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swords-msg – 10/2/12


Medieval swords, history of various types.


NOTE: See also the files: swordcare-msg, swordsmiths-msg, knife-sheaths-msg, bladesmithing-msg, armor-msg, scabbards-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: ddfr at quads.uchicago.edu (david director friedman)

Date: 24 Jul 91 04:13:37 GMT

Organization: University of Chicago


"His sword was one of those big scimitar jobs where the blade widens

and curves to the right as it gets farther away from the bow.  I

would have thought those came much later in history.  Secondly, his

scabbard was the exact same shape!  How do you get a blade that's

four inches wide into a sheath with a two inch wide slot?" (Dagonell)


I believe that the scimitar began to be common in al-Islam around the

end of the fourteenth century, but it was not the sort of weapon you

describe. I am not sure if that ever existed outside of Hollywood,

but it probably did--almost everything has been tried somewhere.

There are earlier curved swords--I think one was found in a Khazar

grave from the sixth century or so. I think they are associated with

steppe nomad cultures but am not sure.


Presumably, the sort of sword you describe would have a scabbard with

an open back--I think I have seen such things on weapons from the

Pacific. The problem in drawing real curved swords is that, even if

the blade is of roughly constant width (as it is in a scimitar),

unless the curve is reasonably close to an arc of a circle you cannot

draw it from a closed scabbard. This is sometimes given as the

defining difference between a Kilij and a Shamshir. The latter is

close to an arc of a circle and uses a closed scabbard. The former

starts almost straight near the handle then curves; it requires a

scabbard with an open back for the first few inches (starting at the

handle end).





Date: 31 Jan 92

From: ddfr at quads.uchicago.edu (david director friedman)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Organization: University of Chicago Computing Organizations


Mikhail Nikolaevich asks about the use of curved blades in SCA

combat. I have heard of a rattan  shotel that was used in Ansteorra,

I think by someone in Bordermarche, possibly Simon. The shotel is a

very curved sword (abyssinian) with the inside edge of the curve

sharp. I gather the one that was used had a thrusting point, and

could reach around shields, rather like a very large battle hammer. I

do not know if the shotel is period, but I suspect it is.


Incidentally, while curved swords are certainly period in the Islamic

world, they are much less common than many people seem to assume. As

far as I can tell, the usual Islamic sword was straight until about

the fourteenth century, so a scimitar is just about as strange to my

persona as to a European. There are earlier curved swords, including

one found in a Khazar grave from some very early date--I think ninth

century or earlier.





Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: leeu at celsiustech.se (Leif Euren)

Subject: Re: Book query

Organization: CelsiusTech AB

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1993 09:23:22 GMT


Thorfyrd Hakonson asks:

> Is anyone able to recommend ...  "Records of the Medieval Sword",

> ISBN 0-85115539-1


In my oppinion, this is _the_ book on swords.  The taxanomy and

classification system devied by mr Oakeshott is used by most European

museums nowadays.  The book contains the details on the classifaction

system, and an essay by mr Tony Mansfield on how to construct a modern

replica of such a blade.  But mainly it has descriptions of some 235

medieval swords, all with pictures and all available data.


My copy says:


Oakeshott, Ewart

   Records of the medieval sword

   ISBN 0 85115 539 1

   The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1991.

   First published 1991, reprinted 1991


and these adresses:


      Boydell & Brewer Ltd

      PO Box 9


      Suffolk IP12 3DF


      Boydell & Brewer Ltd

      PO Box 41026


      NY 14604



your humble servant

Peder Klingrode                         | Leif Euren    Stockholm, Sweden

Holmrike, Nordmark, Drachenwald, East   | leeu at celsiustech.se



From: Ken Stuart <kps1 at cornell.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: New Book: The Celtic Sword

Date: 13 Jul 1993 20:58:02 GMT

Organization: Cornell University


Here's a new book that may be of interest:


The Celtic Sword

by Radomir Pleiner

with contributions by B.G. Scott

Clarendon Press, Oxford

c. 1993

ISBN: 0-19-813411-8

196 pp., 36 b/w plates, many line drawings


Chapter Titles:

1) The origin of the Celtic long sword in early Europe

2) Styles of combat among the Celts

3) Notes on the archaeology of the Celtic sword

4) The characteristics of the Celtic sword

5) How the long sword was made

6) Metallographic examinations of swords from Czechoslavakia

7) Metallographic examinations of other La Tene period swords

   from Europe and the British Isles

8) Techniques of sword manufacture

9) Battleworthiness

10) Summary and conclusions


I've not yet read this book and don't have pricing information

about it since I have not seen it in a publisher's catalog.  

The copy I have belongs to the library and has just been






From: shick at europa.eng.gtefsd.com (Steve Hick)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swords

Date: 26 Oct 1993 15:43:16 GMT

Organization: GTE GSC FSD


WISH at uriacc.uri.EDU (Peter Rose) wrote:

> I was down at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a while ago,

> looking at the medieval exhibit, and I noticed something

> I thought was odd about the swords.


>    They almost all had things that looked sort-of like

> basket-hilts on them, but in FRONT of the crossguard.

> There was no cage around the hilt, just this nest of bars

> in front of it:

>               !/^\                     Something like this-+

>         ======!====\=============>                   <-----+

>       hilt    !\___/      blade


> What gives?


>                     --Azelin


These are used to protect the thumb and forefinger which are looped over

the cross guard to provide additional control.  The earliest evidence for

some sort of ring is 14th century, in the latter quarter of the 15th c,

both civilian and military weapons had these, elaborated, as well as some

minor protection for the back of the hand.  As most parrying was done with

the blade, only the front of the hand was protected against being cut.





Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: harold.clitheroe at rose.com (harold clitheroe)

Subject: Re: Swords

Date: Sat, 30 Oct 1993 02:00:06 GMT

Organization: Rose Media Inc, Toronto, Ontario.


W(>    They almost all had things that looked sort-of like

W(> basket-hilts on them, but in FRONT of the crossguard.

W(> There was no cage around the hilt, just this nest of bars

W(> in front of it:

W(>               !/^\                     Something like this-+

W(>         ======!====\=============>                   <-----+

W(>       hilt    !\___/      blade


Simple.. Those are swept hilts. They became popular in the 15th

Century. What you are calling the hilt actually has several sections.

If you break it down top of hilt to blade on a swept hilt you get

button, pommel,ferrule,grip,quillion block, quillions (those are what

most people call the cross-guard) an then the cage of bars or

counterguard. There might also be a knuckle guard which sweeps around

towards the top of thehilt. It was not impossible to see many loops

and swirls. The purpose of all this ironmongery was to block and

absorb a blow. This type of guard became obsolete later on with the

shift from edge to point.




Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: maclure at eos.arc.nasa.gov (IanMaclure)

Subject: Re: swords-scottish-basket hilts

Organization: NASA Ames Research Center

Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1993 01:32:24 GMT


In Gaelic ( roughly ):


clay beg = sword small

clay mor = sword great ( or large )


The Broadsword or "claybeg" is actually a Venetian "schiavona"

which made its way to Scotland in the Renaissance ( approx ).

Before that time, I think most fighting swords were of the

standard cross-hilt pattern. Your average Scottish clansman

would probably have come to a fight with an Jedburgh Axe or

a Pike or more rarely a Claymore as the economics of a good

sword were no different in the Highlands than anyplace else

in Europe. Among unskilled infantry, I believe you tended to

find polearms wherever you went.




################ No Times Like The Maritimes, Eh! ######################

# IBM   aka      #    ian_maclure at QMGATE.arc.nasa.gov           (desk) #

# Ian B MacLure  #    maclure at (remulac/eos).arc.nasa.gov   (currently) #

########## Opinions expressed here are mine, mine, mine. ###############



From: nusbache at epas.utoronto.ca (Aryk Nusbacher)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: swords-scottish-basket hilts

Date: 3 Nov 1993 00:33:50 -0500

Organization: EPAS Computing Facility, University of Toronto


maclure at eos.arc.nasa.gov (IanMaclure) writes:

>In Gaelic ( roughly ):


>clay beg = sword small

>clay mor = sword great ( or large )


Right. But I have never heard this distinction applied outside the



>The Broadsword or "claybeg" is actually a Venetian "schiavona"

>which made its way to Scotland in the Renaissance ( approx ).


With respect, that theory of the development of the Scottish

broadsword (the Irisch-Hilted sword in England) has been somewhat

overtaken by events, notably the discovery of several Irisch-hilted

swords which date to the 1540's, and illustrations of them in the

'50's, which predate both the earliset schiavonas and sinclairsabels

(another putative ancestor).


The pre-1600 Irisch-hilted broadsword is distinguished from its later

cousins primarily by its much longer quillons.  It is distinguished

from a schiavona or a sinclairsabel by its pattern of three arches,

each of three bars.


My source is, again, Claude Blair's _Scottish Weapons and



Aryk Nusbacher



From: fnklshtn at AXP3.ACF.NYU.EDU

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swords

Date: 31 Oct 1993 22:05:36 GMT

Organization: New York University, NY, NY


WISH at uriacc.uri.EDU (Peter Rose) writes:

>I was down at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a while ago,

>looking at the medieval exhibit, and I noticed something

>I thought was odd about the swords.

>   They almost all had things that looked sort-of like

>basket-hilts on them, but in FRONT of the crossguard.

>There was no cage around the hilt, just this nest of bars

>in front of it:

>              !/^\                     Something like this-+

>        ======!====\=============>                   <-----+

>      hilt    !\___/      blade

>What gives?

>                    --Azelin


Never seen a rapier before?

To get more control in the thrust, one puts the pointer finger over the

crossguard. Problem is, if your finger is outside the crossguard and you parry

low -- the enemy's blade and yours become a scissor to sever that finger.

Finger guards then develop to correct that problem.

A simple, one loop finger guard apears in the second half of the 14th century.

It then quickly develops into the fancy cages. By the 17th or 18th century the

cages change to the solid bell-guard that is kinda similar to the modern epee

and foil guard. In modern fencing weapons the cross guard has completely

disappeared - to be seen only rarely (in a vestigial form) on the Italian

handle (which is illegal in some modern competitive fencing).

The basket sword you are used to is primarily british and scotish. The

cagehandles are more continental (there is, I believe, an Italian basket which

combines features of both). This is because the british seem to have done much

more hacking style fighting, while the continentals did more thrusting.

I'm sure there are some fencers where you are that can show you something like

the cage guards (or their cousins - the bell with cross guard).






From: powers at cis.ohio-state.edu (william thomas powers)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: swordsmith needed

Date: 2 Dec 1993 15:28:49 -0500

Organization: The Ohio State University Dept. of Computer and Info. Science


On the other hand: I have 3 very nice Toledo blades, tempered, good steel,

tangs like those in the museums. I bought them from the swordsmith himself

after spending an afternoon taking pictures of him working at the forge.

They cost around $US 75 back in 1983. 1 was a 13th century broadsword,

one was based on the sword of Fransico Pizarro and one was an oop small

sword. There are still small shops doing good work in Toledo don't blame

them for the trash your importer buys.  (BTW his trademark is MZ TOLEDO)

I believe it was Marco Zamareno)


Now for a good fairly enexpensive Rapier:  find a 1913 "Patton" model

Cavalry sword. It is a dead straight rapier blade.  Then rehilt it.

Mine ran me $US 40 at a junk store in Arkansas.  Large numbers were

made for WWI and they are still pretty cheap.


Wilelm, the smith

apprentice spadassin



From: powers at cis.ohio-state.edu (william thomas powers)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swords revisited

Date: 17 Jan 1994 19:24:57 -0500

Organization: The Ohio State University Dept. of Computer and Info. Science


>>    This is a good question, actually.  Swords were kept, to my knowledge,

>>as sharp as possible in their period.  Seeing as not many medieval persons had

>>access to electric grinders (which I'm willing to bet is what Museum Replicas

>>will use, as most swords you buy nowadays are ground anyway).  However, with a

>>little bit of patience, a grinding wheel or stone could get a sword VERY

>>sharp...I don't know if it would be quite as sharp as a razor, but razor sharp

>>would be close enough to period.


Razor sharp is quite possible for period weapons, (even for bronze age!)

and is not all that hard or time consuming IF you use a properly sized stone;

say at least 4-6" wide and 1'long.  


As to how sharp period weapons were: do we have any good data?  The blades

extant are either well cared for down through the intervening years or in

such sad shape as to belie the term sword.  Remember the beautiful shining suit

of armour of Henry VIII that the original bill stated was delivered "black

from the forge and rough from the hammer"  How much difference a few

centuries of "care" will make. (a good example of this: how many "damaged"

blades do you see on display?  If possible try to visit the Royal Armoury

in Madrid Spain. When I was last there they had blades that had actually

seen battle on display---semicircular nicks in the edges, broken points,

just what you would expect to see, if you work with the stuff)


[Since I wrote the above I have learned of two types of evidence to the

geometry of period sword edges: nicks from edge to edge contacts and bone

damage from battlefield corpses.  I have not found any examples that refute

my hypothesis-yet. Let me know if you of any-Please!]


I also have grave doubts as to the literary evidence as many "examples" of

sword sharpness seem to be repetition--a common stock piece.

(Though I would refer you to _The Sword In Anglo-Saxon England_ by H.R.Ellis

Davidson for some very interesting examples)


>>    Of course, when determining how sharp a sword would be, one must take

>>into account what type of sword it was; most swords would be kept as sharp as

>>possible, since they cut easier that way.  


As to "cutting" What are you trying to cut? I believe that the sharpness

of a type of sword was determined by its likely target. The softer the target

the sharper the blade.  Visit any smith and ask them if they would sharpen

a cold chisel "razor" sharp. Now visit a leather worker and ask how they

sharpen a skiving knife.  A razor edge on a sword that will impact on steel

will just help the blade to fail. A cold chisel edge on a sword that hits

light armour will not bite.


>>    One question you should ask yourself before getting your sword

>>sharpened, however, is if you really want it sharpened.  It may be more

>>authentic if it's really sharp, but it may be much less practical, especially

>>if it's just a show weapon.  I keep my sword blunt, for example,  because I

>>can never be sure who might pick it up if I put it down at an event or demo,

>>and the last thing I want is someone hurting themselves or others trying to

>>determine whether or not the blade is sharp.


Very well put.  All the Knifemakers I know keep band-aids in their wallets

because of the people who seem determined to offer experimental proof of

evolution by natural selection.


>>Hope to have been of help!

>>Malachai Shel Ha Cheitz Shavar

>>Petrea Thule, Septentria, Ealdormere


Wilelm the smith

Baroney of the Middle Marches

Middle Kingdom



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swords revisited

From: JOHN at husc4.harvard.edu (John Voloudakis)

Date: Wed, 19 Jan 1994 16:31:23

Organization: Harvard University Instructional Media Services


jlkim at netcom.com (Justin Kim) writes:

>Subject: Swords revisited

>From: jlkim at netcom.com (Justin Kim)

>Date: Sat, 15 Jan 1994 00:00:11 GMT


>        Thanks for all the replies.  Since the consensus seems

>to be that sowrds are an acceptable topic for this group, I've

>one more sword related question for you all.


>        Museum Replicas offers a sword sharpening service.  

>Generally speaking, how sharp were "working" swords kept?  MR's

>service advertises a "razor edge."  How period is this?  I

>realize that the answer might vary from era to era, but generally

>speaking how authentic is a razor edge on a sword?


>Thanks again for all the help,



It depends on what sort of sword you are talking about.  I'm sure you've heard

the legends about the extreme sharpness of Japanese Katanas.  On the other

hand, a european greatsword such as a Scottish Claymore or a German Zweihander

did not need a razor edge, relying on its mass to bash its way through an

opponent's armor, flesh, bones, etc.  I'm not sure of the exact details, but

the need for a sharp blade would be determined by the weight of

the weapon, as well as its intended target (ie:  An armored knight or a

lightly armored peasant).  Also, the time period would be a factor, since the

actual metal and techniques used in the construction of the blade would have a

great impact on the blade's ability to hold an edge.




From: caradoc at enet.net (John Groseclose)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: rob roy

Date: 19 May 1995 20:36:34 GMT


steve at giant.intranet.com wrote:

> fnklshtn at ACFcluster.nyu.edu writes:


>> My beef, on the other hand, is with the armour. If I am right on the time

>> period, there aint no way that two handed claymore existed...


>        Greetings.

>        My handy-dandy Webster's Ninth says 'claymore' stems from

>        the Scottish Gaelic 'claidheamh mor' and dates back to 1772.

>        That is, the WORD dates to 1772; presumably the sword does too.


Ah, but Webster's only dates the usage of the term "claymore," and not

"claidheamh mor."


Stone's Glossary dates the "claidheamh mor" or "claidhmhichean-mhora" to

the early 15th century in its current form (spatulate/pierced quillions

slanting toward the blade.)


The use of a large two-handed or hand-and-a-half sword can be dated as

early as the mid-13th century by its presence on funerary stones.


But, Wallace probably wouldn't have used one.


John Groseclose <caradoc at enet.net>



From: 2Lt Aryeh JS Nusbacher <nusbacher-a at rmc.ca>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: rob roy

Date: 23 May 1995 14:45:46 GMT

Organization: Royal Military College of Canada


fnklshtn at ACFcluster.nyu.edu writes:

> My beef, on the other hand, is with the armour. If I am right on the time

> period, there aint no way that two handed claymore existed...


There is an excellent, exhaustive article on the subject of the term

"claymore" in Claude Blair's _Scottish Weapons and Fortifications_.

The essence of the chapter is that the term referred to the big sword

in use at any given time:  at one point the two-handed broadsword;

and later the basket-hilted broad- or backsword.


Aryk Nusbacher                   |  

Post-Graduate War Studies Programme |    

Royal Military College of Canada    |     nusbacher-a at rmc.ca

Kingston, Ontario             http://www.rmc.ca/~nusbache/home.html



From: mikes at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu (michael squires)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Swords - Brass vs. Steel hilt & pommel

Date: 19 Mar 1996 05:35:15 GMT

Organization: Indiana University, Bloomington


In 16th century England a cutler who sold a sword with brass hardware

was subject to a fine and, I think, confiscation.


But at least I can prove my rapier's brass guards are "period" :-).


Michael L. Squires, Ph.D   Manager of Instructional Computing, Freshman Office,

Chemistry Department, IU Bloomington, IN 47405 812-855-0852 (o) 81-333-6564 (h)

mikes at indiana.edu, mikes at ucs.indiana.edu, or mikes at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu



From: michael squires <mikes at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu>

To: Mark.S Harris

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 10:34:38 -0500 (EST)

Subject: Re: Swords - Brass vs. Steel hilt & pommel


> Do you know why? Was brass restricted to certain classes?


No; every real period sword I've seen has steel guards for obvious reasons,

although there may be brass decorations.  Swords with brass guards were

usually then gilded and were indistinguisable from steel until actually

used, when the guard would break.


Subject: Great Sword Site

Date: Mon, 05 Oct 1998 09:47:57 -0400

From: Bob & Diana Cosby <cosby at erols.com>

To: "atlantia at atlantia.sca.org" <atlantia at atlantia.sca.org>


On a writing link I'm on, this URL on mediaeval swords was posted.  It

looks great and I wanted to share it with ya'll.



Ha det sa bra,

Diana Cosby

cosby at erols.com



Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2006 00:46:48 -0400

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

Subject: [SCA-AS] myArmoury.com  Sutton Hoo Replica

To: - Austlend - Vikings-NA in NC List <Austlend at yahoogroups.com>,   -

      Authenticity List <authenticity at yahoogroups.com>,  - BARONY of

      WINDMASTERS' HILL <keep at windmastershill.org>,      -

      Historic-HornAntlerBone Moderator

      <Historic-HornAntlerBone-owner at yahoogroups.com>,   - Medieval Leather

      List <medieval-leather at yahoogroups.com>,     - SCA-ARTS

      <artssciences at lists.gallowglass.org>,  - B of *WH* Forgemonkeys

      <forgemonkeys at yahoogroups.com>,  - Manx <TheManx at yahoogroups.com>


It is not everyday you see work like this you can learn from:




Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2011 07:50:03 -0800 (PST)

From: J. C. Smith isp?n <jsmithcsa at yahoo.com>

To: Undisclosed Recipients <jsmithcsa at yahoo.com>

Subject: [MR] The Realities of Edged Weapons Combat: Separating Myth

      from  Reality


An interesting article on the historical use of edged weapons in combat from the

ancient through the medieval era.


"Edged weapons, be it spears, knives or swords have always been the primary

weapon used in close quarters combat between individuals. Of course this is a

given, in the times before the invention of explosive discharge weapons

(firearms). This was a time where the primary projectile weapons were the bow

and arrow, sling, and Javelin. On a larger scale the Romans used a large

catapult called the Onager (wild ass) and the Ballista, a large mechanical

crossbow capable of firing various projectiles and, there were the Greek

versions of the same weapons, the Oxybeles and the Lithobolos. However, in the

end, conflicts between armies always came down to the skills of the individual

foot soldier. Foot soldiers from any of the classical historical periods were

typically armed with a spear(s), helmet, some degree of armor, a sword, knife

and shield."


More at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=41780





Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2012 09:31:28 -0400

From: Garth Groff <ggg9y at virginia.edu>

To: atlantia at atlantia.sca.org, isenfir at virginia.edu

Subject: [MR] Wikipedia: Bamburgh Sword


Today Wikipedia featured a brief article on the Bamburgh Sword:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamburgh_Sword . The sword is unique among

Saxon blades of the 7th century in that it is pattern-welded from six

pieces of iron instead of the usual four. Truly a sword fit for a king.

The blade's recent history is almost as interesting as its heritage.


Sadly, the Wikipedia article does not include any pictures of the sword,

but I found one for you: http://ansax.com/bamburgh-sword/ . Very rough

looking now, but we all will look pretty dated after we've been buried

for over 1,000 years.


Bamburgh Castle also has a great web site at:

http://www.bamburghcastle.com/index.php . If you click on "history" and

go to the timeline, the last entry for 1960 has two more pictures of the

sword, or a reproduction as it must have looked when new. You can also

read brief stories at other points on the timeline, take an interactive

tour of the castle, or "browse" some of the books from their "library".

It is a very well-done site about one of the most important castles in

northern England.


Lord Mungo Napier, Back After Journeying in the Wilds of the East Kingdom


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org