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Thread: Cleaned up an old tulwar. Age?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Chicago area

    Cleaned up an old tulwar. Age?

    Picked up a tulwar at auction in pretty rough shape-- quite a bit of corrosion and gunk. Spent some time cleaning it up. Silver work is in excellent shape. Anyone have a better guess than I will as to its age?



  2. #2
    Hi David,

    It's a nice sword.
    I'd guess from the koftgari that it's 19th century. I'd say somewhere around 1875ish?
    The blade shape is interesting, looks like a slight re-curve.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Chicago area
    Ok-- help educate me!

    What is it that leads you to your estimate?

    To me, this is a bit of a conundrum. The blade was in particularly bad shape, but the silver was in particularly good shape. They didn't seem to match. The level of patina and corrosion on the blade was substantial. The patina on the hilt matched, but there was none of the corrosion.

    The blade quality does not seem to be superb. I have some newer tulwars that I think are clearly newer and the quality of the steel seems to me to be better. I did try etching the blade. The residue from the corrosion is too great to see much in the metal surface, and I did not want to sand it to flat and deprive it of its rightfully-earned age. It looks like there may be a bit of activity near the edge, but that may just be me projecting.

    Noticeably sharp on both the leading edge and the false edge. There is a main fuller, that could have been better done, and almost a shadow of a fuller next to it. Well balanced.

    The auction listing was useless-- something like: "Old sword. 31 inch blade."

    If I was guessing, I'd guess 1750 +/- 50, but that would only be a guess based on a few others I have that also may not be well dated. Otherwise, it's not like I have a clue...

  4. #4
    I did notice the different levels of corrosion on blade and hilt. There are scenarios that can cause this but there are too many factors to do anything but guess as to why. The resin looks original and the parts look contemporaneous to me.
    Dating involves a bit of best guesswork, based on construction and style.
    I personally wouldn't put it earlier than 1875 and it could be a bit later.
    The blade is as you suggest, workmanlike.
    But that doesn't detract from it, It's a nice example of its type.
    The general profile of the blade is attractive but I think the slight re-curve that I was seeing was just the angle of the picture?
    So to my generalisations!
    The heavier straighter blades 'tend' to be later.
    The style of koftgari is the same as can be seen on decorative items from the late 19th and early 20th century. A pattern is punched into the steel with a sharp point and then fine wires and foils are used to create the design.
    Have a look at the hilt on this "Kukri".
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 07-16-2017 at 12:26 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Chicago area
    Certainly very similar silverwork.

    Let's take the discussion up a notch. I got out my gaggle of "tulwar-esq" swords and arranged them in close to what I am guessing is age-order, top to bottom in the first picture (I should probably have swapped the shamshir shikagar with the one below it).

    So, where am I off?

    I admit that I am guessing. I hope to one day be able to say it is at least an EDUCATED guess rather than a SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess).

    Top one is wootz or pattern welded. Auction listing, true or false, said 1600s. Very grey steel. Second is crystalline wootz with supposedly a newer hilt. #3 is the one at issue. #4 is the shikagar. Took quite a bit of cleaning to get it to this state. #5 is quite the bruiser. Heavy crude blade probably retrofitted to the hilt (the big nut on the end being a good tipoff...). Just an ugly beast of a tool. Numbers six and seven are very utilitarian with very even blades that seem to me like they could be rolled rather than hand-forged. Well made, in any case. #8 feels very "commercial" and "mass produced." Still a very decent sword, but if someone said "early 1900s" I wouldn't question that call-- the antique couch it is on could be older. (Eventually I will get around to selling this one-- the sword, not the couch...) The top four clearly have the look-and-feel of being higher-class than the bottom four. #2 may be my favorite sword of my collection-- it just dances in the hand.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Chicago area

    After re-reading your post, I am guessing you might order these as something closer to 1, 2, 6, 7, 3, 5, 4, 8 (I am not giving up on ranking 8 as newest!)?

  7. #7
    Hi David

    You've got some great swords there, congratulations.
    The top one has a laminated steel blade. Some would call it 'mechanical Damascus', some pattern welded.
    I personally find both terms too imprecise. I think that to call it 'pattern welded' we should be seeing a deliberate pattern. What I think I'm seeing in yours is layers more visible toward the ground edge.
    I take it that you've given all of these a scratch with something like coke? Have you tried FeCl?
    I particularly like the shape of the hilt on this one. That slight downward curve on the grip and tilt on the pommel disk makes a lot of difference ergonomically.
    Beginning of the 17thC? Not IMHO. First half 19thC possibly and nice with it.

    The second on is the one that catches my eye.
    I had two from the Bikiner armoury that had those sort of cast brass hilts and both had broad slightly curved blades like your first one.
    I'd say the hilt is mid 19thC, but the blade is very interesting. Again it looks like it's had a recent scratch that's left it rather grey.
    I can't see a wootz pattern in these pictures. I'm sure yo are right, it would be nice to see a close-up.
    It's difficult to give an opinion based on the limits of these photos. The blade could be 18th or 19thC. I've got an 18thC Tulwar with a similar blade. It's certainly a more classical form.

    Three, we've been discussing. It's encouraging to see lamination flaws in these pictures that I couldn't see in the earlier ones.

    Four looks like a display item made to appeal to western collectors. Possibly as old as late 19thC, possibly up to the inter war period.

    Five I'd guess is a marriage of an old blade with a new hilt, but I can't give much of an opinion based on the pictures.

    Six, again is hard to tell if it's an older sword cleaned up or a modern creation.

    Seven looks more like a good sword somewhat overcleaned.

    Eight is not a good thing. Neither blade nor hilt. Sorry!

  8. #8
    My crystaline wootz Tulwar
    Attached Images Attached Images   

  9. #9
    Here's a pair of Bikiner/Bikaner armoury marked tulwar with brass hilts of the type you have.
    I owned them for many years. They were springy deadly sharp monosteel blades.
    I'd say mid 19thC at a guess.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 07-25-2017 at 03:24 PM.

  10. #10
    Have you tried giving No7 a scratch?
    Also, can you show some close-ups of the blade of No2.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Chicago area
    Sorry about the delay--

    Here are close-ups of #s 1 & 2. I gave both of them a wipe with muriatic acid.

    Haven't done much of anything to #7 other than Renaissance Wax.
    Last edited by David Loundy; 07-31-2017 at 08:45 PM. Reason: correct spelling

  12. #12
    The blade on #1 is a nice laminated blade.
    #2 is very nice. If it were mine I'd want to try to improve the contrast by using something like FeCl to etch it.
    Did you re-polish the blade on #2, or was it just remarkably unscathed?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Good to see you are still around, Gene

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by A. Alnakas View Post
    Good to see you are still around, Gene
    Salaam Abdullatif

    Nice to see you too.

  15. #15
    Hello Gene,
    I do not think your blade is crystalline wootz. From what I see your blade is nice old wootz but is badly in need of some polishing and etching. I would polish it to grit 2000 (do not try to remove all pitting as some pitting does not have such a bad influence on the pattern) and etch it with Nital 4%.
    Best regards and happy new year!

  16. #16
    Hi Marius

    Thank you and happy new year to you.

    I'm not a fan of re-surfacing blades any more than I have to.
    This blade is insanely hard and totally rigid.
    The natural crystaline structure of the wootz ingot hasn't been manipulated to form a pattern, but the carbides/inclusions are very fine and numerous, forming a fine granular surface.
    This is what I'd call fine crystaline wootz.

    Many of the wootz blades that I see coming onto the market now have been scrubbed back to bare metal and heavily etched.
    Personally, that sort of re-working isn't to my taste.
    I like to be able to see that it's wootz and I like to see the scarf welds etc, but I don't want to remove metal or alter the profile.

    As for 'Nital', I've never used it and I'm not sure that it's available in the UK.

    FeCl is available for circuitboard etching and I tend to use that or lemon juice.
    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 12-31-2017 at 02:26 AM.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Elliot Lake
    that is a nice patternwelded blade ! it would look lovely with a lite etch and later a rub with 4f pumice powder on a cotton cloth
    -some tulwars have very nice subtle patternwelding

    Quote Originally Posted by David Loundy View Post
    Sorry about the delay--

    Here are close-ups of #s 1 & 2. I gave both of them a wipe with muriatic acid.

    Haven't done much of anything to #7 other than Renaissance Wax.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Try muriatic acid mixed with peroxide, contrasts quite well.


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