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Adam Betts

Beginning a Baselard

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Greetings, fellow smiths. I'm beginning construction of a baselard-type knife of dubious provenance. It's a chimera as far as design elements go, but I think it's within the realm of plausibility for England and northern Europe in the 14th-15th centuries (please correct me if I'm way off-baselard here). I was inspired by several museum pieces that had imposing single-edged blades, so that was the central element I designed around.

I've forged the blade already, and I'm planning on making the guard and pommel out of steel (I'd love to use wrought iron, but have none). I'm not sure what wood to use for the handle, but I was leaning toward oak, because I'd like the final finish to be fairly dark. I also have a stockpile of birch, cherry, mahogany, ipe, and maple, but I'm not sure what would be appropriate for the area and time period I'm roughly aiming for.

Aside from general design commentary and criticism, I was also wondering what my options for decorating the hilt are. I was thinking I would do some very basic filework on the guard and/or pommel, but on daggers with this type of handle, those pieces generally seem very plain. I also love me some carved knotwork, but I have a feeling that might might not be period appropriate-- for example, the ubiquitous ballock dagger doesn't seem to feature knotwork during its evolutionary lifespan until it morphs into the Scottish dirk, and I'm wondering if knotwork fell out of favor as a decorative element after the Norman conquest of England.
Anyway, feedback on these things, and any other suggestions for basic ornamentation would be welcome. This is supposed to be a huntsman's weapon, so it shouldn't look very high end.

Final question: On a dagger like this, I would assume the tang goes through the handle and is peened over the pommel, right? I've done this a few time on a small scale, but have not come up with a good way to secure the blade/handle assembly to keep the blade from being beaten right back out of the hole.

Thank you for reading!

20160922_115359.jpg

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First off mind listing your resources for these design concepts?

 

Second if you wanna do historical worm set a limit for yourself about what constitutes historical. for some that means appropriate materials, design and techniques, others it's just design, and other just simply site influences.

 

Now others on this site will hopefully correct me, but so far as I know bazelards were double edged and featured a promenent swelling both forward and behind the hand. Forming an I shape this doesn't seem to feature that at all.

 

In fact this comes closer to a balloon dagger or rondelle in my mind.

 

I'd suggest checking the Wallace collection, and some the German museums for examples to work off of.

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What Sean said. That is not a Baselard, this is:

 

baselard.jpg

 

This one is from around 1450 and is in the Museum of London, which means it was most likely found in the Thames. The hilt is ivy or grapevine root burl, as most of them are. As I recall, on that one there are no metal plates on the hilt at all, the tang is simply driven through a hole and secured with cutlers' resin.

 

What you have drawn is more of a Hauswehr, but with a Lombard broadsax blade. So, you're in the realm of fantasy or what-if blades here. That is not a bad thing at all! Don't get me wrong. Just know your sources, which in this case are Germanic midcontinental Europe over a thousand year span, no real English look to it at all. For that matter, the Baselard was named for Basel, Switzerland. They do appear all across northern west Europe including England, because they are not a noble or warlike weapon and thus could be carried by commoners. They are a quick and dirty self-defense dagger or street brawlers' short sword.

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A full list of references is impossible,

simply because I can't easily find them again. I saved a couple of images, though.

07346d77943daf89bf8153f1d1315323.jpg

These examples have the classic I-shaped baselard hilt with single-edged blades.

original-verona.jpg

Another single-edged baselard, with a false edge and fullers, apparently in a museum in Verona, from 13th-14thC England or Germany.

 

All I did for my design was take a similar single-edged blade and put it on the OTHER common handle from what I've seen called baselards- the handles that are mostly wood and curvier. Single-edged versions of most of the classic medieval daggers are extant, so I didn't think it was a stretch. Clearly I am not fully-versed enough in blade history to pick up some of these distinctions.

 

That said, I'm not working to strict historical standards, nor am I aiming to reproduce a specific piece. My guidelines for "historical" for this piece are pretty much what I've said so far: as long as I've seen a particular design element in art or artifacts from the period I'm roughly aiming for, I'll consider it fair game.

 

I know single-edged rondels existed, but were usually, I think, narrower than my design, with a thicker blade. I can see that my design work is lacking when viewed by other people; in my mind the hilt, viewed from the end, is an flattened oval section, not round like the rondel. Apologies.

Edited by Adam Betts

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Thank you, Alan. I didn't realize period glues were strong enough to hold such a large blade without mechanical reinforcement. That's amazing!

 

As an aside, I am really geeking out that you responded to my post. I learned to make tomahawks and axes mostly from your posts here (and also Jim Austen's).

 

It's been a while since I dabbled in the middle ages, as I've been in a Viking rut for a while. My post-Norse history must have gotten rusty.

 

Thank you both for your wisdom. I'll have to do some re-research.

Edited by Adam Betts

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Don't geek out, I'm just an average doofus! I've just been doing this a while.

 

You have some good full-tang Baselards there as well. Do note, however, the single edged ones are mostly double edged except for that last third of the blade. And they all have that characteristic hilt form.

 

As for glues, they had some really good ones. Persian shamshirs, for example, usually have a stub tang about two inches long. The only thing holding the hilt on is cutler's resin.

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I am seeing that I took too many liberties with the design and it no longer bears any resemblance to a baselard. The sax-like blade is probably all of my recent work bleeding into what I'm trying to do now. Sax on the brain.

 

Anyway, to go back to the first post for a moment, does anybody have a suggestions for what a lord's huntsman might have carried 13-14thC? I thought "baselard" because it isn't a fancy man's knife, and something single-edged made sense for the concept, for the same reasons many outdoors knives are single edged. I clearly missed the mark when I mushed those ideas together.

 

Ballock dagger maybe?

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Bauernwehr, hauswehr, or ballock dagger would work, although the ballock dagger is more of a fighting knife. You can always leave off the nagel on the German styles to get more of a geographic range.

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What is funny here is that I began this design process thinking I should go for a hauswehr-looking thing. Then I overthought it and got lost. Looks like I needed a corrective kick in the creative pants.

I thought, "is this way too much like a bowie knife?" But I suppose there is a good, practical reason for the resemblance.

 

Thank you very much for your time and patience, Alan, and thank you Sean for your swift response, otherwise I might have created a monster.

I'm going to head back to the drawing board.

 

Procedural question: once I have a new design, is it better etiquette to post it in this thread, or begin a new one since it will basically be a totally different project?

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I always love to see someone make a baurnwehr. I made a couple back before I really took bladesmithing seriously, and they were a blast. The nagel is a fun piece to make.

If you do that, make the hole on the far side of the knife where the post for the nagel goes through into a square. Make the nagel post square, to fit. You can just drill a big hole in the side where the nagel sits, and cover it with the base of the nagel itself.

 

Having the hole square, and the post square, means that the nagel can't turn. If the post and the hole are both round, you are going to have to peen the steel until you risk it cracking (the exposed button on the riveted post) in order to prevent the nagel from turning.

 

You could do the peening hot, if you want to polish that area again after you are done, but it is a serious pain to polish an area with a prominent rivet. I guess you could counter-sink the whole thing and then polish if you rivet it hot. I prefer riveting this one in between hot and cold (heat to red and quickly shove through and put in vise) and peen like hell.

 

Handle scales go on after the nagel has been set (in case you need to etch the whole thing).

 

there, those are most of the things I learned from baurnwehrs and a messer (although I did the messer after I became serious, and the nagel on it is one of the most fun things I have ever made!).

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Kevin,

Thank you for sharing your wisdom! For some reason it didn't occur to me to make the whole shank of the nagel square. I was figuring that for strength, the piece going through the handle would be round and fit very tight. I addressed the issue of rotation by leaving a squared piece right at the base of the nagel and filing corners into the round hole through the bolster. I tried fitting the nagel to a wooden mockup this way and it worked well. The way you describe sounds much simpler to fit up. I will try it that way next time!

I was planning on doing the actual peening the hot and cold way, because I do want to leave the rivet prominent. I love me some hammered rivets.

 

Also, here's my nagel. I don't think the decor is strictly period, but the Germanic people were using runes in housemarks up through at least the fifteenth century, according to Edred Thorsson, so I don't think it's THAT far-fetched.20160930_192814.jpg

Edited by Adam Betts

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Go for it! Whatever decor you like is fine, honestly.

 

The square piece next to the nagel works just as well, I would imagine. I like to leave the rivet proud on the far side, too. I haven't seen many, but the originals I have seen weren't countersunk. Just mentioning it as a possiblity. If you pull the square base down tight into the area you have filed to sink it into, it should be rock solid. Good idea.

 

nice ring on the nagel.

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