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Jared M. Olson




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Jan, 2006 10:04 pm    Post subject: Leaf-Blades?         Reply with quote

I have seen a lot of fantasy type swords that feature a leaf type blade (note especially "Sting" from the Lord of the Rings). While I thought at first that this style of sword was completely fictional, I saw some swords on Christian Fletcher's website, based on some Angus Trim models, that feature this leaf style blade and seem to be legitimate and functional. Also, the website mentions that the leaf-blade was used by the Greek, Romans and Phillipinos. Does anyone know anything about this? I'd love to hear your comments. I particularly like the leaf-blades, I think they look great, but I also want a sword that is functional, that would work well in a battle situation. Anyone know anything about leaf-blades and their historicity and functionality?

I attached three of these Fletcher swords.



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Peter Johnsson




PostPosted: Sun 29 Jan, 2006 11:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The leaf ashaped blade belongs to the very early history of the steel/iron sword in Europe.
(You can find leaf shaped swords in other part of the world as well, but I will not cover these.)

The early iron Hallstatt swords were shaped exaclty in size and shape as their bronze predecessors. It is very likely that iron/steel and bronze swords were used side by side in this period, at least towrds the end (700-600 BC).
These swords are longish, having blades reaching into 80 cm+.

The big leaf shaped Hallstatt sword was replaced by the straight double edged LaTène sword of the Celts. (see the long thread about Celtic swords for examples). The typical celtic sword is therefore not leaf shaped as it´s often shown in popular media.

The Greeks favoured a straight slightly leaf shaped sword called Xiphos (meaning somehting like "penetrating light" ) Its size varied over time and in different regions but often had a moderat length blade (some 50-60 cm). Spartans favoured a design that was really not much larger than a sturdy dagger.
The Xiphos was also a decendant of the bronze sword. The hilt was constructed in a sandwich design, with organic grip slats over a tang that had the complete outline of the hilt. Over the organic slabs were placed thin strips of iron or bronze and all riveted together (the construction of the hilt is very similar to the roman Pugio dagger actually, only add a separate polmmel on the Xiphos). The pommel was smallish: usually barrel shaped.
The scabbard had an reinforcing piece at the mouth that was formed to give a secure seating for the guard of the sword. This is an element you can see on earlier bronze swords as well. The Javanese Keris has this feature on their scabbards as well, only even more developed.
The Xiphos was carried in a slim baldric so it hung close to the body under the left arm.
On vase paintings you can see it was used both for stabbing and slashing.
The blade could have a midrib, or be diamond or lenticular in section.
Personally I think the Xiphos is a very beautiful design. A very hadndy and efficient sword for its time and available materials. Like other good designs it can be varied within its restrained limits and offer a rich spectrum of expressions.

Other leaf bladed designs were used by the Iberian celts and the Romans, but these are not always direct developments from bronze weapons. (Perhaps the spanish weapons are? not sure about that...)

In all, one could point out that historical leaf bladed designs are uaually rather restrained in the waisting of the blade. The Hallstatt and earlier bronze swords are the ones that look most like the designs so popular in fantasy art.

If you look at ealry iron age swords you will find a rich material that invites new interpretations and can be used as inspiration for countless contemporary sword projects. It is a fascinating material.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 12:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter: excellent overview. Thank you.

To add: Jared, all the swords you are showing in your post are of "contemporary" (fantasy) design.

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Russ Ellis




PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared if I understand the thrust of your question you are wondering if leaf shaped swords are both historical and functional. The answer to both is yes... with some qualifications. Mr. Johnsson has done a nice job of laying out the historical background behind leaf blades. He shows that historically leaf bladed swords did exist although not particularly in the sizes or configurations of those swords you have pictured. This makes the Angus Trim swords you have posted fantasy pieces (as Mr. Robinson noted) - that is there is no true historical precedent for them although there were historical leafblades. I've handled two of the swords you have pictured and seen test cutting done with them as well. They seem to be as robust and as durable as anything else that Mr. Trim produces - that is they are completely functional. Therefore, you need to decide what are the most important characteristics to you and then buy accordingly.
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Gordon Clark




PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 8:40 am    Post subject: Another leaf blade         Reply with quote

By the way, here is another attractive fantasy sword I find very appealing

http://www.bladeart.com/artists/tinkerblades/michael_pearce.htm

(by Michael Tinker Pearce)



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Jared M. Olson




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I realize that Angus Trim and Christian Fletcher both classify these swords as "contemporary" and "fantasy." The question burning in my mind is this: would these contemporary swords be at all effective against their historical counterparts? I have grown fond of the Oakeshott Type XV, XVI, and especially XVIII for their dual functionality, both cutting and thrusting. What sort of function would these modern leaf blade swords have? Would they suffer any gross disadvantages agaist their historical straight edged counterparts, or are the differences purely cosmetic? Thanks for those who have posted and for your help thus far.
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Russ Ellis




PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 1:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared M. Olson wrote:
I realize that Angus Trim and Christian Fletcher both classify these swords as "contemporary" and "fantasy." The question burning in my mind is this: would these contemporary swords be at all effective against their historical counterparts? I have grown fond of the Oakeshott Type XV, XVI, and especially XVIII for their dual functionality, both cutting and thrusting. What sort of function would these modern leaf blade swords have? Would they suffer any gross disadvantages agaist their historical straight edged counterparts, or are the differences purely cosmetic? Thanks for those who have posted and for your help thus far.


Hmmm well the XV and XVI are more thrust oriented swords from the era when armor was getting better and better. A leafbladed sword would not perform as well against armor in my opinion because of the cross section and the way it is balanced. In my opinion they are more cut oriented swords (despite the evil points on some of them). In that way they would be more simialr to the XVIII I suppose, good cutting ability not as thrust oriented perhaps. As for gross disadvantages compared to the XVIII I wouldn't think so. Your abilities as a swordsman would have more to do with that.

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Jonathon Janusz




PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 6:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm going to echo Russ on the performance end of things. Keeping this blade style in context, it was primarily used against folks wearing little to no armour on the battlefield, a very different scenario than the era commonly represented by types XV and XVI. Further, I recall a discussion about many of these swords historically being very light, slashing kinds of cutting swords. As many of the historical swords featured organic hilt components (meaning not as much mass in the same places as later period metal-hilted swords), they needed to be balanced for use almost entirely before adding the comparitively light hilt components. An example by Peter Johnsson I had the opportunity to examine before hilting and a bare Al Massey blade I have in my possession come to mind as very clear examples of the principle.

The neat thing I've seen (second hand through forums and such) is that the leaf blades Gus makes can be tweaked both ways. The fantasy pieces Christian Fletcher makes are one way of going about things, but if you do a search either here or on SFI (can't remember off the top of my head) you will find at least one if not two very well put together atrim leaf blades hilted in more historically plausable styles by some very talented cutlers.
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 7:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared M. Olson wrote:
Would they suffer any gross disadvantages agaist their historical straight edged counterparts, or are the differences purely cosmetic? ....


Hi Jared...

Welcome to the forum! Big Grin

You have asked a very interesting question. It is true that there were historical leaf blades. However compared to the sword designs you posted they were generally shorter versions (as Peter has said) with a more subtle leaf-shape then most contemporary designs. They also seem to phase out with the advent of iron and steel. So the question becomes why such a beautiful design would disappear? Here are a few thoughts...


To understand why leaf-blades disappeared, it might help to speculate on why they appeared in the first place. Here is one possibility: As daggers grew longer it was only natural that warriors would want to slash rather than thrust. Oakeshotte mentions this in his archeology of weapons and points out how many longer bronze age dagger, dirk and rapiers have rivet holes that are torn out. It is inferred that this happened as a result of lateral strain caused by cutting or chopping. Bronze age hilt development seems to address this issue of lateral or transverse strain. At the same time the blade is becoming more leaf-shaped. Here are some possible ways that leaf-shaped design could aid in cutting and reducing transverse strain on the hilt:

1. With a curved edge the initial force of contact in concentrated on one part of the edge making it more likely to achieve the force to begin the cut rather than a blunt force. It the cut occurred it would cause the strain to be dissipated more slowly as the sword would decelerate more gradually.

2. The curve of the blade would also naturally create a slicing motion, which would direct some of the strain out of a transverse direction to the hilt, especially if the edge did not cut at first contact.

3. Having more mass out near the tip would also increase angular momentum in a cutting motion. However, with the Cog further out, the sword would be harder to redirect or recover during the swing.

4. A leaf-shaped blade would be as easy to cast as a straight sided blade. It would use more bronze than a straight sided sword. Yet, if bronze swords were restricted to the well-to-do warriors trying to conserve bronze would not be an issue. They could easily afford the extra grams. Especially if their life depended on it.

Now considering some possibilities why the leaf-blades would disappear.

1. With iron would take much more skill to forge a nice leaf-shaped blade (though there are some excellent examples of iron leaf blades).

2. In the Celtic cultures sword become more of a primary weapon and were more common in the rank and file. As such saving on material may also have been a factor.

3. With the increased flexibility of iron and steel sword continue to lengthen on average and the factor of “reach” becomes as important (or more important) than cutting ability. With longer swords with more reach the Cog is even further from the hilt and thus slows the sword down even more. So what advantage you might have in the cut is diminished by the increased disadvantage of having a sword, which was harder to redirect or recover…

4. If the sword was difficult to recover or change directions, then the sword could be used by swinging in only one direction and then in a circular motion over the head so that their would be no need to change direction. However, used in this fashion only one edge would be used. The early iron age blade smiths may have decided to stop putting the unused edge on the blades and curving the blade to accentuate the cutting/slicing character of the leaf edge on the one used edge. In so doing the leaf blade developed into the falcata (and there were long iron falcata).

5. The Roman’s were probably the last to use leaf blades. They were not longer versions but were short swords. I have heard somewhere that the leaf blades disappeared from Roman ranks because they emphasized the thrust and the straight sided blades were just as good at the thrust and much more economical to make.

Here is the longest most curvy historic leaf blade I could find.

ks



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Limehouse type bronze sword found in the River Thames at Millwall. Length 80 cms, maximum width 48 mm. Now in the Museum of London.

Two swords
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One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
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Russ Ellis




PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 6:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice post Kirk. I hadn't really considered why leafblades might have disappeared in the first place...
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Jared Smith




PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 9:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk has interesting theories on why leaf blades would have appeared. I applaud this and attempt similar things myself from time to time. I would add one.

I think the leaf shape adds mass at a location close to the center of percussion, where it does the most good in cutting (sort of like concentrating mass of a golf club near the head where it is meant to strike the ball, rather than all along the shaft, handle, etc...) Not having unnecessary mass elsewhere helps reduce fatigue and loss of speed that could result from a gradual taper profile blade.

The curve is likely to add at least some slicing action. My wild guess is that strain reduction and slicing benefit will be limited (less than 10% improvement over straight blade.) "Percieved hand shock" will be somewhat reduced and more of a combination of a rotational moment plus shock or kick at the grip. Try a curved head versus a straight edge axe if you ever get the chance. I think some may buy into the idea that hand shock is a little more gentle when a curved edge hits an imperfect (non perpendicular) aligned surface during its arc. This can be belabored with physics, but is pretty tedious. To get dramatic reduction in hand shock really requires balancing mass in pommel area, center of percussion. If one considers speed tangential too arc versus perpendicular to the swing of the swords arc, a curved blade profile really only offers a few percent of slice. However, this could make the difference on opening up a vein!

I also wonder if there is not some type of symbolic significance (tree lore or other aspect) of the shape that would also have made it desirable among those who used it?

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Sergio Duarte




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greetings
First I would like to know if someone knows why they stoped making flat wide tangs like on most of bronze swords that actually have a tang.
Second:



With longer swords with more reach the Cog is even further from the hilt and thus slows the sword down even more. So what advantage you might have in the cut is diminished by the increased disadvantage of having a sword, which was harder to redirect or recover…
[/quote]
Jumping to mace design does this concentration of weight in the head make them slow and didifficulteapons to redirect? I remember that it is said the mace was one of the favorite weapons for close combat in medieval times. Sorry to post this question here but it came to my mind now. Confused

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Sergio Duarte




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 8:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:


I also wonder if there is not some type of symbolic significance (tree lore or other aspect) of the shape that would also have made it desirable among those who used it?



Some people say that it could be a phallic symbolism maybe associated with fertility and power.

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Lafayette C Curtis




PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sergio Duarte wrote:
Jumping to mace design does this concentration of weight in the head make them slow and didifficulteapons to redirect? I remember that it is said the mace was one of the favorite weapons for close combat in medieval times. Sorry to post this question here but it came to my mind now. Confused


There is no absolute single answer to this because mace designs (including length of haft, weight of head, etc.) varied from place to place and from time to time. Incidentally, there's a thread on this very subject:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...mp;start=0
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John Cooksey




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sergio Duarte wrote:
Jared Smith wrote:


I also wonder if there is not some type of symbolic significance (tree lore or other aspect) of the shape that would also have made it desirable among those who used it?



Some people say that it could be a phallic symbolism maybe associated with fertility and power.


Of course, some people say that about all swords, too. (grin)
And when you have one of those anthropomorphic-hilted swords, at least, it becomes pretty clear . . . (big grin)

I really like leaf blades, those curvy masterpieces of straight design. I own and use a couple of different specimens, and in my experience, they thrust as well as they cut (at least against the types of armour that would have been encountered in the period for which they were designed).
Would I choose a leafy to thrust against 15th century plate armor? No, but then I wouldn't choose any sword for that. Give me a nice percussive, penetrating can-opener, instead. I'd save the sword for mowing down the fleeing foe like ripe wheat at harvest time.

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 11:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sergio Duarte wrote:
Greetings
First I would like to know if someone knows why they stoped making flat wide tangs like on most of bronze swords that actually have a tang.

For Northern Europe, swords were replaced by short daggers around 400-500BC. So the sword making tradition was lost. This is the reason why when swords appeared again during the la Tene period, they were of very different shape and construction. With longer swords, a leaf shape also becomes too stretched to have any significant effect on the cutting ability. I personally don't think leafblades are much harder to make then straight blades. Just take a straight blade, and forge out the edges a bit further down, and you've got a leafblade Happy I think that forging perfectly straight edges is actually more difficult, as any deviation is much more obvious.

Quote:
Second:

With longer swords with more reach the Cog is even further from the hilt and thus slows the sword down even more.
Well, for starters, leafbladed swords did not have the COG in a different position from comparible straight edged swords. They just had the material spread differently cross-section wise.

Quote:
So what advantage you might have in the cut is diminished by the increased disadvantage of having a sword, which was harder to redirect or recover…
A longer sword isn't just harder to recover, it's also slower (unless you include twohanders). But I'm not familiar with swordfighting techniques to judge how longer swords can be used more to an advantage. I guess it mostly has to do with the fact that with a longer sword, you can stay out of reach of your opponent, while he's within reach of your sword. So you can take his wrist f.e., while he's still out of reach.

Quote:
Jumping to mace design does this concentration of weight in the head make them slow and didifficulteapons to redirect? I remember that it is said the mace was one of the favorite weapons for close combat in medieval times. Sorry to post this question here but it came to my mind now. Confused
Well, maces are pretty slow compared to swords. But if you and your opponent both wear enough armour, a weapon that's slow but effective against armour is a lot better then a weapon that's quick and totally ineffective Happy
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Sergio Duarte




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
For Northern Europe, swords were replaced by short daggers around 400-500BC. So the sword making tradition was lost. This is the reason why when swords appeared again during the la Tene period, they were of very different shape and construction.


I am still not perfectly convinced about this argument Cool Sorry. I have little knowledge about the times we are talking about but it seems to me that the "vanishing" of swords is just a vanishing in grave finds. Is it possible that swords being of iron meant that they were more costly to produce and so they would be kept in use as long as possible? My point is that they could bury their dead with daggers (I think they where often more ceremonial than effective daggers).
If any of you has a copy of the book "Swords and hilt weapons" there is some interesting info there on the chapter called "The age of iron" is said "In many areas, early Iron Age swords differed little from those in use in the Bronze Age". Further ahead the author proceeds by saying "In the later Hallstatt period it became less<common to bury swords with the dead. Shorter weapons, daggers were provided instead."
There is no reference about the disappearing of swords. They were just no buried with the dead.

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Last edited by Sergio Duarte on Sat 23 Dec, 2006 4:32 am; edited 2 times in total
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sergio,
Quoting is very simple:

-Hit the quote button on the post you want to quote.
-That previous post will appear surrounded by quote tags like: [quote="Chad Arnow"]Blah blah[/quote]
-Type your text before the first tag or after the last. If you type between them, you'll screw things up.

It's really as easy as pie. If you're having trouble with it, please use the test forum to experiment. Please don't make us have to decipher incorrectly done posts.

Remember also that there is a preview option that lets you look at your post before it's posted for real. If it doesn't look right, try to fix it and preview it again. Again, please spare your fellow readers from having to try to figure out what you're doing.

If you find after you've posted that something doesn't look right, edit your post and fix it. If you can't fix it, delete it and start afresh. Please don't make extra "Oops, I messed up" posts. They're off-topic and add nothing to the discussion.

Happy

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Dec, 2006 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sergio Duarte wrote:
I am still not perfectly convinced about this argument Cool Sorry. I have little knowledge about the times we are talking about but it seems to me that the "vanishing" of swords is just a vanishing in grave finds. Is it possible that swords being of iron meant that they were more costly to produce and so they would be kept in use as long as possible?
Nope. Iron is much easier available, so if anything, swords would have become a lot cheaper.

Quote:
My point is that they could bury their dead with daggers (I think they where often more ceremonial than effective daggers).
If any of you has a copy of the book "Swords and hilt weapons" there is some interesting info there on the chapter called "The age of iron" is said "In many areas, early Iron Age swords differed little from those in use in the Bronze Age". Further ahead the author proceeds by saying "In the later Hallstatt period it became less<common to bury swords with the dead. Shorter weapons, daggers were provided instead."
There is no reference about the disappearing of swords. They were just no buried with the dead.

In the late bronze age, no swords were buried with the dead either. Yet we have tens of thousands of swords from Northern Europe from that period. I've yet to find a single example of a Hallstatt D sword from anywhere within Europe. Also, these Hallstatt D daggers are very typical for that specific time frame. So everything points towards swords having been replaced by these shorter daggers. Of course depositions are very selective, but you'd expect to find at least some examples. Further more during that period, people were buried with all their possesions, so why would they specifically have excluded swords? Another reason is that the daggers do involve back into swords, as they get longer and longer again. Though I personally haven't seen many of these intermediate daggers/swords yet.
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Sergio Duarte




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Dec, 2006 10:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

Nope. Iron is much easier available, so if anything, swords would have become a lot cheaper.


I meant that in the beginning of the iron age it seems to me that iron swords where more difficult to produce. It is also possible that there where only a few iron swords of "sword length" and that the first technology only let them make daggers. But as I said I don't know.

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