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Houston P.




Location: United States
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 11:54 am    Post subject: Question About Seax Construction         Reply with quote

As somewhat of an amateur Viking Age history enthusiast, I am probably missing something incredibly simple, but I have been unable to find any information about how the majority of seax hilts were attached to the blade. It seems rather to be an uncommon exception rather than the rule for them to be peened over a sort of cap or given a sword hilt even on larger examples, and despite quite a bit of searching I have not found any examples of a pinned grip. Were they likely just glued in place like Indian tulwar hilts, somehow wedged in place, or do we not really know? I apologize if this has been mentioned somewhere before, but I couldn't find anything. Thanks in advance.
...and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭36‬) To be without silver is better than to be without honor. -Norse proverb
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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not an expert here, but my understanding is that many of them used what's called a 'whittle' assembly, where a thin, pointed tang is stuck firmly into a solid wood or horn grip. This is a surprisingly good assembly for a basic utility knife of small to medium size. A few were peened across a grip cap, usually the larger ones. Resin may have been involved with some.
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 1:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Second on the "whittle assembly"

also the tang could be heated (not to the point of losing/changing temper) and then pressed into the material of the grip; this works especially well for horn and bone.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You can find lots of very good museum photographs of various kinds of seaxes with remains of hilt elements in this old thread, as well as some useful discussion.

A blind tang, carefully friction fit and possibly fixed with glue or resin, is the most common method especially for later period seaxes such as those used by vikings. The method is plenty strong if made with due care - as you already pointed out, this is also how kukri, dha, tulwar and many other South-East Asian weapons were historically constructed. Note that on larger seaxes the tang is far from the small whittle tang you see on most tool knives, sometimes being almost the full width and length of the grip (and on at least one example an actual full tang sandwiched by two riveted grip slabs).

PS. And in this thread Jeroen Zuiderwijk discusses the practical details of how to burn the tang into the hilt.

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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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2015 9:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My thinking, after studying seaxes for some time, is that they must have had some really good glue to have made them the way they did. The usual method is a whittle-tang, sometimes robust, sometimes not, with glue and possibly wedges....

I know of 2 full-tang seaxes, both from Germany, found within 50 miles of each other, possibly a regional oddity. One is a langsax, the other a breitsax. To say they were rare is being generous, this is 2 out of 1000.... Occasionally one sees a through-tang, with the end of the tang peened over (or contained within) a pommel, this is fairly common on breitsax (often seen without a pommel, the tang simply bent over the end of the handle) and earlier saxes but almost unheard of with Saxon-style broke-backs and langsax, with one exception (a langsax) that I know of. I am not familiar enough with the Scandinavian/Norse knives/saxes to be able to say for certain how they were usually constructed.

" I have found that it is very often the case that if you state some absolute rule of history, there will be an example, however extremely unusual, to break it."
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2015 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you take the ingredients of a vegetable based oil, beeswax, rosin and pitch and try heating and mixing in various proportions and ingredients (but only a tiny bit of oil if any) you will end up with a range of surprisingly tough and sticky substances.

Not saying this is what they used, but I have used it successfully on whittle tang knives.

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Houston P.




Location: United States
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2015 12:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had seen the "seax question" thread before, but I had never seen Jeroen's post about burning in the hilt though, that was very interesting. And I was also under the impression that they used a milk glue to hold shields together, which I had forgotten about, but it must have been rather strong to do so. I wonder if they used that for seax hilts? I saw it mentioned in the threads you linked and thinking back to the shields gave me a sort of " light bulb" feeling. Also, do you have a picture of the full tang riveted seax? I've not seen one before. Thanks again, everyone.
...and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭36‬) To be without silver is better than to be without honor. -Norse proverb
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2015 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Houston P. wrote:
I had seen the "seax question" thread before, but I had never seen Jeroen's post about burning in the hilt though, that was very interesting. And I was also under the impression that they used a milk glue to hold shields together, which I had forgotten about, but it must have been rather strong to do so. I wonder if they used that for seax hilts? I saw it mentioned in the threads you linked and thinking back to the shields gave me a sort of " light bulb" feeling.

Well, they could have, but there were actually lots of different kinds of glues used for different purposes. I don't think milk glue would be ideal for this. It would work, sure, but they had things even better suited to this specific use.

Also, the glue is only half of the formula: the mere friction between the tang and a closely fitted grip can also provide a surprisingly strong hold. Just ask anyone who's had to use mallets to remove the tsuka from a katana (even after taking out the mekugi). Happy

The combination of good glue and tight fit can be significantly stronger than the wooden grip itself - as in, you'll have to deliberately break the grip into pieces to get it off. At that point, no sort of rivets or peens could possibly make the construction any more durable.

Quote:
Also, do you have a picture of the full tang riveted seax? I've not seen one before. Thanks again, everyone.

Sorry, just the dig report drawing Jeroen posted in the "Seax question" thread:

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Then we get to the broadsaxes. Here virtually all saxes have no metal components anymore. These saxes nearly all have blind tangs glued into simple wooden or horn hilts. There are a few rare examples where a rivet was used to fix the blade, and I've come across a single example with a full tang hilt which originally had grip scales. This one however gives the best evidence for the shape of the hilt:


This heavy broad sax is from Weingarten, Germany, dating to 610-660AD. The size is 569mm. So if you take the outline of the tang, and the size of the rivets, this gives a pretty good reconstruction of the shape of the original hilt, which was shaped much like the lower half of the haft of a modern hammer. Note that the hilt is 225mm long, 49mm at the widest and 27mm at the thickest.

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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Paul Greathouse




Location: Stow, Ohio
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2015 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I understand, and according to Mr. Matt Easton, the most common way was to use glue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQGgUbGv5vo
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G Ezell
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Location: North Alabama
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Aug, 2015 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


This is the other full-tang riveted grip, a langsax from Etting in Bavaria.

" I have found that it is very often the case that if you state some absolute rule of history, there will be an example, however extremely unusual, to break it."
Gabriel Lebec

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