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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2020 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The other thing I would note about the last rapier posted is the use of copper grip wire. You tend to see this on 17th century rapiers more than 16th and you see it quite a lot on mid-century Spanish rapiers. However you also see it on English rapiers about 20 years before that. I have three English ones with this type of grip wire

I think it is a purely aesthetic thing as an alternative to silver grip wire. With copper you get a nice colour contrast with the steel around it and you also get a nice decorative effect whereby the raised parts of the wire come out sparkly and shiny simply by contact with the hand (or by a brief rub with a soft cotton cloth), whereas the recessed parts of the copper wire tarnish to a deep bronze/brown colour which gives a quite striking effect. You get the same contrast to a degree with silver grip wire where there are raised thicker wires along the grip or where the grip is formed with grooves following grooves made in the wood grip below, but the contrast doesn't some out as strongly.

I think it is a nice effect. Contrasts with many Northern European rapiers and Pappenheimers which often have more Puritanical plain or blackened grip wire.
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 4:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The silver-hilted rapier is very beautiful, Daniel! Thanks for showing it!

I didn't notice the copper wire-wound hilt, but you're quite right that it adds a nice contrast to the weapon.
I wonder if this wasn't less popular in part because of possibility of galvanic action with the steel components if the weapon got wet (if they were properly separated with non-conductive materials, it shouldn't be an issue. But I've had a black mark "burned" into the point of a carbon-steel knife blade because I was stupid enough to put a copper "toe" into the bottom of its sheath, and it became damp. Luckily the knife was a DIY attempt, not anything valuable, and the damage was more cosmetic than anything else. I guess the cutler who did this one knew what he was doing if it survived four centuries.

Andrew
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Andrew. It's a pretty one isn't it ! The small guard with detailed chiselling then the copper grip with raised chunky grip wire which sparkles then the big balancing pommel with flutes within flutes. The more I look at it the more I like it. Balance is beautiful too, long but light blade.

That's really interesting - hadn't thought of any chemical reaction issues. Certainly you see it on Spanish cuphilts and on some English rapiers of this early 17th century period and have it on some early smallswords. May be more widespread - as soon as you post something limiting its use, the next month you are sure to see five different types of sword with it ! One thing - and this shows my metallurgical ignorance, is what guards and pommels were generally made of - would it be classified as iron or as mild steel or as something else ?

The contrast of colour is nice. Below attached is photo of classic copper hilt on a Spanish cuphilt c1650-1670 blade by Pedro de Toro. That's a lovely rapier too, but the contrast doesn't come up as clearly as with this English one due to the raised thick wire on the English one's hilt. Don't need to polish it - just handle it occasionally and the contrast comes up. I hope the young apprentice who came up with that idea at least got the employee of the month bonus !

Daniel



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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Oct, 2020 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Daniel.

That's another lovely rapier. I see what you mean about the contrast (or lack thereof) though.

Yes, even handling them tends to polish up copper. Not a sword, but the decorative copper rivets near the top of my favourite walking-staff are bright even after years, while those near the foot (and the copper wire binding), which don't get handled so often, have dulled to a red-brown. I didn't notice that before

Apparently the galvanic corrosion issue first became widely known when the Royal Navy started using copper hull sheathing on their ships - the copper was fixed in place with iron nails, and the latter got eaten away quickly, while the copper stayed bright. But it was found that even a small bit of waxed brown paper between the nail and copper plate (the copper plates came wrapped in the stuff) was enough to stop the corrosion - so copper wrapping around an organic core should be safe.. Also salt needs to be present in the moisture (though if the weapon is exposed to human sweat, that will do the trick, as my experience showed).

If I recall correctly, the hilt and pommel are usually either wrought iron or steel similar to that the blade (though perhaps with a lower carbon content). I think both are known from examples (speaking from memory here, so I should check), and they are both chemically similar enough to the blade that galvanic corrosion shouldn't be an issue. Occasionally other materials like bronze as well, of course, though to the best of my knowledge, neither bronze nor brass react the same way as pure copper to iron or steel (I can't remember the exact chemical reason why, something to do with the properties of the tin or zinc alloyed with the copper).
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E.B. Erickson
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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2020 5:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So in all this discussion of the development of rapier blades, have those odd, single edged, isoceles cross section blades used by the English come up yet?

--ElJay
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2020 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear ElJay,

No, they haven't, and I know nothing about them. Please tell us!

Best,

Mark Millman
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2020 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a "back rapier"!

Daniel Parry, don't forget about making those measurements! Those are something which would likely to be used and cited 50 years from now.

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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2020 1:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eljay, I've heard of those single-edged rapiers, but understood them to be a real rarity, and peculiar to England. Is that correct?
Also, do they usually have a cutting edge? One possible reason that I can see for a triangular blade is that you can have a relatively more acute cutting edge for a given blade thickness (ie. you can have a stiffer blade laterally, that is still able to cut to some degree). Years ago when trying to figure out a practical design for a narrow sword-cane blade that could cut, (which I never made), I came upon this idea "from first principles".

If I look at Daniel's typology, at the beginning of this thread, I'd say they'd probably be a subset of type 4? I almost think I recall a photo of one that even had a petal-hilt (not that that's conclusive, but it shows that they were at least contemporary, more or less). What do you think, Daniel?
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2020 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah now we are getting into the nitty gritty !

Firstly, apologies for the measurements delay. Entirely my laziness, mitigated a bit by starting a new business in Covid lockdown, but no excuse. I will get on it I promise.

As to the single edged rapiers, of backsword type, yes I have seen these a few times and someone I know had a few to sell over recent few years but I didn't buy, although tempted. Perhaps I should have.

Of the ones I have seen almost all were 'Cavalier' dish hilts, English, c1630-1650, and one was a German early 17th swept hilt. The majority I have seen have shorter blades than the norm for a traditional civilian rapier (although the German one was quite long) . They may fall into that gap with English swords of that period where the dish hilt with knucklebow was used on what would by dimensions and profile be generally considered a rapier, and many which have shorter and stouter blades which might not naturally fall into that rapier category and be considered a general fighting sword. I saw a lovely one recently with a gilded inscription with a relatively short and wide blade that struck me as a fighting blade.

I think the circumstances of the period are a major contributor. As we have discussed before, there were hilt fashions of the time and they could be adapted to different types of swords or the needs of the time: in a time of civil war similar hilts might be mounted on more versatile and practical blades. It's a bit like the Pappenheimer hilt: you see many with the length, lightness of blade and balance of the civilian rapier but you also see many, given the 30 Years War, which are similar in hilt but a shorter and more general use sword.

They certainly exist and have stiff and strong blades. The ones I have handled reminded me a little bit of the 'musketeer' rapier c 1600 which I have, which is in the Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons, which is all rapier in hilt and profile but shorter and chunkier and stiffer than civilian rapiers of the period. The single edged English ones are much lighter than that. But the thing they have in common is that they feel like swords you might like to have in a melee rather than the long and more delicate swords you might want to have in a duel or for show.

In summary, I think you do find these, typically English with similar hilts to civilian rapiers but also some from other regions. Are they rapiers ? Don't know - that's kind of the point of this discussion. I would say if you classify a rapier as a civilian sword not for military use, I would say they are not rapiers. I would say they are swords for a more general purpose with an adaptation of the hilt style that was in fashion at the time. It comes back to my question on an earlier post: if we were to show these swords to a gentleman of the time, would he identify them differently and call them different names or would they just be swords and one he'd pick for a battle and one for a duel. My gut instinct is that it is the former and swords were identified for purpose but don't know to be honest.

I guess a key question is, apart from slight hilt shape development, how would you distinguish these from the slimmer end of back sword mortuary swords ? Similar period, hilt shape has slightly moved on with mortuary swords, several examples of civil war and later mortuary type hilts with triangular (ish), single edged blades. But you wouldn't say a mortuary with a back sword blade was a rapier probably. So at what point, when the blade gets a bit narrower, and the hilt has more in common, a few years before a lot of mortuary hilts, with earlier hilts which might have been mounted on blades which are closer to a rapier, do you say it's a back-rapier or not a rapier ? I sometimes get the feeling the culmination of this thread in 5 years time will be me writing a book titled ' There is no such thing as a Rapier' and promptly selling my whole collection of not-rapiers-or -maybe-they-are-but-who-really-knows !

And that's a long winded way of dodging the fact that I have not done the measurements. I am conscious every time I go on myArmoury that someone is going to remind me and they did. And thank you as it's a more useful thing than anything else I could do. I will.

D


Last edited by Daniel Parry on Fri 09 Oct, 2020 4:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2020 12:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And Andrew, yes they are of almost exactly the period of that petal hilt. The petal hilt might be a decade earlier as the backsword type I have seen have the full-blown dish cavalier hilt which I think was about a decade later, c 1640. The silver inlay English rapier I posted is a good example I think of 1630 style before the ribbons narrowed to bars and compacted a bit up to the dish then you got the classic cavalier hilt which was seen in several forms from long civilian rapier to broader general use sword and even these backsword types.
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Oct, 2020 10:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK. I have geared myself up to do the measuring. Before I start, as it will be a pain to go back and change things, I was planning to set them out in tabular Excel format as per the attached. If you think there is anything else I should add, please shout. I have not included vibration nodes as not entirely confident my attempts at that would be meaningful as have never done it in any precise way. Otherwise I think the info will be enough ? In the comments box I will add anything else I think relevant like 'not sure if the pommel is original' or 'blade may have been remounted' or 'I think the blade may have been longer originally' (as some slim rapiers could be broken at the end and re-tapered. But nothing to do with condition or style, except in so far as it is relevant to dimensions and physical characteristics as it were or to identify the type or quality, as this is a function analysis not an aesthetic one as I see it.

Type
Date
Norman hilt type
Classification of blade type by my approach
Overall length
Blade length from top of guard
Blade length inc. ricasso
Width at guard
Thickness at guard
Width at 20cm from guard
Thickness at 20cm
Width 10cm from point
Thickness 10cm from point
Weight kg
Balance point
Cutting edge
Flexibility
Makers marks/names
Decoration - brief comment
Other comments

Each one will take a little while so I will try to do 2 a day after work.

D
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Oct, 2020 7:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To make it easier to compare with Fortner and Schrattenecker's measurements, you could measure thickness and width at 90 cm from the front of the guard instead of a set distance from the point. I think that is short enough to cover all your swords, and long enough to give an impression of the taper near the pointy end.

But I am not an expert on 17th century swords and my head is not clear right now, so I might be messing up some of their instructions.

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E.B. Erickson
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2020 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do have one of these se rapiers in my collection, and I may have a photo around here someplace.... if I find it, I'll post it.
Here are some stats: Blade length 34". Looks like the original point. There are remnants of floral etching at the forte. Top flat about 3/8" (??). Width at forte about one inch. While this could take an edge - especially down near the point - this is a very stiff thrusting blade.

Hilt type: "Cavalier" with remnants of silvering here and there.

I'll look for the photo tomorrow!

--ElJay
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2020 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear ElJay,

Thank you very much for these details. I'm very eager to see the photo!

Best,

Mark Millman
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Oct, 2020 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
To make it easier to compare with Fortner and Schrattenecker's measurements, you could measure thickness and width at 90 cm from the front of the guard instead of a set distance from the point. I think that is short enough to cover all your swords, and long enough to give an impression of the taper near the pointy end.

But I am not an expert on 17th century swords and my head is not clear right now, so I might be messing up some of their instructions.


Happy to do this, or both. I would have thought, personally, that distance from tip would be more meaningful, as when shaping the taper to the point it is the distance to point that is relevant not distance from guard. For a 93 cm blade you are going to have to get busy with your tapering pretty early but for a 115cm blade things could still be cruising along in a relatively parallel way at the 90cm point before tapering more acutely. I will try to do both. To be honest tapers are pretty gradual for rapiers.
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Oct, 2020 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

E.B. Erickson wrote:
I do have one of these se rapiers in my collection, and I may have a photo around here someplace.... if I find it, I'll post it.
Here are some stats: Blade length 34". Looks like the original point. There are remnants of floral etching at the forte. Top flat about 3/8" (??). Width at forte about one inch. While this could take an edge - especially down near the point - this is a very stiff thrusting blade.

Hilt type: "Cavalier" with remnants of silvering here and there.

I'll look for the photo tomorrow!

--ElJay


Be nice to see a pic if you have one and the hilt in particular. Sounds like this one might more akin in length and dimensions to transitional rapiers and a bit later than 1650 ? I have handled earlier ones with wider, heavier blades of that back sword type. Not common though I would say.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Oct, 2020 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Parry wrote:
Sean Manning wrote:
To make it easier to compare with Fortner and Schrattenecker's measurements, you could measure thickness and width at 90 cm from the front of the guard instead of a set distance from the point. I think that is short enough to cover all your swords, and long enough to give an impression of the taper near the pointy end.

But I am not an expert on 17th century swords and my head is not clear right now, so I might be messing up some of their instructions.


Happy to do this, or both. I would have thought, personally, that distance from tip would be more meaningful, as when shaping the taper to the point it is the distance to point that is relevant not distance from guard. For a 93 cm blade you are going to have to get busy with your tapering pretty early but for a 115cm blade things could still be cruising along in a relatively parallel way at the 90cm point before tapering more acutely. I will try to do both. To be honest tapers are pretty gradual for rapiers.

I would have to re-read their article, but IIRC they measured every 10 cm along the blades.

They found a very steep taper from the ricasso to 10-15% of the way along the blade, then a slower taper. But they were focused on swords from 1590-1630 which are easy to call rapiers, your collection covers the whole 17th century and a wider variety of weapons.

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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Oct, 2020 12:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Daniel,

I hope you won't mind a few suggestions on the measurements?
  • Vibration nodes and pivot points would of course be nice to have, but I can understand you wouldn't want to include them if you're not confident in the measurements, it can be tricky
  • I think more documentation of the hilt dimensions could potentially be useful. For example, handle length from the quillon to the narrowest point near the pommel (a point which is relatively unambiguous irrespective of were exactly the physical pommel ends and the wire wrap begins), pommel length (from that narrowest point to the nut), perhaps quillon span?
  • There is no need in my opinion to fix the intervals or distances you measure blade taper at. What you need is to unambiguously note the point you're measuring at, and the width and thickness at that point. This way, you can pick points of interest on the blade, if such can be identified. For example if you perceive that the taper abruptly changes around some point, you can measure just before and after it
  • Related to the last point, but perhaps difficult to quickly note in Excel, it would serve your purpose very well to document the shape of cross-sections at various points, if they vary (for examples fullers etc.)

There is of course significant overlap between this and my own protocol, which is to be expected Happy

I hope this measurement endeavour won't be too tedious for you! It will certainly be valuable for us all...

Best regards,

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Oct, 2020 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Crikey you're hard task masters

OK. I will include comments on cross section changes, and on any stark changes to tapering over the blade and comments where I think for instance the grip is long or short. I was looking at a couple this evening where one has a relatively short grip and huge pommel and one with quite a long hilt and more slight pommel and those things I will try and pick up. Still stick with my view that it's the tapering toward the point that is key but understand that the middle of the story is also important so will do 20cm from guard, 50cm from guard, 10cm from point. And will note if taper not constant.

Vibration nodes - Vincent, if you have a free weekend post Covid lock down when we are free again, you are very welcome to come and stay as my guest (seriously) and vibrate the nodes on my swords as much as you like and record them. I will be downstairs cooking dinner for everyone, un-corking the wine and putting logs on the fireplace ! I would not trust myself to give scientific data on that point.

D
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Oct, 2020 4:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Daniel Parry wrote:
Sean Manning wrote:
To make it easier to compare with Fortner and Schrattenecker's measurements, you could measure thickness and width at 90 cm from the front of the guard instead of a set distance from the point. I think that is short enough to cover all your swords, and long enough to give an impression of the taper near the pointy end.

But I am not an expert on 17th century swords and my head is not clear right now, so I might be messing up some of their instructions.


Happy to do this, or both. I would have thought, personally, that distance from tip would be more meaningful, as when shaping the taper to the point it is the distance to point that is relevant not distance from guard. For a 93 cm blade you are going to have to get busy with your tapering pretty early but for a 115cm blade things could still be cruising along in a relatively parallel way at the 90cm point before tapering more acutely. I will try to do both. To be honest tapers are pretty gradual for rapiers.

I would have to re-read their article, but IIRC they measured every 10 cm along the blades.

They found a very steep taper from the ricasso to 10-15% of the way along the blade, then a slower taper. But they were focused on swords from 1590-1630 which are easy to call rapiers, your collection covers the whole 17th century and a wider variety of weapons.


Interesting you say that about the taper. Some late 16th century and early 17th century rapiers have a chop change at a few inches from the guard where they narrow more suddenly and then go into 'normal' taper. Almost an extension of the ricasso and hilt balance-wise. Thinking about it now I wonder how much use that might have been to get the final balance of the sword as you could grind away a bit after that wider section or bring the wider section back a bit to balance the sword. Also like I said before that ricasso and tang lengths could be used in this way. Proof that the more minds chipping in, the more ideas we have.
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