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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 112

PostPosted: Tue 02 Jun, 2020 3:39 pm    Post subject: Guard Fit Complaints         Reply with quote

Something has been bothering me for a while so I wanted to bring it up and possible get some discussion going on the subject. One very common complaint about reproduction swords that I often see/hear is that the guard is not tightly fitted to the blade. Why are we complaining about this!? If you look at originals It seems to be more of the rare exception that they were perfectly fitted to the guard. Often there are large gaps between the blade and guard, and they are often not even regular or symmetrical.

Just have a look at the fit on the Harriet dean sword below. It's awful by today's standards, and it's not even close to the worst that I have seen. There are a few sword makers that have adopted a wider groove approach which I personally like since it is similar to many originals.

I get that we have better tools these days to make things fit nicely, but they could also do it back in the day and yet they did not. In some cases I find that a perfect, zero-gap, fit appears out of place. Similar to a chrome finish on the hilt fittings. I'm not saying that I prefer a hack job, but I don't think it should be huge mark against a sword if there is a gap around the blade as it enters the guard as long as it is aesthetically pleasing.

Would love to hear some opinions on this.



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Edward Lee




Location: New York
Joined: 05 Jul 2013

Posts: 358

PostPosted: Tue 02 Jun, 2020 3:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most people complains about guard fitting were comparing it to Albion reproduction. However I do have a nielo made katzbalger with large gap in guard and it's just loose no matter how much I peen it.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Tue 02 Jun, 2020 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd recently begun worrying that gaps will allow moisture inside the hilt. On the last couple I assembled, I filled them with that beeswax-linseed oil mix, though maybe cutler's resin (or epoxy, for a modern-modern blade) would be a more appropriate choice.
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 124

PostPosted: Tue 02 Jun, 2020 6:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Overall: the topic has been pretty much done before: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=36059

Dan D'Silva wrote:
I'd recently begun worrying that gaps will allow moisture inside the hilt. On the last couple I assembled, I filled them with that beeswax-linseed oil mix, though maybe cutler's resin (or epoxy, for a modern-modern blade) would be a more appropriate choice.


Whether moisture can go through the gap between guard and blade into the hilt depends almost entirely on whether you have a fuller. If you have a fuller, moisture can go in there through the fuller channel. The blade's shoulders should be "recessed" into the gap, which leads to a rectangular slot of the same dimensions as the tang, so that there's not actually any channel leading all the way to the grip if you don't have a fuller. If it's particularly loose-fitting, you may have one or two gaps, but that should be the exception.

Now, even if there is no gap leading from blade to hilt, moisture can still accumulate behind the blade's shoulders. Ballistol allegedly emulsifies with water, so I'd recommend putting a small amount of that into the gap for good measure, and if your sword got particularly wet I'd renew that layer.

Generally it seems to not have been a real problem for centuries in a time when swords were actually used.

Slight addendum towards the commonly-raised fear that a large gap between the blade and the recess in the guard:
I've been using a Swordmaker/Kopciuch-made longsword for the last two years or so. It's gone through about 200 training sessions. The entire front face of the crossguard has gotten heavily dinged up by (longsword) hits of all possible intensities. One of the quillons has taken a tiny set, barely noticeable. The assembly is still absolutely rock solid.

Contrast this with the two budget Czech-made swords my club got recently: The gap between guard and blade is considerably more miniscule. They started rattling after I whacked them into my helmet once (!) to test for fatal flaws in the material. Similar story with the Regenyei Feders my club uses. They generally have practically no gap between blade and guard. My personal one could move slightly from day one. All others started rattling rather soon.

Moral of the story: You can not tell from the gap if a sword will stay solid or start to rattle.

Possible exception: Messer guards that were slid on from the point, as well as guards that have the blade's shoulders visible from the hilt-side. Those should either be shrunk on, brazed/soldered tight, or at least back-peened.
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T. Kew




Location: London, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 202

PostPosted: Wed 03 Jun, 2020 12:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Originals often have wide cross guard slots. They also often have wavy fullers or mid-ribs, unequal edges, blades aren't straight in either plane, pommels are off-centre, etc. These are all reasonable variation when you're working exclusively by hand, but nowadays cheap swords are made on machine and can be very consistent in features like this. You can only really get this sort of variation on handwork done by someone who really understands swords.

Fundamentally, this comes down to modern senses of aesthetics. We're so used to things being 'perfect' and consistent that the idea of stuff being wrong/flawed - especially on a product which is handmade and thus even more expensive than a cheap mass produced sword would be - seems pretty unreasonable. Another obvious case is the modern preference for very simple/'elegant' swords, with less of a tendency for decoration.

HEMA fencer and coach, New Cross Historical Fencing
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 244

PostPosted: Wed 03 Jun, 2020 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johannes Zenker wrote:
The blade's shoulders should be "recessed" into the gap, which leads to a rectangular slot of the same dimensions as the tang, so that there's not actually any channel leading all the way to the grip if you don't have a fuller. If it's particularly loose-fitting, you may have one or two gaps, but that should be the exception.

Well, I'm thinking primarily of the knives/swords assembled from separate components, e.g. that Bowie knife I'm working on. The slot on a guard that isn't made specifically for the tang it's combined with will just about always be the wrong width or length. Unless it started out both too short and too narrow (which I've never been lucky enough to have happen unless I fabricated the guard myself), it'll need shims even just to not slide around after the hilt's assembled, let alone keep water out.
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 262

PostPosted: Wed 03 Jun, 2020 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I should say, and I think everyone can agree, that a nice, tight fit with good alignment is always preferable to something that isn't as well made. However, I also think it's worth noting that there were and are ways around this that aren't always practiced as much as they can be:

1. I just noted/learned this from Damian the other day pertaining to fitting the crossguard. This is probably best employed when you do in fact have a good, tight fit on the part:

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=353...;start=110

2. When the fit is looser, brass or bronze shims, or perhaps any other type of shim can be used to stabilize and secure the part.

3. More on-topic to the item of the large gap in the guard however, one thing I don't see often and wish I'd see more of is the use of cutler's pitch or an acceptable stand-in for that material. Cutler's pitch historically is a natural glue which you might use to partially secure the handle parts (such as the sword grip, as well as the wrapping on said grip). Pitch can also be used to fill in that gap between the blade and the shoulders of the guard, even more so the void between the guard and the fuller. When done neatly, the end result is really clean look that will also deny access to much of the debris or other... stuff that could get into the sword from this area. Although I didn't get pictures from the perspective of interest, my "classwork" sword, produced at Ric Furrer's Fall 2019 European Sword class, has a cutler's pitch substitute filling in at the front of the guard:

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=38037&highlight=

...This is something that really should be done when the sword is assembled, and not after. Degreasing the sword and its components is also essential in getting a good bond between the glue and the steel or otherwise metal parts. Note that the "modernized" glue used in this sword was in fact epoxy.
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 112

PostPosted: Wed 03 Jun, 2020 4:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some really great points from all.

I should probably mention that when I was speaking of a guard that is tightly fitted to the blade, I was referring to the cross guard slot, and not to how tightly the guard fits on the tang. I agree that the cross guard should be firmly fixed to the tang/blade without movement. Sorry for the ambiguity.

Johannes, I appreciated your comments from a functional perspective. I was purely thinking aesthetically when I originally posted. It's good to bring in this side of it.

T. Kew wrote:

Fundamentally, this comes down to modern senses of aesthetics. We're so used to things being 'perfect' and consistent that the idea of stuff being wrong/flawed - especially on a product which is handmade and thus even more expensive than a cheap mass produced sword would be - seems pretty unreasonable. Another obvious case is the modern preference for very simple/'elegant' swords, with less of a tendency for decoration.


I think you hit the nail on the head here, but I also think that we have come a long way with this in recent years. It seems to me that the aesthetic of modern production blades is closer to originals now that it has ever has been. Perhaps the feeling about gaps between the blade and the cross guard slot can also change.

I do really like the idea of using cutler's pitch or a modern equivalent to fill these gaps. I think that would add to the authentic feel/look of a blade.
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 507

PostPosted: Wed 03 Jun, 2020 7:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
Some really great points from all.

I should probably mention that when I was speaking of a guard that is tightly fitted to the blade, I was referring to the cross guard slot, and not to how tightly the guard fits on the tang. I agree that the cross guard should be firmly fixed to the tang/blade without movement. Sorry for the ambiguity.

Johannes, I appreciated your comments from a functional perspective. I was purely thinking aesthetically when I originally posted. It's good to bring in this side of it.

T. Kew wrote:

Fundamentally, this comes down to modern senses of aesthetics. We're so used to things being 'perfect' and consistent that the idea of stuff being wrong/flawed - especially on a product which is handmade and thus even more expensive than a cheap mass produced sword would be - seems pretty unreasonable. Another obvious case is the modern preference for very simple/'elegant' swords, with less of a tendency for decoration.


I think you hit the nail on the head here, but I also think that we have come a long way with this in recent years. It seems to me that the aesthetic of modern production blades is closer to originals now that it has ever has been. Perhaps the feeling about gaps between the blade and the cross guard slot can also change.

I do really like the idea of using cutler's pitch or a modern equivalent to fill these gaps. I think that would add to the authentic feel/look of a blade.

As a living history piece teaching piece, yes, I agree that is a good goal. As a cutting practice piece, no a can't. People didn't go to war or duel as often as people like to test cut to understand how swords work and we have better steels and better tools now. There are many legit reasons for sacrificing authenticity for performance.
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 112

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 6:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:

As a living history piece teaching piece, yes, I agree that is a good goal. As a cutting practice piece, no a can't. People didn't go to war or duel as often as people like to test cut to understand how swords work and we have better steels and better tools now. There are many legit reasons for sacrificing authenticity for performance.


You are right. Performance is important. But, I canít see how having a wide groove in the guard (wider than the blade) to accept the blade shoulder will affect performance. It is purely aesthetic. Is it not the fit of the guard on the tang that is doing the work?
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Arne G.





Joined: 31 Jul 2014

Posts: 103

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 8:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As long as it doesn't look like the groove was done with a vertical mill, and, preferably, wasn't made too large (even though the latter can be historically correct) I will be happy with it.
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 507

PostPosted: Thu 04 Jun, 2020 7:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:

As a living history piece teaching piece, yes, I agree that is a good goal. As a cutting practice piece, no a can't. People didn't go to war or duel as often as people like to test cut to understand how swords work and we have better steels and better tools now. There are many legit reasons for sacrificing authenticity for performance.


You are right. Performance is important. But, I canít see how having a wide groove in the guard (wider than the blade) to accept the blade shoulder will affect performance. It is purely aesthetic. Is it not the fit of the guard on the tang that is doing the work?

Well, the looser fit on an idea they more likely it will start to rattle with use because shock that might go into the user's body get into the guard over time. hilt components in this where often made it a separate workshop and the blade and hilts fitted together instead of all made it one spot.Also, it wasn't that uncommon for blades to be rehilted several times in their working life. So, it is small detail....... but it could make big difference if what to say.... follow in the footsteps of skallagrim and thegn thrand chop up heavy clothing... thick oak branches.... shield boards... etc
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 124

PostPosted: Fri 05 Jun, 2020 4:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:

Well, the looser fit on an idea they more likely it will start to rattle with use


Yes and no. Depends on your definition of "looser".

Yes: The lower the contact area between blade/tang and guard, the less secure the fit. If by "looser" you mean "less area in direct contact", then yes. The area in contact is typically not visible without disassembling the sword, though, at least for pre-Renaissance pieces.

No: It does not matter how big the gap between the blade and the guard is. Whether 0.2mm or 2mm, if there is no contact, there is no contact. Thus, if by "looser" you mean the gap being smaller, yet still present, then no, there is little to no causal relation between the gap and solid assembly.

Now, a closely fit gap *can* be an indicator of the craftsmen involved working extra precisely to make everything fit well together, but at least on the cheaper end I would not count on that being the case.
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James Arlen Gillaspie
Industry Professional



Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

Posts: 566

PostPosted: Fri 05 Jun, 2020 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As someone who has worked on many real centuries-old swords, including long swords and great swords, as well as many other sorts of real weapons, I just shake my head when people worry about loose guards. I have not seen much in the way of evidence that they cared. Symmetry is poor, much of the time, and holes through pommels are drifted off center, which is bound to happen a lot when the work is done hot, not drilled. My last job was on a bastard sword of a mid 16th century German sort, a good solid plain weapon that most of you would be absolutely ecstatic to have in your hands. I say 'solid', because the guard was only a bit jiggly. Its asking price was well over 10 K. The photo I attach is from another fine weapon, a long sword, showing what I mean about off center drifting.


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