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A messer (a mess of a sabre?)

peter johnsson

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Hi fiery friends!

I am sorry to have been pretty much inactive over the past months.
I visit to see what is going on and enjoy all the fine work being done.

This time I can make a contribution, however. A newly finished commission is here presented. A messer (or possibly a sabre, depending on your definitions, but it is really a messer, trust me). Its basis is as a side arm for a professional soldier, a landsknecht, of swiss nationality back around the year 1510. It will be used in living history activity and because of this left without its final sharpening. It is nearly sharp, but not so much that you might cut yourself (or someone else) by accident.

I like messers, but do not make them often. This piece was inspired by a number of originals that I have had a closer look at. The guard is of a type that you find on hand and half swords of this period. The grip has a wood core that is formed around a very wide tang (nearly the full width of the grip where it is most narrow). The end is topped with a flat cap, or disc. A feature that you can see on some swords and messers. It is also completely covered with leather in a way that makes the hilt look more like the hilt of a sword than that of a messer (since they by popular agreement *must* show grip scales riveted to a full width tang). In several cases the border line between saber and messer is blurry. You find typical messers with less than typical grips. They are enough like messers to be strange if seen as sabres.

Anyhow. The blade is mostly self balancing. There is no need for a pommel to "counter balance" it. Messers are like that. Self relying. No need for any pommels.

I made the blade several years back and it has been waiting for a good project to be completed.
Sometimes waiting is good.

The mission was to make a sword that had seen some use, but in a good state of repair. Some slight distressing and patina to make it look not-new. I suggested that the hilt should show some file marks and was happy that the customer agreed. You often see this on well preserved original swords, even high status obviously expensive swords may have very obvious file marks.
Most who take the plunge for a commission strive for *perfect* and want this to be reflected in the finish as well. In this case perfect was something that was not quite perfect. I was happy that the customer was of the same opinion as me. Making a hilt with these kid of traces of the process of making is actually not quicker, since the process has to show and each step be made right. It was fun to do this kind of finish for once.

The scabbard is made by Tod at Tod´s stuff. He is great with this kind of work and any other kind of work as well. Anything from Roman balistas, greek fire engines, cross bows, daggers, swords, cannons or house building: he is your man.

Below some snap shots of the messer.
Total length is 103,5 cm
Blade length is 80,5 cm
Weight is 940 grams

-Thanks for looking!














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Nice interpretation of messer. It's the first time that I've seen one with a side ring on the outside rather than a spur. I have to say that I like it even if it's not historically accurate as far as the purists are concerned.



HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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Perfect... just perfect.


The fundamental cause of trouble is that the stupid are cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher
follow me on Instagram @raggedravenforge

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No way man, that's not a messer!


Ok, I hope you realize I am just teasing. It is wonderful, and I like the freedom to interpret what actually existed instead of what people expect was supposed to exist.


great work. also, good to see you back here. we miss you when you are gone.


please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/


“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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Superb! Thanks for the insight into the classification and background on the piece. I'm glad that the customer agrees with the blemishing. It adds a bit of character that would make a 'perfect' finish would seem out of place. Always a pleasure to see new work from you!



Not all those who wander are lost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

-Shards of the Dark Age- my blog
-Nine Worlds Workshop-
-Last Apocalypse Forge-

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This has to be one of favorite things you have made Peter. I often don't like messers, but you made me love this one. Fantastic.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."  -Albert Camus


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Thank you guys!

I´ll post some images of these "tweeners" so you can see for yourselves that messers not always follow our neat definitions and specifications.







This one above is a messer grip with leather cover showing imprint of cord binding.






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Very cool! I love that handle!

To become old and wise... You first have to survive being young and foolish! ;) Ikisu.blogsot.com. Email; milesikisu@gmail.com mobile: +27784653651

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this is a magnificent blade i love the slightly weathered finish, looks very period correct.


i just love the agressive elegance that messers have

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Fantastic work as always, Peter! I saw this on Facebook, but it's nice to have larger photos to examine.


I love the wire wrapped elements secured with rivets. I've seen you use that technique on other swords, and I've always admired how it dresses up a hilt while simultaneously providing practical benefits.




"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Thanks for the museum pictures. I had no idea that there were such variations on the messer theme, though it shouldn't have surprised me.



HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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Peter is still alive . Nice work., and a true Peter Johnsson.


But, the sad thing is that it seems that this Beauty will not in Solingen on Display .


Maybe we see us in Solingen this year ?




Edited by D.Kraft
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We've come to expect this level of work from you Peter. Well done...


Perfection is an unattainable ideal. Giving a nod to that by leaving purposeful, sensitive tool-marks takes the sting out of it and shows a type of playfulness within the realm of beauty defined by line, form, surface and balance. Not an easy thing to do.

Edited by Jim Kelso
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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't think I've gone back to look at any other sword as much as I have this one. I couldn't say why, but this one really speaks to me. Sword making has always been my goal, but nothing has motivated me to get there faster than this one. It almost makes the distractions of forge welding and mokume irritating (why are all aspects of this craft so addictive?!).


May I ask how thick the blade is at the guard?

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