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Thread: Viking weapons test cuts video

  1. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post
    I've taught a 12 year old girl how to cut through a tatami mat in about 15 minutes after a total of 5 hours of training in swinging a plastic sword (it was all she could hold for any length of time). Do you think that means she knew how to cut at that point?
    If the tatami accurately simulates human flesh and she just demonstrated her ability to do massive damage, then that is exactly the reason she is swinging a sword at it in the first place. IOW, she knows how to cut, as far as applies to actually killing people with swords.

    I'm not entirely convinced the mats do simulate flesh that well. I've never cut it, but my part of Texas is rather overrun with feral hogs, and I cut on their carcasses quite abit. In videos, the mats look easier to get through than my own experience suggests hide, muscle, and bone is.

  2. #27
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    It seems I post this on every discussion on test cutting, but yes it was practiced at least in the 19th century (And... gasp! Without stepping!): http://cbd.atspace.com/articles/test...t-cutting.html

    As for why it is never talked about in European sources (Arab/Persian sources do talk about it), well there are so many things that are not covered in the manuals, would it be so surprising if the left it out?

    My opinion on the matter: people who have a good experience in test cutting usually show the best technique when sparring.

  3. #28
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    Max,

    While I am in the "pru-cutting" camp, we need to understand that a number of "sword feats" were considered just that - things to do to impress an audience. They weren't part of a regimented curriculum, with the notable exception being some of the cavalry exercises. I can think of cutting exercises to test swords in Europe and the Middle East (the latter vs clay, as I recall), but also, I think Mike's post brings up part of why: test-cutting becomes increasingly important as you develop a culture that doesn't have a living tradition of people using swords in actual combat. Thus Nakamura sensei's emphasis on cutting in the 20th c, the increase in the activity in other JSA schools over the years, and the reason it should be a part of what we do in any reconstructed sword art.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  4. #29
    Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to post on these sort of things and repeat the same things over and over again.

    ---That's why we need that detailed article we talked about!

    The world's first HEMA cutting tournament that incorporates the pedagogical approach to cutting that I've been babbling about will take place this June at Longpoint 2012. Hopefully it will be the first of many.

    ---I'll be there! With my A & A German Bastard Sword and Del Tin Sidesword!

    Keith

  5. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Bailey View Post
    If the tatami accurately simulates human flesh and she just demonstrated her ability to do massive damage, then that is exactly the reason she is swinging a sword at it in the first place. IOW, she knows how to cut, as far as applies to actually killing people with swords.
    Tatami doesn't simulate anything. And flesh and bone (except skulls) is not what you need to learn how to cut, unless you want to train to charge into bath houses and kill naked people. Tatami has several qualities that make it an ideal cutting medium for teaching people how to cut. One of these is this: if you cut tatami with good technique, you should feel almost no resistance at all, like your sword is passing through air. If you cut with poor technique, you will feel a degree of resistance based on how much you screwed up. So if your technique is only a little off, you'll cut, but you'll feel resistance. If your techniuqe sucks, it will be like hitting a concrete pillar. In this way it teaches you to cut clean. There are many other things it teaches you as well, but that would take a whole article.

    I'm not entirely convinced the mats do simulate flesh that well. I've never cut it, but my part of Texas is rather overrun with feral hogs, and I cut on their carcasses quite abit. In videos, the mats look easier to get through than my own experience suggests hide, muscle, and bone is.
    You're on the right track, however, next time you have a feral hog to cut, go to an art supply store and buy some linen canvas (or get linen from somewhere else). Take three layes and wrap them around the pig. Then get some wool and wrap a couple of layers around also. There's your linen undershirt, linen lined wool doublet and coat. If you want to skip the coat, use two layers of linen and one of wool. Then, and this is very important, do not hang the pig, but prop it up somehow. When you hang a carcass and cut it, it opens up as you hit it, freeing your sword, because of gravity (it pulls the carcass down, pulling the gashes open). You get the impression that you can hack away all you want and your sword just magically comes free. When it is standing up, gravity has the opposite effect.

    Cutting a carcass that is naked and hanging from a tree is an almost pointless exercise. Though trying to get through the skull is fun and enlightening.

  6. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith P. Myers View Post
    Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to post on these sort of things and repeat the same things over and over again.

    ---That's why we need that detailed article we talked about!
    Ok, ok, I'll put something together. But I honestly don't think that will have any impact on how often I will have to repeat stuff on forums.

    The world's first HEMA cutting tournament that incorporates the pedagogical approach to cutting that I've been babbling about will take place this June at Longpoint 2012. Hopefully it will be the first of many.

    ---I'll be there! With my A & A German Bastard Sword and Del Tin Sidesword!

    Keith
    Make sure they are sharp! Like one of your scalpels.

    It seems obvious, but I've had people show up to cutting classes with very dull swords.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post
    Cutting a carcass that is naked and hanging from a tree is an almost pointless exercise. Though trying to get through the skull is fun and enlightening.
    I suspect that the original intention was not to show how the Vikings trained or to show off technique, but to show the effects of the weapons.
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  8. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas S View Post
    I suspect that the original intention was not to show how the Vikings trained or to show off technique, but to show the effects of the weapons.
    Sorry, that was an off topic statement. We were talking about cutting as a curriculum/pedagogical tool. The original video is cool and does what it sets out to do quite well. For demonstration purposes, cutting carcasses is very effective.

  9. #34
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    I have cut at clothing, and yes it is surprisingly resistant. However, I think the hide and hair on a large feral (have you ever fooled with one? Just "unzipping the jacket" to skin one is incredibly hard on a knife's edge) actually simulates at least one layer of thick cloth. So I think one wearing a jacket is effectively like a human wearing a gambeson.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post

    You're on the right track, however, next time you have a feral hog to cut, go to an art supply store and buy some linen canvas (or get linen from somewhere else). Take three layes and wrap them around the pig. Then get some wool and wrap a couple of layers around also. There's your linen undershirt, linen lined wool doublet and coat. If you want to skip the coat, use two layers of linen and one of wool. Then, and this is very important, do not hang the pig, but prop it up somehow. When you hang a carcass and cut it, it opens up as you hit it, freeing your sword, because of gravity (it pulls the carcass down, pulling the gashes open). You get the impression that you can hack away all you want and your sword just magically comes free. When it is standing up, gravity has the opposite effect.

    Cutting a carcass that is naked and hanging from a tree is an almost pointless exercise. Though trying to get through the skull is fun and enlightening.

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post

    Make sure they are sharp! Like one of your scalpels.

    It seems obvious, but I've had people show up to cutting classes with very dull swords.
    Something else I've wondered about, just how sharp is "realistic" for a battlefield tool? A shaving sharp edge on a blade certainly makes it easier to cut with, but how long is it going to stay that way after gliding on the other guy's sword a few times, banging into a shield, etc? Do you think a sword can actually be "too sharp" for accessing what your sword is likely to do under realistic conditions?

    BTW, the skull nor the limbs seems problematic to cut. The body seems most problematic, because it has fat and seems to yield with the strike alot. Thrusts are ridiculously easy, but everyone knew that already. And slashes with the very tip of the blade, as opposed to the CoP, to say the thigh or belly, actually seem quite damaging, good for a one or two inch deep cut a foot or so long.

  11. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Bailey View Post
    I have cut at clothing, and yes it is surprisingly resistant. However, I think the hide and hair on a large feral (have you ever fooled with one? Just "unzipping the jacket" to skin one is incredibly hard on a knife's edge) actually simulates at least one layer of thick cloth. So I think one wearing a jacket is effectively like a human wearing a gambeson.
    Not a feral hog with its hide, no, but I've cut leather that is very very hard to cut with a knife but comes apart like nothing when you hit it with a sword. Green bamboo is like that too. Try cutting a 2" stalk with a pocket knife, and yet it's not hard with a sword. But you have a good point, maybe a feral hog's hide is as resistant as clothing. Tests would have to be done. You'd still have to prop up the hog and not hang it to experience what happens when a sword enters a body.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Bailey View Post
    Something else I've wondered about, just how sharp is "realistic" for a battlefield tool? A shaving sharp edge on a blade certainly makes it easier to cut with, but how long is it going to stay that way after gliding on the other guy's sword a few times, banging into a shield, etc? Do you think a sword can actually be "too sharp" for accessing what your sword is likely to do under realistic conditions? .
    Here's the thing with edges. You can have a 40 degree edge that's dull, and the same edge that can shave hair off your arm. Same edge, same degree, same "strength." The difference is in the quality of the edge. The dull edge would have a hell of a time with clothing, while a sharp edge would be able to defeat it much more easily. So which would you rather have? As to damage, if you take that super sharp edge and mess around with it, it will get duller. Then you'd have to sharpen it again, which takes minutes. I see no reason to start off with a duller edge just becauase you don't want your sharper edge to dull. That would be like starting with an empty gun because you are afraid to run out of bullets.

  12. #37
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    We have very little evidence of razor sharp edges on medieval swords - certainly not katana sharp. What little we do have in textual discussions, don't support that either - such as Vadi's recommendations of the sword being sharp for the last hand. Certainly, many of these weapons are sharp like a good axe or machete, but not like a modern hunting knife.

    So show sharp? Depends on period, place, use...but razor sharp in Medieval Europe? Not so much, but certainly not the dull blades the British military complained about in the mid-19th c, either.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  13. #38
    The question is why. Why wouldn't they have made their swords razor sharp?

    First, it is important to understand that how sharp a sword is depends largely on the quality (refinement) of the edge, and less so on the edge shape or angle. You can take 40 degree edge, or a 50 or even 60 degree edge (maybe even higher) and make it shaving sharp, if you hone it. This does not make it weaker, only sharper. To get a modern Albion sword from factory edge to shaving sharp, I do not change its edge profile or shape. I only polish that edge with a series of finer and finer grit, at the same angle, until I finish it off with leather (not necessary, but it helps). These grits (1000, 2500) remove almost no metal, they only polish what is already there.

    Considering that sharpness makes or breaks a sword's performance against clothing, I just can't imagine a good reason why, in an age in which people depended on swords for life and limb, a sword would not be made as sharp as I, an unskilled modern heathen, can make it in 5 minutes on a grinder (analogous to a grinding wheel) or 40 minutes with hand stones.


  14. #39
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    Swords of varying sharpness were doubtless used in the late Middle Ages. Some survivals have evidence of quite keen edges while others are so dull that they must have either never been particularly sharp or were purposefully blunted later in their history. I've handled a number of each.

    One reason to have a non-'razor sharp' edge would be where armour was likely to be encountered. The mounted combat preserved in the Liechtenauer corpus, attested in both gloss and in illustrated works by Kal and Talhoffer, involves encountering partially to heavily armoured opponents with the sword's edge; they're striking blows at each other. A very keen, and therefore less hardy, edge would suffer considerably from repeated contact with the armour; breaking out a piece of an edge when striking plate steel at the high force levels inherent in mounted combat would be all too easy.

    Some care should also be taken to avoid over-stating the case: edge thickness, not just quality, affects sharpness. Surgical scalpels (and still more so microtomes) are thin for a reason, and no steel can be rendered as sharp as the mere molecules-thick edges possible with a material such as obsidian. Sharpness is a product of thickness, angle, and the quality/consistency of the edge. Factor in the effects of gross blade geometry and this becomes murkier still.

    It's a complicated subject, and our window into it in our period of interest is -as Greg has noted - clouded at best.

    All the best,

    Christian
    Christian Henry Tobler
    Selohaar Fechtschule

    The Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

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    "Though I love the stout blow and the cunningly placed thrust, my greatest joy when crossing swords lies in those rare moments when Chivalry herself leans over and takes one into Her confidence."

  15. #40
    I guess that the resulting difference in effectivity from "just sharp enough" to "razor sharp" was quite low in practical use. When (if at all) the sword is used and you manage to deliver a solid strike, it will do the damage necessary; more often than not the weapon encounters the protective layers at the wrong speed/angle/time so an excess of sharpness doesnt really have effect there. For damaging by thrust and percussion its irrelevant anyway.

    As for durability - I would not expect a well-crafted blade to suffer more breakage due to sharpness, but considering mediocre made swords it could have been an issue. The quality spectrum was fairly large.

    Then its a difference between duel and battlefield. If I had to enter an unarmored duel with swords, I would ask the guys at my corner to make sure its sharp as hell (I guess everyone would) Battlefield usage... I would place my mind on more important things.

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  16. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by Christian H. Tobler View Post
    Some care should also be taken to avoid over-stating the case: edge thickness, not just quality, affects sharpness. Surgical scalpels (and still more so microtomes) are thin for a reason, and no steel can be rendered as sharp as the mere molecules-thick edges possible with a material such as obsidian. Sharpness is a product of thickness, angle, and the quality/consistency of the edge. Factor in the effects of gross blade geometry and this becomes murkier still.
    Christian,
    If you want to bring in scalpels and obsidian blades and make it a very general discussion, then yes, of course edge shape matters. But I'm not talking about making a sword sharper by altering its edge shape, I'm talking about working with a given angle/shape, whatever is correct for that sword. Peter Johnsson has said that a 40-50 degree edge is generally correct for a medieval sword. Obviously some could have had more, some less, some weren't even meant to be sharp, whatever. Take any such average edge and hone it, and you can shave with it. Don't hone it, and you can't. That same edge can be very sharp, or not so, and it has nothing to do with how strong or fragile it is.

    I have an Albion Talhoffer with a 65+ degree edge (that's very obtuse!) that I have honed to shaving sharpness without altering the shape of it one iota.

    Now why would a medieval person not hone it? Did they not know how? Were they too busy? You're right, our knowledge here is murky, so we are forced to make assumptions based on experimentation. But here is where knowing how to sharpen and hone an edge and working with such edges can be a big plus. If you don't know how to do it and are forced to deal with whatever "factory" edge, then you're working with very limited data.

    You're also right that cross section plays a big role in cutting ability. Just being sharp isn't enough.


    Quote Originally Posted by Christian H. Tobler View Post
    Swords of varying sharpness were doubtless used in the late Middle Ages. Some survivals have evidence of quite keen edges while others are so dull that they must have either never been particularly sharp or were purposefully blunted later in their history. I've handled a number of each.
    I'm sure there were swords that weren't very sharp, even those meant to cut (and of course some sword designs had no need to be sharp and weren't made to be). We know there were swords that weren't very good, and so why not dull too? Even today, not every soldier takes care of his or her weapons as they should, or equips them with everything available to help complete the mission. Some have particular beliefs, some just don't know enough. Why should that have been different in period?
    Last edited by Michael Edelson; 03-28-2012 at 05:07 AM.

  17. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post
    Thomas,

    If you want to limit yourself to cutting to the head, the difference between razor sharp and not that sharp become less significant, but anything involving clothing changes that. A lot. Don't take my word for it, experiment.
    Hi Mike,

    I know the difference - I just say that when it boils down to practical use, the overall end-of-day impact of sword-sharpness on one warrior going home on his own legs or not was obviously not significant enough, otherwise all blades would have been sharpened to maximum degree.

    Maybe it was even disadvantageous. Nowadays we can only play isolated games with sharps that might (well certainly do) leave out critical factors that have been experienced by sword-users that had the big picture.

    And still... for a duel without armor (thats enough isolated game for me) I still would want a freaking bloody sharp edge

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  18. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by T. Stoeppler View Post
    I know the difference - I just say that when it boils down to practical use, the overall end-of-day impact of sword-sharpness on one warrior going home on his own legs or not was obviously not significant enough, otherwise all blades would have been sharpened to maximum degree.
    How do you know they weren't?

    There are two issues here...edge shape and degree of honing. We can make all kinds of educated guesses about edge shape because edge shapes survive, and edge shape has an effect on edge strength. Honing does not survive, nor does it have an effect on edge strength.

  19. #44
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    I've held a sharp, 10th c sword that was for all practical purposes the same blade as the one in the 18th c basekthilt next to it. Both of them where sharp; both could have the edge grabbed, etc. Both would cut just fine with a proper combination of percussion and draw. Neither could you shave with.

    We need to remember that there are multiple factors in how sharp you can make a sword. Edge geometry, edge hardness and honing being the top three. However, the first two are what let you KEEP that edge when it starts hitting hard targets. That is particularly important to remember, since our replicas look like medieval swords, they are not necessarily made like them; nor do we tend to make a sharps hit hard targets.

    Here is what we *do* know:

    1. The texts we have are specific that the swords are not razor sharp;

    2. The edge geometry *does* tell us what sort of edge was generally favored on a particular type of sword, and it does not favor a razor sharp sword; as scholars like Oakeshott, Blair, Boccia, Edge, etc have discussed;

    3. Blade hardness also dictates what sort of edge you can get, and medieval swords are relatively *soft* - notably softer than many replicas. Some medieval swords are as hard as modern counterparts; many are far softer than any of us would be happy with. Scholars have again presented these findings at length, from professional scholars like Allan Williams, to scholar-swordmakers such as Peter Johnson and Craig Johnson. An Albion Brescia looks and handles like the original; it is not made of the same steel.

    4. In what we do know of formal training, we have no evidence of training to cut through targets, but plenty for pell work - *striking* a hard target.

    5. When steel blades encounter each other or other hard surfaces - ie armour - very well-honed blades, a) do nothing additional to pierce armour and b) swiftly dull and chip. That has been demonstrated in clear examples and experimentation, both within our community and the archaeological one.

    6. As a point of comparison, it is interesting to note that tachi - Japanese battlefield swords - are often not as sharp or hard as Edo-era katana, and I've read interviews with instructors of at least two koyu that maintain that swords used on the battlefield, against armour, should not be made as hard or sharp. Now we know that both cultures try to fight where the armour is NOT, but one still assumes that armour, weapon hafts, etc will get struck in the confusion of battle.

    So, the question correct question is "we see no clear evidence, and direct evidence to the contrary, that medieval European swords were razor sharp. What does that tell us about their assumptions about combat?"

    I would also argue that modern test-cutting experience is largely irrelevant in this instance, because as was said, tatami and bamboo are not flesh and bone, and we already know that the modern interest in test-cutting and cutting competition has affected many things, up to and including blades with geometries that don't match historical swords, which themselves had gone through an evolution during a period of several hundred years where armour was no longer a factor.

    Again, I'm not saying that these weapons were dull, or that there wasn't a fair bit of variance, but the evidence we have and the experience of metalurgists and swordmakers today, makes it pretty clear that these are not razor sharp weapons, nor is there a need for them to be in combat.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Edelson View Post
    How do you know they weren't?
    Again, wrong question. Based on what we do know, what would make one assume that they were? Even your honing question is answered by Vadi, who says to make only the last hands-breadth very sharp.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  21. #46
    Greg,

    This is very hard to explain, particularly when talking to those who are not sword sharpeners and don't know what goes into making a sword "razor" sharp. I don't mean any disrespect at all, sword sharpening is not exactly a popular hobby and don't know too many people who know how to do it. I sorta stumbled into it out of necessity. Anyway, there are natural assumptions that are very hard to talk someone out of, such as "sharper edge equals weaker edge" and "razor sharp edge requires a certain edge shape." I don't blame anyone for not undestanding this. I didn't either, until I learned to do it. You really can't, not without doing it a bunch of times and seeing the results with many different types of edges.

    Let me try again to explain. Give me any medieval cutting sword with what you consider to be a historically correct decently sharp edge, any sword, any edge shape and 10 minutes later, I will return that sword to you, same edge, same exact edge profile, but you will be able to shave with it. The only visible difference will be a tiny 1-2mm shiny line along the very edge, where the steel was polished to microscopic perfection. I can do it in about 40 minutes with hand tools. The edge will have the same strength, the same durability, but it will go through linen like a hot knife through butter.

    My knowledge doesn't come merely from experimenting with modern swords. I've looked very closey at the edges of many historic swords with a sharperner's eye. I wasn't allowed to take pics of most of the swords I handled, but here is a sword from the Met:



    See that shiny line along the edge? You can see it where the light catches it on the top left. That same shiny line exists along the entire edge on both sides but you can only see it when light hits it. That's the polishing I'm talking about. This sword was clearly sharp as all hell, and designed to cut and cut well. Yet if you took it out of the glass, it probably wouldn't be all that sharp since honing doesn't last. Because it makes the edge plane smooth (on a microscopic level), the slightest oxidation will kill it. I have swords that go from shaving sharp back to normal in just a few months hanging on a wall or sitting in a scabbard. What chance do antiques have to maintain such an edge?

    Near the cross in this same sword, the edge bevel become crisper:



    My theory on this is that this part of the sword was not subject to repeated honings, which over time would smooth out the bevel (especially with flexible belts or the bow-like instrument I mention below). From the shape of that edge bevel, it was ground on by a stone wheel.

    Here is another Met sword with the same shiny line, here visible in the bottom right:



    These shiny lines are usually more visible (and easier to photograph) near the point because the edge bevel usually becomes more obtuse and so more of the edge is polished if you approach it with the same angle as the rest of the sword, though with the naked eye, you can see it along the entire edge. That's one clue that the techniques they used to sharpen these things were not that different (probably much better!) from the techniques I use. I get the same results on my swords.

    Also, another thing that sharpening experience has taught me is that if a sword is very soft, it is very easy to sharpen, but the edge doesn't last long. I had a sword once that was not heat treated very well or at all. Very soft. In 5 minutes with hand tools it was the sharpest sword I've ever seen in my life. Not only could I shave with it, I could do so without shaving cream. The edge lasted only 10 tatami mats or so, but considering how easy it was to restore, well, let's just say I'm sorry I ever sent it back to be "repaired."

    Someone a while back posted an image from a medieval manuscript of two medieval crafstmen working on a sword that was lying on some sort of bench. They were running what looked like a small bow over it (if someone can find this image, please post it! I've been looking for it for ages). There are three posibilities here, they were either honing the edges, polishing the blade, or both. They had tools (like that bow thing) that we don't have today, and I'm sure they knew 100 times more than I do about how to get a sword to a proper sharpness. I hope I've managed to explain it better this time.
    Last edited by Michael Edelson; 03-29-2012 at 04:40 AM.

  22. #47
    In my mind, this helps explain why the historic term we often come across is "sword-polisher" and not "sword-sharpener"!

    Keith

  23. #48
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    I've sharpened my chef knives a hundred times at least, and they are not cheap steel. Fine polished edges work well, but don't last if I don't use them for a month or more. Same problem you mention. They'll still cut but not with the same joy.

    My woodworking chisels and plane blades are razor sharp fair to good quality steel, likely comparable to most production swords. I find the plane blades similar to my Atrim but the chisels are way harder. Of necessity they must be kept razor sharp as I only work in hardwood. Finely polished edges give a great final cut but don't plow through thirty mortices without a rework. They just don't last.

    My leather working knives are the sharpest tools I own. They are absolutely useless without a razor edge because they cannot be guided accurately and drift off the line. I guarantee you my skiving knife, in particular is better steel than any modern reproduction sword, except perhaps something Peter Johnsson might make on a lark. If I hit a hard inclusion in the leather, it chips, requiring regrinding, polishing and honing. And many, many bad words uttered.

    I do not believe medieval men were so foolish as to waste time and resources constantly taking blade edges to that level of sharpness for weapons of war. The edge is too easily damaged.

    Finally that "bow" thing you mention is a push stone or strop. Its a handle much like a modern push knife or draw knife used to rough plane wood. A spokeshave is a smaller version of the tool. The handle allows a polisher to bear down on the blade with various stones or hones with a long pushing stroke like using a wood plane. Make yourself one and get away from rubbing little circles with a waterstone - for your western blades. Japanese blades need those little shiny circles to look properly polished.

    Observations from a different perspective...
    Kel Rekuta
    Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
    Toronto, Canada

    "il a grant difference entre preu home et preudomme",
    (St.) Louis IX, called 'the Pious" by his people

  24. #49
    I held one 16th century Langes Messer in the Royal Armouries that obviously had been razor sharp - very light, thin edge.

    Most of the interesting originals I ever handled had fairly good cutting edges, visible traces of sharpening and honing around the tips, and one (a Katzbalger-like sword) was really sharp from tip to hilt.

    Then, the curator told me some of the pieces had been sharpened by their collectors prior to being handed over to the museum so its hard to say wether the blade was intended to be like this.

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  25. #50
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Suburban Chicago area
    Posts
    3,595
    Mike,

    I appreciate the post and pictures - I was following you. But see Kel's post, as he rather succinctly made my point for my. These various edge treatments are interesting, but fragile, and swiftly so, particularly if the edge geometry is designed for something else. Otherwise, there would be little point in having so many different blade forms, and we wouldn't see a constant introduction of new shapes and forms in the 14th and 15th centuries.

    We know that fabric armours like jacks were considered all but "sword proof" in the cut; not that you might not cut through the fabric, but that you are not going to cut through it and injure the man. Then you add jack chains, a brigadine, etc., and the sword is going to encounter other hard objects, besides other weapons. As Kel said, it simply won't maintain that edge for long, but it doesn't *need* to be that sharp. It needs to be "sharp enough".
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

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