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Markus Fischer




Location: Germany
Joined: 14 May 2020
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 9:42 am    Post subject: Weight of medival swords         Reply with quote

When comparing swords from Albion (which are considered to produce the most historical accurate sword reproductions) to historical originals, I found that the historical originals are very often heavier and thicker than the modern reproductions.

It seems like most of the reproductions are much lighter, and also thinner than most historical medival swords have been.

I am no expert, and I havent handled a historical original yet, nore have I done a lot of research on the dimensions and weights of original swords...

But here and there I look at a Instagram post where someone has put up a photo of a medival sword and listed all the stats...or a watch a Youtube video about some sword reproduction, and the guy also mentions the historical original, on which the reproduction is based on.

And almost every time the historical original is heavier than the reproduction...

Also I recenly watched a video in which the german HEMA Club "Zornhau Historische Fechtkunst E.V" got the chance to measure and weigh a number of swords from a private collection in Germany, and they also listed some of those weights and measurements in the video.

https://youtu.be/CupEzAZ4UVk

(unfortunately I couldnt find the stats of all the swords, even though they promised to upload them on there website).

But even from those few mentioned stats, one could definitely see that a lot of the sword were heavier than one would expect a modern reproduction to be.

For example they scaled a Kriegsmesser, which weighed 2,4 Kilos or 5,3 pounds which is stupidly heavy for a sword...in comparison Albions The Knecht Kriegsmesser weighs 1,3 Kilos or 3 pounds...so about half the weight.

They also scaled a single-handed sword...looked to me like a Type XVIII, and it weighed in at 1,7 kilos or 3,7 pounds which would be considered heavy for a longsword...but for a single handed sword this is quite beefy for sure....

Again as a comparison the Albion Kingmaker weighs about 1,3 Kilos or 2,8 pounds and therefore is quite a bit lighter.


Is this just an illusion of mine, or is this it true that the reproductions are underweight and trimmed towards feeling great in the hand more than being historically accurate?

Is this maybe a result of swords being heavily corroded and the resulting weight loss not being calculated in the design of the reproduction?
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T. Kew




Location: London, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 225

PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is mostly just a result of original swords having substantial variation, while Albion's pieces are intended to be 'typical' to their type. There are some original swords which are definitely super heavy, there are others which are very light - for example, there's a famous Alexandria type XIX in the Royal Armouries (IX.950) which weighs only 765g, nearly 300g less than the comparable Albion Condottiere. Just checking or handling a few originals doesn't tell you that much by itself.
HEMA fencer and coach, New Cross Historical Fencing
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 635

PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 12:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The big problem is that I don't know of anyone who has published a decent-sized sample of intact late medieval swords with weights. Individual collections like the Wallace or the Met have just a few. So everyone speaks from their limited experience. Maciej K writes about a group of heavy longswords from Passau but I don't know who defined this group and published it.

I have heard that Viking Age swords weigh in the ballpark of 900-1800 g and that some are good for fencing with, others are massive cleavers. Most of them are so badly rusted that this comes down to judgement and what different people have been able to inspect in museums, but they had seen quite a bit of variation in weight and dynamics even though the blade shapes and lengths are similar.

Edit: the page where can I find measurements of late medieval swords? does what it says in the title.

www.bookandsword.com
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's huge variation, for example the same guys from Zornhau also meausered long hilt messer (certainly two handed grip included), at 955 grams.... Less than 40% of the weight of this beastly one.

https://www.zornhau.de/original-der-woche-8-original-of-the-week-8/


Yet another one, only 1020 grams.


https://www.zornhau.de/source/schwertexkursion/ZEF-4.pdf


So the one weighing over 5 pounds really is quite an unique one. Possibly made for some huge and very strong wielder?


If you look around museums, like Wallace Collection, Higgins armory, etc. then one notices that Albion weights seem typical. Other makers of higher end replicas make swords of the same dimensions too.

https://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org/eMP/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultListView/result.t1.collection_list.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=2&sp=SdetailList&sp=84&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=93

https://worcester.emuseum.com/objects/47903/sword?ctx=4105679a-af4b-4c2c-9652-6e556f6bbb05&idx=101
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 635

PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 12:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
There's huge variation ... If you look around museums, like Wallace Collection, Higgins armory, etc. then one notices that Albion weights seem typical. Other makers of higher end replicas make swords of the same dimensions too.

I have a suspicion that that is the problem. When swords were made by many different shops for many different purposes, they could have quite different weights and properties while still falling into one typology. Johan the bladesmith might make swords heavy, while Marcello down the street liked them nimble. Anton the cutler would buy blades from Johan and Marcello, hilt them, and offer customers a selection to choose from. But a company like Arms & Armor in Minnesota, which has to cover 800 years of sword design across a whole continent, can't afford to offer ten different Oakeshott type XVa longswords or Geibig type XII knightly swords. Its easier to design a sword which is "in the middle" of the range of variation.

If you are concerned, a good solution could be to buy a sword which is copied from a specific original like from Arms & Armour or an Albion Museum Line. Then you know its not "average but not like any one real sword" like the family with exactly 1.9 children.

www.bookandsword.com


Last edited by Sean Manning on Mon 26 Apr, 2021 5:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this could be because Albion & others probably use measurements from the most well balanced and nimble examples from history. If you are going to reproduce something then why not reproduce the best from the period, and modern consumers demand it. Perhaps this also due to the swing of the pendulum back from the idea that medieval swords were all unwieldy lumps of iron. Nowadays we may be overstating that medieval swords were all beautifully light and nimble. As you mentioned there are definitely examples that are heavier than some modern producers would want to make.

Be careful when looking at stats that there they are not Victorian reproductions since these can often be deceiving and are often heavier than they should be. Modern fakes on the antique market are also a potential source of bad data.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 7:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And a lot of museum catalog weights are simply wrong. I can't count the number of times that an item was weighed and discovered to be completely different to what was listed in the catalog. Don't believe any weight unless you contact a curator and get them to confirm it, or you have two independent sources that have the same weight.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Markus Fischer




Location: Germany
Joined: 14 May 2020
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Apr, 2021 11:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
There's huge variation, for example the same guys from Zornhau also meausered long hilt messer (certainly two handed grip included), at 955 grams.... Less than 40% of the weight of this beastly one.

https://www.zornhau.de/original-der-woche-8-original-of-the-week-8/


Yet another one, only 1020 grams.


https://www.zornhau.de/source/schwertexkursion/ZEF-4.pdf


So the one weighing over 5 pounds really is quite an unique one. Possibly made for some huge and very strong wielder?


If you look around museums, like Wallace Collection, Higgins armory, etc. then one notices that Albion weights seem typical. Other makers of higher end replicas make swords of the same dimensions too.

https://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org/eMP/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultListView/result.t1.collection_list.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=2&sp=SdetailList&sp=84&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=93

https://worcester.emuseum.com/objects/47903/sword?ctx=4105679a-af4b-4c2c-9652-6e556f6bbb05&idx=101


Wow, where did you find these sword-data sheets on Zornhaus Website? I couldnt find them anywhere....
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Kai Lawson





Joined: 26 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2021 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I want to second what Dan said. I have seen pieces that have been in multiple publications with different weights, or blade length listed as an OAL, and so on. Heck, I'm pretty sure that Ian Pierce's Swords of the Viking Age has incorrect measurements. Even accounting for camera parallax, The ratios between some of his cross widths and blade widths and grip lengths are off. And that's a relatively well-cited work.

The other thing is that usage is a huge indicator of form, and incorrect usage leads to incorrect assumptions about form. What makes a heavier blade 'bad compared to a lighter 'good' blade? How quickly you can swish it? Some periods and places had swords that are cited in period literature as less than ideal, but they don't tell us why they were considered so. Most people want a POB close to the hand and pivot points near or at the tip, in order to 'fence properly,' but that doesn't always hold for non-European swords, which work just fine, or later sabers, or earlier swords from the bronze age past the roman iron age. Heck, even lots of rapiers have a pivot point behind the tip. I personally have really, really come to prefer quite blade-heavy swords for my fencing, and my school employs the Roland buckler-esque sword and shield fencing you can see online. I'm not saying I have that level of skill in any way, but I am saying you can use a chunky blade at speed and still use delicate and precise movements, if you use a system that compliments the weapon and let the weapon do the work (exploit specific characteristics for movements and positioning).

Some light swords are great. Some heavy swords are great. Preference plays a big roll, as does sample size and modern bias. A 5 lb kriegsmesser is less important than the person using it and understanding how to move that particular piece to their greatest advantage.

"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2021 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Markus Fischer"]
Bartek Strojek wrote:

Wow, where did you find these sword-data sheets on Zornhaus Website? I couldnt find them anywhere....


I think I clicked "Fachartikel", and kept on clicking "earlier articles" ("fruher"), till I found them.

I only was able to do so because I remembered that they've done quite a few of such amazing data sheets for few weapons.

Their website sadly seems like quite a mess even if you can read German easily. And they had different website too, from what I remember?
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Apr, 2021 1:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
But a company like Arms & Armor in Minnesota, which has to cover 800 years of sword design across a whole continent, can't afford to offer ten different Oakeshott type XVa longswords or Geibig type XII knightly swords. Its easier to design a sword which is "in the middle" of the range of variation.


Tyler C. wrote:
I think this could be because Albion & others probably use measurements from the most well balanced and nimble examples from history. If you are going to reproduce something then why not reproduce the best from the period, and modern consumers demand it.


I agree (and LOL at the family with 1.9 children, which is exactly on point!)

The same can be said about steel composition and heat treatment, as well as fit and finish. If a modern day customer spends $1000 on a sword, they generally want "the best", whatever that may mean to this modern buyer. Compared to 99% of real medieval swords, good modern reproductions are incredibly well made in all respects.

The solution would be to go custom.

The problem with that though is the lack of data available in archeological publications. Although I have noticed that more and more archeologists are getting interested in weights and sometimes even balance points, there is not enough data available. And of course there is the problem of weighing badly corroded swords and estimating their original weights.
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