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Thread: Sold as a 'royal engineers' pattern, but...

  1. #1
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    Sold as a 'royal engineers' pattern, but...

    Check out this beast!

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    1213grams
    36 3/4" Long
    1 3/8" wide at ricasso

    Anyone recognise the proof disc?

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    Just kidding. Missing the proof slug and a completely blank blade so no manufacturers mark, no patent wording

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    I've compared this with a Reeves PT and the placing of the proof disc in relation to the fuller is similar whereas it differs in comparison to a Wilkinson PT where the proof disc overlaps the fuller.

    Compared with Wilkinson
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    Compared with Reeves
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    Last edited by james.elstob; 09-29-2019 at 03:46 AM.

  2. #2
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    I also meant to invite opinion on the pattern.

  3. #3
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    Hi James,
    I forgot to bid!
    My thought was that it was more likely to be an Indian cavalry officers sword of the Scinde hilt type. It certainly looks a beast
    Kind a Regards
    Ian

  4. #4
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    Hi Ian,

    That was my thought too but having never seen one other than a few poor photos I couldn't be confident.

    Many thanks for forgetting to bid though!

  5. #5
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    I also watched that one go. It's a damned shame it has no identifying marks on it at all. It's almost certainly Reeves I would think, but it could possibly be a pre-numbered Wilkinson (though I think the pommel nut makes that less likely). Very likely Indian service and possibly actually Jacob's own Scinde cavalry. We'll never know! I would think that it had etching and it has been over-cleaned at some point due to rust, which eradicated any of the etching. Even if it had been a plain blade generally, it would have surely had something on the ricasso and around the slug.
    Well done getting it,
    Matt

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    Thanks Matt,

    It ticked too many boxes to let it slip away.

    Regarding the lack etching, I was dubious that it could have been so thoroughly worn/cleaned away but after going over the blade again I found what looks like a tiny remnant towards the end of the fuller where you usually see those pointy bubble like patterns (do they have a name, I'm really struggling to describe them any better?)

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    The profile of the blade is very different from my pre-numbering Wilkinson PT as seen above.

    I'm very much in the dark about the dating of the scinde pattern.

    Mine is obviously post 1850 because of the full width tang. It's some sort of gutta percha rather than pressed leather grips so i assume not early 1850's.

    Any I missing any other dating evidence?

  7. #7
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    A few more images

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  8. #8
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    I recognized the sword too at auction. The tang peen on the pommel originally would have been checkered and flush to match pommel checkering.
    The grip wire on patent hilts originally have 3 double strands, not a single in the centre of the groove but this sword has seen period cleanings and disassembly in the past.
    The sword may have had minimal etching just being the makers name and patent or registered hilt etched around the proved disc.
    Bubbly pointy, are you referring to corrosion? Filiform corrosion leaves fine squiggly lines.
    Last edited by Will Mathieson; 09-29-2019 at 09:47 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    The sword may have had minimal etching just being the makers name and patent or registered hilt etched around the proved disc.
    Bubbly pointy, are you referring to corrosion? Filiform corrosion leaves fine squiggly lines.
    Hi Will, I was badly trying to explain this. Looks like my sword may have had a full etch at one point with the edge of the final circular pattern being the only remnant.

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  10. #10
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    I think they are essentially 3 sets of symmetrical opposing curves, decreasing in size, the top (smallest) set forming a point. Or you could just say it looks like the top of an ice cream cone.
    Appears like it has been heavily cleaned as the lines along the edge of the fuller are no longer sharp and have a softer rounded appearance. That little piece certainly looks like the remnants of etching.
    Definitely made to dish out a good beating!
    Really nice pick up James.
    Mike
    Last edited by MikeShowers; 09-29-2019 at 10:58 AM.

  11. #11
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    James I see it now and it is possible it is remnants of etching, scratches tent to be straight. The sword has a good long blade and guard appears thick, how thick is it?
    Some proved discs such as Wilkinsons were gold gilt so occasionally someone prys them out and this explains when they are missing.

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    Thanks Mike, 'ice cream cone' was of course the technical term I was looking for!

    At the ricasso the thickness as close as I can tell: -

    Fractions: 23/64
    Decimal: 0.3594
    Millimeters: 9.128

  13. #13
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    A very substantial blade and the whole sword weighing 2.67 pounds. Possibly another same sword with visible etching can answer some questions as to regiment, maker etc.
    My guess is a Reeves made sword.

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    Has anybody seen a scroll hilt on a Reeves sword though? I cannot recall any example I've seen. The scroll hilt seems to have been something Wilkinson first worked on with Jacob. The only swords I know of that compare with this one in design *and* size are the Scinde cavalry swords from c.1850-55, which are mostly the work of Henry Wilkinson (pre-John Latham).

  15. #15
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    Matt I hadn't thought of that. Being a Wilkinson could explain the pommel tang peened over a washer, typical of Wilkinson manufacture. Hard to discern in the photo but it could be a washer.

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  17. #17
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    There aren't many makers who could/would have made this sword and in my opinion, based on the patent solid hilts that I have had/seen, it could only be: Wilkinson, Reeves, Mole, Pillin or Garden.

    If it were Garden, then it may perhaps have had 'GARDEN' stamped into the spine. Mole and Pillin were making patent hilts from about the 1870s. I'd say that this has the look of an earlier manufacture: 1850s or 1860s.

    So I think it can only be Reeves or Wilkinson and I don't recall ever seeing Reeves making a scroll hilt. Whereas Wilkinson had some sort of relationship with Jacob to make them and accordingly recorded them as the 'Scinde Irregular Cavalry pattern' quite early on, although of course switched to 'Scroll hilt' later when more people started ordering them.

    That being said, have a look at my pre-patent ('Registered') pre-September 1851 Reeves and see the tang/peen washer:





    So I would personally say definitely either Wilkinson pre-numbered or early Reeves. Perhaps with a slightly larger chance of it being Reeves.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Matt I hadn't thought of that. Being a Wilkinson could explain the pommel tang peened over a washer, typical of Wilkinson manufacture. Hard to discern in the photo but it could be a washer.
    Actually it's not at all typical of Wilkinson manufacture - Wilkinson from even the earliest swords used a double nut assembly, with an internal hexagonal nut on a thread holding the end of the guard down against the grip, then another threaded nut on top of the backstrap/pommel, which was screwed down to hold only the backstrap/pommel tight on the rest of the hilt, then the protruding end of the tang peened to prevent the nut unscrewing. It's why Wilkinsons are such a b!tch to tighten or disassemble!!

    This sword having what appears to be a peen straight onto a washer goes against it being Wilkinson and is in favour of Reeves.

  19. #19
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    Earlier patent hilts used leather for the grip plates and later ones like this use a composite material.
    Possibly this can be used to date the sword to its earliest possible time of manufacture?

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    I've become aware of a Reeves PT sword with what appears from the images online to be gutta percha or similar.

    It's ascribed to an officer commissioned in 1852 and died en route home from Crimea 1856. Whether the sword was bought within that period is an uknown but most likely 1855 or before.

    Interestingly from the same source comes a numbered example of a Wilkinson PT with a date of 1855.
    This also has the 'composite' material grip.

    These 2 suggest that the move away from leather grip slabs was earlier than I certainly thought.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 09-30-2019 at 07:17 AM.

  21. #21
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    Swords marked "registered" are pre 1854 and the ones I've seen all have leather grip plates. Possibly the hilt once patented used composite materials?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Swords marked "registered" are pre 1854 and the ones I've seen all have leather grip plates. Possibly the hilt once patented used composite materials?
    The examples I refer to are both marked Patent.

  23. #23
    Hi James,

    Although the gutta percha grip plates are generally encountered on later solid hilt swords, both laminated leather grip plates and gutta percha grip plates were concurrent in the later 1850s; my own opinion is that the leather grip plates were possibly more common in Indian service owing to the liking for leather on the grip of a sword. However, as the gutta percha grip plates were probably more durable over time, the use of leather grip plates diminished.

    Going by the placement of the proof slug in relation to the end of the fuller is likely not a precise means of identifying the maker owing to the varying width of blades, and aside from that we must differentiate between makers (who physically forged the blades), cutlers who possibly assembled made components to make a product, and merchants (who sold ready made swords) produced by makers.

    Yes Reeves produced scroll hilted swords however, based on a study of surviving swords, it seems that in the earlier period up to the early 1860s, most of the solid hilt swords produced by Reeves were sold under the names of merchants such as Garden and others. We do know that the Garden firm had been established some many years, and was well known as a saddler and 'maker' of accoutrements, and a merchant who sold swords and firearms and also traded in second hand items. Garden may well have had workshops where he carried out certain areas of work on swords, however the extent of such works is not known; only to say that he (R.S. Garden) had some sort of blade testing machine at hand; once again the type of machine is not known, but I don't believe he forged blades.

    During the period when Garden was selling a number of solid hilt swords, his name was sometimes, but not always struck on the back edge of the blade near the hilt, sometimes in relatively large letters, and sometimes small. However, the style of punching in small letters, is sometimes badly struck, and often near illegible; that said, the extent of cleaning the at appears to have been carried out on your sword could very easily have removed all trace of a lightly or badly struck Garden name. It's generally the case that solid hilt swords sold by Garden had a Reeves mark of proof up to the afore said period of early 1860s; and those swords encountered do not consistently have one type of grip material, both leather and gutta percha grip plates encountered.

    The existing situation with the tang and top-nut is in my view indicative of the fact that the back-piece may have been removed (possibly? to carry out repairs to the grip or re-wire); although the tang and nut on these domed pommels are often filed off to the profile of the pommel and chequered, some of the earlier solid hilts had an exposed top-nut with the tang riveted over. This form of exposed nut was at times formed with a tapered extension on the bottom of the nut, which seated into tapered recess in the pommel; and your sword appears to have an obvious recess around the existing top-nut.

  24. #24
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    So leather/gutta percha grips possibly a matter of personal choice from very early on?

    I wonder how many gutta percha example started out with leather scales and had them replaced. This could account for gutta percha on some very early examples and could explain messing with the top nut/peening.

    I think of leather grips as less durable but I have seen one broken gutta percha type grip scale, so they certainly aren't infallible.

  25. #25
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    Composition grips are more brittle and I have seen several broken examples (and owned one). Leather grips are stronger in that sense, but they wear down and are vulnerable to the weather. There were also solid hilts with wood and shagreen grip scales - I have three examples of these.

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