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Post Title Tamahagane. Unique Metal for Unique Japanese Swords. Mar 13, 2007

Tamahagane is the best quality steel obtained using Japanese traditional techniques. The word tama translates as round, precious, the word hagane means steel.

A good quality tamahagane can cost 50 times more than the ordinary steel. This steel is used to make Japanese swords, knives, and other kinds of tools.

The tamahagane is obtained out of special iron sands also called satetsu. The sands distinguish by their low amount of impurities. It is considered to be of better quality than iron ore.

There are known two different types of iron sand: 1) "masa", is the best one with a very low content of impurities. Its composition includes acid granite and black mica. The best Japanese swords are forged of iron obtained of this sand; 2) "acome" also contains a small amount of impurities but is still considered a lower quality sand because of its salty basaltic stone and other igneous rocks composition. Because acome sand is easier to smelt it is mainly utilized to make high quality cutlery, tools and expensive guns.

These sands are mined basically in the northern part of Japan. Areas such as Kame-ishi, Yasuki, Kame-ishi, etc are rich in iron sands.

The tamahagane is smelt in a clay tube called tatara. It is heated to a high temperature about 1000 ºC (1.832 ºF) to get dry and well heated. Only after this the iron sand is put in this furnace. The smelting process lasts from 36 to 72 hours, during which every 10 minutes new portions of iron sand are added. This mainly depends on the number of people working on it. They are called murage.

The final result is obtained when iron sands are mixed with charcoal to give tamahagane hardness.

A good tamahagane should contain around 1% of carbon and not go over 1.5 %.
Here is the chemical components contained in both sands (percents):
 
T-Fe Fe203 FeO Si02 CaO MgO AL203 Ti02 V205 P S
Masa 59.00 64.45 24.72 8.40 2.24 1.54 2.34 1.27 0.258 0.064 0.009
Acome 52.07 52.71 19.55 14.50 3.68 0.94 4.98 5.32 0.369 0.095 0.026


When the tamahagane is ready the tatara is demolished to release the steel. The best steel is thought to be the one on the edges of ingot. The reason is that, this is the area where the oxidation process occurred on a higher level. Specialists can determine the quality of tamahagane by its color. A bright silver indicates a very good block of metal, which mainly goes for blades forging.

Besides tamahagane, there are metals of great quality such as orosigane, hotyotetsu and zuku.|
 
Post Title One of Japanese Secrets - Ninja! Feb 19, 2007

General Notes


Ninja - also known as shinobi, was a class of warriors who usually originated from lower levels of society. They equaled to our-days spies and were in service of Japanese land lords (daymio) and samurai. Still, they were feared even by those who hired them for certain missions. Ninja were considered professional assassins and mercenaries.

Shinobi-no-mono, which was their original name, used to create secret schools or associations for trainings beginning with 15th century. Their fighting art was called ninjitsu. It offered extraordinary skills and physical powers to its practicer. They even were thought to possess extra natural skills such as flying.

Methods of Fighting

Ninja, actually were very crude warriors! They didn't have a honor code or any kind of moral rules as samurai did. This made them extremely cruel - they could kill even women and children. This was one of the reasons they were not respected as noble warriors.

Their secret associations were very efficient in wars where they fought for samurai executing the most difficult missions. Many consider the fame of the samurai was due to the ninja spies who used their methods of fighting defeating the enemy from inside, in most of the wars.

Before creation of schools the art of ninja fighting was transmitted from father to son. Later it was inherited by best of the students from their masters (sensei). The first known ninja school was Nakagawa-ryu. It taught ninjitsu. A ninja was trained from a very young age and was taught much more things than a samurai.

A ninja was skilled at swords, spears, bows, throwing knives, tagaki (fist weapon), metallic claws for feet (for climbing or leg hits), etc. He should cope with explosive and poisonous substances and had to possess surviving knowledge. The variety of ninja weapons, attributes and knowledge was much wider than that of a samurai.

A ninja could leave any of his weapons at home, but never left his sword. It was the main weapon of a ninja. A Ninja sword was shorter and straighter than samurai's katana. It was worn on the back by the left shoulder. Thus the sword was within an easy reach.

Ninja Wearing Apparel

Ninja are remembered to always wear black clothes. It basically made them invisible in the night assuring a perfect ground for their missions. On the battlefield they also put on a light armor, which was designed for protection and still made them move freely.

Their feet were covered by very light shoes which were made of cloth and had leather soles. The big toe was detached. These shoes were called tabi.

Ninja were one of the greatest secret of the Medieval Japan history. Even today there are schools that teach some of the ninja skills. They are more about discipline and physical development than about aggressiveness and lack of moral principles.
 
Post Title Basileus blade - machaira! Feb 09, 2007

In ancient times, the man who claimed to take power over a region should prove his abilities in battle with the bearer of this divine power. Thus, to become a warrior-king the man had to defeat an elk; to become a voivode the man had to prostrate a bear; to become a vizier or a councilor the man should catch a leopard. To get the title of Basileus, the claimer should have killed a lion with a certain sacerdotal weapon.

Warrior Cults
Roman historians mentioned that in antiquity the word "basileus" had the meaning 'king'. But in Hellenic period Basileus was first of all a hero: the one who by his example showed the right path - path of lion! The man who defeated the lion received the power, force and courage of the king of beasts.

The cult of the lion was respected by Hercules and Hephaestus. The symbol of this cult was the cave lion, and the cult itself was referred to fire. The tradition says that Hephaestus inherited the sacerdotalism of fire which means he became the master of smithery and weaponry. On the other hand, Hercules inherited sun cult and war challenges.

It is known that Hephaestus sacerdotalism was present in Egypt in 3rd millennium B.C. The name of this god - Hephaestus or Ephesus - has no Greek meaning. Their real origins point to Asia Minor region. In Asia Minor, Ephesus had always been the name of the hilt of a cold steel weapon. This underlines the connection of Hephaestus not only with smithery but also with the very weapon. The Ephesus often was decorated with lion symbol (the cultic beast of Hephaestus). Thus, the hilt represented Hephaestus and the blade represented Hercules.

The unique antique sacerdotal weapon to fight against a lion has later divided by its meaning: Hercules became a hero which fights for the fame and Hephaestus the one who forges weapons and still accomplishes peace. It is important to know that both cults - the offensive and the defensive one - are tightly linked and have a common symbol - basileus blade.

Machaira
The sacred weapon of sacerdotes, who came out for a basileus battle with the cave lion was called - machaira. It features a strongly curved blade resembling a sickle. The inner part of the blade was the cutting one. The length of this sword ranged from 19,70 inches (50 cm) to 23,62 inches (65 cm). The straight sheath was usually constructed from wood and was decorated with golden fittings. The very shape of a machaira reminds a lion claw; whereas its hilt resembles a talon of a totemic cat.

The sacred machaira represented first of all a weapon of ideological power. Its blade indicated to the army the ritual path, saved from enemies' traps, and protected against many other magical tricks. A king, who was at the same time a sacerdotus, effectuated purifying rituals to keep all troubles and defeats away from the army. At celebrations the king wore a lion skull instead of a helmet. Without the sacerdotus the machaira was only a beautiful weapon. Only together they represented a tremendous power.

One of the most famous king-sacrificer of cave lion cult was Macedonian Alexander Hephaistion. He was considered to inherit the cult of Hephaestus. When the official burial of the sacred machaira occurred in 324 B.C. Alexander the Great has discarded his sacerdotal powers.

The Basileus cult has picked up the thread only in 301 B.C.|
 
Post Title Sword Oiling. Part 2. Jan 25, 2007



There is a specific procedure of oiling used for different types of swords. For example, Japanese sword oiling looks like a ritual which is executed in a specific succession. An important moment is to remove the blade from the hilt in order to clean the old oil and to apply a fresh coating. Some of European swords can't be disassembled; others need to be unscrewed and unpinned to release the tang.



Steps to Oil a sword

I. Remove the hilt. (If it is applicable to your sword). If it is a Japanese sword, especially a very rare and fragile one, be extremely careful or find a master who will do it for you (at least for the first time).

II. Remove the old oil and dust. The cleaning should be done with lint cloth or special paper. The blade should be wiped upward, one way, starting from the base. Do not apply to much force or too active frictions. Take care when you wipe the point and the cutting edge(s)! Firstly, because you can get injured (especially if you hold a top grade, razor polished katana); secondly, because you can alter the patterns, etchings or other thin art works which can be present on the blade. If the oil can't be easily removed, soak the cloth in pure alcohol or benzene and try again. Japanese swords are even powdered and then wiped to remove all particles that have deposited.

III. Rust checking. After totally cleaning the surface, check the blade for any presence of rust and damages.

IV. Blade Re-oiling. Use a piece folded paper or flannel, a rectangular of about 3cm x 6cm. Soak it in fresh oil and start oiling the blade surface from base to the point. The procedure should be repeated in order to make sure all the surface is coated well. The oil should be spread uniformly. Pay attention to how you apply oil on the tang! It has to be a very thin coating with as little oil as possible.

V. Wooden Hilts and Scabbards Oiling. The wooden components of your sword should also be taken care of. Use special wood oil or some fine substances for furniture care. The oiling is necessary because the wood has the propriety to dry out. Avoid using furniture waxes or sealants. Firstly it will make the weapon slip out of your hands; secondly some furniture waxes contain components that can ruin the wood. Do not over oil the wood!

VI. Assembling. Before assembling the sword you should leave it for a while. Again, make it very attentively or give it to a specialist to assemble it for you. Be careful because after oiling the blade is slippery.

VII. Long Term Storage. If you want to store your blade for a longer period, then it is better not to prime it into the scabbard. If the sheath is made of leather, then it is recommended to store it separately from the sword, even for a shorter period of time. If the blade is very ancient and you want it stored for a longer period, then you can use Vaseline or Renaissance Wax and then wrap it in an oily cloth. For better storing cool, clean and dry places are just perfect.

Note: Any other kinds of bladed weapons: spears, axes, daggers, sabers, etc. are oiled in the same way with little exceptions when dissembled or specific restrictions for some substances.

Short Tips for Sword Oiling

  • Wooden hilts and scabbards should be treated with oil and lemon to help prevent drying up and cracking.

  • Place your sword apart of the leather sheath. Because the leather sheaths have the capacity to trap moisture. Wooden scabbards work better, but still not longer than a month.

  • Treat leather covered elements of your sword with a good leather paste wax or mink oil.

  • Avoid any contact of leather parts with any kind of oil because it can cause the leather to rot.

  • Don't touch the blade with your fingers in order not to live acidic skin oil on it, which in the long run will cause stains or even rust.|

Post Title Sword Oiling. Part 1. Jan 19, 2007

A row classification of swords would divide the great number of today swords into at least three categories:

- decoration swords, or non-functional replicas,

- functional replica swords, and

- authentic swords, or ancient and rare exemplars.

All three types need to be taken care of on different scale. The easiest to maintain are stainless steel decoration swords, because they generally don't rust. It is enough to clean the old oiling with a soft cloth and to apply a new oil coating. Functional replicas need to be taken care of on semi-regular basis, this is about ones a month. The authentic swords are true artifacts and among them can be very valuable pieces; this is why they need a specific maintenance on regular basis. Especially, knowing that most of them are made of iron alloys which are easily exposed to corrosion.

The frequency of oiling depends mainly on the conditions of keeping. Here you should consider the climate and pay attention to the humidity. So, if your climate is very humid then you should oil your swords at least once a week.

Oils and Lubricants to Be Used

Choji oil - This is a Japanese mineral oil used beginning with the medieval times. It is considered one of the best, if not the best one!!! Today this oil is also known as clove oil which indeed doesn't reflect the reality. It is not the same clove oil you can buy in any drug store! The mistake can cost you your sword, because the clove oil you can find in a drug store causes the steel oxidation. Genuine choji oil is available in Japanese woodworking stores and costs more than the clove oil from drug stores.

Gun oil - It is also widely used for its qualities proved in time. Still this oil is not to be recommended in case of exquisite antiques. For the rest types of blades, even for very expensive replicas, any gun oil which is free of corrosive components will fit perfectly. Some of the fine gun oils are: RemOil (Remmington Oil), silicone-based oil.

Flitz - This is a metal polishing substance which helps make your sword gleam. It is recommended not to use it frequently. You can also use it to remove stains on stainless steel. Flitz contains abrasive particles this is why it should not be used with authentic Japanese swords! It can also be used to get fingerprints off the blade. It is a known fact that some people's skin oils are very acidic and this can even stain a stainless steel blade. Of course the better way to protect the blade is NOT to touch it with fingers.

Notes:


  • It is important to not over oil the sword but only to create a thin coating. A few drops of good oil will do just great. Spread it with a lint cloth of a specialized paper (Japanese Abura-nuguishi).

  • You need to avoid all-purpose oils because usually they contain diluents that accelerate the evaporation of oil. And also, vegetable oils, as they attract dust.

  • For Japanese swords, and antique swords it is not recommended the usage of waxes, Cosmoline, Vaseline, silicone-based gel, petroleum gels, etc. All of them contain substances that attack the steel blade and trap moisture.|


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Post Title Ethiopian (Abyssinian) Medieval Weapons Jan 18, 2007

There are not so many evidences that tell us about Ethiopian Medieval Weapons. Africa, as a whole, is a great enigma especially when we speak about weapons.

The medieval weapons of Ethiopia are called nwayate haql. The basic warfare inventory of Ethiopians consisted of: swords, shields, spears, bows, arrows, slingshots, and rolling boulders.

Bows and arrows
Bows and arrows - qest and ahtsa - were the most extensively used arms. Their use is mentioned in the reigns of Emperor Gelawdewos (1540-1560 A.D.) and Emperor Sussnyos (1607-1632 A.D). Medieval Ethiopia had several vassal states, which took over their weapons and served the Ethiopian interests and borders. The most known vassal states were the neighbouring Yifat and Adel. There also were tribes that were not incorporated into the empire, but were like Roman foedus tribes. One of the known ones was the Nilotic people of the Tekkeze valley (north-west Ethiopia).

The most striking evidence of usage of Ethiopian arms by tribes is the participation of Elmaya tribe in the battle of Emperor Lbne Dngl against Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim El Ghazi (Gran). About 2.000 of Elmaya warriors were equipped with bows and poisoned arrows. The tradition says that the warriors mistook the Emperor's camp for that of the enemy and terminated it. The Ashmen tribes of Gafat have also used poisoned arrows against Emperor Sussnyos's army.

Swords, Shields and Spears
The structure of Ethiopian army was pretty well settled, there was distinguished traditional army division into cavalry and infantry. The infantry was basically armed with swords - asyft, shields- welatw, and spears - quiyanw.

The Ethiopian spear construction reflected three components: the sharp piercing point - quinat, tor, chmara, or chrrie; the shaft - zabia; and the end of the shaft an iron ring - megureb. The point and the ring were usually made of iron alloys or of some early steels; whereas the shaft was made of wood. The capping ring was provided to assured additional weight for perfect balance. In this way the spear represented a calculated construction which enabled the bearer to hit the aimed target within at least 20 feet. The spear actually, had a special meaning in the Ethiopian culture. One of the words meaning spear is tor, in Amharic language this also means 'war'.

Armor
The cavalry benefited only of swords and spears, but it was heavy armored with mails - tsrur or dir'a hatsin and helmets - qur'. The mail had an inflexible construction with a separate tubular sequence for the neck - borboti. Of course, not all cavalry soldiers benefited of armor, only the high ranked ones. The rest army wrapped themselves with cloth - qnat, meqennet, thus creating some kind of protection. This kind of 'armor' offered maneuverability and flexibility, which made the movements more accurate and thus more efficient.

Dagger

Also there are pretty well known the daggers use - methaht or shotel and javelin - armah. Their usage was especially frequent in Yifat.

The three basic weapons (spear, sword and bow) are the most frequently referred to in medieval Ethiopian chronicles. Most of them refer to the period when governed emperors like: Emperor Amde Tsion (1312-1342 A.D.), Emperor Gelawdewos, and Emperor Sussnyos. These weapons withstood the waves of western influence and were used even during the 19th century.
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Post Title Sumerian and Akkadian Weapons Jan 12, 2007


Brief History
The Sumer and Akkad are the most ancient civilizations which actually were the ones to create the army institution and first weapons. The need of military institutions and weapon inventions appeared because the Sumerian city-states fought for lands with one another and later with other invaders. The Greeks called this area Mesopotamia which translates as the "land between the two rivers" (Tigris and Euphrates). The cities of Sumer were already developed an urban level of life to 4000 B.C., there should be mentioned cities like: Ur, Nipur, Lagash, Umma, Eridu and Urak.

The two civilizations were among the oldest urban civilizations. They were first to record the battles and create military dictionary. Especially the Sumer civilization had no analogues by application of military weaponry in the Bronze Age. The rest part of the Middle East needed about 2000 years more to advance to the level of Sumer and Akkad.

One of the first evidences from which we can learn about Sumerian weapons is a stele. It is called the Stele of Vultures and was made after the battle held between the states of Lagash and Umma in 2525 B.C. The Stele of Vultures represents the king of Lagash leading an armored infantry. Helmets and spears are basic military inventory. The king himself is handling a socket axe riding a chariot. Eannatum is represented holding a sickle-sword in his hand.

Helmet
The earliest Sumerian helmets date back to 2500 B.C. They were made of copper and were leaned with leather for comfort. The existence of helmet in military inventory pointed to the fact that a higher level was reached in military achievements. The helmet symbolized protection against the most feared offensive weapon - the mace! During that period the mace was considered the main weapon in the battlefield fights. The helmet protection was so successful that in the long run the mace was drove from the battlefield.

Armor
After helmet proved success the Sumerians proceeded to elaborate protection for the rest body. Thus, there were invented a peculiar type of armor - armored cloak. The cloak was leather or resistant fabric confection which was covered with metal disks provided with spines. It was fixed around the neck and covered the most important parts of the body assuring a good protection. Later, Sumerians elaborated plated armor.

Socket Axe
An important military innovation of Sumer was the socket axe. The weapon was made of bronze and was the mile stone attribute of Sumerian army which conferred significant military advantage. It appeared in response to the development of plated type of body armor aiming to penetrate it. For this the blade of the axe needed to be large and heavy enough to apply a strong blow. But Sumerians had to face another problem - assure proper linkage between the shaft and the blade itself so that the first withstand heavy strokes.

The solution was the use of the cast bronze socket, which was secured with rivets over the head of the shaft. By 2500 B.C. Sumerian axes were redesigned and adopted to the battle needs. Thus, one of the axe variants was equipped with a narrowing blade in order to reduce the impact area and bring the blade closer to the target and deeper into flesh. This innovation put the basis for generation of penetrating axes. These ones were able to pierce through bronze plate armor.

Chariot
Another military achievement of the Sumerians was the use of wheel for creation of Chariot. The Sumerian chariot featured a construction with four or two wheels. Initially, it was conceived as a civil vehicle for higher social classes. The chariot couldn't be offensive because of its small size, light weight, and lack of stability due to unbalanced construction. Later it became a dangerous weapon adopted by other military cultures, like: Hittites, Canaanites, Egyptians, and Assyrians. A chariot could carry at least one driver, two archers, and a spearman. These warriors became the elite of fighting corps and were an irreplaceable part of any ancient world army.

Sickle
The sickle-sword is also considered to be a weapon invented by Sumerians around 2500 B.C. Its predestination was to serve as the primary infantry weapon.

Composite Bow
This one is considered one of the major innovations of Sumerians and Akkadians. It dates back to 2254-2218 B.C. The composite bow had a pull of 2-3 times of the simple bow. It could penetrate leather armor and some of early bronze armors at the distance of 50-100 yards. This innovation was very efficient and determined the use of composite bow during the next fifteen hundred years.
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Post Title Ritual blades. Part II Jan 05, 2007

Human Sacrifices
A special role the bladed weapons played in ceremony of obtaining military virtue symbols. The most appropriate example is the ritual scalping of the wounded or killed enemy which existed in the Indians tribes from Northern America. A similar ritual was spread in Turkmenia for analogical purposes. Usually, they used European knives to cut the nose and ears of the killed enemy.


The Aztecs sacerdotes used knives with obsidian blades and golden hilts to cut off the hearts of the scarified humans in the name of Huitzilopochtli god. The in the well known "Night Sorrow" (June 30), when hundreds of Spanish prisoners (from Cortés army) were killed, the Aztecs used the ritual described above. An identical ritual of human sacrifice was present in India in the temples of Kali (Devi, Shakti).

Other Types of Sacrifices
Bullfight (corrida) is one of the representative rituals, which indeed has the meaning of defeating the enemy and represents a summation of several ancient rituals. From ancient times the bull itself represented nature power, source of masculine power, etc. The bullfighting ritual uses a lot of bladed weapons like: epee, banderilla (a type of spears with long wooden shaft adorned with ribbons) and points (used to finish off the bull).

Wedding Rituals with Bladed Weapons
The bladed weapons were widely used in wedding rituals. As a rule they were a symbol of phallus, masculine source, and courage. It was not incidental that in Bulgaria a young woman in order to show that she agrees to be courted draw out the knife from men's belt.

In Nepal the kukri knife is an important attribute of the fiancé. In some of the countries from eastern and south-eastern Europe the members of the bride's family wished numerous descendents in the "presence" of a knife. It served like some kind of guaranty. In Montenegro the bride was guided to her fiancé stepping on a carpet under which the relatives hide the knife and the belt. This ritual was performed to make the woman give birth to boys. In India the bladed weapons were part of the wedding gift offered by the bride's parents. The brides even were 'bought' with a dao knife.

Birth Rituals with Bladed Weapons
In Asia Minor to ease the pain of a pregnant woman during the giving birth process, she had to step over a specific knife. In Italy and Spain all lacings, cords and ribbons of the woman in labor's clothes were cut trough.

The knives had important attribution to the birth of children. The umbilical cord was cut with the help of certain knives (in Nepal - Kukri). The same knife was put under the child's bed to protect him (her) from evil spirits. In Turkey Central Asia and Caucasian zone and even in Italy in the child's bed were placed knives, scissors, and fragments of sickle, sword and other bladed weapons.

Burial Rituals with Blades
The bladed weapons were widely used in burial rituals. The most spread tradition was to place the warrior's weapon in his grave or to burn them together (Indonesia, India). In Nepal the oldest member of the deceased person held the kukri dagger unsheathed marching in front of the burial cortege.

In most cultures the blade featured the achievement by a man of a higher social status, his formation as a warrior and continuator of the clan. In the Central Asia the blade was one of the three main elements of a man: sheepskin hat, knife, and belt. In Turkmenia the Djouher dagger of the defunct was considered able to release sins when used in specific rituals.

The axe Importance
The axe was also a symbol of protection - averter. For example, the northern nations (hutuls, lemkos, bojki) used to mount the axe above the house entry for protection. In some regions of Germany (Lujica) the bride coming to her fiancé house had to step over an axe placed at the entry.
 
Post Title Ritual blades. Part I Jan 04, 2007


Knife Importance
The knife is even an older type of weapons than the sword and the spear. Ancient people used it as mean of protection or attack, it served at the same time for hunting as well as for combat. The knives reached a very wide diversity due to its use in different areas: crafting, medical, cosmetology, etc.

A specific role of the knife was its significance in the symbolic systems of different cultures, which indeed led to enlargement of its functions. Eventually the knives became a direct attribute of rite playing the role of talismans, fetishes and amulets (mainly worn by men, but also by children and women for protection). The knives were bearers of great powers being considered sacred objects endowed with magical potential. The role of ritual knives were played either by poly-functional knives (which were involved in more activities than one) or by specially created knives (meant only for ritual purposes).

A special role the knives played in India, they served as the most elevated attributes of the higher castes: Kshatriya, Rajputana and Sikh. Sinhalese cult of Sri Lanka the knife is considered the indicator of courage, kingship and aristocratism.

Bladed Ritual Weapons
From antiquity the bladed weapons (particularly knives and swords) were considered symbols of power, indicator of social statute, and attributes of men. For, example in Nepal the Khadha sword with wide and slightly curved blade was considered the symbol of king. The Yataghan (or Scimar) was a Turkish attribute of power and the official weapon of janissary. The Japanese katana was also a privileged sword and was wielded only by samurais. For Mongol men a symbol of power was the belt which was always equipped with a knife - Khuda.

One of the main predestination of the blades was the ability to defeat the enemy. In many traditional cultures the act of physical annihilation was always linked to ceremonial actions. For example, in Sumatra the Kris blade served as execution weapon.

Prohibitions
The knife is very often associated with ritual killings of the living beings and with bloodshed; this is why there existed certain interdictions regarding their use. For example, in Mongolia it was prohibited to pass the cutting edge through fire in order not to 'cut the head' of it.

The custom to keep the blade secured in a sheath or the prohibition to direct it to a person existed in Mediterranean, Caucasian, Middle East, Central Asia, Indian and Nepali regions, and even in Southern America.

In Turkmenia and in some regions of Central Asia was allowed to kill with Pchak knife, whereas the Djouher was prohibited for use against enemies or in animal sacrifice rituals, it was made only for the blood feud (vendetta).

In the medieval Europe the sword was used as the main tool of the executioner. It was prohibited to use the same sword in battles or for other purposes.
 
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Post Title Viking Era Weapons (second version)! Dec 28, 2006


Viking Era can be also called the Swords Era or the Era of Valhalla Warriors (who praised Norse supreme god - Orin). First of all, this is because of the fact that Vikings have opened a new historical war and weaponry chapter. Secondly, they also were the most active traders of weapons. In total, there were discovered about 2000 artifacts and elements of Viking Era swords dating with 9th-10th century.

Roots
It is considered that most of the Viking Era swords had continental origins - the blades were forged in Rhenish workshops. This is confirmed by the Latin inscriptions found on the blades, one of which says Ulfberht Fecit (made by master Ulfberht). The evidences point to the fact that swords were made during Carolingian Empire (which came after Merovingian Dynasty). This led to the prohibition of weapons trade by Charlemagne, who vigorously thought against Vikings.

It should be mentioned that Viking Era Swords are not pure creation of Vikings only. It is a successful combination of Frankish and Scandinavian tradition with several other antique influences.

Construction
The standard length of Viking Era swords was around 39.40 inches (100 cm); whereas the blade measured about 31.50 inches (80 cm). The width ranged from 1.97 to 2.36 inches (5-6 cm). The swords usually weighed from 2.20 lbs to 3.31 lbs (1-1.5 Kg), some of the swords reached up to 4.41 lbs (2 Kg).

The blade's construction described a very wide groove which made it more flexible and considerably lighter. The groove was provided on both sides and went down the full length. The best Viking swords were forged by smelting a group of several iron bars bundled together.

Style of Wearing
There was a specific style of swords wearing; thus the wall paintings show that the swords were worn on the left side by the thigh. The baldric was thrown over the shoulder or bounded to the belt. It is notable that the swords were provided with a scabbard which featured a wooden confection wrapped with genuine leather. The throat and the end cap of the scabbard were decorated with embossed traditional motifs: birds and dragons entangled with complex ornaments.



Hilt Decoration
A special attention Vikings draw to the hilt decoration. In most cases it was constructed from separately bronze forged elements: the pommel was mounted on the grip. There are known hilts made of bones or animal horns.

The relatively simple hilts (with straight guard and crossline and triangular pommel) of the 9th century were replaced by more sophisticatedly shaped handles. The pommel featured embossed shape with several vertical sections. The hand guard piece very often had a concave shape with bound to the blade peripheries. The ornamentation of the hilt became even more complex and subtle. Even the simplest decoration required several hundreds of holes made in the bronze plates of the hilt and several hundreds of silver or copper wire for incrustation.

Places were Viking Era swords were found and the way their hilts are worked can tell a lot about Vikings weaponry and traditions linked with it. One of the most wonderful swords of the 10th century was found next by the Thames. Its hilt is worked with incrustations of silver and copper wire featuring Scandinavian "animal" style (the complex curves of the braid feature figures of mythological monsters).

Most of the Viking Era swords feature Frankish blades and Scandinavian hilts. And these types of swords are mainly called Vikings Swords. Most of them were found in the graves of the great warriors. This is due to the fact that Vikings (and the rest of Scandinavians) believed that the warrior continues to live after his death. And that he will need his attributes when passing through Valhalla Gates.

Tradition
Because there were a huge number of grave embezzlers the swords were intentionally bended and broken. This also served as precaution as the Scandinavians believed that the spirit of the passed away warrior brings danger to the living people (especially if it was a war prone person).
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Post Title Viking Weapons Something Rare Even for Viking Era Dec 25, 2006


Vikings were tribes of Norsemen who originated from Scandinavia. Generally they were known as sailors and warriors. Many Europeans considered them barbarians and raiders because of their ware prone tendencies.
It should be mentioned that their weapons slightly but differed from Europeans ones. Actually, it should be made a distinction between Viking Era weapons and Viking weapons itself. The first category includes Anglo-Saxon weapons along with many others tribes arms.

Some History
Very few weapons of Viking origin have survived till our days. This is not because of low quality of the weapons as some tend to believe. The reality is that Vikings used to bury their weapons (swords, helmets and armor) in the ground when the warriors died. Thus, many of the artifacts survived either in bad conditions or didn't survive at all. Some experts affirm that there are only about 1000 artifacts of Viking origin which survived; all of them are spread in major museums around the world.

Most of the found swords date back to 10th century and were mainly dug out Iceland; though evidences of Viking weapons are spread throughout the Europe.

Short Description of Swords
Most of the Viking swords are simply designed. They are equipped with a typical double edged blades and strong handles. They are actually single-handed to let one of the hands free for the shield.

Usually, blades ranged from 24 to 36 inches long, but the most typical reached from 27.50 to 31.50 inches. In late Viking Era blades have extended up to 40 inches.

The blade's width was from 1.5 to 2.3 inches. The range of sword's weight situated between 2 and 4 lbs. Blades had a slight taper, which helped bring the center of balance closer to the grip. It goes towards the point and deeper central fuller on both sides.

The hilt construction with its elements (pommel and hand guard) provided needed balance for the huge blade.

Blade Creation Art

Pattern Welding
During the early Viking Era there was present a specific tradition of blade forging. It is now called pattern welding! This technique was used because of poor knowledge of blacksmiths concerning all details of smelting process and lack of a proper control over it.

It was tended to obtain flexible, hard and resistant blade! This indeed was very rarely achieved and only on incidental basis. Thus, the smith used available materials, creating a composite material:
Step 1. There were selected bars of different types of iron in a specific order and bundled together.
Step 2. The bars were welded into a layered bar.
The pattern welding process created wonderful and extremely thin patterns. Later in the Viking era, the pattern welding was no longer used because the iron control became available.

Decoration
On the other hand, there were developed methods for blade's decoration. Blades used to be inlaid with precious metals such as silver and gold. The inlays didn't play only the decoration role they sometimes indicated the smith's or possessor's name.
To create inlays there were necessary to cut a groove into the blade (usually in the fuller) and then hammer a wire of desired metal in place.


Distinguishable Features of the Hilts
It was notices that in different period of Viking era the design of the hilts differed. Generally, the hilts were classified by Jan Petersen in 1919. He mentioned that the size and shape of the hilt vary along with the construction details. One of the main criteria of classification was the pommel. So there were distinguished swords with:
- Fastened to the sword pommel
- Framed to the upper guard pommel
- Attached to the tang pommel

It is very interesting to observe how hilt components were decorated! There were several techniques: scribing, wire inlays, etc. The inscriptions were not accidental they indicated the maker or the possessor (as the blades did too).

The materials the grips were made of varied with intensity from wood cores with leather wrapping, to wire wrapped and precious metals made. Some of the swords even were covered with embossed plates of precious metals.

To observe the uniqueness of the Viking swords it is enough to watch the photos. Pay special attention to the details!

 
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Post Title An Anti-Armor Sword - Estoc! Dec 21, 2006



Today we will talk about one of Medieval European swords which proved to be one of the most efficient on the battlefields.

Appearance and Nomenclature
It is the Estoc Sword! The appearance of the Estoc sword dates back to 14th century. This sword was used all over the Europe and is differently called by European nations. The term Estoc itself is of French origins and means to point, or thrust. In Italian the same sword was called Stucco; in Spanish Estoque, in German Dreiecker or Panzersteche. English version for the Estoc sword is Tuck. This sword was so widely spread that reached even Eastern Europe where was known as Kanzer. The Estoc sword is considered the forerunner of the rapier, which is just a supposition.

Designation
The Estoc sword is an anti-armor weapon! It was improved when the armor developed. It was a mean destined to attack as the cutting and slicing weapons were losing their effectiveness. At the same time this sword was designed to replace crushing weapons such as maces and axes which were extremely heavy to wear. The Estoc was able, as well as the maces, to split the rings of mail, or to find the joints and crevices of plate.

Construction
The Estoc sword is a two hander! Which means it was usually wielded with two hands; the second hand often gripped the blade to enforce the thrusting movement. Generally, it represents a long, rigid, pointed, triangular or square bladed piece. Sometimes there was even diamond shaped cross-section. The edges of an Estoc sword usually were unsharpened as it was designed for thrusting into heavy plated armor or steel shields. Only the point was sharpened in order to penetrate through any kind of steel.
A distinctive feature of an Estoc sword is the doubled hand guard construction. This indeed looked like a compound hilt. Usually the guard elements are situated at some distance from one another and feature cross guards for perfect protection of the hand.

Sizes and Possessors
Some of the exemplars of this sword reach 62 inches, but these are exceptions. The maneuverable exemplars are around 46 inches. The geometric cross-section hardens the cutting ability, but allows the weapon to become lengthy, stiff, and act accurately.
The Estoc was the weapon mainly of cavalry. It was hanged by the saddle when on horseback.

Later the Estoc became a characteristic weapon for infantry for this purpose there were provided scabbards. Some forms provided finger rings, curved quillons, or other forms of a compound hilt.

The Estoc sword is one of the rare Medieval cold steel weapons, and probably the unique sword that was able to get through heavy armor and mails.
 
Post Title Reflection on Cold Steel and Machined Weapons Dec 15, 2006



There is no doubt that human beings have always developed and tented to achieve more and more. Partly it is because of the need; partly it is the concurrence. Anyway, it is a natural tendency! Some philosophers affirm that all what people have done to improve their life or to discover something was because of their laziness! I think that all what humankind achieves sooner or later leads to self destruction; it simply turns against us!



Need of Weapons
Let's take for example the weapons. Initially they appeared as necessity to protect against wild animals. Later the weapons developed to offer protection against offensive fellow men. Then, came the period when people fought for lands. Great wars generated new ideas of fighting devices, tactics, strategies, etc. This is the stage when weapons became not only defensive means but also offensive.

Weapons' Revolution
Still, the greater revolution in weapon creation was the discovery of powder and invention of the machined weapons. The major purpose in creating a machined weapon was to make it kill more people with each new performance. It was a period of passage from cold steel arms to a higher performance, with the ability to kill even more people. This is the period when weapons, especially blades, became not only fighting means but also objects of rituals, culture, honor, etc. In other words it became a halidom and a relic.

Heirs of Destruction Means
Today we already come to the point when Great Powers of the World spent up to 1/3 of the budget for military purposes. Today, we 'fight' for peace (no matter how ridiculous it might sound) and against weapons of any kind. Still, we improve weaponry and we admire old pistols, swords, armor, etc. And all this comes to evidence, that WE ARE A CONTROVERSY SPECIE!

Dilemma - which weapons are better: blades or guns?
This is not actually the question to be asked. What indeed should be asked is: better for what? Firstly, there are no 'better' or 'best' weapons. Each has its designation and meaning. Secondly, if we talk about self-defense, than it is believed that cold steel weapons like knives act batter than a gun, in case you are attacked.

a. It is unexpected and can be easily hidden in your pocket or bag.
b. In case a woman is attacked, then a knife can scare the attacker more than a gun. It was proved by psychologists that men (if the attacker is a man) have a greater fear of knives than women (who are used to them in the kitchen).


Final Considerations
I'm one of those who admire and adore cold steel arms. When I look at a sword I see a masterpiece, a warfare art piece! Again, when I see an old pistol, bayonet, etc. I see something beautiful and I shiver at the thought how people misuse noble pieces like these ones for dirty purposes.

Remember one thing! It is not the weapon (gun or blade) which hurts and kills people. It is man himself who hurts fellows of his kind.

 
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Post Title Japanese Sword Polishing. Part 2 Dec 11, 2006

A polisher of Japanese swords is a real master called Togishi. A Togishi possesses a wide collection of tools for polishing process. Mainly he handles polishing stones. These stones are pretty expensive and difficult to find. The types of stones vary by their degrees of softness and hardness.

Each Togishi has his own secrets and a mastery of polishing a blade. A professional polisher tends to achieve harmony and quality. It is evident that the art of each Togishi reveals the appurtenance to a specific school and period.

Stages of Polishing
Each blade is unique; therefore each requires specific types of polishing. Though, there are two general polishing stages: Shitaji (lower polish), and Shiage (final polish).






Stage 1. Shitaji - Ground work. This is the step when grained stones are used to preserve the traditional slightly curved shape of the Japanese sword. This is why the stones have a gently curved surface (lengthwise and crosswise). This assures that the stones grains are parallel to the sword's curvature and preserve the shape. The blade is pitched, twisted, pushed and pulled.

There are several stones used to get the final result:


  • Bisui - a very coarse stone, can easily damage the blade if used unwisely, but very efficient in removing the rust.

  • Kaisei - it is a recently used stone. Its purpose is to smooth the marks of a Busui stone.

  • Chunagura - a medium hard stone fine grained, comes after Kaisei to smooth even better the surface.

  • Komanagura - a reminiscence of Chunagura, it refines the Chunagura marks.

  • Hato - a very hard stone for finish touch. Many masters use it to create a hamon line.

  • Jito - the stone is the hardest one. It is used to work another pattern called Jihada. It has to be used with much care as it defines the final step of first stage and can easily damage or scratch the blade.


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It is important to mention that Shitaji stage takes a great deal of time. It can last from 10 to 12 hours per day during four to six days!!!


Stage 2. Shiage - Final Polish.This stage consists in burnishing with a variety of tiny thin stones, a steel stylus and powder polishing.

Here are the general steps of the Shiage stage:

  • Tsuya - Creation of Jihada (skin) pattern. Jihada is a specific pattern of steel representing small pieces of raw material (Tama-hagane). It is worked with a Jizuya stone.

  • Nugui - is the technique which makes the Jihada withstand rust and other deteriorates. It features an infusion of oil and specific ground (Kanahada). Due to Nugui the sword takes on a darker color.

  • Hadori - Is a widely used technique to make a hamon line. It is characterized by the use of an oval Hazuya which finally creates a 'white' hamon.

  • Shitamigaki - Is a burnishing technique designed for a specific area of the blade: between the ridge running along the side of the blade, and the blade's back. The final result is a mirror-polished finish.

  • Uemigaki - This technique uses Migakibo stone for a final polish.

  • Sugikiri - Sugikiri consists in burnishing the area at 90 degree angle at the tip of the blade (Yokote).

  • Narume - It is mainly used to polish the point of the blade. It is extremely difficult to work the point (kissaki). It should always be polished horizontally and with specific movements. By the way the kissaki is the part which indicates the period of manufacturing. It is about the length, the curvature, and the thickness of the point and sometimes of the blade (ken).


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The Shiage stage can take about three days!!!
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Post Title Japanese Sword Polishing. Part 1 Dec 07, 2006

Sword polishing process is considered even more important than the forging process. There are needed more skills and experience to correctly polish a sword than to forge one. Polishing is what distinguishes professional sword makers from amateurs. You can easily determine the quality of a sword by closely watching the ridgeline down the middle of the blade. When talking about Japanese swords it is called Shinogi.

When studying this interesting theme I decided to mainly refer to Japanese swords. I discovered a very rich tradition of sword polishing. This reaches beyond technology and becomes an art.

A good polish makes the ridgeline crisp and sharp; in contrast to this a low quality polishing will feature wobbles and al kinds of fluttering.


Short History of Japanese Sword Polishing
A description of sword polishing dates back to 905CE, it is considered one of the earliest one. There also exist evidences of Tanto (a specific type of dagger) polishing which are qualified as dating back to 1274CE. The experts came to the conclusion that the methods of polishing described in those old documents didn't considerably differ from the modern ones.

For example, a Tanto polishing involved methods like:
- polishing with finishing stones (Migaki and Uchigumori);
- inger polishing with tiny stones (Narutaki);
- polishing powder (Tsuya and Nugui).

The research traces led to the fact that the basic three stages of sword polishing already existed in the early Heian Period (mid of the 9th Century). Finally, it was concluded that the traditional sword polishing, we are acquainted with today, was formed by the mid 10th century. And the masters which settled it are known as Kunihiro and Tamesada. The two polishers were serving the Emperor (Gotoba).

Later there was added the technology of finishing work with extremely fine stone. This indeed was not a necessary stage, as it was considered more a decorative technology. The stage of a middle grain stone (Nagura) polishing was considered enough to make the sword work. The polishing stages after the Nagura stone were used to enhance artistry and create beautiful patterns. For the Jihada and the Hamon patterns were used stones called Uchigumori and Narutaki (thin lacquered stones).

The basis of the modern sword polishing was established in the late 16th Century by Hon-ami Kotoku dynasty. This dynasty is respected and known as sword polishers and collectors even today.

The Very Polishing
In total, Japanese sword polishing performs 13 stages. Each of the stages has its own destination. Different tools and stones are provided for each stage. There is also a specific culture of applied movements.

One of the polishers, who is a member of Hon-ami dynasty, says that in normal conditions and rhythms of work a sword takes about 120 hours to be finished. Any tinny mistake can ruin a fine blade. It has to be mentioned that none of the polishing methods like Jihada and Hamon don't work on any kind of swords besides the Japanese ones.



Some basic rules are:
- When grinding away, maintain a constant angle on the bevel at the same time;
- The Niku (a slight convex curve of the blade) is hard but important to produce as a consistent curve;
- You must use at least six differently grained types of stones, in a specific sequence;
- Train your movements as even the finest stones can alter the shape of the blade.

Major Stages
1. Use of the bulk stones. Which you utilize to put in practice the above steps and to give a traditional shape to the blade.
2. Finishing polish (Shiage-togi). This stage involves the use the finger stones to bring out the activity in the steel. The Hamon is not only the wave frosting line you see. Indeed it consists of subtle steel grains. Your task is to expose the Nie crystals the Ashi effects visible.

Note: More detailed information on Japanese sword polishing stages will be presented in the next article.
 
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Post Title Quillon - Secret Element Of A Sword! Dec 05, 2006


The Quillon (or Quillion) is on of the weird words linked to the mysterious history of sword. Its appearance is still an issue of controversy! But the main idea lies in the fact that such an insignificant (at first glance) sword's element plays a very important role!

So, what is it?
A Quillon is a handguard piece shaped in a totally specific way. It sometimes is called crossguard but this is a name which comes from Crusades' times. The piece is extended enough to parry and to entangle the opponent's sword or dagger.

The quillon usually extends at the base of the hilt, below the grip. A classical quillon features a straight or S-shaped construction. There are also quillons which bend towards the blade or towards the pommel.

The origin of its name is thought to be the French, quille - a ninepin.

A Bit of Quillon History
Initially, it was considered that the quillon was designed in the Middle Ages. Some pointed to Crusade Period, others even mentioned 16th century.

At the same time it is well known that most of the European swords came by tradition from Ancient Rome. And it is also known that Roman Spatha had a quillon like handguard too. At least the piece served same purposes.

Throughout the Bronze Age, appeared an intermediate element between the grip and the blade. It was the ancestor of quillon and today it is called quillon block. It featured a metal piece linked along the tang. The block acted as a support for the shoulder of the blade and the base of the guard. The quillon block is sometimes called the ecusson.


Then, around 1100 CE, the swords' design evolved in the direction of applicability, and thus the most popular sword of knights was born from the Norman swords. The Knights' sword is traditionally equipped with a crossguard (same quillon). The cross shaped piece was a tribute of the fact that the knights belonged to Christian religious orders. This is when the quillon received significance performed along with its applicability.

Purposes
The quillon was actually invented to serve two major purposes. Generalizing, the quillon had served (and still serves) for purposes as follows:

1. Protection. The hand is perfectly protected from any kind of attack combinations and especially from being cut.
2. Trap. The additional function of the quillon was to trap the opponent's blade. If the trap was fast enough, then with a quick lateral movement the opponent's blade could be cracked or at least was snatched out of his hands.
3. Design. During Middle Ages the swords' quillons provided fine area for creative design. This led to the fact that quillons changed very fast their shapes and competed with one another. Today a magnificent art of decorating quillons is developed. Most beautiful ones are designed for rapiers. Swirling wiring of totally inexplicable shapes overwhelm at first glance.


Production Guidelines
 
  • To get a good fit between the blade and the guard, file the shoulders at the back of the ricasso.

  • Weld a spacer between two hardened steel jaws. It will hold a blade when clamped in the vise and help you to set square shoulders.

  • Do not set up a square shoulder at the junction of the tang and ricasso. This will create a potential stress riser and possible point of ruining the construction. This area will be covered by the guard so it is not necessary to have a sharp corner.

  • Also taper the tang from the widest point at shoulder and the narrowest at the far end of the tang.

  • Insure that you don't over file the hole in the guard to get by a high spot on the tang, by checking the width and thickness (with calipers).


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Post Title Southeastern Cold Steel Weapons - Vietnamese Blades Nov 30, 2006


History
Vietnam has been under the rule of greater civilizations or nations for centuries. And each of them left cultural traces and influenced Vietnam to develop in a totally specific way. Swords craftsmanship was not an exception. Changes and influences made it evolve unexpectedly in different directions.


Imaginary the swordmaking art consist of several historical 'layers':

Chinese layer - The Chinese domination of Vietnam lasted from about 111 BCE to the early 10th century CE. After 10 centuries under Chinese control, in 939 CE, the Vietnamese defeated Chinese and gained independence. Thus the basis of Vietnamese swordmaking was set by Chinese.

Domestic layer - Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward, this was the so called southward expansion. This was the period when national values developed and the assimilated Chinese tradition melted, giving birth to the Vietnamese one.

French layer - In the mid 19th century CE Vietnam was colonized by the French Empire. The French administration considerably enriched and changed the Vietnamese society. European influences were envisioned in sword making art. It can be easily seen in the pompous exemplar of swords dating with the French colonization period.

Other layers - It is evident that there are Japanese, and Thai influences due to the fact that these two countries were proficient enough in swordmaking to share it with others. Some believe that it is also due to the Japanese presence in Thailand and coastal Vietnam in the 15th and 16th century.

What made them unsurpassed?
Vietnamese smiths had (and still have) a sophisticated technique of inlaying precious metals. They crafted excellent silver fittings for their weapons which were very original for the area. What really distinguishes the Vietnamese swords is the original mounting with elephant handles. This makes the blade easy maneuverable due to its lightweight and comfortable grip. For this purpose elephant molars or tips of tusks are used.

Some of the most used Vietnamese swords are:

1. Kiem . A double edged straight sword. It is very typical and has no analogs in the Southeastern part of Asia. The Kiem is made in keeping with Chinese tradition and is believed to be a reminiscence of Jian sword. It features needle shaped blade and strong hilt with reach decorations. The Vietnamese kiem is easily confused with European small swords. However, the kiem is considerably lighter than the European and the Chinese needle-like swords.



2. Dao. It is also called 'the leaf sword'. This sabre-type sword exists in three main variants, or better said variations. Each reflecting one of the three foreign influences mentioned above. Here are the two most distinguishable pieces:

- Sabres from northern Vietnam (Tonkin). they show strong Chinese influence in both component parts: blade and handle. This kind of daois even wielded in a Chinese manner.

- Sabres from southern Vietnam (Cochin). These ones represent two-handed sabres called dai dao. They are distinguished by their Chinese elements but also by very strong Japanese influence. Notice traditional webbing and cast metal fittings! Best evidences to prove Japanese attribution. The hand guards are also reflections of Japanese katana' tsuba.

3. Native Vietnam Swords. These ones were forged in keeping with Chinese traditions and featured pattern welded steel. The Chinese technology was known as qiangang (inserted steel). It consists in an inserted hardened steel cutting edge backed by a soft steel core. Thus the two metals formed a layered construction.

4. French Styled Sword. These sabres are basically designed in keeping with European traditions. Compared to their predecessors these sabres are very extravagant. They featured embossed silver fittings on the scabbard and hilt and reach inlays of precious metals or stones. It distinguished by lion-head designed pommel and 'D' shaded knuckle-bow, which appeared after establishment of the Nguyen dynasty.

It should be noted that the Vietnamese sometimes used foreign blades. Mainly Japanese, and later the swords were equipped with French blades.
 
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Post Title Southeastern Cold Steel Weapons - Philippine Weapons Diversity Nov 29, 2006

Let's travel to regions with a less known swordmaking culture - The Philippines!

The Spanish claimed and colonized the Philippine archipelago around 1565. The Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legaspi was the first to set a Spanish foot on these lands. Later, about 1543, Ruy López de Villalobos named two islands of archipelago (Samar and Leyte) Las Islas Filipinas. This goes after King Philip II of Spain.

When the Spanish arrived to the Philippine islands, they discovered that these places are not as wild as they imagined. Reach culture and technology was discovered to be quite advanced.

The Filipinos were very skilled in making a specific type of cold steel weapons. They used to forge of bronze and even iron. Their war inventory was rich in portable cannons of different size.


Moros
If you are fond of rare swords then you undoubtedly have heard about the Philippine Moro Weapons. The Moro name comes from Muslim tribes situated mainly on the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao Island in Southern Philippines. There are known four major Moro tribes: the Samal (Zamboanga), the Maguidanao (Mindanao), the Maranao (Mindanao), and the Tausug (Sulu).

The Maro tribes were the most war prone tribes on the Philippine islands. This is why they developed a wide weapon inventory which distinguished by its high efficiency. Some of the Moro edged weapons are: Tombak, Golok, Kampilan, Barong, Kris, Panabas, Parang Pida, etc.

Sword ceremonial
The notorious sword makers of Philippine swords were Piray, Viray, etc. Their sword forging tradition can be even called 'school', as it lasted for centuries in many parts of the Philippines. The swordmakers created a special social category forming guilds of smiths. Most of them followed the Piray lineage.

The interesting and distinguishing fact about Philippine sword makers was that they also were astrologers who waited for auspicious conjunctions of planets before proceeding with each elaborate phase of the sword making ritual. Thus, a sword crafting could last a very long period. It is not actually a secret that sword making was considered a ritual. Another completing ritual was passage of the sword from the maker to the owner.

Weapon diversity
Blades ...
Kampilan Kris


Machined arm
Lantaka (swivel gun) one of the most awesome weapon of the Filipinos. When conquering some of the Philippines islands, the Spanish had faced a much trouble fighting against lantakas. Later they included Moro type of lantakas on native ships.
These guns were placed on flexible swivels which was not characteristic for Spanish technology. This thought-out construction allowed to quick-track a moving target. The lantaka's construction featured two revolving barrels. It is curious to know that these guns eventually reached South America and are considered ancestors of the Gatling gun.
Armor
The Filipinos have also elaborated efficient armor for use on the battlefield. And again the Moro tribes were the ones to develop it! They had an armor type which covered the entire body from the top of the head to the toes.
Originalities
Some of the Filipino weaponry was quite unusual! For example, one type of weapon was the prototype of the modern yoyo! It functioned in the following way: the weapon was flung at an opponent and then it returned to its owner.
 
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Post Title Fencing is what makes wielding stunning! Nov 24, 2006

In short, fencing is a warfare art which consists of a series of attack and defense movements.

The Art of FencingEvolution...
Following the history guidelines, I came to conclusion that fencing has witnessed all history periods.

The earliest evidence of fencing comes from Egypt dating back to about 1200 B.C. From Egypt the traces lead to Greek and Roman civilizations, which also favored fencing as a specific type of sport. With the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.) fencing was cast to oblivion. The Dark Ages of fencing lasted during the Renaissance period (around 14th century).

The 15th century put the basis of modern fencing. This is when the rapier entered in wide use. Spain was the first state to give birth to the first true fencers. Then, Italy followed the same path accepting rapiers. There are well known Italian fencing masters like Agrippa, Vigiani, Grassi, etc. They were the inventors of the main fencing positions.

Beginning with the 16th century fencing was used in duels, which later became a matter of charges against the fencers and duelists.

 Drawing of Two Men Fencing
Principals and terminology...
In the German schools of swordsmanship there were three principle actions (Drey Wunder): the thrust, the cut, and the slicing (Schnitt). The thrust was used primarily at longer range, the cut at medium range, and the slice more at closer range.
As I mentioned above medieval fencing distinguished two principles of action:

-Offensive principle of fighting (Vor)
-Defensive or countering principle of fighting (Nach)

A German Master of Defense or martial arts expert was called Fechtmeister (Fight Master), the equivalent of the German term exists in Italian - Meastro de' Arme' (Master of Arms).

It also should be mentioned that the Middle Ages are rich in fighting schools. The most famous fencing schools were:

Luxbrueder (Company of St. Luke) - A major Medieval German fighting guild. It was similar to later English defense schools.

Marxbrüder (Brotherhood of St. Mark) - A successful German group of masters who organized and monitored the teaching of the fighting arts.
Further evolution...
The fencers today will probably chose from the three cold steel weapons when engaging in a competition:

Foil. During the 17th century France developed the art of fleuret wielding. At the same time there were elaborated a series of rules and movements that qualified the fencing as a game of alternating attacks and defense. It features flexible blade with a rectangular cross-section and a small guard. It is approximately 35 inches long and weighs less than 1 pound.

Épeé. The Épeé became popular in the 18th century. It was heavier than the foil having a larger guard.

Sabre. The sabre is a weapon descended from the Oriental scimitar. It was widely used in Italy for fencing activity. It was also considered a cavalryman's weapon. Initially it featured a broad sword, but was modified by Europeans to a thin, straight, flexible strip of metal. It represents the heaviest weapon of the three. The fencing saber has a scoop shaped hand guard that curves under the hand. Its weight and length is almost identical to the foil.

One of most unusual weapon used for fencing combat was colichemarde. Its totally original shape made it extremely efficient.
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Post Title Swordsmithing II: Roman Tradition Nov 16, 2006


It is my intention to continue the swordsmithing topic with the Ancient Rome sword craftsmanship.

First Roman Swords
The earliest Roman swords represented bronze cast constructions dating back to 1700 BC. The procedure of Roman sword forging evolved in two steps. Usually the first step was casting into the needed shape. Then the second one was cold working of the edges.

Bronze swords were easily sharpened and featured harder constructions than their iron counterparts. The weak point of the bronze swords was the ability to fracture where an iron sword would bend rather than break.



Iron Roman Swords
Some scientists believe that Roman iron swords appeared around 700 BC. So, the Roman sword craftsmanship developed mainly in the Republican period (510 - 27 BC). It is due to long lasting Punic Wars (First Punic War: 264 BC - 241 BC; Second Punic War: 218 BC - 202 BC), which required permanent improvement and renovation of weaponry. There are two most spread Roman iron swords:

- The Gladius (short sword) - wielded by representatives of infantry. It was normally used along with a shield.
- The Spatha (long sword) - was a cavalry weapon. It was a double edged long sword.


The shape and the proportions of the Roman sword did not change much during this period. On the contrary, radical changes occurred in the technology of swords forging.
It is known that in Republican period the iron ore has already been mined. It was rudimentary and contained impurities of various character. Romans used to clean the ore with the help of simply water washing.

The earth provided iron chemically combined with oxygen and hydrogen, especially in the form of water. To extract water bubbles the ore was crushed into little pieces in an iron mill. Still the most harmful were oxygen impurities, they were able to cause blade crashing if some bubbles persisted after forging. To exclude oxygen content the ore was put in a furnace with charcoal. The furnace was sealed, in that way the oxygen needed for fire to burn was pulled from the ore. Thus, Romans obtained iron blocks which latter was hammered to become wonderful blades.


Dilemma
Today the big dilemma is - were Romans using steel or iron? At first, let's get the point what is the difference between steel and iron.
Any metallurgist will assure you that what really distinguishes steel from iron is the amount of carbon in the metal. Wrought iron usually has a carbon content of about 0.5 %; whereas steel requires a content of carbon that equals to or exeeds 1.5 %.

The interesting thing about Romans' swords is the fact that they unconsciously created steel! The needed carbon content was provided by the charcoal used to heat the metal. The so called carburization process created an outer layer of steel.

Steps of Roman Swordsmithing
1. Purifying the iron ore. We have already discussed the matter so we won't stop here.
2. Heating the iron blocks in a furnace with charcoal. This technique conferred a layered construction to the blade.
3. Hammering and getting into the needed shape. The smith used a hammer to pound the metal into blade shape. He usually used tongs to hold the iron block in place. More sophisticated tools appeared later.
4. Reheating. When the blade cooled, the smith reheated it to keep it workable. While reheated and hammered repeatedly the blade become an iron confection with thin strips of steel throughout.
5. Quenching. This procedure involved the process of white heating and cooling in water. Quenching made the blade harder and stronger. At the same time it made the blade quite brittle, which was a considerable problem for the sword smiths.
6. Tempering. To avoid brittleness the blade was tempered. In another words it was reheated a final time to a very specific temperature. How the Romans do balanced the temperature? They didn't! The smith was guided only by the blade's color and his own experience. It should be mentioned that the Romans preferred blades that were cooled in air after being tempered to those that were quenched in water.
 
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