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Spenser T.




Location: West coast, Canada
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Nov, 2015 12:28 pm    Post subject: Sword ricasso: reasons? pro vs. cons?         Reply with quote

I find I'm thinking a lot about why a sword (single-handed) would have a ricasso, and I'm hoping to get some ideas and input from the knowledgeable folks here...

I've heard they were used to wrap a finger around to access a different type of grip. This makes sense, but I also notice that a lot of basket-hilted swords have a ricasso on them, and one wouldn't be able to access this type of grip with a full basket.. so I'm wondering if there were some other less obvious reasons for having them.. or were they something that was fashionable? (I don't see how a ricasso would detract from the cutting ability / other offensive uses of a blade.. please correct me if I'm wrong about this)

Thanks for your input
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Nov, 2015 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are forumites who can answer this better than me, but I'll give it a shot..

Correct me if I'm wrong, (as I am about so many things) but ricassos first became common on Type XIX blades around the beginning of the XVth century. Certainly a primary reason was to allow one to finger the cross without cutting that finger.

I've also heard that the ricasso can make sharpening the blade easier. Certainly, with a complex hilt that extends out over the beginning of the blade, sharpening in that area could be difficult.

I think a ricasso can also play an important part in creating various types of blade geometry. If one starts with a thick ricasso, then it may make it easier to play with various kinds of distal taper to achieve the sort of blade balance one seeks.

A ricasso also enables one to put interesting designs on the blade, as are found on many XIX's!



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Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Nov, 2015 8:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wonder if part of it is strengthening the forte for defense, keeping it thicker for taking strikes.

It probably also had to do with bringing the center of balance closer to the hand as thrusting became more important.

Could also be stylistic.
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Ronald M




Location: vancouver bc canada
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Nov, 2015 10:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

wouldnt it help to sit in a sheath a bit better?
smiley face 123? no? lol yeah well im here cause i like...swords and weapons and stuff obv
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Nov, 2015 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect that the reason that you find ricassoes on blades matched with baskethilts is that large numbers of bare blades were produced in places like Passau and Solingen and exported to be hilted locally. Having a ricasso on these blades would keep the option open for hilting them on swords that you intended to finger the guard. I really can't think of any con to having a ricasso on a sword blade.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Nov, 2015 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:
I wonder if part of it is strengthening the forte for defense, keeping it thicker for taking strikes.


In particular, it will help avoid deep nicks in the edge at the base of the blade that can give nice starting points for cracks that will result in you losing your whole blade.

Ben Coomer wrote:
It probably also had to do with bringing the center of balance closer to the hand as thrusting became more important.


Possibly. This would depend on thickness, fullering, etc. Along the lines of thrusting, it can also make for a stiffer base of the blade.

Ben Coomer wrote:
Could also be stylistic.


Sometimes, for sure.

Ronald M wrote:
wouldnt it help to sit in a sheath a bit better?


It would help. In particular, it can help achieve a tight fit at the scabbard mouth while having a looser fit within the rest of the scabbard.

Compare with the Japanese habaki and Chinese tunkou (sometimes, on Chinese blades, there isn't a separate tunkou, but a ricasso instead, decorated to look like a tunkou).

Stephen Curtin wrote:
I really can't think of any con to having a ricasso on a sword blade.


Can make it easier to grab the blade. If a plain cross, it makes it safer to grab the guard from the blade side.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Nov, 2015 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It also makes the base of the blade stiffer which pushes the vibrational node on the blade out further towards the tip.
"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Spenser T.




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Nov, 2015 9:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just want to thank you guys for your input, as usual, these are all things I wouldn't have thought of!
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Dara Mag Uiginn




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Nov, 2015 7:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to add something from my amateur research: A long, recessed ricasso, as seen on the Oakeshott type XVIIIe, could be used as an efficient place to grab the blade, effectively turning it into a short pole arm. All ricassos (ricassi, ricassen?) enable this action, of course, but the XVIIIe's is designed to facilitate this, allowing the weapon to be wielded as a short pole arm. The things are beautiful, and exotic in appearance. The Danish used them quite a bit in the later part of the 1400s. Another note: The XVIIIe was robustly built, and Albion says that it may have been used as a lance on occasion (and they do their homework!) Hope I helped!
"It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards."
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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Location: upstate NY
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 4:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An article by Marc Gener I was reading recently was about the metallography of two broken rapier blades (broken in the middle, roughly) and both of them were heat treated in a way that left the tang and ricasso soft. A chunkier ricasso would help greatly to stiffen the blade in that area.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 11:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stiffness doesn't depend on heat treatment (Young's modulus for iron and steel is almost independent of heat treatment and alloy). Since, even if the base of the blade was spring tempered, you don't want too much flex there, leaving the base of the blade soft shouldn't make any difference.

But yes, a stiffer base, e.g., due to a ricasso, will help stop the blade from taking a set there. But I don't think a well designed blade should be flexing too much there anyway, so I don't think this is a reason for using a ricasso. That is, if it needs a ricasso to be stiff enough when heat-treated soft, you'd still want that ricasso there if it was spring tempered.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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