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Thread: Wilkinson Sword Characteristics

  1. #276
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    I put together a comparison of the Wilkinson sword steel compared to some modern steels used for sword making. I thought some of you may find this interesting.

    Specification for Henry Wilkinson's "Sword Steel":
    Carbon................0.90 to 1,00%
    Silicon.................0.20% Maximum
    Manganese..........0.15 to 0.35%
    Sulphur...............0.02% Maximum
    Phosphorous......... 0.02% Maximum

    EN-9 steel:
    C: 0.50%
    Si: 0.25%
    Mn: 0.70%
    S: 0.05%
    P: 0.05%

    EN-45 steel:
    C: 0.55%
    Si: 1.75%
    Mn: 0.75%
    S: 0.05%
    P: 0.05%

    5160 steel:
    C: 0.56-0.64%
    Chromium: 0.7-0.9%
    Si: 0.15-0.35%
    Mn: 0.75 - 1.0%
    S: 0.04% max
    P: 0.035% max

    1060 steel:
    C: 0.55-0.65%
    Mn: 0.6-0.9%
    S: 0.05% max
    P: 0.04% max

    The massive difference with the Wilkinson steel seems to be the MUCH higher carbon content. Frankly I'm quite surprised by the difference.

  2. #277
    T1 tool steel is basically a modern clean version of sword steel and is what the likes of Wkc make their blades from.

    At WS we used to get a billet cast and rolled to the original spec.

  3. #278
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    T1 is nothing like the Wilkinson carbon steel though - T1 has significant Chromium and Tungsten, so is essentially a hard stainless steel. I'm not sure I'd trust it for functional sword blades at all, it seems too brittle.

  4. #279
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    T1 is nothing like the Wilkinson carbon steel though - T1 has significant Chromium and Tungsten, so is essentially a hard stainless steel. I'm not sure I'd trust it for functional sword blades at all, it seems too brittle.
    It's been a few years...I meant o1.

  5. #280
    Hi

    I have searched the threads but couldn't find an answer. I have an 1845 Wilkinson Sword and as part of my research have found that some of Wilkinson swords are of different quality. Previous threads refer to proof slugs.
    BEST PROOF was obviously HW and Outfitters quality so far identified are" PROVED over a Crown, PROVED over a Fleur de Lys"

    The question i ask is apart from the price, what made the blade a better quality and what testing was done between proved and best proved to substantiate the better quality.

    I recently acquired a 1845 Wilkinson which has previously been seen on the forum. However the previous owners beleived the numbers to be 8119 but in fact it is 6118 and checks indicate that it was sold to the 71st and completed 21 April 1855.
    Name:  1845..jpg
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    thanks

    Steve

  6. #281
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    Steve
    Can you post the Proof Docket so I can give you an answer to your query
    Regards
    Robert

  7. #282
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    Wilkinson Sword Steel 1983 and metal Specs for Sword Parts.

    Have these documents which show WS sword steel and others and discussion about steel types.
    Attached Images Attached Images    

  8. #283
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    Steve
    Unless other wise stated on the Proof Docket (e.g Spring Proof Only or words such as that) ALL Wilkinson blades were proved in the same way, the bend being appropriate to the blade type. The difference between a Best Sword, Ordinary numbered sword and Trade swords was the finish/etching etc of the article.

    Quote Originally Posted by steve oakley View Post
    Hi

    I have searched the threads but couldn't find an answer. I have an 1845 Wilkinson Sword and as part of my research have found that some of Wilkinson swords are of different quality. Previous threads refer to proof slugs.
    BEST PROOF was obviously HW and Outfitters quality so far identified are" PROVED over a Crown, PROVED over a Fleur de Lys"

    The question i ask is apart from the price, what made the blade a better quality and what testing was done between proved and best proved to substantiate the better quality.

    I recently acquired a 1845 Wilkinson which has previously been seen on the forum. However the previous owners beleived the numbers to be 8119 but in fact it is 6118 and checks indicate that it was sold to the 71st and completed 21 April 1855.
    Name:  1845..jpg
Views: 644
Size:  35.2 KBName:  1845.jpg
Views: 610
Size:  30.4 KB

    thanks

    Steve

  9. #284
    Robert

    Thankyou for the reply. I had the impression that the best proved related to the materials or testing involved. I note now that it relates to the finishing touches to the sword. As my example was for a regiment i would expect that it would have been the basic as the Army would have been paying for it.

    I have attached the sword entry for comparison

    thankyou

    Steve

    Name:  Wilkinson Sword Entry.jpg
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    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by steve oakley; 11-25-2012 at 12:10 PM.

  10. #285
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    Thanks for the Proof stub - Unfortunately it does not give any clue to the purchaser.
    The Army did not pay for officers swords and the purchase of the correct sword for the regiment was the responsibility of the officer as it still is today.

    Certain sword patterns were and are still made for the Government but these were for Infantry/Rifles/RA/Cavalry etc Staff Sergeants and senior Warrant Officers.

    Your sword was certainly supplied to an Officer and was, as you state, for the 71st whose official title was in 1855 71st (Highland) Light Infantry (1810-1881)

    Shame there are no initials or family crest etched on the blade from which you may have identified the officer who bought the sword.

    One thing we can identify is that the etching (initail P) was done by Pearsall.
    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 11-26-2012 at 12:35 AM.

  11. #286
    Robert

    Thanks for the additional information. I have seen a previous post where the stamped number referred to the 71st

    http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...highlight=71st

    I thought that because it was only marked as 71st in the ledger that it would have been an army contract to supply a number of swords. Would it not be wise for the unit to have had extra swords if it was on campaign and be issued on a temporary basis to officers if the need required.

    Or were a number of these swords already made and the officer came to the store and purchased one off the shelf at Wilkinson, this said my example has no retailers engraving just Henry Wilkinson Pall Mall London.

    Did Wilkinson have a shop back then or were they all sent out to retailers and outfitters.

    thanks

    Steve

  12. #287
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve oakley View Post
    Robert

    I thought that because it was only marked as 71st in the ledger that it would have been an army contract to supply a number of swords. Would it not be wise for the unit to have had extra swords if it was on campaign and be issued on a temporary basis to officers if the need required.

    Or were a number of these swords already made and the officer came to the store and purchased one off the shelf at Wilkinson, this said my example has no retailers engraving just Henry Wilkinson Pall Mall London.

    Did Wilkinson have a shop back then or were they all sent out to retailers and outfitters.

    thanks

    Steve
    Steve
    An officers sword like his uniform was his own property and his responsibility to go to the regimental tailor to get his uniform and in this case to Wilkinsons at 27 Pall Mall to order a sword. There were some swords kept on stock but mainly these were made to order.

    Retailers and tailors would order swords from Wilkinsons (and other makers such as Pillin-Mole or Thurkle) when selling uniforms to officers if requested. (In this case Wilkinsons would supply a 'Tailors Quality Sword' and for a small cost etch the name of the retailer/tailor on to the sword blade.
    Robert.

    Here is a photograph from 1900's of part of Wilkinsons show rooms showing the section dealing with Swords and on the right razors.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  13. #288
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    Any Wilkinson sword collector would wish for a display such as this with Victorian character.
    I'd like to know the details such as how the glass opened and how it was built and materials used.
    One could recreate a section or two to house a Wilkinson sword collection.

  14. #289
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Any Wilkinson sword collector would wish for a display such as this with Victorian character.
    I'd like to know the details such as how the glass opened and how it was built and materials used.
    One could recreate a section or two to house a Wilkinson sword collection.
    Great idea Will.
    Unfortunately these were canabilised when Wilkinsons moved to the smaller 53 Pall Mal in 2009.

    Here is a photo of Moles display case in his Birmingham Factory reception area. (Not quite so magnificent as Mr Wilkinson of Pall Mall !!!)
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  15. #290
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    A cabinet like Moles could be recessed into a wall, definately a less expensive option. Opposite a closet would give any depth you require.
    Something as large as Wilkinsons display does pose storage problems. Was the display broken down into sections and sold?
    Too bad a museum did not pick up on it, of course we value things more once they are gone!
    Other than a large long glass china cabinet with thick glass shelves for swords I do have a sword over the mantle.

  16. #291
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    The 27 Pall Mall cabinets was moved to 53 Pall Mall, modified and ended somewhat damaged when a bomb dropped outside 53 Pall Mall in WW2. Salvageable remains were taken to the Acton Factory where they languished at the back of the sword department. Bad storage and water leakage slowly did for the ex Pall Mall Furniture, desks, cabinets etc(The large desks were used by Directors) and they ended up being chopped up and either thrown out or used as they were hard wood. I am sure the brass door and drawer knobs were had by someone. In the 1960's when i was there I did find in a old Pall Mall desk drawer a number of Government specs, the odd belt buckle, some wood printing blocks for the Last issue of Observations on Sword (1894) and the attached which I kept! (Egyptian Army Sabretache Badge and a Cavalry horse Martingale (VR)

    Many of the historical sword were saved and went to the Museum at Acton while a whole load of matchlock.percussion and flint guns (about 20 of them) my father had and it formed part of my collection when I was about 14. They were mainly Afghan Matchlocks (some still loaded!!!) which had been presented to Wilkinsons by officers back from action in the Empire., some tulwars, Sudanese swords and a couple of box lock percussion pocket pistols.

    Here are some more pictures of 27 Pall Mall, the staircase and 1st Floor fire place. In the right picture you can see a suit of armour. he was affectionately known as 'Albert' and survived untill the 1990's when he was sold to fund some Wilkinson Museum purchases. The picture frame contained the Royal Warrant for Queen Victoria (which I now have along with ALL the Wilkinson Warrants.)
    Attached Images Attached Images   
    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 12-10-2012 at 09:25 AM.

  17. #292
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    I was looking at the Wilkinson blade numbers and noticed that from 1855 until the 1870's there are about 500-700 numbers per year. Has anybody mapped the number of numbers used each year and was there an increase or decrease generally? I was surprised that in the years I calculated there was a more or less even distribution across the years.
    Many second question is, where all these numbers used for actual swords? 600 swords a year seems a very high number to me. Surely there can not have been that many British officers buying Wilkinson swords each year?
    Regards,
    Matt
    Possibly not that many BRITISH officers, but don't forget you have the whole British Empire being serviced by Wilkinsons, as well as 'foreign' orders..eg, presentation swords to dignitaries, Indian Princely States, etc, etc. Honestly..given the size of the Empire, and Wilkinson's world wide trade. I'm surprised at such a relatively LOW number of numbered blades. 5-700 numbered blades /year equates to about 10-20 blades sold per week.

    As an aside..I've read that Wilkinson supplied many different blade "styles". Given that what I've been reading generally refer's to swords purchased by individuals, rather than bulk, contract orders, am I correct in assuming that, as long as the sword was fitted with the correct hilt and overall was within the size set out in the regulations, that officers were free to have blade 'styles' of their choosing ??
    Last edited by Ralph Grinly; 12-31-2012 at 07:44 PM.

  18. #293
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    Hi Ralph, regardless of the size of the Empire, in the 1850's-70's there were only Her Majesty's armed forces (the officers appearing in total in Hart's Annual Army Lists and the naval equivalent) and the East India Company forces (the officers all listed in the India Lists) - until they were merged with HM forces after 1858. British armed forces were surprisingly small at that time - take a flick through a copy of Hart's (available on archive.org) and see how many officers joined the service in a given year - pretty small numbers. Most infantry regiments would only get one or two new officers per year at best.

    Regarding sales to foreigners - does anybody know of any swords sold to non-British subjects in the 1850's-70's? I'd be very interested to know if Wilkinson made swords to non-British specifications in that period (any US civil war examples?).

    Also Ralph, you have to remember that only a small percentage of officer's swords sold in this period were made by Wilkinson - there were many other makers who were cheaper and sold greater numbers - Mole or Hamburger, Rogers for example. So I am still rather puzzled about who were buying these hundreds of Wilkinsons, because there were not that many new officers joining the ranks every year and most of them were buying swords made by other companies. Not that I'm suggesting the Wilkinson records were falsified, I'm just trying to make the numbers add up realistically cross-referencing with the other historical sources. You should never trust one historical document in isolation.

    Incidentally, I have come to the conclusion that a fair number of Wilkinson sales were not swords for new officers but rather new swords for old officers.. Two of the Wilkinsons in my collection were replacement swords sold to men who had already been in the service for years. In one case I know that the officer's first sword was broken in combat (at Sebastopol) and in the other case I suspect the officer either lost or broke his first sword during the Siege of Delhi. I know of several other similar examples of Wilkinsons that were purchased later in an officer's career, presumably because they could now afford or felt the need for a Wilkinson.
    Last edited by Matt Easton; 01-01-2013 at 01:13 AM.

  19. #294
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    One must remember that the numbers were applied not only to swords but other blades weapons, knives etc and all the records show is that a certain blade passed Proof. Any other information such as buyer, etcher, special details is a bonus.

    There were also at this period the large army of the Volunteer units, also a large number of presentation swords which swells the numbers. Mole was a Government contractor who by his own admission had "... a small private trade' and other makers you quote were retailers, Hamburger Rodgers having the Household Cavalry franchise(!)

    And as you say other Military Tailors, Jewellers etc who may order swords.

    I have counted up in the Named Blade ledger 103 dated presentation swords between 1856 and 1879 (There are a lrage number of other with this period etching etc which are presentation BUT NOT dated.

  20. #295
    Thanks for those answers. Sorry if I wasn't too clear. By 'foreign"orders, I really meant ones not specifically for Army officers..things like the presentation swords for cadets, possible Naval officers, the many 'volunteer' units all over the Empire and suchlike....

  21. #296
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkinson-Latham View Post
    I have counted up in the Named Blade ledger 103 dated presentation swords between 1856 and 1879 (There are a lrage number of other with this period etching etc which are presentation BUT NOT dated.
    Thanks Robert, that's a very interesting statistic.

  22. #297
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    A curiously simple Marmaluke

    No blade etching, no crown and no number. Simple wood grips and a Wyatt pattern field service scabbard.
    Who would have carried one of these and in the field ? Also the wood grip are very broad and feel very odd in the hand !
    Attached Images Attached Images     

  23. #298
    Martin,
    I can't answer your your question, but I love the look of this sword!

    Jonathan

  24. #299
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    Looks to be a modern Wilkinson sword, not completely a military pattern, possibly for display or civilian use presentation sword.

  25. #300
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    Modern? I'm not so sure, Will. It has the octagonal "best proof" slug that is characteristic of Wilkinson, but the maker's address on the obverse doesn't show the "crossed swords" logo that was used after 1923. The fact that is has a Wyatt-type scabbard also doesn't necessarily fit with "modern." Perhaps the owner simply wanted a sword that could actually be gripped well in the hand and ordered a sword that had some beef to it. Judging from the photos, the tang appears to be to be far thicker than you would see on a GO sword of the period. Maybe a fighting Mameluke? I agree with that cheesehead, Mr. Hopkins (sorry, J.G., couldn't help myself): I love the look of it.

    Maybe Robert can offer an opinion on this one.

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