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Thread: How to authenticate a sword?

  1. #1

    How to authenticate a sword?

    I picked up this sword at an estate sale this week. It was billed as a cavalry sword, but looks more like a staff officers sword to me, and while the patina and aging of the item looks authentic, and the other items on sale (muskets, breech-loading rifle, etc.) led me to believe the previous owner was a serious collector, there are a few things that make me wonder. For example, the size of the "US" on the guard is smaller than what I've seen in other photos, and there is an exposed screw on the base of the grip. So I was hoping folks here might be able to help me determine if the sword is a genuine period piece (and is that period the Civil War) or if it is a replica.

    Some photos:











    Thanks!

    Mike Hanson

  2. #2
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    Looks authentic, the pommel nut could suggest European manufacture but I'm not a collector of US.

  3. #3
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    US M1850 foot officer's sword made by Henry Saurbier of Newark, New Jersey.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Dmitry Z~G View Post
    US M1850 foot officer's sword made by Henry Saurbier of Newark, New Jersey.
    That's it exactly! Is this version less common? I searched for 1850 sword quite a bit, and most of what I found were 'Ames' swords. It's good to know I didn't buy a dud.

    As it did not come with a scabbard, would it be appropriate to find a reproduction? Any suggestions on the best way to display it.

    Thanks so much for your help, you've made my day.

    Mike

  5. #5
    To add to the previous post - I always read and see on antique shows not to do anything to change the condition of the sword. Would that be true in this case? Is there anything I could do to clean up the blade or gaurd without compromising the piece?

    Mike

  6. #6
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    Dmitri. It is indeed an 1850 foot officer's sword but I am impressed with the fact that you know the maker with no makers name being mentioned or shown. How do you know?
    "Ancora imparo - Michelangelo Buonarotti"

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob E. Ozias View Post
    Dmitri. It is indeed an 1850 foot officer's sword but I am impressed with the fact that you know the maker with no makers name being mentioned or shown. How do you know?
    I don't know how he knew, but he was right. After mentioning the maker, I did a search and found this: http://www.sailorinsaddle.com/product.aspx?id=1130

    It's a perfect match; mine does not have the scabbard, and my blade is not in as good shape, but my grip is much better - it still has the wire and leather in place. What did we do before the internet, anyway?

    Mike

  8. #8
    The estate sale also had a number of bayonets; now I wish I had splurged and got one of those as well!
    Last edited by Mike Hanson; 01-06-2012 at 07:35 PM.

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    Saubier tooled adjustment holes on pommel are practically a signature of saubier...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Hanson View Post
    To add to the previous post - I always read and see on antique shows not to do anything to change the condition of the sword. Would that be true in this case? Is there anything I could do to clean up the blade or gaurd without compromising the piece?

    Mike
    That is open to much debate. Personally I don't really agree that a sword should always be left as found. There is active rust on the blade which needs removing and the blade conserving. The hilt is brass so could be left as is, if that is what you prefer.

    Ian

  11. #11
    Hi Mike,
    Congratulations on a very attractive sword in good 'collectors' condition.
    I've just bought (today) a sabre in similar condition and I'm looking forward to an afternoon of careful cleaning to resotre it's former glory.

    On yours, the metal hilt elements look as though they were possibly once gilded over the brass/bronze, so I would suggest caution there.
    If it were mine I would use a toothbrush dampened with soapy water to clean out the old polish residue from the detail (wrap the handle to keep it dry while you do this and don't let water get up into the guard) then a soft cloth (the one you polish the sideboard with) and just gently buff the patina. As though you were buffing wood after waxing. If you use any metal polish it will damage the nice existing patina and remove more of the gilding.
    The blade needs cleaning IMHO. So I'd use wire wool and oil. Start with a medium grade and as soon as you start to see ANY bare metal then switch to the very fine grade.
    I would suggest also that using an old thick leather belt that you make a washer for the top of the blade.

    Regards
    Gene
    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 01-07-2012 at 03:53 AM.

  12. #12
    Argh, one click and two posts!!!

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Wilkinson View Post
    I would suggest also that using an old thick leather belt that you make a washer for the top of the blade.
    I have plenty of leather around the house, can you help me understand what you mean? I'm new to swords - by 'top' is that to protect the tip (sharp end) or the base where it meets the guard?

    Mike

  14. #14
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    Mike,

    This style of 1850 Foot Officer sword with the tiny US in the guard is a legitimate, and scarce, variation of the type. Ames also made one like this so they will be found from time to time. Be very careful in cleaning as you certainly can diminish the value by doing it incorrectly. You might want to look at the pinned thread on care and cleaning before doing anything. Better to do no harm than to do something that is not reversable.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  15. #15
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    Lightbulb washer on ricasso

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Hanson View Post
    I have plenty of leather around the house, can you help me understand what you mean? I'm new to swords - by 'top' is that to protect the tip (sharp end) or the base where it meets the guard?

    Mike
    Mike: I think he means the washer that buffered the blade into the scabbard mouth. This is an easy fix, and I keep ancient leather around for just this purpose..usually there is a rectangular cut to accomodate the tang of the blade, and the outer edge is like the scabbard oval, just a little bit larger in circumfrence...I am sure the experts here will tell you exactly how this is done...NOTE: Sometimes the maker just made an inner cut to the blade root proper, and relied on friction to keep it in place, this is better than dismounting the hilt to fit the washer to the blade and compressing the hilt to fit...

    Dale
    Last edited by Dale Martin; 01-07-2012 at 06:17 PM. Reason: sp...

  16. #16
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    This sword is in choice untouched condition, ripe for a gentle conservation, and easy to overdo by someone who hasn't conserved a good number of swords. The border between over-cleaned and done just right is quite thin, and there is no turning back.
    If done gently and with care, the blade would show a wonderful patina.

  17. #17
    Following the guide on this forum, I used a light steel wool with Remington oil, and just lightly buffed it, just trying to dislodge any surface rust. I was very careful, and you're right, the patina is very nice. Once I've cleaned the guard I'll post some new photos.

  18. #18
    Here's the cleaned sword. I didn't go overboard with it, so it may actually need more cleaning than I was willing to risk. There is verdigris on the pommel but I actually like it. The cleaning of the guard clearly shows that it was originally gilded, so I was very careful there, and again maybe didn't do as good a job as I might have because I was concerned about it. The blade still shows signs of rust, but it is cleaner than it was previously and not as obviously rusted - the photos tend to show it more so than you see when examining it in person.

    Any thoughts? Did I over-do it?

    An over-all shot:


    The guard and grip:



    Gilding is pretty clear in this one:




    Closeup of the blade:


    Down the blade towards the guard. You can clearly see the gilding, and the outline of the leather washer at the base of the blade, so at least I have a pattern!


    I can't thank everyone here enough for all their help and guidance.

    Mike

  19. #19
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    Good job Mike. I personally think you stopped just in time. I like the result and it does not look overcleaned to me. A light coat of gun (Rem Oil) or sewing machine oil (not penetrating oil like WD40) will protect the blade and inhibit any active red rust.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob E. Ozias View Post
    Dmitri. It is indeed an 1850 foot officer's sword but I am impressed with the fact that you know the maker with no makers name being mentioned or shown. How do you know?
    There's no magic. Good reference library + experience.

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