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.
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.
- 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).