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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Secondary bevels Reply to topic
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sun 02 Aug, 2020 7:22 am    Post subject: Secondary bevels         Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

I am interested in the question of whether secondary bevels on reproductions are historically accurate.

I know this subject has come up here and there, but I wanted to distill it down.

I am not speaking of swords with hexagonal cross sections or latter medieval swords- some of which do seem to have been made with a rather wide bevel.

What about type Xs, XIs, XIIs, XIIas, XIIIs, and XIIIbs?

If I am commissioning a sword I specifically ask that there be no secondary bevel. I like the look of a clean edge and I know that many swords did feature this type of edge geometry.

I know that even some higher-end makers do put secondary bevels on their earlier medieval swords and I am wondering of what folks think about this in terms of what we can see on extant historical specimen.
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Johannes Zenker





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PostPosted: Sun 02 Aug, 2020 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't have it on hand, but Mike Edelson's book "Cutting with the Medieval Sword" features photographs of antique swords with clearly visible secondary bevels that resulted from sharpening. It's been a while since I read the book, so I don't quite remember what era and type the swords were.

Edit: This thread is relevant: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.17426.html
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Aug, 2020 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the link Johannes,

I also ready Arms and Armors newest blog entry which is coincidently about the edge of the European sword.

https://www.arms-n-armor.com/blogs/news/is-a-secondary-bevel-desirable

I gather through this and my reading here that the small bevel which some makers place on their swords instead of establishing an appleseed integrated edge is not optimal. I really can't see why a maker would finish a sword this way except if it was the easier option.

That's my takeaway.

I
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Johannes Zenker





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PostPosted: Tue 04 Aug, 2020 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A visible secondary bevel is absolutely the easier method, and that's also the main reason why we see them.

The thing is, though, that it's not hugely detrimental to cutting performance in and of itself. Another thing to keep in mind is that even though a secondary bevel is visible, the transition from primary to secondary bevel may be very flat or even smooth, and the visible difference a result from cross-wise polish.

Higher-end swords are mostly polished (or rather given a satin finish) in the direction from hilt to point. It is difficult enough to achieve a smooth surface with an acute edge that way, establishing a single apple-seed bevel. Resharpening, which will absolutely be required if you use your sword, is most efficiently done on a slackbelt grinder today. The belt runs crosswise to the blade, leaving a completely different finish than the rest of the blade has. Slackbelts have the effect of naturally leaving an appleseed edge profile rather than a flat or concave bevel, thus it is relatively easy to make the transition from resharpened section to main bevel *feel* smooth, without any abrupt change in angle, despite there being a clear visual distinction.

Lukas MG provides some more context and pictures over here: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.33420.html
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Aug, 2020 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johannes Zenker wrote:
A visible secondary bevel is absolutely the easier method, and that's also the main reason why we see them.

The thing is, though, that it's not hugely detrimental to cutting performance in and of itself. Another thing to keep in mind is that even though a secondary bevel is visible, the transition from primary to secondary bevel may be very flat or even smooth, and the visible difference a result from cross-wise polish.

Higher-end swords are mostly polished (or rather given a satin finish) in the direction from hilt to point. It is difficult enough to achieve a smooth surface with an acute edge that way, establishing a single apple-seed bevel. Resharpening, which will absolutely be required if you use your sword, is most efficiently done on a slackbelt grinder today. The belt runs crosswise to the blade, leaving a completely different finish than the rest of the blade has. Slackbelts have the effect of naturally leaving an appleseed edge profile rather than a flat or concave bevel, thus it is relatively easy to make the transition from resharpened section to main bevel *feel* smooth, without any abrupt change in angle, despite there being a clear visual distinction.

Lukas MG provides some more context and pictures over here: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.33420.html


I am really primarily interested in swords designed to closely match originals regarding edge shape. I am mostly a collector and not a practitioner. I never cut with my swords.

I want to buy a sword with aesthetics that closely matches originals- including and even especially, the edge shape. I would expect this- especially from high end makers. If someone is spending $100-$500 on a sword then sure, I would expect some real cost cutting measures.
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Johannes Zenker





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PostPosted: Tue 04 Aug, 2020 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:
I am really primarily interested in swords designed to closely match originals regarding edge shape. I am mostly a collector and not a practitioner. I never cut with my swords.

I want to buy a sword with aesthetics that closely matches originals- including and even especially, the edge shape. I would expect this- especially from high end makers. If someone is spending $100-$500 on a sword then sure, I would expect some real cost cutting measures.


If we're talking high end customs (i.e. not Albion, not ATrim), you should simply specify which type of edge you'd like and accept no substitutes. Neither is unhistorical, at least for a sword that's been used.

If you want a sword that looks as though it'd been sharpened by its owner (or on a budget), a visible distinction between edge and plane is perfectly feasible. Or you could simply sharpen it yourself to achieve that effect.

If you want to replicate a sword that's been taken on campaign and sharpened for field use (regardless of whether its owner had the chance to even draw it), a secondary bevel (visible and maybe even geometrical) would in my opinion be even more appropriate than a perfectly smooth transition.

If you want it to look "fresh out of a medieval high end workshop", it should be a smooth blend with even polish.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Aug, 2020 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Based on a great deal of armchair research (i.e., watching 'forged in fire' on my TV) it seems that knife makers put different edges on their blades, depending on the media it will be tested on. Isn't it possible that some historic swordsmiths purposefully added a secondary bevel when the customer was looking for a tougher edge to hold up against armor?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2020 8:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, just speculations but lets say that a sword was made with no secondary bevel originally or a very subtle apple seed secondary bevel, and this sword has come to us pristine because it was never in need of resharpening: It would have it's original and intended single bevel or it's apple seed bevel.

This might very well be possible with an expensive highly decorated and prized sword that may have been carried often but never used in a sword fight, damaged or ever needing resharpening or repairs.

Now another sword made identically at the same period may have had a more active history of resharpening: Would this resharpening always have been done to maintain a single bevel, have had a new secondary bevel left as is, or worked back into an apple seed edge ?

Would they have cared about there being a secondary bevel or not at close to the time it was made and used, and during it's later history of active use as a blade over maybe a few centuries ?

So an originally single bevel sword may have acquired a secondary bevel over it's history of use ? This secondary bevel may have been very narrow and subtle at first, but many subsequent sharpenings may have widened the secondary bevel into a much wider one over time, changing the blade profile as well as a well worn blade that was very wide originally would have narrowed in width after numerous sharpenings.

And also over time going from owner to owner, to maybe part of a private or museum collection a period sword might have been resharpened or re-polished with excessive enthusiasm changing a lot about the sword we now see and can handle ?

The is always the unfortunate cases of a child playing and damaging a sword, or a collector making changes to a sword between the time is was made and today ? Now a rare and valuable sword today might not have been thought of as rare or valuable a couple of centuries ago and not given the white glove/glass case treatment ?

As to making a sword today as it would have looked when newly made without a secondary bevel is fine if it's based on a sword design that wouldn't have had a secondary bevel, and it does seem that many swords where made this way, but maybe not all in period.

As to resharpening with a slack belt to make a small secondary bevel, the secondary bevel would be at 90 to the direction of the blade polish and be very different in appearance, but one can also hand sharpen and blend a secondary bevel by running a hone from guard to tip and get rid of the 90 " OFF " grind marks.

I often do this when I finish a knife or sword edges by hand.


Note that to really answer Jeremy's question someone having seen or researched period originals swords might be able to answer as to edge bevels types used in period.

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