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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2004 10:33 am    Post subject: Sword durability against armor         Reply with quote

Hi Folks,
Here are few issues that have been bugging me for some time. Maybe you can clear my confussion.

Sword design and manufacture had certainly evolved to reflect improvements in the armory at any given time. My understanding is that as plate armory became more and more common, the cross-section of the swords changed to hexagonal or more “ribbed” to give the blade extra strength, the blade profile tapered acutely to allow better thrusting techniques into openings in the armor, etc. The question that I have is how durable were the “more standard” (and I use that term very loosely) designs against armor? Could a type XIIa sword be smacked against armor repeatedly, without sustaining much blade damage? Here I am not so much concerned with the damage the blade will produce on the opponent, but rather how much the blade itself would be damaged.
I am asking these questions from historical perspective, as well as from the perspective of evaluating modern replica swords. How do we deal with the issue of a sword made by a respectable maker that has its edge disintegrated after hitting a steel helmet? Was the type of sword not meant to be used against armor? Was only that particular piece defective in its heat treatment? Was the edge design inaccurate to start with? For the purpose of discussion I will assume that the human factor is not to blame (i.e. the sword was not taken care of properly; the blade has been abused for a long time leading to its damage at the end, etc.).
It will be interesting to hear from Albion, and A&A members, as well as from Gus Trim and other industry professionals about how they test the durability of their blades, and what they find acceptable in terms of limits of destruction. In particular I am interested in the durability of swords of the XIIa Oakeshott type.

This line of thought was provoked by the following pictures from the ARMA web-site.
I was not present at that event, and I have no knowledge of who the maker of that blade is. The blade seems like type XIII but I might be very wrong.

http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/g13.jpg
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/g4.JPG
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/tes...ting08.jpg
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/tes...ting09.jpg

Original web site:
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/testcutting.htm

Sincerely,
Alexi
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James Nordstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2004 2:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Sword durability against armor         Reply with quote

Well, slamming a thin peice of metal against a fixed metal target will always result in damage to the thin piece of metal. A better test would have been to fix the helmet onto a stand that gave in some simblance to a human head when it gets slammed by a sword.

Cheers
Jim
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Björn Hellqvist
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2004 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are always problems when testing swords on armour. Do we know if hitting plate-armoured areas was the preferred method in the Middle Ages? The sword used in the test might be close to an original in shape and performance, but is the piece of armour of the correct shape and thickness? Is the steel of the right hardness? What extra damage can we expect on a sword-edge hitting a helm placed on a pole, which makes it static, when the helm would be anything but static in a fight? Instead of having the "give" of a helmet worn by a moving fighter, hitting a helmet placed on an unyielding pole is about as scientifally sound as trying to chop down a tree with the sword. All these are factors that influence the outcome of such a test.

As for the tests referred to, little or nothing is said that two swords by another maker suffered more than edge trauma - they broke completely! In that light, some edge damage is actually better, as the sword can still be used to end the fight. One must remember that the sword wasn't an all-purpose weapon. Knights were armed with maces as well, which were far better suited to defeat armour than swords.

Test cutting is an important part of judging the performance of a sword, but just as cutting plastic bottles don't tell what a sword really can do, trying to cut armour might give one a hint what a sword couldn't do.

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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2004 5:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James, Bjorn,

I absolutely agree with you guys that smacking a blade against a firmly set piece of steel ranks out there with hitting a sword against stone, concrete, and cars (things a sword was never meant to do, but Hollywood sometimes suggests it can Laughing Out Loud). I know that some people will test the quality of a newly received piece against an old helmet . I believe that if done with an appropriate stand for the helmet (so that it behaves more like as if worn by a person) this test might be a "proof" of the good quality of the blade. How wrong am I? If I wanted to test the quality of a blade, what is reasonable, and what isn't? I hope we go beyond plastic bottles Laughing Out Loud
It is true that on the ARMA web site it was mentioned about some shorter blades breaking, but no explanation was given as to the reason behind their failure. It was also mentioned that the long sword whose blade was damaged could still cut straw mats, so Bjorn you were right that damaged blade is better than a broken one, as it could at least finish the fight.

Take care,
Alexi

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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2004 9:31 pm    Post subject: Hello Alexi         Reply with quote

Hello Alex

I hope this finds you well and warm if you are in New England.

You ask an interesting question, one that has been debated and studied from at least the middle of the 19th century. One that great ?Experts? and lowly scholars have written, experimented, declared and proclaimed upon for all that time. One would think it had been put to bed long ago. But no we find it coming to the fore again and again over the years.

Why? There seem to be several factors one can consider. Possible the answer is not knowable to us. Possible we are asking the wrong question. Perhaps the question has little meaning in the reality of medieval combat or we have yet to understand the fighting arts in ways that would be practical to those who wrote them down for us.

As the variety and size of the period sword population is not the least of the issues facing someone interested in understanding such an issue, let us begin there. The surviving examples we have are few compared to the group and the items of this group that have been studied with any of this in mind and documented is far fewer. So few in fact that they are not sufficient to create a statistically relevant discussion in most cases. This may vary a bit as time frame changes. Another issue is many swords are only dateable to a range of several generations and in fact some are even far less accurate. Thus any test conducted today or a hundred years ago can only comment in the most general sense on the issue and any specifics must be limited to that day and that sword and helmet. To go beyond this is to miss the very nature and context of these items that give any findings meaning.

The nature of the items is a huge factor to consider and as can be seen in the past hundred and fifty years of scholarship is but a reflection of the science and viewpoint of the day. In the materials used to create these items we see a fantastic variety of quality and methodology. So great in fact that when added to the diversity of form and latitude in dating one can really not say this is an average medieval sword for any given time frame. Specific swords can be dated closer and placed by art or find place but are these average for that day? We do not know.

The steel/iron mix that was created with the smelting and refining techniques of the day are not fully understood, but the tests that have been done by modern scientific methods indicate that the sword of the day was below the industry average that we modern makers are producing to satisfy the customer. The heat treatment as well is part of this and the swords that have been tested indicate that what they achieved on average and what we look for today would slant any test conducted today well in the favor of the sword. This holds true for the armor as well as it was a very specific manufacture whose goals and product changed dramatically over the middle ages. If you are interested in some of these issues check out this article I wrote for more info. http://www.oakeshott.org/metal.html

Now, to address the actual sword that maybe tested in any given situation. The designers of these period items had thousands of years of empirical knowledge to base their product on. In the case of a sword designed for armored combat it would be just that. An ?arming? sword of the period. Thus it would not be designed to slice finely through an unarmored opponent or ride lightly at the hip to show taste and wealth. The armored combatant of the day would know this and choose their side arms to address the issue. They did not have all around perfect fighting swords. If you were someone who owned your own armor you would also own several different weapons for the occasions that arise for such people. If you were a man at arms or a citizen soldier you were outfitted by your Lord, employer or government and you fought with what you were given or brought with you. One thing that many forget in this discussion is that the majority of these items were made on contract for governments or armouries. The average low to mid level soldier of the day was not discussing sword design with his favorite smith at the tavern. He used what he was given/issued/acquired.

Thus was the weapon that is tested correct for an armored opponent and was the helmet of correct style and construction for said sword style and was the use of it in a period fashion? If so then the test may have some value to add to a discussion of sword vs. armor combat. As Björn so rightly said this is only one aspect of what a sword is and does and in that context a specific type of sword.

The modern mans desire to classify and organize has gotten us far, but it can be a deadly weakness when we strive to fill to large a subject with to little knowledge or, as is often seen, collect the data that supports the desired result with little attention to that which may not be knowable or stands in contrast to the ?truth? being investigated. If one overlooks this it can fault all that is built on the knowledge one has.

As I look at the last paragraph I hope none take it as an affront, as it is meant for myself as much as any other.

Alexi I hope this has helped if I have said anything that is unclear please ask me to refine my comments as I can be known to ramble.

Regards
Craig Johnson

Prod. Manager
A&A Inc.
www.arms-n-armor.com

Sec.
The Oakeshott Inst.
www.oakeshott.org
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2004 11:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Sword durability against armor         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Hi Folks,
Here are few issues that have been bugging me for some time. Maybe you can clear my confussion.

Sword design and manufacture had certainly evolved to reflect improvements in the armory at any given time. My understanding is that as plate armory became more and more common, the cross-section of the swords changed to hexagonal or more “ribbed” to give the blade extra strength, the blade profile tapered acutely to allow better thrusting techniques into openings in the armor, etc. The question that I have is how durable were the “more standard” (and I use that term very loosely) designs against armor? Could a type XIIa sword be smacked against armor repeatedly, without sustaining much blade damage? Here I am not so much concerned with the damage the blade will produce on the opponent, but rather how much the blade itself would be damaged.
I am asking these questions from historical perspective, as well as from the perspective of evaluating modern replica swords. How do we deal with the issue of a sword made by a respectable maker that has its edge disintegrated after hitting a steel helmet? Was the type of sword not meant to be used against armor? Was only that particular piece defective in its heat treatment? Was the edge design inaccurate to start with? For the purpose of discussion I will assume that the human factor is not to blame (i.e. the sword was not taken care of properly; the blade has been abused for a long time leading to its damage at the end, etc.).
It will be interesting to hear from Albion, and A&A members, as well as from Gus Trim and other industry professionals about how they test the durability of their blades, and what they find acceptable in terms of limits of destruction. In particular I am interested in the durability of swords of the XIIa Oakeshott type.

This line of thought was provoked by the following pictures from the ARMA web-site.
I was not present at that event, and I have no knowledge of who the maker of that blade is. The blade seems like type XIII but I might be very wrong.

http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/g13.jpg
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/g4.JPG
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/tes...ting08.jpg
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/tes...ting09.jpg

Original web site:
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/testcutting.htm

Sincerely,
Alexi


Hi Alexi

*I made that"..... I made that sword.......

At any given time period, and give type of sword, you will have an astonishing array of sizes, tapers, main bevel shapes, fuller lengths, and edge geometries. When I originally designed that sword, I designed it around a time period where the armor on the battlefield would be cloth armors {jacks}, maille, and plate. Swords aren't the best weapons for plate, so I looked at being able to deal with jacks...... A blunt or dull sword cannot cut cloth armor, but a heavy, really scary stupid sharp sword just might be able to. And if the edge gets damaged, the edge can be "brought back", and the sword is still serviceable. That's the way it kinda worked in real life too, the edge got damaged, the sword got fixed, and is nearly the cutter it was before, but not quite....... The edge however today will hold up just fine against a helmet, in fact it has.

When designing this sword, it was my thought to make it the best cutter I could. A friend of mine rates swords by what he feels he can cut, and after a cutting session with the prototype, he proclaimed "With this sword I can cut two fat men in half." *g*

My thought was that a real swordsman would recognize that the sword was scary sharp, and that an edge that sharp had no place attacking plate. I doubt that a period swordsman with an edge like that would have taken that sword to a helmet.

The fact remains though, that the sword was used against a helmet on a pole. The edge was damaged noticeably, but the sword was not seriously damaged. I was amazed when receiving the sword back for repair, that the amount of actual damage on the blade, didn't wash with all the histrionics...... It took all of 5 minutes to repair, and that includes evening up both sides. It took more time to test the new edges against the 55 gal barrel outside, then touch up the edge again, than it did to fix the mainly aesthetic damage. It took less time to fix the damage, and do the testing, than it did to take the rust off the blade.......

Funny thing about that rust, it was all fairly fresh. It was obvious that the owner had cared for the blade, but had likely given up on it after the damage. You see, the owner, when telling me about the damage, told me up front and honest like, that the sword had suffered severe sword abuse. All things considered he was right. But, I always respect honesty and honor, so I offered to repair it....... and even replace the blade if needed, though I seriously doubted it was needed. That's why I tood the time to clean it up....... I respected Shane and his attitude about this.......

I sometimes hate the word "historical", and "ahistorical" as applied to swords. The simple truth of the matter is that things like edge geometry vary tremendously, even on heavy battlefield swords. My mistake here was that there would be modern "swordsmen" that would be able to recognize and respect what they had. Not a mistake I make anymore. Swords like the AT1423 get a stronger edge these days........

Now, since you asked what a sword should be expected to take, I'm going to answer you just a bit more direct.

There are "swords" that are designed for things like helmet slamming. They are sometimes called stage tools, or stage swords, a good example would be Starfires........

There are swords that are good compromises. Swords that are designed first for surviving both stupid abuse, and things like reenactment. Fulvio Del Tin posted on "The Highlander's Sword Shopping Guide" six years ago that he designed his swords with a lot of help from a local reenactment group. I believe Lutel designs their's around surviving abuse first too....
These make pretty good swords, and are designed around stupidity like helmet slamming........

Then there are swords that are designed to replicate actual historical swords in things like weight, balance, tapers, edge geometries, handling, cutting, etc......There sometimes is a certain amount of abuse tolerance designed in, but this is secondary. Your best smiths in Europe and North America do this, and the three US manufacturers, Albion, Arms and Armor, and AT do this........ there are others, but these are the ones I can think of at the moment........

I say stupidity, because setting up a helmet on a pole, whether there's a little give or not, and then striking it with a sword or crowbar, is a bit dangerous. Hardened steel only takes so much abuse, and then it can "blow up", sending steel shards like missiles. If doing something like this, it should only be done wearing safety equiptment, ie head protection, eye protection, and some kind of armor for throat, body, and hands.......

This last paragraph is important, because a blade became a missile in Japan a few years ago, and a little boy was killed. A sword got away from a reenactor a few years ago and Sweden, and a little girl was critically injured..... Nothing like that has happened to my knowledge in this country yet, but it can.

Back to sword abuse. Starfires and the like are designed around abuse. Yet at many an event, these things have come apart in use....... If stuff that was designed around abuse breaks, why are folks surprised that real swords sometimes fail under abusive conditions?

Now, I'm not going to speak for the other guys, but for myself and my little company, I have no tolerance for irresponsible behavior. There is no implied warranty on my swords, and the above reason is the main reason why.......

Saying that, if someone buys a sword from Josh, and upfront and honestly says the sword will be "prooftested", and the edge gets damaged, I'll repair it. You'll have to talk to me about it, and I'll likely chew your ass out, but I'll repair it.

Under those kind of honest conditions, if one of my heavy swords gets broken, I'll replace it, or refund the money. I won't take any responsibility though for anything else, because I make swords, not crowbars......

If you or anyone else buys an AT sword, then smacks something stupid with a lot of folks around, and someone gets hurt or dies...... its the idiot with the sword's problem....... Swords aren't meant for full power strikes on plate, folk "in period" preferred hammers, axes, poleaxes, maces, morning stars, and a whole host of pole arms, to using a sword flailing away at plate armor.......

On the SFI HES forum, there's an active thread {forget which one right now} which refers to a 16th century treatise that discusses specialy anti-armor thrusting swords breaking in combat...... Odd isn't it, that folk think it odd that a sword meant to cut has some damage to it, when period weapons designed to open cans break?

Now, I believe that you asked if a XIIa should be expected to deal with the helmet on a pole test. Depends, depends on whether we're discussing the historically correct blade geometry swords, or the swords designed around surviving abuse. If you're interested in the historically correct blade geometry weapons, then it depends on the mass, and where the mass is...... and depends on things like hilt and blade length too. I personally wouldn't suggest this kind of test, but I do understand some folks desire to check this stuff out..........

I refuse to use the terminology "expect" here, because I feel only idiots fully expect something designed to cut, to work like a crowbar.

However, some things improve your odds for the weapon's survival under abusive conditions. Lets take two XIIa's..... the next gen XIIa at 3.87lbs, and the AT1319 at 3lbs even. The odds are the heavier sword would fair better.

I'll go even further. The AT1319 has a tremendous lot of distal taper, to improve the sword's handling characteristics, and make it a better cutter. This sword is a swordsman's sword, not a sword for a hack. This sword is not what a fella needs, if he intends to hack at a helmet on a pole. The 1313 will fair better, the AT1313 heavy {in protype form only right now} at nearly a half pound heavier than the standard sword's odds are real good for that......

As far as historical original swords dealing with armor, well the archeological record is full of broken swords that didn't "hack it".......

Auld Dawg

swords are fun
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 12:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carig outlined very well how comlpex this matter is.
It is very difficult to say in a general way what punishment a sword should survive.
Sharp edges aginst plate amour is perhaps the most problematic question of all to find a good answer to.
There is a clue in how the question is formulated: "Swords made to defeat armour" as opposed to "Swords made to defeat armoured opponents"
Swords made for use on the battle filed were made to be sturdy enough not to break as they were used. Still, they broke and shattered as did the men who used them. Battle is an orgy in destructiuon after all...

Looking at surviving original swords with authentic damage we can see a number of interesting things.
(I have made some effort to study originals, but the swords I´ve sen does not form a statistically viable group. Still, there are some trends to note.)
A common damage is a slanting cut in the very edge. The edge is split apart diagonally to a depth of a milimeter or less. This tells us that an opposing edge has cut into the blade, but not during a static block at right angles. Rather it seems both blades met in motion at an slanting angle in a way that not all energy was spent in the collision: a mobile deflection rather than a static blocking.
From this we can also learn that the heat treat was aimed at toughness as first priority and hardness second: the edge split rather than flaked. (Although you will see this as well: a small semicircular fraction, less than a milimeter deep)

The only time I´ve seen deep cuts made at right angles to the edge is on swords intentionally destroyed as part of an offering to the gods of war.

Another damage that is seen is when material have been knocked away from the edge. This damage looks like if a small hungry person has taken bites from the sword. These "bites" can be less than half a cm deep but also deeper and wider. The damage will of course have a direct correlation to the cross section of the sword: thinner blades tend to get deeper damage. We cannot say what casued this damage, but it is reasonable to think that this was casued by bashing against armour in a desperate situation during the battle.
There are many photos of the swords from Castillion find and some show this type of damage. These swords are assumed to have been lost in a river as they were brought from a battle field, thus their damage would show a good spectrum of what can be expected to happen to swords in battle.
This does not say that sword typically will suffer damage like this when used against armoured opponents, only that some swords did fail in the edge.

Another common feature on well used swords is results of being resharpened after having sustained damage. A typical tell tale signe of a much used sword is that the edges udulate and snake towards the tip. A sure sign is also an irregular outline with one side more worn away than the other. Two areas are most commonly resharpened: close to the hilt at the strong part of the blade (where you might parry) and the outer third (at the cutting section).

Based on these observations we can assume that swords *will* resonably suffer some kind of damage when put to stressfull use.
When stressed in an extreme situation, a good sword should hold together, meaning it should not break clean off. How much damage the edge reasonable should or should not suffer is difficult to make general statements about. This depends too much on variable factors that has been outlined in previous posts.
It is possible to make a sharp and thin edge that is still structurally very strong, it can even cleave steel plate (perpendicular to the edge of the plate in an controlled surrounding) without flaking or folding. It should be remebered though: anything made by man can be destroyed by man.

Today our understanding of the sharp sword is defined by how we use it. We do not use swords in war against armoured opponents. We may try to devise tests that simulate this, but it will be an approximation at best. This we need to keep in mind.
To understand the sword we need to study the edge of historical swords. This is true for both makers and users of swords. There is a culture and tradition of using of blunt steel swords for training. I suspect this has a big influence for the understanding, or misunderstanding of the sharp sword.
Sharp swords are used today in test cutting sessions on targets like pumpkins, card board tubes, pools noodles and plywood. The choise of material will influence our impresion of the performance of the sword. The test cutting medium might or might not be a realistic target for the type of sword we use.
We cannot expect to make an informed evaluation of the functional qualities of a sword based on a few "favourite" tests. No one would see plywood cutting a viable test for a rapier. That is a drastic example, but it is actually valid for all type of swords in varying degrees.
If a sword cuts plywood in an impressive way, it tells us the sword is good at cutting plywood.
If a sword survives a blow against a helmet on a pole, it will tell us that the sword is fine to use on helmets on poles.
What should be expected of a sword of the type tested? Well, that is a bit compicated to answer if we want our answer to have any degree of validity in context of historical swords.
We can set whatever standards we like regrding the contemprary sword. It should meet and preferably exceeed the demands of modern customers, but a sword can never do things swords were never meant to do and still essentially be a sword. It is possible to design a sword that will not only survive a helmet on a pole test, but perhaps even cleave the helmet. The question is: is this still a sword? It might have to go outside the resonable limits of weight and size of a functional sword turning it into a helmet cleaving tool.
We can like wise make swords that will excell in cutting light media targets, but if this is taken to an extreeme it will also make the sword less a sword and more a cardboard or newspaper cutting tool.

If swords are made as tools for testing against armour, straw mats, pool noodles and cardboard boxes, they can be made to excell at those targets. This is a situation where the modern market and the interest of sword enthusiasts can have an impact in the development of the contemporary sword. How modern enthusiasts will prefer to use their sword will color their impressions of the products. Some types of swords might not be good at cutting pool noodles, but those designs were functional and well made at their time of use. Other blades will not survive armour contact, but they were highy effective when used as they were intended to in their period.
We need to compare our ideas and our understanding to surviving historical swords to see if our ideas are valid. That is, if we are interested to study the sword and understand why the sword was made and used the way it was through the ages.

A sword is something more than its ability to survive abuse or its cutting performance. A sword is an item and an image of skill and understanding, of demands of quality and necessities of its time.
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Eric McHugh
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 5:47 am    Post subject: Excellent stuff...         Reply with quote

Gus, Craig, and Peter,

Excellent points all around. We needed this thread. I think as makers we all been thinking it, but haven't been in one accord with it. "Stop using swords in a way that was not intended."

We did a destructive test on Tritonia. To make a long story short, we all were convinced (well maybe not Peter) that the first three inches of the sword would break off when striking a 55 ga. steel drum on the very tip of the sword. The last 8" of Tritonia is mostly butcher knife thickness. I struck the drum with all my strength 3 three times and the damage was very slight (a little grinding would fix it). The only way I could damage it was to roll my wrist through the cut to try and twist the tip off of the sword. Well, the tip stayed on and a chuck of the edge came off. I would say all of this was very satisfactory. Tritonia is one strong sword.

I say all of this to say this...I think it would be wrong, unsafe, and unwise for a customer to take a Tritonia and subject it to the kind of punishment that we did. We are testing the upper limits of a sword not the normal parameters of use! Cutting helmets on a pole, while it sounds very authentic, is actually sword abuse. Sure, modern makers have the benefit of modern heat treating methods, modern steels that are uniform and consistent in carbon and alloy content, but this does not mean that a sword should be used in a way that swords were not used back then. If you want to go through a helmet, use a hammer or such.

Like Peter said, anything that can be made by man can be destroyed by man. It seems at times that customer expectation is so high regarding swords that the only way makers can meet the expectation is by making crowbars...

Find me on Facebook, or check out my blog. Contact me at eric@crownforge.net or ericmycue374@comcast.net if you want to talk about a commission or discuss an available piece.
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alexis said "How do we deal with the issue of a sword made by a respected sword maker that has its edge dissintegrate after hitting a steel helmet ."

Well I would think one would go back to using the warhammer Mr. Sheetz very handilly punctured the same helmet
with before starting to swing swords at it . Theres a rreason for the rise in popularity of implements like hammers,
maces, ploeaxes ect. and it wasn't because they looked neat . Better tools were needed to break plate harness .
Sounds like a case of not using the right tool for the job not one of poor manufacture .
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Robert Zamoida




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Craig, Gus, Peter and Eric; all of you have brought up some excellent points and have made very convincing arguments to back up your points (some more bluntly than others Happy ). Hopefully, my two cents worth only adds to what has been already said, so here goes Happy

As you can see from my signature, I am the assistant instructor for the longsword in my school; now, I'm by no means an expert, but I am confident enough in my knowledge to be able to make an informed post. My main souces of information include the writings of Liechtenauer/Ringneck (as translated by Christian Tobler), Talhoffer (as translated by Mark Rector) and Fiore (from a seminar done in March 2002 by Bob Charron).

Armored combat with the longsword against an opponent similarly armored was done at the halfsword (the dominant hand grasping the hilt, the non dominant hand grasping the blade). The halfsword allows the fighter to better direct the point and to provide increased leverage against the opponent when manuevering/grappling into an advantageous position. The targets on the opponent were those areas of the body not covered by armor, or those areas where gaps/overlaps in the articulations of the armor could be exploited. An "educational" drill that Bob ran us through illustrates this point well; when at the half sword, manuever yourself into a position where your point is now, literally, in your opponent's face (I don't remember the technique that got us to this point, but it does not allow your opponent to use their sword against you); then thrust to the chest; woops, breastplate! Now thrust to the neck; woops, gorget! Thrust to the face; woops, visor! Now, take your non dominant hand off the blade and lift up their visor (assuming of course that it doesn't lock when down) and now thrust into the opponent's exposed face! When you look at plates from the manuals, or the photographic interpretations, you see the combatants, at the half sword, working to use the point, not the edge, against their advesaries. The point here is that the intent of fighting an armored opponent is to use the point against the vulnerabilities of the armor, not to engage the armor itself with the edge (If armor was as easy to cut through as plates from the Maciejewski Bible suggest, then it begs the question why did they even wear armor at all?) Did that always happen, though? No. As Peter already stated, sometimes swords were used with the edge against the armor itself, out of desperation in the heat of combat. Another explanation is that it was deliberate; not with the intent of cutting through the armor, but to either stun, knock off balance, etc, the opponent in order to expose a vulnerable area to thrust the point into. Basically, knock the guy upside the helmet, ring his bell, and as he stumbles about stick him at your leisure Happy. The masters at the time, being well expericed in this form of combat, attempted to train their students to use their swords in a manner that was best suited for the situation. Whether or not their lessons took, or how well they took, is a question for the forensic archeologists. Of course, the sword was not the best weapon against armor, as has been already stated. As the saying goes, when all else fails, it's time for percussive maintainence! Happy

Rob Zamoida
"When your life is on the line, you want to make use of all your tools. No warrior should be willing to die with his swords at his sides, without having made use of his tools."
-Miyamoto Mushashi, Gorin no Sho
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig, Gus, Peter, Eric, and any one else that took the time to write few lines,

Thank you for the valuable comments! As it is painfully obvious, I am fairly new to the field of studying historical swordsmanship. And as such I am interested in learning about the properties of the authentic sword designs.
As Peter mentioned, many sword enthusiasts find it impressive to smash a sword against many targets not intended for a sword (trees, PVC pipes, steel objects, etc) which may push the market toward more durable pieces, which are not historically correct. I want to make it clear that I DO NOT want to be a part of that. I see in cutting practice an opportunity to learn how to properly use the sword, as opposed to just hack at things for the sake of it. Now my confusion originated with the many reports from people with more experience than me which state that they test their new piece by hitting some steel target (helmet or shield) with both edges to ensure quality of the product, as well was the "cutting-practices" using helmets, etc. I would not voluntarily abuse a sword I care for by hitting it against an object it clearly cannot destroy, yet some people were doing exactly that. So naturally I wanted to get input from the people that actually make the pieces.

Gus, thanks for your honesty. I hope any one reading your post will take a positive note of how business is done.

Peter, and other Albion members, I will not carelessly bash my new NG Baron (once I get it) against helmets ( cannot promise anything about the very, very dangerous straw mats, though) Laughing Out Loud

Craig, I will definitely check your article.

And yep , swords are cool

Alexi
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Greg Thomas Obach
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 12:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi

my humble opinion
- if the armour of the time was made of Wrought iron... it is not the same as mild iron of today...
- I have worked with some good and both terrible WI (highly variable)
WI is actually quite soft and can be cut into with a knife edge... ( only a steeled WI will offer substantial resistance to impact )
-WI can almost be as soft as copper sometimes
- it may even be worked cold for abit before it work hardens

the quality of the mild steel we have today is very good ... I think it offers more of a challenge to swords
-personally, I wouldn't be too afraid of chopping a sword in low carb WI

Greg
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Thomas wrote:
Hi

my humble opinion
- if the armour of the time was made of Wrought iron... it is not the same as mild iron of today...
- I have worked with some good and both terrible WI (highly variable)
WI is actually quite soft and can be cut into with a knife edge... ( only a steeled WI will offer substantial resistance to impact )
-WI can almost be as soft as copper sometimes
- it may even be worked cold for abit before it work hardens

the quality of the mild steel we have today is very good ... I think it offers more of a challenge to swords
-personally, I wouldn't be too afraid of chopping a sword in low carb WI

Greg


Hi Greg

Just maybe some of the earliest plate reinforcement was wrought iron, I don't know. But about the time that plate became real available, the stuff was tempered steel. Some of it was as hard as the period sword blades........

Auld Dawg

swords are fun
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually Gus the tempering of steel armour seems to have been a rather late thing and seems to have come out of Germany . There's an interesting book out there that uses microscopic analysis of armours made at the Greenwich
Armouries and the armours made there were not being uniformly tempered till th1550's and were not being tempered at
all when the armoury was first started in the first quarter of the 16th century . It was under German's masters of the
armoury that tempering became common place . The Milanese and other Italian manufacturers seem never to
have made it a regular practice and a great deal of their armour want out more or less in an annealed state . For munitions armorus iron was pretty consistantly used for its low cost . Tempering armour seems to have dissapeared
by the middle of the 17th century as the vast majority of armour being produced was of low munitions quality and
the orders for fine armours dissapeared . Nver read anything that gives any sort of exact date or even decade window for the tempering of armor though . Maybe some one out there's heard more about this than me that could add more detail .
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
Actually Gus the tempering of steel armour seems to have been a rather late thing and seems to have come out of Germany . There's an interesting book out there that uses microscopic analysis of armours made at the Greenwich
Armouries and the armours made there were not being uniformly tempered till th1550's and were not being tempered at
all when the armoury was first started in the first quarter of the 16th century . It was under German's masters of the
armoury that tempering became common place . The Milanese and other Italian manufacturers seem never to
have made it a regular practice and a great deal of their armour want out more or less in an annealed state . For munitions armorus iron was pretty consistantly used for its low cost . Tempering armour seems to have dissapeared
by the middle of the 17th century as the vast majority of armour being produced was of low munitions quality and
the orders for fine armours dissapeared . Nver read anything that gives any sort of exact date or even decade window for the tempering of armor though . Maybe some one out there's heard more about this than me that could add more detail .


Thanks Allan, I didn't know that.....

Actually, for the thickness of the armor, it never made much sense to me to heat treat it. Repeated blows will actually damage the integrity of the internal structure more of the tempered stuff, than the mild stuff.

The mild stuff can be dented in use, and hammered straight later. The tempered stuff might resist denting more in the first place, but when it "gives", its liable to be more serious.

Just like sword blades.

swords are fun
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the context of modern use that seems to be the case with stainlees vs mild steel armour . The faire that we do during the summer has a full contact jousting troop( warhorse productions ) and we've been fixing thier stuff for years . Thier
gear is a mix of qualities and makers but without fail the stainless pieces are cracking out within a year and on the
scrap heap in three( I should point out that these guys do two show a day , both days of the weekend for 9 months
of the year or REAL heavy use ) while i've been maintaining the same plate pieces for the last 8 years ,reshape
restrap and they're ready to go again . Theres a maximillian breast and back plate that Chris at A&A did in the
mid eighties thats still in service . Stainless seems to be just to Hard for the repeated violence .
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 4:05 pm    Post subject: Armor -steel/iron         Reply with quote

Hello Allen and Gus

This is the best quick read on the subject

Williams, Dr. Alan R., & Anthony de Reuck, The Royal Armoury at Greenwich 1515-1649, A history of its Technology, Royal Armouries, Monograph 4, 1995, London.


Dr. Williams has a more comprehensive work out now but very pricy detail the subject more closely.

Some points:

Milanese armorers were heat treating as early as any one it seems though when they hit the 1460's to 80's they seem to have stopped completely.

Augsburg and Innsbruck were still heat treating well into the late 1500's.

Of the armorers tested a few get into the low 50s Rc while more than half are less than 40 Rc and a good majority of that are below 30 Rc

This is a really interesting but complex area and one of the chief elements to understanding it is that again its a market driven industry. Majority of stuff made would have been low end, the light, hardened good fitting armors would be out of the buying range of all but the upper nobility.

The monograph covers this quite nicely and the weapons industry would have been no different.

Best
Craig
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Daniel Watson





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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most of the swords used at that test cutting event were mine. With repeated full force blows against the armor 3 of my swords got cracked grips. None showed edge damage even though all were sharp enough to shave paper.

http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/tes...ting07.jpg
http://www.thearma.org/photos/Gathering03/g6.jpg

I suspect that sword against armour has been a long term game of who is better than who.

Daniel Watson

http://www.angelsword.com/
http://www.angelswords.com/
http://www.swordarts.com/
http://www.swordmagick.com/
http://www.metalscience.com
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 7:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Craig , Yeah thats the book I was refeing to ( ISBN 0 948092) . It a great read with loads of info and the pics of the
tools are great to . I didn't realize it was pricey though , had mine brought back from England for me . Haven't readit
in a while but now that its out ...
Thanks for pulling out the title .
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2004 8:14 pm    Post subject: Book         Reply with quote

Hello Allen

That book is not to bad. Dr. Williams came out with a far more comprehensive treatment about a year or so ago and it is the one that is expensive.

Craig
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