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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Tang size: Behavior of narrow tangs Reply to topic
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 6:33 pm    Post subject: Tang size: Behavior of narrow tangs         Reply with quote

When is a tang too narrow or better yet why are very narrow tangs considered adequate for the job historically ?

I have the Anelace dagger from MRL, and although I am not sure how wide the tang is as I haven't tried taken it apart to see, the tang can't be very wide considering how narrow the wooden handle is.

When flexing this blade I observe that it curves in a uniform way and not at what I would expect in an exaggerated way right at the junction of blade and tang.

Now I can see that the wooden handle would stiffen the whole grip so that the tang would not bend where inside the handle: But I would assume then that the tang bending stress would be concentrated at the point the blade become very wide at the shoulders.

Now the observed bending of the blade seems to " fortunately " contradict that assumption that all the bending would occur in the tang and not in the blade ? I guess I am looking for an explanation and reassurance that these very narrow tangs if properly heat treated are not a snapping blade waiting to happen ? Design and metallurgical / engineering question.

I'm including a Pict taken from the Moat page at Albion just for illustrative purposes as I assume that this size tang is historically correct and must be similar to the size of tang in my MRL Anelace.



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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 6:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Generally speaking, the items in Albion's moat sale were not made by them. They were either imported from the Italian maker, Del Tin, or from India. I'm not sure if this is relavent and I certainly don't want to derail this topic. Like you, I'm very curious to read people's comments regarding tang size.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 7:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan;

I only used this Cinquedea blade sold by Albion but made by Del tin because the tang size is close to what I expect the one in my Anelace is. The exact form might not match what a historical tang might have been like but the size has to be close.

I have noticed in some of my reference books that the narrowness of the handle of many very wide bladed daggers, Cinquedea in particular, would impose the use of only the narrowest of tangs.

No negative criticism of this product offered by Albion meant or implied: The fact that the tang of an historical piece couldn't have been much stouter lead me to believe that this size tang was in period considered O.K.

Just don't understand why / how ? Laughing Out Loud

Note: In proportion the tang of my Albion Sovereign is narrow at least when compared to the blade width but is more substantial because everything is bigger with this sword compared to a dagger, whatever is happening to the bending forces in the dagger should be similar in the swords at least in engineering / force curves / stresses, etc ......

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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a photo of a tang on a cinqueadea blade, circa 1480-1500

Published: Armi Bianche Italiane, BOCCIA, Lionello G. ; COELHO, Eduardo T



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Cinqueadea blade, circa 1480-1500

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 8:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm making a late German rondel dagger, and have been looking very closely at the grips of those weapons. Given the conical shape of the grip (tapering from pommel down), those must have very slender tangs. The Windlass blade I'm working with, on the other hand has a very thick, broad and robust tang. Even though the wall of wood between air and tang at the base of the grip will be only about 1/8" at its thinnest, the grip at that point will still probably be of greater diameter than what I'm seeing historically.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 8:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan;

What's really surprising is that large hole in an already thin tang ? If the whole handle assembly including the guard was solid, the two other holes meant I assume for rivets, might mean that a lot of lateral stress would be transferred to the widest part of the blade and not all concentrated on the tang.

Although I am assuming that a period piece would be a " using " piece ? Some may have been more " male " jewellery than serious weapon ? On the other hand one like this may have been sturdy enough, but without the extra beef giving it a large margin for error strength wise i.e. NOT railroad engineered to say the least. Eek! Laughing Out Loud

I guess my expectations are influenced by " modern " fighthing knives " or Bowie knives that have full tangs or at least substantial tangs.

I see the same design issues in 19th century large Spanish fighting folding knive with heavy blades and tiny pivot pins.

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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2005 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've lost count of how many antiques I've seen over the years that were cobbled together by various sellers during the victorian age. Thanks to the works of Sir Walter Scott and others medieval arms and armor were in great demand back then. If a buyer wanted a 'medieval' sword a dealer would routinely slap one together using original components as well as new ones that had been properly 'antiqued'. If that tang was too wide on that blade no problem, we'll just grind that sucker down until it's narrow enough to fit into this pretty grip that originally belonged on a dagger. Today we're still haunted by a lot of that enterprising spirit
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Chris Lampe




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2005 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a picture of an antique Chinese sword blade and tang. For size reference, the blade is 1 1/4" wide and the tang about 6 1/2" long. It's not obvious in the picture but the tang is the same thickness as the thickest part of the blade (around 1/4") and only tapers in thickness a little over it's length.

This sword is functional (i.e., not ceremonial or decorative as many Chinese swords were in the 1800's) and has seen a lot of use. Based on what I've seen with modern reproduction swords I would have guessed this tang was way too small. However, it was judged adequate for a combat blade by the smith who forged it and has survived hitting "something" hard enough to put nicks in the hardened steel edge.


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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2005 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris;

it's hard to argue with success: So a blade and tang that have seen heavy use without failure does tell us something no matter how puny it might look at a glance.

The round shoulders leading to the tang is a very good design and avoids the sudden change in width of a 90 degree corner. I can not think of a hole in the narrow tang to be something I would choose to do if I was designing a sword.

The tang I estimate from the Pict to be between 3/8" to maybe 1/2" wide and at 1/4 " thick is narrow but not the bellow 1/4" wide of a truly thin tang.

The hole that seems to be at the level of the guard shouldn't cause any weakness but the other one in the tang leaves only a 1/8" of metal on each side of the hole ! WTF?! Surprised

Thanks for the Pict as it does make one think. Eek!

I hope some modern sword designers of historically accurate ( Or as close as we can get them ) can give us their input.

I don't know about the size of tangs of the Next Generation Gladius ( plural ) but the one's I've vaguely remember seeing of the first generation or Del Tin ones seemed to have very narrow tang. It think the historical ones were also this narrow.

As with my original question I want to learn why what looks like feeble tangs to me, seem to be perfectly all right historically and from a structural point of view. I could also wonder if the much wider tangs i would prefer might not have negative effects on handling or handles, guards and pommel would have to be adjusted to compensate for heavier tangs.

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Chris Lampe




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2005 1:22 pm    Post subject: Some measurements....         Reply with quote

Jean,

Your post got me curious about some measurements so I broke out a ruler to get some rough estimates.

The tang at the shoulder is 1/4" thick as measured on the left side of that little white sticker. The tang is 7/16" wide about the middle of the sticker.

You can see a place near the end of the tang that looks a little different than the rest. It corresponds roughly to what I imagine the original pommel would have covered and I really don't know why it looks different. But at the point I'm talking about the tang is 1/8" thick and a little less than 3/8" wide. You were right on with your estimate of 1/8" of steel on either side of that hole.

Jian often feature a hole in the tang. I know sometimes it's used for a tassel and sometimes for a transverse pin to help fix the hilt in place. Most jian have this hole very near the end of the tang, just below the pommel. Mine is very unusual in that it has two holes, one at the blade end of the tang and one in the actual shoulder of the blade. I also remember Scott Rodell telling me that usually when a jian has a hole in the handle there is a metal tube, sort of like a rollpin (my analogy, not his), that goes completely thru the hole.

I did some asking around on the net and someone supplied me with a photo of a very crude jian with this configuration. The hole in the shoulder was used to pin the guard to the blade and the hole in the tang didn't have an obvious use but was visible.

I showed this photo to someone who specializes in restoring Chinese swords and he said that configuration was sometimes seen in crude swords and sabers made by and for farmers. He said my blade was much too well made to have originally had fittings like that so we speculated that it was possibly refitted with more crude fittings after the originals were damaged. This is pure speculation and I'm getting away from the topic at hand but it is some interesting history and gives me alot to think about.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2005 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris;

HMMMMMMM: If that hole in the tang was made some time later to fit a replacement handle it would at least tell us that the original maker didn't choose to make it this way. It may still be strong enough but any margin for error or extra strength would be lost. If still adequate it would not be due to good design but only to dumb luck.

Thanks for confirming my size estimates. As far as I understand the most important part of a tang is near the guard where it joins the blade and as long as there are no stress risers created by sudden changes in dimensions, any tapering towards the pommel, even if the tang becomes very very narrow close to the pommel won't make the tang too weak. ( Sorry for long convoluted sentence ! )

A solid and supportive handle assembly should also help with bending stresses mid handle: Again, as long as the tang is adequate near the blade IMHO.

Oh, and I think factors like possible modifications to a tang later in the history of a sword is very ON topic and is an important possibility to consider.

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PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2005 6:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you are on the right track in your reasoning. As you can see in these pictures there is a very smooth transition from tang to shoulder and that area is very robust.

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2005 7:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At the very least one wants a small radius at the junction of tang and blade: An even more gradual transition from one to the other should be at least stronger in theory.

A full tang or one an inch wide or so gives you maximum strength but might change the balance and handling.

Again I hope that some sword makers give us their opinion and experiences with different tang styles and what to would consider the absolute minimum size requirements for one to be considered adequate. Also their reactions / opinions on those small historical tangs.

If the materials or assembly is faulty due to bad welds or bad heat treating even a robust looking tang will be inferior to a weak looking puny tang.

In any case this is also a shameless " BUMP " because I want some more input by the experts. Razz Laughing Out Loud

Oh, and Chris thanks for the Picts and interesting post. )

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Nov, 2005 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, my only experience with small tangs like that on a sword was a jian that I made to test a few years ago, the first sword I made. The tang was pretty thin where it went into the pommel, and the pommel ended up bending back and forth quite a bit as I tested on hard targets(an oak pallet). Since then I beefed it up quite a bit......

I will say though, that a whole lot of antique weapons were kind of "dainty". What I mean is that they were obviously meant to be used with some care. An example of what I mean is a japanese sword; you have to have good technique to cut with an antique and not bend it out of shape, and I would imagine that the same general idea would be applied to these weapons as well (working within the limitations of the weapon). They were probably designedto be strong enough for whatever use they were meant for and no stronger.

Just a couple ideas.

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PostPosted: Thu 10 Nov, 2005 6:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
I've lost count of how many antiques I've seen over the years that were cobbled together by various sellers during the victorian age. Thanks to the works of Sir Walter Scott and others medieval arms and armor were in great demand back then. If a buyer wanted a 'medieval' sword a dealer would routinely slap one together using original components as well as new ones that had been properly 'antiqued'. If that tang was too wide on that blade no problem, we'll just grind that sucker down until it's narrow enough to fit into this pretty grip that originally belonged on a dagger. Today we're still haunted by a lot of that enterprising spirit
There is a hiltsmith I used to make blades for, this is his method. He would bring the completed sword back to me to replish and I would take apart the sword and there would be this really scarry skinny tang. He grinds the tangs of my blades to fitt his fittings. After seeing this several times even after I asked him to just file out the slot in the guard, well he just never got it. I do like a beefy tang, which starts at the same thickness as the blade at shoulder and maybe 1" to 3/4" wide and tapering towards pommel. This is maybe overkill in some pieces. I guess some of this goes back to those years of swordfighting with steel blunts and making swords for the re-enactment folks and actors. I also aneal some of the hardness out of the tangs as well. This is for peace of mind. But, in reality a good blade with proper distal tapering and good geometry will absorb most of the shock of a blow and the hilt area receive very little effect. I think for a good cutting sword it does not have to have alot of beef if made correctly, then again the tang should help balance the sword also. Each blade must have a custom sized tang. Happy
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Nov, 2005 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks John for the reply: I also like a stout tang as it makes me feel better, the last place a sword should fail is at the tang and if overbuilt the blade will either take a set or snap mid blade before anything can happen at the tang.

HMMMMM: With a dagger like my MRL Anelace or the Pict of the Del Tin Cinquedia in my first post the tang is scary narrow but the distal taper of the blade making the tang thicker than the average thickness of the blade would go a long way explaining why the blade of my Anelace flexes midblade rather than at the tang: I would assume that the stress curve ( If that is the right term for it ??? ) spread the flexing over the length of the blade rather than concentrating all the force at the tang.

Now if a tang is very narrow but at the maximum thickness of blade the above is the situation.

Now if you have a tang that is thinner than the blade, even if wide, I would think there would be a good chance of the tang failing or at least bending excessively at junction of tang and blade.

The worse situation is narrow tang + thin tang, and if we want the very worse: Add bad heat treating too soft or too brittle.

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PostPosted: Thu 10 Nov, 2005 5:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John Lundemo wrote:
[There is a hiltsmith I used to make blades for, this is his method. He would bring the completed sword back to me to replish and I would take apart the sword and there would be this really scarry skinny tang. He grinds the tangs of my blades to fitt his fittings.

That had to be extremely frustrating!

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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 11 Nov, 2005 8:35 pm    Post subject: Tangs         Reply with quote

Evenin All

This is one of those topics were it is hard to make definitive statements that are relevant and cover the "average" for any significant time period or type of blade. The ability to find period examples of many different configurations of tang structure to support one or another theory of what the "average" period tang was like does not help the discussion much as they do not give a representative grouping and allows for "odd birds" to confuse the issue, as Patrick pointed out.

The really general comments that follow are therefore based on my own experience of originals and the details I have seen when working on historical pieces for conservation. The sample is not scientifically defined but is relatively broad in number and of a particular aspect that is often focused on by myself when looking at original pieces.

The tangs of many modern reproductions are over engineered. They carry more mass and especially in the area that passes through the pommel are more substantial than there original counterparts. The tangs that are peened over at the top of the pommel or nut are often in the 1/8 in diameter and the taper is gradual not a bit at the end. Often the tang will be in the 1/4 inch in area going into the base of the pommel. The area at the shoulders is often of the same thickness as the blade at the shoulders, sometimes even more. But it usually carries this mass for only a short way into the grip and then begins to taper. There are examples were the tang will be almost even in width through the grip but these do not seem to be the majority in my experience. I do not think the tang was used as a significant form of counter balance, but this my personal opinion and I am of the mind that the pommels main function was not so much a pure counter balance as well, so I might be prejudice against the tangs function in this department.

The tang obviously went through certain design templates over the course of its existence, but rarely do I see the tang mass seen in most replicas today repeated in the historical items. This is probably due to the market forces on modern makers as far as what the customer is comfortable with and the mechanized processes and materials used by production makers today at all quality levels of the market.

If one incorporates rapiers into the equation you get an even more pronounced tang differential in mass from the ricasso to the peen. Often the ricasso of a rapier will have a significant thickness increase from the majority of the blade but again be less than an 1/8 of an inch in cross section area being available to peen on the nut, this all in the space of 6 to 8 inches or so at most.

Anyway those are some general thoughts and any specific style will have its own peculiarities that are of interest from your "average" type X tang to smallswords.


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Michael F.




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PostPosted: Sat 12 Nov, 2005 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting topic! I was amazed at how small these tangs were yet they still are quite strong. This reminds me of my very first sword. A wallhanger I bought in a small fishing shop in the middle of New York. I knew VERY little about swords then, so I went out and attempted to chop down a tree. I took it out to the tree at least once a week for around a month and a half. The tang, being the smallest amount larger than your average building nail and having been welded on finally broke, yet I am still amazed at how long it held up. If that tang can last a month doing what even the highest quality swords shouldn't do, then I think these small tangs on antique daggers and such will last quite a long time.

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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Sat 12 Nov, 2005 9:53 am    Post subject: Tang 2         Reply with quote

Here are some more aspects of tangs that occurred to me might be of interest.

The heat treatment of a period blade is quite a variable thing and even more so for tangs as they would often have been adjusted post heat treat, if the blade was heat treated I should add. The use of iron on the tangs as opposed to steel seems to be something that has not been studied greatly, but some evidence is there for this. All and all the tang was often soft as the material could be.

There are also many examples of the tang having been forge welded to the blade. Some times this weld is an inch or two into the blade proper other times it will be in the body of the tang under the grip. This would have been common practice in the period and another function of the period industrial organization. One needs to remember that the great majority of swords would not have been constructed by an individual. Instead several craftsman would have contributed to the final piece and these did not have to be centered in the same shop and in fact probably were not in most cases. The industrial production would have been spread out continent wide and the use of blades from different makers by furbishers would have been routine.

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Craig
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