Sword Sharpness

For all discussions relating to military weapons and tactics of the Victorian period.

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Atlantia » 29 Dec 2011 21:02

Jonathan wrote: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


Ello Jonathan,

Thats OK mate. Great thread BTW!
So, in answer... Essentially yes, I guess so.
These swords are so beautifully etched that it doesn't make sense to me to etch the designs right to the edge if they were intended to be sharpened.
If the etching was confined to within the fuller, but it goes to 1mm from the edge on my 1845. But coincidentally ends before the beginning of the CoP, with just enough room to start the sharpening before the start of the CoP.

Best
Gene

Edit: and of course the plain area beyond the etching encompasses the Cop, is long enough for a slash and the double edged spear point for the stab.
User avatar
Atlantia
New Member
 
Posts: 48
Joined: 01 Dec 2011 17:29

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby acanthus » 29 Dec 2011 21:38

To all concerned,

Jonathan is never short of new and interesting topics, and this no less however my ability to provide pictures is limited by the absence of a suitable camera.

As an observation, I have noted probably four different types or manner of sharpening, these in terms of the quality of sharpening, the width of the sharpened area of the blade, the shape of the edge and the beginning of the sharpened section of the blade.

Firstly the blades which I imagine were sharpened by the maker exibit a very well executed chisel edge, with an edge width of possibly 1/32" and this is generally quite precisely done without (or extremly minimal) damage to the etching, and tapers off to nothing towards the hilt.

Secondly there is what I call Tulwar style, which is again a chisel shape however, the edge width is far greater range up to 3/16" in extreme case and depends on the angle at which the grinding wheel has been applied to the edge; this style of sharpening is very common on swords with kwown Indian service. The beginning of the sharpened area can be quite abrupt, forming a small shoulder on the blade where the sharpening starts and the edge profile is generally extremely even, and in some cases runs right up to the front of the ricasso.

Then again a chisel edge can be applied, which is quite un-even and tapers off towards the hilt without any distinct beginning or shoulder.

Third is an edge which is applied more to the profile of the blade as apposed to creating a chisel edge, this style appears to be done on a griding wheel, or possibly a honing action by hand, and can be quite damaging to decorative panels if the blade is etched.

Lastly is the somewhat careless sharpening of the edge and point on a wheel, which although very effective in creating an edge, it lacks precision and is very damaging to any etching and also the general appearance of a blade.

The effects of sharpening may well be the reason behind the lack of etching on some "fighting swords".
acanthus
Senior Member
 
Posts: 376
Joined: 09 Jan 2009 14:35

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 29 Dec 2011 22:07

Gene,
That is an interesting idea, but in my limited experience I have not seen any swords sharpened that way (well, except for P1892/95/97 blades). Looking at my small collection, all but two were sharpened carefully and neatly so as to minimally infringe upon the blade decoration. Looking at John's examples I'd say that his follow suit. Based on this I would guess that a thin margin was not considered a bad thing. I would also guess that most officers would rather have a sharp service sword than one with pristine etching, although it appears that in most cases (based on our small sample) a balance was often sought and achieved. Have you seen other officers' swords sharpened like yours? What do you think, John, Gordon, etc.?

All the best,
Jonathan

PS--Thank you for adding to our knowledge base, Gordon (I was still typing while you posted). I always appreciate your observations!
User avatar
Jonathan
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 1452
Joined: 15 Nov 2007 17:52
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Atlantia » 30 Dec 2011 00:12

Jonathan wrote:Gene,
That is an interesting idea, but in my limited experience I have not seen any swords sharpened that way (well, except for P1892/95/97 blades). Looking at my small collection, all but two were sharpened carefully and neatly so as to minimally infringe upon the blade decoration. Looking at John's examples I'd say that his follow suit. Based on this I would guess that a thin margin was not considered a bad thing. I would also guess that most officers would rather have a sharp service sword than one with pristine etching, although it appears that in most cases (based on our small sample) a balance was often sought and achieved. Have you seen other officers' swords sharpened like yours? What do you think, John, Gordon, etc.?

All the best,
Jonathan

PS--Thank you for adding to our knowledge base, Gordon (I was still typing while you posted). I always appreciate your observations!



Hi Jonathan

At present I've only got two European sabres. The 1845 and an 1896 pattern Imperial German dovehead combat artillery sabre which has an untouched and completely blunt edge.
The last 45-54 pattern that I had was *mumble* years ago and it also had very clean undamaged etching. If memory serves (and it might not) I think it was also sharpened toward the business end like the one I have now. But its also part of the reason why I think of that pattern as pretty blunt ineffectual things and not as serious weapons.
I'm trying to remember if the other 19thC military swords I've had over the years were sharpened or not.
I had a beautiful 1899 Cavalry troopers sword with Dragoon Guard stamps and it had been very carefully sharpened nearly all the way up.
To be honest, I'm only now beginning to really appreciate these swords, in the past I would only have bought ones that were cheap and in great condition (so bad scuffs on an etched blade would have put me off).
I'm going to take better notice of them now because I'm going to have to buy more so they don't look lost among the rapiers, Tulwar, Shamshir, Golok etc.

Best
Gene
User avatar
Atlantia
New Member
 
Posts: 48
Joined: 01 Dec 2011 17:29

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 30 Dec 2011 15:48

Gene,
Thank you for bringing up cavalry troopers' swords. I have not owned any post-Napoleonic troopers' swords and I am curious to see how these were sharpened compared to officers' swords, and if sharpening varied between regiments (both British and Indian). Can any members offer examples?

Thank you,
Jonathan
User avatar
Jonathan
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 1452
Joined: 15 Nov 2007 17:52
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Will Mathieson » 30 Dec 2011 18:43

This post has urged me to look at my swords and I have found relatively consistent sharpening. From 1796lc to 1899p era swords, they are sharpened within 2" of the guard or from the end of langets, some infantry swords being similar. Possibly the thinking was that if you sharpen a blade, why not all of it? Close quarters, a punch holding a sword could be made more effectively with the blade sharp and useful to cut the face, if dull not much accomplished.
Possibly many other swords out there sharpened differently to make me a liar!
Officers could do as they please with their private purchase swords, troopers were governed by strict rules and sharpening I believe was viewed as lessening the useable life of the sword.
User avatar
Will Mathieson
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 801
Joined: 03 Mar 2009 00:56
Location: near Fort Henry

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 30 Dec 2011 19:43

Thank you, Will!
User avatar
Jonathan
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 1452
Joined: 15 Nov 2007 17:52
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby MikeS » 31 Dec 2011 06:52

Great topic! I only have two officers swords that are service sharpened, but they cover both extremes from non-invasive to the removal of etching.
The first is a P1821 Light Cavalry sword for a Royal Artillery officer, made by Wilkinson in 1859. It saw action in the Abyssinian campaign in 1868. The sharpening starts about halfway up the blade and is carefully done as it is only as wide as the etched margin. The second picture shows the transition from the etched border to the sharpened section. Scabbard is leather lined
Image
Image

Next is another P1821 Light Cavalry sword, sold by Wilkinson in 1876 to an officer in the 15th Hussars. He was in Afghanistan in 1878-1880 (along with A. Smirke) and South Africa, 1881. It is sharpened almost up to the ricasso and the etching along the edge is mostly gone. The sword was kept is a leather lined scabbard and parts of the edge are still quite sharp, even after 130 years or so.
Image
Image
User avatar
MikeS
New Member
 
Posts: 66
Joined: 16 May 2008 03:35
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby MikeS » 31 Dec 2011 07:26

Jonathan wrote: Buller and Wolseley on the Red Rover Expedition


I think you mean Red River. The Red Rover Expedition was an entirely separate affair on playgrounds across the country... :D
Cheers,
Mike
User avatar
MikeS
New Member
 
Posts: 66
Joined: 16 May 2008 03:35
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Will Mathieson » 31 Dec 2011 14:34

Two really good swords Mike. The cavalry officer anticipated action to have the sword sharpened this way, not worried about losing some etching. Would not want to lead a charge with a dull sword! Do you know of any actions in Afghanistan or South Africa the officer and sword could have been in?
User avatar
Will Mathieson
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 801
Joined: 03 Mar 2009 00:56
Location: near Fort Henry

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby MikeS » 31 Dec 2011 21:08

Will Mathieson wrote:Two really good swords Mike. The cavalry officer anticipated action to have the sword sharpened this way, not worried about losing some etching. Would not want to lead a charge with a dull sword! Do you know of any actions in Afghanistan or South Africa the officer and sword could have been in?


Will,
The cavalry sword was used by Lieutenant the Hon. Arthur Manners at the affair in the Ghlo Pass on 4th January, 1879 (along with Captain A.Smirke as well). This was an interesting action, although largely ignored as the Victorian attitude was that since it didn't conform to the standards of a formal battle, it was minor and insignificant. As far as South Africa goes, I don't really know where he was, although the 15th really didn't do much fighting. Lieutenant Manners obviously kept his sword sharp, as the scabbard throat has many deep cuts on the inside from the sharp edge being dragged across it. Couldn't have been ideal for edge retention.
Cheers,
Mike
User avatar
MikeS
New Member
 
Posts: 66
Joined: 16 May 2008 03:35
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 31 Dec 2011 22:14

MikeS wrote:
Jonathan wrote: Buller and Wolseley on the Red Rover Expedition


I think you mean Red River. The Red Rover Expedition was an entirely separate affair on playgrounds across the country... :D
Cheers,
Mike


Ack! Yes, it is a typo! I will edit my post. :oops:
User avatar
Jonathan
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 1452
Joined: 15 Nov 2007 17:52
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Jonathan » 31 Dec 2011 22:17

Mike,
Thank you for adding your two excellent examples! :)

Jonathan
User avatar
Jonathan
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 1452
Joined: 15 Nov 2007 17:52
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Will Mathieson » 01 Jan 2012 20:50

Here are some interesting links for the Ghlo Pass action and Manners & Smirke, for those that want a quick look into it.


http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/h ... -nna.shtml

http://books.google.ca/books?id=wH-YWRD ... 79&f=false

http://books.google.ca/books?id=_d7M1UR ... ss&f=false
User avatar
Will Mathieson
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 801
Joined: 03 Mar 2009 00:56
Location: near Fort Henry

Re: Sword Sharpness

Postby Mark » 02 Jan 2012 01:43

Due to the high quality and informative nature of this thread I have now made it a 'sticky' topic for ease of reference/lookup.

Mark
Mark Simner BA (Hons) MSc | Web: http://marksimner.me.uk | Twitter @marksimner
User avatar
Mark
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 4007
Images: 57
Joined: 10 Aug 2007 16:05
Location: United Kingdom

PreviousNext

Return to Weapons & Tactics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest