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Michael Clark




Location: Welland, Ontario
Joined: 31 Mar 2007

Posts: 45

PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 5:54 pm    Post subject: The Bloody Truth         Reply with quote

Greetings, all.

Interesting subject of which to evaluate today. I was reading through the blade maintenance feature on the Features page, and I took note (read: "chuckled at") of the quite interesting statement, "blood does not make a good polish." Then it suddenly occured to me, "Wait, do we know this for certain?" Perhaps that's a bit gruesome, so let me explain.

The basis of my post is my curiosity as to the result of a sword... well, doing what it's supposed to do. Do we know what happens when blood is left to stain? When swords are excavated, can we tell how much blood it has let? How much flesh it bit? Was there blood on it when it reached it's grave? I think these are scenarios with which to delve into further detail. It's a really beautiful to understand the life of a blade.

Any thoughts on the matter?

-- MZC

P. S. Admittedly, it might be a bit unhealthy to find the thought of blood on a sword "beautiful," but... That's beside the point.
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 6:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Blood, like most other bodily fluids such as skin oils and sweat, will etch and/or corrode steel.
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[EDIT: oops, looks like I was beaten to the punch Happy]

Blood is pretty bad for blades.

It's full of chemically active components, and will certainly corrode steel if left on too long. It doesn't stain a blade, it actively destroys it. Pretty typical of most organic stuff - skin oil, sweat, saliva (really bad), and even just your breath can be harmful to a sword.

In Japanese koryu ("old" martial arts that have survived from times when they were actually used, as opposed to modern derived arts) it is common to finish every form with a symbolic removal of blood from the blade. Keeping a blade clean, and wiping it down after use, is a pretty standard measure across history and geography, not merely in Japan.

I know of no empirical chemical or physical test to tell how much a given sword has been used. There are indirect methods based on style and mountings, wear and tear (chips, sometimes even with bits of other swords stuck in them), and sometimes even individual histories in the case of some famous or interesting swords. To use Japanese swords as an example (again), some blades have documented ownership and anecdotes attached to them, or even inscriptions on the tang indicating that they were used in test cutting (on cadavers or criminals).

[Edit #2: Also in Japanese blades it is pretty easy to assess the relative degree to which a blade has been polished down and otherwise altered, which again is aguably (but very indirectly) related to how much it was used.]

Cheers,
-GLL


Last edited by Gabriel Lebec on Thu 03 May, 2007 7:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Neil Langley




Location: Stockport, UK
Joined: 23 Jan 2006

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PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 6:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As it contains oxygenated iron (at least arterial blood does) and a lot of water, blood is halfway to being rust in the first place (It’s the same basic chemical reaction) – getting it on your sword should be avoided at all costs Wink

Neil.
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Michael Clark




Location: Welland, Ontario
Joined: 31 Mar 2007

Posts: 45

PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 7:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, amazing stuff, folks.

Neil,
Wasn't at all expecting to hear that blood was essentially rust. As a metal head, I can't help but allude to Megadeth's "Rust In Peace" and can imagine that an enitre new meaning can be applied.

Fascinating information. Thanks, all!
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Stephen Hand




Location: Hobart, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

During 30 years of re-enactment I have seen blades go into people rather more times than I would have liked. One of the reasons I now do historical sworfdsmanship as a martial art rather than re-enactment is that it's so much safer. I have never seen a blade that has entered a human body and been rapidly removed come out with blood on it.
Stephen Hand
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 1:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Hand wrote:
During 30 years of re-enactment I have seen blades go into people rather more times than I would have liked. One of the reasons I now do historical sworfdsmanship as a martial art rather than re-enactment is that it's so much safer. I have never seen a blade that has entered a human body and been rapidly removed come out with blood on it.


Yeah blood would tend to bead on a highly polished and maybe lightly oiled blade and a quick wipe or even a flick of the blade should get rid of most of it: Not that the CSI types wouldn't be able to find some trace molecules if not very well cleaned I suspect.

If I remember correctly the Japanese had a technique to flick away any blood from the blade before putting it back in it's scabbard. I also assume they would give it some protective maintenance as soon as possible though but after a battle one might not have the time to do more than a quick flick.

Oh, I haven't seen, fortunately, any metal objects in people but I have cut myself a few times playing with sharp knives or just doing some woodworking:Just noticed in the past that very little blood was visible at a glance on the sharp thing I just had a close encounter with. Wink Laughing Out Loud

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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my unfortunate experience where I was cut by a sword with the wound resulting in immediate bleeding, since the blade wasn't stuck in my body for any moment(thank god) and was just a light hit, there wasn't visible blood on the blade/edge at all. I have no experience in cases like Stephen's.
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Alberto Dainese




Location: Padova - Italy
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 2:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

If I remember correctly the Japanese had a technique to flick away any blood from the blade before putting it back in it's scabbard. I also assume they would give it some protective maintenance as soon as possible though but after a battle one might not have the time to do more than a quick flick.


As Gabriel said above, japanese Koryus have quite a number of method to remove blood from blade, each peculiar of the style. A couple of months ago I saw a Iaido demo, each kata was terminated by a movement to clean the blade (a flick or a wipe) and then the sword was sheathed.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 2:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alberto Dainese wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:

If I remember correctly the Japanese had a technique to flick away any blood from the blade before putting it back in it's scabbard. I also assume they would give it some protective maintenance as soon as possible though but after a battle one might not have the time to do more than a quick flick.

As Gabriel said above, japanese Koryus have quite a number of method to remove blood from blade, each peculiar of the style. A couple of months ago I saw a Iaido demo, each kata was terminated by a movement to clean the blade (a flick or a wipe) and then the sword was sheathed.


These gestures are called chiburi, and indeed there is a great variety of them across all the schools, and sometimes even inside one school. Many could be seen as cutting or thrusting motions, the idea being that what is left on the blade will fall when it stops brutally. In Katori-shinto-ryu, it's a quick rotation of the blade along its axis, followed by a hit of the hand on the handle. I've heard that other schools go as far as to mimic the actual wiping of the blade with paper or clothes. This is not the most common or modern form, though.

The efficiency of such gestures is debatable, and I personally believe that only the wiping of the blade would clean it sufficiently. It could be enough, however, to remove solid debris (bone fragments or whatnot). But blood being quite viscous, I'd think that if it is on the blade (i.e. the blade did not go through fast enough, or it remained in the body), it will stay...

That being said, I never had any blood on any on my blades, and I hope it will stay that way, so it's all speculation. Perhaps hunters have a closer hand-on expertise on the subject...

I also wonder what the consequences would be of sheathing a blade with blood remaining? How would you clean the scabbard afterwards? Even if you clean the blade later, it doesn't solve all the problems...

Regards

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 12:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, I heard from several practitioners of koryu that the chiburi is, indeed, only an emergency and temporary measure. If they were in a real fight they wouldn't have sheathed the blade right away, but would have wiped it at least and probably oiled it a bit before placing it back into the saya. The kata have them sheathing their swords directly only because it's not exactly polite to brandish your drawn sword among people you're supposed to regard as friends.
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Angus Trim




Location: Seattle area
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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Over the last seven years, having bled on a lot of blades being made, and sometimes not cleaning the blade for several days afterwards....... I tend to view the comments about blood on a blade as a bit overdone.......

Sometimes, after cleaning dried blood off of a blade, there is a bit of a dark stain underneath. Sometimes, clean the blood off, and the blade is clean.........

This after three or more days..........

swords are fun
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, there you have it, from someone who knows. Happy After paying up to $100/inch on an contest-grade polish for some Japanese blades I suppose I have a warped perspective on keeping blades clean...

On a related note, the one time I cut myself on one of my blades there was zero blood on it afterwards (cleaned it anyway just to be safe).
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriel Lebec wrote:
Well, there you have it, from someone who knows. Happy After paying up to $100/inch on an contest-grade polish for some Japanese blades I suppose I have a warped perspective on keeping blades clean...

On a related note, the one time I cut myself on one of my blades there was zero blood on it afterwards (cleaned it anyway just to be safe).


Hi Gabriel

Probably should have added a caveat that these are my sword blades....... not extremely valuable custom katana or nihonto...*g*

The same might go for type of steel, and the type and size of grain involved...... My blades do discolor, but very seldom rust deep....... Its possible, something like 1095 would mark much easier, and its also possible that swords made elsewhere of other materials might mark differently..........

So mileage might vary........... its not like I've done this with every blade that I've come into contact with.......

swords are fun
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