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Homer Tan




Location: California
Joined: 08 Aug 2009

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PostPosted: Sat 12 Sep, 2009 8:42 pm    Post subject: Suggestion for sword reviews         Reply with quote

The sword reviews are a great way to gather information on the various swords and I consulted it before buying my Henry V. However, I find the opinions to be too subjective to be of use. A strong man might find a heavy sword light, while a weak man may find a light sword heavy. So it depends on who is reviewing the sword.

To solve this problem, I propose that each sword be assess on these four categories which I believe ancient warriors look for in a sword:

1)Reach
2)Speed
3)Cutting ability
4)Thrusting or penetration ability.

It is impossible to find a sword that is good in all four because each requires a trade-off for the others.

Reach - We all want a long reach in a sword in order to strike an enemy before his sword strikes you. But a long sword may end up heavier and this will slow it down. If you keep the weight the same, it means the sword will be slender like a rapier. This means that it will be too flexible to penetrate armour. Or it may break on impact.

Speed - this is a combination of weight and the location of the centre of gravity. I propose we measure the 'speed' of a sword by multiplying the weight with the distance of the centre of gravity from the hilt. In physics, this is known as the 'moment'. The higher the moment, the more difficult to swing it around and hence the slower the sword.

A light sword with its centre of gravity close to the hand will be fast. But it is likely to lack cutting or chopping power. An axe has excellent cutting or chopping ability. That's because the blade is at the end of the stick. But its a clumsy weapon. An axe has a large 'moment' ie distance of CG x weight.

Cutting or chopping ability - This has been touched on above. A sword with a high moment will have superior cutting ability. But the price you pay is slowness.

Thrusting or penetrating ability - Ancient warriors want a sword that pierce through armour. Chain mail, worn by ordinary soldiers, is easier to pierce through than plate armour. This means that the sword must not flex when it is thrust against armour. A short sword, all else being equal, is stiffer than a long sword. So penetration power comes at the price of reach.

I propose that in future reviews, each of these 4 qualities be assessed in at least three categories - above average, average and below average.

For example, a sword with above average reach might be above, say, 38 inches long. But it would be rated below average on thrusting or penetrating ability.

These as just some of my thoughts.

As for the Henry V, which I got from arms and armoury through Kult of Athena, I am happy with it. It looks like Henry favored a sword that is fast and with good penetrating abilty. But its below average on reach and cutting ability.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 12 Sep, 2009 9:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Suggestion for sword reviews         Reply with quote

Homer,
Thank you for your suggestions. Any who have written reviews and read enough of them will realize there is some subjectivity. It's inevitable. Happy

Your proposed system is interesting, but who will decide what separates above average from average and below average in each category? Some will find a sword of 38 inches to be too long. Some may find it too short. For some, it will be just right. There's subjectivity in defining those ratings.

Also, you can have a narrow, long-bladed sword with excellent penetrating ability if the cross-section is right. The 15th century estoc comes to mind: some blades were rapier-esque in their slenderness, but very thick with a pronounced triangular or diamond section. Therefore, they were wicked thrusters. They sacrificed no penetrating ability due to their length as their design was optimized to the task at hand.

Which brings us to an element we can't ignore: the sword's intended usage. If a sword is meant to be better at one thing than another, is it fair to compare them? It's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Take the Henry V sword. You say it's below average on reach and cutting potential. I disagree on its cutting potential (I used to own one of those). Even a hollow-ground version with pronounced mid-rib should cut with devastating effectiveness.

Any perceived lack of reach should be no strike against it. A number of swords of that era and others were that short or shorter and served well. The English of the early 15th century often fought dismounted in very close formation and often chose a battlefield that kept the enemy from spreading out too much. In a close-packed melee in these circumstances, a longer sword could get in the way. Henry's sword was suited for the fighting he did. It had the exact amount of reach he wanted. Calling it "below average" ignores the sword's intended purpose.

The major problem I see with a system like this is that it takes weapons with a myriad of design variations because of the myriad of situations they were designed for and seeks to arbitrarily compare them to each other. Let's say you look at two reviews: one for a Viking sword and one for a rapier. A Viking sword will likely out-cut a typical rapier. So the Viking gets rated above average and the rapier below average in cutting ability. That doesn't tell us much, does it?

You mentioned this:

Quote:
Ancient warriors want a sword that pierce through armour.


I can't agree. If this were true, why would so many cut-oriented blades have been made? Most people feel that swords could not cut plate and couldn't do much cutting against mail either. Good mail would resist a thrust pretty well and well-made plate would stop it altogether. Many combatants were not fully clad in armour, if they were armoured at all. Tests have shown that swords are not that effective against armour.

Happy

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Homer Tan




Location: California
Joined: 08 Aug 2009

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 2:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply Chad.

I think short swords do not make good cutters simply because the point of impact of the sword is nearer to the centre of circle of the swing and hence slower than a longer sword. Suppose you have a Roman 22 inch sword and you hit the target right at the tip. My Henry V is 34 inch long and it also hits the target at the tip. Which do you think will hit the target with a higher tangential velocity? Its the longer sword. The further away from the centre of circle of the swing, the faster the tangential velocity and hence the more kinetic energy it transfers to the target. Hence, I think longer swords are better cutters than shorter ones.

As for the length, the subjectivity can easily be taken out in deciding which is long and short. Take a sample of one hundred swords at random and measure their lengths. Divide the swords into at least three categories. The top one third will be considered above average, the bottom one third in length will be considered below average and the rest, average.

Note the length that divides each third and voila we have a quantifiable way of deciding what is above, below and simply average lengths. If you like we can divide them into quintiles - 5 parts instead of thirds. Then we can have poor, below average, average, above average and excellent.
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Homer Tan




Location: California
Joined: 08 Aug 2009

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 2:32 am    Post subject: Re: Suggestion for sword reviews         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:


You mentioned this:

Quote:
Ancient warriors want a sword that pierce through armour.


I can't agree. If this were true, why would so many cut-oriented blades have been made? Most people feel that swords could not cut plate and couldn't do much cutting against mail either. Good mail would resist a thrust pretty well and well-made plate would stop it altogether. Many combatants were not fully clad in armour, if they were armoured at all. Tests have shown that swords are not that effective against armour.


Of course, they also wanted a sword that can cut. Ideally, they wanted a sword that is good at thrusting, cutting, fast in the recovery and has a long reach. But I believe that you can't have everything and the warrior has to decide which trade-off to make.
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Homer Tan




Location: California
Joined: 08 Aug 2009

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 2:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Also, you can have a narrow, long-bladed sword with excellent penetrating ability if the cross-section is right. The 15th century estoc comes to mind: some blades were rapier-esque in their slenderness, but very thick with a pronounced triangular or diamond section. Therefore, they were wicked thrusters. They sacrificed no penetrating ability due to their length as their design was optimized to the task at hand.


Yes, you are right. This is a good point. To over come this, I suggest a simple device be made to conduct tests. Use a standard steel plate as a target. It could be the garbage can I saw in one of the reviews in the sword buyers' guide. Hand the sword above the plate. Cut the cord and the sword is then dropped from a certain height. If it penetrates, it passes the test. The lower the height it requires to penetrate, the better its penetrating ability.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 5:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Longer sword cuts better (let's say you have two very similar sword, one longer and other shorter) if you can get it to the same speed as the shorter one. But that is more difficult with longer sword because it's heavier, so longer swords cut better in the hands of stronger men and weaker warrior will cut better with their lighter swords which they can move faster. If the design is different and the longer sword is lighter you will cut better with it but than the comparison is not fair. I'm short and not too strong so I can better cut with my Del Tin St. Maurice which is 98cm and 1.45kg than with my Del Tin 2142 which is 122cm and 1.75kg.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 6:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Homer Tan wrote:
Hence, I think longer swords are better cutters than shorter ones.


But that's subjective thinking, which is what we're trying to avoid, right? Happy

Quote:
As for the length, the subjectivity can easily be taken out in deciding which is long and short. Take a sample of one hundred swords at random and measure their lengths. Divide the swords into at least three categories. The top one third will be considered above average, the bottom one third in length will be considered below average and the rest, average.


And that's completely arbitrary, which isn't much more helpful than subjectivity, right? Happy

Quote:
Yes, you are right. This is a good point. To over come this, I suggest a simple device be made to conduct tests. Use a standard steel plate as a target. It could be the garbage can I saw in one of the reviews in the sword buyers' guide. Hand the sword above the plate. Cut the cord and the sword is then dropped from a certain height. If it penetrates, it passes the test. The lower the height it requires to penetrate, the better its penetrating ability.


That makes a number of assumptions: 1) That assumes our reviewers all over the world will have access to this standard plate rig and will want to spend money on buying it for each review they do. 2) It also assumes swords will pierce plate. 3) It assumes that the "standard" plate chosen for the rig is in some way analogous to period plate armour. 4) It assumes that the maker or buyer or owner whose sword it is wants it dropped at a flat plate.

In regards to #:
1) We can't assume that or require our reviewers to sped more time and money than they already do when volunteering their time for reviews.
2) Swords weren't generally designed to pierce plate. They were designed to work around it and exploit its gaps. Maces, warhammers, flails, and other polearms and impact weapons were designed to pierce plate.
3) Modern mild sheet steel, which is what I assume you're referring to, is not analogous to period plate. Period plate was not all of one thickness. It was not flat, but incorporated angles, curves, ribs,etc. to deflect blows. And the metallurgical composition is different than period plate. If you're okay with the standard steel plate being very little like period plate, then we're back to an artificial arbitrary standard.
4) This is a bad assumption as well. A number of items we review are loaned to us by makers, retailers, and owners of the item. I doubt they'd all want that test conducted, especially given that the results may not be meaningful.

Quote:
I think short swords do not make good cutters simply because the point of impact of the sword is nearer to the centre of circle of the swing and hence slower than a longer sword. Suppose you have a Roman 22 inch sword and you hit the target right at the tip. My Henry V is 34 inch long and it also hits the target at the tip. Which do you think will hit the target with a higher tangential velocity? Its the longer sword. The further away from the centre of circle of the swing, the faster the tangential velocity and hence the more kinetic energy it transfers to the target


This assumes both swords are supposed to be used the same way. A gladius was designed to fit a certain set of circumstances and was designed primarily to thrust around a large shield (from above, below, beside). By Henry V's time, shields were smaller (if even used at all) and tactics were quite different. By trying to compare the cutting ability of swords designed to face very different circumstances, you run the risk of using artificial, arbitrary methods which discount the different ways the swords were designed to be used. The results of those tests will be similarly artificial and arbitrary.

If you haven't already, check out our Review Frequently Asked Questions.

Happy

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Homer Tan




Location: California
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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Longer sword cuts better (let's say you have two very similar sword, one longer and other shorter) if you can get it to the same speed as the shorter one. But that is more difficult with longer sword because it's heavier, so longer swords cut better in the hands of stronger men and weaker warrior will cut better with their lighter swords which they can move faster. If the design is different and the longer sword is lighter you will cut better with it but than the comparison is not fair. I'm short and not too strong so I can better cut with my Del Tin St. Maurice which is 98cm and 1.45kg than with my Del Tin 2142 which is 122cm and 1.75kg.


That's what I was trying to say. Its a matter of physics. The longer the sword, the faster the speed at the tip or at the 'sweet spot'. The faster the speed, the more the kinetic energy delivered at the target. So all else being equal, the longer the sword the better the cutter/chopper it is.

Another thing that affects how good a sword is in cutting/chopping is the location of the centre of gravity. The further away from the hand the better a chopper the sword is. I think we should revise how the position of the CG is measured. Instead of measuring the Centre of Gravity from the cross-piece, we should measure it from the centre of the hilt which is where the palm of the hand is. That way, we can calculate the 'moment' of the sword to give us an idea of how fast the sword is. Moment = distance of CG x weight of sword.

But of course, the drawback is that longer swords with far out CG are usually heavier and have greater moment because you need more steel to make them. So they are slower. So there is a trade-off.
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Homer Tan




Location: California
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Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 8:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Longer sword cuts better (let's say you have two very similar sword, one longer and other shorter) if you can get it to the same speed as the shorter one. But that is more difficult with longer sword because it's heavier, so longer swords cut better in the hands of stronger men and weaker warrior will cut better with their lighter swords which they can move faster. If the design is different and the longer sword is lighter you will cut better with it but than the comparison is not fair. I'm short and not too strong so I can better cut with my Del Tin St. Maurice which is 98cm and 1.45kg than with my Del Tin 2142 which is 122cm and 1.75kg.


I agree. Different people will find different swords to be good cutters because some of us are stronger and some weaker. So it depends on who does the reviews.
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Homer Tan




Location: California
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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:

1) We can't assume that or require our reviewers to sped more time and money than they already do when volunteering their time for reviews.
2) Swords weren't generally designed to pierce plate. They were designed to work around it and exploit its gaps. Maces, warhammers, flails, and other polearms and impact weapons were designed to pierce plate.
3) Modern mild sheet steel, which is what I assume you're referring to, is not analogous to period plate. Period plate was not all of one thickness. It was not flat, but incorporated angles, curves, ribs,etc. to deflect blows. And the metallurgical composition is different than period plate. If you're okay with the standard steel plate being very little like period plate, then we're back to an artificial arbitrary standard.
4) This is a bad assumption as well. A number of items we review are loaned to us by makers, retailers, and owners of the item. I doubt they'd all want that test conducted, especially given that the results may not be meaningful.



You are right on 1). Your reviewers may not have the time or expense as they are volunteering

As for 2), I agree that swords could not pierce plate which was in full bloom at the time of Henry V in the 5th century. But if you look back at the long history of swords and armor, you will see an arms race between sword makers and armor makers. As swords improved, armor improved too. As armor improved, swords improved.

At the begining of the medieval ages the average warrior was equipped with shiled and maybe a helmet. Then they had lamellar armor, then chain mail, then mail cum plate armor and finally fully plate armor.

medieval armor

medieval weapons

So how good a sword is in thrusting should be related in how good it penetrates a given resistance. Otherwise, how do we decide if a sword is good at thrusting or not?
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Homer Tan




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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry I meant to say 15th century and not 5th century. Don't know how to edit the above.
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Homer Tan




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Sep, 2009 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since sword manufacturers will likely object to dropping a sword on a steel plate, I have a better alternative.

Its simple. Keep the sword in a vertical position with the tip pointing towards the sky. Drop 1 lb of raw meat from a height of say 6 inches. Measure the depth the sword penetrates. Then cook the meat and eat it. Big Grin

This provides an objective way of measuring how good a thruster the sword is and allowing us to compare it with other swords.
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Paul Watson




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Sep, 2009 7:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Homer Tan wrote:
Since sword manufacturers will likely object to dropping a sword on a steel plate, I have a better alternative.

Its simple. Keep the sword in a vertical position with the tip pointing towards the sky. Drop 1 lb of raw meat from a height of say 6 inches. Measure the depth the sword penetrates. Then cook the meat and eat it. Big Grin

This provides an objective way of measuring how good a thruster the sword is and allowing us to compare it with other swords.


The only problem with this is that dropped raw meat was never historically the target. Relevant tests need to be against historically accurate representations of targets.

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, but that which it protects. (Faramir, The Two Towers)
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Sep, 2009 7:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Homer,
I appreciate what you're trying to do. Happy I don't believe there can be complete objectivity when dealing with these things, because every historical weapon or piece or armour is the product of a specific set of circumstances (tactics, era, locale, budget, customer's taste, smith's taste, the item's purpose, its intended usage, etc.).

We've published well over 200 reviews at this point (233) and have a couple dozen more (at least) in the works. That's the most of any sword-related site that I'm aware of. We've spent a great deal of time brainstorming and discussing ways to make the reviews better. We've thought up many systems and have had others suggested to us like you're doing now.

At the end of the day, each item is different. Each user's experience is different. Each reviewer is different. We link the review subject to the piece of history of spawned it to give the impressions the context that a dry recitation of stats does not convey.

That's why we have this in our Review FAQ:

Quote:
Why do your reviews often include much more than simply a brief description of the item itself?
We strive to make our reviews be more than just a simple consumer guide; we want them to offer value to a greater audience than just potential buyers. We try to include detailed background information on the item being discussed and clearly ground them into a greater context of history, martial arts usage, art and culture, or even the modern day collector marketplace. Every review has a story to tell and we believe that much more can be learned through discussing them in this way.


If we had the budget that Consumer Reports does (with a paid staff and money to buy all the samples we want), we might be able to get closer to what you're thinking of, with test rigs and consistent methodologies of testing, but we'd still be assigning arbitrary standards and trying to shoe-horn items with wildly varied parameters into a single results methodology. You'll get bad results by comparing apples to oranges, forcing those pesky oranges to behave like apples and then being disappointed when they don't. Happy

Happy

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Sep, 2009 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It really sounds like you want something more like Consumer Reports, something akin to expert/professional reviews. This is all well and good but they are a business and you pay for the content they create. Itís not a fair comparison to what is being done here through donations of time, products and yes, opinions.

Given that the myArmoury reviews are mostly consumer product reviews, not expert or professional reviews, I believe that it would be exceedingly difficult for myArmoury to demand as much as you propose and still get content. A few people might be willing to invest the time, money and effort. However, I suspect that most reviewers would simply stop submitting content to myArmoury and find a different outlet that would be less onerous to work with.

Besides, consumer product reviews are by their nature subjective and based on opinion, regardless what product is being reviewed.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Tue 27 Oct, 2009 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hear, hear! I see absolutely NO need to remove or reduce the subjectivity factor from the reviews on this site. For me, the subjective experience is what makes the arms and armor "click" with the owner/collector/user/whatever. Remove that from the equation and the reviews would get boring.
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Antonio Lamadrid





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PostPosted: Tue 27 Oct, 2009 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A bit off-topic, but as a non U.S. or British citizen, I would appreciate it if you could provide the specs also in the metric system.
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