right? I bought one of the two sided pucks a couple of years ago and I use it dry quite a bit after file work when roughing in an edge. I also have a hellacious huge aluminum oxide bench stone with which I have shaved piston rings and had completely reprofiled a large knife. Want a huge ceramic? Pick up an old toilet tank top and use the unglazed side Wink

Cheers

GC
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of my favorite things about the study of arms and armour is the great variety found in the objects themselves. It's a diverse subject that holds an almost infinite amount of surprises. To try to describe qualities and details amd categorize them into easily sorted little boxes is often a frustrating exercise in futility: thankfully!

The topic's author tried to ask a question about edge geometry for swords and even tried to narrow the scope of the question by including a 100-year window. This was good, but unfortunately even that doesn't narrow the variables enough to give a concise one-size-fits-all answer to the question. Extant antiques show great variety even within those constraints.

Looking at swords in a larger scope (Viking Age through the Renaissance), one can see a huge variety of swords designed for a wide variety of applications (martial use, specific targets, personal or regional preferences, etc.) One need not have to guess that this variety of design would also result in a variety of edge geometry and sharpening methodology: as a matter of fact, this variety existed.

Imagine the graphic below, which shows only a tiny slice of variety of edged weapons. If I were to have each of these made I would certainly hope to find a great variety of details as it pertains to the edges of the blades. While there might be some overlap given that some of the swords are similar in design, even with those history has shown variety.

As far as extant antique swords go, one size does not fit all; despite our modern-world preferences or opinions of what might make the best sword design.

As an aside, I think many people would be surprised that European swords were as sharp as they were. Modern culture seems to paint these swords as clunky crowbars and instead puts the romance of sharpness onto the katana and other types of weapons. Pity.



 Attachment: 407.18 KB
swordvariety.png
A variety of edged weapons
(not shown to scale)


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