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Jesse Belsky

PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 11:17 am    Post subject: Dish Hilt Rapier         Reply with quote

This is a later-period transition rapier I just finished up. Its based on an antique that was auctioned by Czerney's earlier this year. I only saved the photos and now their auction catalog has disappeared from the website, so the only other info I can add about the original is that is was purportedly mid 17th century Dutch.

I think the blade was listed as 40+ inches, but it looks to me like the blade wasn't intended for this hilt. I'm basing that on the shape of the ricasso, which looks too slender and unfinished to have been made for/with this highly decorated hilt. That's purely speculative of course.

As you can see, my interpretation is much simplified in terms of surface detail, and its a little beefier throughout. Its mounted with a Hanwei Practice Rapier Blade cut down from 43 to 35. It is 40.5 overall and weighs exactly 2 lbs. It balances about 1.25 above the guard.

The pierced steel dish guard secured with 4 screws (flat head). The grip is spiral carved delrin wrapped in black leather and gold colored twisted wire. It is my first real success with carving a "roped" grip, and I think it turned out well.

The pommel is threaded 6mm metric. I actually turned a slightly larger version because I was worried I had under-weighted the pommel, but upon comparing the handling of the sword with each pommel, i've opted to stick with the slightly smaller one.

more pictures and price at

hope you like it, and thanks for looking

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Jesse Belsky

PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And here are some photos of the original from Czerney's, and the two pommels side by side.

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Nathan Robinson
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myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice work. That's impressive. I'm enjoying watching your work progress. Your stuff is looking good!
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Radovan Geist

PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 10:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice & clean. I really like it.
I have one question about securing the dish-plate, as I was facing this prob when working on mine piece (much more amateurish, though:)) and I ended up with two rivets, attached directly to loops. Your construction with four screws attached to another "inside" plate looks interesting & practical. Have you seen it on any original sword? I was looking through tens of pictures, but they rarely show whats inside of the dish...
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Jesse Belsky

PostPosted: Fri 10 May, 2013 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks very much Nathan, I appreciate it. I put a lot of time into this one, so i'm glad it shows.

Radovan, I saw your post earlier...those rapiers you made looked really good. Your file work details seemed really spot on stylistically, and the proportions look good too. And the plate on your dish hilt was outstanding!

Your question about the dish-plate screws is and interesting one. Looking at photos of the original, you can see there are clearly 6 slightly domed spots on the dish. I believe these are rivets, and I don't believe the plate itself is made in sandwiched layers to create the various concentric circles you see. You can also see two tiny rivets right at the edge of the dish that secure the rim of the plate to the arms of the hilt.

As I mentioned before, I don't think this is an original blade, so its hard to tell what it's supposed to look like as it passes thru the plate. Are the shoulders of the blade supposed to sit on the top of the arms, like they sometimes do with earlier rapiers, or pass cleanly thru a plate suspended on the arms? Its a mystery.

However, I have seen some later bilbo style rapiers with a continuous plate....see the pictures below. If it were secured at the ends of the arms, the big rivets are in the wrong place. if it's secured at the ends of the arms on a little bi-lobate area (see other pictures), there are still too many rivets.

So, either there is a circular plate beneath the dish that secures to those 6 rives, or the 6 rivets are decorative/meant for some other purpose. In any case, I can tell you that the sort of cloverleaf setup I used is extremely stable. I feel like the dish hilt is really well supported, and could take substantial abuse. Since the plate is supported so far from the center and at 4 different points, there's not so much torque on the screws. The cloverleaf shape cuts down a tiny bit on mass (as compared to a circular format).

I think for later, lighter blades the 2 screw solution is fine, and clearly it was used on bilbo style swords which often had very beefy military style blades, so it must have been a good solution. I make swords for reenactment and stage combat, and so I'm always thinking about actors dropping them 4 feet onto a hard wood stage 6 nights a week and erring on the side of extra durability Happy

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Jesse Belsky

PostPosted: Fri 10 May, 2013 1:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aha! I knew I had an even better photo than that....these are from another bilbo style 17th century sword on auction at Czerney's...

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Radovan Geist

PostPosted: Sun 12 May, 2013 10:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Jesse,

Thank you for your reply - its very helpful, and those pictures youve posted are fantastic! (and thank you for your kind words about my first try on dish rapiers). Im using my swords for stage combat too, so the reinforcing plate is a good idea.

In fact I thought that the "rivets" on your original are just a decoration but it really could be more complicated. Construction of these dish-hilts is indeed very interesting. I have seen couple of swords from mid-17th century, with arms that are not attached to the plate at all (picture from Hermann Historica attached). And later examples, from 1650s - 70s, did not have any arms arms at all (2nd picture).

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Jesse Belsky

PostPosted: Mon 13 May, 2013 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yep, these dish hilts are one of the very the last phase of "rapier" on their way to becoming smallswords. I don't know how other folks define that shift, but I think the hilt growing to enclose the ricasso (and support the defensive dish/plate on its own) is an important marker.

I can't think of any earlier period rapiers with an enclosed-tang hilt structure. Its interesting to consider how that change developed. You see enclosed tangs on some cavalier hilts (1650's)...was it to offer better support to the complex hilt? To offer more/fatter surface area to the fingers of the wielder than the blade makers could supply on an exposed ricasso?

If you have Oakeshott's European Weapons and Armor, there's a rapier Oakeshott describes on Plate 22A as a "Rapier with transitional Cavalier/Smallsword hilt." Its sort of the quintessential transitional piece. The hilt is very complex and rapier-like. The blade looks narrow and lightweight, but its got an enclosed ricasso and then some cavalier-esque details like the knucklebow that's secured to the pommel with a screw. Oakeshott talks a lot about the shift from rapier to smallsword, but I can't find anywhere he discusses the ricasso question.

Anyone else have any theories on what motivated that change in ricasso styles from bare-blade to enclosed hilt?

EDIT: I had another thought, which was that perhaps enclosing the ricasso was a real-estate grab by hilt makers, so that they could have aesthetic control of everything south of the blade's shoulders.......
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