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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Fri 15 Jan, 2021 11:15 am    Post subject: River Witham sword & Albion Vigil         Reply with quote

My question here is this: How faithful a reproduction of a River Witham sword the Vigil is?

There are some visual differences between the two:
1. RW is narrower at base than the Vigil and therefore the proportions between the pommel and the blade are slightly different. The pommel on the Vigil seems visibly smaller in comparison.
2. RW doesn't seem to have such a pronounced profile taper near the guard as the Vigil.
3. Because of point 2. RW sword seems to have a slightly different proportions of the cross.

More importantly, there is the matter of weight and thickness:
1. RW Witham is listed as 1210-1500g on the British Museum's website while the Vigil is listed as 1140g at Albion's website. A huge difference. Especially considering that one is a historical artifact with parts of the blade missing and the other is a functional reproduction.
2. The distal taper is obviously not given for the RW sword. We know that Vigil is thin both at base and near the tip.

I know that a lot of these differences can be attributed to age, corrosion and wear. It is also possible that BM's website is inaccurate about the weight.

I have read Peter Johnsson's enthusiastic post about the Vigil and I really want to believe that it is as faithful to the original as possible. It is an amazing weapon. As it is not a Museum Line sword, some of the details have been changed. What exactly? Is it the weight, dimensions and balance or mostly decorative elements like the engraving?

I believe that the purpose of the double fuller was to make a blade that can be thinner and lighter than a single fullered blade of the same dimensions while retaining the necessary stiffness. Therefore making a heavy blade of this type would seem counter-intuitive. There are reproductions by other sword makers that seem to be much heavier and thicker than the Vigil. That wouldn't surprise me if they base their swords on BM's specifications. After all this is all the information that is available.

I know it's a question that is almost impossible to answer by someone who hasn't had the chance to hold and measure the original. I'm sure that there are people here who know a lot more about these swords than I do and I hope they can share their knowledge. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for a response from Peter Johnsson himself.
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Ryan Renfro




Location: Reno, NV
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PostPosted: Fri 15 Jan, 2021 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've examined the original but have no experience with the Albion apart from a fellow forumite's unfinished moat sale blade a few years back. My best guess as to why it's not a Museum line is that I don't think Albion was doing any sort of inlay at the time and including it, especially on both sides of a double-fullered blade, would have made it prohibitively expensive.

The two thickness figures listed by KoA are very close to the original. Not sure how the distal taper compares in between. The Vigil blade is indeed wider.

Another difference is that Albion appears to have used a smaller diameter for the fullers. This would shave some weight off the blade, the fullers being deeper for a given width. It helps give it the clean and sharp look that modern consumers would be looking for in a high-end replica. The Witham sword on the other hand has a well-defined double fuller at the hilt, but the lines really start to fade in the last quarter after the inlay.

It's a splendid sword - I don't believe there is a finer high medieval sword in all the world. If, Heaven forbid, I could only have just one sword, the Witham sword would be it.
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Sat 16 Jan, 2021 6:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have not handled either sword, but I wonder what the blade thickness of the RW is at the hilt compared to the Vigil. Originals often have a significant distal taper directly below the guard which is very difficult to replicate in a production sword and remain profitable. The recent A&A blog post on Moonbrand (link below) is an excellent example of the degree of taper that you can find. Moonbrand tapers from 4.6mm to 3.4mm within about the first 40mm! 4.6 is not particularly thick, but I know of original early single hand swords that start in the 7-10mm range and taper drastically from there. Like Moonbrand, the rest of the blade is often still very thin to make a nimble sword, and the mass added so close to the hand does very little to the moment of inertia that you feel when rotating the blade.

To recreate a base thickness like this in a production setting means that you need to start with extremely thick stock just to keep the thickness at the guard while over the rest of the blade you will have to carve all that material out to maintain the thin and wieldable blade. Doing this means machine time goes up, material cost goes up, waste goes up, tooling wear goes up, and the blade will be more difficult to grind in the end. I think for a blade like the RW sword you could easily add the extra few hundred grams just below the hilt with some extra thickness there and I wonder if that is where the difference is coming from. If that is the case, the nice part is that the overall feel of the blade would be nearly the same if the thicknesses over the rest of the blade is accurate. Also, the added durability of modern steels means that the blade would still be as robust or more even if the base is thinner. Basically the reproduction could still capture the feel and durability of the original without the extreme base thickness.

Again, I have no idea if this is the case with the Vigil, but it would not be surprised. I also would not be surprised if the weight given on the BM website is out. After all It is awfully odd that they give a weight range. The original definitely has a static weight Big Grin .


https://www.arms-n-armor.com/blogs/news/an-in-depth-look-at-moonbrand-an-iconic-typexiv-medieval-sword
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sat 16 Jan, 2021 7:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
I have not handled either sword, but I wonder what the blade thickness of the RW is at the hilt compared to the Vigil. Originals often have a significant distal taper directly below the guard which is very difficult to replicate in a production sword and remain profitable. The recent A&A blog post on Moonbrand (link below) is an excellent example of the degree of taper that you can find. Moonbrand tapers from 4.6mm to 3.4mm within about the first 40mm! 4.6 is not particularly thick, but I know of original early single hand swords that start in the 7-10mm range and taper drastically from there. Like Moonbrand, the rest of the blade is often still very thin to make a nimble sword, and the mass added so close to the hand does very little to the moment of inertia that you feel when rotating the blade.

To recreate a base thickness like this in a production setting means that you need to start with extremely thick stock just to keep the thickness at the guard while over the rest of the blade you will have to carve all that material out to maintain the thin and wieldable blade. Doing this means machine time goes up, material cost goes up, waste goes up, tooling wear goes up, and the blade will be more difficult to grind in the end. I think for a blade like the RW sword you could easily add the extra few hundred grams just below the hilt with some extra thickness there and I wonder if that is where the difference is coming from. If that is the case, the nice part is that the overall feel of the blade would be nearly the same if the thicknesses over the rest of the blade is accurate. Also, the added durability of modern steels means that the blade would still be as robust or more even if the base is thinner. Basically the reproduction could still capture the feel and durability of the original without the extreme base thickness.

Again, I have no idea if this is the case with the Vigil, but it would not be surprised. I also would not be surprised if the weight given on the BM website is out. After all It is awfully odd that they give a weight range. The original definitely has a static weight Big Grin .


https://www.arms-n-armor.com/blogs/news/an-in-depth-look-at-moonbrand-an-iconic-typexiv-medieval-sword


Thanks for that information about a steep distal taper common in medieval examples. That's really interesting.
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Ryan Renfro




Location: Reno, NV
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PostPosted: Sat 16 Jan, 2021 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I have not handled either sword, but I wonder what the blade thickness of the RW is at the hilt compared to the Vigil. Originals often have a significant distal taper directly below the guard which is very difficult to replicate in a production sword and remain profitable. The recent A&A blog post on Moonbrand (link below) is an excellent example of the degree of taper that you can find. Moonbrand tapers from 4.6mm to 3.4mm within about the first 40mm! 4.6 is not particularly thick, but I know of original early single hand swords that start in the 7-10mm range and taper drastically from there. Like Moonbrand, the rest of the blade is often still very thin to make a nimble sword, and the mass added so close to the hand does very little to the moment of inertia that you feel when rotating the blade.


The two KoA thickness figures are true to the original within the margin of error one would expect from the hand grinding process. http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...igil+Sword

From what I've seen the 7-10mm range would be an outlier for the earlier type X-XIVs, at least until we start getting into diamond cross sections with type XVs. Would you mind sharing which one(s), or PM me if you don't want to post them? I've seen a 25% decrease in the first few inches on another early example (type XII), but in my limited experience it's more common on later period blades.
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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Sat 16 Jan, 2021 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
To recreate a base thickness like this in a production setting means that you need to start with extremely thick stock just to keep the thickness at the guard while over the rest of the blade you will have to carve all that material out to maintain the thin and wieldable blade. Doing this means machine time goes up, material cost goes up, waste goes up, tooling wear goes up, and the blade will be more difficult to grind in the end. I think for a blade like the RW sword you could easily add the extra few hundred grams just below the hilt with some extra thickness there and I wonder if that is where the difference is coming from. If that is the case, the nice part is that the overall feel of the blade would be nearly the same if the thicknesses over the rest of the blade is accurate. Also, the added durability of modern steels means that the blade would still be as robust or more even if the base is thinner. Basically the reproduction could still capture the feel and durability of the original without the extreme base thickness.


This is an extremely interesting hypothesis, assuming the BM's data is correct. I can imagine Albion and PJ making a decision to do something like this to maintain the feel of the original at a reasonable cost.

The weight issue is puzzling. @Ryan, have you managed to weigh the RW sword when you examined it? This information would help us to answer one part of the question. I would also really appreciate you posting all the measurements you have. Thank you everyone for all the input so far.
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Sat 16 Jan, 2021 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan Renfro wrote:

The two KoA thickness figures are true to the original within the margin of error one would expect from the hand grinding process. http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...igil+Sword

From what I've seen the 7-10mm range would be an outlier for the earlier type X-XIVs, at least until we start getting into diamond cross sections with type XVs. Would you mind sharing which one(s), or PM me if you don't want to post them? I've seen a 25% decrease in the first few inches on another early example (type XII), but in my limited experience it's more common on later period blades.


Hi Ryan,

Yes ~7-10mm at the guard is definitely an outlier, but down around 6-7mm is reasonably common. I was just trying illustrate the extremes and perhaps I mislead. Here are some examples from Finland:

KM5890:1 - 7.5mm
KM13839:253 - 9mm
KM13962:322 - 8mm
KM19901:202 - 7mm
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jan, 2021 5:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When Peter Johnsson and Eric McHugh documented the original, the British Museum was very hesitant to allow it. The only way they'd cooperate was by having Albion make changes, so a Vigil couldn't be faked up and sold as the original. Given the proliferation of fakes on the antique market this isn't unreasonable.

The Vigil is one of Albions best and one I wish I'd kept.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jan, 2021 7:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've only peered at the Witham sword through glass at the British Museum, but I'm a bit obsessed with it. I've owned 3 different reproductions by Ollin, Albion, and Maciej Kopciuch. Each differed slightly from the original (in blade profile, thickness, grip length and pommel bevel), resulting in surprisingly different handling properties. All of those are sold now. At the moment I have another one from Maciej with a nearly identical blade to the Witham but a different cross and pommel type. There's something very compact and perfect about the original that seems hard to capture in a modern reproduction.
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Ryan Renfro




Location: Reno, NV
Joined: 27 Dec 2006
Reading list: 5 books

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PostPosted: Wed 20 Jan, 2021 8:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Hi Ryan,

Yes ~7-10mm at the guard is definitely an outlier, but down around 6-7mm is reasonably common. I was just trying illustrate the extremes and perhaps I mislead. Here are some examples from Finland:

KM5890:1 - 7.5mm
KM13839:253 - 9mm
KM13962:322 - 8mm
KM19901:202 - 7mm


Thanks, Tyler. 9mm is thick! I actually stumbled upon this dissertation while search for those, so all the better: https://www.utupub.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/119919/diss2016Moilanen.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Quote:
The weight issue is puzzling. @Ryan, have you managed to weigh the RW sword when you examined it? This information would help us to answer one part of the question. I would also really appreciate you posting all the measurements you have. Thank you everyone for all the input so far.


The weight on the British Museum is a typo, and probably got combined with the end of a period field listing "1000-1500."

The British Library has a "Help Us Decipher This Inscription" page with the "1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz)" weight listed here: https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2015/08/help-us-decipher-this-inscription.html

I'd have to get permission to publish all the specs and it was actually quite hard to get access to this piece (it took a couple of trips first), so while I'm generally up for trading research, I'd need some research of comparable value in return.

I did, however, get permission to post pictures. Here's one of the hilt which nicely shows the graceful lines of the crossguard as well as the depth of the fullers.



 Attachment: 66.99 KB
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Jan, 2021 10:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, that picture really shows just how good the condition is of that blade. Simply astounding! Thanks for sharing.

Good detective work on the weight. Given that we are only looking at a difference of ~60g I would not be surprised if your original assumption about the deeper fullers is making a good portion of that difference. It also looks like the chamfers on the original pommel are slightly steeper making the pommel thicker. Looks can be deceiving though.
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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2021 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Amazing picture Ryan, thank you very much! It's the first time I can see a clear picture of this sword outside of BM's website. While I would love to trade some valuable information for the one you have about this sword, I'm in no position to do so. I'm merely a sword enthusiast, not a scholar.

I really value all your input in this thread, it helped me, and I hope others to solve the issue of the weight. Judging from the picture the sword doesn't seem to be very thick at base, the angle is tricky though. I guess it's up to you to decide what else you are willing and can share. I would be happy to learn more about this sword, it's one of my all time favourites.
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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Sat 17 Jul, 2021 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I finally got the sword and had a chance to play with it for two weeks. Just some light handling and water bottle cutting. I will try to give some first impressions and measurements here.

When it comes to aesthetics, it is even more pleasant in person. The sword looks unimposing on Albion's website but it is very proportional in hand. I especially like the tapered shoulders of the blade and how all parts blend together to create a whole. The blade has a high satin polish, not perfectly even, it's actually quite swirly but it still looks good. Grip is well made, the leather wrap is glued well, the string underwrap is even and grippy. Leather on the grip has different colour tones which imo gives it a more natural look. My sword hasn't developed any clicking noises so far.

Guard and pommel are properly and skillfully shaped with no major tooling marks. Everything is well finished, you can notice some minor imperfections here and there but they mostly add to the semi hand-made aesthetic. I like that the pommel is slightly squashed and not perfectly oval. It also narrows down towards the peen from the side which is not visible on profile pictures. Both guard and pommel are perfectly symmetrical in relation to the blade. The only serious cosmetic flaw can be seen on the blade. There are dark grey marks on the surface on one side. I do not know where they come from, they seem to be some residue from heat treatment as they are surface level only.

Blade grind is generally very good. Main bevels are even and very slightly convex. There is a small secondary bevel that was not fully blended with the main bevel. The edge is moderately thick above the secondary bevel, slightly thicker than I expected for this sword. It seems to be quite even on the whole length of the blade according to my crude method of measurement. The edge tapers nicely to a moderately sharp point. When you look at the point from the side it's completely blunt. It's the only part of the edge that is not sharpened.

The blade is straight and has almost no ripples along the surface. They can only be noticed near the point. The only flaw can be seen in the upper third (closer to the point) of the area beyond fullers. It has a slight ripple in there that makes the point look more curved to one side. It is very minor flaw though and seems easily fixable.

Handling wise, it is very easy to feel and maintain edge alignment. I believe it is mostly because of how the handle is shaped (although the wide blade definitely plays a part there as well). It has a flattened elliptical shape near the guard where the index finger is placed and becomes slightly rounder as it tapers towards the pommel. It retains its elliptical shape throughout. In my limited experience this sort of grip wrap is rougher on your hand compared to more typical leather on wood with cord imprint on the outside. Vigil's type of handle wrap has one advantage - it is less slippery in a sweaty hand which I imagine can be a good thing.

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to grip and swing the sword. I have big hands which, in connection with short grip mean that there aren't many gripping options. I can wrap it close the hilt which makes the sword easier to control and stop mid strike (you can also place your thumb on top of the middle part of the guard this way which slightly helps with alignment). It can also be gripped with your pinky on the pommel which allows for more relaxed sweeping strikes. Edge alignment is easy in both grips. Third kind of grip is keeping both your pinky and ring fingers on the pommel but it is not comfortable and seems to provide no benefits except a very slight range advantage. The thin area under the index finger, although useful for maintaining edge alignment, resulted in a blister after a day of swinging. Good news is that my hand is getting used to the sword now.

Vigil's blade is thin and springy. Very springy. It rings like a bell and when you hold it between your index finger and thumb and hit the pommel with your other hand it vibrates and keeps vibrating for twenty seconds Happy Even when dry handling whenever you stop your cut you can see the blade vibrating noticeably for about a second or two. It goes through water bottles and tetra packs easily. I haven't tested it on any other targets yet. Trying to get some pool noodles to practice my cutting technique.

Time for some measurements of my sword:

blade length - 80.6cm
CoG - 12cm
CoP - 56-57cm
Weight - 1170g

Distal taper:

0cm - 5.2mm
10 - 4.1
20 - 3.7
30 - 3.2
40 - 2.9
50 - 2.8
60 - 2.6
70 - 2.3
75 - 2
80 - 2

I will write (and maybe film) a proper review once I get some more experience and start practicing my skills. For now, I hope this is useful. It would be amazing to hold and compare the River Witham sword one day. A man can dream Wink
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