Adorning the blade, making my first sword truly my own

I could not think of a better greeting, so that one will have to do.

My name is Henrik, and I am a swedish actor, martial artist and drama teacher who have recently joined a troupe of knights, jesters and stagefighters to further childhood dreams (that are still going quite strong) and my personal skills in both stagefighting and Hema.

And I have finally decided on a blade.
Or... well... several, but I do not wish to wait for 6 months for an Albion, or even 2 for a Lutel (a retailor whom would eliminate my current scabbard-issue, but we'll get to that). Instead, I have chosen to go for a Pavel Moc, a blacksmith with an incredibly strong reputation in Europe, particularly so in Sweden.

The store I'm ordering from is one of very few Swedish retailers, as such, he has managed to secure a "custom" sword (it is the hastings with a pommel swap and different colour leather handle), however, this so called Coinpommel pommel is a bit... bland.

And the sword will, with a scabbard (strongly considering making a leather based scabbard of my own, since I might get thrown around and risk breaking a wooden one), risk looking a bit too bland still. As such, I have set out on a quest to modify my sword, starting with the pommel, and my future scabbard.

This thread will (hopefully) turn into a more detailed journey once I can get my grubby mits on the blade, however, that's still some weeks off, and whilst I'm waiting, I would like to brainstorm and spawn ideas most fiendish and delirious about what to DO with the weapon.

At first, the blade
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Or rather, the pommel.

I have contemplated the following:

1. A 12the-13the century coin on each side of the pommel. I have a local medieval/viking jewelry store and he's helped me pick out two or three possible candidates. However, my issue here is how I would go about attatatatching

I could drill into the pommel with a very broad drill to give a socketed look to it.

I could use a resin with an amber/sap look to it so that any excess would still make it look like a natural adhesive and simply glue it on.

I could drill thinnthinnnthins through the pommel and the coins (one on top of the coin, one on the bottom) and use thinnthin of metal to pin the coins in place and then either bend and hammer the edges of the wire/rods or simply reinforce it with superglue or somesuch.

Or I could device some sort of external socket or frame, slap the coin into that and attatch the whole thing to the sword.

2. A square/rectangular medalmedallion a saint or somesuch on each side of the pommel.
I am however fased facedthe same attatchment issues that I have for the coins, and I am unsure of a square/rectangular shape would look good on a round pommel.

3. I could etch something into the pommel, maybe a stensistencilmotif similar to the medalmedallionoins. I am not a huge fan of the "Crusader cross covering the entire pommel", nor of the various celtic knots around, as such, I am rather unsure of WHAT I would etch.

The tutorial on this site is, however, brilliant, I'll train on random pieces of similar steel to the pommel before etching if I decide to do that.

4. Me or my sister could freehand a christian motif off of 13the century paintings, no background, only a saint slaying something or mayhap one of the archangels. (The Christian motif due to the likely characterisation of my forthcoming knight-character as a homecomer from the crusades).

5. A wax seal of some sort. Could be similar to a coin, or a tablet, or a sacred image of some sort, there are quite a few options here, and it would not ever be a permanent change to the pommel.

6. A wax seal with a piece of cloth or parchment attatched to it as well, probably riddled with prayers or short german and latin phrases. "Maria bit mit uns" is one I've fallen for (Maria, pray with us, in german).

Currently, I am really rather fond of the wax-seal idea, and I am growing fonder by the minute. Would this be the path to take? And if so, what would be good motifs? The lion and the unicorn fighting? A griffon? A cross of some sort? (The innitial character for fairs and similar will probaly be somebody returning home from one of the very early crusades, the group are aiming for 12the-13the century).

And in keeping with chivalric traditions and to give the sword an extra level of uniqueness, a piece of silk-cloth tied around the handle, just below the crossguard, that would be my lady's favour, always with me, always protecting me.

Secondly, for making a scabbard, I've decided that if I am to make my own, I'll make a leather core, possibly lined with sheepskin (with wool) to keep the blade well oiled and to keep a flexible enough core that I don't break it if I land on it in a throw.

However, I want to take the customisations to the next level. I doubt I am skilled enough to emboss the scabbard or the grip quite yet, I'll leave that for later. However, I have been contemplating wrapping the scabbard in countless strips of cloth, each with a separate prayer on them. Maybe a wax seal here and maybe one there, keeping parchment clinging to the scabbard.

I would be happy if anyone would like to share their thoughts, and even more joyful if we could turn this into some massive brainstorming feast. I want people to go wild, what would a personalised 12the/13the century scabbard and pommel look like? In particular somebody of low nobility who's just home from the first crusade. No gold, I've decided. I have a hand-carved cross made from the iridescent, white inside of a clam, held in a leather string aws my only proper jewelry when in "walking around" mode. The look will be completed with big silver jewelry from a local "viking and medieval" jewelry store that sells accurate stuff. But for fighting and drawing the sword, only the cross. Gold chains and similar is simply too much.
Well, there is at least one sword from the 13th century with a coin in the pommel, so it is at least plausible. ( See XIIIb.1 in the Oakeshott type XIII article in the features section.) I would suggest starting by customizing your grip and scabbard first. Not only would this be easiest, it would be quite historically correct. It would be quite common for your average medieval sword owner to have his grip garnished with dyed leather or fancy textiles.
Hi Henrik, welcome to myArmoury and congratulations on your sword!

I think the sword that you have is more or less plausible for the entire middle ages (1000-1500). Of course that depends a bit on your group's standards of accuracy and also on personal opinion, but my opinion is that it would be very acceptable for stage fighting representing the period 1000-1500. A good choice!

But this may influence your choice of decoration, because many decorations would pinpoint the sword to a certain period. You have to decide how important that is to you and what period you mainly want to cover.

For the pommel, the coin (or medallion or relic or something) in a drilled socket would be better than the other options. It's not very difficult and it is more durable than soldering or gluing. I also think drilling would look much better in the end. f you go for this, I'd make the hole about 2 mm deeper than the thickness of the coin.

Another option would be engraving (rather than etching) and possibly inlaying the groove with niello, gold, silver, brass or copper. That does limit you to fairly basic designs, although short texts are possible if not inlayed.

Yet another option would enamelling, which gives a lot of options with regards to color and detail, including writing.

The red wax idea is something I've never heard of. It sounds interesting, but I personally would prefer a historical decoration.
You can also have a look here for inspiration:

And here are some examples of enameled pommels:
You could make this stand out by bluing the pommel and cross in place and replacing the grip wrap with red leather.
Thank you for the advice, in particular for the links =)
Those really are inspirational.
Stumbled across a link to a site with a gallery of effigies in another thread, and this is my 11th-12th-13th-century-search

Some good inspiration there as well.

Now, I am not awfully eager to try bluing or a grip-swap on my very first blade the very first day I have it, and as such, I think that will have to wait for a later blade (or for once I've gotten myself a second, finer blade and can start fidgeting with the first one).

However, scabbard customisation is something I'm fairly interested in trying out, and I had an idea.
It might not look brilliant.
And it will most certainly not be 100% historically accurate.
But I will most likely make my own scabbard (since buying one costs nearly half as much as the sword itself wherever I've looked).

And before I start working in raw-hide or wooden cores with leather wrappings (simply because I don't have the proper tools to get it done swiftly), I just might make one out of wool.

Now, I don't know the english words for it, but there is a process where you first ripp into the wool with two separate steel brushes, once that is done, you soak it with some soap and then you pretty much knead it together. I think this might be called felting/filting, but you get a very thick and kind of stiff cloth, thickness is pretty much up to you yourself to decide.

Now, I would use this white material to sew a scabbard in the same way you sew a leather scabbard (big cross-stitches, in red or brown yarn, probably on the outside for decoration). I would also use a length of wood as the spine of it, drilling holes into the wood and "sewing" the scabbard into place.

The pure white wool would then be adorned with red yarn embroidery of a good latin/german holy phrase or two and possibly a templar cross or somesuch. I would have to be careful not to overdo the embroydery and make it look messy.

Now, thoughts on this? It would be a better placeholder than a cloth-bag, and would cost MAYBE ten or twenty dollars rather than the two hundred that a bought leather scabbard would.
Henrik Granlid wrote:

Now, thoughts on this? It would be a better placeholder than a cloth-bag, and would cost MAYBE ten or twenty dollars rather than the two hundred that a bought leather scabbard would.

Firstly, $200 isn't a lot for a scabbard. There can be as much work, time, effort and skill in making a scabbard is there is in making a sword.

Secondly, the material you're describing does sound like felt, which would be an awful material to make a scabbard out of. It would soak up water and transfer it to the blade, causing it to rust. Any oil that you put onto the blade would go the other way and soak through the felt from the inside. It'd get dirty very quickly too.

You can use textiles to make the cover for a properly wooden cored scabbard as the core would protect the blade and stop the egress of oil. I've made reconstructions of high medieval scabbards which had embroidered velvet on the outside instead of leather, that or just white wool cloth over wood might be an option?

If you're determined not to make a proper wooden core then you could make a thick leather one and put the wool-cloth over that, but a textile one on it's own, with or without a wooden stiffener, isn't going to do anything to protect your sword, which a scabbard's primary function.

Why pay a lot of money for a sports car and then keep it in a leaky shed?
Interesting actually, I thought the felt would have properties opposite of those you describe.
And well, $200 isn't an awful lot, I do agree on that, it's more to do with the rest of the money going into the overall costume as well (such as linen, wool-cloth and leather shoes), which will probably go for about $200 on its own.

However, considering those properties of the material, buying one seems a lot more attractive (since I doubt I would have the time to make the clothes AND make a scabbard (without powertools) in less than a month alongside studies and work). I have found a somewhat quick method, but again, I'm just not sure I'd have the time.

If I decide to go for one of the quicker wooden core techniques, or a thick-leather-core, what WOULD be a good placeholder protection for the blade that could still be worn with costume? A simple leather bag perhaps?

Just got off the phone with the guy who make the scabbards, they're made with a leather core and tailormade for the blade.
I will check with a friend of mine who does leather and see how confident she is in making a scabbard, however, if the confidence is not there, seems like I might as well buy the scabard ready-made.

Any prefferences amongst people on which scabbard?

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One handed sword, the cabbards are tailor made to fit the blade.
In case you do decide to make the scabbard yourself, here is an excellent tutorial (by, I believe, a myArmoury member and based on Peter Johnsson's work) . I am currently working on a scabbard following this guide and it is a lot of fun :D In regards to which style of scabbard I prefer, I would have to say the top one... I may be biased though, as that is the style I am currently working on.
Thank you Sebastian, that IS indeed the one I've been looking at.
However, I've decided to take his wooden-slab-method one step further, and, apparently, one step closer to historical accuracy:;t=147550

Two thin, thin, thin slabs of wood, 1.5mm wider than the blade.
One on top, one on the bottom.
Bind them in.
Dress in linen, silk, wool or leather.

The dressing keeps the scabbard together. The scabbard isn't "loose" enough to flex back completely, and it is far less work than most other methods.

For added goodness, a tight, thin. felt bag around the sword before the wood goes on should result in a nice lining of the thing as well.

I think I found my method =)
Henrik Granlid wrote:
it is far less work than most other methods.

It isn't, it's just different work. ;)

I use both methods, depending on whether the customer is more interested in a robust scabbard which will cope with the rigours of re-enactment combat (where the scabbard will see more use in a year than it would in a lifetime in reality) or in an historically accurate construction (hollowed out for the former, formed lathes for the latter) and don't find much difference in the amount of effort involved, but then I've got all of the power tools neccesary and a fair bit of experience.

I suppose if you're going to buy your lathes pre-cut, it's a fairly quick and simple process to make a moulded one, but you'll still have to cut them to the shape of the blade and form them around it. Forming around the tip of the sword is the trickiest part I find.

I'd consider the amount of abuse you're going to subject the scabbard to before making a decision, especially as your first thought was for a floppy leather scabbard. It'sa lot of effort to go to just to have it snap the first time you roll across the floor.
I however, do not posess any powertools other than a saw, nor do I have vices/clamps for use in heavy gluing, thus, hollowing out and sanding down, or building, gluing and sanding would both take a wee bit longer than binding two slates of wood together.

At leas that is my innitial suspicion. We'll just have to see how it goes ;)

Ideally, I would have a semi-sturdy leather scabbard, but I can't seem to find a good method for shaping the leather core over the blade, since wetted leather and letting it dry would pretty much cause a vice grip AND drench the metal in water at the same time.
Henrik Granlid wrote:

Ideally, I would have a semi-sturdy leather scabbard, but I can't seem to find a good method for shaping the leather core over the blade, since wetted leather and letting it dry would pretty much cause a vice grip AND drench the metal in water at the same time.

Oil the blade, then wrap it in cling-film (sarran wrap?) and then wrap it in masking tape.

Wet form your leather around all of this, trim off the excess and stitch the back seam.
Let it dry thoroughly.
As long as you haven't stretched the leather when you stitch it up (and if you're using leather thick enough to make a semi-sturdy scabbard then you won't have) then it doesn't shrink. Leather only shrinks a lot if you stretch it or if you immerse it in very hot water (or osme other hot liquid).

It will be a tight fit BUT when you pull on the sword, it will withdraw. It may well leave the cling-film and tape behind but this is then easily pulled out afterwards. Because you increased the profile of the blade with the film and tape before forming the scabbard, you'll now have something that fits well but doesn't bind.
Ty for the advice =)

I'll go hunting for some leather then, see if I can find any. I DO have contacts with saddle-makers, they might know a good place or let me get my mits on some excess. If the price isn't an awful lot higher than that of wooden slabs, then you might just have provided me with the perfect answer =)
Henrik Granlid wrote:
I'll go hunting for some leather then, see if I can find any. I DO have contacts with saddle-makers, they might know a good place or let me get my mits on some excess. If the price isn't an awful lot higher than that of wooden slabs, then you might just have provided me with the perfect answer =)

One good source of leather is the one used for leather soles. Your local shoemaker should be able to provide you with some.

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