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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Feb, 2020 1:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the way, Sean, I meant to reply that the stock dimensions you gave in that quote are interesting (not that I know what that translates to in blacksmithing terms to finished product) as fishing a few of the c.1600 period out of my cabinets just now, they came in at around 8-10mm thickness at top of guard and 9-13mm thickness on the ricasso.

It's funny the reproductions I have handled (and I wont mention brands as that is not my purpose, nor do I have sufficient experience of modern repros to make a statistical comment ) sometimes I think 'this feels like an original rapier' but for different reasons if you get my drift ? It feels kind of like an original overall, but as if different factors and balances and flexibilities have overall achieved the same approximate effect. But not quite the same feel.

There are several repros I have handled where a 3 second handling just tells you this is so far from the way the originals felt it's just not comparable.

But I think we could be more scientific on rapier reproduction, as I think Mr Johnson and Albion have been with medieval swords, and sit down with a bunch of originals, a bunch of repros, a bunch of statistics and a couple of blade smiths, a couple of collectors of originals and a couple of historical fencers and work out what is it exactly that makes this repro different from this similar pattern original ? After all historical fencing is about fencing as they would with the originals I guess ? If the tools are not accurate, the practice cannot be accurate I suppose.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Feb, 2020 7:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel, as a self-employed new PhD I have to be strategic about my book purchases Sad My main research interests are the Teispid-Achaemenid world ~610-301 BCE and Frankish material culture 1360-1410 so I buy books on those.

Some people who have handled original rapiers and studied fencing manuals from around 1600 suspect that the blunts we have are more like baroque rapiers than rapiers from the time of Giganti or Alferi (blades a little short, forti a little light, hilts lean towards mid-17th-century styles with more sheet than bars). So every set of measurements is a good thing, even if its not so detailed as the ones by F&S.

I would use the same definitions as F&S as far as possible. That lets people compare your collection with the really detailed measurements in theirs.

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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2020 1:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

I've been following this thread with interest. Rapier blade classification is a huge blind spot in published works so far!

I'm partial in this but I believe blade dynamics can provide an additional insight, on top of the morphological considerations outlined in this thread.

I have put together a sword measurement protocol if you're interested. It's designed to make things as explicit as possible in particular in terms of which points to consider and how to note them down. The problem is, measuring dynamics (pivot points in particular) is something very tricky which needs some experience.

I had made a comparison between my Darkwood training rapier and some measurements Peter Johnson shared with me during the preparation of the exhibition 'The Sword - Form & Thought'. The biggest differences were:

  • Training rapier has a slightly longer handle (I believe it was something like 1cm more)
  • Training rapier does not have as much mass in the strong of the blade. According to my computations, the difference basically amounts to 150g more at the Center of Gravity. I even tried to add that amount to my rapier to see what that did to handling! This corresponds well to the observation that period rapier are generally thicker on the strong of the blade.


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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Feb, 2020 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Vincent. I will take a look at your protocol. I agree that consistency in approach is important in getting meaningful comparisons.

Looks like it is worth me getting the calipers out (ordered a new set as mine are a bit loose). I will do the stats for 27 rapiers (23 of mine and 4 of a friend's) between 1580 and 1680.

Might take me a couple of weeks as I will probably do them in batches over a glass of wine.
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Vincent

I have been looking at your protocol and find it interesting, particularly the dynamic aspects.

The dimensions measurements are simple enough.

The dynamic bits are interesting. I think your pivot points are what in my mind I call 'wobble points'.

I think the vibration nodes are probably easier found on rapiers by your tapping and sensing vibration levels rather than tapping and visibly locating the nodes due to the rigidity of some rapiers. I have done this in the past using a powder ball for cleaning Japanese swords, which is a cloth ball full of powder on a stick. I found it gives a good vibrating resonance to the blade but is also soft and non-damaging.

I would personally take a rain check on the flex testing on my antique ones. I think they would take it very well if I am being honest but I would dread that snapping sound !!
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Feb, 2020 12:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Parry wrote:
The dynamic bits are interesting. I think your pivot points are what in my mind I call 'wobble points'.

Well, I do know many people have somewhat similar concepts under different names. The great terminology unification has not happened yet Happy

Quote:
I think the vibration nodes are probably easier found on rapiers by your tapping and sensing vibration levels rather than tapping and visibly locating the nodes due to the rigidity of some rapiers. I have done this in the past using a powder ball for cleaning Japanese swords, which is a cloth ball full of powder on a stick. I found it gives a good vibrating resonance to the blade but is also soft and non-damaging.

That's a good idea, and pretty close to how I do it on examples that are too stiff to visibly vibrate.

Quote:
I would personally take a rain check on the flex testing on my antique ones. I think they would take it very well if I am being honest but I would dread that snapping sound !!

I understand you!
I'm dissatisfied with that flex test. It is really only appropriate for training weapons, which are meant to bend on the thrust like that. Sharp swords, even modern ones are difficult to treat like this: you don't want the tip to penetrate, so you have to stop it in some way, but that either disturbs the measurement or risks damaging the tip.

I want to design another test, but I'd like it to be standard and as soft on the sword as possible. It would probably be a variation on clamping the handle horizontally and applying weight to the tip of the blade, except I don't want to clamp the handle: this ends up applying a fair bit of force on it, which is not that good either.

Work in progress!

Anyway, eager to see the measurements you'll be able to take!

Regards,

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Feb, 2020 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

HI Vincent

I will pull the stats together. I am glad you agree that the difference in blade type is both overlooked and important. This is something I very much believe, and the reason I started this thread. I think we need to be both flexible and inquisitive about how we describe and categorise swords of this period and their use.

One area where I think this is very relevant with rapiers is where people talk about rapiers in the 17th century moving towards only using the point, not the edge (true to a fairly large degree) but sometimes assume that the cut was increasingly just not considered important. I think there is certainly a core truth in this but that t's a bit more complex and nuanced than that. There are plenty of 17th century rapiers which still have cutting blades. However I think the ones where they lose the edge are not just those of a school of pure point fencing who believed the cut was passe (some were perhaps), but they lose the edge through necessity where they feel that length and reach is, on balance, more vital particularly if the opponent is using a long rapier. They might have wanted an edge too, ideally, but if the opponent, particularly in an one on one duelling scenario had the reach through a longer rapier and ability to lunge further, they or sword makers may have felt they needed to match the length in that particular scenario.

If you start making blades which are not 36 or 37 inches from the guard like many mid-16th century ring/swept hilt swords swords but 40 inches from the guard or 41 inches like a lot of late 16th century rapiers and then in some cases 44 inches or 45 inches from the guard (longer in some cases) in the 17th century, then the blade must thicken in the forte. If it doesn't and remains flat diamond or lenticular shaped without substantial thickening (or the typical deep I-beam fuller), the blade becomes not merely too whippy but actually floppy. There are some long rapiers and transitional rapiers like this where the blade lacks strength in the forte because of this profile and too great a length and actually visibly droops when you hold it out in front of you.

If the blade thickens in this way it must also narrow I think, otherwise with the extreme length and the added thickness the blade mass will simply be too great and too imbalanced to be easily handled and maintain control. So I guess what I am saying is the answer is not quite black and white, not that the users of these rapiers thought the cut was now totally out of date and useless, but that they felt maybe that in a one on one situation the opponent's greater reach might be too much of an advantage and therefore they had to sacrifice the edge by narrowing and thickening the blade geometry to achieve the requisite very long blade.That maybe also be why some rapiers of the mid-17th century had the needle blades but also the stramazone tip - to try and regain some of that threat of the cut (albeit a whippy one) to make your opponent defend in more than one dimension.

And maybe that is partly to do with the qualities of period steel ? Blade-maker to answer that one maybe, but if they had had a modern steel which could achieve the length and strength and rigidity without the substantial thickening, maybe they would have maintained an edge on the blade and had a more had a slightly flexible fencing style, and maybe the longer originals would have been more like the modern repros in geometry and thickness. Just thoughts. I don't know.

But clearly either some people didn't think that way, as there are plenty of rapiers of that period which are shorter and do have an edge, or alternatively that rapiers were different for very specific purposes - fight a duel and you use a long rapier without edge, walking around town you carry a shorter more broad purpose rapier with a nice hilt, going into battle you take a broadsword etc. Or not, as there is little to actually prove that. That's why I, like you, think the answers to sorting out the Gordian's knot of this period of rapier/sword is in the blade not the hilt. English Civil War 'Cavalier hilts' are a good example. There were a few at the London fair today with similar pattern Norman type 88 to 91 hilts which varied from a long narrow rapier, to a shorter cut and thrust rapier (similar to the type Martin Buckley posted this week but his is a bit more thrust I think) to a backsword blade, to broadsword blades. Very similar hilt styles and date, only with different hilt mass to match the type of blade. The right tool for the right job.

This is just my rambling thoughts and perhaps not concisely expressed. Anyway I will shut up and get measuring !

Daniel
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The last turning point: I am posting this one because I think it is about the latest in date example which could be said to have any rapier qualities and function. It is an early smallsword/very late transitional rapier c1690/1700. It still has the long straight hilt of the transitional rapier, a narrow flat diamond blade which is rapier-like in profile and 341/2 inches long, which is long compared to later smallswords.

Fairly flexible and the edge was clearly sharp originally. I think this is the termination point of anything that could be called a rapier in any sense before the development ot the pure smallsword.

The hilt is blackened background with silver inlay work of figures and foliage. The silver work is really excellent in quality, detail and condition. I like it in that sense as it gives a feel of how crisp earlier rapiers with silver inlay/stud work might have looked. They are often worn and dulled a bit when you see them now. I think that is one of the most interesting things about the Wallace Collection, not just the quality of the rapiers but the number they have with original finish. Gilding, silver encrustation, blueing, blackening. You realise that at the top end of the market they were really quite bling. That's also the reason I like cheaper 'working, rapiers and other swords. I think you can carried away with the high end works of art which were as much fashion jewelry as weapons and need to ground yourself with pieces which actually were intended to be used.



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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Daniel,

I agree with your observations.

For me the rapier might be the sword type that is pushing the envelope in terms of sword design. With blades that long, held in one hand, any slight mistake in the tapers can have strong repercussions on handling or performance. In order to reach the sweet spot of agile, yet stiff and with enough weight behind to make a cut, you have to very carefully adjust everything. If you overbuild a rapier just a little bit it quickly becomes sluggish and cumbersome.

What we are seeing in the rapier age is not so much evolution, but rather diversification of blades. The short and broad blades never disappear, you just have more long, narrow and eventually very narrow blades on top of that. It makes it more difficult to sort out, just like hilt types can be difficult to sort out.

Obviously the hilts are not sufficient to fully qualify the weapons, but their study was certainly a necessary first step: this is the part that is the most visible in artworks, the most decorated, with many stylistic variations. That gives us access to a more precise datation than can be had with the blades. Functionally, the development of the hilt is also correlated to the changes in fencing styles (both because hilts adapt to the threat to the weapon hand in fencing, and fencing styles adapt to the new protection afforded by the hilt), and therefore should be interesting to correlate to blade design changes as well.

Lots of avenues for new typologies there!

Kindest regards,

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Mar, 2020 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this diversity is one reason why there are so many arguments about "most or some?" If you have only handled one or two originals, its easy to believe "most rapiers have a flattened diamond cross-section" or "most rapiers are stiff and inflexible," and until that study of rapiers in the Wallace Collection catalogue there was a lot of dispute about the length of originals. And I think that many fencers, especially the "have a go" type of fencers, don't want to accept that there could be big differences between their favourite practice swords and most sharp rapiers from their period.

I think this "dynamics" idea might be a way to describe what Daniel said about some modern blunts moving in a 'rapier like' way and others not. So far I just do not grok it Sad

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Mar, 2020 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean

Yes I agree, and I think you and I and Vincent are basically on the same page on this. There is a lot more work to be done on analysing the diversity, purpose and dynamics and perhaps breaking down the periods of rapier (style and fencing style) more precisely. I have always felt that late 16th century rapiers and very early 17th century rapiers are different to those after that point. In weight, dimensions, feel, purpose. They are a different beast .I think there was a big parting of ways or diversification at that point around 1610/1620. But within those categories the differences are still substantial.

I totally agree about handling only a few originals. The more I own, handle at fairs and auctions and friends' collections or see at museums the more nuanced (or confused ??) my position became in terms of morphology and dynamics. When I had owned/handled/examined five, I thought I had a good idea, when it was 25 I was rethinking everything, when it was over 50 I was starting to see some patterns. Now, beyond that point, I think I see the bare bones of period and diversity classification but it requires a lot more work and thought and discussion, as we are having now, and raw data analysis. And more statistical examples.

I think sometimes the best thing about having a collection of originals isn't the privilege of having them, though it certainly is a privilege (though I always feel you don't really own them, you are just curating them for the future). It's simply the fact of having them to hand. I find I learn so much from being able to examine them and handle them at my leisure and compare them and I notice new things all the time which I would not have done if my handling had been limited to a one-off short period of time. But every year as I see or handle or own more, my views change a bit as some previous assumption is proved wrong by the original evidence.

I agree also about reading online posts or articles generalising about rapiers being inflexible as a rule and thinking 'hello I own a bunch which totally disprove that, and that's not even a statistical sample'. A lot of flat diamond and hexagonal section rapiers I have handled are really quite flexible.

Also people assuming that the rapier as a general rule was not an edge weapon but only a point weapon and I think - what period exactly are you talking about and what purpose are you talking about ? Of the different things in my collection, as I said in a previous post, of rapiers, ring hilt swords, smallswords, sabres, Napoleonic swords, tulwars, shamsirs, Khyber knives, kaskaras, kindjals, some Japanese swords and other stuff, the only ones I am careful of when oiling them so I don't cut myself are generally the late 16th century and early 17th century rapiers (and some Japanese ones). The ones with flat diamond and hexagonal blades of that period have some wickedly sharp edges in some cases, despite nobody sharpening them for quite a few years !

But I think in summary we agree there are large gaps in this area and we don't have the answers, and I guess the question is whether we are prepared to make the effort and do the work to try and refine those gaps ?

D
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2020 2:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Daniel

I'm coming late to the party, but an interesting piece of work on your part! I am glad to see that you included a category which includes the broader-bladed Scandinavian rapiers (at least, I presume those are some of what you are referring to as northern-european in type 3? The description matches, at any rate)

Your comments on using rapiers for cutting make a lot of sense, and tie in well with what I've read in period fencing manuals (I should state that I didn't actually do much rapier fencing, focussing on other weapons, but I studied a number of the manuals to get context).
There certainly seem to have been (at least) two different schools of thought - one that cutting was a useful technique and should not be dispensed with, and those who felt that the advantage of extra reach offset the loss of cutting efficacy. And these two seem to have co-existed for a lot longer than most people thing; there was a spanish fencer in the late 1800s(!) who wrote that a (dueling) sword should have some cutting ability to be an effective weapon(I can't find the reference offhand, unfortunately). Certainly, Cappoferro included cutting techniques in his manual (which was quite an eye-opener for me, when I had my first brief introduction to rapier-fencing). Also interesting is that the devoutly anti-rapierist George Silver ,writing in his "Brief instructions", gave a lot of warnings on how best to face someone wielding a much longer rapier, including several of his favourite techniques which should not be used - so the dangers of facing an opponent with a longer blade were clearly real, however much he disliked a thrust-only approach.

I'd suggest (very tentatively) that cutting was possibly more often prized by those who anticipated a self-defence function (or military use) for the sword, while long thrusts were very useful for a formalized duel (obviously this is a huge generalization and counter-examples exist; if it is largely invalid, I'd like to be corrected). In a scuffle, you may be facing multiple assailants coming at you from many different angles, and being able to mix cuts and thrusts would definitely help in many circumstances. That is not discounting that many duel-oriented fencers may also have considered the versatility of being able to cut to be worth losing the extra few inches of thrusting blade, of course. Perhaps the development of reliable pocket-sized pistols for self-defence around the 1700s helped push from the sword being considered a general-purpose civilian defence and duelling weapon to the lighter and arguably less versatile smallswords? But this is pure speculation, and getting well beyond your rapier typology.

But, it does make me wonder about Pappenheimer rapiers; if I recall correctly, these were generally intended for military usage, but those (few) that I've seen usually had very long, slender blades that I'd guess as belonging to either your type 2 or type 4 - which seem to be slightly more thrust-oriented than, say, type 1 or 3. Any thoughts?

All the best

Andrew

Edit:
a very sharp blade is probably desirable for cutting if the blade itself is relatively light; also it can help a surprising amount with thrusting.
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar, 2020 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Andrew

I think your comments on usage make a lot of sense. I think we need to look more closely at specific uses for different types of rapier and that's where the dimensions and dynamics (on top of the hilt form and protection capabilities come in).

I agree on Pappenheimers. They are often referred to as military rapiers. Again I think it is more a question of a popular style of hilt in Northern Europe (predominantly) which could be mounted on different blade types for different purposes. Firstly there are a number of simpler Pappenheimer hilts I have seen (most are not overly complex anyway) which have a military or more practical feel, and I have seen some for sale and in museums and friend's collections with wider. shorter and more general use blades, and many (a couple at the recent arm's fair) with long blades of my Type 2 or flat diamond, both varying in narrowness from relatively wide to very narrow, more like 'civilian' rapiers .

I have one with a very long narrow type 2 blade and am acquiring one with a very long flat diamond blade. Now clearly when deciding what type of blade these rapiers have we have to deal with the bug-bear of the rapier collector - the composite sword - where you have an original hilt and original period blade but they did not belong together. I was offered one recently where the blade (long flat diamond) was period I am sure and the Pappenheimer hilt was fine and period but I am sure the blade was refitted. Again was that in the period of use or not .. But I thought the re-peening quality and the fact the blade was a bit awkwardly offset to one side of the hilt going into the hilt at the ricasso point was something a self respecting 17th armourer would not have let out his shop. Maybe it wasn't and maybe it was a period refit. But I have seen enough in books, museums, fairs, auctions and handled a fair few and I think they mounted different types of blade according to purpose and the Pappenheimer hilt was a style of the period.

A bit like the English 'Cavalier' hilts where as I said in a previous post you see a variety of blade types from rapier to more general use mounted in quite similar hilts. The rapier type blades are often I think in hilts which are a bit finer and more delicate, but they are pretty close in a lot of cases.

I wonder whether the origin of the Pappenheimer being a type Graf Pappenheim took into battle coloured the later descriptions a bit as a military sword. Think you need to take each on its merits.

Daniel
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar, 2020 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another thing I was going to throw into the pot in relation to dynamics and Vincent's comment above about if a rapier is built slightly off, it becomes cumbersome, is the ricasso placement in the hilt.

Now I was sure I had mentioned this, but I cant find it in this or other threads (I may be missing it). It may be one of those middle aged senior moments I have with my wife where we both thought it was the other one who was going to get the dishwasher detergent from the shop, but neither of us can quite look each other in the eye and be certain they didn't just think about telling the other person to buy dishwasher detergent from the shop but didn't actually tell them. To those who have reached 45 this will probably have some resonance, unless you have a particularly healthy diet involving lots of fish and anti-oxidants. To those under 45 it will mean nothing, but trust me it's lurking just round the corner- you will know when you watch those commercials on the history channels for relaxing European river cruises, the ones with a contented, slightly grey couple in comfortable footwear smiling at each other over a glass of Chardonnay on the deck with a chateau in the background and you think - that looks like a brilliant vacation (plus the chunky knitwear catalogues that come through the door at Christmas aren't immediately thrown in the recycle bin).

But back on topic - I agree balance with long rapiers is really key. So many people I know agree that with originals that you examine the hilt, the construction, the morphology and the patina etc when deciding if something is authentic but a key point is when you hold it. And it sings or it feels flat. They can be longer, shorter, heavier, lighter, flexible, rigid.... but something just feels right with the good ones

Then how do you achieve that when not only is everything done by hand but the blade is made by someone other than the armourer who made the hilt. There are some fine balancing acts here.

There have been a number of views on the fact some blades have the squared-off part of the ricasso extending beyond the top side ring or the top of the guard - I have seen this more in swept hilt rapiers than later forms but have also seen in later forms. Now one view is that this means that the sword is composite, either during its working life or later. But there are a number of museum pieces the same. Maybe they are composite too. Or maybe not.

One argument a fellow collector had was that for particularly military rapiers they may have left them a bit long so that repairs and repeening could be done easily. I find this pretty plausible.

I had another thought. For other rapiers I can imagine that the balancing act to get the sweet balance that we have been talking about in this thread and Vincent referred to above meant you had to shift the blade forward or back a bit in the hilt. Maybe by half an inch.

This accounts for the cases where the blade is moved forward (the squared off ricasso is extended slightly from the hilt). But in order for me to be convinced of this idea I thought we need evidence of the opposite, the blade being moved backwards into the hilt or shortened.

This is harder as, in this case, some of what was the base of the blade would become part of the ricasso. You would have edges on the ricasso maybe. But then I thought if you ground down the blade to a block at that point, maybe you wouldn't. But I think you would still have evidence of the lateral tapering towards the edges evident, and some evidence of the fuller, n the ricasso. For the former I have seen no examples. For the latter I own one and have seen two others where there is part of a fuller in the ricasso - I am not sure whether this evidence of this balancing being done, or evidence of them being composite (but they are ones reliable people are sure are untouched) or whether it simply means that blade had a bit of fuller tapering into the ricasso as a stylistic effect.

Now my 8 year old son, who was playing Nintendo Mario Cart while I was carefully balancing an unhilted original rapier blade on a block on the dining room table trying to resolve the difficulties in my 'genius' theory and explaining it to him, pointed out 'Daddy, if the long bit's too heavy you don't have to move it back, you just need to make the long bladey bit shorter at the pointy end'. Needless to say my son will be going to bed without dinner or Nintendo for a week for being just a bit too clever for his 8 year old boots ! Of course that is the logical answer, the other way round you just file down the blade a couple of inches to get your balance. Even I know with a narrow blade this is not difficult having dropped a Japanese cooking knife on the tile floor and broken the tip,and reshaped a very nice tip within 3 minutes using an old whetstone. That's a thinner and easier job than a rapier but for a skilled craftsman with the right files, I think it might be a simple job.

So maybe that's why you don't see the offset the other way round - because you fit the end of the blade perfectly to the hilt and you file the blade. If you have 42-44 inches to work with, you presumably have scope to work with.

So in a nut shell I agree that the balance on rapiers is a fine tuning exercise. I think maybe there was more adjustment to achieve this than we have previously thought at the hilting stage and maybe it could have been achieved as above without visible evidence of the cases where the blade was too long once the hilt was finished and fitted.

Thoughts ?

PS If I have discussed this before, tell me in a loud and clear voice and I will get my slippers and go to bed. My 8 year old son will take over from me.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Mar, 2020 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Daniel,

We'd really need a swordsmith opinion here about your theory. I can only give you my unsupported gut feeling propped up by some physical knowledge.

I reckon that balance is something substantially tied to the blade itself, not so much the hilt. I don't mean the hilt has no effect on balance, it certainly has, but it is limited. A "bad" blade cannot be fixed by simply altering the hilt - ricasso included. It's also quite hard to competely ruin a blade's balance with a bad choice of hilt components unless you go to extremes: you'll change the overall "personality" of the weapon, so to speak, but it'll still be a good weapon. If you mount a much more complex guard, or a much simpler one, it does not ruin the weapon, and yet we're talking of some hundred grams of steel.

I think that's what allowed them to build this construction process with separate blade and hilt makers. If you build a good blade you just have to pick a proper hilt, and you don't actually have to fine-tune it to a very precise degree. Perhaps the most sensitive part would be the pommel. With several blades and several hilts you'll end up building different, but all good, swords, and then the customer can pick what suits his fancy.

This being said I'd expect uninformed 19th century remounts to be sometimes distinctly clumsy, but not necessarily always.

It's the blade profile that needs to be tightly controlled. It is mass far from the hand, and close to the target. That is going to set flexibility and limit handling. You can't afford to miss the mark by half a millimeter here and there. That's where the toughest work takes place, and it's also where my little experiment meets its limits: I can add 150g at the center of gravity of my training rapier, but the original blade is not like that. It likely has a less flexible forte and I can't emulate that so easily.

All this to say, I wouldn't expect an additional 5mm of ricasso out of the guard would be making a huge difference in balance. It is not that much of steel, and not at the most sensitive spot. However you'd be able to alter the position of the cross, so maybe you'd find a sweet spot that way? Assuming you'd be willing to re-cut the shoulders of the blade as well, which set the cross position from my understanding.

Another possibility, if we admit they were making ready-made blades to be fitted in separately designed hilts, is that they'd assume the biggest possible guard, and therefore a long ricasso. Then if you fit that blade into a hilt with smaller rings, at least you don't have sharp edges under your fingers. This would explain why we don't find the opposite situation and the ricasso is always extending beyond the guard.

Thought-provoking discussion!

Best,

--
Vincent
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Mar, 2020 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
Another possibility, if we admit they were making ready-made blades to be fitted in separately designed hilts, is that they'd assume the biggest possible guard, and therefore a long ricasso. Then if you fit that blade into a hilt with smaller rings, at least you don't have sharp edges under your fingers. This would explain why we don't find the opposite situation and the ricasso is always extending beyond the guard,

That was definitely how it worked in the fourteenth century, the bladesmith's guild made the blades a dozen or a hundred at a time and sold them across the world or across the street to the cutlers who fit them with hilts and passed them on to the scabbardmakers. The biggest advantage of whittle tangs is that it let the same batch of blades serve the Indian market and the Irish market with their different ideas of what shape the handle should be.

For the 17th century I would check out sources like Randle Holme, The Academy of Armory, or, A Storehouse of Armory and Blazon (1688) book 3 p. 91 (it was on Early English Books Online a few years ago) and Diderot's Encyclopedie. He lists the trades as cutlers, forgers, grinders ("him that works them out of the rough"), temperers ("him that brings it to its right temper"), and furbishers ("that polisheth and makes them up").

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Mar, 2020 6:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Noted and very interesting comments. It's not something I have certainty about or data on and I agree that bladesmith's opinions on this are valuable. I think involving as many disciplines as possible is good on these topics.

So I guess one solution proposed is that swords were produced with long tangs and ricassos so they could be easily adjusted if the fit felt too hilt heavy (agreed - this would tally with what I think above and account for ricassos extending beyond the guard) and the pommel increased in weight if the sword was too blade heavy rather than the blade filed down. Possible, definitely.

In terms of fine tuning and the degree of impact I took the unhilted 17th rapier blade I have which has quillons and pommel and knucklebow but loose which can be removed, - most probably composite - nice original Spanish mounts but I think thrown together with the blade (no cup or handle) - and tried fitting it (without tight fixes) with a modern cup and grip substitute and moving the hilt forward and backwards an inch, and the difference in balance was quite noticeable.

But I suppose that's two questions - was the fine tuning that important ? Yes or no. I am inclined to think yes but happy to be proved wrong.

If it was, then was the blade heavy solution filing down the blade or adjusting the hilt weight through perhaps the easiest route - the pommel.

I think this is interesting. I wonder whether there is a reliable way to examine the last few inches of rapiers to determine if additional filing down was done or not.

Great stuff. Loving it.

Daniel
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Mar, 2020 8:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent

A further thought for consideration on your point about limited effect on balance of the sword by the hilt adjustment or other minor adjustment . We have a friend who is an architect (did work on our house but known him for 20 years). He is also (or was when was younger) a very good fencer. When he first tried out my rapier collection he automatically held them in third or fourth position and only holing the grip with thumb on the quillon block as you would with an epee or a smallsword. It didn't work for him, as you can imagine.

When I said 'no, hold it in the Italian epee style, with the forefinger over the quillon/ crossbar and the thumb connecting around the side' his face came alive and he said 'OK, I get it, it all works now'. That is a movement of balance of the hand of about 1 inch ? Plus strengthening of the grip through the hooked finger ?

But all originaI rapiers respond like that - unless you hold it with grip forward in the right way, it feels like a dead weight. I think the forward or backward movement of the balance point in relation to the hilt was very delicate and changed the whole feeling of the sword. I feel with the rapiers which I think are authentic and untouched, there is only one balance point really for the hand, holding it in the right way, and an inch out either way upsets it enormously . So I would suggest it is more subtle and subject to fine tuning.

Daniel
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Tue 10 Mar, 2020 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Daniel, Vincent and everyone else

A few thoughts:

Regarding the effect of small changes in position of the sword grip - Vincent can correct me if necessary (my applied maths is horribly rusty) - but I think this is mostly because the dynamic properties of the sword depend on the square of the distance between the hand and the center(s) of mass of the sword. So (very roughly), a change of hand position two inches away from the center of mass could have a fourfold effect on the force required to perform a certain motion, three inches would have nine times the force, and so on. That alone probably accounts for a lot of the difference that a small change can make. It is also possible that some (to me) mysterious biomechanical reason why hooking the index finger over the cross makes such a big difference, but I don't know enough to say.

The other implication is that removing a small amount of material from the tip would actually have a much larger effect on the dynamic properties sword than removing the same mass of material from the ricasso. If, that is, the length of the sword did not change too much for the customer's liking - an inch or less would probably not irritate most people. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that there is any way of telling whether a rapier tip was filed down, and if it was not done as a result of minor blade damage in its working life.

I'm also thinking about the production process and blade balance: The blades were forged, then passed on to someone else to fit the hilt and pommel, possibly with extra people in between to grind to finished shape and to polish. A good smith would still have needed some way to determine whether he'd done his part of the job well - and I suspect the first test was simply to heft the blade, and see how it felt in hand. There may well have been more sophisticated methods for checking the blade by the 17th century, of course, but checking its feel is quick and convenient. Unlike modern production-line methods, I think that a considerable amount of fine adjustment of all components would have been performed during assembly, to make everything "work" together - whatever small changes could improve matters would have been done as a matter of course. And as the final properties of the blade would have been altered by grinding and polishing, there would always have been some need to adjust to get good handling properties, and anything which wouldn't compromise the function (or look) of the sword would probably have been fair game.

Years ago, I asked a friend who is a professional swordsmith and fencing instructor about this (though in the context of medieval swords). He definitely regarded the blade properties as most important to the overall handling of the sword, though fine adjustments would be made by means of the pommel (many of which he mentioned were often hollow - at this point he specifically mentioned rapiers as well).

This has become very interesting conversation indeed!
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Mar, 2020 5:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello!

Andrew Gill wrote:

Regarding the effect of small changes in position of the sword grip - Vincent can correct me if necessary (my applied maths is horribly rusty) - but I think this is mostly because the dynamic properties of the sword depend on the square of the distance between the hand and the center(s) of mass of the sword. So (very roughly), a change of hand position two inches away from the center of mass could have a fourfold effect on the force required to perform a certain motion, three inches would have nine times the force, and so on.


So, it doesn't exactly work like that, it's more complicated Happy

If the mass of the sword was entirely focused at the center of mass, then the moment of inertia (the thing resisting against a motion in rotation) around a given point is the square of the distance to the center of mass times the mass. But it's the total distance that counts in the square, not the variation. If you move from 2 to 3 inches total, the moment of inertia is multiplied by 2.25, but if you move from 5 to 6 (same one inch difference), it's only 1.44. So it's not so dramatic.

Further, all the mass of the sword is assuredly not focused at the center of mass. This further reduces the effect, and I could make the mathematical demonstration if you are interested, however it is easier with illustrations. The Weapon Dynamic Computer draws a cone that represents exactly this effect : how much does the sword move when subjected to a constant torque around a certain fixed point.

Here is how it looks for my training rapier, at the cross

Here is how it looks around a point 1 inch into the ricasso

As you can see, mechanically it does change things, but it is not dramatic. If you look at the tip rotational inertia in both examples, a value in grams that represents how much the tip resists as you want to rotate, it's 1071 vs. 1037. Perhaps perceptible, but not really a big change. Actually the effect on static feel (i.e., how much torque you need to maintain the horizontal position) is much bigger. This is something I'd have to add to the computer as it is not currently displayed, but the effect is as if you went from 1397g to 1086g - very noticeable.

It matches my experience. Sometimes when I get tired during a rapier workshop I'd switch to two fingers on the ricasso. This makes it easier to hold and maintain tip forward positions, so it helps, but the rotations are still almost as hard.

Now this is physics but it does not consider what is in my opinion an equally important factor in this specific instance: grip ergonomics. The finger over the cross works wonder to control the orientation of the blade very precisely in every direction. You have a much clearer perception of edge alignment. Probably why it was used before the rapier age! Further, the handle itself is probably designed to play with such grip, in terms of thicknesses and length. So basically when you hold the rapier as it was supposed to be held, everything falls into place (up to and including the pommel) and you have a much better perception of everything going on at the blade end - irrespective of the dynamics. This allows you to use the dynamics to a much better effect. We're touching upon some very complex interplay here Happy

It is not strictly equivalent to the moving of the whole hilt along the blade, because this would not alter the grip the way fingering / not fingering the cross does. I do wonder what the effect would be for the variation of the length of the tang as well. Maybe I could make some simulation of the whole thing to see what the effects can be...

Regards,

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Vincent
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