Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clements #19 The Glorious Geometry of Swords

The sword is a product of the wonderful harmony of shape and proportion ergonomically refined by generations of violent trial and error. It represents an achievement of forging deadly utility of form from earnest function. It expresses mastery of the mysteries of hand-working nature’s iron into man’s steel. As an instrument it evokes both a challenge to rediscover it's artistry of creation and recover its artistry of application.

After handling literally hundreds of antique specimens of real historical swords and hundreds of replicas of all quality and accuracy and training in the authentic source teachings for almost four decades now, I take a particular view towards appreciating the subtle geometry of fighting blades. The qualities that make them handle and perform, inflict impacts with edge and penetrate with point, as well as ward off or deflect forceful blows is what it's all about for me.

In particular, the swords of Western Europe from ancient times through the Medieval and Renaissance eras reflect a certain awareness of Euclidean geometry. Just how much of the proportion and dimensions of their design is a deliberate matter of a craftsman’s intention and how much may be a matter of subjective pattern recognition on our part today is the question. 

It's possible to look at a sword and make judgements about its proportions and infer relationships between them that may or may not really be there. It's possible to take near infinite measurements of a sword's shape and cross-section to then imagine we can deduce the conscious intentions of its maker. But whatever or not was known about geometry by a historical swordsmith and how it might then have been applied to any single specimen or model, the end goal was to make a durable and effective fighting weapon. A blade was only deemed of value if it could reliably serve its user in combat.

It's easy enough to make a replica copy of a historical sword by looking at a side profile of its blade and then matching its hilt components. But to do it right the hilt of the original should be detached to look at the tang and the blade itself should be turned in every dimension, especially edge on, so that its three-dimensional cross-sectional differential can be closely replicated. This full profile —intended to meet a specific function— is what a good bladesmith achieved with his knowledge and skill. Along with overall shape and length, the variety of fullers, shallows, spines, and risers that were historically used in blade profiles is absolutely enormous. Any such profile will differ from blade to blade over the centuries and even within the same historical period. Many achieve the very same results through distinctively different compositions. But whatever a blade’s profile, it ultimately had to be fitted with a handle and grip as well as some kind of guard configuration that together optimized its manner of use in combat. An awareness of this was surely factored into the blade’s design itself. It's not difficult to see how this choice would have reflected some notion of a harmonious geometric relationship to the finished piece. It's impossible to say if doing so was a matter of aesthetics, practicality, or a little of both. 

We may notice geometric elements in some Medieval and Renaissance swords and wonder to what degree they may have been by conscious design according to some philosophical assumption or else merely serendipitous of the kinesthetic elements of tool use. Perhaps the most important thing about the geometry of swords is the most obvious yet most easily overlooked: design is a direct factor of their ability to inflict wounds and defend against them. Having tested, experimented on, trained with, broken, and explored the use of all manner of ethnographic sword forms for many years —cutting, thrusting, slicing, and warding with them— I can attest with certainty to this fundamental truth. …But what of it? All I can say is that, when it comes to swords there is more than one way to achieve an effective fighting blade.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Owning your own suit of armor

Few things can stand out in your home as much as a full suit of armor. No matter what style of culture or what age is originates from, a suit of armor really draws the eye. There are numerous reasons to want a complete suit to grace your home. You could want it for the reassurance of personal protection. If a zombie outbreak comes around you'll be better prepared than the guy without it, that's for sure. Another reason to own such a commanding display is to honor your heritage. Many people like to pay homage to their ancestors who would have donned such gleaming suits before a battle. Still others might be interested in the mystic majesty that emanates from these silent sentinels. Who hasn't seen a movie or show that had corridors lined with full suits of armor that sprang to life in times of need? Realistically that won't happen, but it can provide a comforting thought or two. Museum Replicas carries FIVE different suits of armor for sale, ready to stand vigil in the home of a new lord or lady. The Royal Armoury in Madrid, has one of the biggest and richest collections of armours in the world, and contains pieces principally of the 16th century age of Carlos I. This is where Marto takes it's inspiration reproducing them in materials very similar to the original ones and Museum Replicas proudly offers these suits of armor for the private owner. So if you are looking to adorn your home with one of these fantastic sets, whether it be for protection, costuming, tribute or just fun, check them out on the Museum Replicas (MRL) website!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hand and a Half Swords – Excellence in Versatility

Hand-and-a-half swords developed around the mid-15th century and were used well into the 16th century. They featured long handles with “half-grips” and so could be wielded with one hand or two. The typically tapered blades were longer than arming swords but did not possess the double-hand grips of heavier war-swords. Perhaps because hand-and-a-half swords did not legitimately belong to either of these sword “families,” they were also known as bastard swords.

The blades might have been either flat or narrow for fighting plate-armored opposition. While some were ideal for cutting, others were good for thrusting. The handles featured "waist" and "bottle" shapes for practical purposes. For instance, the "waist" shape had a wider center and tapered towards the pommel, enabling greater control of the weapon by one hand or two.

 Hand-and-a-half swords also made use of different techniques, some of which varied appreciably. One technique was “pommeling” or “palming” where the palm of one hand partially held the rounded pommel, facilitating greater reach. This style was a complete opposite of another where the index finger of one hand wrapped around the cross guard. The second technique helped to thrust the sword into armor openings with better accuracy. But, it also exposed the fingers, leading to the development of the compound hilt which protected the hand against attacks by thrusting strokes. 

Explore a range of historical and fantasy hand-and-a-halfswords. Also, you can check out this blog post for information on longswords and two-handed swords.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A sample of styles for Medieval Swords

1. German Bastard Sword

A replica of the famed Wallace Collection and a perfect example of a true bastard sword. A good bastard sword has dimensions nearly identical to a one handed sword, but the grip is extended and the pommel stretched so that a second hand can comfortably be used. Thus they are also known as hand-and-a-half swords. These swords came to prominence as a cavalry weapon. They allowed enough reach to be used from horseback but should the rider be unseated, they could also function well on foot. Now these medieval weapons maintain their popularity through there versatility.

Falchions were a family of single-hand Medieval and Renaissance swords that included the Messer, Storta, Braquemart, Badelair and Malchus, among others. So named for it’s single-edged “falcated” blade, from the Latin falcātus and falx meaning sickle, it refers to a sword that widens or curves forward at the point. A true working-man’s weapon, the falchion served as a kind of “temperate zone machete” as well as fearsome tool of war. While sometimes lacking the cut to thrust versatility and warding capacity of a straight double-edged arming sword, it made up for it with a robust design that permitted viciously powerful blows. Commonly used by archers and lower soldiers as it was easier to produce being a single edged weapon.

The sword of Tancred is a cruciform sword, a straight double edged sword that combined with it's hilt resembles a cross. This made it a favorite among knights of all Holy Orders. While the flat hilt was inspired for it's symbolism, many find that it is a very combat effective design.