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Jesse Frank

Viking sword pommels

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Well I couldn't quite figure out where to put a handle construction question like this so I stuck it here. On Viking Era swords the pommel is often attached to an upper guard by rivets. The end result being a pommel consisiting of the upper guard and one or more pieces attached to it forming the traditional domed or lobated pommel shapes we are familiar with. Am I right in assuming that the tang doesn't pass through the pommel? That is, is the upper guard fitted to the tang and then is attached by peening the end of tang prior to fitting the pommel to the upper guard?

 

Question two, how exactly is the pommel riveted to the upper guard. Do the rivets pass all the way through both pieces? On some I've seen it appears there is a rivet head on either side of the tang on the inside or grip side of the upper guard. Would the rivet have been peened flat to the outer surface of the pommel? On other hilt examples I can't seem to see any evidence of the rivets. Were the heads recessed into the upper guard?

 

Finally a speculation, do you suppose that the hilts were constructed this way to make it easier to balance the swords? Swords of later eras seem invariably to have one piece pommels and I was just wondering what purpose this seemingly more complicated method of hilt construction may have served.

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Whats up

I think that the really early ones were just there for decoration. I guess many of them were hollow and the rivet had some sort of a "T" bar on the piece that went into the pommel. There was a thread on sword forums that had a pretty good explanation that I coulnt find [dunno] . Here is another one that is pretty cool, though. cool" target="_blank">http://forums.swordforum.com/showthr....a> link

Ill let you borrow the sword in anglo saxon england next time ou come out cause it has wayyyyyy too much cool stuff int it.

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Thanks Jesse, yeah I'd like to see that book! Maybe one evening this week when I come for some of the Ruby plastic.

It never ocurred to me that the pommels might be purely decorative and hollow in some cases, but that might make sense. ( I also may not have read enough of the sources I have also for clues!)

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Hey, Guy!  I had a couple of thoughts.  First of all, what if the pins holding the pommel to the top cross were made of something like silver or copper.  Then they would blend in with the niello designs in the pommel.  Second, the added weight of the pommel would make the sword a little handle heavy, which would allow for the extended use that one would imagine a Viking would indulge in.  This is all speculation, of course.  However, the pommel designs I have seen x-rays of show the pins going all the way through and the tand peened over into the top cross.  There is a  very recent book out on the "uniforms" of the Saxons, Vikings and Normans that does some fairly in depth exploration of Migration era sword construction.  

 

I just remembered the other thing I was going to say about smaller pommels on longer swords.  Most of those swords are meant to be used from horse back...there will be compensation in reach balance and weight just because of that.  any road, just some ramblings.

:o

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some of the anglo saxon pomels where just solderred on, I think that is the case with the wood eaton pomel.  I've seen allot of examples where the rivets go all the way through as well, the sutton ho sword for example.  but I haven't seen any where the tang goes all the way through the end of the pomel.  since I became a full time sword smith I haven't been able to afford a trip to any museums with swords in them :(

but I'm gonna try to work out a govenment grant to go to london in the next couple years and do some propper research [notworthy]   of some of these ancient beauties.

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Guy,

 

I've seen a lot of Viking / Migration swords where the end guard is what the tang is rivetted to and then the pommel is rivetted onto the end guard by two rivets on either side as you mention.  Sometimes the rivets appear to be actual extensions of the pommel piece, but more common, esp. earlier, is a sandwich style construction with two rivets peened on both sides.  I think you are right that it makes it easier to replace the pommel in order to balance / rebalance the sword.  It is also easier to make the hole for the tang in the cross guard than it would be to make it in the cross guard plus pommel.  The tangs in these swords are all quite wide (1" or so) when they are rivetted through the cross guard and not the pommel.  This style of construction is more common earlier (Migration,) and sometimes on later swords there are even fake attachment rivets on pommel/guards that are really solid pieces.

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Well things are becoming much more clear now that I've been reviewing the few books I have and looking over these posts. I've seen some line drawings of Viking sword construction and mostly them seem to indicate, as you suggested Jon, that  the rivets are part of the pommel or only extend partway into the body of the pommel. If this is the case I really don't see how these rivets are being peened. I suppose it could be done, but the grip is only about 3.5 inches long and it seems like the lower guard and the grip material would effectually prevent a hammer head even coming in contact with a rivet in those locations, but perhaps I'm not thinking of the right shaped hammer head for the job. Most evidence seems to indicate the rivets were iron and a light weight hammer with a long slender curved head could probably get the job done. Otherwise the rivets could be "headed" on one end (large rivet heads are often quite visible on the grip side of the upper guard of surviving swords, wouldn't they be unformfortable?!?) and pass all the way through the outside of the pommel and peened smooth, the only trouble is I haven't seen any indication on the pictures I've seen of rivet holes passing all the way through the pommels.

I'm with Jake, it would be great to handle and examine some of these swords in person!

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Take a look at some really early Migration swords and you will see the evolution.  The cross guards, upper & lower, were often a sheet of iron with organic material sandwiched in between and the pieces rivetted together.  I had the chance to handle a couple Viking pieces at an Ashokan a few years ago, one was missing the pommel.  You could clearly see where the tang was peened into the pommel cross guard and two holes on either side for the pommel.

 

I'm going to guess that rust / fusion has obfuscated some of the pieces we're looking at.  And some of them have a tang that thins down and indeed goes through the whole pommel.  I suppose in this case it is possible that a pommel / cross with two separate pieces could have two protrusions that go into the pommel cross guard but indeed aren't actual rivets...

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Hello everyone, this is my first post here.  Viking age swords happens to be one of the areas I love, so I thought I would share a bit.

 

Just as there a variety of hilt types, there are a variety of ways in which they were constructed.  Some ways of construction might be more common to certain types, sometimes not.  The Petersen typology is always a good place to start out, here is part of it.

http://www.vikingsword.com/petersen/index.html

 

There are examples where the tang passes all the way through.  The early Petersen types A,B,C,G commonly feature this as well as  some of the late anglo saxon three and five lobed pommels.  A resent search for sword on http://www.findsdatabase.org.uk turned up several examples of the anglo saxon types.  Here is one for example.  http://www.findsdatabase.org.uk/view/imageview.php?imageID=10455

Some of the Petersen types B and C's don't even have the separate upper guard and pommel.

 

A very common way was of course having the pommel cap riveted onto the upper guard, but there is even variation here.  Sometime the pommel cap will have "built in" rivets which extend through the upper guard.  Other times there will be a "U" shaped bar which will be riveted onto the upper guard, the pommel cap then might be glued or have other means of attaching to the top of the "U" bar.    

 

Shane

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