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Ask me about swords.

Discussion in 'Research' started by Anders Ämting, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. Kevlar

    Kevlar Troubadour

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    Anders, and I am very sorry for my part in derailing this thread, as well as any misconceptions I might have caused by my exaggeration of certain aspects, my lack of clarity in others, and my lack of knowledge concering still others.

    Now I will ask a question, as an inadequate attempt at apology: I was actually under the impression that the katana was around by the fourteenth century and that it was a couple hundred years later when the Japanese developed Tamahagane (and this, I did not know the word for, I had previously just been calling it Japanese smelting). Is this a failure in research on my part?

    Again, I sincerely apologize for the inane debate between me and Devor. Please don't allow this to reflect on either of our characters, as it is the only occurence I've had and the only one I've seen Devor have that wasn't bred by a failure to communicate.
     
    Anders Ämting likes this.
  2. Ah, maturity. :)

    I wrote a ton of stuff here, but on second glance I seem to have misunderstood a vital part, which unfortunately turned my answer into useless bullshit.

    I'll be back as soon as I research this matter a bit more.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've mentioned that a few times myself now. The thing is, that's why peer review is so readily available for Deadliest Warrior episodes. When taken together, that makes the source and its derivative content more reliable than other sources.

    For example, Ravana posted a website about armor-piercing arrowheads. It looks official, the conclusions sound definitive. But I have a few questions about those conclusions, like whether the arrowheads were intended to be fired from bows of similar strengths, or about the possibility that an iron arrowhead might be enough for the Bodkin design to pierce iron chainmail, or whether certain arrowheads might be designed on the chance of striking certain parts of the armor, like a helmet. To be honest, I didn't look thoroughly over the site, so some of that may be addressed. But the point I mean to make is that peer review on that website and on those conclusions would be hard to find. It doesn't matter if the process of the testing was more reliable, it doesn't actually become scientific until it faces scientific scrutiny. But I can find pages upon pages of what Deadliest Warrior is doing right and wrong for each episode. I also get to witness the test for myself on television instead of reading their claims about the test. Hence it becomes reliable, at least enough for my purposes.

    But I did want to ask you something else about swords. Do you happen to know to what extent swords were fitted for the individual wielding them? I would imagine for the most part that someone picked up a sword and said, "That's too heavy, but that one feels right." But knowing how some cultures, and especially some aristocracies, invented rules for just about everything, I was wondering if there were weapons or cultures which had standards, something like, "The blade should be a little more than the length of your arm" or maybe another proportion of the body. I'm wondering which cultures, which swords, and which rules might have existed. Do you know? It would be a big help. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  4. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    So you actually take part in Longsword practices to learn the techniques and everything?? Wow, I am impressed! I would love to do that too, and especially with the Longsword because they are absolutely my favourite swords =)

    The different ways of using a Longsword that you have mentioned (not just slashing and stabbing) are why they are my favourite swords, so versatile and deadly- In my stories, my Mages use 1.3m magical Longswords and the Guardians (males of the species) are sometimes seen with 3m long swords because they are 3.7m tall.

    It must have taken a hell of a courage to take part in those unarmoured Longsword duels!!
     
  5. urcool91

    urcool91 Acolyte

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    What is the best metel for a sword? I'm writing a short story where the heroine has to go on a quest to find a sword and I want to know what to make the sword be made out of.
     
  6. Devor, Kevlar, sorry for not responding to your questions yet. I've been preoccupied, and both of them require long answers.

    Well, I've only taken one lesson so far. It should have been three by now, but the guy teaching us has been sick the past two weeks.

    Unless you make something up on your own, the best metal for swords is steel, that is to say iron containing a certain percentage of carbon.

    There is this one material people have been researching in modern times, so-called amorphous metal alloys. They are basically metals that have been giving molecular properties similar to glass. I've never heard of anyone making a whole sword out of the stuff, but I know it has been use to create knives with some very special properties. That's the only material I can think of that may be able to compete with steel. But then again, it's expensive to produce and really high tech.

    All in all, steel is really the way to go.
     
  7. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    @urcool91: In the real world, carbon steel (that means, real steel) is absolutely the best metal for swords- Anyway, when writing a Fantasy story you can create a new wonderful metal for your swords and stuff, like that rare silver or whatever from Middle Earth!! Other stories talk about different metals with magical or near-magical properties =)

    Also, why not saying that your characters discovered something that, when added to normal steel, would create a much more powerful metal??

    After all, we are Fantasy writers =)
     
  8. I've only just come across this thread, so I apologise for my late posting (and I hope this isn't classed as hijacking your thread).

    But I'd like to say that as Anders has said, I would not trust Deadliest warrior for accurate information. I watched a couple of episodes and came away feeling very cheated by the poor attempt at science.

    I can't even remember what weapon they were comparing in the episode I saw (I think it was Chinese warriors against Maori warriors or something) but I do remember that one weapon was tested on an animal skull, the other on a bunch of reeds with a wooden core. What kind of science is that when the tests are not equivalent and not properly controlled. The overall impression I got was that the 'tests' were chosen more for visual impact than for proper scientific comparison, ie a skull being smashed by a club type Maori weapon looked impressive, but a sword cutting reeds looked more impressive for the bladed weapon.

    A true scientific test would have both weapons used against those artificial dummies to show the actual damage to a human being. And even that would have been innacurate due to the fact that humans don't stay still during an attack. The natural movement of the body away from the attacking weapon, would mitigate the blow to a certain extent compared to a static target.

    The point I'm making is that Deadliest Warrior is populist entertainment not accurate science, better you get your information from proper experts in the field (such as I presume Anders), than from entertainment shows created for visual impact.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm sorry, but I do really think this is thread hijacking. Everyone's already acknowledged this, and I had just said that I also read expert commentary. You didn't even mention swords.

    And honestly, as weapons were designed to fight differently, I would really have said fairly that using different tests for different weapons is one of the few strengths of the show and their science. I've seen tests and demonstrations which assume that each weapon was supposed to fight in the same way; there's a reason I don't mention them. They end up failing to test the weapons in a way that's consistent to their actual use. But don't get me wrong, I could post a paper on the things Deadliest Warrior does wrong; it still wouldn't invalidate the things they do right, if you can recognize them.

    But if I've said something wrong about swords, and I'm sure I must have, it's because I've misapplied or over-extrapolated from the material I've been researching about blade design, and not because of anything Deadliest Warrior did.


    Thanks, I'd really appreciate it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  10. I didn't mention swords because I was simply warning against the dangers of relying on TV entertainment for information.

    Edit: I just realised that this could come across as a personal attack on your opinions. Although my post was triggered by your talking about Deadliest warriors, my response was aimed at all readers in general, some of whom may not perhaps see the innacuracy endemic in the science of these programs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm not offended, but a little exasperated, because I feel like I have to respond when I really do want to respect Anders and his discussion on swords. I'm going to start a new thread on the reliability of sources, which is something that deserves to be talked about at length, and hopefully the tone of this thread can be rebooted to just Q&A, with just a little minor commentary about the posted Answers.
     
  12. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    A question for Anders: What can you tell us about medieval Falchions??

    I have quite a fascination about Falchions, especially because few people know about them and how they were really popular in medieval Europe =) I have read that they were usually tools for everyday life in the towns and fields, but other Falchions were especially created for Warfare and there were many different designs...

    How large could a Falchion be? Were they made from the same steel as more expensive swords??
     
  13. Falchions were in use in northern Europe from at least as early as the 13th century and throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. They seem to have been popular in England, France and Italy, while the Germans apparently didn't regard them to have much military importance.

    I wouldn't say falchions were less expensive then the regular arming swords - historical evidence tells us they were carried by common soldiers as well as the more well-to-do knights or nobles. The quality of the weapon, I presume, would depend on how wealthy the owner in question happened to be.

    Lenght-wise, they tended to be somewhat shorter then the standard double-edged arming sword - I think a longer falchion blade would be something like 27". The shape of the blades varied, but they are typically broad-bladed, single-edged swords, sometimes curved or with a straight spine but with a curved edge. Regardless, they are almost exclusively dedicated cutting weapons and they often broaden near the point of percussion. They can look kinda brutish, but mostly they were surprisingly fast and agile weapons.

    The most well-known falchion shape is that of the Thorpe falchion. Here is a high-end reproduction:

    [​IMG]

    Some falchions could have pretty odd designes, though. One of the strangest examples is the "reverse Thorpe falchion", which looks like the Thorpe variety until you realise the edge is on the opposite side of the blade:

    [​IMG]

    Those blades always looked very bizarre to me, like something a Klingon might carry or something, but they were common enough to show up in multiple artworks, so most likely they did fill some kind of niché in medieval warfare.

    Of course, if you want bizarre blades, there's also the "Maciejowski cleavers":

    [​IMG]

    I'm not sure they are normally considered falchions, but then again they are hard to classify at all. The thing about these are, we haven't actually found any of them and all we know is from illustrations in the Maciejowski bible. However, the Maciejowski bible is so accurate otherwise, they are considered to have actually existed. As far as I know, though, nobody has been able to figure out why the two to the right look the way they do.

    Moving on, you mentioned falchions being used as tools in times of peace. I can't say I've ever read or heard anything about that - in general, they seem to have been specifically designed to be weapons. The idea of them serving a more versatile purpose may come from mixing them up with the later and somewhat similar messer family.

    The messers came in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and styles, but your typical sword-sized grossemesser would be somewhat similar to a typical falchion:

    [​IMG]

    What defines a messer, however, is the hilt. Note the riveted wooden slabs on a full tang construction. This is the same way knifes would have been (and still are) constructed. A falchion, on the other hand, usually had whatever kind of hilt you find on other swords of the same time period.

    The thing about the messers is that they were formally knives. (In fact the word "messer" is German for knife.) They were, at least innitially, carried by commoners who may not have had permission to carry actual swords, but could get away with carrying a very large "knife." While one could probably argue they were everyday tools, my guess would be that they were usually self-defense weapons for the common man.

    However, just like the falchions, some messers appear to have been owned by nobility or even royalty. It's possible that they evolved into the later hunting swords, though I'm guessing so don't quote me on that.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  14. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Thank you Anders, you really are an expert in swords of all cultures and styles!! The pictures that you have provided are beautiful =) I think that my favourite Falchion is the reverse Thorpe design because it looks so... threatening!! Falchions should be included in many Fantasy stories! XD!!
     
  15. "Reverse Thorpe falchion" being my wording. I'm not sure what they are actually called - most likely they should be named after the original artifact, but I'm not sure where they found it. Might try to dig that up while I'm at it.
     
  16. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Love the falchion pics.
    COmpared to the scimitar, is the falchion stright of less curved than a scimitar(Scimitar being oriental) or basically just a different name for the same general blade?

    scimitar - Bing Images

    The traditional "metal" ages overlap as the improved metal is perfected.
    What years are mostly known for each metal's age?

    Because a good carbon steel is best, but if only in the bronze age or iron age.
    Writers of fantasy can blur the lines though.
     
  17. That's a modern misconception, actually. Actual scimitars do not look like that. (That's actually a fantasy sword. One of Raven Armoury's old models, I've been told.)

    To begin with, "scimitar" is an umbrella term that basically means "oriental saber." It particularly encompasses a family of middle easter sabers that include the Persian shamshir, the Arabian saif, the Turkish kilij and sometimes the Indian tulwar.

    [​IMG]
    A typical shamshir.

    The kilij in particular tends to have a pronounced yelman, or raised false edge, which kinda sorta might give the impression of a falchion-like shape.

    [​IMG]

    Of course, some of these swords are more extreme then others. Note the top one in this picture:

    [​IMG]

    But, in general, scimitar simply refers to an eastern saber.

    ...It might be because I haven't slept in a while but I'm afraid I don't understand your question. Would you mind clarifying a bit?
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  18. Kevlar

    Kevlar Troubadour

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    I believe he is referring to the copper age, the bronze age and the iron age. I hope I'm not overstepping but the answer is that the distinction can be quite fuzzy and varies by region. I'll leave any and all specifics to Anders.

    I would also like to know the answer to my previously asked question, if you have it Anders. I don't mean to be pushy, especially after what happened, but I am genuinely interested in the answer. I'm not very proficient at expressing myself as I truly am through written word, so though I might have come across as an opinionated know-it-all please know that whenever there is a chance for me to correct any misinformation I have gathered I jump on it. Usually through my own research, but I haven't found a single source on the age of Tamahagane.
     
  19. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Unfortunately, the "age" systems aren't very good ones: they're overly broad, include a lot more than just the dominant metallurgy (for instance, the "Bronze Age" includes features such as city-states and organized distance trading), and are highly relative to each culture. "Iron Age" Europe and Near East extends back to the 1st millennium BC–during which time bronze was still in wide use throughout; the "Bronze Age" (which, it appears, has subsumed the "copper" age as a subdivision) extends back to the beginnings of recorded history. Basically. Allowing for regional variation. And considerable overlap, even in a single region.

    For a very broad, simplistic date range:
    - Neolithic (last part of Stone Age): begins c. 10,000 BCE; ends with transition to Bronze Age.
    - Bronze Age: begins c. 3300 BCE; ends c. 1200 BCE (Near East, India)/c. 800-400 BCE (locations in Europe)
    - Iron Age: begins anywhere between 1200 BCE and 100 BCE; ends… some time or other in the first five centuries CE. Not clear what, if any, "age" is supposed to succeed it.

    Note that there is massive overlap in metals available: iron production has been dated to at least 2000 BCE, and the stray iron implement (possibly hammered out of meteoric sources, rather than mined and smelted) has been dated to well before that. The overlap goes both ways: there was iron available throughout much of the "Bronze" Age; conversely, even in many regions where iron production existed, bronze still saw widespread use–in many ways, it was superior to the iron of the day, as has been mentioned before–and continued to be used well into the "Iron" Age. In other regions, iron rapidly replaced bronze as the preferred metal. Some parts of Africa appear to have skipped bronze altogether.

    So, basically, if you're trying to figure out the metallurgy of a particular setting, you're going to need to look at the historical record for that culture, rather than using what "age" it was in at the time. Sorry: no simple answer.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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