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Thread: Cult of the Small-Sword

  1. #76
    Absolutely stunning sword, John! Now that's one beautiful piece...
    Sometime soon I'll be putting up pictures and stats of my more original posessions, a spanish smallsword with the aesthetics of a rapier, military piece, dated to the war of spanish succession. It was actually found by my grandfather in the land he owned in the Maestrat... but that's a long story.
    Hoch der kaiser!

  2. #77
    Originally posted by John Oliver
    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.
    I've been looking at that sword, as well as many others on Mr. Long's site. As much as I would love to pick up a sword in that style or similar, it is way out of my price range. Some of the smallswords i've looked at are also quite expensive.

    Congrats on your latest edition! Looks great!

  3. #78
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    Hi again chaps,

    Friday the 13th and I'm working:-(

    Fingers crossed that there isn't anything too major that goes wrong...

    Re: My latest acquisition - thanks guys.

    I'm reasonably happy with it - well tempered blade (although quite soft in the point) - very good quality all steel hilt (amazing how much work it would have taken to make this hilt by hand and the scabbard is in reasonable condition too - so overall I think a nice package - and for about US$ 350 I've probably done okay considering this is a Victorian antique and I purchased through a dealer...

    Re: that rapier - I am *extremely* tempted - even at that price - an original rapier - preferably English - this is something I've been after for a while - and this one is a nice Charles I piece (from before he had his head cut off...)

    The price thing is a funny one I think - at nearly 2000 pounds that rapier is (I believe) much better value than the horrendously overpriced Jap swords I've spent the last few years collecting (and am now, having come to my senses, getting out of...

    (At the end of the day, there is NO DOUBT that the japs had sophisticated metallurgy but WHAT would you rather have? A large heavy 'chopper' with possibly superior metallurgy or the incredibly; light, responsive, super-fast, efficient (and deadly) European smallsword? From my perspective (now) this is a no-brainer... Even the myth of 'superior metallurgy' that the rapid Niphontophiles propogate comes terribly unstuck when you consider that equally sophisticated pattern welding of blades was being done by our Celtic and Germanic ancestors 500 years or so before the japs even thought of it - and for the same reasons - to achieve edge hardness and a softer temper to the body of the blade...)

    Still - we live and learn There are far too many collectors of Nihonto with more money than sense who are paying horrendously exorbitant prices for their jap swords - and in comparison a good quality/condition European smallsword or rapier is dead *cheap* (I'm not saying 'cheap' to everyday working chaps like myself but DEFINITELY 'cheap' when compared with the price of a reasonable koto katana for example...)

    NOT sure why I digressed so much there - but then again, maybe this is a good analysis of why, for *me* personally, the smallsword represents a much better area of sword collecting to be in - and CERTAINLY one that is much better value for money for a chap without unlimited financial resources...

    Bryan - I don't know what to advise you to do there - I bought my first three smallswords (a cut steel hilter, a silver hilter and my latest - the cut steel hilted court sword pictured in this thread) from Long's - and had to pay dealer pricing... Whilst I know I paid top dollar I also believe I got good quality pieces - if you have the patience though I'm sure you could pick up a few good pieces on Ebay - but having said that you *do* need to exercise EXTREME CAUTION when it comes to Ebay and who you do/don't do business with...

    Okay - massive post there - sorry about that chaps - but hopefully a few bits and pieces of useful info there...

    BTW - TOM: You'll be utterly shocked and horrified - but I have FOUND a type of glue SUITABLE for stabilising the components of a smallsword hilt - with a tensile strength in the order of 3700 PSI (pounds of force per square inch) - I think that normal steel is less than that from memory (?) - so theoretically, you could use this glue on the hilt of a sword and it would be as serviceable as the day it was made (yes - I'm being LAZY - I should be packing the hilt the traditional way - but I think I'm becoming less and less patient as I get older...

    John.

  4. #79
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    PS...:-)

    PS...

    As usual - I forgot something and remembered JUST after hitting the submit button

    MICHAEL: Please DO post pictures asap - would LOVE to see your Spanish smallsword - I think I know the type of weapon you mean - something a bit like this: (?)

    http://www.michaeldlong.com/ko-kat/E...s/S7/97250.htm

    Style of a rapier but dimensions more typical to a smallsword...

    John.

  5. #80
    Right, now...

    This smallsword has the aesthetics of a rapier, and the gavilanes form a grip that is comfortable to hold like a rapier, with very wide and comfortable openings for the first two fingers. The blade is flat, double edged, and the last third of the blade shows signs of sharpening (and it still, actually, retains some edge).
    Nevertheless, its weight is between 550 and 600 grams, it measures 92 centimeters in total and the blade is 75 centimeters long. The point of balance is very near the hilt.

    Here are some pictures...

    [img=http://img500.imageshack.us/img500/1663/smallsword13lk.th.jpg]

    [img=http://img372.imageshack.us/img372/6076/smallsword20ss.th.jpg]

    [img=http://img372.imageshack.us/img372/6531/smallsword34pc.th.jpg]

    [img=http://img372.imageshack.us/img372/5331/smallsword40pw.th.jpg]

    It's in terrible shape, I know, but that's how it was found.

    Any thoughts you chaps?
    Hoch der kaiser!

  6. #81
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    Hi Michael,

    Certainly my feeling is that its very much a rapier - the sort of thing still being used in Spain/Mexico/etc. well into the C19th - I would characterise it as being rough work however...

    To tell you the truth I'm not sure I can say much more - but I do think we should get David and Tom on the case here as well - two or three heads are definitely better than one

    John.

  7. #82
    Well, if we look at the history of the rapier in Spain, we may observe that the espada ropera of the 17th century turned into the espadín -- the spanish word for smallsword, nevertheless, it retained most of the features of the spanish rapier, changing mostly in weight, balance and length, and in those aspects being technically a smallsword. If one reads Brea's early 19th century manual, "Destreza del espadín", it combines elements of the Spanish "Verdadera Destreza" school of rapier with elements of the French Smallsword school and the Italian school.
    This probably reflected the changes in the weapon, as its faster fencing style adopted short lunges in its fight formerly dominated by well-measured circular steps (compases). Elements of retained rapier-play would, for instance, involve the tip cut to the forehead ("estramazón") so typical and invariably mentionned by the French masters who treated how to deal with the spaniards (see Liancour and Angelo) is also made possible by the light edge towards the end.

    Therefore... rapier or smallsword? Probably, neither... My guess it is to be classified as a hybrid of the two that survived for a great amount of time in that country alone, and best called by its original name, "espadín" .
    Hoch der kaiser!

  8. #83
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    Hi again Michael!

    Call me stubborn - call me recalcitrant even (just *love* that word - one of those you just don't get to USE in everyday conversation! ) - anyway, I *still* feel the urge to persist in calling it a rapier - just as Aylward himself did (he refers to these smallsword sized rapiers that continued to be used well into the C19th in Spain/its colonies - and my instincts tell me this sword is one of those...

    The only thing that makes me feel less than 100% confident is the absence of that typical 'cup' guard - the guard on this sword is much 'shallower' if you will...

    Other than that my instincts tell me this is one of the ones either made/used in one of the colonies at some stage during the C19th or a 'cheap' job made/used in Spain itself during the C19th...

    I could be totally wrong here - but this is where my instincts are pointing me at this point in time...

    For what its worth

    John.

    PS Talking about rapiers - that one at Long's DEFINITELY has my eye...

  9. #84
    In that case, it would surely have been in use in the Iberian peninsula, as it was found in the region of the Maestrat, dry lands near the eastern coast of Spain.
    Your reference to the 19th century, the "cheap job" as you say, and its having been found in that region might lead to think that it was carried into the Carlist wars, particularly violent in that region and period, and which didn't necessarily pit regular forces against each other. The finding of old rifle barrels around there might reinforce this theory.
    Hoch der kaiser!

  10. #85
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    Michael,

    To coin a phrase (no pun intended ) I think you might just be on the money...

    Yes - totally plausible/feasible - and certainly great fun to hypothesize about - as with all such wonderfully collectible pieces of history we are left wishing to ourselves, "...if only you could speak"

    Then again, to a certain extent these pieces *can* and do - a little bit of detective work - a little bit of study - and a little bit of intuition - and before long you really *do* end up getting quite a bit of information out of each and every antique sword I think...

    I have to admit it though, the rapier and the smallsword have me TOTALLY addicted - after 25 years of sword/weapon collecting I'm really scratching my head and wondering WHY I never got into this area of collecting years ago - it really *is* the final stage in the evolution of the European sword - the pièce de résistance...

    John.

  11. #86
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    Hi all!

    I'll hazard a guess that, maybe, this example was produced mid to late 19th century in the "old style". (Perhaps even a home made job.) Maybe used to practice fencing techniques of old. It seems to carry some elements of the 19th century (shallow cup, pommel much like that on period fencing foils, grip with heavy wire wrap and furrules, and, of course, the sylized knuckle guard of simple twist design) in its design and manufacture. I am not sure what to make of the welded joints at the cup and blade...perhaps, it was made this way or simply reinforced years later...that welding throws me off. How long is the blade (perhaps I missed the measurement)?

    I do recall seeing that instruction was given in the small sword v. the rapier, but, probably, that dealt with the later rapiers that were, as has been noted here, scaled down quite a bit, though remaining a bit heavy so that the small sword could take advantage of its lightness and speed.

    The small sword was found in Spain at the royal court, of course, as can be seen in portraits of royals and nobles. Of course, the rapier was a cultural icon and as such persisted throughout the 18th century and even into the 19th century.

    Interesting.
    Tom Donoho

  12. #87
    Tom:

    The blade is 29.5 inches long, and the whole sword is about 36 inches in length.

    By the way, I've just bought a replica smallsword which I'll have to wear in some months for historical re-creation, and I was wondering if you could help me as to the belt/baldric to wear -- the year is1735, and my smallsword has a button protrusion at the throat of the scabbard. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Hoch der kaiser!

  13. #88
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    At this period, the SS was worn suspended from slings or chains affixed to the locket, middle band and belt or "clasp" for the band of the breeches. Also, it could be worn with the "tube" arrangement...essentially, a tube was affixed to the straps and the scabbard was thrust through the tube with the stud catching to secure it within. I believe the 45 degree angle was more or less prominent at this time. Also, there was a craze for the sword to be thrust through the pocket or worn tucked high under the pleats in the skirt of the coat towards the back. A general rule of thumb is that the wearing of the SS gradually moved toward the front of the body at a more vertical position as the century progressed, probably to allow for full display of the richness of the hilt, which seems to have reached its zenith with the SS as worn at the court of Louis XVI...fine russet and gilt hilts reverting to substantial pas d'anes with butterfly shells (North shows a few of these masterpieces in his works...while the English brought the cut steel hilt to its most elegant form during this period, the French did likewise with the russet and gilt hilts where they had refined the treatment that was not as good in the earlier swords.) These are generalizations, and as with matters of fashion, there were exceptions to the rules...and the military's use of the SS, of course, had its own conventions. (Also, if you can get a good piece of wide silk ribbon, it would not be inappropriate to "wrap the hilt".)

    Here is a link to a nice site...navigate for access to samples of actual period dress and portraiture...also, good articles to be found in matters of wigs and things like Washington's inaugaral suit, etc., as well as links to books available on period dress.

    http://www.costumes.org/history/100p...hlinks.htm#Men's%20Dress

    What do you think about my position on your rapier...seem plausible to you?
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 01-17-2006 at 09:56 AM.
    Tom Donoho

  14. #89
    It is most possibly so. I'm afraid its origins are quite obscure, so your guess is as good as mine.
    Hoch der kaiser!

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    Blade treatments and styles...

    Another interesting aspect to collecting period small-swords is the treatment given to the blades.

    Blades can be found with etched decoration, engraved motifs and bluing and gilding. The application of these treatments can, to a degree, help date the sword. Simple enraved splays on blued and gilt blades are generally found on the later small swords as well as fine, deep etchings. Earlier sword blades can be found with etched decoration (I have one c. 1740 that is etched out to the point in geometric design, with remnants of bluing, too), not so deep as the later examples, and even inlaid brass or copper wire. Some blades can be found with pierced motifs (on the earlier swords fitted with cut down rapier blades). Also, blades can be found that have been "blackened" with the japanned treatment en suite with the hilt. And, of course, the small sword blade was not (contrary to common belief) always the hollow ground type. Blades are found that are hollow ground, flat, oval, hexegonal, diamond, and even single edged. Also, combinations like the oval forte becoming hexogonal the rest of the blade (one of the prettiest in my opinion). Earlier small swords can be found with quite substantial shearing blades...the later ones found with very slender needle-like blades. And, of course, the colichemarde.

    I think that blades found on small swords is just one more reason the collecting of these is so fascinating.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 01-21-2006 at 03:09 PM.
    Tom Donoho

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    Hello Tom,
    If you'd be willing to say more about means of suspension & dates I'd really appreciate it.
    I got my initial ideas from A.V.B.Norman & had concluded that the double chain suspension was a phenomenon of the 1750's on & that prior to that time the smallsword was carried in a frog ( Hogarth shows this). I don't think a baldric is appropriate for the smallsword except at a late date ( I think Napoleon Bonaparte is shown with one) but I'd just love to know more.
    Thanks for that great costume link- what a jewell...

  17. #92
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    Hi Richard!

    I'm talking in general terms here...give or take a few years. But I do recall in an old text seeing the clip type suspension mentioned with a SS c. 1740. I do agree that the baldric was generally not in use by civilians in the 18th century for the SS but did find its use via the military...especially, as you note, late in the century as with the portrait of the emperor in his red velvet consul dress (I think that is the one you are referencing) where he wears a neo-classical SS in vertical fashion. Early SS scabbards (c. 1720-40) often have only a hook attached to the locket, no carrying rings at all...but this was usually worn via the tube attachment at and angle rather than a vertical frog attachment, thus the use of the long hook to sit the scabbard securely in the tube. Of course, some SS scabbards come with carring rings and a stud, so they could hhave been carried either way. Also, SS belts were worn either over or under the waist coat at various times...and, as I mentioned, there was that craze of thrusting it through the pocket! As an article of intimate dress, the SS was, no doubt, subject to some fashion statements as to the way it was carried and shown off, even incorporating individual fancies I suspect.

    By the way: I mentioned to John that the movie "Clarissa" (a British production starring Sean Bean) is well worth a look for its commentary on mid 18th century society and manners AND for its attention paid to the SS...there are many scenes where it crops up including street scenes and an extended SS practice session between gentlemen who are armed with SSs with flat blades...they are working up a good enough sweat but then get into an argument and it really gets serious and the scene shows that some took the role of the SS seriously as a very effective weapon. Also, the costuming is pretty accurate it seems...looks to have been well researched...I believe the swords are worn via belt and slings.

    Hope this helps a bit.
    Tom Donoho

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    Dear all,

    though I have not been taking part in your discussion on the smallswords intensively, following it was very interesting and given the topic I thought that maybe you will appreciate the following photo. It depicts one of the carriers used for a smallsword that has a 2-ring scabbard. The carriers mostly are made of steel but I have also seen them in brass.

    Best,

    Frank
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Non soli cedit!

  19. #94
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    Thanks, Frank!
    Tom Donoho

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    Damn

    All sorts of interesting stuff going on here and my first few night shifts have been so busy I haven't had the chance to reply...:-(

    LOVE the smallsword suspension system Frank - MUST buy one of these for my Louis XVIth cut steel hilter one of these days...

    Re: that film - I'm going to do a search on Amazon to see if I can get it Tom - BUT, here's a question for you/anyone else:

    WHAT films have you seen/would you recommend in terms of C18th smallsword action and accuracy/attention to detail re: the swords and swordplay specifically but more generally the period itself? Someone may have already compiled such a list but if they haven't maybe its time they did?

    What else? Tom - bad news - that lovely 1630's English rapier Long's had has ALREADY been sold:-( I was seriously thinking about trying to raise the 2000 pounds but alas, it was not to be (I still have 12,000 dollars worth of Japanese swords to get rid of so that I can use the money to further my smallsword collecting!:-(

    Oh well - another long and buy nightshift ahead I guess but before things got too hectic at least I've finally managed to get a post off to this thread...

    John.

  21. #96
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    John:

    I can think of a few (some typical Hollywwod stuff, others British productions from the studios there...both kinds giving better than average attention to period details) dealing with the 18th and later 17th centuries:

    Sariband for Lovers, a British production of the late 40s with Stewart Granger...not his usual sword play stuff but more mental...good plot revolving around the man who would become King George I and the machinations at his court while he was elector in Germany...Granger plays Count Koingsmark (ring a bell), I believe...costuming is pretty good...small sword use is limited to a scene in a darkened room with emphasis on close up face shots of fear, not knowing when the attack would come in the dark, a quick clash of steel and a blood curdling scream.

    Frenchman's Creek, a Hollywood piece with Basil Rathbone as a devious lord spending time in the country with the gentry...pretty good costuming of the period of King Charles II with men in full wigs and full bloomers...of interest, they gather for dinner before heading out in pursuit of pirates and the gentry are armed with late period rapiers but 1 or 2 early period small swords are in evidence...that is a nice touch for this "transition" period.

    Barry Lyndon...I think we all know this one...some inaccuracies with costuming but generally very pleasing to the eye. Covers the continental wars through the American Revolution.

    Dangerous Liaisons...the costuming and atmosphere bespeaks the decadence of the nobility with the revolution around the corner...the opening scene is wonderful as servants dress the viscount...strapping on a nice late 18th century SS to finish it off. Pretty good duel at the end...John Malkovich can hold his own in period films, of course, but Keanu Reeves looks out of place, I think.

    Tom Jones...with Albert Finney...not much swordplay but the humor revolving around mannerisms and the squire (trying to "live up to the Joneses", dogs running all over the place, etc) is pretty good. (Jospeh Andrews came along as a kind of sequel in the late 70s...plot is kind of strange but I don't think I have seen any wigs to equal the towering ones worn by the fops...Ann Margaret as "Lady Booby"...need I say more?)

    These are a few of the better ones from a costuming/cinematography standpoint. What do you guys like?
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 01-25-2006 at 10:08 AM.
    Tom Donoho

  22. #97
    Originally posted by T. Donoho

    Barry Lyndon...I think we all know this one...some inaccuracies with costuming but generally very pleasing to the eye. Covers the continental wars through the American Revolution.
    I personally am not exceedingly fond of the Barry Lyndon swordfight, at one moment the fop makes a full flip (not a demy-volte or volte... a flip which would get you stabbed halfway through, and dodges nothing), and when Barry (or should I say Redmond?) performs that (very nice) disarm, he thrusts into the adversary's flank excessively, which reveals that his sword is capped and very flexible.

    Now although it's not 18th century french-school smallsword (a somewhat italianated style if you ask me -- see Liancour), "The Duellists" does good justice to the weapon and reveals how deadly and quick it can be. No wasting time there -- it's a matter of split seconds for one to be run through!

    Also, in the new "Le Bossu", I believe Lagardere wields an early smallsword of sorts...
    Hoch der kaiser!

  23. #98
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    The Duellists is great...was discussed at another thread.

    I was looking at things more from a period reference rather than exclusively the SS. I always perceived the encounter b/w Redmond and the lord as a test match rather than a duel since there are prominent buttons on the swords...I looked at it as if they were sparring to feel the situation out...with the lord declaring after he could not match Redmond that he would pay him that day. Just my take on it though.

    Yes. The Duellists does clarify between fencing and duelling, where duelling was concerned with getting in the disabling or fatal thrust, which the SS is eminently designed for, of course. Two different things altogether. And I recall a passage by Aylward (I think) that when men were in their bottles or drew in the heat of the moment all academics generally were lost.

    Any others you like?
    Tom Donoho

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    Thanks for that chaps!

    Think I might have to cut and paste this info into a list I can print out and start checking out the local video libraries...

    (If all else fails I can always *buy* some of them I guess )

    It never ceases to amaze me how much time/study has been devoted to the samurai sword and samurai life - whether it be books or movies/DVDs - many of the authors/directors being Westerners themselves - but when it comes to the smallsword - a weapon that should rightfully hold the same position/status in the West as the Samurai sword does in Japan - there really is *surprisingly* little either written or in film...

    I suppose I should not be surprised by this phenomenon however - when I was living/teaching in Japan my students thought my (then) burning interest in Nihonto (Japanese sword collecting) was definitely bordering on the insane - they themselves had zero interest in *anything* to do with traditional Japanese culture - the majority of 'Nihontophiles' actually seem to be Westerners... It almost makes me wonder if there is a clique of fanatical smallsword collectors/officianados over there in Japan!

    At any rate, I may have come to the study/appreciation of the smallsword later than I could of (and perhaps should of!) but now that I HAVE I definitely intend to make up for lost time...

    I think I'd better start looking in earnest for that next acquisition to study and enjoy!

    John.

    PS To all the Aussies out there a belated HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY! I myself am presently recovering from the effects of my rather lethal home-brewed Belgian style 10% beer - a great way to celebrate our national day but a painful recovery process when you have to WORK the next day (especially a night shift:-( )..

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    Considerations regarding acquisitions...

    Hi all!

    Just thought I'd offer some comments about condition when considering an aquisition.

    Condition is, of course, very important when assigning a value to an antique...and an antique small-sword is no exception. But, on a practical note, mint examples are few and far between. I look for an overall healthy appearance to the complete sword (hilt, grip and blade). Age staining, surface rusting and a flaw or two are to be expected but I shy away from those items with overall pitting or damage to the grips (it is hard to restore the intricacies of the wire bound grip)...I look for examples that are sound an tight. Loose shells and grips can often be remedied with the use of wooden slivers driven firmly but ever so gently to amke up the space lost to age shrinkage. Blades, by their very nature, are expected to have suffered some...with this in mind (the working history of the sword, that is) there is nothing wrong with a blade that has undergone some sharpening but it should be contemporary to the period of the piece and nothing modern...this is easily ascertained when looking at the over all aging of the item including the patina which should cover the sharpened edges as well. I conserve rather than overwork an item...absolutely no harsh abrasives or chemical cleaners allowed...basically, just a good wash (with careful attention not to submerge the grip) in hot saopy water and a good rinse and finshing off with a light rub of linseed oil. This system lets the age of the item (its antique appearance) shine through and requires veryy little further attention. Scabbards where found, of course, are treated ever so carefully. It is always best to display the sword out of its scabbard so that the blade can be enjoyed. But a word of caution is in order: frequently where the blade has not been sheathed for long periods the wooden core and leather wrap of the scabbard will shrink when deprived of its blade...this can be remedied by storing the scabbard in a temperature controlled environment (no extremes of hot or cold...a comfortable room temperature seems to do) and insertinng the blade a couple of times a month for an overnight visit. Oh. The temperature requirement applies to wooden grips, too.

    Hope this helps...and I would love to hear your suggestions, too!
    Tom Donoho

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