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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2020 7:30 am    Post subject: RA IX.949 "Writhen Hilt Sword" Reproduction         Reply with quote

Hey, folks! I have failed to post a few recent projects here, even while enjoying seeing and reading about what others are doing. I'll start with the most recent and work backwards.

The Royal Armouries commissioned a reproduction of their famous IX.949 "writhen hilt sword". Most of you are familiar with that sword, but if not you can read about it here: https://royalarmouries.org/stories/our-collection/object-of-the-month-for-december-the-writhen-hilt-sword/?fbclid=IwAR1m4pqkhiZDUo3eL1y-12g8Lcgn4i3AlFq1umht5F81Iwjf6V94mLrjkHo

...and see stats and wonderful photos here: https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-104.html

The reproduction originally sold for around £175.00, which apparently didn't reflect it's position in the market–I'm guessing it was too expensive for casual collectors and museum visitors while also looking too irregular for collectors who have a machine-age expectation of handmade objects. For whatever reason, it ended up at The Knight Shop for £72 and remains there, but that's too low for this piece. Fellow MA member Julien M got one of those and tipped me to what I think is a fantastic bargain. Here's what it looks like on the shelf: https://www.theknightshop.com/royal-armouries-writhen-hilt-sword

What It Isn't: This is not going to make you happy if you're looking for Albion build quality for $92. The blade is not heat-treated and the threaded pommel and compression-style assembly seemed a bit wobbly to me. The tall brass nut locking down the pommel may have been peened. I had to cut it off to disassemble the sword. The shaping and finishing of the narrow Type XVIII blade was authentically medieval, but not in the sense most collectors appreciate–irregular polish, waviness of section and profile and some slight warping at the distal end due to the lack of heat treatment. The sword that came to me even had the slight sloping of the shoulders of the blade to fit the faux chappe that is cast in a piece with quillons. For me, all of that wonkiness is an argument in favor of this piece.

What It is: Compare the reproduction to the detailed photos of the original and find an exceptional attention to detail and scale. The cost savings are in overseas manufacture and the mild blade, NOT in the research. Tod, in his video discussion of IX.949 and his own amazing reproduction, mentions that he handled the original as part of a project for the RA. If this sword was that project, it's no wonder "the bones are good." There's even a blade marking that mimics the unidentifiable mark on the original. The reproduction's mark looks suspiciously like the RA's equally-famous horned armet. Kudos to whoever went to great lengths to get it right and communicate the information to the manufacturer, no matter what the manufacturer did with it.

Mine arrived well packed in an impressive RA-branded black and yellow box. I'm not a hoarder, but I still have that tucked away for now. I've seen the original sword up-close and was amazed that it's so small. I think we tend to oversize these objects in our imagination. This one is true to the original. As I examined the piece, the only aesthetic complaint I could find in comparison to the original is that the section of the grip elements seems to be very slightly smaller than that of the original. Some might also object to the superior casting and finish of the reproduction's furniture. How's that for nitpicking?

I don't love the plastic look of highly polished brass, but I recognize that the original was gilded and all about high-status bling. I thought I would give this thing an appropriate scabbard and suspension, but when I finished stripping and rebuilding the hilt and started on the scabbard core, I suddenly realized that this would be too much finery for my tastes. I want IX.949 as it exists now, naked and scarred and full of stories.

So, I returned to the full range of antiquing techniques I described in an article for this site many years ago: http://myArmoury.com/feature_antique.html

I had somewhat disavowed that kind of work in the decade+ since, but I have used aspects of it on some knife projects recently. Once I got into this sword project I recalled what fun it is to bash a good reproduction with various tools, mash it against the floor, fume the brass and spoil the blade (after a simple and effective polish) with misused cold blueing solution and a homemade solution of salt and vinegar. I didn't take this quite as far as the original, and there's no good way to match the pattern of wear and corrosion of the gilded original furniture. But this project has far more character than what came out of the box. For $90 and shipping, I'm more than pleased.

By the way, I tried the reproduction hilt on a Hanwei-Tinker bastard sword blade. It'll work if you slope the shoulders of the blade slightly, getting even closer to the look of the original. I'm sure there would be other fitting to be done to make the switch, but it could be done if the mild blade bothers you. Just be aware that the HT blade is heavier, and there isn't much in the way of pommel as counterweight, so you might not like the feel of that sword.



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-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Michael Beeching





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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2020 11:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice! I have way too many projects myself, but this looks like it could be a good one. The KnightShop's website suggests the blade is of high carbon steel, probably 1045. Would it be worth finding some charcoal and attempting to heat-treat it, or finding someone who knows what they're doing and have them do it?

...I for one would like to know what properly treated 1045 could or can do, because it is often available in sheets from steel suppliers. This potentially makes it a great material for stock reduction fabrication, which can be done with an angle grinder and various grinding wheels.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jul, 2020 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The price is right for an attempt. I'm weak on metallurgy, but it seems like the worst case would be that it takes a set during the treatment, and you could probably bend it back even if the treatment is effective. Even if the blade were to be a complete loss, I think the price is still okay just for the hilt.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Ryan Renfro




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2020 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for writing this up, Sean. I purchased a copy back in May thanks to Julien as well. Nice job on the aging process.

I had a chance to study the original about seven years ago and I am pretty pleased with this reproduction as well. The main difference I see is that the Deepeeka version is approximately 20% lighter. The blade is about 3/4" shorter and has lost about 2mm in thickness at the hilt. The crossguard is slightly shorter as well, but the rest of the hilt proportions are pretty close. The point of balance is further out from the hilt by about 2". I don't have any of the other dynamic properties of the original for comparison. The net effect of all these differences is a sword that feels significantly better in the hand than my recollection of the original. While my copy of the blade could use some finish sanding and does have a certain amount of waviness, it's closer to true in a lot of respects than the original.

The copy I received is heat treated, but not well heat treated. If bent 5" it will return to true. When I pushed it further it did take a very slight set, but was correctable by carefully bending in the other direction. I wouldn't attempt to re-heat treat. While not properly sharp, it does not have enough material at the edge to re-grind after heat treating, and you'd risk the blade bending. Celtic Webmerchant has the steel as EN45, but who knows how accurate that is.

What really stands about about this effort is the hilt furniture. The brass is worth the purchase price alone, even with shipping costs that are nearly as much as the sticker price.
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Sean Flynt
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myArmoury Team

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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2020 4:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those are great observations, Ryan. Thanks!
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2020 9:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've always loved this sword, and as you say, at this price it's worth it for just the fittings. Did you have any trouble getting the pommel nut off? Depending on how it feels in the hand, peening might be the only thing I do.
'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2020 11:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,

If you look closely at the original sword, its tang is peened over a nut--one about twice as tall, as far as I can tell, as the one Sean ended up with (not surprising given that he had to cut off the maker's nut and must have lost a little bit of the tang in so doing). Peening a tang into a valley formed by the junction of three spiral elements without the aid of a nut to give a level and easily reached surface seems like it would be a very difficult operation no matter how well designed the punches you'd have to use might be. Furthermore, given the amount of research that clearly went into the replica, it seems unlikely that the Royal Armouries would allow so obvious a deviation from the original's design as using a nut to secure the tang if the original sword didn't have one. Anyway, as the original's nut is plainly visible on close inspection, there's no question about its presence and little uncertainty about its shape--it's shaped like a bead, or if you prefer a fat barrel, with collars at both ends, the lower one (next to the pommel) about twice as thick as the upper one (next to the peen). In any case I'd expect the replica's nut to be the same shape as the original's, as I indicate above.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Jul, 2020 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This does have a tall nut—taller than the original. I was not able to unscrew it so cut it vertically in a couple of places until i could pry it off. however you get it off, the pommel will then unscrew. Mark is right—it’s very difficult to peen in that narrow space. i secured the nut with epoxy first, then used a drift carefully peen. i’m not sure how tightly that peen is holding, but it’s sufficient. anybody trying to cut with this has much bigger worries. but remember the nut and peen do nothing but prevent the pommel from being unscrewed. you’d do just as well to cut the tang flush with the epoxied pommel, and that would a lot of work.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Ian Hutchison




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PostPosted: Sun 19 Jul, 2020 6:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Folks,

If you look closely at the original sword, its tang is peened over a nut--one about twice as tall, as far as I can tell, as the one Sean ended up with (not surprising given that he had to cut off the maker's nut and must have lost a little bit of the tang in so doing). Peening a tang into a valley formed by the junction of three spiral elements without the aid of a nut to give a level and easily reached surface seems like it would be a very difficult operation no matter how well designed the punches you'd have to use might be. Furthermore, given the amount of research that clearly went into the replica, it seems unlikely that the Royal Armouries would allow so obvious a deviation from the original's design as using a nut to secure the tang if the original sword didn't have one. Anyway, as the original's nut is plainly visible on close inspection, there's no question about its presence and little uncertainty about its shape--it's shaped like a bead, or if you prefer a fat barrel, with collars at both ends, the lower one (next to the pommel) about twice as thick as the upper one (next to the peen). In any case I'd expect the replica's nut to be the same shape as the original's, as I indicate above.

Best,

Mark Millman


I was thinking of removing the nut, removing a bit of material off the top, replacing it and peening over the nut.

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Sun 19 Jul, 2020 10:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Ian,

That sounds like a good way to go, especially if you can get the nut off with less trouble than Sean had.

Best,

Mark
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Ian Hutchison




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Jul, 2020 7:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Got mine in today and very pleased for £77. My observations mirror Ryan's quite closely I think.

It looks very decent, but not too perfect, which is definitely in keeping with the original. The blade is essentially true with perhaps extremely minor curve, there is consistent slight wobble down the length of the spine ridge, distal blade thickness also has dips and rises and does not progress completely uniformly. The blade is just 7mm shorter than the original, while guard is about right on. There is a major discrepancy in weight, this being 250g lighter at 993g. I assume this is due to thinner stock and less distal taper, as well as a narrower blade at the base (though I cannot confirm atm). That said, the blade still seems perfectly stiff and rigid. After much work sharpening, I got it to cut through light bottles. Still lots of room to improve edgewise.

I haven't worked up the courage to flex it in my vice, but maybe in a month or two. Not a bad buy at all, surprisingly good feeling and nimble in the hand, it's kind of hard to believe Deepeeka made this.

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Sat 25 Jul, 2020 9:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,

As long as they start with a well-researched historical design and somebody keeps their collective metaphorical nose to the quality-assurance grindstone, Deepeeka are as capable as any other company of making good products. They do, it's true, start to fall down when QA oversight lapses or when they stray from history; but that could be said of a lot of companies. All things considered, I think that their good products (e.g., this sword, their PRD101 15th Century Rondel Dagger, their AH4236 Greek Xiphos, many of their Roman items) give by a large margin the best value available in the low-end market.

Sean, thanks for starting this thread. I wouldn't otherwise have known about this replica and so wouldn't have gotten the very satisfactory example of it that I now have.

Best,

Mark
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Sun 26 Jul, 2020 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It’s good to see the consistent experience with this one!
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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