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Kristopher Skelton

Migration era shortsword?

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Hello guys and gals...

 

First of all, I am Jeff, from Brazil. I have been lurking for a while and decided to post in search of oppinions for a project to start. In two weeks I will have my new shop running, and I wanted to start with a very special project. A migration era shortsword. I will forge it out of 5160, age the blade with the bleach technique Chuck Burows (Wild Rose) uses. I will make a three layer mild steel guard, being the first and the last layers plain, and the midle one fileworked in a viking pattern (I am still researching this) and the same for the pommel. Fittings are to be brown or black finished by rusting, carding and boiling. I also wanted to carve/forge some runes on the blade. The help I need is to make the pack look as historicaly accurate as possible and I can see there is a lot of migration period blades showing up in this great forum. This goes from the carving of the guard to the materials used (maybe the first and second layers of the guard should be of something else?), from the runes I have no idea of how to understand to the lengh and proper geometry of the blade.

I have been looking into antiques and museaum pictures and have found nothing short with double edges... so I started asking around you know...  [dunno]

 

Well... thanks in advance for any imput.

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By the way... I have been browsing tons of rune websites and I can't find what was usual to write in a sword blade. One site quoted one poem of Odin that statesone should write runes of victory.. al though I couldn't tell for sure wich were they. I also found good historical information on another site that had real inscription samples, but the onlye weapons were two spear heads. Both had their names writen, and since I know nothing of nordic laguages I am stuck again. I found a cool charms page, but I was planning something more extensive along the blade, not just a single symbol, even though the simble to cause fear into enemies has fallen into my attention. The thing is I don't want to put a buch of runes on it just to make it look cool. This is first because I respect the meaning and the culture and second because I want it to be historicaly accurate.. as much as possible.

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There are a couple historical blades with the entire Runic alphabet inscribed in them.  The closest thing to what that might mean is something like a Sanskrit Ohm prayer... it's just, well, the Universe in a nutshell.  Can't go wrong with that and it is historically accurate.  Google British Museum and Thames Scramaseax and you'll get at least one of them.

 

I have never seen a double edged, fullered Viking / Migration era blade that was less than 28" or so.  The 'Viking Dagger,' that you occasionally see is very much a modern, romantic style.

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Short swords, in the West, seem to be a modern invention.  In the East, short blades appear to have the same kind of logic as hand guns and short AR's have today, it's hard to maneuver a full sized weapon in close quarters, like buildings and vehicles.  The Chinese Chen (or Jian) swords were often found in a 18-20 inch blade, when the full sized ones were more like 28-35 inches.

 

In the West short blades are more "knife like", in terms of use and mountings, which gets us into the "is it a knife or a sword" question.  Most of the references to short swords I've seen appear to be re-worked broken long blades, perhaps for children, waste-not, want-not.  Look here for one Viking sword

 

The first real Western short swords I'm aware of are the 18th century court swords, which have much the same logic, a full sized sword gets in the way in the salon, and 18 inches of sticker is plenty when no one is carrying a cavalry saber.

 

Geoff

 

Oh how cruel, the wind and rain.

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Thank you for the information.

 

Iteresting... now I have a good explanation for not having shorter swords... my problem is that right now I am not able (condition, skills, and equipment) to forge and heat treat a longer blade. I might use the second half of the runic aphabet to support the theme of a shortened blade and I will make sure the mounting and fitting of the guard also makes it look like that.

 

Now for the handle... I can use plain wood or I can wrap it with leather. What would look more like the real thing? If wraping is best, then just around it or was there any crossing over or anything?

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Short swords, in the West, seem to be a modern invention.  

We shouldn't forget that both the ancient Greeks and Romans used short swords (the Gladius and the... err... thingy).  This makes it all the more suprising that the short sword seemed to lapse from use.  I would speculate that this was because both the Greeks and Romans fought in tight formation where, as Geoff points out, a longer blade would have been impractical. After the fall of the Empire, martial culture seemed to revert to it's state prior to the empire which emphasised the prowess of the individual warrior.  The return to tribalism meant the end of the standing army in Europe; part-time soldiers with less time to train (and possibly no training at all in large numbers), hence less discipline and more emphasis on the individual, and bigger swords.

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It's is true that the Romans, in particular, used short blades, though that changed from era to era.  As the Empire broadened, and more "barbarians" were inducted into the armies, swords got longer.  This might mean that it was harder to get soldiers of uniform height, or it might mean that later armies were not as well trained, or it might just be an evolution of style and tactics.  It should noted that through-out recorded western history, most soldiers did not have swords.  Swords are hard and expensive to make, whereas spears, axes, hammers, clubs and the like are relatively cheap to make, and take a lot less metal and skill.

 

Swords in the gunpowder era tend to be symbols of rank.  There was an issue shortsword, both in Europe and the Americas.  I can't dredge up the date, but it's a pattern 1823(?) double edged, cast bronze one piece hilt, grip, and pommel.  They were issued to bands, artillery, and medical units, I suppose that those units had less status than cavalry officers.  Naval swords tended to be shorter, as well, so as not to hang up in the rigging, I suppose.

 

My suspicion is that swords were always status items, if you could afford one, you were high status, and just like today, they wanted their status symbols big and obvious.  OTOH, if a sword is too big and heavy you can't swing it, and you get dead, so there was some limit on size, but not decoration.  But a small sword does not have quite the same message as a great big one.

 

Geoff

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BrB- you'll need to consult some "occult" works to get the runes you're looking for.  They'll have the picture of the rune, a name (be prepared to be confused by all the variations), it's approximation in the Roman alphabet (in case you just want to write your name on the blade in runes), what it symbolizes (home, oxen, wheel, etc) and what it stands for (victory, justice, etc).  For example "Tir" looks like a basic arrow pointing up and means "victory" or "success", represents competition, is used as the letter "t".  This comes from "A Practical Guide to the Runes" by Lisa Peschel ( ISBN 0-87542-593-3 for your bookstore search).  I know several rune readers that use this as their main guidebook as it's very comprehensive and compact.

 

good luck, bro'.  Keep us posted

 

David, were you thinking of "Cinqueda" The five-finger-width blade?  Or another variation on these two blades? (dang, could they have come up with more names for the slightly different types of blade)

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David, were you thinking of "Cinqueda" The five-finger-width blade?  Or another variation on these two blades? (dang, could they have come up with more names for the slightly different types of blade)

I was trying to think of the ancient Greek name for those leaf-blade type short sword they used. Five fingers wide... sounds like a hefty blade!

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Swords are hard and expensive to make, whereas spears, axes, hammers, clubs and the like are relatively cheap to make, and take a lot less metal and skill.

 

:)  I'm going to have to wicked-disagree with that statement.  Not the cheap part, but the less skill part; especially on the Viking spear...  Some of them took as much steel as a sword to make and have quite skill-demanding sockets, lugs, central ridges & damascus patterns.

 

Also, the spear was really the penultimate Viking weapon, rather than the sword... at 5-7 ft overall and with a blade that is 5-6" wide 12-16" long, these things are slashing weapons; closer to a double edged naginata than a longer, thrusting spear.  Way more common to find than swords but as usual, the sword commands much more romanticism...

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The conquedea is from Italian origin, venice or milan I can't remember. It was not a regular war sword, it was much more a fashionable object for noblemen of the period and region. Most antiques I have seen were highly decorate and expensive, and had a blade geometry that favors thrusting reather than slashing. The edges resemble the knives from Corsiga, wich had very sturdy and pointy blades, something like a mix of mediterranean dirk and stiletto. The corsiga knives are of much latter period than the cinquedea.

 

About my project:

I started to draw the project today, and I finaly came to some decisions. I don't have a scanner, but I will get an image of the hole draw for you as soon as I can. Guard and pommel will be a composite piece, made of a first layer of aged copper, a midle layer of browned mild steel with some filework, and a last layer of aged copper. I will use the same technique to age both the blade and the copper: bleach.

The mild steel parts will be aged with rust and boil technique for a brown patina.

Handle will be a dark brazilian hardwood called Caviuna. Mice stuff, kind of curly but really dark. I decided not to carve any runes on this one. Lets start simple. Maybe on the next project.

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First of all, try "The Book of Runes" by Ralph H. Blum, published by St.Martins Press out of New York.  Second, I think the Greek "thingy" in question was called either the Falcatta or the Kopis.  As opposed to a spatha which I believe was longer than either.  I wonder if swords started becoming longer because most warriors were mounted on horse back.  Admittedly, the vikings were not known through out Europe for their skills as horesmen, but the horse was a Skandinavian status symbol.  Several epics also speak of ships as horses of the waves.  So, as cities became more the centers of trade and economy, the use of swords in crowded places became more problematic.  Hence the baselard, thought to be Swiss in origin and generally right around twentyfour inches in length.  Also, there are the falchions, popular with archers and sailors during the Hundred Years War.  These are some excellent examples of mid to late period short swords from Europe.  They can be hard to find examples of, however, the book "Swords and Hilt Weapons" by Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, et al. published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in New York is an invaluable resource for a broad survey of the development of bladed weapons.  I appologize if I got a little pedantic.  I hope this information has some value for you.

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I think the Greek "thingy" in question was called either the Falcatta or the Kopis

That wasn't the type I was thinking of, although I am aware of the type (I ground a not-for-use kopis out of mild steel some time ago).  I finally got round to interogating my copy of Connolly's Greece and Rome at war and could only find it listed as a 'greek type sword' or more specifically 'forth century hoplite sword'.  (It is illustration 1 on page 78, also illustration 7 on page 63).  I guess it's possible that this sword type was so prevalent in ancient Greece that they didn't have a particular name for it other than the general word for sword.

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"with a blade that is 5-6" wide 12-16" long"

 

jon, I'm guessing these dimensions are not just the blade, but including the 'wings' and socket? Most of the pictures I have seen don't list dimensions on the spear heads (or discuss hafts at all) so I'd love to have you share more of what you know about this. That's a whopper of a spear either way and one day I want to try making one.

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Yep, Viking spears run the gamut from very small javelins to big, broad blades with oval shafts, indicating that they expected to see pressure exerted along the sideways edge of the blade.  5-6" wide would be the absolute largest, but there are plenty with blades over 1 foot long.  Anytime you have a spear with a long, broad edge and a relatively short haft ( say 5-7 feet ) you would be dumb not to slash with it... there are descriptions of fights in Norse Sagas indicating that often the "spear," was more of a polearm... used something like a naginata.

 

Quick Google search:

 

http://home6.inet.tele.dk/hjortspr/spears.htm

 

http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/armor.htm  ( Scroll Down )

 

http://www.angelcynn.org.uk/  Click on Warfare, then Anglo Saxon Wargear.

 

http://www.danetre-vikings.org.uk/Images/Finds/BM-Spears-1.jpg

 

 

This must have beena  pricey spear... :;):

 

 

 

patternspear.jpg

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Thanks. Wow, where's that last one from? I can figure out part of the process, but anytime you want to make one and show how you did it we'll all be grateful.

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Now that spear is a great blade.. I am trully impressed. Thanks for the links and picture.

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Man John, that is one FANCY spear!  I want to make one! that is some pretty funky pattern welding going on there.  

 One good indication of the importance of the spear in the norse siche(sp) is that Odin does not appear to have a sword at all but a dwarf forged spear named Gungir; and if i didn't know better I'd say you just posted a picture of it there John    :P

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Man John, that is one FANCY spear!  I want to make one! that is some pretty funky pattern welding going on there.  

 One good indication of the importance of the spear in the norse siche(sp) is that Odin does not appear to have a sword at all but a dwarf forged spear named Gungir; and if i didn't know better I'd say you just posted a picture of it there John    :P

Kinda the way I see Odin's spear, as well.  Very similar to the one I painted for someone a while back, anyway.  The size was too small to paint in pattern welding indications, though... and the colors would have been lost in this particular case, anyway.  But, because I like swords too, I gave the AllFather one.  :)

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Awesome painting Scott!

Thanks, Jake.  The buyer seemed pretty pleased with it.  Hard to photograph, though, and it looked better in person.  Lots more detail in the half tones that the camera missed.  

 

If you ever make a spear like this I'd love to see pics of it.  I think it is a nice form and if one were patterned after the photo of the one posted, it would be a beauty.  :)

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I bet they where happy with it.  yeah I have to do a spear soon. one with an oval haft and a big old blade on it. and some carving and runes on the haft I think.  I've got a guy whos been patitioning me to do a celtic one and sent me all sorts of black line actual size diagrams of historical pieces.  I'll have to photograph them they are beautifull spear heads.

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Nice work, Scott.

 

Was the customer Asatru?   [ylsuper]

 

I recently found a cool site:

 

http://home.earthlink.net/~norsemyths/norsemyths1.html

 

My favorite is Arthur Rackham's redition of Loki and the Rhinemaidens.  I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I appear to look exactly like Rackham's vision of Loki...

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Nice work, Scott.

 

Was the customer Asatru?   [ylsuper]

 

I recently found a cool site:

 

http://home.earthlink.net/~norsemyths/norsemyths1.html

 

My favorite is Arthur Rackham's redition of Loki and the Rhinemaidens.  I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I appear to look exactly like Rackham's vision of Loki...

The painting went to Jim Adelsen at Viking-Shield.  I've looked that site you mention over and used some of the works there as inspiration for this painting I posted.  I'm thinking of trying to interest somebody in original pencil renderings.  Don't know if Jim is interested in handling those or not, but I have at least a couple of ideas going.  I want to do a Thor piece of some kind if I can find some time....

 

There are probably a lot worse things than looking like Loki... Except when he is in trouble with the Asgaard folks, ofcourse.  :D

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