Sword Sharpness

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Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 28 Dec 2011 23:00

The topic of sword sharpness came up in this recent discussion, and I thought it might be nice to start a new topic. A few months ago I photographed my sharpened Victorian swords and shared them in the Victorian Martial Arts section of the Schola Gladiatoria website. Instead of re-inventing the wheel I am going to re-post my previous photos and information. :) I hope more members have a go at posting their sharpened swords.

In most photos I tried to use the light to capture the sharpened bevel on both swords. I have also managed to get a few close-ups that turned out half-way decent.

First, a pre-Victorian variant P1796 LC officer's sword with pipe back blade, c.1814-21, which I use to illustrate one style of sharpening. The sharpening starts several inches from the guard--about 4" or so. The bevel is uniform and overall it appears great care was taken in sharpening this blade.

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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 28 Dec 2011 23:04

This P1821 LC officer's sword was made by Wilkinson in 1869 for Alfred Smirke of the 15th Hussars. Smirke saw active service with the 15th Hussars in Afghansitan in 1878-80. The sharpening is not as neat (some of the etching was ruined) as on the previous sword, as if sharpened in haste or by a less practiced hand. Or perhaps the edge on this sword was simply meant to make it a better cutter (more acute angle?) regardless of the damage to the decoration. The edge has taken a lot of damage, perhaps in battle but possibly someone was having a bit too much fun with it in the back yard.

I have been in contact with the owner another P1821 LC sword which belonged to one of Smirke's brother officers of the 15th Hussars. Both of our swords exhibit the same sharpening, both scabbards are lined with leather, and both officers served in Afghansitan 1878-80.

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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 28 Dec 2011 23:05

The next sharp example is a Pattern 1827 Rifle Officer's Sword by Wilkinson and proved 10 July 1866. This sword belonged to an officer of the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps who served with Buller and Wolseley on the Red River Expedition (Canada) in 1870, the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War 1878-80, and the 1st Anglo-Boer War (Transvaal Rebellion) in 1881. The sword has been carefully sharpened. It does not have the same wedge shape as the variant P1796 I posted earlier, nor does it have the same more acute and damaging style of sharpening. The sharpening begins ~3 3/4" from the guard. Also of note--the scabbard is completely wood lined so the only metal the edge might touch is the German silver throat.

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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 28 Dec 2011 23:06

Here is another Wilkinson from 1865. This one is a scroll hilt cavalry sword made for an officer of the 16th Bengal Cavalry. Prior to serving with the Bengal Army he was with the 4th Hussars, and then transferred to the7th Hussars with whom he served in the Indian Mutiny. His only other active service before his death in 1875 (possible Cholera) was with the 16th Bengal Cavalry during the Black Mountain (sometimes called 1st Hazara) Expedition of 1868. This sharpening is very siilar to that of the Pattern 1827 Rifle Officer's Sword pictures above, and begins 8 1/2" from the guard. The blade's condition makes it a bit more difficult to capture, but I had a go anyhow. The scabbard is also completely wood lined.

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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 28 Dec 2011 23:06

The next sword is yet another Wilkinson, but sold in 1876 to an officer of the Bengal Staff Corps--mostly with the 29th Bengal Infantry. He was a long-serving officer who saw active service in the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War (wounded in the buttocks at Peiwar Kotal!), numerous campaigns and expeditions in the North West Frontier ( Hazara expedition, 1st and 2nd Miranzai expeditions, Relief of Chitral, North-West Frontier campaign of 1897-98), and China in 1901 (serving as Major-General). The blade is sharpened like the previous two but it begins 4 1/4" from the guard. The steel scabbard may date to 1895 when the sword was re-hilted with the new steel guard--hard to tell. If it was lined with wood or leather there are no remains.

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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 28 Dec 2011 23:07

Another Wilkinson, sold in 1888 to an officer of the Queen's Own West Surrey Regiment. This officer served across the Empire--Niger-Sudan Expedition 1897, Northwest Frontier 1897-98, Waziristan 1902, Tibet 1903-04, and finally WWI (KIA near Loos 1914 by machine gun fire). This blade has similar damaging sharpening as the P1821 LC sword. The scuffing from the wheel begins only 2 1/2" from the guard, but it is not actually sharp until 10 1/2" from the guard. The scabbard is an early brown leather field service scabbard and is wood lined with a yellow metal throat. This is another example of a Pattern 1854 Infantry Officer's Sword that was re-hilted in 1895.

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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Mark » 28 Dec 2011 23:51

Outstanding thread, Jonathan! Very informative and well written! Wish I could take such splendid photos as you have!

Mark
Mark Simner BA (Hons) MSc | Web: http://marksimner.me.uk | Twitter @marksimner
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 29 Dec 2011 00:41

Thank you, Mark! Hopefully others will add some images so we can see the range of sharpening styles (and skills).
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Atlantia » 29 Dec 2011 01:45

Excellent work Jonathan and excellent examples of the different approaches used in sharpening.

It's interesting to see that some soldiers clearly didn't mind sacrificing the etching in order to get the optimal angle on the sharpening, even though it doesn't seem logical to etch these blades to a fraction of an inch from the edge if they were intended to be sharpened,
So, following our discussion on the CoP in the other thread, I have a couple of observations and a theory to offer.
The etched designs on my 1845 blade extend from the hilt to 14-1/4" from the tip.
With the CoP etched panel starting at 13-3/4" from the tip.
If you take into consideration that the final etching on the blade comes to a central point, the tip of which is 1/2" before the beginning of the CoP (adding slightly more space on the final edge) then can we assume that these aren't meant to be sharpened right back onto the etching, and they were intended to be (if needed) sharpened as far as the back end of the CoP with a little extra left to 'cut in' the sharpening?
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby ED, in Los Angeles » 29 Dec 2011 05:24

After a blade is sharpened on a wheel, a final touch would be to hone the edge on a wet stone. Do any of these bladews show this kind of treatment, or are they all wheel lines from near ricasso to tip?

Remember also that cleaning a rusty sword on a buffing wheel to sell on the modern market can remove the wheel lines and make the sword look as it has been honed on a wet stone or oil stone.

What is CoP?
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby swordcollector1 » 29 Dec 2011 12:16

Well, the daylight isn't very good here at the moment, so I'm restricted to swords where I already have good photos of the sharpening to show. The first is an 1821 Light Cavalry Officer's sword to an officer of the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars. This sword was purchased from the firm of Mole, probably in 1878 when its owner was first commissioned, in which case it would have been carried during his service in the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War - the sharpening is fairly crude and, as with some of the other swords posted, has cut into the etching in places. On the cutting edge the sharpening starts roughly 9" from the guard, and on the back edge it runs from the point for nearly 12" (approximately as far as the start of the blade fuller). On this sword the last 2mm of the point is missing, and the edge has nicks suggesting combat usage (since in places these seem to be overlaid by the marks of the sharpening).

I'll post more examples over the next day or two - this is a useful reference thread! :)

John
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby swordcollector1 » 29 Dec 2011 12:55

This is an 1822 Pattern sword for Officers of the Royal Artillery, made by the London firm of Thurkle. As a lieutenant, its owner commanded the Ordnance Field Park of the Malakand Field Force, 1897/8, under the command of Sir Bindon Blood, K.C.B., and went on to command the 1st Welsh (Howitzer) Brigade during the Great War. The sword is sharpened on its cutting edge only, and this has been quite neatly done, though in places it still encroaches on the etching (eg on the edge of the Garter Star, pictured below). The sharpening begins approximately 3" from the guard.
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby swordcollector1 » 29 Dec 2011 13:19

The third sharpened sword I'm posting today is an 1827 Pattern for officers of Rifle regiments. It was made in 1884 by the well-known firm of Henry Wilkinson and carried by an officer of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles. From its date and what we know of its owner's service, we can surmise that it saw action in the Looshai Expedition of 1889, the Manipur Expedition of 1891, various actions on the NW Frontier of India (the owner was awarded a Medal & Clasp to this effect) and the Tirah campaign of 1897-8. He died of disease in 1906 while serving as second-in-command of 2/9 Gurkhas. The blade of the sword has been neatly sharpened on its cutting edge from a point about 4" from the guard, and on its back edge for approximately the last 9" towards the point. The junction of the sharpened edges at the point is particularly neatly executed.

John
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 29 Dec 2011 16:42

John,
Thank you very much for posting! Great examples so far and very similar to most of my swords' sharpening style.

Ed,
CoP is Centre of Percussion.

Jonathan
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Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 29 Dec 2011 20:27

Gene,
Sorry I missed your question! I just want to make sure I understand it before I answer (I am a bit out of it today). Are you asking if the termination of the etching might indicate the area intended for sharpening?

Thank you,
Jonathan
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