Ethical considerations with antique swords, part 1: sparring

An 1885 pattern British cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 29th January 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

This is going to be a short article, presenting an ethical consideration. Some HEMA groups who study sabre have collected antique sabres, filed them down and blunted them for safety, and then have used these antiques for their training and sparring activities. Perhaps this was more common a decade ago than it is now, but every so often I come across references to the idea when people are discussing where to buy a good training sabre.

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Preservation, cleaning, and restoration of blades – historical and otherwise

Albion Talhoffer
Albion Talhoffer in a DOHEMA sheath. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2017.

This is a guest article by Adam Severa. Originally, Adam posted this to Facebook, and I asked if I could host it on my blog to help preserve the article for posterity and for more easy reference and access in the future. He kindly agreed, and gave the article a little editing before sending it over to me for hosting on the blog.

I’m going to preface this article with a disclaimer: I’ve restored and repaired a fair number of vintage and modern knives and blades over the years, but I make no claims to be a restoration professional by any means. What follows is based upon my personal experiences and observations – you should always consult an actual professional if there is a chance your blade has historical or personal significance.

Now that that’s out of the way, chances are you have a blade in front of you. Maybe it’s a sword, feder, knife, or some other previously pristine sharp object that isn’t so pristine anymore. You want to do something with it, but you’re not sure what. The purpose of this article is to explain what comes next and the differences between preservation, cleaning and restoration.

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Review of the Carnage Claymores “technical” sabre

Carnage Claymores “technical” sabres. Image from the Carnage Claymores page on Facebook.

Carnage Claymores is a relatively new smithy that has opened in Scotland recently, with a focus on making Scottish swords for the HEMA community. Thomas McConnell is the smith behind the company; he is also the instructor at the Highland Broadsword Fencing Angus club, and he participates in and teaches at events across the UK.

This sword is the “technical” sabre model that is intended for relatively light, gentle practice with a focus on technical work. It is not intended or designed for full-contact, high-intensity sparring, so the maker cannot provide any guarantee of its durability if it is used for an inappropriate intensity of sparring.

I feel that it is good to have this kind of division between sword types. Various makers offer “light” and “heavy” blades, or “soft” and “hard” blades, or “flexible” and “stiff” blades for different intensities of training and sparring, so it is a tried-and-tested idea used by several well-known HEMA smiths. It means that when you order and receive your sword, you know exactly what kind of training is appropriate and inappropriate, and you can use the right kind of sword for any given activity. Obviously taking a light blade into a competition could result in a broken blade, and using a painfully stiff blade for regular training is just not very friendly towards your training partners.

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What is survivor bias?

An antique broadsword from the Kelvingrove Museum, with accession number A.1954.118. The image is from the Glasgow Museums website.

What is “survivor bias”, and why is it important in the study of historical artefacts?

When historical items of any sort are preserved in a collection of any kind, they can give us information about the time period from which they originated. They can tell us more about that kind of item, or the kind of people who would make it or who would use it. Such artefacts are an important element in the study of history.

However, items often end up in a collection for a particular reasons; collectors rarely buy just anything and everything. Therefore, sometimes the items in collections only tell part of the story, or may even give us details that are not representative of the typical example from history.

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Review of the DOHEMA sword sheath

Albion Talhoffer
Albion Talhoffer in a DOHEMA sheath. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2017.

I was recently given a DOHEMA sword sheath as a gift. The item was not given to me for reviewing, but I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts about it.

The DOHEMA sheaths by Black Armoury are made from a modern synthetic material, they come in a functional matte black colour, and they work very well. A sheath is not a very complicated piece of equipment, and these do exactly what they are supposed to do!

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Safe training swords part 3: the schilt / ricasso

Sparring Gloves and an Albion Meyer
Sparring Gloves and an Albion Meyer. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2015.

This is the third part of a short series of articles on safety features on swords. The first part was concerned with “tipping solutions” for the point; the second part was concerned with measuring flexibility for the thrust; and this part is concerned with protecting the hands and fingers.

This article in the series is focused more on longswords, although it applies perfectly well to any training sword that does not have a complex hilt, such as messers or other medieval swords.

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