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Thread: Sword Knots

  1. #1
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    Sword Knots

    Gentlemen,

    I collect sword accouterments in addition to the swords themselves and I thought I might start a thread on sword knots. While long time sword collectors have knowledge of various sword knots, some visitors who read these pages may not.

    The sword knot began existence as a simple cord which was attached to the hilt of the sword of mounted soldiers. It was securely fastened to the guard of the sabre and then tied to the wrist of the mounted trooper. The purpose of this sword knot was to secure the sabre to the wrist, so that if it were knocked from the hand of the mounted soldier, he would not lose it in the heat of battle. The sword would be at the end of the cord, which was tied to the wrist. The design evolved into a double strap which was attached to the sword guard and wrapped around the hilt when not attached to the wrist. The double strap had at least one sliding loop, referred to as a slide, which was at the end of the strap to make a loop to go around the wrist. At the end of the strap was either a stem or a crown, or both, which secured the end of the strap. The knot itself generally consisted of a crown and an open tassel or closed ball which could securely close the end of the double strap to give the slide something solid to press the wrist against when it was inserted into the loop made by the strap. This sword knot evolved into both dagger knots and bayonet knots in the German service and all three distinctive styles of German knots retain these design features. More on these later.

    First, let's look at the manner in which sword knots were used in the US military. Plain leather knots were, generally speaking, first used in US service but differences soon emerged between enlisted and officer knots. Early officer knots were often colored leather and then evolved into bullion or lace knots while enlisted knots remained plain utilitarian leather. Around 1850 US officers were authorized to wear a gold bullion knot and this knot is still worn by US Navy officers on their Model 1852 Navy sword to this day. This knot is shown on the left below.

    US Army officers were authorized two new knots to wear on their 1902 Officer Sabre. A gold wire knot with blue silk highlights was worn on dress occasions and is shown below next, L to R. A russet leather knot with a plaited strap was authorized for general service wear. This knot is shown next. Both of these knots are still authorized when the Army Sword is worn and both have been US regulation since 1902. The USMC officer sword is worn with a similar gold and red dress knot and a black leather plaited knot of the type worn by the Army in brown.
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    German Sword Knots

    German sword knots evolved into a complex system of knots that included knots that could be worn on bayonets and daggers as well as swords. The construction was much the same as those of other countries and included the same parts. The design was a double strap (das Band), a slide (der Scheiber), a stem where the strap entered the knot (der Stengel) and/or a crown (der Kranz), and an open tassel or a closed ball (die Quaste). Knots in the German service could indicate rank and organization and a complex series of colored enlisted knots could indicate the wearer's unit down to the company level.

    There were three distinct styles of German knots:

    First, was the Portepee generally worn by officers and officials (Beamte). This knot could indicate the individual state and the organization. A Prussian Portepee is shown on the left and a Bavarian Portepee is shown next, (L to R).

    Second, was the Faustriemen generally worn by NCOs and enlisted men who were mounted or truckborn. These Faustriemen were also worn by Air Force (Luftwaffe) personnel and Officials such as Customs (Zollschutz). An example for an NCO is shown next.

    Third, was the Troddel generally worn by enlisted men on bayonets. These colorful knots were made of cotton and/or wool and indicated the battalion and company of German Army enlisted man. Green often indicated military enlisted men assigned to staff positions and all NCOs had green in thier knots indicating their status as staff members. Examples are shown on the right.
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    Very interesting George, thanks for taking the time to write all that, got any more juicy tidbits, did the british knots use colours with any special meaning?
    David Gray

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    Good afternoon George,

    Some old reading memories...the sword knot was also useful to avoid a non attached saber to hurt the charging horseman in the case he fell from his horse; and also, to free the saber the hand could not hold anymore after contact with the opponent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David gray View Post
    Very interesting George, thanks for taking the time to write all that, got any more juicy tidbits, did the british knots use colours with any special meaning?
    Hi David,

    Yes, there certainly are differences in the styles and colors of British sword knots that fall somewhere in-between the relative simplicity of the US system and the astounding complexity of the German system. Perhaps someone better versed in the British system than I am can comment and present some examples of these knots for us to examine.

    In the meantime, here is an example of some of the various German bayonet knots from an identification page from a circa 1936 German Soldatenkalendar.
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    Use and Tye

    Quote Originally Posted by DanR View Post
    Good afternoon George,

    Some old reading memories...the sword knot was also useful to avoid a non attached saber to hurt the charging horseman in the case he fell from his horse; and also, to free the saber the hand could not hold anymore after contact with the opponent.
    Dan,

    Thanks for pointing out other benefits derived from use of a sword knot. Quite right! Sword knots had a variety of uses and US Army manuals showed that sabre practice and execution of the sword drill was done with the sword knot firmly attached to the wrist of the soldier to get them in the habit of properly utilizing the knot.

    Another thing that I find interesting is the often complex methods of tying the knot to the sword hilt when it is not actually affixed to the wrist. Some photos follow:

    Japanese Police at attention with drawn swords during inspection. I also have a photograph of these policemen before drawing their swords showing their white gloves placed between the straps of their sword knots while presenting their day books for inspection bare handed. So the knot could also serve as a glove holder.

    A page from a prewar Reibert soldier's manual showing methods of tying German knots to edged weapons.

    A US Military Academy sword showing the method of attachment of the standard US service sword knot utilizing a buttoned tab (not always used in the US service).

    A 1902 US Army officer sword showing the same style brown leather sword knot attached without the use of the buttoned tab. The knot straps were then simply wound around the D guard to the area of the branch and allowed to dangle free.

    The proper method of tie for the blue and silver bullion Bavarian Officer Portepee when attached to a Pallasch.
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  7. #7

    British knots

    I have a page with the various British pattern knots on my site if anyone is interested.....

    http://www.oldswords.com/resources/swordKnots.php

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    George,

    Great thread. Expanding from your photo of Kempei, would it be possible for you to post photos of knots in use by various other countries?
    mark@swordforum.com

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    Mark C, Excellent information on British sword knots.

    Mark M, Let me see what other photos I have and/or can scan.

    Everyone, please feel free to post other examples of sword knots or photos of knots in wear to expand on the subject. Here are a few other examples:

    First, circa 1933 Austrian knots in wear by an Austrian Police Sergeant on the left wearing a short sword and a Police Officer on the right wearing a long sword. Notice the NCO knot has a closed ball while the Officer knot has a loose tassel ball.

    Second, circa 1939 Austrian Gendarm wearing an officer style knot (Portepee). This is a Senior NCO holding the rank of "Unteroffiziere mit Portepee" meaning that he had the right to wear an officer style knot because of his senior (Master Sergeant) rank.

    Third, an example of the correct tie for the Austrian sword knot.

    Fourth, an example of an Austrian Cavalry knot.

    Fifth. an example of an Austrian Customs knot.
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    Last edited by George Wheeler; 07-21-2008 at 07:48 AM.
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    Musgrave Patent Knot -British c 1897

    The 'lazy' way to tie a full dress Knot for junior officers below Field Rank!!!
    Invented by JT Musgrave who joined Wilkinsons in 1876, became a Director and retired in the 1930's.
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    Here are two more Austrians.









    This Polish cavalry trooper is armed with a German artillery saber (quite common in Polish use during the 1920s and early 30s).



    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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    Something struck me when looking at one of Jean Binck's pages
    http://users.skynet.be/euro-swords/naval1837focus.htm

    That being the use of the knot to secure the sword to the scabbard. My curiousty makes me wonder if that was an adaptation for what we would think a frog stud, or a possible explanation for all the earlier scabbards we see with a handy capstan that we see as superfluous for a scabbard with a ring or rings as well.

    That is an intresting bunch of accessory on the Polish trooper's scabbard

    Cheers

    Hotspur; when are knots first mentioned or illustrated being used?

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    British sword Knots today

    Mark Cloke on Old swords has listed many of the sword knot variations that existed and a great list it it with excellent coverage.

    Even today, there are over 20 different knots in service with the British Forces and the MOD has just issued a Specification to govern the manufacture etc of all these knots and also what regiments wears what. As the Technical Director of Pooley Swords, I have a copy!
    The book is illustrated in colour. Unfortunately it is a Restricted issue but to those who know knots, holds no surprises.
    Robert

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    Variations

    Some great photos of knot variations and period photos of knots in wear.

    To follow up on Robert's rather neat pre-tied Musgrave Patent sword knot, here are some other "odd ball" variations of the standard "regulation" 1902 US Army officer sword knot.

    First, a variation with a flat strap and a flat ball. This knot is shown below a reproduction knot for the Patton Cavalry Sabre. The flat knot has several interesting features such as the integral button loop on the strap. The strap on this particular knot is not continuious but is made in two pieces with the button loop that attaches to the sword guard. The button is actually a copper rivet of the type found on much early US leather equipment from as far back as the Civil War.

    Second, a closeup of the ball of the flat knot showing the construction, which is roughly similar to the Patton knot from the same time period.

    Third, a period catalog page showing this style of flat knot that was marketed/sold to US officers as a "US Regulation" knot.

    Fourth, another variation US knot with a flat strap instead of one made of woven leather. This knot also has a whistle incorporated into the ball. These whistle knots are very scarce and seem to have been an idea that was better in the concept than in actual use.

    Fifth, a period catalog page showing this style of whistle knot that was marked/sold to US officers.
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    Arrgh, must you tease me with the whistle knot?

    On your flat ball knot, I think it might be saddler-made and not commercial. If you look closely at the catalog photo, the "flat ball" has the zig-zag carvings of a M1902 knot; I don't think it's actually flat, it just looks that way from the perspective, being reprinted, and then scanned.

    There is a 1920s NARA file that discusses field modifications and repairs made by saddlers to the M1912 knot, and there are very many unmarked knots out there of somewhat less sophisticated construction than those RIA-marked. The rivet is something that would have been in a saddler's kit, as well.

    Very neat, whatever it is.
    Last edited by Sean Scott; 07-22-2008 at 10:13 AM.

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    Smile French "Dragons"

    HI: I am a newbie here, but I have a few French Epees and Sabers, and no one seems to know what kind of knot, troeddel, strap, port-epee, or Dragon, is used with these weapons.

    An NCO Epee modele 1882...

    Sabre d' Hussar Mle 1822 tranforme 1882,

    (This is the curved blade ubiquitous Mle 1822, copied in the US, but transformed into a straight blade...supposedly a rare saber)


    Thanks

    Dale
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    Last edited by Dale Martin; 07-22-2008 at 12:31 PM. Reason: wrong pix

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Martin View Post
    Sabre d' Hussar Mle 1822 tranforme 1882,

    (This is the curved blade ubiquitous Mle 1822, copied in the US, but transformed into a straight blade...supposedly a rare saber)
    I have seen a couple of Mle 1882s with flat-strap leather knots very similar to those used on the US M1902. I don't know if they were correct...

    Entering "French saber knot" in an Ebay search turned up several (pricey) reference books that may hold the answer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Scott View Post
    Arrgh, must you tease me with the whistle knot?

    On your flat ball knot, I think it might be saddler-made and not commercial. If you look closely at the catalog photo, the "flat ball" has the zig-zag carvings of a M1902 knot; I don't think it's actually flat, it just looks that way from the perspective, being reprinted, and then scanned.

    There is a 1920s NARA file that discusses field modifications and repairs made by saddlers to the M1912 knot, and there are very many unmarked knots out there of somewhat less sophisticated construction than those RIA-marked. The rivet is something that would have been in a saddler's kit, as well.

    Very neat, whatever it is.
    Sorry about showing the whistle knot Sean.

    I do agree with you that the flat knot is most probably a saddler made knot. "Less sophisticated construction"... I like that description. The zig zag cuts in the barrel rolled ball are what I think of as a US regulation knot. The other point is the woven leather crown (that normally mimics the woven sliders) that is usually repeated at the bottom of the ball. It is the variations that drive us as collectors to identify, name, catalog, and aquire them all. The guys who wore them probablly could have cared less if their russett leather knot was slightly different from the next fellow's.

    Here, just to drive you crazy, is a closeup view of the whistle knot. And, yet another slightly different variation of the "regulation" knot with a flat strap.
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Wheeler View Post
    It is the variations that drive us as collectors to identify, name, catalog, and aquire them all. The guys who wore them probablly could have cared less if their russett leather knot was slightly different from the next fellow's.
    Most likely true. I know how much thought I put into my uniform accessories...

    Here, just to drive you crazy, is a closeup view of the whistle knot. And, yet another slightly different variation of the "regulation" knot with a flat strap.
    Gorgeous examples, I am envious!

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    Knot Construction

    Below are some photos of how these knots are constructed.

    First, a German Troddel in various phases of construction. The strap is doubled over and sewn together with a wire attachment. The strap is then threaded through a slider and these will be seen on a string. It is then threaded through a cloth covered wooden stem and the stem is attached to the ball. The wire is then twisted to hold it securely inside the wooden (sometimes cardboard) form of the ball. The vertical cords are then attached to the ball and horizontal cords, which make up the crown, are then attached to the top of the ball. Finally, an insert is glued over the hole in the bottom of the ball to hide the wire attachment.

    Second, a completed Troddel with an official sealed pattern tag attached.

    Third, a Japanese officer sword knot showing the strap and brass metal slider that sits on top of the crown of the knot. The vertical cords are splayed open to show the black wooden form beneath.

    Fourth, a view of the bottom of the unsewn knot showing the insert that covers the wire and hole in the bottom of the ball.

    Fifth, a completed Japanese officer sword knot showing the vertical cords sewn together to complete the construction of the knot.
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    French style knots

    The 'US' knots you have been illustrating in russet leather are really more the French style where they leather is typically rolled into a cylinder and either is left plain or has a zig zag cut into it.

    The British style is the tassel.

    The German style is either 'oeffener Quaste" (open frilly bits), or 'geschlossene quaste' enclosed ball .....

    Here is a link that shows the Guard Republicaine 1822 pattern with the French style knot:

    http://gardiens.traditions.free.fr/G...Unif/GTS02.jpg

    http://gardiens.traditions.free.fr/G...nif/Gant01.jpg

    which as you know is the parent of US sabres ....

    I have plenty more sword knot pictures, but swordforums policy of limiting picture size makes it all too hard ....

    Anyway a Bavarian Faustriemen (for cavalry)

    And more french knots (from Jean Binck)

    And there are plenty more pictures of German ones, but it's too hard to upload ... so too bad (Adrian increase the picture size please!)








    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Scott View Post
    I have seen a couple of Mle 1882s with flat-strap leather knots very similar to those used on the US M1902. I don't know if they were correct...

    Entering "French saber knot" in an Ebay search turned up several (pricey) reference books that may hold the answer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Busch View Post
    The 'US' knots you have been illustrating in russet leather are really more the French style where they leather is typically rolled into a cylinder and either is left plain or has a zig zag cut into it.
    Considering the considerable influence of the French on US swords and sabers, it's not surprising to see knot design was also very similar.

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    I have a Civil War-era bullion officer's knot, but it's silver instead of gold.

    I know that branch colors were included in the knots, I have period gold knot with a blue cloth center in the ball and the bullion painted blue on the end. But who used silver bullion knots?

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    Sean,

    Could we see a photo of the silver CW knot? These US CW knots were typically all gilt and US Navy knots often have the blue center in the ball as you describe but I am not really familiar with a silver bullion knot of this style being worn by US officers during the Civil War. I would like to see it.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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    Quote Originally Posted by George Wheeler View Post
    Sean,

    Could we see a photo of the silver CW knot? These US CW knots were typically all gilt and US Navy knots often have the blue center in the ball as you describe but I am not really familiar with a silver bullion knot of this style being worn by US officers during the Civil War. I would like to see it.
    I've heard the blue=Navy before, but I've seen several examples of a M1852 with a period all-gold knot, and the US Navy still uses the same knot...all gold.

    What really put the doubt in my mind was seeing a period knot with a red center...artillery?

    I took a photo of the silver knot next to a gold one...
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