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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Jul, 2004 1:38 pm    Post subject: "Sword Sharp"         Reply with quote

Sharpness on swords is a subject that is much debated, and has recently been debated on this site and on another site.

MY view on sharpness for swords is it should vary from sword type to sword type {depending on blade mass and sword mission}, be able to do what a sword's edge should do, and be relatively durable, ie should cut quite a bit before being sharpened again, though not necessarily being able to deal with lots of abuse.

A greatsword should have really durable edges. Surviving contact with "armor" should likely have a higher priority than cutting soft targets.

On the other hand, a bastard sword, a longsword, or a riding sword meant for period self defense/ dueling should have an edge quite capable of dealing with lighter targets.......

"Razor" sharp is a meaningless term. As I've seen it applied to swords it can mean anything from "stupid" sharp, to relatively blunt {one major catalog vendor used to use "razor" sharp to describe the secondary bevel they applied to their swords, secondary bevel having an included angle of 60 degrees}.

"Stupid" sharp is so sharp that the edge is actually dangerous. The edge is a very good cutting edge, but is not sustainable and will need lots of maintenance.......

"Paper" sharp is still real sharp, sharp enough to do everything "Stupid" sharp will do when the sword is used as a sword, but will also cut paper, the paper dragged across the edge......

"Sword" sharp won't cut paper reliably the way "Paper" sharp will. However, "Sword" sharp will do everything that paper sharp will cutting, and is far more sustainable.

Last nite after Restita DeJesus broke Dave Stokes record on the 2L bottles, we set up several 2L bottles on the table. The AT1593 cut 7 of them easily and cleanly. The edges of the sword are not "paper" sharp, but they are plenty sharp for a sword, and they won't need much maintenance as long as they aren't abused.

I recently read a thread where one of our foremost swordsmiths said that fingering an edge will dull it. I was a little stunned at that at the time, but later concluded it has to do with the type of edge applied to the sword. I suppose its possible that "stupid" sharp, and "paper" sharp could be easily damaged that way with one's acids and / or oils.

However, "sword" sharp doesn't seem that vulnerable to fingering, or even to a certain amount of corrosion. My judgement is testing the sharpness with a finger will not hurt the edge as long as the sword is cleaned off and oiled reasonably soon afterwards...

I recently patina'd a blade, that was sword sharp. It is still sword sharp, even with the patina........

Sword sharp..... sharp enough for the sword to do its mission, and sustainable enough that it won't need an overabundance of maintenance.......

swords are fun
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Fri 30 Jul, 2004 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nicely said.

I think that pretty much summarizes much of what has been said on few threads that I have seen or started.

Taking what you have just said in to account, one can decide (based on one's subjective judgement) how sharp to get their sword.

Alexi
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Cor Böhms




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Jul, 2004 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Angus,

How do you apply patina on a blade ?

Best, Cor

Audacia magia est
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Fri 30 Jul, 2004 3:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I saw this post over at SFI and asked Gus to place it here as well. Since we've had several threads recently on sword sharpness I thought that it would be of interest. I think Gus has brought up a very important point.

Back in the early days of these on-line fora we fielded a lot of questions like "What is the best sword?", "Who would win, swordsman A or swordsman B?" and etc. In time I think it became a readily accepted fact that, for instance, there was no "best" sword. Swords are made to fulfill a specific mission. Consequently, different swords for different tasks.

In the same vein we can't really ask "How sharp should a sword be?" and expect to get a definitive answer. Like different swords, different edge geometries are required to do different things, and against different targets. Those different edge geometries, or "sharpnesses" if you will, can often be found on the very same blade.

So in order to determine if a sword is "sharp enough" we first have to set parameters. In what context are we judging the sharpness? An historical on modern context? (not always the same thing). What kind of targets, if any, will the edge encounter?

The more we study the sword the more we realize just what a complex tool it is. There are seldom black and white answers. At least few ones that can be answered in twenty words or less Big Grin

"I'd rather go upriver with 7 studs, than a 100 sh!theads." - COL Charlie Beckwith, founder SFODD
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Jul, 2004 8:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh man,

This brings to mind more than one parable. I generally repsect a tools design unless it needs to be modified to meet my expectations.

Different tools, different expectations. As a teen, I was encamped in a very rural prep school were I had proved my woodmanship the first year. I was the approved wielder of the double bit axe belonging to the school. I never more than maintained that edge (it wasn't mine after all).

The second year I showed up with a brand new Plumb™ single bit that I bought literally on the way from the bus stop to the school. Later that day found me with a file, slimming down the blade, just a touch, to make it a slightly better chopper. Didn't touch the edge, that wasn't what I was after.

One of the local boys cmae up with his own double bit later that year (passed down through his family) and proceeded to work that sucker down to the poit where it could have won any cutting competition in soft pine, all the while chiding me and prompting others about me and my obtuse edges.

A week later, he looked like his pet dog had died. It was often well below zero when we were woodsing and he had encountered a very frozen knot in something he had thought soft. A dime size chunk had come out of one of his edges ;)

I left that school a couple of years later with my PLumb™ and left the schools double bit behind, just as I had found it. Thirty four years later, I still have my axe and it's no worse for wear except that my dad borrowed it and broke the handle. Ironically I had started with an axe of his ten years before I had my own.

Moral of the story? Leave well enough alone unless you think you know better than the one who made the tool or need to change something to suit your need. That fellow at school may still have his notched axe too and I hope he learned a lesson.

A second parallel type of analogy.
Back when folk started racing Austin Healy Sprites, the factory put out a great book about prepping a car for racing. The very first paragraph was emphatic about starting out to bring the vehicle back to stock specifications.

Edges subjective? Yes and no Wink
We do need to think of what the tool was meant to do. The maker probably has a good idea of what he specs his pieces to.

Am I rambling or what HappyHappyHappy ?8•)

Cheers

GC
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Peter Johnsson




PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 12:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Gus, this is a splendid posting.
I am happy to see you advocate the fact there are different types of edges on different swords and that not one edge type is "the best" for all swords. That is something I have been trying to get across on the forums for quite a while now.
I guess it takes someone like you to demystify that fact.

The effect of this is that there is no single cutting test that will decide what is "the best" sword. You need to judge each sword in view of its intended use or function.
This is also something that needs to be recognized more widely.
Cutting tests are great fun to do.
It is always possible to make swords that are specialized for that kind of exercise.
These can be fine swords, but they do not show the amount of variation you see on authentic historical swords.

It seems we actually agree here, Gus Wink Big Grin

I am just a bit stunned that you do not aknowledge the fact that an edge on a carbon steel blade will worse for wear after fingereing it for a while.
An acuter edge is obviously more sensitive than a more obtuse one, but all sharp edges will be affected. The very sharpness if any edge is quite thin. If you want to keep that absolutely pristine, you better avoid "cuddling" it too much. If you read my post again you might see that that was what I was saying.
Some acids bite in a way that actually makes an edge sharper, or more acute. The "acid" we have in our fingerprints sadly does not act in this way...*g*
...At least not my fingerprints, I do not know about yours? *g*

To every one who might be concerned: no swordsmiths were harmed during the writing of this message.
If this post comes across as ironic, please just write it of as my swedish sense of humor... *g*

These are ideas and facts that seems to need continuos attention.
Thanks for your efforts to clearify, Gus!
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 6:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:


Edges subjective? Yes and no Wink
We do need to think of what the tool was meant to do. The maker probably has a good idea of what he specs his pieces to.


Cheers

GC


Hi Glen,

Edges in and of themselves are not subjective, they are just there. But our perception of what the edge should be is HIGHLY subjective. This will depend on the person's knowledge (or lack there of), experience (or lack there of), and purpose of using the edge. There will be the people of "if it ain't broke don't fix it", there are the people of " it can always be sharper" , and there are the people of " edge?!?! , who the hell needs one?" . This last statement relates to people who love blunts Laughing Out Loud. Blunts are very useful tools indeed.

Neither of there attitudes is perfect by itself. This is my humble opinion. It is the combination of these and applying each in the appropriate circumstance that leads us somewhere

Now some people will want a fairly sharp edge every once in a while. This desire has been treated without the respect it deserves, mostly (i hope) due to misunderstanding and misinterpreting. Nobody stated (that I have seen) that sharper swords are by default better. Nobody stated that "paper sharp" is the golden rule that all swords must be judged upon.
No one stated that sharpness applies the same to all swords. This means we have some grasp on the complexity of the issue.

Why someone would want a "paper sharp" sword is not important, for as long as they understand Gus' post and the possible drawbacks of having the edges so sharp.


I know I am beating the dead horse again , but it is a lot of fun.

Alexi
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 9:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
Hey Gus, this is a splendid posting.
I am happy to see you advocate the fact there are different types of edges on different swords and that not one edge type is "the best" for all swords. That is something I have been trying to get across on the forums for quite a while now.
I guess it takes someone like you to demystify that fact.

The effect of this is that there is no single cutting test that will decide what is "the best" sword. You need to judge each sword in view of its intended use or function.
This is also something that needs to be recognized more widely.
Cutting tests are great fun to do.
It is always possible to make swords that are specialized for that kind of exercise.
These can be fine swords, but they do not show the amount of variation you see on authentic historical swords.

It seems we actually agree here, Gus Wink Big Grin

I am just a bit stunned that you do not aknowledge the fact that an edge on a carbon steel blade will worse for wear after fingereing it for a while.
An acuter edge is obviously more sensitive than a more obtuse one, but all sharp edges will be affected. The very sharpness if any edge is quite thin. If you want to keep that absolutely pristine, you better avoid "cuddling" it too much. If you read my post again you might see that that was what I was saying.
Some acids bite in a way that actually makes an edge sharper, or more acute. The "acid" we have in our fingerprints sadly does not act in this way...*g*
...At least not my fingerprints, I do not know about yours? *g*

To every one who might be concerned: no swordsmiths were harmed during the writing of this message.
If this post comes across as ironic, please just write it of as my swedish sense of humor... *g*

These are ideas and facts that seems to need continuos attention.
Thanks for your efforts to clearify, Gus!


Hi Peter

Granted a lot of water has gone under the bridge since we met at Racine, but if you recall, some of this came up then. We were already in agreement about edge geometry based on a sword's intended mission and blade mass. And that the edge had to work together with the main bevel...... as you may recall I brought one stupid sharp bastard sword with me {the prototype "Lady Ash"} as well as a couple of heavier swords with more meat behind the edges.......

And I don't really disagree that much about the damage human acids can do to an edge, its more a matter of experience and degree......

Lets talk edge sharpness for a second, though, so more folks will be able to follow this, and so you and I both understand the other's position, avoiding some of those stupid misunderstandings of the past.......

There's the angle of the edge, or how acute the edge angle is..... And there's the actual edge intself, and how fine the edge is honed, irrespective of the edge bevel's angle be it 15 degrees included, or 90 degrees included.

In theory, and in practice if one doesn't clean and reoil a blade, the acids from a finger will begin to eat at an edge, and take that microscopic fine edge away. In practice, you actually have some time, and a well oiled blade will be somewhat protected from this, long enough that one should be able to clean it up afterwards, and reoil it, without any significant damage to the edge. Microscopic? Maybe.... but I don't see this as worth argueing about.....

That "stupid sharp" Lady Ash blade I talked about? I've never touched the edge, and recently its been used extensively again in a good natured competition between a cutting enthusiast in Alabama {Dave Stokes}, and a friend of mine here {Restita DeJesus}... and the blade and edge has been handled a lot. Still "stupid sharp".......except where the tip slid across some asphault, and the edge smacked the stand a few times lately........

Now, should a "stupid sharp", or "paper sharp" edge be handled, and not wiped off and oiled resonably soon afterwards, yes, you're liable to lose that paper cutting edge.I suppose its possible to lose its bite used as a sword too, but I'm dubious about this......

Sharpened "sword sharp", the blade will still have an appropriate edge geometry {differing on type of sword, mass of blade, and mission of sword}, but you also have an edge that isn't as microscopic as the "paper edge". You may not be able to see it with the naked eye, but with a microscope, you'd notice that the edge is a bit "blunter" than the "paper edge", and you'd have just a wee bit more support. This not only makes the edge more durable for use, but it also makes it more durable against corrosion, since you haven't got that real fine almost burr to disapear once corrosion starts, the whole area corrodes........

You can tell the difference when you try and use the sword as a knife, ie cutting paper by sliding the paper across the edge. At the cutting stand, at velocity, you can't tell the difference {targets being mats, bottles, noodles, or something along that line}. You Can tell the difference when you cut abrasive targets like cardboard tubes and plywood.... the "stupid sharp" edge might roll, the "paper edge" is likely to lose that fine edge, and its bite, and the sword sharp edge is likely to still work just fine.....Assuming similar edge geometry and backing {main bevels}, and hardness......

Because once you get this far, then we get to the other variables..... Always variables and caveats, aren't there? Edge hardness affects the ability to withstand abrasive wear, and different materials respond differently to corrosive agents. And of course there are other variables, including the human factor of the exact nature of the edge as applied by the individual that sharpened it in the first place........all handmade things being unique.....

To bring us back to handling and edge damage.... I think any disagreement is a matter of degree. We both agree that the handling can leave corrosive agents behind. I just don't believe {and my experience backs this up} that enough significant damage will happen, if the blade is cleaned and reoiled, for the owner to worry about. Now, if rust is allowed to form on the edges, all bets are off.........

Auld Dawg

swords are fun
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Scott H.




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 10:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boy, I seemed to have opened quite a can of worms on this one...

My initial question about people fingering the edge spun into a lot of different threads it seems. But I think I need to ask again because I'm still a bit curious (and dense maybe).

I understand that if I leave oils from blade being handled that it will erode, given time. But what about the fingering itself? I wonder if one used a leather strop at the wrong angle against the edge (say, perpendicular) wouldn't that dull it? And isn't our skin basically leather too? I ask this because, it seems to me at least, that there is a loss in keeness after running a finger along the edge.

I'm sorry to keep this going, but I figure that's what this forum is all about. I also hope there's a website or something out there that shows exactly how to sharpen a blade, because I am terrified of ruining the magnificent work I'm now in possession of.

Thank you all for your patience, understanding, and generous knowledge.

Scott
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Angus;

Was just about to comment on fingering the edge when your last post cut me off at the pass!

I tend to agree that if you wipe the edge immediatly the damage to the edge will be theoretical. (Finger it once not a few thousand times every time you pick it up.)

I seem to be lucky in not creating rust on steel, I do have a friend who takes the gun blue of a firearm if it is not wiped of right away!

I'm sure that "Stupid Sharp" is not desirable when using halfswording techniques!

I would guess that against lightly armored or un- armored opponents "paper Sharp" might have the minor advantage that an opponent would have less success grabbing your blade. Also after a bit of use and cleaning a "Paper Sharp" edge becomes a "Sword Edge" (Assuming that the edge geometry is optimised for a sword edge.) that could be left that way until it needed maintainance after heavy use.

Although at this point the discussion can turn into how many angels can dance on the point of a pin.

Again, Angus & Peter thank for your imputs: Very instructive and enjoyable.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott H. wrote:
Boy, I seemed to have opened quite a can of worms on this one...

My initial question about people fingering the edge spun into a lot of different threads it seems. But I think I need to ask again because I'm still a bit curious (and dense maybe).

I understand that if I leave oils from blade being handled that it will erode, given time. But what about the fingering itself? I wonder if one used a leather strop at the wrong angle against the edge (say, perpendicular) wouldn't that dull it? And isn't our skin basically leather too? I ask this because, it seems to me at least, that there is a loss in keeness after running a finger along the edge.

I'm sorry to keep this going, but I figure that's what this forum is all about. I also hope there's a website or something out there that shows exactly how to sharpen a blade, because I am terrified of ruining the magnificent work I'm now in possession of.

Thank you all for your patience, understanding, and generous knowledge.

Scott


No apologies necessary Scott, and you didn't open a can of anything. This is simply an interesting discussion, which is what these forums are all about.

This is how I see it......................

Will "fingering" a swords edge dull it down? Well yes, to a certain degree. Contact with any medium will dull an edge to one degree or another. But remember, we're talking about very fine degrees here. Something that you'd probably need a microscope to see. Earlier Peter mentioned his recreation of the sword of Svante Nilsson Sture. He stated that the edge is not as "sharp" as it once was due to people "fingering" the edge. I'm sure that this is the case, however, I've handled that sword and it's more than sharp enough to do anything required of it.

Can you dull a swords edge with a leather strop, whett stone, or whatever? Of course you can. Proper use of these tools takes practice, just like anything else. Will you irreparably ruin your swords edge? Of course not! These things aren't made of glass sports fans. We seem to be forming the impression of "I've fingered my swords edge, my god I've ruined it!" Perspective folks, perspective. Take it out and bash it against a rock and you might have some issues, but otherwise you won't trash it. People also need to realize that swords aren't indestructible. They're perishable items with a finite lifespan. Just because a certain activity will dull your swords edge doesn't mean that it's poorly made, or that the maker/makers didn't know his/their job. Any blade will be dulled through use, to one degree or another. Give your sword the proper amount of care and it will probably outlast you, but it will wear just like anything else.

People tend to fixate on minutae like this, and turn it into some kind of huge critical issue. In the past we've had the same kind of thing occur with edge geometry, points of balance, vibratory nodes, and on and on. We've even had debates on whether or not swords should even be sharp. These discussions are valuable since they're part of the learning process. On the other hand let's not make mountains out of mole hills. Will you dull your swords edge by fingering it? Yes, but not enough to matter in the real world. Will you dull your swords edge by improper use of a strop or stone? yes, but again nothing that's beyond a quick fix.

I really wish that cutting a piece of paper hadn't been mentioned as a means of testing a swords "sharpness", because now that seems to be taken as some kind of important test. Why? because it's as worthless a gauge as cutting a rolled grass mat or slicing a plastic jug. All of my swords are sharp, yet they possess different edge geometries according to their type. Yet at the same time I can cut paper with all of them. These things have much to do with technique and nearly nothing to do with "sharpness". Some days I can cut sheet after sheet of paper without a problem. Other days it seems as if I couldn't cut butter with the same sword. The sword hasn't changed, so the variable is me not the tool. Cutting a piece of paper simply tells you that your sword is sharp, nothing more. Not what kind of specific "sharpness" or anything else.

There was a time when these kinds of tests had merit. A few years ago cutting mats, and cardboards tubes, and plywood, and whatever, had value. Back then most replicas simply wouldn't hold together during these activities. They'd fly apart, or at the very least loosen up. Consequently, these tests had merit in the search for a well made sword. Now, a few years down the road, the situation is reversed. Now we have high-end production companies and custom smiths producing well made and accurate recreations. When dealing with their wares it's a forgone conclusion that they'll work. Educating yourself, and finding a knowledgeable and reputable maker to deal with is much more important than carnival games.

"I'd rather go upriver with 7 studs, than a 100 sh!theads." - COL Charlie Beckwith, founder SFODD
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Angus;

Was just about to comment on fingering the edge when your last post cut me off at the pass!

I tend to agree that if you wipe the edge immediatly the damage to the edge will be theoretical. (Finger it once not a few thousand times every time you pick it up.)

I seem to be lucky in not creating rust on steel, I do have a friend who takes the gun blue of a firearm if it is not wiped of right away!

I'm sure that "Stupid Sharp" is not desirable when using halfswording techniques!

I would guess that against lightly armored or un- armored opponents "paper Sharp" might have the minor advantage that an opponent would have less success grabbing your blade. Also after a bit of use and cleaning a "Paper Sharp" edge becomes a "Sword Edge" (Assuming that the edge geometry is optimised for a sword edge.) that could be left that way until it needed maintainance after heavy use.

Although at this point the discussion can turn into how many angels can dance on the point of a pin.

Again, Angus & Peter thank for your imputs: Very instructive and enjoyable.


Hi Jean

I'm willing to bet there's in realidad less disagreement than there may seem to be between Peter and myself. This medium seems to exasperate little things that just don't happen sitting in front of one another with a good brewski being shared......

One small comment on sharpness though, for myself sharpness has changed quite a bit over the last five years. Up until three years ago, I did that 60 degree included angle rather blunt edge on all of the swords I made. As I gained experience though with antiques, and listened to knowledgeable folk, I realized that the 60 degree bevels weren't that good or historically accurate in a lot of cases. I went off the deep end in response {well there was that a** kicking I took in that Upstate NY cutting thingie} and started grinding everything stupid sharp. Several months later I started backing off, particularly on the larger swords meant to replicate swords that might encounter armor.........

Then my real education began.......

About a year ago I settled into doing edges pretty much like I do today. Which is a good thing as one of the lighter longswords I make got to make its introduction to maille recently, even though we're talking about a longsword designed around the unarmored German longsword tradition........*g* The edges apparently held up well.........

Today, edges need to do the job a sword of its type would have been able to "in period", and the edges need to be able to cut all kinds of targets not used then {mats, plastic bottles of all types, pool noodles, hanging rope, etc}, and they need to handle some abuse........

"Sword sharpness" is going to mean different things to different people. That doesn't make any of us necessarily either right or wrong, it just means we have different perspective on things.

If Peter and I have any real difference' here, its just that. A matter of perspective..... which just means more choice, and more opportunity for all of us to learn........

Auld Dawg

swords are fun
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Michael A.




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jul, 2004 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Gus,

Out of curiosity, may I ask which longsword encountered the maille? Anything made for/dealing with German longsword pretty much instantly peaks my interest...

Great discussion on sword sharpness so far, I don't have much to add except this: The required edge for a sword will also depend on what it's being used against. Sorry if that already been said and I missed it, but the way I see it, that's pretty much what it comes down to. Story time: I own two Atrims, a 1531 and a 1319, and one afternoon after cutting bottles at a friend's house, got stupid with them. I tried to show one of my friends several of the forms involved in German longsword. We both moved in slower than slow motion, and neither of was in any danger of getting hurt, but the two swords did slide against one another and meet edge-to-edge a few times. To pay for my stupidity, each edge now has several miniscule nicks and burrs in it that weren't there before. In hindsight, I should have expected that, and kept them as far apart from one another as possible, but what's done is done. A sharp edge meeting a sharp edge, even in brief gentle contact, will nick. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It's going to happen. However, I've seen the 1531 bounce off a pine railing in a pooched cut with no noticable effect to the blade at all. A couple of minor scratches on the finish, but the edge held. So again, it comes down to what the sword was made to be used against... granted, none of us are going to be using sharps against one another... but I'd still rather see "sword sharp" in my blades than "stupid sharp" or "paper sharp". "Sword sharp" works perfectly well against pretty much anything that I'll ever use the sword against(bottles, tatami, et).


Best,
Michael
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Scott Bubar




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Aug, 2004 1:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For some reason, I keep hearing Bjorn's description of that 1000+ year old Norse sword that was still sharp enought to cut paper.
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Aug, 2004 10:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm gradually learning that once you get to sharp enough, technique makes a much bigger difference. I'm able to cut fairly well with a pretty wide range of blades, on the occasions that I get my footwork right. Unfortunately those cases tend to be the exception right now. However, I know it when I hit it.
Joe Fults

"INVENIEMUS VIAM AUT FACIEMUS (We will either find a way or make one)" Hannibal

"Our life is what our thoughts make it" Marcus Aurelius
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