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Thread: Cult of the Small-Sword

  1. #51
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    Ooops!

    I forgot, You're a day ahead of me.

    Happy (and blessed) New Year to you and all of our Australian friends!

    (Hope you get some nice finds or a good "sleeper" in the coming year. Still keeping my eyes peeled for a nice SS here in the states for you.)
    Tom Donoho

  2. #52
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    Smallswords were certainly both worn & used in combat in America until c.1780 & very likely beyond. It would be very interesting to me to better understand whether this is a conservative ( retardetierre') phenomenon, or whether the prevailing view of English use is valid. I believe Mr. Norman states that civilian wear of the smallsword was generally out of fashion at Bath by the 1760's & beyond that I am uncertain.
    Silver-hilted smallswords are a real in blessing, in that they're hallmarked. They don't " have the feeling of the 1750's" but are, by God, 1754. The quality & datability of these objects seems a powerful argument for their widespread use in Britain at the time.

  3. #53
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    I do like silver hilted small-swords, though I do not possess one (I have focused on iron, steel and brass/bronze hilts). I do admire them from good photos though...where their role as pieces of genuine artwork (the result of high craftsmanship) and commentary in applied arts (hilt form and decoration reflecting various periods of art and even architecture) is readily evident. When one considers the relative value of money of the time and the time and expense associated with the manufacture of many articles, including the small-sword, and that the manufacture of goods was done toward turning a profit, the subtantial number of these swords in existence suggest that, on a practical level, they did enjoy a good old life in England beyond being consigned to the wardrobe cabinet without further ado. Small-swords were worn by officers in England and American during the Napoleonic wars and War of 1812. They were the most common sword for American officers during the American Revolution given that they were already in the civilian wardrobe cabinet and easily pressed into service when the officers were commissioned (not like they went and manufactured or imported a whole lot of small-swords to America at the outbreak of hostilities...they already had them as an element of the wardrobe cabinet...not just expensive silver hilts produced for fancy dress occasions, though these were certainly brought into service, but more practical and affordable iron, brass or steel hilted ones produced as marketable articles of commerce for the more common man).
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 12-31-2005 at 05:24 PM.
    Tom Donoho

  4. #54
    Originally posted by T. Donoho

    Small-swords were worn by officers in England
    during the Napoleonic wars
    Really??? Do you have some evidence to support this?
    Celeriter nil crede

  5. #55
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    Anyone know if a complete Boulton pattern book of hilts is available?

    I've seen some of the loose leafs, but is a complete compilation available?

    Thanks!
    Tom Donoho

  6. #56
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    Tom,

    A lot of these sorts of manuscripts *are* still available through the Royal Armouries (I think I still have a list somewhere of what they have that is small sword related - and prices)...

    When I looked into getting some of these I think it worked out to about 20 or 30 US dollars (roughly) per manuscript...

    Re: Boultons - can't remember if they had the manuscript of the Boulton pattern book or not - but it would certainly be worthwhile for any *serious* student of the smallsword to have a copy...

    My understanding is that towards the end of the C18th most good 'gentleman's outfitters' as they were then known had either a complete or partial copy so that the gentleman purchasing a smallsword could select the hilt components/style of hilt he wanted...

    Wouldn't it be GREAT if we could just hop into the old time machine and go back to say, 1780, walk into a gentleman's outfitter of the day - and come out with a complete outfit including a super expensive gilt/russet hilted smallsword? (Or maybe even one of those gold/enamelled masterpieces with a stunningly decorated blue/gilt colichemarde blade?

    Oh well - nothing wrong with fantasizing occasionally

    BTW Tom - my NEW TOY has arrived in Perth!!!! With a bit of luck I will be taking delivery of my cut steel hilted Victorian English court sword some time this afternoon - CAN'T WAIT to knock off work and go and pick her up

    Might even manage a few quick pics tonight

    John.

  7. #57
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    PS...

    Tom - totally off topic - but I've just been going through Angelo's manuscript again ("The School of Fencing") - it really is the best practical guide to swordsmanship I have ever read - but its interesting how I completely missed that little section at the end on the first read (the section on using the smallsword against the broadsword/sabre and against the rapier/etc.)...

    Excellent stuff - practical and clearly illustrated/explained...

    I think if Norman and Aylward are THE books for the study of the smallsword itself then Angelo's book is THE guide to its use!

    Also - before I forget - Mr Richardson (sorry, don't know your first name? ) - you are quite right when you point out what a BLESSING these hallmarked silver hilted smallswords really are! Examples are on the web/net all the time that are either up for auction or sale through British/European dealers - and when a sword is labelled as (for example) an "English silver hilted smallsword, 1791" you can actually be 100% confident that that is the EXACT YEAR the sword was made in... (There are several such examples from the 1780s and 1790s for sale on Long's website right now: www.michaeldlong.com)

    Anyway - first day back at work - I suppose I'd better get back to the 1001 other things I have lined up for me to do...:-(

    John.

  8. #58
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    Yep.

    And steel, iron or brass/bronze hilts can be dated using the silver hilted examples since the non-silver hilts often followed the same fashion, just being made of non-silver (the pierced steel hilts come to mind...they are often almost exact counter parts to the pierced silver hilts) . So the silver hilts can serve to date the other hilts as well...I think this is alluded to in Aylward's book and the others.
    Tom Donoho

  9. #59
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    John:

    Today, I ran across a Victorian steel hilted SS being advertised as late 18th century. As you know, this happens quite often. I don't think deception is intended...I think the retailers are confusing them with the actual cut steel hilts of the late 18th century. But I have yet to run across a genuine late 18th century cut steel SS with the turned down shell guard...they all have oval guards as far as I have seen. Interesting to ponder why the English retained the cut steel hilt but changed the shell from an oval plate to a turned down one (maybe in imitation of the French brass or silver hilted examples of a few years earlier, perhaps, or out of comfort and convenience, allowing the sword to rest comfortably against the leg/hip when the change was made from a 45 degree angle to a vertical suspension, with the inner atrophied shell bent up and out of the way to boot)...but the result is a good one...a distinctly English SS of the Victorian era.
    Tom Donoho

  10. #60
    John:

    I am personally quite fond of Liancour's treatise, well illustrated, pleasant and easy enough to understand (although some terms do seem at first obscure), and if you get a copy with his "Ordre Methodique" at the end, you get plenty of good advice for masters, drills, &c. great for the amateur smallsword enthusiast, and interesting as well due to the early style with no circular parries, many oppositions of the hand...
    Nevertheless, I must agree, Angelo's treatise is by far the most complete, the most precise, and self-sufficient, in spite of one or two unfortunate defects such as no clarification on gripping the sword. I've purchased Jared Kirby's new edition of Angelo, along with the annotations by Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martínez, and, thus commented, the manual does approach perfection.

    I remain, Gentlemen, your humble servant,

    Michael E. Moss, fellow cultist of the Smallsword
    Hoch der kaiser!

  11. #61
    By the way,

    Has any one of you chaps attempted studying Zach Wylde's "English Master of Defense"? I find it a rather curious piece, and I don't really know what to think of it, half of the words he uses being of rather... dubious origins("Socoon" from French "Seconde", "Stockata" from Italian "Stocatta", "Enganuo" from Spanish "Engaño", as well a plethora of silly names such as "Super-fine pass" and "Feint Royal"...)
    Is his work a practical guide to Smallsword?
    Hoch der kaiser!

  12. #62
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    Originally posted by Michael E. Moss
    Has any one of you chaps attempted studying Zach Wylde's "English Master of Defense"?
    Better you ask on the Historical European Swordsmanship forum as it is there that matters pretaining to period manuals are discussed.
    You're certain to get responses from an audience of people who have studied (often quite thoroughly) this and other period manuals.
    How may I confuse you further?

  13. #63
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    Hi Michael,

    GREAT to have another smallsword devotee on board so to speak

    Having been a collector of all types of bladed weaponry for 25 years or more I am *amazed* that it took me so long to discover this incredible weapon

    Re: Your question: Don't know about Zach Wylde - but agree wholeheartedly that Liancour's treatise is also worthy of study - as is Hope's and several other period works...

    Having said that, I also feel that Angelo has come as close to perfect as we are ever likely to get I have the same edition of Angelo that you have and find that it gives me everything I need...

    Now - what else? (Its still the MORNING part of my day shift and NOT being a 'day person' I find it takes me a few hours for the grey cells to kick in

    Yes - Tom: in TOTAL agreement there: the uniquely English cut steel court sword of the Victorian era did (I believe) evolve exactly as you've posited. If you consider the changes in formal/court attire between the Georgian and Victorian eras (and of course the rather short reign of 'Silly Billy (William IV) you see that the atrophied inner shell DOES make perfect sense - because by the Victorian era court swords have become the last incarnation of the smallsword in England and are worn vertically (in almost all cases) in a frog at the side (the most part of which aforementioned frog being concealed by the tunic or coat).

    The same seems to be true for both diplomatic corps dress/civil service dress and court dress (it might be of interest to those on the list if you posted those URLS you sent me a while ago showing photographs of chaps wearing the court dress of the time).

    Re: ATROPHIED inner guards/shells:

    In the case of the UK/England specifically there are usually three ways that the problem of a sword's inner guard/shell wearing away at the uniform/coat and causing discomfort has been dealt with historically:

    1. The removal of material from the inner guard/shell (e.g. the 1796 heavy cavalry pattern sword).

    2. The modification of the inner guard/shell into a FOLDING ONE (e.g. the 1796 pattern infantry officer, the 1822 pattern, the 1845 pattern, etc.)

    3. Making the inner guard/shell much SMALLER (an 'atrophied' inner guard/shell). THIS is what was done in England with the court sword

    At any rate, I've rambled on enough...

    John.

  14. #64
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    PS: The QUESTION I forgot to ask:-)

    I *knew* I forgot something...

    Hi again all

    My new cut steel English court sword looks a lot like this:

    http://www.michaeldlong.com/ko-kat/E...s/S5/99539.htm

    (Apologies to all for not posting piccies yet - just too busy at the moment:-( )

    Just as Tom predicted, it turns out that the pommel capstan/nut has been made to LOOK like it is a peened over tang but it is in fact a THREADED TANG and the 'nut' screws down to tighten the hilt...

    HOWEVER - here is the problem - no matter how tight I make the nut there is an overall feeling of 'looseness' or 'sloppiness' that is less than satisfactory...

    The options I am considering:

    1. TRADITIONAL: just stuff the gripe/grip with lots of thin slivers of wood and then reassemble.

    2. Use some super glue to attach the one separate ferrule there is (the one between the grip and the quillion block) to stop the grip rotating (the ferrule doesn't rotate at all) and/or possibly even use the glue to attach all the hilt parts but NOT (obviously) to attach the blade - which would still be held in place by the pommel nut...

    THEN - address the slight looseness of the shell guard by making a new leather buffpiece for the hilt - to go between the guard and the shoulders of the blade (but around the tang).

    3. Is there a third option? (Other than doing nothing that is )

    Many thanks in advance to all...

    John.

  15. #65
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    Okay all,

    First attempt at packing the disassembled hilt properly a dismal failure - ready to try again and the weekend is nearly here (so hopefully there will be some TIME to try and do it properly )

    Help! (Tom? )

    Lets see what I've tried to organise thus far - I have a small vice attached to a proper workbench now - I have several pieces of good soft pine wood (hopefully suitable for making wedges/packing for the hilt) and I've also got the usual tools you'd find in any chap's back shed...

    the sword even loosely assembled still LOOKS great - just feels lousy in the hand - she's a lovely piece and this weekend will be my chance to get some pics as well - which I will post here...

    John.

  16. #66
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    Hi all!

    Yep. Court attire did influence the construction of hilts. If you look at old style court attire you will note the sword was worn at an angle, therefore, the hilt usually had an oval shell and this did not rest against the hip so there was no discomfort. But with new style court attire the sword is almost always of the downturned shell guard with the atrophied upturned inner shell, this in keeping with the new style requirement that the sword be worn diplomatic fashion in a vertical fashion where an oval shell would, no doubt, cause some discomfort. Of course, nothing is cut in stone and I have seen period photos showing new style court attire with the old style sword being worn. Of interest, I read somewhere that, as it was becoming a problem with gentlemen begging out of appearing at court based on the contention that they lacked court dress, the queen decided to stock some court dress to be loaned out for summons to court...seems like she caught on and, as usual, would not be refused. (Even Bismark is said to have remarked about her, "What a woman!" or something like that...one of the few who ever stood up to him and did not fear him in the least.)

    On rehilting:Bear in mind that packing the grip was a common practice with small-swords and the cut steel Victorian court swords I have were found to have pieces of deteriorated wood in the grips...they were easily repacked (bearing in mind Aylward's discussion of it that peening of the tang alone would not make the grip firm) and I have it down to an art at this point and they are tight as can be. With some trial and error you will get it, John. Just be patient and line up a few tools for it.

    Oh. Take a look at the thread about the sword cane started today. Probably, any SS collection should have one example of a sword stick...an early one like the one we discussed at that thread. John: If you can get Stein's book (see that thread) it would be well worth it and I know you will like it a lot!

    Ooops!

    Pardon my manners.

    WELCOME, MICHAEL!
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 01-05-2006 at 08:40 PM.
    Tom Donoho

  17. #67
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    Hi Tom!

    Thanks for that - yes - I will persevere and do my best...

    Re: swordsticks/sword canes - you've touched on a sore point there I'm afraid Tom - Australia is now the land of political correctness gone INSANE - it is ILLEGAL to have a sword cane in this country and illegal to try and import one - like so many other legitimate collectibles our government has decided that the most 'democratic' thing to do is simply ban them because they know better than the people they represent (and who they seem to have forgotten PAY THEIR WAGES:-( )

    Anyway - better not get too political here I guess - needless to say I would LOVE to have a good quality Victorian era swordstick in my collection - but it would have to be one that could be easily disassembled (I won't elaborate on that any further here for obvious reasons )

    It should be an interesting weekend for me - I'm going to work on your idea Tom - shaping many small wooden wedges (out of pine) and then packing each hilt component as it is added to the tang...

    John.

  18. #68
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    PS - New smallsword at Long's...

    PS,

    nearly forgot - there is a new smallsword listed on Long's website:

    http://www.michaeldlong.com/ko-kat/C.../E3/101971.htm

    Impressions/thoughts anyone?

    John.

  19. #69
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    John:

    On that SS at Long's: The hilt's casting looks to be pretty worn down. Finding a nice brass/bronze hilt that isn't too worn down is hard, I know, as years of rubbing and cleaning have taken a toll. But, in style, I do like the chinoisserie hilts. I saw one that employed a bamboo motif with the knuckle bow, quillon and pas d'anes formed as stylized bamboo...was a pretty little thing!
    Tom Donoho

  20. #70
    Thanks for the warm welcome you chaps.

    That's a pretty impressive colichemarde blade there. If there is something I object to it's the rather bulbous grip... looks good, but must ruin one's doigté in handling. Nevertheless, and to paraphrase the master, I'll leave that choice to the fashions.

    The chinoiserie motifs are nice, in their own style, although not my cup of tea.

    A very nice piece, I daresay.
    Hoch der kaiser!

  21. #71
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    Speaking of small-sword hilts...

    It should be noted that civilian small-swords generally had "smaller" hilts than those carried by officers. Some even tend to feel a little too small (and are wrongfully attributed as boys' swords...there is no dispute that children were often dressed as miniature adults, but attributing all smaller hilts to boys is not necessarily true) but we must remember that the civilian small-sword was meant to be unobtrusive, often weighing less than a pound. Those carried by officers, however, were often heavier and more "business-like" in manufacture. This seems to be especially true with brass/bronze hilts. A comparison of a civilian small-sword with one meant for an officer makes this quite apparent, as with a civilian brass-hilted Rococco example in comparison to a typical brass-hilt carried by an officer which would, generally speaking, be plainer with a larger more substantial blade and hilt (ref. North who has compared numerous small-swords in his work as a curator at the V & A). But being unobtrusive did not mean it was ineffective as the handling of any well designed civilian small-sword will show...it might be smaller in scale but still is suited for its purpose. Also, military motisf found on small-swords does not necessarily mean a sword was meant for an officer. Military motifs are found on civilian and officers' small-swords, the same as musical motifs or hunting themes may be found not just on civilian swords but on officers' small-swords as well. One must consider the whole package when coming to an assessment. This investigative approach is, in my opinion, one of the things that makes the study and collecting of period small-swords so interesting and so much fun.
    Tom Donoho

  22. #72
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    Hi Tom/Michael/etc.,

    FINALLY - thought I'd better get of my proverbial and take a couple of quick shots of my new baby

    Here is a closeup of the hilt...

    John.

    PS Excuse the rough and ready pics - its midnight here and I'm getting up to go to work in about 4 hours from now...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  23. #73
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    Here's an overall shot of sword and scabbard...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  24. #74
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    Chaps,

    Before I forget - LOOK at this...

    http://www.michaeldlong.com/ko-kat/A.../A1/102168.htm

    Nice English rapier this - I confess I am more than slightly tempted...

    To my way of thinking if one is a serious collector of the smallsword then at some stage he should try to acquire at least one example of the weapon the smallsword evolved from...

    John.

  25. #75
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    Very nice!

    Enjoy!
    Tom Donoho

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