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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2015 11:59 pm    Post subject: Inlay and Reproduction Swords         Reply with quote

Inlay is incredibly common on swords from the Middle Ages. I would hazard that the great majority of extant swords from the 9th through 12th century have some sort of inlay on the blade, and there seems to be good evidence for inlay being reasonably common as late as the 14th century, if not later.

So, my question is, how important is it to you for a modern reproduction sword to have inlay?

Can we truly say that a sword is a faithful reproduction of an original-- or faithful to the style of originals--when they lack inlay? Granted, not all medieval swords did have inlay, but it is stylistically appropriate for many reproductions.

If you bought a reproduction, would you be happy if the manufacturer carves letters into the sword or uses some other technique to mimic inlay in order to keep costs down? Or would you want your sword to have metal inlayed into the blade for the sake of authenticity?

What are your thoughts?
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2015 12:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Authenticity is very important to me. So much so that I'm hesitant to buy an Albion because of it's acid etched makers mark.
Éirinn go Brách
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2015 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Like most things, for me it's all about context. If a maker is striving to be as historically accurate as possible in materials and construction methods, if decoration of this sort is used it needs to be genuine inlay, not acid etching, photo etching or anything of the sort. On the other hand, if a company is striving for accurate form but choosing to use modern methods to aid in cost mitigation and production concerns, then I don't get worked up about it. Albion has already been mentioned and they're a good example. If Albion chooses to mill their blades on a CNC machine and produce their hilt components with investment casting, then my line in the sand will not be an acid etched makers mark. Valiant Armoury offers acid etching as an option on their swords. I find this acceptable on a $500.00 sword, but quite the opposite on a $5000.00 example that's intended to be historically accurate. If I'm acquiring a sword to be used as an example of an historic type I prefer it to be as accurate as possible within my ability to pay for it. If it's a sword that will be used as a research or training tool then an inlay or lack thereof won't make a bit of difference in what the sword can teach me....... context. Today we have a wide range of options that are truly mind boggling compared to twenty years ago. They all have their place and I appreciate them for what they are.
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2015 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I find it very important for a sword to have the proper inlay. I think it adds a lot of character to a sword anyway. As Craig pointed out, most orginal swords from the 9th-12th century featured some form of inlay. As that is my favorite period, I kinda have to have inlay for a piece to be authentic, or search pretty hard for an example that I like without inlay. For me, etched inlay or no inlay on a sword that should have it is a dealbreaker. I should point out that I only have custom made swords at this point, and will likely never buy another production piece....
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2015 11:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great thread Craig!

I am a big fan of inlay and agree that the vast majority of medieval swords did show some inlay. I believe that inlay adds so much to a piece and I mourn when I see an otherwise beautiful reproduction missing inlay when it would really add so much to the finished piece.

Albion's Soborg sword is perhaps the best example, to me, of an otherwise spectacular reproduction which is sadly missing authentic inlay. I would LOVE to buy this sword as it fits so well into my period of interest but cannot bring myself to put out the money knowing that the inlay is not attained in an authentic way. I realize that the production process would makes authentic inlay very difficult and perhaps impractical but I still do mourn that an opportunity was missed with the Soborg Sword.

I, personally do not care to see etching or inscribing of any type done as a sort of imitation of inlay. I say either do the correct inlay or do nothing at all.

Often, for me, inlay is what makes a sword (or seax) reproduction truly special.
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2015 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I, personally do not care to see etching or inscribing of any type done as a sort of imitation of inlay. I say either do the correct inlay or do nothing at all.


I agree, I'd rather see it done correctly or simply left off. Inlay isn't a sticking point for me in an otherwise fine piece but I'd rather it be omitted rather than some kind of faux attempt made, much like my dislike for artificially aged weapons.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 2:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have found over time that historical accuracy has become of greater importance to me. To that end, it seems that inlay is one of those small but important details that makes many good modern reproductions less accurate than they might otherwise be. Although I might own a replica of a 11th or 12th century sword, the lack of inlay means that the sword isn’t quite right--it’s missing a small but crucial element. I can understand, too, how collectors might come to see the absence of inlay as one of those oversights that wrecks the authenticity of a reproduction.

At the same time, as someone who practices historic European martial arts, my swords are tools for practicing with. In addition to using my sharp swords for solo practice I also use them for cutting practice, and I may in future use them for light free play. Given that this is so, if I purchase a sword with inlay on the blade, I will have to decide whether I wish to subject it to these forms of abuse. Obviously historical swords took damage in this way, yet the significant extra cost of inlay, especially if it is authentic, and the cost of a custom sword mean that I must carefully evaluate whether such usage is worth it. On the other hand, it seems somewhat silly to me to buy a sword that I dry handle without ever using, so maybe I would make use of an inlaid sword. That, however, it something for me to decide in the future.
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 1:17 pm    Post subject: Inlay v.s. No Inlay         Reply with quote

I think both points of view are valid. The martial art enthusiast might forgo inlay due to wear and tear. However, folks like me would pay extra for the engraved inlay just for the collectability and appearance. Bottom line is that it should be an option and if it is offered, will be a greatly enhanced incentive to choose one maker over another.
"Those who live by the sword...will usually die with a huge, unpaid credit card balance!"
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Guess it adds "neatness" but not so sure it adds value. I've eventually sold every piece in my collection to get something else over the years. I'm afraid inlay would do nothing for resale except enlarge my loss based on my assumption that inlay would be costly. Long way of saying I appreciate it when its done but its not something I would pay for.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

GS: How important is it for you that a reproduction have inlay?

The reason I ask is that, while your post gives a middle ground on the collector/HEMA practitioner debate, you don't clearly indicate how important inlay is for you.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

(Wanders back in after a couple years....)

Personally for me, inlay is extremely important. As noted, inlay seems to be found on most surviving blades from the period. A sword from the period, especially a "viking" sword just completely misses the mark without it (minus a few specific types that seem to forgo it). The plethora of type H, K, R, etc... without inlay simply do not do the type justice, as these almost always had inlay.

Blade inlays, Hilt inlays, and Pattern Welding. These are the things that take a a sword into the realm of art for me, and that is the reason I collect.

(Robert Moc is working on an PW inlaid type U for me currently FWIW)

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Aug, 2015 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
(Wanders back in after a couple years....)

(Robert Moc is working on an PW inlaid type U for me currently FWIW)


Welcome back! I certainly hope you post pictures of the Moc sword, I love his work.
Edited to say I guess I am using "inscriptions" in my post to refer to the symbols and letters in themselves, not the actual method of inscribing, inlaying, or engraving them into the sword

I would like to point out that these inscriptions had very important significance to the owners and users of the sword. In many cases we are still guessing what the inscriptions and symbols might mean.Without sounding superstitious or something, I would propose that since we cannot fully appreciate the mindset of those actual warriors and why they would choose one inscription or another, we should therefore carefully respect what those inscriptions might have brought to the sword itself.

That doesn't really sound clear. I guess it is another, deeper way to appreciate the original blades and reproductions. I myself would hesitate to have just any jumble of symbols or inscriptions on a sword made for me since it doesn't seem respectful. To draw from a clear historical example would be better, for me, though I can't imagine I am offending any ancient spirits or something.

I don't know what others might think of his schema, but I found Christian Tobler's essay on the worldview of late medieval fighters to be very interesting and it at least made me ponder other aspects of what the sword in itself might mean to a person trained in its use. Inscriptions are a glimpse into an earlier and related phenomenon perhaps.

Does anyone else think about the content or meaning of the inscriptions like this or is it just window dressing so to speak?

As far as the original post question goes, I'm very close to Patrick Kelly's viewpoint. The sword and its context of use are the first thing for me at this stage of collecting.
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