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Thread: Sword Care & Conservation

  1. #1
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    Sword Care & Conservation

    If you have questions regarding the care and maintenance of antique swords, please read this first:

    Conserving Antique Swords

    Post on this thread if you have questions that are not addressed in the text of the article or if more specific detail is required.
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  2. #2

    "More Than Meets the Eye"

    I have been thinking for some time to give this 16th century sword a light cleaning and then conserving it with renaissance wax or an other consevator. I can see renaissance wax has been well debated on this forum in the past.



    The hilt still has its contemporary wooden grip but is missing its wire wrap. As a result of the above, the hilt moves and rub's against the fragile dry wooden grip when being studied/moved.
    I was hoping to get some help from the sword thinktank on the following:

    How should I clean this piece ?

    Should I have the grip re-warped ?
    If so, how and by whom ?

    What should I use to conserve it and how do I apply it to maximize its effect ?

    The blade has the following makers stamp:



    Can anyone help id the stamp ?
    Last edited by Arne S; 10-25-2007 at 05:08 PM.
    Arne

  3. #3
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    Arne isnt that Vika Bruk armory stamps?

    Personally i would leave rewrapping and just inject some wood preservative to save the wood
    “Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit.” Napoleon Bonaparte

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    I think it is not Vira bruk. Similar, but not exactly.
    But sword is from Scandinavia, probably. Denmark bought a lot of those in Germany and gave to the norwegian tribes.

  5. #5
    Hi Dom ! I agree with your minimalists restoration approach. Adopted !

    Ivan, I am impressed ! You are right. During the period of King Christian 4.(1577-1648). Arms was bought in Amsterdam and Hamburg and then shipped to Norway to arm an peasant army. The above Dussage/Dussack/Tessak is regarded as beeing one of the types imported to Norway during the period of C4. The peasant army at the time was organized using the old "Legds army" system from the Viking age. Each valley, Fjord, geographical area was organized into a militia.

    In Norway we call the Dussage/Dussack for Tessak. This type of Tessak we call an "A" type. The Norwegian Army museum has categorized the Tessak's used in Norway along the same typology used by Dr. Petersen's Viking sword typology and later copied by Ewart Oakeshott in his broader typology of European Swords.

    The first recorded shipment of Tessaks of this type arrived in the old Hansa town Bergen in 1598. The stamp on mine is believed to be from Southern Germany and from around 1560/80.
    I posted this type as the "A" Tessaks is typical for the area surrounding Kringlen in Norway. Where the Battle against George Sinclair stood 26 August 1612.

    It is this battle that is the origin of the term "Sinclair Saber" that this sabers misleadingly is sometimes called.

    http://www.laird.org.uk/Norway/Kringen.htm

    Ivan: The tribal system in Norway came to a end after the Battle at Stiklestad 29 July 1030. This was the battle in the Norwegian civil war where an army of Viking tribes Est. 7000 men strong stood against King Olaf's II, Est. 3500 men Christian Viking army. From July 29, 1030 Norway was regarded a Christian country.
    Last edited by Arne S; 05-15-2008 at 11:00 AM.
    Arne

  6. #6
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    Cleaning a Bullion Sword Knot?

    Hi All,

    I have an 1822 Pattern Royal Artillery Officer's sword with a bullion sword knot. The knot is in very good condition (no fraying or rot, unlike many you see), but the metallic surface has become very dirty with time. Sliding the little loop up the knot reveals the clean section of cord below (see pic), which gives an idea of how bright it once was. I may not be able to fully restore the original appearance, but has anyone successfully cleaned one of these kind of knots, and could pass on some tips?

    Thanks in advance,

    John
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    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  7. #7
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    I have tried several methods of cleaning damaged bullion knots that I could afford to ruin without destroying something complete or valuable. Most with poor results. I would suggest that you not use water or liquid cleaner in any way as it generally makes matters worse. Polish also damages the knot and gets stuck in the metal bullion or damages the cloth core causing color bleeding or deterioration. Your knot appears to be silver wire or silver wash over probably copper wire from the photo. These are easily damaged further by agressive cleaning attempts in my experience.

    The best way I have found is to clean these is with a soft clean toothbrush. This will get dirt, zinc or aluminum pest, old cleaning compounds, etc out of the bullion and brighten the metal wire slightly. It should not hurt the underlying cotton or wood or cardboard that supports the bullion. I would suggest leaving the tarnish as that is simply a consequence of age and is not unattractive when you come to grips with it. Some people polish silver and some perfer to let the black patina take over. It is a personal preference I suppose.



    I hope this is helpful.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Wheeler View Post
    I hope this is helpful.
    Indeed, George - in my experience, knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do! Thanks,

    John
    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  9. #9
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    Hi guys,
    I'm pretty new to non-Japanese swords and I have an old US m1902, I was wondering what you use to oil the blade up (Like Choji oil with nihonto) to protect it from rust.
    ************

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    Sword pommel nut & hilt removal...

    Comrades in arms !

    I was wanting to dismantle 3 British swords I recently purchased for some light 'restoration' (Intensive care !....)

    Does anyone have some hints as to the removal of the pommel nuts ?

    Would light tapping with a small hammer around the circumference of the pommel help to free up the threads ?....soaking inWD40 ???

    Further, are the treads generally clockwise tighten/anticlockwise loosen....ie: no sneaky reverse threads !!

    Any other tricks or hints on hilt removal ?

    Cheers
    Peter

    PS I've read the pros & cons of various levels of consevation vs restoration.......These swords aren't historic/rare pieces and whilst I agree many swords should be left well alone.....IMO these need some advanced TLC....as the grip wires are missing or bits hanging out and broken...I dont want to destroy whats left of the fishskin trying to tidy up/replace the gripwires or with general cleaning !
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    "Shoot straight you bastards and don't make a mess of it !"
    Lt. Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Bushveldt Carbineers, Australian soldier, poet & national hero, excecuted by firing squad, Boer War, 1902.

  11. #11
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    Peter,

    Can I ask why disassembly is on the table in the first place?
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

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    Open heart surgery for swords !

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark McMorrow View Post
    Peter,

    Can I ask why disassembly is on the table in the first place?
    Mark,

    well they are all in a sorry state....I should have studied the ebyss photos more carefully !....but they showed the swords in their best light . ..naturally ! ....from a distance !

    The 1897 levee has had all the etching polished out ...and the nickled hilt wire brushed back to bare metal.....but strangely the fish skin is all there but all the wire gone....(I only intend to replace the wire, clean bare metal up and 'R' wax it)

    The Rifle officers (almost a 'relic')blade is pitted all over, etching has been polished out and the steel hilt is rusty brown all over...fish skin grip is mostly there but wire wrap is broken in places....I'll leave blade as is ...replace wire and 'probably' leave brown rusty steel hilt alone....(after stabilising )..

    The 1845 levee (the only sword I really wanted) blade is pitted and has stablised black rust (almost like rifle blue/black !) brass hilt has
    thickish crusty oxidisation and fishskin shrunk and a bit missing (it actually looks like the wooden grip has swollen !) I think the brass hilt could be cleaned up fishkin soaked in olive oil (?) wooden grip carefully pared/sanded back down to fit skin and wire relaced....the blade... I might leave alone (but it looks pretty sad next to my spotless P1845 Thurkle !)

    Well... I think you are generally opposed to 'messing to much with history' ! but if you handled these... you might have second thoughts !!!

    What are your thoughts?

    Cheers
    Peter
    "Shoot straight you bastards and don't make a mess of it !"
    Lt. Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Bushveldt Carbineers, Australian soldier, poet & national hero, excecuted by firing squad, Boer War, 1902.

  13. #13
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    Hiborn Hamburger - Care of sword

    Found this booklet in the Wilkinson files left over from the 1920's when Wilkinson supplied them with US pattern swords.





    While searching for information on the firm, I came across this snippet!

    Swords? I make no comment!

    2007
    A major New Jersey military insignia supplier has agreed to pay more than $251,000 to settle federal charges alleging it provided thousands of cheap and defective medals, rank badges and other uniform insignia to the U.S. armed forces.
    The company, Hilborn-Hamburger Inc. of Passaic, was accused of substituting various cheaper plated metal for brass, and other less-expensive materials as part of more than $12 million worn of insignia items sold to the military since 1999.
    "This was just plain dishonest and deceptive," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said in announcing terms of the settlement today. "The men and women of our armed services who earn the honor to wear these insignia deserved better."
    The company provided insignia ranging from the coveted dolphin breast pins worn by U.S. submariners and the "eagle and globe" collar pins of the U.S. Marine Corps, to the special badges earned by U.S. Navy astronauts.
    Under the terms of the settlement, Hilborn-Hamburger disputed the allegations and did not admit liability. Attorneys for the company did not return calls for comment.

  14. #14
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    I remember that mess, Robert. The company was located a mere 30 minute car ride away. Its a shame, as the firm used to produce really nice stuff (in fact, I have my uncle's old Command-at-Sea badge and it's made by this company. It's absolutely gorgeous and 1/20th 10K gold).
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Hart View Post
    Indeed, George - in my experience, knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do! Thanks,

    John
    Cleaning Gold/Silver lace Sword Knots etc - Henry Wilkinson's Notebook 1848

    First wash in warm soapy water, then make a flour and water paste - put in the gold lace or knot and bake as a pie.


    Dress Regulations 1900 give the following:
    Gold trimmings and gold lace that has become slightly tarnished can be cleaned with a mixture of Cream of Tartar and dry bread rubbed up very fine, applied in a dry state, and brushed lightly with a clean soft brush.

  16. #16
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    So just how delicate/durable is the bluing commonly found on 18th Century swords? I will be cleaning some active rust off a blued and gilt blade (using the sharpened tip of an antler, as suggested in the conservation article) and don't want to risk loss of the decorative elements. Does the bluing sit on top of the steel, or is it a chemical dye of the steel itself?

  17. #17
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    Hi Mark,

    Can you show some closeups of the blade in question? purely fire bluing is very much on the surface, while the wonderful blue and gilt blades we see do etch into the blade's steel a little bit. Both are fragile in terms of any abrasives at all. Something I have been using for a couple of years now is a mild acid, probably more mild than Picreator's decorroder. That is an aerosal spray Liquid Wrench (also in small non-aerosal cans). I would go with cotton swabs, clp (or more agressive liquids) and spot work those areas unless it is big patches of rust. Pat/press/twist, as opposed to push/scrape with the swabs to not affect what bluing is left around small spots. Pencil and pen erasers are of different grits and can be used to grind down spots you may not be able to pick but softening rust and lifting is where its at. Cut up a hard plastic card or other (I cut up pill bottles and other things) for gentle broader surface scraping. Wood works as well, even the edge of a coin can do service but most of all, loosen just the rusty parts with solvent of a variety that cuts rust.

    Beware previous restorers that may ink gildng etchings and then cover it with cold bluing, those literally wipe off once softened.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; Pictures Pictures

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    Thanks, Glen. Here's a shot of the challenge ahead of me. It's the bluing that surrounds the areas of corrosion that concern me.
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    Pretty much what I expected to see. There are still small spots of active rust and if mine, would be proceeding much as I described. I would leave the broad patches of stain left from the bluing and either just leave the salt and pepper look, or work small sections of that brighter/clearer, trying to avoid losing what bright bluing is left. The gold is surprisingly pretty sturdily attached. I don't know other's experience with the Picreator de-corroder.

    Good luck and be gentle. I have one with a few small rust spots and I haven't even really touched it for the same reason try to stabilize and red spots and definitely work around the bluing when possible. I don't want to scare or upset anyone regarding abrasive tools/tricks but soft before hard, fine before coarse unless really going to town on ad hoc polishing bright.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; I have tamed more than one blade that have been attacked with a belt sander (and others) and they came out quite well but what you have left needs gentle care

  20. #20
    I recently completed a small conservation/cleaning project. I had a P1897 that arrived in rather brown condition. The blade was fine, but the scabbard and hilt were brown and there was a lot of active rust. I cleaned off the active rust with Nevr-Dull, which really did the trick. In the past I used Break-Free, but I prefer the Nevr-Dull cotton wadding. The scabbard went from a dull, dirty, rusty finish to a nice clean plated surface. The guard, which is missing most of its original plating, got about as clean as it could, too, but the various exposed surfaces looked odd and the exposed steel looked a bit lifeless. I used a tiny dab of Simichrome polish to bring the steel to life but without giving it a polished shiny and new look. The blade was also cleaned with Nevr-Dull, but did not really need it like the guard and scabbard. Next I cleaned the grip slabs (made from a black composite material) with warm soapy water and an old tooth brush. Finally the sword and scabbard were wiped down with a silicone impregnated gun cloth for protection.

    I am proud of the final result. It looks like a different sword and one worthy of its original owner (write-up to follow in a few days ). Here are some before and after shots using the seller's photos for "before" and mine for "after":








  21. #21
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    That is a cool looking back sword.

  22. #22
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    ammonia

    ammonia mixed with water can remove all the grime if the soap didn't do it all.
    I have had great sucess with shoe dye on badly faded black fish skin grips, usually WW1 era swords are worse than even earlier made swords for fading or washout.

  23. #23

    Unhappy Sword Repairs, hopefully, in Australia

    I have a Wilkinson Sword Officers sword circa 1920s with a broken tip. Any advice on how to go about having it repaired, preferably in Australia, would be gratefully received. Thanks

  24. #24
    Hello, David, and welcome to the forum. Could you post a photo of the sword and the damaged tip? Seeing the damage may help us advise what sort of conservation might be done.

    Jonathan

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.G. Hopkins View Post
    Hello, David, and welcome to the forum. Could you post a photo of the sword and the damaged tip? Seeing the damage may help us advise what sort of conservation might be done.

    Jonathan
    David,
    As Jonathan said, a photo would be good. Depending on what sword type and the length of blade that has snapped off, points can be reground.
    Once we know and see if it is possible, I can possibly let you have the official drawing of the blade or at least the end part with measurements so that whoever does it can follow it and grind to the correct profile.

    Grinding must be on a water cooled wheel at slow revolutions so as not to spoil the hardness and temper of the blade.
    Robert

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