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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 7:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi again,
I know that written descriptions are never worth as much as the likes of Kirks photos, but a few descriptions I have read seem of interest.
Regarding the grip, I read somewhere not too long ago that the "turks head" finial wasn't correct for the viking age.
Turns out this isn't correct.
It appears the rings or ferruls at each end of the grip can be of iron, precious metal, or whatever, Or plaited wire....(the so-called "Earl of Pembroke's" sword is of this type, with the grip covered in silver wire, and a plaited wire ring at each end.)
(P. 60, "swordin Anglo-Saxon England"))
also, sometimes the grip is covered with an elaborate pattern of woven metal wires

The grip of the sword 'Gram" is said to be .."Bound with gold" (P 177)

The followers of Harald Fairhair were said to have swords..."...Bound with silver" (177)

Steinthor's new sword (with soft blade!) has hilt with silver guard and pommel bar, and ...."bound with silver and edged with gold" (P 178)
Another name for a covering seems to be derived from"wem"...to wind, signifying a leather binding, or gold or silver wound around. (P 180)

On page 181, is mentioned the sword "Footbiter" said in the Laxdoela saga to be "...a great sword and good, with the hilt formed of walrus ivory.....the grip bound with gold.."

also the sword of Magnus barefoot, called "Leg-biter" ......" with a guard of walrus ivory, and grip bound with gold, the best of weapons....."

Another sword is called "Hornhjalti" and "much adorned with gold" From name, the hilt must be horn!

Lastly, the old Irish term claideb d'et, "tooth sword" probably refers to ivory.

Sorry for being long-winded.

Richard.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 12:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's striking how flat some (not all) of these grips are, especially the river Schelt sword pictured in the Archeology of Weapons. This might be another clue to how these swords were held.

Subjectively, I find that a wide flattened handle fits better with the handshake grip than the hammer grip.
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Seth M. Borland




Location: Millbrook Alabama
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

since this thread asks about whether or not wooden grips survive, i'd like to know if there are any grips from roman swords like the gladius and spatha. All the historical examples I've seen have no hilts of grips of any kind, and I'm wondering if we can even determine accurate shape and material details from the depictions in reliefs and carvings, i mean come on, how can a vague stone representation tell us that a gladius had a grip of ivory and a hilt of wood in the shape most repros have made them?

just wondering. thanks in advance for your help.

Seth
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 6:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard,

You said, "I know that written descriptions are never worth as much as the likes of Kirks photos, but a few descriptions I have read seem of interest."


This is terrific information, no need to apologize whatsoever!


"also the sword of Magnus barefoot, called "Leg-biter" ......" with a guard of walrus ivory, and grip bound with gold, the best of weapons.....""

"Leg-biter" pretty much sums the whole thing up, doesn't it? I have to wonder if that walrus ivory guard was sandwiched between a couple of pieces of iron to protect it.

Great stuff Richard, thanks,


Ken
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 6:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Seth M. Borland wrote:
since this thread asks about whether or not wooden grips survive, i'd like to know if there are any grips from roman swords like the gladius and spatha. All the historical examples I've seen have no hilts of grips of any kind, and I'm wondering if we can even determine accurate shape and material details from the depictions in reliefs and carvings, i mean come on, how can a vague stone representation tell us that a gladius had a grip of ivory and a hilt of wood in the shape most repros have made them?

just wondering. thanks in advance for your help.

Seth


Seth,
This thread is about Viking swords. You'll be better off starting a new thread to ask about gladius grips.

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Ken Speed





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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi J.D.,

You said, "It's striking how flat some (not all) of these grips are, especially the river Schelt sword pictured in the Archeology of Weapons. This might be another clue to how these swords were held.

Subjectively, I find that a wide flattened handle fits better with the handshake grip than the hammer grip."

I agree.

J.D., What can I say? I have been "biting my keypads" trying to avoid mentioning anything about gripping Viking swords because I didn't want to start that discussion again! Laughing Out Loud

OK, here we go again! I was wondering how they held those swords with the thin round grips. I would imagine using those would be somewhere between miserable, frustrating and lethal (for the user)!

I've never really liked the term hammer grip much because it isn't the way a hammer is gripped very often because it kills a lot of wrist movement that is very desirable when using a hammer. Guys that do a lot of small tapping movements use a lot of wrist action and relatively little arm movement but guys who are driving large nails like framers aren't exactly beating the nail into the wood as much as they are sort of whipping the nail into the wood; they're using their whole arm, shoulder, elbow and last but not least wrist to drive that spike. Its somewhat akin to hitting a baseball. I think that these single hand cutting swords were swung in that manner, like a hatchet. Frankly, at the moment I can't think of any tool that is swung without that wrist action, there must be something but I don't know what it is. I will freely admit that my experience swinging swords is severely limited but I will counter that by saying that I have spent a lot of time using all kinds of hand tools and all kinds of axes, hatchets, and hammers big and small. I think the hammer grip which I prefer to think of as an overhand grip is a thrusting and stabbing grip rather than a cutting grip. Don't get me wrong I'm confident that sword wielders could and did switch seamlessly from grip to grip as circumstances warranted. There may have been old sword fighters but I'll bet there weren't many old inept sword fighters!


Regards,



Ken
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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ken,

Re. sword names, I find this one of the most charming aspects of this type of study.
To me it is a real connection with the people chronicled in the sagas, and the names given to swords shows how dearly they were treasured.
I can't find the references at present, but names like leg-biter, foot-biter, Skrep (sharp) Skofnung, Laufi, Aettertangi, and others add a lot of meat to the otherwise bones.

It appears when a sword "bites" the meaning was it didn't stop at the bone.

In Vatnsdaela Saga, ( from "Sword in A-Sax England "again)P202,

When things were going badly in battle for the men of Vatnsdale, Jokull uses both hands on his sword;
.....Jokull said,"I can't boast of Aettertangi's bite' 'It's the same way with us too' said thorstein,'and yet our men are getting wounds'
Jokull was foremost of all, and hewed with both hands. He was a very powerful man of great courage; his strokes were hard enough to do injury, yet the sword did not bite.

In a fight between Hiarrandi and Helgi Droplaugarson;

Then Hirrandi made a furious attackon Helgi, and cut at him fiercly many times, and no fewer nor less forceful were the strokes of Helgi, but the sword which Helgi had did not serve him well............Then did helgi show his skill in fighting, and he threw up shield and sword,and caught the sword in his left hand, and cut at Hirrandi and struck his thigh; the sword went through to the bone but would go no further and glanced off behind the knee, and this wound put him out of the fight.

I am sorry this post is somewhat off topic, so won't say more on this here.

Re. the flattened grip, I agree with what you say. To me a grip of this shape makes it very easy for the pommel-bar to pass the wrist, and not dig in, providingthe pommel is not too wide.

Re. things/tools that do Not allow much wrist movement, I think the Indian Tulwar is one of the most resrictive.
This too is OT, so back to viking age grips/hilts!
Thanks again for bringing up this question.

Richard.
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Myles Mulkey





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I realize this thread is pretty old, but I thought I'd share a few more pictures from museums in Norway. A couple that look to me like Petersen type L's and one type X.



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E. Storesund





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 7:56 am    Post subject: Re: Viking sword grips?         Reply with quote

Ken Speed wrote:
OK, just for the sake of the discussion, lets accept that there are no grips from Viking era swords; what then is the literary evidence? Surely the sagas in recounting duels, hall burnings, ambushes and battles must speak of the swords construction once in a while.


Well, IF there was some sort of recount in some saga about the construction of a sword... How are we to trust the authenticity of this. Though I'm in favour of the (critical!) use of sagas as source material, we must remember that the Monks who wrote them in the 12th-14th centuries had little or no idea about the material culture of their forefathers, therefore we can only estimate the truth in pretty universal and theoretical terms.

Another detail is that the literary style of the saga doesn't really account for such details, unless it's for some reason sentral to the plot. Either way we can't assume the details are historical facts. We might for example assume Hagbard the ugly made a sword and gave it to Harold the stinky without this being problematic. Other details might pose problems.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful pictures! Many thanks to all who posted them.
"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 8:29 am    Post subject: Re: Viking sword grips?         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Ken Speed wrote:
My question: Are there NO surviving grips from Viking age swords?


one other with a wire binding (directly on the tang, I believe) that may not be original.


I'm guessing you're referring to the Dybeck or Lund sword, which is one of the swords I've reproduced.
It has traces of organic material on the tang and the gold wire has doubtless been removed and re-attached just like the pommel.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Pyry Veteli





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice pictures from Mulkey. I wonder if it is known what wood (if it is not cleverly disguised bone or leather) the handle in #2 is made of, as that looks very well preserved (Oddly well actually, as the metal parts are quite corroded; I'm no professional, but fancy if water-locked material could turn out that way.. Confused )

My first impression was that the grip looks a lot like curly birch (Betula pendula var. carelica), a rare mutation of (usually) silver birch where the grain of the wood grows twisted and produces a beautiful wave/flame like look. It's heavy (~670kg/m3, cf. fir ~450, oak ~750) and twisted grain reduces the risk of cracking, so it would have made ideal material to a weapon that has to function in tough times. Nowadays curly birch is popular in traditional knife crafting for the same reasons. I'm not familiar with Norwegian/Swedish flora of the viking age, but a bit to the Baltic it should have been available in plenty. Burn&slash-agriculture used at the time tends to favor birch-dominated forests.

Though it's hard to say from a photo what it is..sort of why I'm asking in the first place. Big Grin
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E. Storesund





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 10:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not unlikely! We call it valbjørk in Norwegian and it's popular for knife handles etc.
At least today, birch grows all over the place. Actually our national tree if memory serves. I don't have any sources to back it up, but i think birch was plentiful.
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Nils Anderssen




Location: Drammen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are a couple of more pictures of the hilt Myles Mulkey posted. Different angels so you can se the shape. They are all from the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Trondheim, Norway.

Found at Hoven, Hov, Sunndal, Nordmøre. Dated late 800.


Pettersen type W. Found at Bredvold, Aafjorden. The grip is most probably deformed a little bit.



Here are a couple more hilts pictures:

From Esbjerg Museum, Denmark. Found at Grimstrup. Dated 10th century:


National Museum in Copenhagen. I don't know the dating.


Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. From Løken, Ringerike k., Buskerud, Norway. Dated 900/1000:


Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. From Vågå church, Oppland, Norway. Dated 800.


Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.. Unknown find place. Dated 800


More pictures of these hilts and more can be found at http://www.vikverir.no/ressurser.html
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Nils Anderssen




Location: Drammen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2011 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a picture from another angle of one of the swords in Kirk Lee Spencer's post.

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Dave Leppo




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2011 4:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well.. The last two pictures posted by Mr. Anderssen 1-10-11 @ 1:45 pm are obviously of grips forged from iron, along with top and lower guards, and inlayed with gold. Since we can surmise that the gold was the top cosmetic layer, and the iron fared better thorough the ages, they show the original shape of these grips quite well; exhibiting less distortion of shape than horn, wood bone leather, etc. We can see a flattened grip shape tapering from bottom to top. Both grips are thinner than the guards (as expected). The one from Vaga church has more tapered edges – or is more rounded in section, as opposed to the boxier one below it. Anyway, my point is that the iron / gold material has survived to a greater degree, and probably exhibits the best examples of original form (but there are some really well-preserved examples in Mr. Mulkey’s 6:30 am post with organic grips, however)
-Dave
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E. Storesund





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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2011 7:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding the upper picture of the sword with the masur birch-looking grip. The silver ornamentation looks a bit foreign in my eyes. Seems probable it's continental goods.
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Richard Hare




Location: Alberta, canada
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2011 7:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Myles and Nils;

Very exciting photos you have provided, in fact all on this thread are very inspiring. Thanks for posting them!!

Myles, This is the first type 'L' I have seen witha straight cross-guard.( Pic 2)

The silver work is fantastic,!


I don't often say, "Oh Wow!" but I did when I saw these photos.

Note;
On previous page, written back in '08, I fed some wrong information;
I said the Gilling West sword had a stacked grip.

It may have Appeared to me as such, but it was not constructed this way.
It had the silver alloy bands placed over an organic grip, They are Not silver "washers".
How the bands were fitted I do not know, as the bands Appear to have covered a grip with some belly to it.

Sorry if this mislead anyone.

Richard.
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Matt Lukes
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2011 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very nice stuff guys- I'd only ever seen the one intact grip, the inlaid iron one from Bjørnsholm.

I wonder- since so many blades lack any grip elements at all, i.e., no precious metal wire, inlay or bands, yet retain the inlay of the guard and pommel, would they have simply been naked wood? It seems strange to be so.

I would think it clear they must have been wood as tusk ivory or bone would survive if the iron did (apparently too iron helps preserve bone, etc.). But since many tangs are so very wide at the guard end, it seems unlikely the grip would have been one solid piece burned in, rather than halves, but then how would they stay in place without any support like wire or bands? One of the photos Nils posted looks as though it could be wrapped with a leather or rawhide thong...

@ Nils- is it reported what any of those museum artifacts' grips are made of? They look heavily conserved, but perhaps there's some indication of the materials?

I'm thinking of trying to reconstruct a Norse blade at some point and would prefer a more average piece than one of the extremely ornate ones- but none of the surviving examples I've seen has any grip remnants at all...

Ohhhh- pillage THEN burn...
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2011 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dave Leppo wrote:
Well.. The last two pictures posted by Mr. Anderssen 1-10-11 @ 1:45 pm are obviously of grips forged from iron, along with top and lower guards, and inlayed with gold. Since we can surmise that the gold was the top cosmetic layer, and the iron fared better thorough the ages, they show the original shape of these grips quite well; exhibiting less distortion of shape than horn, wood bone leather, etc. We can see a flattened grip shape tapering from bottom to top. Both grips are thinner than the guards (as expected). The one from Vaga church has more tapered edges – or is more rounded in section, as opposed to the boxier one below it. Anyway, my point is that the iron / gold material has survived to a greater degree, and probably exhibits the best examples of original form (but there are some really well-preserved examples in Mr. Mulkey’s 6:30 am post with organic grips, however)


I think grips are not forged in one piece with either pommel or guard, they are all separate pieces...
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