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Carl W.




Location: usa
Joined: 07 Aug 2008

Posts: 178

PostPosted: Thu 24 Nov, 2022 1:20 pm    Post subject: Nagels?!         Reply with quote

Reminded again of this by a recent bauernwehr reproduction post, but I didn't want to ask there & maybe distract from that (or similar) topic.

I like those knives, a lot, but I still don't like or understand nagels. To me they look (both functionally & visually) like small tacked on afterthoughts. As far as I can recall seeing they are not present on ~similar Khyber knives, nor on Bowie knives, or seaxes, or any of the various dagger types, or... ?

Functionally most simple sword guards (or say an S guard Bowie) are in the same plane as the blade, not perpendicular. If a perpendicular guard is a good idea, why so small? And why not on both sides? And if such a good idea why don't more/other types of knives have them?

I have done searches in past but little has been said about nagels that I could find. Thanks in advance for helping me learn about & appreciate them.
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Fri 25 Nov, 2022 4:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Almost everything we "know" about the purpose of certain features of historical arms is inferred from manuals on their use, practical experience or deduction based on physics. As such, we can only guesstimate what the actual rationale behind those features was back in the day.

As for Messer and Bauernwehren with their Nagel, we have several possible answers, these are my deductions:

The perpendicular nature of the Nagel may have originally been construction based. Many Messer and Bauernwehren are assembled not from the pommel end, but by sliding the guard down the blade, where it is then not friction/press fit in place, but held there by a peg/pin that runs perpendicular through the blade, as is the case with knife handles to this day. Extending that peg creates an additional handguard element without requiring alterations to the construction method.
Several techniques like Pnemen are greatly facilitated by the Nagel, which begs the question which came first.

The rather diminutive size and one-sided nature likely come down to comfort. Any defensive implement spends most of its life, ideally all of its life, not being used but being carried/worn. A smaller, shorter, narrower implement is more comfortable to wear, which is why people often carry compact or even subcompact handguns rather than full size duty guns (or even rifles) as EDC (where permissible). Having the Nagel protude on both sides would also wear through clothing rather quickly and rub against the body uncomfortably unless worn entirely differently. That's also why we see spadroons and sabers with asymmetric and folding guards later on.

Why is it not on other weapons? Now this is a question that is nigh impossible to answer, but taking a shot in the dark, it may have to do with the way the knives in question are assembled. Bowies vary considerably in construction method, from full-width tang slab sided pieces that would likely be conducive to having a Nagel, to cable tang pieces that don't actually have the blade run all the way to the end. Seaxes, to my knowledge, usually use much narrower tangs, as do some bowies, which is probably not as conducive to punching a hole and putting a lever that *will* receive stress in use through it.
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Victor R.




Location: Klein, Texas
Joined: 28 Jan 2008
Reading list: 4 books

Posts: 322

PostPosted: Fri 25 Nov, 2022 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johannes Zenker wrote:
Having the Nagel protude on both sides would also wear through clothing rather quickly and rub against the body uncomfortably unless worn entirely differently.


This, and the nagel also protrudes to the "hand" side of the grip versus the "thumb" side of the grip, protecting the hand and allowing deflection on the side a blocked/deflected blade was most likely to slide. The overwhelming majority of people were and are right handed, thus the overwhelming majority of nagels you see will be on the right side of the knife, though you may find some examples going the other way.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 537

PostPosted: Sat 26 Nov, 2022 1:29 am    Post subject: Re: Nagels?!         Reply with quote

Dear Carl W.,

On Thursday 24 November 2022, you wrote:
. . . I still don't like or understand nagels. . . . As far as I can recall seeing they are not present on ~similar Khyber knives, nor on Bowie knives, or seaxes, or any of the various dagger types, or... ? . . .

Side rings are functionally identical and appear on both daggers, particularly in the early modern era--think mains gauches--and swords. They're more likely to be on only one side of a dagger, but there are also swords that have single side rings. For that matter hunting swords, which to be fair may arguably trace their design in part to Messer, and hangers inspired by hunting swords often have very asymmetrical guards or single shells that are functionally equivalent to Nägel. I grant that all of these types of weapon typically have longer crossguards than Messer often do, but while crossguards aren't universal on Messer they also aren't exceptional.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

Posts: 140

PostPosted: Sat 26 Nov, 2022 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't some messer techniques (and probably bauernwehr too) require you to put your thumb up the blade for control? This couldn't happen with nagels on both sides. Furthermore, I think that if your thumb is up the side of the blade, the blade protects the thumb. You're supposed to parry using the nagel side and if you're parrying from a strike comming to your left then you twist the bade (so the edge is pointing backwards). This is, in the case of the bauernwehr, unlike some sword techniques where you parry with the edge (using the cross guard for hand protection) rather than with the flat (although with many messers you can do both since it has a cross guard and a nagel). I hope I've got that right! (I'm sure I'll be corrected if I am wrong...).
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Sun 27 Nov, 2022 2:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Kary wrote:
Don't some messer techniques (and probably bauernwehr too) require you to put your thumb up the blade for control? This couldn't happen with nagels on both sides. Furthermore, I think that if your thumb is up the side of the blade, the blade protects the thumb. You're supposed to parry using the nagel side and if you're parrying from a strike comming to your left then you twist the bade (so the edge is pointing backwards). This is, in the case of the bauernwehr, unlike some sword techniques where you parry with the edge (using the cross guard for hand protection) rather than with the flat (although with many messers you can do both since it has a cross guard and a nagel). I hope I've got that right! (I'm sure I'll be corrected if I am wrong...).


There are several pieces in Lecküchner that function better with the Nagel or even require ot to properly work at all, most of which involve thumb-gripping the Messer.
One is this here, which can technically be done with a regular Winden as well, but the depiction shows the long edge facing downwards and the Nagel facing outward, with the thumb laid along the flat (via Wiktenauer, Cgm 582, 6r):
.
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Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
Joined: 21 Sep 2007
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Reading list: 12 books

Posts: 170

PostPosted: Yesterday at 7:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not historical, but I have read that when modern kitchen knives are used in “crimes of passion”, the wielder’s hand rides up the blade quite often. Since crossguards don’t fit conveniently with knife construction, the nagel might be an easily integrated hand-stop.
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