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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Oct, 2006 5:47 pm    Post subject: Historic Sword Weights         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Nathan Robinson wrote:

This would make an interesting topic on its own. The issue of the relative weights of medieval European swords vs. Katana is often filled with inaccurate assumptions, myths, and other wrong generalizations. This reminds me of a similar dicussion of the so-called "lightweight" rapiers vs. the so-called "heavy" single-handed cruciforn swords, etc. etc.


Alright, Nathan, you must have known I couldn't resist this topic thread!
Here you go, some historic swords' weights and blade lengths!

From Treasures from the Tower of London: Arms and Armour by Norman and Wilson:

13. Italian Sword of Before 1432, with Finger Guard
blade length: 34 in (86.4 cm)
weight: 1 lb 11 oz (0.765 kg)

14. Hand and a Half Sword, Early 15 Century
blade length: 36.5 in (92.7 cm)
weight: 3 lb 6 oz (1.53 kg)

15. Ceremonial Bearing Sword, Early 15th Century
blade length: 65.5 in (166.4 cm)
weight: 14 lb 6 oz (6.52 kg)
(Bearing swords were often heavier than battle-swords.)

16. Sword with "Writhen" Hilt, German, Circa 1480
blade length: 34.9 in (88.7 cm)
weight: 2 lb 12 oz (1.25 kg)

17. Swiss or Swabian Sword Circa 1500
blade length: 30.6 in (77.7 cm)
weight: 1 lb 15 oz (0.879 kg)

19. British Hunting Sword, Early 17th Century
blade length: 30 in (76.2 cm)
weight: 1 lb 11 oz (0.765 kg)

21. Rapier 1634-50
blade length: 38.7 in (98.3 cm)
weight: 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)

More will be forthcoming. I have to dig around in my library and see what I can find. I listed mostly medieval European swords, but let's include everything we can find!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Oct, 2006 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

I have more sword weights and lengths. I include blade lengths because a sword's weight is somewhat related to it's length.

More medieval swords from Records of the Medieval Sword by Oakeshott:
(Many weights are approximates, but they give a general idea of each sword's "heft". Unfortunately, Oakeshott often commented only on a few weights. Also note that I changed some of his conversions; I've found he didn't always get the inch to centimeter conversion correct.)

XIII. 1 1200-1300
weight: just over 3 lb
blade length: 31 in (78.7 cm)

XIIIa. 8 c. 1350+
weight: nearly 4 lb
blade length: 33.5 in (85 cm)

XIIIa. 9 1200-1250
weight: about 3.75 lb
blade length: 36 in (91.4 cm)

XIV. 6 c. 1300
weight: 2.2 kg
blade length: 33 in (83.8 cm)

XVII. 1 c. 1370-1400
weight: just over 2 lb (1.15 kg)
blade length: 36 in (91 cm)

XVII. 2 c. 1360-90
weight: nearly 4 lb
blade length: 34.25 in (87 cm)

(XVII.1 and 2 are the same type of sword, but number 2 is much heavier than 1!)

XVIII. 1 Henry V's Sword, before 1422
weight: about 2 lb 3 oz
blade length: 27 in (68.6 cm)

XX. 3 c. 1420-50
weight: about 3 lbs
blade length: 37 in (94 cm)

Miscellaneous 6 (Sword-of-War, c. 1280-1310)
weight: just under 4 lbs
blade length: 35.125 in (89.2 cm)

Miscellaneous 26 (Type X)
weight: about 3.75 lbs
blade length: 39 in (99.1 cm)

If anyone requests it, I can give a few more of the details Oakeshott lists for each sword, but I didn't want to make this list too unbearably long to read or type!

More numbers yet to come!

Does anyone have the same information regarding katanas?

Any additions to the thread will be greatly appreciated!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Oct, 2006 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

Here I go yet again! I've found more about sword weights, this time from Sword in Hand by Ewart Oakeshott. First, Oakeshott stated that, in general, a normal sized medieval sword would weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 lb. Larger swords-of-war rarely weighed more than 4.5 lbs.

Oakeshott listed a few actual individual weights in that work. Here are the weights from Sword in Hand:

Type XIa found near Pontirolo, Italy, c. 1150
weight: just under 5 lbs!
blade length: 40.5 in (102.8 cm)
(A very large and heavy one-handed sword.)

German Bastard Sword c. 1540
weight: 3 lb 11 oz
blade length: 42.5 in

German Bastard Sword c. 1540
weight: 4 lb 7 oz
blade length: 44 in

Bastard Sword by Melchior Diefstetter of Munich c. 1540
weight: 4 lb 2 oz
blade length: 43 in
(Note the difference between the three bastard sword of the same period.)

I can probably find more, but I think this is enough for today!

I'm not sure if I can find any katana weights. Can anyone else help with that?

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Oct, 2006 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello yet again!

Okay, I decided to enter two more to my list before I call it quits for the day. And, boy, these are big ones!

I found a couple two-handed swords with weights listed in Edged Weapons by Frederick Wilkinson:

German Two-Handed Sword with "Flamboyant" Blade
weight: 7.25 lb
overall length: 63.5 in

German Two-Handed Sword, 16th Century
weight: 14 lb
overall length: 78 in

Both of these may be processional or parade swords; certainly the 14 pound sword is overweight. I just though I would include these to show where the misconception of "heavy" medieval swords may have come from

I'll see what else I can come up with later, but I think this is quite enough for now!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Adam Simmonds




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 12:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

hi,
just to add what i can -
i have a mid 17th C. walloon sword (this hilt description/ name, i take from pictures in this sites albums) with a 33,2/3" blade and weighs
about 1pound 8 ounces, 700 grams
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Adam Simmonds




Location: Henley-on-Thames
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 1:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

hi,
those last two listed seem insane - 14lbs?! even 7 pounds seems a very large weight to wield smoothly, those guys must've eaten lots of beans or something!
i guess perhaps these are unusually large - as oakeshott gives the average weight of medieval swords at between 2.5 -3.5 lbs - this would also make sense relative too my piece, which weighs 1lb 8ounces, and is 1 inch wide at the base, about half the width of some medieval swords i have seen, with similar thickness and blade shape only half as wide,
cheers, adam
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Adam,

Note that the 14 pounder is listed as likely a bearing sword. These were for processional and ceremonial use and not for combat.

Here are some tables of samplings that has been around for several years. While not all inclusive, it does show the very broad range one might find in weights of various European genre.
http://www.palus.demon.co.uk/Sword_Stats.html
~~~~~~~

Richard,

I know of no similar extant chart for katana, or Asian swords as a grouping. If looking just at katana, there is still certainly a range of weights one might expect to encounter but mostly correlating to overall length.

Katana are typically thicker over their whole length, compared to European sabre blades of the same general (ballpark) profiles. Add the longer tiller (grip/tsuka) of a katana or tachi and you are back to the dynamics of how the swords were used. Tachi were the earlier and longer cavalry swords and were typically narrower and a little slimmer towards the point. Still, in either class, much more than three pounds would be a heavy item of these types. Approaching four pounds for either a katana of tachi would be unusual.

I think we may obsess a bit much about about numbers. There may be some, more or less, universal truths about dynamics but part of how a sword fits an individual is bound to be a bit subjective.

Cheers

GC
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a late 18th century wakizashi that is weighs 1 lb. 1.5 ounces and is 21.25" overall. In the album, I have a hilt photo of my English hanger c.1720-1740 that weights 1 lb. 4 ounces.


 Attachment: 87.46 KB
Wakazashi 002.jpg
Low-res shot of the Wakizashi (Sorry--don't you love it when people borrow your camera without asking, forcing you to use antiquated technology?)

 Attachment: 26.7 KB
Overall shot of the hanger. [ Download ]


Last edited by Jonathan Hopkins on Fri 13 Oct, 2006 12:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 9:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

First, thanks to everyone that has contributed information to this thread!


Glen A Cleeton wrote:

Note that the 14 pounder is listed as likely a bearing sword. These were for processional and ceremonial use and not for combat.
I think we may obsess a bit much about about numbers. There may be some, more or less, universal truths about dynamics but part of how a sword fits an individual is bound to be a bit subjective.


Glen,
Thanks for clarifying that for Adam. I was going to get to it, but got wrapped up in another thread. Yes, I suspect any sword of that size is a processional or parade sword. These swords were never intended for the battlefield; they were purely ceremonial, carried before the great lords as signs of prestige and power. I guess they thought "bigger is better"! Wink

I know that weights don't tell the whole story; POB and COP, total length, and other factors are just as important in the handling of a sword. However, the topic of medieval sword and katana weights came up on another thread recently. I thought it would be neat to have a "one-stop" resource with that information. I just thought I could contribute something to this topic utilizing my library. The ultimate goal is to compare the weights of medieval European swords and Japanese katanas, but it might be hard to find enough information to do a proper comparison.

I'll have more numbers later! I have to dig through my books and see what I can come up with!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 2:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:

Thanks for clarifying that for Adam. I was going to get to it, but got wrapped up in another thread. Yes, I suspect any sword of that size is a processional or parade sword. These swords were never intended for the battlefield; they were purely ceremonial, carried before the great lords as signs of prestige and power. I guess they thought "bigger is better"! Wink


No no no no! They aren't for prestige and power! They are for impressing the local ladies! They've never been to war, so when you lead the parade with a huge sword, they think you are strong enough to actually use it.... and flock around you. Yep, that's it.

Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2006 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Here are more sword weights and blade lengths, this time from the "Checklist of the Severance Collection" in Arms and Armor: the Cleveland Museum of Art by Stephen N. Fliegel. Note that at least one sword may be lacking a grip, in which case the actual weight during its working life would have been slightly higher. Also note that all weights may be a bit less due to corrosion, depending on how well any sword is preserved. Finally, I didn't add everything from the list; I left off the smallswords, hunting swords, some rapiers, and a few two-handers. Still, I think this gives a good representative mix.
Her we go, more numbers! (The number preceeding each is the catalog number form the checklist.)

125. German Estoc early 16th century
weight: 1.60 kg (3.5 lb)
blade length: 125.3 cm (49.0 in)

126. Italian Schiavona early 18th century
weight: 1.32 kg (2.9 lb)
blade length: 94.0 cm (36.7 in)

127. Italian Rapier c. 1640-50
weight: 1.38 kg (3.0 lb)
blade length: 108.3 cm (42.2 in)

128. "Mortuary Sword" c. 1640-50
weight: 1.12 kg (2.5 lb)
blade length: 85.2 cm (33.2 in)

129. German Rapier c. 1620-30
weight: 1.34 kg (2.9 lb)
blade length: 89.2 cm (34.8 in)

130. Italian Schiavona 18th century
weight: 1.28 kg (2.8 lb)
blade length: 84.4 cm (32.9 in)

132. Basket-Hitled Broadsword c. 1720
weight: 1.40 kg (3.08 lb)
blade length: 85.7 cm (33.4 in)

133. German Rapier c. 1600
weight: 0.96 kg (2.1 lb)
blade length: 111 cm (43.3 in)

134. Basket-Hilted Broadsword
weight: 1.24 kg (2.7 lb)
blade length: 91.3 cm (35.6 in)

136. Italian Schiavona early 18th century
weight: 1.28 kg (2.8 lb)
blade length: 92.7 cm (36.2 in)

137. Italian Cup-Hilted Rapier c. 1610-30
weight: 1.20 kg (2.6 lb)
blade length: 100.9 cm (39.4 in)

156. German Rapier c. 1630-50
weight: 0.82 kg (1.8 lb)
blade length: 86.5 cm (33.7 in)

159. German Hand-and-a-Half Sword early 16th century
weight: 1.68 kg (3.7 lb)
blade length: 92.3 cm (36 in)

160. Spanish Two-Handed Sword late 16th century
weight: 2.24 kg (4.9 lb)
blade length: 126 cm (49.1 in)

161. German Two-Handed Sword 1574
weight: 3.34 kg (7.3 lb)
blade length: 132.1 cm (51.5 in)

162. Spanish Two-Handed Sword
weight: 2.20 kg (4.8 lb)
blade length: 126.4 cm (49.3 in)

163. Sword 15th century
weight: 1.72 kg (3.8 lb)
blade length: 87.3 cm (34 in)

170. Italian Rapier c. 1600
weight: 1.14 kg (2.5 lb)
blade length: 94 cm (36.7 in)

182. Italian Sword c. 1550
weight: 1.00 kg (2.2 lb)
blade length: 87 cm (33.9 in)

192. Sword 15th century
weight: 1.06 kg (2.3 lb)
blade length: 103.5 cm (40.4 in)
(missing grip)

195. Sword c. 1400
weight: 0.96 kg (2.1 lb)
blade length: 71.7 cm (28 in)

196. South German Hand-and-a-Half Sword c. 1500
weight: 1.34 kg (2.9 lb)
blade length: 90.2 cm (35.2 in)

198. Sword c. 1350
weight: 0.90 kg (2.01 lb)
blade length: 62.9 cm (24.5 in)

200. German Hand-and-a-Half Sword c. 1540-80
weight: 1.62 kg (3.6 lb)
blade length: 94.8 cm (37.0 in)

201. Spanish Rapier c. 1580-1610
weight: 1.48 kg (3.3 lb)
blade length: 111.1 cm (43.3 in)

Hope someone finds these figures of interest!

I think I've found most weights I'm going to in my library!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 14 Oct, 2006 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The book Europaische Hieb Und Stich Waffen is a fantastic resource, and seems to include weights for all 568 swords, daggers, rapiers, polearms, sabers, that it pictures (plus length measurements and descriptions). This is one of the best pictorial references out there, too.
Happy

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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Fri 10 Jun, 2011 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also keep in mind, that swords are usually lighter today than when they were new.
(polishing, sharpening, corrosion, and missing parts/grip all add up.)
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Clive Thomas




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Jun, 2011 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Superb idea for a thread... why on earth did I fail to notice it before now??

"Europaische Hieb- und Stichwaffen" is indeed an excellent resource, and sadly the relative weights of swords are overlooked much too often in most publications. Whenever I write an article on medieval swords, I always include all the usual dimensions, plus weight, point of balance and the location of the 'centre of percussion' if I have been able to see and handle the piece in question.

I believe that when this kind of information is published, it gives the reader a much better idea of the 'feel' of a particular sword, and this is extremely useful if the piece is in a private collection that very few people have access to. It also helps to dispel some of the more ridiculous myths that are so often trotted out by people who have never been near a real medieval sword.

Most museums keep a reasonably good record of the weights of the objects in their care, so it would be relatively easy for a prospective author to acquire this information from them, and most curators (in my experience) are only too happy to help.

The works of Ewart Oakeshott remain unsurpassed for their ability to enthuse the reader, and his own enthusiasm certainly had a positive effect on myself on the occasions that we met. However, it must be said that some of the dimensions published in "Records of the Medieval Sword" (and elsewhere) are inaccurate - a fact that Oakeshott himself admitted. So, to give a few examples, here are some (accurate) measurements and weights of three of the big 'swords of war' shown in "Records" that I have had the good fortune to have handled over the last 4 years or so:

XIIa.3 (Royal Armouries, Leeds, No. IX.915)
Length overall: 122.5cm, Blade length: 96.3cm, Weight: 1,710g (3lb 12oz).

XIIIa.8 (Private collection)
Length overall: 99.7cm, Blade length: 77.4cm, Weight: 1,683g (3lb 11.4oz)

XIIIa.10 (Burrell Collection, Glasgow, No. 2/75)
Length overall: 130.0cm, Blade length: 102.5cm, Weight: 1,850g (4lb 1.5oz.)

These dimensions and weights are interesting in that they show some rather different values to the generally accepted ones that have been published.
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Anton de Vries





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PostPosted: Mon 13 Jun, 2011 11:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While numbers are interesting, they are not really absolute.

Example: everyone who handles them believes that my Sheness katana, a very nice sword, weighs more than my Albion Mercenary.
The Merc is actually like 200 gr. or so heavier.
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Clive Thomas




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Jun, 2011 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

True enough! To give an example of two very different pieces, I recently was able to handle a 10th century sword and an early 15th century sword (a Type XV) in a private collection. The point of balance of the earlier sword was way down the blade (over 21cm from the hilt), making it seem very blade-heavy. It's 'perceived weight' was therefore (and not surprisingly) much greater than the Type XV, whose point of balance was only 7cm from the hilt . However, because it had a much thicker blade, the Type XV was actually heavier by 209g, yet it handled like a natural extension of your arm. It was also about 10cm shorter than the other sword. The point of balance, though, is almost exclusively neglected in publications.

This is why I like to give as many dimensions, measurements and weights as possible, in order to convey these differences. I also include drawings showing blade cross sections whenever possible, and although these take time to produce accurately, I believe they add much to our understanding of the blade geometry of a sword. Now they might seem mind-numbingly tedious to some, but taken as a whole these measurements and drawings at least give the reader an idea of how a given sword should behave when held. Other factors such as pommel thickness and the span of the crossguard will also have a significant bearing on the handling qualities (and the balance point) of a particular sword, and are just as important as the blade dimensions and weight.

So, yes, you are correct in that the dimensions usually given - i.e. length overall / blade length / weight - do not really convey the 'feel' of a sword. But when we include the other measurements that I mentioned above, we are able to build up quite an accurate picture of how a sword will function. In my experience, on the few occasions when I have been able to study some extensive measurements (and weight) beforehand, there were very few surprises when I picked up the sword in question.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Jun, 2011 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I feel compelled to point out that the problem of measuring the mass distribution of weapons with a satisfying completeness is as far as I'm concerned mostly solved Happy With just five numbers you get a very decent idea of how the sword is balanced and how it feels... So while overall mass and length are not enough let's not neglect numbers completely Happy

My own next step will be to measure the properties of actual antique weapons and not just good reproductions, now that I'm more confident in the process.

Regards,

--
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Matthew Kelty





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PostPosted: Wed 23 Nov, 2011 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Back in 2004, I had lent a hand in Anthony Shore's data gathering efforts in regards to the myth of the weights of 2 handed swords. He had compiled some good data, as well as a few photos of the specific swords included in the data.

From: 'The Two-Handed Great Sword - Making lite of the issue of weight' by Anthony Shore,
Journal of Western Martial Art, October 2004
http://www.ejmas.com/jwma/articles/2004/jwmaart_shore_1004.htm

Henrick Andersson of the Royal Armoury of Stockholm provided the following details (Photos are Image redirects from ejmas.com, and are copywritten as: Livrustkammaren, Sweden. All rights reserved.):

Two-handed sword
(Germany) 1475-1525
Length: 1382 mm (54.40 inches)
Blade: 1055 mm (41.53 inches)
Weight: 1550 gr (3.41 lbs)




Ceremonial Two-handed sword
(Germany) end of Sixteenth C.
Length: 1422 mm (55.98 inches)
Blade 1029 mm (40.51 inches)
Weight: 2700 gr (5.95 lbs)




Other swords listed (no photos):

Two-handed sword
(Germany) Fifteenth C.
Length: 1375 mm (54.21 inches)
Blade: 920 mm (36.2 inches)
Weight: 1600 gr (3.5 lbs)

Two-handed sword
(Germany ) end of Fifteenth C.
Length: 1473 mm (58 inches)
Blade: 1066 mm (41.97 inches)
Weight: 2720 gr (5.99 lbs)

Ceremonial Two-handed sword
(Munich) 1575
Length: 1643 mm (64.69 inches)
Blade: 964 mm (37.95 inches)
Weight: 3500 gr (7.72 lbs)

Ceremonial Two-handed sword
(Germany) end of Sixteenth C.
Length: 1817 mm (71.53 inches)
Blade: 1240 mm (48.81 inches)
Weight: 3970 gr (8.75 lbs)

Ceremonial Two-handed sword
(Germany) end of Sixteenth C.
Length: 1893 mm (74.52 inches)
Blade: 1313 mm (51.69 inches)
Weight: 4830 gr (10.64 lbs)

Ceremonial Two-handed sword
(Germany) c. 1600
Length: 1275 mm (50.19 inches)
Blade: 1000 mm (39.37 inches)
Weight: 2330 gr (5.1 lbs)

One-and -a-half-handed sword
(Germany) c. 1475-1525
Length: 1153 mm (45.39 inches)
Blade: 932 mm (36.69 inches)
Weight: 1320 gr (2.91 lbs)

Two-handed sword
(Germany) c. 1500
Length: 1340 mm (52.75 inches)
Blade: 955 mm (37.6 inches)
Weight: 1390 gr (3.06 lbs)
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Nov, 2011 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice compilation of data there, Matthew. Thanks for adding it here.
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Matthew Kelty





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PostPosted: Wed 23 Nov, 2011 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You're very welcome. Haven't been here for a while, was crusing the spotlight topics, found this article, and saw the lack of two handed swords... Happy

Happy to help... Happy
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