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Author Topic: Blade Lore  (Read 2820 times)

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Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Blade Lore
« on: April 27, 2018, 06:40:43 AM »
How many of our stories does NOT involve a sharp metal device at some point? I am interested in the aesthetic, cultural, historical and practical value of knives. And swords, throwing daggers, axes and anything else that holds an edge. Not so interested in brands and steel compositions, really.

Starting off with a classic shape that ironically isn't a blade but looks like one - the classic stiletto. It is known from the 15th century and forward as a stabbing weapon, but the edges of the triangular blade aren't actually sharp. The weapon's primary purpose is a precise and hard thrust, capable of piercing through thick clothes, ringmail or the weaker joints of armor. The triangular (or four edged) blade has great structural strength. While it cannot cut, it is certainly capable of blocking and can be wielded as a sword man's left hand weapon. Pretty much the last thing you want to face in a dark back street.

The classic stiletto shape has been found in many dagger types since the 15th century. The newest nod to it's efficiency as a stabbing tool was probably the cruciform Russian bayonet of WW2. Proving it is still lethal.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2018, 06:43:35 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2018, 03:44:52 PM »
This is very interesting!

And, while this might not be exactly historical, the youtube channel Skallagrim might interest you.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2018, 04:56:30 PM »
This is very interesting!

And, while this might not be exactly historical, the youtube channel Skallagrim might interest you.


I will look into that, thanks! I've been watching far too many MRE reviews on Youtube and a change will do me good.

---

Here's another special case; a modern curiosity primarily. Most knives are concealable as such, and folders are out of sight by default unless one prefers to keep them in belt pouches. Very few knives are specifically constructed to look as something different than a knife.

The blade of the day is therefore what is known as a credit card blade. The original idea was a design by the Cardsharp company (I think) but there are now various brands and variations. Basically it is the size of a credit card and so thin that you can keep it with your other credit cards, but folds and bends quickly into a knife-like shape. The surgical steel blade is just a couple of inches but that is plenty for many situations.



As with any novelty that gains popularity - or notoriety - this gadget is well known among knife interested people and gadgeteers, and so it follows that trying to smuggle this blade into an airplane in your wallet is likely to a) fail and b) test your intestinal allergies to rubber gloves.


Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2018, 05:03:57 PM »
Oh, this blade is beautiful! I've never seen this before, very clever and stylish.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2018, 06:51:36 AM »
The history and culture of the Indian subcontinent is long, vast, violent - and exotic enough that we tend to overlook it in favor of relatively small and short cultures that are easier to learn about. But India, home to many of the poorest and some of the wealthiest people in the planet's history, has seen titanic battles and invented armor and weapons whose designs are so stunning that once you have learned about them you'll never forget them.



The blade of today is the urumi. A sword with one and sometimes multiple, flexible blades which also qualifies to be called a whip, except even the clumsiest made amateur tourist whip isn't going to rip out your eyes and testicles the first time you try to crack i. The urumis is considered perhaps the most dangerous of all Indian weapons - both to wield, and to face in the hands of a skilled enemy. It is worn around the waist with the grip sticking out like a sword handle. It is considered a good melee weapon against groups of enemies, and if the fighter can wield two of these - you better have a gun.

« Last Edit: April 29, 2018, 06:53:02 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2018, 09:24:50 AM »
Another unknown weapon, to me at least. Though I've seen a similar one used at the anime Rurouni Kenshin. Sawagejō Chō, member of the Juppongatana had one long flexible blade around his waist.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2018, 06:49:01 AM »
I peeked at Sawegejo; a guy who wants to master all the swords of the world. I guess an arami is a possible choice for his character.

---



Today's sharp thingie is technically not a weapon but a tool. Technically. The classic straight razor has roots back as far as the Egyptian empires. but was technologically superseded in the late 19th century by safety razors (with exchangable blades) and is rarely seen these days outside antique stores. And yet they are still on the market because some still use them.

A straight razor is more complicated than it looks. The folding handle is simple enough but the blade is concave on both sides toward the edge which means that the slimmest 5 millimeters of metal are barely a couple of millimeters thick. Take a straight razor to the finest machine-run milling band, cough, and you will reduce the blade to a stick. It is so fine that a standard honing technique is to stroke the edge along a leather strap. And you will find that honing is required frequently; the 19th century blades are made of soft steel and lose their edge quickly. I assume that those modern straight razors for sale today are on a different level of metallurgy. If you find a straight razor at a second-hand store it is likely to have great wounds somewhere along the edge - just dropping the razor on a hard floor could be enough to damage the blade beyond repair.



While every man owned a straight razor, the shaving process was a bit of work and barber shops made an easy living. Consider the task:
- wash the face
- heat the skin up with hot blankets to raise the hair
- make a lather from soap and water
- put the lather on the face
- shave, with the delicacy of an artist. One wrong turn along a pimple and there will be blood.
- clean off the lather and the hairs
Tadaa, done!



The straight razor has the look of an absolutely lethal weapon, and in the wrong hands it is. There is no sharp tip so it is no stabbing tool, it weighs very little so you can't score a blow, the non-locking handle means it is awkward to hold and useless to parry with, but the thin blade can slice deep through clothing and into flesh. No proper fighter would wield one as long as he has access to a proper weapon, but anyone facing an opponent wielding a straight razor is fighting for his life.

Since straight razors have been so omniscient they still exist in vast numbers and many brands, but spotless higher end examples are now collectibles.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2018, 06:50:34 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2018, 06:25:11 AM »
The blade of the day has been obscure in western culture until recently, but is an old Southeast Asian weapon who like many others started out as an agrarian tool. The karambit looks rather spectacular with its clawlike design and as many other blades in current fashion the most modern versions looks ripped out from a science fiction movie rather than a simple implement of Philippino farming.


This is a classic style karambit.


This is a rather more jazzed up version.


A folder version!



There are several ways to wield a karambit. The unique shape invites to a sweeping claw combat style rather than direct stabbing. It cannot be denied that this is a unnerving and intimidating blade to face. That might be the reason it was often carried by Philippino women on an everyday basis as a weapon of defense - in their hair. But also warrior tribes kept karambits in their belts. I can't see this becoming more than a curiosity in a modern world, but it is an interesting one.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2018, 06:27:06 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2018, 11:29:52 AM »
This has always been a favorite of mine, specially the modern designs.

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Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2018, 12:02:29 PM »
This has always been a favorite of mine, specially the modern designs.
+1

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2018, 05:42:06 AM »
One esoteric bladed weapon that has not been imported into the modern world is an African throwing blade known under a variety of names such as membele, hunga munga or kpinga. The name and shape varies from tribe to tribe.



The membele is heavy and has a short throwing range, but if it hits right the damage is devastating. Every edge is sharp. It was also a status symbol for veteran warriors, who would carry as much as four membeles into battle behind their shields.



African tribal metallurgy was never particularly advanced but against barely dressed enemies this must have been a fearsome weapon. If the warrior was capable of throwing it.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2018, 06:14:18 AM »
You have just jumped out of a plane with a parachute. Everything goes well for most of the way down, but ten meters before the ground a tree snags you. Branches snap, ropes curl and twist, and you are now caught and dangling like a spider - maybe upside down and with only one arm free. Oh, and it is war so you are weighed down by 100 pounds of gear. The enemy is approaching too, so you don't have much time even if the blood of your body is flowing to your head.



It was for situations like this that the German Luftwaffe, one of the pioneers of paratrooping, came up with something completely new at the time: A knife that could be unfolded with one hand. A Gravity Knife. It's official name was the Fallschirmjäger Messer. While spring loaded switchblades and other self opening folders already existed, the blade needed to swing out, and a soldier hopelessly snagged and intertwined in a parachute around a tree might not have room enough for opening a folder. The Gravity knife, which was kept easily accessible during the jump, slid out at the press of a button rather than unfolding with the help of gravity and then the cutting free could begin.



By the scale of WW2, German paratroopers were a tiny military force and other Luftwaffe units did not get issued this specialty tool. The collector looking for a genuine Fallschirmjäger Messer will not be looking for a needle in a haystack but a needle in a pile of needles - copies of this scarce object are very common. Also postwar Germany issued similar gravity knives to their paratroopers. The above picture is one of those.



One even rarer version than the original is the one the British made during WW2 after studying the German one, specifically for the SOE agents they paradropped into enemy territory. One difference with the British version was that it was specifically designed to be a secondary combat tool. See above picture.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2018, 06:16:33 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online Sessha

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2018, 06:32:00 AM »
 Okay this looks like it might be a fun topic to watch. I am interested in what else you might bring out.

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2018, 09:02:56 AM »




Loving this one in particular.


I look forward to the next blade!

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2018, 05:48:34 PM »
Busy day tomorrow so I am posting this one early. One of the cultures of the world that were latest to get into metallurgy were the remote inuit tribes of Alaska and Greenland. You don't do a whole lot of iron ore digging and melting when the ground is frozen and firewood is scarce. Which meant that their options for making any kind of blades were very limited. So until the arrival of European traders they made do with cutting implements made of bone, stone or even wood, and once they DID get metal they continued to make tools in the old shapes. Which brings us to a very interesting tool and weapon: the ulu.



The ulu was and is primarily a woman's all purpose tool; it can be used for food preparation, fur and clothes work, digging, and as a close range weapon it is worthy of some respect. The unusual horizontal grip offers the wielder considerable force for slicing and pushing, and is in some situations a better tool than a normal knife - like skinning a carcass, or filleting fish.



The ulu is one of a number of exotic blades that is finding some interest among people who uses knives a lot, and is made in various modern derivations. The actual old ulus are considered family heirlooms and those you can find on Ebay and such are likely to have been made specifically for tourists.




Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2018, 06:27:15 AM »
Something a little different this time. Knives may be big or small, fixed-bladed or folding bladed, but what really sets them apart is the point. Classical knives have had fairly simple single-side curved edges ending in a pointed point, a shape that can be achieved with even very crude smithwork. But there are alternatives, with pros and cons, obviously affecting the optimal area of use for the knife. Too long and narrow a point, and it becomes vulnerable to breaking. Too wide, and the knife can't reach inside much of anything. Some times it is a matter of culture; the clip point is favored more in the USA than elsewhere while the tanto style is distinctly Japanese. As with everything else, the international knife manufacturers are free to make their own interpretations. If you want a highly specific point you might find only one high end brand delivering it - and a dozen low end copycat versions. 



I won't go into every variation, but some need a comment.
- the clip point, best known from Bowie knives (going to expand on them later) has many uses but requires a thick blade to be sufficiently strong.
- the drop point is particularly favored for folding knives like Swiss multitools where each blade is thin
- the tanto shape offers a particularly strong point

Do notice that even the knives with shapes often favored among modern soldiers, like the clip point or the tanto, do NOT have a double edge for more than a few millimeters. While having two edges offer more chance of getting in a cut or a stab, the cost in structural strength and general reduction of usability is far too high. Bayonets, supposed to be specialist stabbing tools, have gone in that direction even so - with varying success. We will take a deeper look at that when we get to the venerable Fairbairn-Sykes combat dagger, while bayonets are a separate subjects. Lots to write about yet.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2018, 05:52:37 PM »
Going big for the Sunday one. Although 'big' may be misleading for this one. The cutlass is one of the shortest blades to normally be mentioned among swords, and probably one of the least glamorous ones. As a naval weapon it was however very important during the age of sails, when the battlefield consisted of crowded ship decks and dark holds and a long blade could get caught in just about everything. It was also a very useful tool for quickly clearing away ropework and sails and ruined planks, even in the middle of a storm with masts crashing down. They would also find a ready use when these ship crews made landfall to harvest fruit and vegetables. While gunpowder and pistols were nice things, an average sailor could swing this blade many times in a close up and ugly melee in the time it would take him to reload a pistol - and unlike a pistol, seawater did not affect the blade's lethality.



Your basic cutlass was much like a saber, only shorter, and differed from a civilian machete mostly in the hand protection - and many cutlasses might not even have that. It was a slasher more than a stabber because of its length and its straight grip, and very utilitarian in shape - a ship of war would keep dozens of these cheap blades in quickly accessible lockers and they were not assigned to specific sailors so there was no point in unnecessary or costly adornments. Most of them probably did not even have scabbards, partly to keep costs down and partly because leather and seawater don't combine well. Officers, particularly military, were more likely to have private and more expensive weapons.



Cutlasses were issued on British and American (and probably many other) ships as late as WW2, and ceremonial naval cutlasses are in use to this day. Those below are M1917 US navy cutlasses.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2018, 06:06:26 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2018, 06:10:10 PM »
I love reading this. Thank you for sharing!

Can't wait for the Bowie~

Online Sessha

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2018, 07:03:17 AM »
 Very nice. I do love learning a bit more about swords each day. I'm kind of curious when you might tackle the "long sword" so to speak.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2018, 07:10:45 AM »
The Bowie will be coming up soon; it is a narrow subject. The long sword is a wide topic with many variations but we are definitely getting there eventually, although it will likely require a number of posts.

Online Sessha

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2018, 08:06:10 AM »
The Bowie will be coming up soon; it is a narrow subject. The long sword is a wide topic with many variations but we are definitely getting there eventually, although it will likely require a number of posts.

 Hey that's fine by me. I can live with that easily. Keep up the good work.  :-)

Offline Nadir

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2018, 08:17:57 AM »
What a delicious thread! *bookmarks*

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2018, 09:54:32 AM »
The Bowie will be coming up soon; it is a narrow subject. The long sword is a wide topic with many variations but we are definitely getting there eventually, although it will likely require a number of posts.
I will read everything you post here, so that's more than fine by me.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2018, 04:49:13 PM »
Getting the Monday blade in early as I'll be away from home all next week. We'll see what online time I get.



I am sticking with the naval theme. Another well known blade from the age of sails is the boarding axe. Like the cutlass it is a no frills combination of weapon and tool, available by the lockerful in the hour of need.

Boarding axes fulfill many of the same needs as a cutlass; it is simple and sturdy and cheap, and can be wielded even with little skill. It does however work best in the hands of a strong man's two handed grip.



The characteristics seem to have developed into a curved blade with a large spike on the other side. This makes the axe a natural for cleaving and slicing, while the spike is a more specialist tool for breaking apart boards since all the weight of the weapon gets focused on one little point.



I own a fairly good museum replica of the axe above and it is a daunting weapon. Mine is a good foot longer though. The blade is thinner than on a woodman's axe and the head is reinforced with steel bars a whole foot down the shaft, giving it far more strength and weight than the slender shape indicates. My sample also has a metal cup at the bottom of the three feet long shaft that adds further strength.

There is a whole website dedicated to the history of boarding axes. Well worth checking out.

Original boarding axes are very hard to come by, while copies are readily available. Keep that in mind if someone is selling one as original. It is also useful to realize that this axe type in its short one hand form has been much used by fire brigades almost up to present day, so if someone's selling one and claiming it to come straight off the Cutty Sark some doubt is justified.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2018, 04:51:57 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2018, 04:27:34 PM »
Still got several naval blades queued up. Tonight's weapon from the age of sails is somewhat incongruous as it even more primitive than an axe. Boarding pikes, essentially heavy spears, were an important sailship weapon of obvious wielding method that must have been present ever since the first Greek galleys.



On a sail ship, the pike was not quickly made superfluous by the musket with a bayonet even though the pike was only slightly longer, about 8 feet. For one thing the pike was impervious to sea water, and it was also something everyone could use. While terribly unwieldy in most directions under cramped conditions, they were a devastating defensive weapon against anyone climbing up from the sea and over the rails - which was after all the most likely way to be boarded by an attacker. Since the pike was heavy its thrust energy was considerable and facing an intact crew with lowered pikes must have been a terrible sight for the enemy climbing up into their reach while unable to wield any weapon themselves. These pikes were stored on board at the base of the main masts which they were secured against.


Boarding pike drill reenactment.

The pike as a naval weapon persisted into the 19th century but as muskets became more commonly used also on ships and cannons became more lethal, the idea of standing lined up like ducks on an open deck became less and less palatable even to the roughest bandit crews.

The boarding pike lives on however, as simple things tend to do. Most boats bigger than a row boat tend to possess one or more boat hooks. These are similar to the boarding pikes in shape, although without sharp edges or tips. Firemen have been issued somewhat similar pikes, lumberjacks have their cant hooks and there are fishing pikes too. No doubt they are now also available with collapsible grips and tactical sheaths and antiglare, but what isn't?

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #25 on: May 08, 2018, 10:25:05 PM »
These naval blades are all really nice, and I love how much I'm learning from each of your posts. Looking forward to the next one!

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #26 on: May 09, 2018, 04:35:58 AM »
One more naval blade before we move on. The naval dagger is different from the cutlass, boarding pike and boarding axe in several ways. For one thing it has less practical value in a fight; it can be thrust but has little reach and is basically just for thrusting. For another it was a personal weapon, carried primarily by midshipmen and lower officers. For a third, it is still in use today as a part of ceremonial and parade uniforms.



The shape of such daggers varies somewhat, but all I have seen have a basic daggerlike blade and a straight grip with a small crossguard. The one above is a British navy dagger from about 1800. Notice the metal sheath.



How many navies in the age of sail utilized the dagger (aka dirk) as a practical weapon is impossible to say. Of the 20th century the most known version on the market is the Kriegsmarine dagger of WW1 and WW2, which is highly ornate and probably better at opening letters than at fighting. See above. While anything can happen in war I have yet to hear of such a blade being wielding in a fight this side of the 19th century. Which is not strange, considering that it was not meant to be carried on a combat uniform.

On a side not, a number of airforces also carry naval daggers as ceremonial blades. I have no certain facts as to why, but there are some possible reasons. One is that the airforce in some countries - like Norway - started out as part of the navy rather than the army before becoming a service of their own. Another possibility is that a pilot with a cavalry sword looks rather silly...

Being officer weapons the daggers are generally more decorative, takes less room and is more keenly collected than their more utilitarian brethren. Copies, especially of the German ones, are overflowing the market. But they certainly makes for a nice display.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2018, 05:09:22 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #27 on: May 09, 2018, 04:45:23 PM »
Moving on to proper swords. But before we get down to cases, let's look at swords in general. Among all the non-firearms I can think of, all but the sword started out as farm tool or hunting weapons. The axe, the spear, the whip, the nunchako, the slingshot, the bow and arrow, the knife, the bayonet - they were all eventually turned into weapons of war, but their roots were humble. Not so the sword. Be it in their shortest versions or the longest, this was a tool for killing humans from the day the first sword was carried into combat until the last - a span of at least 3000 years. It developed many times, partly influenced by local culture and partly as specific tasks benefited from specific shapes, but most of all the developing science of metallurgy decided what was possible. While the shape of a blade was information that could spread like wildfire, the best way to shape iron ore into metal was often a secret guarded by both the state and the smiths. Even the lowliest village smith was held in high esteem, but the army's swords were cranked out by the army arsenals to maintain their quality. Officer swords too, but the officers had the option of purchasing privately. A little too mild steel, and the sword would bend at the first hard whack. A little too hard steel, and the blade might shatter. Both problems could be lethal to the wielder.



While metalwork and swordmaking was known to the known world early enough, and the skill of making them spread, there was another factor as well. Making iron is one thing. Making high quality steel requires not just skill but also a carbon content that the metal makers had difficulties controlling. But some geographical areas were rich with well suited ore, and became large scale exporters. Far away Persia were chief among them, and some of the best swords of the 7-9th century and the pre-medieval period were made with it. The export eventually dried up as the world got too busy with the wars.

One thing to be aware of is that a sword, at least up to the era of mass production and proper armies, was as a rule not the common foot soldier's weapon but rather a mark of wealth and power. While both Roman and Greek armies placed a rather short sword in their soldier's belts the main weapon was the spear. The viking armies, a thousand years later, were armed with spears and axes and so were the defensive forces in the homelands. Their captains and the wealthy sons had swords and many if not most of the swords dug up in Norway were found in wealthy graves.

A sword is loosely defined by 'being longer than a dagger', having at least one sharp edge and a point, and by having a crossguard. By comparison a machete, lacking a crossguard, is not technically a sword, because while it can parry a blow and certainly deal a lethal one, a parried strike can still slide down along the blade and dismember the wielder. Then again the machete is the one 'sword' that indeed did develop from being a farming tool.

« Last Edit: May 09, 2018, 04:50:37 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #28 on: May 10, 2018, 05:03:58 PM »
It's been a long day so I'm throwing in something of an anachronism among folding knives. Just as many go for the modern, 'tactical' look - in case they are ever chased by a Blade Runner? - there are many who go in the opposite direction and prefer the clean, classic and minimalistic designs. This goes double for the history buffs and reenactment fans who want something that blends in, even if the steel quality still has to deliver.



One such folder is French, the Opinel. What started out as a single model at the end of the 19th century, has developed into a number of fairly similar variations plus a few other models, but as the picture shows this is a very basic knife with a few odd characteristics. One of these is the wraparound wooden grip. Another is the locking mechanism which is held in some awe for being harder and tighter than most folders. It is said that Opinel users routinely knock the folder on something hard to open it. I Have not touched one of these in decades so I can't confirm this to be fact rather than myth.

The redeeming factor of the Opinel knives is that they are fairly cheap. And then there is of course its genuine rustic French style, which has become a cultural classic. And clearly since Opinel sells 15 million of them each year they can't be just cheap...

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #29 on: May 14, 2018, 03:30:45 PM »
3000 years of making steel blades. Besides shape, has there really been any major changes? One of the biggest are also one of the most recent: stainless steel. While smiths have been doing many arcane and experimental things with steel to make blades stronger and better, the adding of chrome and molybdenum has been a real game changer. Blades used to be susceptible to all sorts of damage; not just the wear and tear of use, but also rust and other chemical weaknesses - iron is a metal that reacts to many chemicals. We usually refer to the more traditional steel as carbon steel. Nowadays most knives and bayonets and most sword reproductions are made in stainless steel. Carbon steel is still used in some cases, where the customers prefer it, or for traditional reasons - straight shaving razors for instance. Since carbon steel can be polished to a shine you might not instantly be able to tell the difference, but the weight difference will be noticeable.

Stainless steel pros: Hard, lighter of weight, impervious to salt water and some other chemicals, holds an edge well, hard to bend and scratch, can be made very thin. Obviously, also does not get stained.
Stainless steel cons: Brittler than carbon steel. Requires more work to sharpen into a really fine edge.
Typical blades: Especially kitchen knives, and all multitool blades like Swiss army knives.

Carbon steel pros: Gets VERY sharp if the job is done right
Carbon steel cons: Gets dull with use quicker. Gets easily stained, rusted and pitted if not kept clean, and the edge is more easily badly damaged
Typical blades: Perhaps the most common user of a carbon steel blade will be a carpenter and other craftsmen who benefit from heavy and very sharp blades and consider resharpening of their tools just another part of their job.

I should also add that some knife makers build their blades like a sandwich, putting one type of metal into the edge area and another into the main body, then putting an outer layer of a third metal around it like a coat. This usually makes for an expensive product.

There are many nuances of steel, with varying amounts of the basic elements and also varying amounts of heat and other types of treatment. Some manufacturers will readily inform the customers specifically of what steel their knife models are made from, and some blade nerds will be ready to argue all day about which steel is the better. I am not quite a big enough knife nerd to go there.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2018, 03:36:15 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #30 on: May 15, 2018, 06:47:37 AM »
Civilian swords were status symbols, expensive, and often crafted to the specifications of the customer. Military swords and bayonets were also handcrafted, but mass produced by the thousands according to rigid specifications. They were given model numbers and serial numbers, after being tested by arsenal inspectors who also left their personal inspection marks on each sample. On top of that there might be a national symbol, the arsenal's symbol, and the year of production. A veritable treasure chest of information of a blade's origin.



But military blades differ from civilian ones in another aspect too. An astounding number of them are Frankensteins.

By the inherent nature of militarism, every armed force needs to possess more weapons than they need at the moment. A peacetime army is extremely expensive and is normally kept at the minimum size needed to function, but even they will have wear and tear on their weapons and gear making it necessary to have a percentage of spares on store. Once war looms this force will have to balloon up and the new soldiers will have to be equipped instantly. There might not be any time whatsoever to purchase or manufacture new weapons, even if they could be imported safely - which is rarely the case. So all those mobilization force weapons will have to be on store too.

Except keeping a large store of modern weapons in stock is very expensive too. And spending on such things during peace is something all civilian politicians and accountants hate... so this is where things get shady. Doesn't matter if we are talking about assault rifles or muskets or lances; the reality is that these mobilization arms tend to be old stock. At best they are the previous model. At worst they are badly outdated. But quite often it does not matter much because either the soldier is not a combat one or the weapon is unlikely to see much use. For instance, British and American tankers were until recently armed with submachineguns as old as WW2 issue (Early postwar Sterling and M3 greaseguns). In Iraq!



Or to go back to a more relevant period; the Napoleonic War. A period soldier, depending on his function, could be burdened down with a musket, a long bayonet and on top of that a sword. If it was a high status unit all his gear might be brand new, latest model and privately procured. Low status units would be issued whatever was in the store room; worn uniforms, old muskets and Frankenstein blades.

A Frankenstein weapon (my choice of word) is essentially something designed from several other weapons. This didn't happen with civilian-made weapon but an arsenal would often find itself with thousands, even tens of thousands of identical, quite obsolete weapons. In times of need such museum pieces could be taken apart, then combined with other obsolete weapons to produce something that fulfilled an entirely other need. Take the blade from one sword, the grip from another and the scabbard from a third. Thus a retired cavalry saber could end up as an infantry soldier's weapon.

Often the changes were even more radical than reassembly. Bayonets, who were an important part of the battlefield long after the last sword had been sheathed, could have a long and tortured journey. They were usually made to fit one specific rifle. But the technological progress of rifle design just went faster and faster, and since bayonets seemed - to the generals - to have little practical use, a vast number of older bayonets were altered to fit the newer model rifles. The socket ring could be remade or simply removed, the blade itself shortened to half its original length and completely reprofiled, markings removed and new ones put on. And even stranger, enemy bayonets captured on the battlefield were similarly reworked - or sold to a third country which then would put it to use. Which was then captured and put into use by the enemy AGAIN....



Turkey in particular has a history with reworking bayonets. After World War 1 the old Ottoman empire of which Turkey was the center had been at the Allied forces' mercy and Turkey was in great need to rearm but with limited funds to achieve it. What they had were some spoils from the last war, and Germany was helping out a bit with leftovers, and they bought 'second hand' weaponry left and right. At this point the Turks were inventoring rifles and bayonets covering a 40+ year long timespan while all their remaining borders were in turmoil and the next war could start at any minute. What you see above are just the official Turkish models at the time!



This is an 'ersatz' (substitute production) all metal German WW1 bayonet of low quality, reworked further by a Turkish arsenal. Still capable of killing but miles and miles away from the at-the-time manufacture standards of most of Europe.

« Last Edit: May 15, 2018, 06:54:35 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #31 on: May 16, 2018, 05:17:39 AM »
Some knives have a slightly more personal history than others. The Bowie knife is an icon in America and known as one of the weapons that 'won the West'. Myth and fact can overlap, though. Especially when original Bowie knives are hard to come by. I have not been able to find a photo of an original Bowie for this post.



The Bowie knife is named after Jim Bowie, the famous frontiersman who died in the defence of the nation in the historic defense of Alamo. Who actually invented it remains clouded in time; his brother Rezin may have designed it but the actual smithwork may or may not have been done by James Black, a renowned smith at the time. There were a number of early designs, and they may not all have had the same designer or smiths.

Basically the whole blade is a design with roots in South America and Spain, as a large tool and weapon. The clip point is more unique though, and the crossguard belongs on a parrying weapon rather than on a hunter's tool. But the blade was marketed as a weapon from the start, and leaning on Jim Bowie's reputation as a knife fighter. There were however other contemporary blades of similar designs and the Bowie may not have been the first, even in USA, with this particular shape.



The Bowie has been copied by many manufacturers, with a lot variations, and can be be found in the crudest as well as the most exquisite versions. However it always remains something of a crowbar with its length and weight and brute strength.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #32 on: May 17, 2018, 05:57:09 AM »
Here is another oddball. Folding knives have come a long way since the simplest hinged and unlocked versions, but still someone occasionally manages to come up with something new. But not necessarily an improvement.



What you see is a swingblade. Instead of conventionally having two blades on a single hinge, the swingblade requires one of the two blades to stick out at all times while the other, rigidly opposed to the first, is stuck inside the handle. Which gives considerable more strength to the knife while wielded compared to a normal folder, but still leaves you with a sheath knife.



Call me a traditionalist, but personally I think this is novelty crap. I doubt these knives habitually fall apart in the hands of the users, and I can see the point in having the option of two very different blades, but ask any toolsman what the ideal number of moving parts on a tool should be and they will answer: "ZERO". If I know I am going on a trip that requires two very different blade types (like cleaning up game during a hunt) I will damn well be carrying two knives each with their own handle. 

However, this type of blade is now offered by a number of manufacturers. Unless the product had a potential customer base, this oddball would already be gone.

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #33 on: May 17, 2018, 08:11:55 AM »
Maybe this particular folding knife is made for someone like me, a total noob who's simply fascinated with blades and love to use them on his stories, but in reality has no idea of how to wield them... I say this because when I first saw this post I was like 'Oh, so cool!' And then I read what you wrote and was like 'Okay... But they're still pretty~'

I still have to read about the last blades you posted as I didn't have time yet, but I'm eager to learn more! Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #34 on: May 17, 2018, 08:38:29 AM »
Maybe this particular folding knife is made for someone like me, a total noob who's simply fascinated with blades and love to use them on his stories, but in reality has no idea of how to wield them... I say this because when I first saw this post I was like 'Oh, so cool!' And then I read what you wrote and was like 'Okay... But they're still pretty~'

I still have to read about the last blades you posted as I didn't have time yet, but I'm eager to learn more! Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

Heh. The pictures show blades of different function. On the first picture, the first blade is a drop point which is a good general shape. The other is a specialty blade for skinning game. Because a sharp tip can easily cut into the gut of the carcass, which is a disaster. A proper butcher kit will include four different blades, but that gets impractical to carry in a backpack in the field when you already need the space and weight for other things. The second picture shows a narrow filleting blade plus a gut knife; great for cutting clean fine meat or fish but useless for chopping wood and ropework. What I have seen of swingblades so far involves useful blades and good enough handles. What really nags me is how to keep them meticulously clean after you have used them and gotten them soaked in blood.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #35 on: May 18, 2018, 01:26:11 PM »
Today's post is in the direction of 'Don't Do This At Home'. Or anywhere else.



One of the ways people some times use knives, is batoning. This is the practice of cleaving planks and firewood by placing the knife where the cut is desired, then hammer down on the blade with a rock, piece of wood or a tool. This is fucking stupid. You may argue that you have done this lots of times, but the fact is that you are exerting considerable kinetic force down on an inch long segment of narrow piece of metal that has not in any way been designed to resist it. The edge, honed to the best of the manufacturer's ability, is also absolutely not created to be hammered into anything - in fact a wood chopping axe which actually is made for such a task, is not sharp at all and it certainly is not made of knife steel.

Oh, and if you think this advice is too obvious to be worth the time - this is how I broke my dad's best knife during a camping trip, at the age of 12... it was a nice knife too.



Similarly you should think two, four and eight times before deciding to hammer your knife tip into anything. Even if what you have is a proper dagger with epic steel there is no such thing as a knife meant for penetration into hard material. Stabbing through a brief layer of light armor and past heavy clothing into a soft belly yes indeed, but try using a machine to force a knife blade into a tree trunk and in all probability you will need a machine to get it out again. The narrow tip is made to penetrate not cleave, and the narrow edge will cut its way into material and slide itself into an envelope it can't be ripped out of again.

if you SHOULD find yourself with a knife buried an inch deep and mysteriously stuck into something pretty solid, then remember that the tip is the weakest and most easily broken part of the blade. Do NOT try to crowbar sideways. Careful small up and down movement along the blade's axis is slightly better but remember that you don't know exactly what your knife is stuck in, right beneath the surface. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BATTER YOUR WAY OUT OF THIS ONE. What you could do is lodging the piece of wood it is probably stuck in between two trees or rocks, so you can apply your feet muscles' strength to do like King Arthur and pull the knife out clean. Just remember that just because Arthur didn't manage to stab himself in his groin in the process, you might not have the same luck to live in a legend - because if you yank it out like that, it will be coming at some speed. The PROPER way to get a stuck blade out is to use a bigger tool to widen out the crack your knife is stuck in because then no force will be exerted at your knife, but I realize that if you have proper tools present you'd need a big excuse to not using them instead of the knife in the first place...
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 03:48:02 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #36 on: May 19, 2018, 05:04:58 AM »
One of the most misunderstood blade features are sawbacks (other than on actual saws). This is something you can find on old bayonets, combat knives, 'survival knives' and even folding knives. But are they more than bonus features?











From top to bottom: a German M98/5 bayonet from primarily WW1, a British artillery sword, the iconic Rambo survival knife, the Russian ubiqutuous AK74 bayonet and a typical Swiss folding knife.

One myth from World War One was that Allied soldiers, when they came across German soldiers with sawback bayonets, would kill them rather than take them prisoners because the sawback was such a gruesome and sadistic weapon, so eventually the Germans filed away the sawbacks. This is absurd, because the Allied forces had sawbacked blades too - but I am not discounting the tale. Because war is absurd by definition and the victorious side killing prisoners of war for any excuse has always been common.

What is fact is that sawbacks are inherently bad on a killing tool. Sure they are capable of cutting into meat, but what they really are capable of is subsequently getting firmly stuck. A soldier standing still tugging madly for a minute to get the bayonet out of the corpse he stabbed to the hilt while running is the perfect target for the slain enemy's buddy.

Sawbacks were never made for fighting. Their origin is chiefly with artillerists and engineers who had a continuous need to clear away underbrush for their cannons, and whose unit equipment horses might not make it anywhere near them in the hour of need. Since artillery usually were in the rear of any battle, these bayonets as killing tools were low priority anyway.

It is however true that many sawback bayonets eventually had the sawback removed. Artillery forces had less need for them as increased range and heavier cannons changed the battlefield situation, equipment trains with all the heavy shovels and proper saws became more reliable, and so these bayonets were filed down and given to other types of soldiers.

On a smaller blade like a survival knife or a modern bayonet or a folding knife, the idea of clearing away swathes of underbrush with 2-4 inches of hand saw is a bit foolish. Nor is it the purpose it was placed there for. A knife is created to cut through fairly soft things and as soon as something hard is placed before it, a fine edge is in trouble - even if it cuts through, the blade edge is diminishing pretty quick. What the saw edge offers is a way to deal with a little bit of hard material; a corded rope, a bone, even a plastic pipe.

A saw edge on a knife's blade will always be a compromise though, adding options at a cost. It make the blade more likely to snag on stuff, the blade gets thinner and thereby weaker. On top of that the more fanciful manufacturers tend to make saw teeth that are too big, and only allows sawing in one direction. As if the job wasn't going to take long enough in the first place. I am willing to bet that 90% of all knife sawbacks have never been used - not even once. Any fantasy artist that place a sawbacked sword in his hero's hand needs a good smacking because with non modern metallurgy that's a recipe for discarding saw teeth like confetti at the first parried blow. Not to mention that it will get the blade firmly stuck in the pissed off dragon....



Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #37 on: May 19, 2018, 01:09:09 PM »
I will confess that I've used the saw blade on my Swiss Army Knife to cut through a three-inch grapevine root.  It was the only blade that I could manipulate in the space I had under the rhododendron it was strangling.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #38 on: May 20, 2018, 07:48:25 AM »
How small can a knife blade be and still have a purpose? If you have ever come across a folding knifes whose blade are the size of tooth picks, it could be a novelty item but it could also be what was once a frequently seen smoker's tool - a pipe knife, also referred to as a pipe tool. They are basically meant for unclogging a pipe.



The above version is decorative and I have seen them almost impossibly dainty and brittle yet prettily made. Not all are in the same configuration.



You will notice that there are two main blades; the wide blade with a discrete tip, and the nail-like spike. Keep in mind that on many pipes, the head and the mouthpiece can both be unscrewed for easier access and replacements.

A regular folding knife with numerous blades could incorporate such tools too but they are seldom encountered today; the tobacco pipe smoker may not be an entirely dying breed but it is a small flock.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #39 on: May 21, 2018, 05:48:08 AM »
Today's case is another sample of exotic India. The katar is a push dagger, a rare type of weapon elsewhere in the world. It was first heard of in 14th century India and became as much a symbol of wealth and power as a killing tool.



The defining features are the cross grip and the triangular blade. It is best used in a boxing-like direct punch, which lands terrifying force on the enemy with the wielder's full weight added to the blade's weight, allowing the blade tip to cut straight through clothes, chainmail and other light armor. You will notice the thick reinforced blade tip; this was preferred for weapons carried into war. The rich man's toys were daintier and had a lot more decorations. This military blade also have arm reinforcements.



This is definitely a rich man's toy, with less of a blade but with no less than two flintlock guns installed, and exquisite handwork.

The katar as a weapon has pluses and minuses. In the hands of a spoiled merchantman it would be a mere decoration. A fast. nimble, mean and lean fighter would be able to land that fatal blow - but he would need all that nimbleness just to stay alive, because this is not a weapon well suited for parrying at all. It can indeed thrust, and it can slash - but the reach is barely any longer than the wielder's fist. That would however do nicely in a crowded inn or a dark narrow back street.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #40 on: May 21, 2018, 10:35:57 AM »
Gotta say, those teeny flintlocks - gives a new meaning to the term 'finger gun'.  I can't see those things firing anything more than a single 00 buckshot pellet.  Maaaybe 000, if the walls of the barrel are thin enough.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #41 on: May 21, 2018, 11:01:30 AM »
Gotta say, those teeny flintlocks - gives a new meaning to the term 'finger gun'.  I can't see those things firing anything more than a single 00 buckshot pellet.  Maaaybe 000, if the walls of the barrel are thin enough.

Well, the bigger hand you imagine holding that weapon the bigger those guns get :) But small caliber firearms have a long history too. I own a couple of percussion boot guns from maybe the 1840s whose barrels are so small bored I might not get a pencil down them. I suppose looking at them from the front end would still be an incentive to back off.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #42 on: May 21, 2018, 12:18:24 PM »
Well, the bigger hand you imagine holding that weapon the bigger those guns get :) But small caliber firearms have a long history too. I own a couple of percussion boot guns from maybe the 1840s whose barrels are so small bored I might not get a pencil down them. I suppose looking at them from the front end would still be an incentive to back off.

I was going proportionately, assuming that the grip was two fingers wide (based on the shaping), and assuming that the flintlock was about the same size as a man's finger.  My finger is about 15 mm wide, scaling that up to more masculine proportions - probably still not going to crack 25 mm for an outer diameter.  (Checked - Mr. Oniya's index finger is about 20 mm, and he says he has small hands.)

I'd be far more intimidated by the blade than the bang.   

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #43 on: May 21, 2018, 01:14:11 PM »
I had some problems finding adequate illustration. Perhaps if I had been able to google in hindu, haha. But I believe the below illustration is correct. If only two fingers had been on the crosshilt it would have been hard to deliver a full punching movement. Or so I think; this is one weapon I have not seen firsthand. Literally.



Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #44 on: May 21, 2018, 01:21:17 PM »
Ah, okay.  I was thinking it was held more like brass knuckles, with the side pieces coming up between the index and middle, and the ring and pinky.  That would certainly allow for a larger flintlock.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #45 on: May 22, 2018, 09:49:08 AM »
Ah, Scotland. Home of the brave and the bloodyminded. I know of few other countries of that size which has spent so much time fighting external enemies and each other with the same enthusiasm. No wonder that they have come up with a good handful of impressive weapons and corresponding combat techniques. You have the claymore - claidheamh-mòr in Gaelic - and the spiked buckler, the dirk, and this post's topic: the Sgian Dubh. Also know as the hose knife to foreigners, as its traditional place is more or less hidden in the knee-high hose worn with the kilt. In the rest of Europe this would be considered a boot knife and have the same function.



Every formal Scottish attire includes such a dagger, and they can be real pieces of art. But they are traditional knives and can be found in many shapes from dagger to everyday tool and cutlery.



All Sgian Dubhs I have seen are fairly short but with broad blades with dagger tips. I have heard of them being used as throwing knives but I remain reserved as the grips are traditional made of heavy wood, which means the point of balance will be unduly rearward - and this is a small blade in the first place. But it is certainly capable delivering a killing blow in the right hand.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 09:51:22 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #46 on: May 23, 2018, 06:29:59 AM »
This one is a home run of sorts. Scandinavia has long blade traditions, going back at least 5000 years judging by some of the oldest discovered iron ore extraction facilities. Some of those traditions are still honored, with a variety of established sheath knife styles. (And axes, but all things in time.) Scandinavia's total land mass is big but the total population isn't, so trade routes used to crisscross the whole place. Another handy thing to understand for this post is that Scandinavia (and the most western upper part of Russia) shares one indigenous people, the Lapps as they are known in English, who shares a distant heritage and still often makes a living from their flocks of rein deer. In modern times, most of them are integrated well enough to be found in any type of modern living and even the herdsmen are still only nomadic for a few weeks a year, and in the most modern sense.



One of these cross-cultural items are a traditional knife which in my language is called a "samekniv", a Lapp knife. But you can also find the same knife in Sweden, and in Finland - and the curious thing is that the Finns call it a Finn Knife. So which is the true origin? Does it really matter?



The Lapp knife is made in different sizes, but around here it is best known in its biggest version which is almost the size of a small machete. The blade is completely straight but for that curved tip and a story goes that the lapps were simply filing a curve and edge on a bar then mounting a grip on it. Master smiths like Isak Strømeng would probably like to differ.



The blade is heavy and versatile and fulfills multiple roles in the field. It makes a handy axe for underbrush and branches, it is well suited for butchering - as you could expect would be a vital job for rein deer cowboys - and you can still use it for rope cutting and bread slicing and finer tasks. You might manage to dull the blade but in general the knife is near indestructible. I doubt I'll ever manage to wear out mine, and I have had it 30 years so far.

The sheath is interesting in that it goes straight up to the pommel, which flares out just enough to be gripped and pulled on. This is one of the safest sheaths I know about.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #47 on: May 24, 2018, 06:17:56 AM »
The least visible part of swords and rigid blade knives is the tang. This is the part of the blade that extends into the grip and ties the whole set of parts together. But while all tangs have the same function, they vary in shape and strength. Some are downright dangerous.



The basic tang shapes are full tang, part tang and rat tail tang. There's also other variations, like tapering tangs. Some times they are just a stub. How they are made differ; often the tangs are welded on. A full tang refers to a tang going the entire length of the grip; it can be as wide as the entire grip or narrow to the point where it looks like a rat tail - but a rat tail is often round rather than rectangular. This is often found in narrow swords where the grip is slender and the blade designed for stabs rather than hacks.



We all feel the same urge when we stand before a table where a sword have been placed for sale and/or display. We just have to grip it and swing it about a bit. Don't do that. Low quality swords tend to have the cheapest possible tang they can get away with and an old worn sword, even one of good quality, could have gotten more than a few hard knocks in its lifetime. When you hack and slash and whip that blade about like a musketeer - we all do it - the single point of the entire blade that gets more stress than anything else on it is the tang. Be too vigorous and you risk that the whole thing breaks apart in your hand with spectacular ballistic results. When something is being sold as a 'wall hanger' the hint should be taken.



On a knife with a relatively short blade much less force is focused on the tang. On folding knives the tang is absolutely minimal and part of a mechanism which might be relatively strong but will always be weaker than a rigid blade knife.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #48 on: May 25, 2018, 07:25:17 AM »
Where does the line go between knife - and toy? And for that matter, where does the line go between tool and weapons?



The Balisong, also called a batangas, a fan knife or a butterfly knife, have somehow become a challenge for authorities. Its origin is a simple Filipino variation of folding knife in the general shape of a dagger. It makes sense in that it is very simple in construction, perfectly safe when folded and reasonably rigid in use. But somehow the double hinged grips became a selling point to those who wanted a toy as well as a tool.



The Balisong is completely illegal in my country, you can't even OWN one, and I believe they are banned to carry in parts of USA and Canada as well. (And the UK, but that goes without saying.) Personally I think these laws are rubbish; they are no more dangerous than any other knife of the same blade length. They have probably caused more damage to owners trying to play tricks with them than any opponents.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #49 on: May 25, 2018, 12:32:10 PM »
They actually call it a 'bite handle'?  That's amusing.  I knew someone in college who had one of those (and a couple of shuriken) on campus - not that any weapons were supposed to be on campus, but there's always someone who has to act like a bad-ass.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #50 on: May 26, 2018, 11:57:27 AM »
They actually call it a 'bite handle'?  That's amusing.  I knew someone in college who had one of those (and a couple of shuriken) on campus - not that any weapons were supposed to be on campus, but there's always someone who has to act like a bad-ass.

I am a loss as to where the bite name comes from. Maybe it is somewhat similar to the biting part of a horses's tack?

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #51 on: May 26, 2018, 01:44:20 PM »
One of the most popularized groups of cultural weapons are the blades of feudal Japan.  Comics and movies and animated movies eagerly display the tools of the trade for shoguns, samurais, geishas, ninjas, ronin and the occasional gaijin. This includes bows, muskets, throwing weapons, tools of subterfuge, large scare warfare weapons and simple weaponized farming weapons, but the striking blades have enough in common to warrant a comprehensive overview. Later posts might look further at specific types.



Key element to understanding Japanese blades is that they mostly originate in far older weapons developed on the main continent; Korea, China and the Mongol empire ruled much of the known world for century after century and had ample opportunity to explore the efficiency of many weapon types. Japan, ruled by the descendents of these great empires, did not fail to bring this information with them to the islands. But some things changed, and not all for good. Horseback warfare, cavalry, eventually almost vanished - a horse was now something owned only by the very rich and powerful and their most trusted soldiers. And iron became expensive and hard to come by, just like wood and coal. Leather is also a product that becomes scarce with limited access to livestock. Japanese military outfitters responded by learning to making strong armor in new and inventive ways; lacquer and bamboo combines to remarkable strength with the job is done right. But weapons can't be made that way.

So Japanese blades essentially had to make do with less than optimal steel (unless, again, you were very rich) and this is the key to the cut off shape of them and the fairly wide blade diameters. It creates a very powerful slash and a powerful thrust, while reducing the risk of breaking the tip right off. That does not mean that these oldtimer swords were bad. Swordmaking quality in Japan went up and down over the centuries, as close combat went in and out of favor and warfare went from small scale elite combat to vast battles full of barely-equipped auxiliaries. At their best they were very, very good and each sword blade could be a whole sandwich of metal types.

The abrupt sword tip is more complicated than it seems. Variations go from long to inverse tip, and the tip isn't normally cut straight but is in itself curved. On a lot of wallhangers and copies the tip is straight; it is a lot faster to manufacture.



The typical Japanese sword was curved, which is in some ways a better shape than the straight sword. It invites to a slashing movement, and the blow reverberates better through the steel.



An very incomplete list of Japanese blades, going downward by size:

Naginaka (polearm with a curved blade on top)
Yari (spear with a straight blade on top)
Tachi (longer than the katana)
Katana (about 2-2.5 foot long)
Wakizashi (1-2 feet long)
Tanto (knife)

With swords being the property of the upper classes (and the samurais were definitely upper) a lot of swords were doubtlessly crafted to fit exactly the customer and considering how similar they were in design, I would not be too eager to measure a sample with too fine a metering device. What look like a wakizashi to you may well have been a katana to the original owner.

A samurai would carry both a katana and a wakizashi in his belt. Other citizens might carry a wakizashi but the peasants would be forbidden to carry weapons as such, hence the tendency to carry around farming tools. And the peasants weren't even the lowest of the castes.



One interesting point about Japanese blade grips is that they are possible to disassemble; this is highly irregular by western blade standards. It is an elegant concept and makes repairs easier. It also makes for a lot of 'reassembled' swords who might not have much in common from part to part, even if it is supposed to have been untouched since the first Shogun. One intriguing but to me not appealing element of this is that the sword handguards, the tsubas, are often ornate and have become collectibles in themselves.



As probably everyone knows the last heyday of the katana was as late as WW2, where Japanese officers and NCOs would carry one into battle. Considering how bad the Japanese officer pistols were in that conflict, I might have wanted something more substantial to hold on to too. Even if the quality of many of these swords were pretty inferior too. They were literally the last scream of a bygone era, but do hold the distinction of being afaik the last infantry swords used in combat.

There is no way I can give justice the entire subject in one brief post. But I do own a cute set of three blades on a wooden display thing. probably Tachi-Katana-Wakizashi. The sheaths and grips are beautiful, the blades heavy and sharp, and the whole shebang cost me less than 40 dollars included shipping. They are probably not worth more but looking at them makes me happy. It's not as if they will ever see combat.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2018, 01:47:47 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #52 on: May 27, 2018, 08:47:46 AM »
Today's object is not a weapon but a tool, and an old one. Time to be a lumberjack, old style.



There was a time when lumber was a job that did not involve chain saws, tractors, winches or timber trucks or close-to-science fiction machines on steel belts. Instead the tools of the trade were axes, timber tongs, two man saws, horses with pulling chains and lumber sleds. If the road to the sawmill was a river you'd also need a number of further tools like bill hooks

And the trade was as follows. First you go to your typical 60 year old pine. Chop off the lowest branches; most pines have branches all the way down. Now you can calculate which direction to fell the tree in. If the tree is 2/3 foot or so wide you can chop it down with your axe, which is sure going to get the sweat going. At some point, depending on the trunk's angle and the terrain, you will also chop in a slice on the other side exactly where you want the tree to fall. If the tree is any bigger you'll be chopping all day which does not pay well, so you will get your buddy and the two-handled saw and get on with sawing. Ke-rash, and maybe 40 feet of pine will fall where you planned and you can now get on with the next job. All the branches must off or that tree will be going nowhere. So up comes your axe. Seeing how some of the branches will be 6 feet long they will also be an inch and an half thick where you need to axe them, which is exactly where they protrude from the trunk for several reasons. And you will be standing in the middle of the sea of branches while working, unless you draw them all away as you chop them off.

50 branches later and the tree top chopped off, you now have yourself a trunk. That's a lot of wood, especially when you have to move it. With a pair of tongs and some reasonable beef you can budge it a bit if the ground is flat, but a few meters isn't much if you want to get it all the way to the road or river. With a couple of buddies and a not too heavy trunk it is still a massive job. So you get the horse over, tie on a rope to the trunk and tow it a few meters until it gets to the horse trail. There it eventually gets chained to the towing sled with 1-2 other trunks and the horse will get it to the road. There you get the saw out, and cut the trunk into the minimum/maximum dimensions decreed by the lumber company. Depending on the size this sawing task may already have happened right after the tree was felled; the fewer trunks to transport the better, but your horse can only pull so much weight even when the branches have been cut away perfectly.



And here we get to the point of this post. Back in the good old days the timber truck (or column of timber horse sleds) didn't show up on any given day, and certainly not unless there was a lot of timber to get. Timber doesn't like to wait, not once it has been felled. All the natural decomposing processes kick in, bugs are having  a party, and water seeps in from both above and below to be in particular retained in the bark. You can't have put in all this backbreaking work just to see the result and the money rot away. One more task needed doing: barking. The removal of all bark from the trunk. All the rest of the work was hard but this was also a task with a time limit. Right after felling the sap in the pine is still juicy and the innermost bark is almost soapy. Every day the trunk lies on the groud this sap dries. Also the inner wood will dry faster with the bark removed and a lot of tree boring beetles will lose interest. Plus a lot of smaller planks saws back in the day required bark free trunks; also any lumber cabin will require clean trunks for building.



The above are two barking spades from Norway; I am very familiar with the lower version. Since it is literally designed to be chipping in at an angle the curious head has been given a strong wooden tip to be plugged into.


These are other variations known just in Norway. Doubtlessly USA, Canada, Russia, Germany etc will also have local variations.

If the bark has dried, this is hard work. If the spade is chipped, this is hard work. If not all the branches have been chopped off at the best point, this is hard work.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2018, 08:49:52 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #53 on: May 28, 2018, 06:58:41 AM »
Some knife types are more recent than others. And concepts too. The concept 'survival knife' would have been ridiculous only a few generations ago, since most knives were being made exactly to be a handy tool to use in any situation where a sharp edge could make a difference. Your average fisher, hunter, soldier, adventurer and tribesman all carried a knife to deal with the expected tasks of the day - and the unexpected ones.

The whole 'survival' concept is in fact fairly new. For people living by the sweat off their backs a cross country trip was work, a job they had trained on since being small children and it was pretty hard work to be so lost in the wilderness that they had to behave differently from a controlled journey. Yes, you could be shipwrecked somewhere, but this was an extremely rare event because the chances of surviving even just the few first interesting minutes were pretty small.

To the best of my knowledge, survival really only became a term with the advent of planes and plane combat. Finally a city slicker could end up deep in the wilderness and not have a lifetime of practical skills to lean on to make it out of there or live long enough to be rescued. When you have only so much time to train a pilot and the enemy is trying to bomb the crap out of you at the same time, bushcraft might not get that much class attention.

Airforces don't like to lose their aviators. For one thing it is bad for morale especially among the other pilots and aircrews, for another training replacements takes time, and for a third airplanes in war go down all the time and for many reasons. Mechanical failure, light combat damage, running out of fuel. Even when the plane goes down in a giant fireball there is still a chance that someone could have survived by bailing out in time.

Since training (in wartime in particular; peacetime aircrews get extensive survival training) was a limited resource, at least the aircrews could have some tools to help them. A knife is pretty obvious. But space in a plane is very limited too, and considering the chances of a crash landing the most essential gear should be on a pilot's body. So you get survival rations that are little more than sugar and tea, survival rifles that are little more than barrel and trigger. and knives sprouting functions. Some airforces issued folding knives but with sturdiness being a very high priority the rigid blades were mostly used.


The various US flying elements went early for a shorter version of the classic US combat knife. USN type above. It wasn't bad but further development added a hollow grip rather than the leather-plate one, which provided a little space inside where there now was room for a few potentially useful items. The saw edge on top of the blade was added to provide a tool to saw out of the thin metal skin of the plane fuselage. The pommel did have room for a compass. Some extra paracord could be wrapped around the handle.This didn't happen all at once or by one single knife company.



And then, boom, came "Rambo" and what had been an obscure specialist tool was added to at least one Xmas gift list in every home in America. And where there's a want, there is a market to deliver to both high, middle and low end. It made 'survival knives' intensely popular, scared the crap out of some people who did not realize that their kitchen knives were far more lethal, and especially the low end products almost ruined the reputation of the idea.



I own one of these low end, low price survival knives. It looks identical to the one above, but might not be the same. Brand is unknown and so is the steel. The only marking is "Taiwan". It is not entirely, but mostly crap.
Good:
- regular combat knife sized
- carbon steel blade, rather than stainless. Many will call this bad but I like it. Makes honing faster.
- clip point tip.
- small string on the sheath end. For tying the sheath to your thigh it is crap, but having some string is always good.
- a whetstone is included. It's the size of an eraser but you can do a little emergency sharpening on it.

Bad:
- plastic grip. Again, some will like the imperviousness and weight of the material. I don't like it feeling like a toy.
- the grip tube, which IS plastic, is just screwed on to a quarter inch metal screw acting as tang. You can't feel it but you better not put any weight on it either.
- inbuilt compass. Having a compass is good. A weak round plastic dome is just asking for damage.
- bottle cap opener built deep into the blade, taking away a third of the width of the blade - and when did you last see a bottle cap that could be popped open?
- saw teeth. You can't saw your way out of planes any more anyway and these teeth are way too big and dull for any practical purpose, like cutting a rope.
- soft leather sheath. It has press button closed straps for the whetstone pocket and the grip. They will be ripped open the moment you go through a few bushes.

The grip hollow has:
- about 16 matches and one paper striking surface
- a couple of fishing hooks, maybe one foot of line and a little lead sinker. Provided you can produce a throwing line and some bait and a rod otherwise, that's a good start
- a needle and a few inches of sewing thread
- a couple of safety pins
- a couple of key rings placed around the grip
- and the aforementioned compass

Just about every other knife I own would be better for a survival situation in my opinion. The highly dubious quality of this is one thing; I assume that modern pilots get better stuff. But the whole design reeks of coming from the hands of people who never worked a day in the field in their life.

There are good survival knives, of course. They are solid, sturdy and simple. We usually call them 'knives'.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 07:09:48 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #54 on: May 28, 2018, 01:11:19 PM »
I have found a few bottles (mostly niche sodas and craft beers) that need a church-key opener.  However, I'm unlikely to be in a situation where opening one of these is a matter of survival.  There's probably a puddle around that I can boil first.  And there are other ways to open a glass container in an emergency.

I'd also much prefer 'strike-anywhere' matches, instead of something that needs a special surface with limited lifespan.  (Could go really old-school and chuck a flint in there.  You have the steel already.)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #55 on: May 28, 2018, 01:22:49 PM »
I have found a few bottles (mostly niche sodas and craft beers) that need a church-key opener.  However, I'm unlikely to be in a situation where opening one of these is a matter of survival.  There's probably a puddle around that I can boil first.  And there are other ways to open a glass container in an emergency.

I'd also much prefer 'strike-anywhere' matches, instead of something that needs a special surface with limited lifespan.  (Could go really old-school and chuck a flint in there.  You have the steel already.)

Replacing the cheapo matches with storm matches is a great idea; a flint or striker is even better. In the case of my sample I am not even convinced the grip tube is waterproof.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #56 on: May 28, 2018, 02:30:54 PM »
Replacing the cheapo matches with storm matches is a great idea; a flint or striker is even better. In the case of my sample I am not even convinced the grip tube is waterproof.

I'd almost forgotten strikers.  Definitely something useful for the kit.  (Used to be the only way I could light a gas flame in chemistry class - I've gotten better with matches since then.)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #57 on: May 28, 2018, 04:29:58 PM »
I have found a few bottles (mostly niche sodas and craft beers) that need a church-key opener.  However, I'm unlikely to be in a situation where opening one of these is a matter of survival.  There's probably a puddle around that I can boil first.  And there are other ways to open a glass container in an emergency.


I normally open a pop cap bottle with a knife in the following way. I grip the bottle neck in my left hand, with the cap barely protruding. I hold the knife in my right hand with the sharp edge out and the flat edge in, essentially resting the blade on the base of my left hand thumb and on the knuckle of my left hand pointing finger while resting against the bottle neck right under the cap. Then I just lever the knife against the knuckle and pop goes the cap.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #58 on: May 29, 2018, 04:35:17 AM »
Another obscure blade from India. Well, it would still have been obscure if "Xena:Warrior Princess" had not picked it up.



The chakram is essentially a flat metal ring with a sharp outer edge and is known from Indian literature as far back as 2400 years ago. Especially the Sikh culture of India would put this weapon to extensive use. Its primary use is as a throwing weapon but a skilled fighter can also use it as a hand weapon. As throwing weapons go this is a terror; the range might be limited but the weight combined with the all around edge guarantees a deep slash. Sikh warriors would bring a considerable number of them in varying sizes into battle on their headwear, their arms and even their necks, which also adds a certain bonus armor value. Some chakrams would be spiked making them the equivalents of ninja throwing stars.



Incidentally, Xena is holding and wielding the damn thing wrong. Holding it like this would make the razor edge to terrible things to her palm. And carrying the uncovered circle in her belt on a daily basis... can you even imagine falling or sitting a bit awkward one day... "oh, what is this? My kidney? How peculiar."



The real deal; 18th century museum sample.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2018, 04:38:35 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #59 on: May 30, 2018, 07:30:02 AM »
Among the more useful military field craft blades of the last century and a half, is the KA-BAR "combat knife". This was was actually a civilian knife of the 1920s filling much the same niche as the by then ubiqutous Bowie knife; a simple and reliable rigid blade knife with a clip point tip and a leather stacked-ring grip. It's not a big stretch to guesstimate that at the time there were probably a hundred other small brands with a similar product.



But a couple of decades later, US military forces were at war. Again. And while the military tactics of using bayonets and rifles as spears were falling out of favor (well, nobody told the Japanese) the long bayonet was still what American soldiers were issued with at the start. This was a decent stabbing implement but not very useful for anything else, and there's only so much other gear available in the jungle for the thousand non-combat tasks a soldier has to deal with. Leadership, reacting to the complaints about the bayonets and WW1-era dagger variation the men had been issued with, started to finally toy around with the novel concept of making a knife that could be used like a knife, and several types were tested out. In the meanwhile the deployed marines and soldiers took matters into their own hand and started buying suitable allrounder knives themselves. Something you could kill with if you had to, and butter your bread with afterwards. Preferably after cleaning it.



The US military caught up eventually; they made a broad spec, called in civilian companies to make a working version and the Ka-Bar company won the design competion. As with everything else military an number of companies were then called upon for the actual manufacture. For the collector this means that a 'Ka-Bar' is not necessarily actually made by Ka-Bar, but it may still be a war time manufactured original.



To the best of my knowledge, US military forces is issued with this knife to this day. And it is of course also available for civilian purchases. Incidentally I had a cheap knockoff copy of this knife in my belt for my entire military service whenever we were in the field, and I never once stood there holding it and wishing I had something more practical at hand.

Offline MisledBloodshed

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Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #60 on: May 31, 2018, 01:32:05 AM »
I am a loss as to where the bite name comes from. Maybe it is somewhat similar to the biting part of a horses's tack?

Real late to the party on this one 'cos i've been away from the computer for a few days but I imagine the name comes from the fact that if you hold the bite handle and do tricks you'll get - not to make a pun - 'bitten.' A lot of tricks rely on the dull side of the blade coming into contact with your fingers or the back of your hand, so if you're holding the wrong handle you absolutely 100% will get cut.

I've learned a few, though never had to worry much about that particular safety precaution. The real ones are illegal where I live too, but the training blades (with these holes in em so you can't sharpen them) are fine to own. Technically you're allowed to own an actual blade, too, but you are never allowed to assemble it, so I don't really understand why that loophole exists.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #61 on: May 31, 2018, 02:51:46 AM »
Real late to the party on this one 'cos i've been away from the computer for a few days but I imagine the name comes from the fact that if you hold the bite handle and do tricks you'll get - not to make a pun - 'bitten.' A lot of tricks rely on the dull side of the blade coming into contact with your fingers or the back of your hand, so if you're holding the wrong handle you absolutely 100% will get cut.

I've learned a few, though never had to worry much about that particular safety precaution. The real ones are illegal where I live too, but the training blades (with these holes in em so you can't sharpen them) are fine to own. Technically you're allowed to own an actual blade, too, but you are never allowed to assemble it, so I don't really understand why that loophole exists.

*snerks* "pain side here". That is funny.

Offline MisledBloodshed

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Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #62 on: May 31, 2018, 03:00:49 AM »
*snerks* "pain side here". That is funny.

It is, though given how hard you can whack yourself with the metal doing some of the tricks I wouldn't exactly say either side is pain free

*is definitely speaking from experience*

Offline MisledBloodshed

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Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #63 on: May 31, 2018, 03:27:09 AM »
Actually, found a bit more insight on the matter watching a tutorial for a trick - it's called the bite handle because if you're holding that handle and the knife closes down on your fingers, it's like being 'bitten' - because your fingers will be between the handle and the sharp side of the blade when it happens.

Chomp, there go your fingers

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #64 on: May 31, 2018, 03:37:37 AM »
Actually, found a bit more insight on the matter watching a tutorial for a trick - it's called the bite handle because if you're holding that handle and the knife closes down on your fingers, it's like being 'bitten' - because your fingers will be between the handle and the sharp side of the blade when it happens.

Chomp, there go your fingers

So - pretty much exactly why I found the name funny.  XD

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #65 on: May 31, 2018, 03:49:42 AM »
Time to look at axes. Now, what is an axe? I suppose at some bright day in the far past someone were whacking someone or something with a rock and noticed that they were doing more damage than usual. Then figured that it might be because one side of the rock happened by sheer coincidence to be kinda sharp. Hmm. Sharp whacking stone GOOD. This ushered in the Stone Age and we have not had a peaceful day since.



Joke aside, that really is the basic idea of an axe: considerable mass plus acceleration concentrated on a narrow strike area. Honing the edge sufficiently that it didn't get stuck or break on impact, and adding a handle for more leverage, were also details probably worked out quite early. Notice that I am saying 'sufficiently sharp', because axes are made for cleaving and hacking and if they are anywhere near as sharp as a knife or sword there will be unintended consequences. One is that the strike is much heavier than a sword strike, it will cut deeper and the chance of getting stuck is that much bigger It doesn't help that there is a distinct lack of blood grooves. Another bad consequence is that an axe edge, if it hit something hard, will break and splinter and then resharpening the much thicker edge than on a sword will take all day.



Axes come in the following categories.
- Wood cleaving tools. Big or small, they have the same function - forcing fibres apart. Almost always have a flat backside, allowing it to be used as a hammer as well. The backside can also be used to be struck with a secondary tool like a sledge if need be.
- emergency axes. Includes fireman axes, boarding axes etc. Frequently has a spike on the other side and extra reinforcements along the shaft.
- poleaxes. A long combination weapon that had considerable value against horsed riders. Could be used to swing, thrust, and hook, or to keep fast in defense. Some of these axe heads were fairly long in height but they still had the same function. Halberds and glaives come within this.
- combat axes. Wider blades than the other types which made for better slashing. Made for one hand or two. Usually with only one blade or 'beard' but also found with two.
- throwing axes. These are fairly short and the blade is meant for slashing, not chopping although that is an option.



There are also a plethora of other variations, both in culture and function.. Arguably the axe has always been humanity's most used and most useful tool. Until the arrival of Google, that is.




Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #66 on: June 01, 2018, 04:49:14 AM »
Today's blade may look like a joke. It isn't. But you don't see this often in use any more.

The above is known under several names. Splitting knife, kindling knife, and it can also be labeled as a plane.

More precise than a knife since the grip is optimal, this is a tool for the weaved basket maker, as well as for the boat builder making ribs.





Offline Nadir

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #67 on: June 02, 2018, 03:23:26 AM »
I found this blog and I thought you would appreciate it!

Peashooter/Lock Stock and History

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #68 on: June 02, 2018, 07:47:16 AM »
I found this blog and I thought you would appreciate it!

Peashooter/Lock Stock and History

That's interesting stuff Nadir. I might use some of it in later posts!

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #69 on: June 02, 2018, 08:44:21 AM »
Far north in South Asia, sandwiched in between China and India, lies a distant and exotic little country that actually isn't that small. Nepal is however a country with many contrasts, from lush forests to the mountains capped by Himalaya. Their population is a tough one, which is proved by the sherpas that carry huge loads with all the equipment and food for the mountain climbers who go the same route emptyhanded. A certain irony there. Nepal has also fostered some of the most renowned soldiers known to the world for the last few centuries; the gurkhas. It would take a much longer post to tell how the gurkhas have proven themselves in battle, for their own country, and all over the world in British service.


The famous symbol of the gurkhas is however the kukri. This is a blade that steals a little from the basic machete design, a little from the old broad swords, and a little from the just as old, Asian curved broadswords right back to the heyday of the Mongols. That does not mean that this is exclusively a weapon; the kukri is the traditional bladed tool of the Nepalese and is used for all sorts of farming, butchering, farm work and bush craft. The heavy fore of the blade makes it very suitable for chopping work and it is capable of deep stabs as well . Not so much a fine work tool; the kukris are pretty big as knives go.


You will notice that there are two small knives here as well, which are part of the standard kukri set. The bigger is a karda which is for that above mentioned fine work, and the smaller a chakmak which is used for sharpening. A lot of secondhand kukri sets are missing these, or may have been entirely omitted in the cheapest made tourist knockoffs.

There is an odd little notch near the handle, and a number of reasons have been provided for its existence but it may well have been just a local custom that others copied while the story behind got lost.



A great original is bound to be copied, and there are a number of decent copies also from well known brands. This one is an Ontario.



Gurkha soldiers may not be the very best trained or equipped soldiers in our modern world and the old kukri is an anachronism, but they still have the kind of reputation that makes enemies withdraw from their positions at the mere RUMOR that the gurkhas are coming. I am glad we are on the same side.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2018, 08:46:49 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #70 on: June 03, 2018, 06:14:46 AM »
Here's one blade type you can't buy in a store. The shank, or shiv, is an improvised weapon you will only (and hopefully never) encounter in prisons. Basically anything you can put an edge and some sort of grip on is a shank, and every shank is a result of what that particular prisoner was able to lay his hands on. Pure spikes appear to be less popular since they can't cut, and cutting being the ultimate threat between two prisoners. You might think getting killed would be worse but think twice - the kind of people ending up in bad prisons are the kind who do not fear death all that much. Having to live without your nose, eyes or balls can quickly seem worse.


COnfiscated from prisoners in Milhaven Penitentiary, Canada.

Shivs can be put in two major categories; improvised weapons made more or less on the moment, and weapons made secretly but with access to some amount of tools. I admire the inventiveness and resourcefulness in combining a toothbrush and a razor blade into a weapon, but I also admire the skill it takes to produce a nice Bowie knife while you are supposed to be under close surveillance.





I guess some people really do have too much time on their hands.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #71 on: June 04, 2018, 06:07:43 AM »
In the 19th century European powers were once more expanding their empires and this time the march order was due south into the African continent. This was not particularly welcomed by the local population but the Europeans were dead set on exchanging bibles for strategic power, massive natural resources, farming land and cows. Since the Europeans also brought rifles and cannons the argument was bound to be fairly one sided. Except that there was yet another empire in play, and these were local: the Zulu empire.


The Zulus were a big and growing warrior tribe that had already fought a number of other tribes by the time the English Empire showed up in the southern Africa. As African tribes go these were remarkably well led, organized and trained by the military well-above-average general Shaka, utilizing tactics and weapons and aggression on a level that could eventually have gained them control over a large swathe of the continent. They would however have the bad luck of running into English forces, who were lacking in numbers but not in modern weapons.


The Zulu weapon of choice was new and an invention of their own. Assegais, spears, were familiar enough in Africa but were fairly long and meant for throwing. The Zulu redesigned the concept into the Iklwa, a shorter spear with a much heavier and bigger spear tip capable of a terrifying stab from close up. Combined with the thick shield and the superior tactics they were a daunting foe to any other African tribe, and more than a little reminiscent of the armies of Old Greece.


(They also had war clubs and throwing spears. And a small number of guns, but the Zulus saw guns as a weakling's weapon and tended to disregard them in battle. Famous bad decisions through history...)

The Zulus and the English met in several battles. The first, at Isandlwana in 1879, was a disaster for the British and a complete annihilation of their forces there. The second battle was the famous battle at Rorke's Drift where a small force of just 140 British managed to repeal the attack of several thousand Zulus. There were a number of small following battles where the British gained the upper hand, and while the British never defeated the Zulus properly the young Zulu nation fragmented. The British on their hand would soon have to deal with the Boers instead, and a mighty war with the other Colonial powers was just starting to get warm.


But if you think there is something familiar about the Iklwa, take a look at a rifle with a bayonet on. I'd say the concept had something for it.

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #72 on: June 04, 2018, 05:21:49 PM »
So many new weapons to read about!


Incidentally, Xena is holding and wielding the damn thing wrong. Holding it like this would make the razor edge to terrible things to her palm. And carrying the uncovered circle in her belt on a daily basis... can you even imagine falling or sitting a bit awkward one day... "oh, what is this? My kidney? How peculiar."

This also made think about some videogames that design huge chakrams that look more like hula hoops.

Like Tira's from Soul Calibur

or Kingdoms of Amalur

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #73 on: June 04, 2018, 06:09:59 PM »
So many new weapons to read about!


This also made think about some videogames that design huge chakrams that look more like hula hoops.

Like Tira's from Soul Calibur

or Kingdoms of Amalur

Bwahahaha! Very impressive. And they better be magical, because they look like they weigh about 20 pounds each. I can honestly say that I have never heard of a real weapon designed like a hulahoop. Now I want to see one.

Online Love And Submission

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #74 on: June 04, 2018, 06:20:23 PM »
Time to look at axes. Now, what is an axe? I suppose at some bright day in the far past someone were whacking someone or something with a rock and noticed that they were doing more damage than usual. Then figured that it might be because one side of the rock happened by sheer coincidence to be kinda sharp. Hmm. Sharp whacking stone GOOD. This ushered in the Stone Age and we have not had a peaceful day since.



Joke aside, that really is the basic idea of an axe: considerable mass plus acceleration concentrated on a narrow strike area. Honing the edge sufficiently that it didn't get stuck or break on impact, and adding a handle for more leverage, were also details probably worked out quite early. Notice that I am saying 'sufficiently sharp', because axes are made for cleaving and hacking and if they are anywhere near as sharp as a knife or sword there will be unintended consequences. One is that the strike is much heavier than a sword strike, it will cut deeper and the chance of getting stuck is that much bigger It doesn't help that there is a distinct lack of blood grooves. Another bad consequence is that an axe edge, if it hit something hard, will break and splinter and then resharpening the much thicker edge than on a sword will take all day.



Oh no. You've angered the HEMA gods.



Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #75 on: June 04, 2018, 07:47:49 PM »
Bwahahaha! Very impressive. And they better be magical, because they look like they weigh about 20 pounds each. I can honestly say that I have never heard of a real weapon designed like a hulahoop. Now I want to see one.
Here's a SFW demonstration of Tira

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
https://m.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #76 on: June 04, 2018, 08:14:26 PM »
Betting that sword he's got weighs even more.  I was sort of hoping for more spinny action with the ring blade.  As it was, she seemed to use it like a 'shield with a big hole in the middle' and a 'Klingon Bat'leH that goes full circle'.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #77 on: June 05, 2018, 05:20:47 AM »
Oh no. You've angered the HEMA gods.

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide

Ah. Well done there. You and he is correct. Although the fuller is often referred to as a blood groove, including by me, its primary value lies in the strengthening of the blade through the structuring process. Much like two laminated pieces of wood have a greater strength that one solid piece. I think I might do a longer post on this later on.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #78 on: June 05, 2018, 05:31:25 AM »
Here's a SFW demonstration of Tira

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
https://m.

Perhaps I can find something about bladed shields somewhere. I didn't think that shields would be relevant for this thread but maybe, maybe...

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #79 on: June 05, 2018, 05:53:09 AM »
"An elegant weapon for a more civilized age." Obi-Wan Kenobi was out of his mind but there is such a thing. The rapier was perhaps the defining bladed weapon of the Renaissance. As the Middle Age got more refined and sophisticated the wealthy and noble got less inclined to spend their lordships personally at war, and the broad sword started to seem heavy and clumsy no matter how many jewels you stuck on in. All over Europe smiths, armed with improved metallurgy skills and even richer customers, began to work on civilian swords that not only enhanced the elegance of the owner's wardrobe and weaker arm and lesser interest in brute combat but also offered longer reach at lesser weight. The rapier is a name that has been slapped on these thin long swords in posterity; back then they were simply called swords.



The rapier is best recognized by its blade, which is longer than most one handed swords. Both edges are sharp but not necessarily all the way down. The grip can vary from basket to the simplest crossguard but is always straight. And this really is an elegant weapon. It stabs, it slashes and and it parries and favors the speedy, nimble fighter over the one with brute strength. It is for good reason that the musketeer movies were so popular. The sport of fencing may be done with epees, swords with soft bending blades, but its roots lie in combat with rapiers. Dueling with rapiers became so common and so lethal that it was gradually forbidden among officers. Because while rapiers had been developed for civilians the officers were still allowed to buy their own and of course they went with what was popular too. There were also schools where rapier fighting was taught.



I won't be posting a lot of youtube videos in this thread but this one happens to be displaying pretty good rapier work as movies go.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #80 on: June 05, 2018, 11:10:15 AM »
They actually hired arguably the best sword instructor available for that movie.  When I took fencing in college, our professor did a showing of that movie as part of the class (along with a few other classics.)  Bob Anderson started his movie career working with Errol Flynn in 1953, did stunt-work in the fencing scenes in From Russia With Love, and was also a stand-in for Darth Vader during some of the light-saber battles (since you mentioned that. ;) )  Prior to that, he'd placed 5th in sabre fencing at the Helsinki Olympics.

(Also, fun-fact - Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin actually did that whole scene - no doubles, and including the ambidextrous fighting.)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #81 on: June 05, 2018, 11:30:55 AM »
They actually hired arguably the best sword instructor available for that movie.  When I took fencing in college, our professor did a showing of that movie as part of the class (along with a few other classics.)  Bob Anderson started his movie career working with Errol Flynn in 1953, did stunt-work in the fencing scenes in From Russia With Love, and was also a stand-in for Darth Vader during some of the light-saber battles (since you mentioned that. ;) )  Prior to that, he'd placed 5th in sabre fencing at the Helsinki Olympics.

(Also, fun-fact - Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin actually did that whole scene - no doubles, and including the ambidextrous fighting.)

You went to a much more fun college than I did. On the other hand my college allowed me to start a gun shooter group and helped fund it as it promptly became the biggest student activity group at the school, so it wasn't for lack of willing :) What sort of blades the the class focus on?

Bonus video, since Errol Flynn has been invoked. It is relevant because even though the swords here are broadswords rather than rapiers the fighting style indicates that these are pretty light prop swords... And the fighting IS nice to look at.


Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #82 on: June 05, 2018, 11:39:16 AM »
We only used the foil, rigged with the electronic scoring system.  (It was more that there were a few professors who were fun - like the one guy who taught very unusual history classes at 8:30 AM 'so he'd know that the students signing up were actually interested', and the British history professor who included 'A Lion in Winter' and 'Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail' in her curriculum.)  There were two fencing courses - actual competition style (although I don't think we ever fielded a team), and 'stage fencing', which included analyzing the films.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #83 on: June 06, 2018, 05:35:52 AM »
Yet another item on the long list of concealable blades. This time the belt clasp knife.



This is an old concept and one of the better ones. Basically you are already wearing a bit of metal on your body, within easy reach, and it is well camouflaged in plain sight with the clasp as the handle and usually the belt as sheath.









And now you know why you have to take your belt off at the airport security check-in.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #84 on: June 07, 2018, 03:08:49 AM »
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it still might not be a duck. A great example of this is the sai, a weapon of Asia that in the western hemisphere is best known from martial arts. And it is close to being irrelevant to this thread since it is missing both an sharp edge and strictly speaking a sharp tip.



The sai seem to usually be used in pairs, which is unusual enough as weapons go. And in spite of the dagger-like appearance it seem to have more in common with batons. Its main strike is a thrust with the blunt top which certainly is painful enough but nonlethal. It can also be used for a minor baton-like blow with the pommel end but the weight and balance precludes a heavy blow. The worst damage available with this weapon is with the sharp tips of the parrying hooks. These hooks are what makes the sai considerable defensive weapons against an opponent with a sword or handle weapon.

Beside being a colorful and highly versatile addition to the martial arts arsenal, the sai has been used by police forces in Okinawa of Japan. It is also known in other Asian countries, and under other names and minor variations.



As a westerner my first thought was, why not sharpen the damn things if you have that much steel to work with in the first place? The answer might be that it like other non-lethal weapons has origins in Hinduism and Buddhism which frown on things sharp. Also, a lot of people probably DID sharpen sais if they got hold of them, which would promptly have renamed them as daggers...

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #85 on: June 07, 2018, 11:26:47 AM »
Another point is that the sword itself was limited to the noble class in Japan.  Other weapons grew from what the peasant class had available to them - and making one of these more 'sword-like' (by sharpening the edge) would be hard to explain away.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #86 on: June 08, 2018, 08:12:29 AM »
We have looked at axes in general in an earlier post. Today we look at the small version, the tool hand axe as opposed to the throwing axe. They are also different from hatchets in that they do not have a proper hammer head on the opposing side, just a flat side. You'll notice the difference as soon as you try to put in nails.







Your basic, classic hand axe looks a lot like a miniaturized version of your basic wood cleaving axe. Same head with the slightly curving blade and flat back, same overall shape of handle. It is a shape we can find as far back as the era of vikings although there were also other popular shapes all along the road of time. Also it is notable that some non-western cultures, having other types of nature to deal with, prefer completely different tools for doing yard work and wood cleaving - like machetes, or more hookbill-like tools. We might get to look at those later.

However, go into a tools store and you will find there are a number of modern variations. Some of them are capitalizing on a more modern look, or attempting to combine in extra functions. Some are chiefly trying to be cheaper, which comes at a cost.



I am not sure what to call this. A compact axe? With a handle this you lose much of the power (force=mass x acceleration, right?) advantage of having a handle to swing. It does give you a more usable hammer in return.



Another modern touch is the non-wood handle. This screams in the face of non-tradionalists but let's consider it. Hammers have had steel pipe handles since I was a kid. The old wooden handles were nice and today's hammers can actually permanently bend if enough force is applied, but at least they do not break. On the other hand a lot more force is applied to an axe than most hammers. Then there is the new plastic handles; I believe it is some kind of reinforced nylon thing and they have the advantage of being near impervious to water. And neither metal nor plastic handles will splinter and crack.

But wooden handles remain popular for a reason. They weigh little, are more comfortable to work with because the way the shock spreads through the handle, and if something happens that DOES damage it (like someone running over it with a car) it can be replaced. On the top of these wooden grip handles, they are secured to the metal head by a basic wedge. Get that wedge out, the handle can be pulled out and a new goes in. It might be a new one made out of a branch because you are a hundred miles away from a shop, but it is an alternative you will not have with a plastic grip like the one on the Gerber above.

The color is another area that gives us non-traditionalists a heart attack, of course. Bright red is a color that does make sense for a tool you will be using out in nature. Anyone who has been searching the camp place for half an hour for the axe will agree. If you however are among us who like to NOT stick out like a sore thumb in nature, you'll probably prefer the natural wood anyway.





The ideal axe for camping, in my opinion, does not have a very wide blade edge but also not a too short handle or too light a head, which means the above versions are not ideal.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #87 on: June 09, 2018, 05:54:05 AM »
Some times you suspect a blade company makes something just to show they can.



The Microtech Jagdkommando is a triblade, and named after the Austrian special forces of the same name even though they are utterly unrelated. It is a pretty expensive, if fascinating toy available at prices starting at 900 dollars. For that kind of money you get good steel but, well, mostly the characteristics of a cheap survival blade. The makers point out that you can store things in the hollow handle, but for that price I was expecting it to be filled with pure gold. That WOULD have survival value.

As an exercise in engineering and manufacture this is a masterpiece. As a weapon or as a tool this ranks pretty close to putting a plushy Scooby Doo figure on your belt.

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Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #88 on: June 09, 2018, 06:56:31 AM »
The long point means that a good stab means a deep cut, while the twisting pattern of the triblade means that it will leave a spiral or jagged cut that is more difficult to close up, with the perforations in the blade to make sure that you can still bleed heavily with the knife in the wound.

A 'tacti-cool' specimen and an interesting thought, but the steel handle instead of rubber or leather make it more of a gimmick weapon than anything else.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #89 on: June 09, 2018, 11:50:03 AM »
If it's actually steel, you could probably leave it in the sheath and use it as a billy-club.  Although the 'hollow' aspect probably removes a good bit of heft.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #90 on: June 09, 2018, 12:34:38 PM »
If it's actually steel, you could probably leave it in the sheath and use it as a billy-club.  Although the 'hollow' aspect probably removes a good bit of heft.

Varying on model it's either 440 steel or titanium.

Microtech are no back alley smithy; they have a number of models out and seem quite professional. Maybe a little too professional for my taste. Here's from their FAQ:

"Improper sharpening will void your knife’s warranty. In many cases, improper sharpening will damage the blade, causing the knife to malfunction or worse. This type of damage is not covered under our Lifetime Warranty.

We believe Microtech knives to be one of the highest quality production knives on the market. In part because every knife that leaves our factory is hand-sharpened by skilled craftsmen. To ensure you are getting a perfect edge on your blade, we ask that you always send your knife to us for proper sharpening."

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #91 on: June 09, 2018, 12:47:07 PM »
Titanium's pretty light.  Not as satisfying of a 'thunk' when you whack someone with that.  ;D

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #92 on: June 09, 2018, 12:56:21 PM »
The long point means that a good stab means a deep cut, while the twisting pattern of the triblade means that it will leave a spiral or jagged cut that is more difficult to close up, with the perforations in the blade to make sure that you can still bleed heavily with the knife in the wound.

A 'tacti-cool' specimen and an interesting thought, but the steel handle instead of rubber or leather make it more of a gimmick weapon than anything else.

I can't make my mind up on the stabbing value of a triblade. You'd think it would make one helluva wound. I hope I can find a test on that some time. My chief worry is that the triple blade tip will actually require a harder stab just to achieve the same depth of penetration. That, and the chances of getting it lodged easier in muscle and bone. I know this; if I am shelling out a thousand dollars of a blade I will have no intention of leaving it behind in a body.

If I can find a test I will post it.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #93 on: June 09, 2018, 02:01:35 PM »
Well, a little Reddit diving, and it turns out that the triangular blade for bayonets, at least, was for more strength and easier production - this from the guy who wrote the book on it.

In addition, one of the folks in the conversation actually had met someone who got stuck with a triangular blade (reenactor accident) and reported that the 'scar was unmistakable.  The bleeding was profuse, but not preposterously so.'
Source

The 'screwdriver point' (I believe from context that this is a cross-tip) is mentioned as apparently being able to penetrate bone - which as you mentioned might be a rather bad thing as far as getting it stuck.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #94 on: June 09, 2018, 02:08:32 PM »
Well, a little Reddit diving, and it turns out that the triangular blade for bayonets, at least, was for more strength and easier production - this from the guy who wrote the book on it.

In addition, one of the folks in the conversation actually had met someone who got stuck with a triangular blade (reenactor accident) and reported that the 'scar was unmistakable.  The bleeding was profuse, but not preposterously so.'
Source

The 'screwdriver point' (I believe from context that this is a cross-tip) is mentioned as apparently being able to penetrate bone - which as you mentioned might be a rather bad thing as far as getting it stuck.

Well yes, triangular blades are great for stabbing. It strengthens the blade of course. But the medieval stilettos and the triangular bayonets all have straight, blunt edges. The whole idea about the Jagdkommando is that the blades are twisted around each other AND they are apparently honed like razors.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #95 on: June 09, 2018, 02:31:26 PM »
I did find a video about the 'banned' Cyclone knife (similar construction) - but since the guy was apparently doing a 'giveaway' of the thing (banned, remember), I really don't know about accuracy.  He did need to use some effort to get it out on a couple of the tests, so your concern about it getting stuck looks valid.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #96 on: June 10, 2018, 06:42:58 AM »
From one dubious blade to another. On the list of I-can't-believe-it-is-military weapons, today we take a look at the spring knife. No, not a switchblade. An actual knife propelled forward with a spring. Or as it is perhaps better known, a ballistic knife. A one shot crossbow!



The above is an American version, but the first I heard of this esoteric device was in the arsenal of the then called Spetsnaz, the Russian special forces. See below. The concept is simple enough; a spring is coiled up with considerable force and is released, at the touch of a button, with equal force at an unsuspecting target. The effective range is probably not much more than ten feet. Versions have been built that replaces the spring with gun powder. Which leaves you with a gun with a much too heavy bullet.



As far as I know this weapon is now banned in many places. But so is murder. Personally I am not hot on this whole thing; you could build a very powerful gun within the same dimensions and that would be casually reloadable while you would need luck to recover the knife part of this contraption. And anyone who have played around with springs will know that they are not exactly silent either. Is it however a functional James Bond weapon, or at least comparable to a throwing knife? I have to concede that if someone pointed a flashlight at me and it suddenly transformed into firing a huge arrow at me I'd be in big trouble. Maybe dead. But a gun would still be worse, on account of having far more things to hit me with than this one shot gadget.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #97 on: June 11, 2018, 06:09:56 AM »

When World War One started the world was well used to war, but the barbarism of the trenches was something that had not been seen for a very long time. The 17th, 18th and 19th centuries had conducted clockwork wars with formalisms, muskets and tin soldiers in pretty uniforms marching and dying in neatly conducted rows. Bot somewhere in Somme, in some filthy trench full of barbed wire and rats and mud and blood, humanity returned to its roots. Snarling beasts indistinguishable in the mud fought each other tooth and nail like rats, and not even bringing their proper rifles and long bayonets with them because the generals had not foreseen that the battlefield would be sewers and tunnels where there was no room to swing such large and unwieldy weapons.

So instead there were other weapons, less sanctioned by the conventions of warfare. Spiked clubs. Home made hand grenades. Pistols. Revolvers with bayonets. Combat knives surfaced soon too, in various shapes and of various efficiency. Length of blade quickly became sacrificed in exchange with better stabbing potential.

The French did not lack for a warlike disposition in these fields of horror and met their German foes with ferocity, but they were lacking in other areas. Ever since the previous war with the Germans, 40 years earlier, the backpack and gear of the French soldier had gotten heavier and bulkier to the point where he was more staggering along than marching. Solid, quality gear by all means, but his back was breaking. And yet there were things lacking, it turned out. The Frenchman had no combat knife, just a long bayonet. He had no personal digging tool either, unlike the Germans who were sharpening their for close combat and using them to terrible effect.



So the defining French trench war weapons turned out to be improvised ones. One popular version was the spike dagger. It was simply the metal poles that the engineers used to string barbed wire over; fairly soft metal so few tools were required to make one. They would be bent into a handle, then given a sharp end or at best a bit of hammered-out blade. It was some times referred to as a French Nail.



Apparently it sufficed for the purpose, which was to stab through German uniforms with all the force the wielder could muster. It is none the less one of the crudest, most savage weapons known from modern warfare.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #98 on: June 12, 2018, 09:24:15 AM »
Battlefields and swords have been a thing together since probably early Stone Age. It's the automatic gun that put the final lid on that one, but although bayonets may have been rather sword shaped at times they were were rarely used as one. At this point we need to differ between the cavalry sword and the infantry sword. I'll get back to the cavalry sword later.

If we bypass various cultural versions for now, the cavalry sword and the infantry sword started parting ways somewhere around the late 17th century. Up to then cavalry had not been a major offensive force on the battlefield, at least not compared to the pike infantry which was excellently suited for destroying offensive cavalry. Instead the main horse riders were the officers, who were already carrying swords but were not exactly going to ride into attack before their foot soldiers. Not if they were sane. However, horse cavalry was coming into its own again because the pike men were being exchanged with musketeers who were more deadly, yet more vulnerable to a swift surprise charge. These cavalry men were getting new swords more suited for their tasks.

Meanwhile, the men on foot still needed swords. At least some of them. Officers needed swords because they had no musket or rifle to put a bayonet on, and so did the artillery soldiers and the grenadiers. The artillery soldier got something fairly close to a machete so they could use it for bushwork; we'll take a look at that one one later too. Grenadiers already had guns and bayonets and grenades for a while too, but also got short swords to emphasize their elite status. Later, I promise. Right now we look at what was essentially the infantry officer's sword, and you will see the superficial similarity to the aforementioned rapier pretty quick.

Okay, a few illustrations for comparison:



Model 1845 English infantry sword. Notice that the upper edge does not go far down, the straight grip and the straight blade. This is a weapon far better suited for striking than stabbing. It is meant for a two-ring carrying system which makes it well suited for wearing during riding.



Pattern 1816 French infantry sword. It differs from the 1845 in being shorter and having a wider blade. It is also, unlike the former, meant to be carried in a leather harness.



USA: Model 1850 Army Staff & Field Officers sword.


It is a little difficult to pinpoint where infantry swords last saw any real use. So many small wars, so many strange individuals. Of European wars things simmered down a bit after the end of the Napoleonic wars, but the unification of Germany was just beginning. At the same time the Age Of The Musket was fast being left behind by the Age Of The Rifle And The Artillery Grenade. Unsurprisingly, officers of most countries were quickly losing interest in having attention drawn to themselves in the front lines. The point in carrying a sword on foot was pretty much gone anyway. The next big war, the Crimean War of 1853-56, was the first time machine guns of any kind were put into use and a lot of old foolish notions were being put to a bloody rest. For the Americans the lesson was hammered in pretty thoroughly during their civil war of 1861-65. At this point most field officers would have preferred a cavalry sword if they had a horse, and they would be also be carrying revolvers.



Still I think the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 may have been the last major war where infantry swords were carried for anything but decoration, and the last war in Europe where bolt-and-magazine rifles and machine guns weren't issued to all involved armies.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 09:25:28 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #99 on: June 12, 2018, 10:12:23 AM »
Well, there was always this guy - who not only carried a broadsword, but also a longbow and bagpipes.


And used all three at one point or another.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #100 on: June 12, 2018, 10:27:22 AM »
Well, there was always this guy - who not only carried a broadsword, but also a longbow and bagpipes.


And used all three at one point or another.

Ah, Mad Jack. One of history's amusing anachronims. We might never see his like again, and that would be a pity.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #101 on: June 13, 2018, 07:15:09 AM »
The cavalry sword, aka the saber, is fundamentally different from the infantry sword. Yet at first superficial  glance they might seem fairly similar.

Cavalry is as old as the first day a human managed to climb on top of a horse and hang on. The advantages against a man on foot are so many and so obvious. But owning a horse of war with all its gear and need for training has always been an expensive thing, and so history knows cavalry as the playground of young nobles capable of paying for they own toys. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and most other older cultures have not differed from this and the vast majorities of their armies marched on their own two feet. This pattern hardly ever changed up to the Napoleonic wars. One important exception were the horse people above all horse people, the Mongols. In a world of large distances and good breeding grounds for horses, this near Asian people put their entire armies on horseback regardless of what weapons they were fielding; each man had a lance, a sword and a bow and was expected to master them all from horseback. Although their empire eventually fractured and ended after conquering much of the known world, their military tactics and tools strongly affected the centuries to come.



This is a Hungarian saber. Hungary is important in cavalry history; they were once a part of the old empire and the rather flat country is eminently suited for cavalry warfare and horse breeding. Their hussars, light cavalry, had become very popular in Europe by the start of the Napoleonic wars and all major countries had some of them. While the rest of the world got off their horses and got down to killing by bullet, Eastern Europe stayed in the saddle and kept large cavalry formations. As late as World War Two the cossack's lance and saber were still the source of nightmares for spread out infantry on the Eastern Front.

Meanwhile the heavy cavalry concept had had centuries to get established, and was already dividing into various disciplines. Lancers were essentially the knight, heavily armored but working in formations, and created for doing massive damage against infantry. Polish lancers with their huge wing structures may have been one of the most impressive sights on a battlefield ever. Their armor was and their horses were however not impervious to musket and cannon fire, just like their predecessors the knight, and as bullets became deadlier the knights were doomed to become obsolete. A lighter variation, the light lancers who had little if any armor but much greater speed, hung around to at least the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Both lancers and hussars have something else but the horse and aristocracy in common. The speed and the nimbleness of their riding greatly favors the light, small body over the big strong one, ironically not unlike modern day pilots.

A more modern form of cavalry was the dragoon. These were essentially meant to be infantry on horseback, still capable of engaging the enemy with their sabers on horseback but also equipped with muskets that made them capable of holding their own on the ground. The ground role would favor a bigger and stronger trooper than the lithe hussar, and a slower one. This meant that a dragoon sword would be heavier and stronger too.

In addition to branching out into various specializations, there was also something else happening. By the late 18th century the wars had gotten so large, and the empires so wide, that merely offering young nobles a chance to win glory on horseback was no longer enough to fill the ranks. Regiments were finally being set up from enlisted commoners, both in England and France. These tended not to have the same horseback combat training as the nobles even though they were good riders otherwise and saw less war, but the concept was definitely explored.

All the above is just information you need to see that there were need for different types of cavalry swords. They all differ from the infantry sword in being very much a chopping and slashing weapon; the long curved blade with its heavy tip and frequently also curved grip is ideal for a downward and sideways strike. The lighter cavalry would however favor a light blade for lightning movement while the slower dragoon needed to make every strike a lethal one.



The tip was a different issue, and was the source of much discussion in the various armies. The above is a M1796 British Light Cavalry Officer sword. Those military leaders who held lancers in favor like the utterly deadliness of a stab propelled by all the weight and speed of a horse. A lance is made for this and it truly is lethal. A sword's stab delivered in the same manner isn't far behind. But on the battlefield, an infantry soldier rarely stands alone and that stab could easily get caught in the enemy corpse, unhanding the rider of his primary weapon and putting him at the mercy of the fallen enemy's irate comrades. Far better to slash as it is less likely to leave the rider without a weapon. However, a rider can as easily be unhorsed, leaving the trooper on the ground facing enemies with swords and bayonets - and that is where a stab is very useful. Over time the various models merged into a fits-all-needs-somewhat combination as the relevance waned.



As with the infantry sword, the last hurrahs of the saber - Eastern Europe excepted - were the Crimean War and the American Civil War. US Light Cavalry sabers above  They were also the last hurrahs of cavalry in general. After this they have been retained for ceremonial use by many armies but as a weapon they are thoroughly obsolete.



There are many very elegant saber models; they were the domain of the noble and rich after all. Possible the last cavalry saber to have been issued to a major power is the M1913 which was designed by General Patton. Fittingly it looks a lot more like an infantry sword than a saber.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #102 on: June 14, 2018, 10:43:37 AM »


Just a little nibble today. Some of my fellow Elliquiyers are old enough to remember when folding knifes of every type and size required a finger nail to open. The locks were pretty solid too. Some times so much force would be required that it was wiser to go look for a coin or a spoon to open the knife with instead.



These days another lock type seems to be predominantly in use. In stead of a finger nail groove in the middle section of the blade there is now a stud really close to the hinge. And the locking spring seem to be considerably weaker.

The difference means that you no longer need two hands to open a folding blade, or close it. And the speed of opening it is considerably faster.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #103 on: June 15, 2018, 11:45:01 AM »
Another little bit of modern feature on folding knives. Remember the definition of feature? If the customers like it it was never a bug.



Folding knife clips was probably not seen before the 1980 or 1990s. It functions much like a pen clip except few of us would consider carrying a folder in a chest pocket. Instead it is supposed to be clipped to a pants pocket so we can grab it in a hurry. Which works while you are standing, but the odds of it slipping out of your pocket when you sit down increase a lot.



And in my opinion these clip things are ugly as fuck. It absolutely ruins the sleek lines. And while you normally can dismount this 'feature' with the right tool the grip will already have been built for it so the absence become obvious in turn.




Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #104 on: June 16, 2018, 07:34:11 AM »
One of the more specialized knife blade shapes is the knife preferred for filleting fish. Fish meat is juicy and tender and a rough, not-too-sharp knife can easily squish it. A boat fisher, or a cook, will have one of these. For the fisher who walks from lake to lake it is a question of carrying the extra weight and volume in addition to an all round knife, because the filleting knife is useless for everything else.



Fishing knives are among those blades where a saw tooth back can justified. Bones in bigger fish, especially the neck, can be tough to cut with a delicate blade alone.


Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #105 on: June 16, 2018, 11:37:46 AM »
And here I thought the back of a fishing blade was supposed to be a scaler.



Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #106 on: June 16, 2018, 12:26:30 PM »
must... not... make... joke... about... goldfish... Damn.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #107 on: June 16, 2018, 01:07:09 PM »
I was going to say something about 'if it's smaller than that, you should throw it back...'  I was looking for a good picture of the nubby sawteeth.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #108 on: June 16, 2018, 01:28:58 PM »
I was going to say something about 'if it's smaller than that, you should throw it back...'  I was looking for a good picture of the nubby sawteeth.

Like this?


Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #109 on: June 17, 2018, 06:56:07 AM »
In honor of Oniya, this post will cover the classic Swiss Army Knife. One of the most iconic folding knives of all time and perhaps the true father of today's modern multitools.



Folding knives may be as old as the invention of iron. Adding an extra blade would have been more fiddly, and probably seemed a bit pointless - why would you need two blades when you already had one? Never mind three? Various knife makers gave it shot none the less, especially when the new steel types allowed for thinner blades, but nothing really was a market winner. Not until the Swiss Army, known for really independent thinking, offered the market a contract for a pocket knife for its soldiers. They were hardly the first to realize you can't use a long bayonet for making lunch, but someone was being clever. The army wanted a knife, but they also wanted a screwdriver included to be a take-down tool for the soldier's rifle. This was a success, the knife found a place on the civilian market as well as the military, and more functions were added.



The two most famous Swiss brands were Wenger and Victorinox. Eventually Wenger was bought up by Victorinox. There are however a number of anonymous copycat companies that makes cheap versions with the same red plate grips, similar blade configurations and even have a shield mark. The shield mark is never exactly the same though; copycatters may be ubiqutuos but it they are not stupid. The Swiss army may not scare many but who dares challenge an army of Swiss lawyers? Genuine army knives have green plates and carry the shield logo of the Swiss Army, and yes they are still made by Victorinox.



The quality of the genuine Swiss ones has been astounding. I had one of their smallest knives in my pocket when I was in the army 30 years ago and it looks like irt was bough yesterday; no rust, no color fading, it's unmarked by time. The steel in the blades is very thin, sharp, and more like a spring. It will bend a long way sideways before it snaps. Also the other tools are of high quality; the screwdrivers are tools that can see a lot of abuse but still hold up well compared with at least cheap standard tools.

Swiss Army knives have been used everywhere. And I mean everywhere; reportedly including in the Space Shuttle on space flights.



Ah yes. The screwdrivers are an example of the some times bewildering array of tools these knives come with. The inbuilt layering principle allows for adding tools until it gets too heavy to lift.
Can- and bottle openers make sense. But...
- wine cork screw
- magnifying glass
- scissors
- flat screw driver
- philips screw driver
- spoon
- miniature crossbow (how SWISS!)
- awl
- saw (thanks Oniya)
- metering stick (thanks Oniya)
- flashlight
- nail file
- butane lighter
- hoof cleaner
- altimeter
- barometer
- clock (again, how SWISS!)
- USB stick
- and my personal whacky favorite, an actual plastic toothpick.

The list just goes on and on. By this day there must be a hundred different tools available between the main and more obscure manufacturers of similar knives, and I am not even including the next generation of multitools which Leatherman started. Victorinox is still in business and offering both discretely updated classics and newfangled versions. You are not a knife guy unless you have at least one of them.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #110 on: June 17, 2018, 11:32:12 AM »
Just to be clear, the image I posted is the combination hook-remover (the notch at the end), fish scaler, and inch-ruler.  The metric ruler was on another blade, as I recall (or possibly on the back side).  Also, the little hook-thing at the bottom of the third image above (next to the corkscrew) is great if you've got a dome-tent cover that needs just a little more stretch to get it to the end of the spring-rod.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #111 on: June 17, 2018, 12:00:27 PM »
Just to be clear, the image I posted is the combination hook-remover (the notch at the end), fish scaler, and inch-ruler.  The metric ruler was on another blade, as I recall (or possibly on the back side).  Also, the little hook-thing at the bottom of the third image above (next to the corkscrew) is great if you've got a dome-tent cover that needs just a little more stretch to get it to the end of the spring-rod.

Ah. I will have to track down an instruction booklet. Thank you.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #112 on: June 19, 2018, 07:32:52 AM »
Today, another look at a weird WW2-vintage bayonet. England had a long history with long heavy bayonets up to then; their standard blade from the 19th century Afghanistan wars to 1939 could easily be mistaken for a small sword. But 1939 started a war of naval blockade, a vast expansion of military forces and shortages of steel. The old sword bayonet, considered increasingly obsolete against enemies with casual access to automatic weapons, went out of production and in came possibly the ugliest manufactured bayonet known to man - the pigsticker. Number 4.



This spike, carried in a steel pipe placed in a short web belt frog, could be affixed to the rifle with the same connection and in the same manner as the old bayonet. It was however just a third of the length of the old one, and could not cut at all. It was even meant for the Sten gun, which was a match not made in aesthetic heaven.

The soldiers were unhappy about this new implement too. Couldn't use it as a knife, and so short that if you DID manage to shove it in you'd be shoving the rifle barrel into the clothes of the enemy too. The following version, soon after the war had ended, did away with the entire spike and replaced it with first a blade shaped attachment and later a more conventional bayonet with handle.



Five million pigstickers were made. They are cheaply and easily available on ebay for collectors. But finding any of these spikes in use on period pictures is hard. The one above shows both the pigsticker and the previous sword bayonet. It's not hard to see why the oldtimer was preferred.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 07:34:10 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #113 on: June 20, 2018, 06:20:54 AM »
Everything is a weapon. And everything can be made into a weapon. Today's post is somewhere behind fiendishly clever and an impractical gadget. Behold the coin knife.











Several models of this type are readily available on the market. Some of them even have more than one function.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #114 on: June 20, 2018, 09:49:56 AM »
I think the coin 'multitool' second from the bottom amuses me most.  I'm no coin collector, but seeing 'United States of America' on a coin with a date of '1775'  would make me take a closer look.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #115 on: June 20, 2018, 09:54:34 AM »
I think the coin 'multitool' second from the bottom amuses me most.  I'm no coin collector, but seeing 'United States of America' on a coin with a date of '1775'  would make me take a closer look.

*sniggers* Indeed. I suspect that if the coin looked exactly right it would officially be forgery.

What beats me is why no one simply makes a coin from quality steel and just sharpens the edge on one side. But I may just have not stumbled over a sample of that yet.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #116 on: June 20, 2018, 10:12:38 AM »
*sniggers* Indeed. I suspect that if the coin looked exactly right it would officially be forgery.

There's 'not quite right' (the '88 half dollar looks like it could have been manufactured out of a real coin - even the Mexican and Australian coins would be passable if you didn't notice the hinge-pins) and there's 'Not even close'.  I really can't resolve the central image on that piece to anything other than a Japanese school-girl outfit.



What beats me is why no one simply makes a coin from quality steel and just sharpens the edge on one side. But I may just have not stumbled over a sample of that yet.

Probably because having that in your pocket would be an invitation to either a sliced pocket or sliced fingers.  There are very few ways to 'sheathe' a circle, and the half-dollar in the bottom picture is likely as close as you'll get. 

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #117 on: June 20, 2018, 10:19:51 AM »
Japanese school-girl outfit.

Now I see it too. Strange. But what's up with the Giger-like Alien fetus on top?

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #118 on: June 20, 2018, 11:28:18 AM »
I was passing that off as one of those looped banners, possibly with a motto on it.  Of course, just below it, there appears to be a wool stocking cap on the point of the sword.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #119 on: June 20, 2018, 11:33:34 AM »
I was passing that off as one of those looped banners, possibly with a motto on it.  Of course, just below it, there appears to be a wool stocking cap on the point of the sword.

The cap is the French type Marie one, I assume? Maybe I am messing up the name. Symbol of French Revolution?

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #120 on: June 20, 2018, 11:41:46 AM »
Phrygian cap - that makes its inclusion at least rational on a supposed bit of military memorabilia.  And a few Wiki-jumps from that, I find a line-drawing of that coin that actually makes sense (even down to the 'school uniform'):



Quote
The Army Seal was used originally during the American Revolution to authenticate documents. It displayed the designation "War Office", which was synonymous with Headquarters of the Army, and the Roman date MDCCLXXVIII (1778) the first time it was used. It remained unchanged until 1947, when the War Office banner was replaced with "Department of the Army" and the date was changed to 1775, the year in which the Army was established.

Closer look.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #121 on: June 21, 2018, 02:47:12 AM »
Saws are one of the lesser mentioned blade types, unless they are part of a knife or sword. But they are a worthy category in themselves even if they do not classify as weapons (zombie movies excepted).



Today's saw is straddling the outdoors and survival categories. The wire saw is an ingenious little tool that combines a wire - or chain - with sawing teeth. The length of the wire and the size of the teeth decides its potential efficiency but with time and determination you can saw through a branch or a bamboo-sized trunk. Some of them have loops or rings you ca use for a makeshift bow saw. There are also versions with more substantial grips.



The prices for these saws goes from a couple of dollars to, well, a lot more. You probably get what you pay for; even the more expensive of these are unlikely to hold up for long when in actual use; the teeth will wear out or the wire snap. On the bright side they weigh next to nothing and take practically no space.



Here in Norway I have yet to see such a saw in actual use; our trees tend to be full of sap and I imagine these wires will not deal well with that. But I think I have seen a sample in a sports store here and might buy one. If I do I'll write a review of it.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #122 on: June 22, 2018, 10:48:07 AM »
Just as a corollary I am looking at a more practical type of backpacking saw today: the folding saw. I have brought variations of this tool on outdoors trips all my life, but particularly in winter on skiing trips. This is because gathering firewood in three feet high snow tend to involve dead standing trees which, to make an effective fireplace, need to be cut into suitably sized logs. That can be done with an axe but it is more cumbersome when you can't really place the wood on hard ground because it, too, is down there in the snow somewhere.





These are typical versions of what is for sale now; materials and lock varies, and at best the price is reflected in the sawing blade quality. I've gotten the job done with the cheap alternatives, but then again I haven't been building any structures such as cabins or towers.





If you ARE going to actually build something then these more substantial alternatives could be worth considering. Bow saws, even in folder versions, allows for putting more weight on the blade as well as a more stable cut. There is also another advantage; some of these allow for exchanging the blade with another type. Not that I see the point in bringing a spare unless you are wintering over, but this way you can bring a wood saw and a bone saw too at little extra weight cost.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2018, 10:49:27 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #123 on: June 23, 2018, 05:59:36 AM »
More obscure stuff: today, finger ring weapons! I'd say blades but there are several main categories; the blade type, the spike type and the knuckle duster. They tend to be banned but it varies between countries. Most of them are concealed by having the edge or spike turn inward until the moment of use.


Bagh Nakh (tiger claw); indian weapon.


"Apache" here refers to the 19th century gangs of criminals.

I'm not happy to call this a classic weapon but these things do have a history.









Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #124 on: June 23, 2018, 10:21:37 AM »
I had something like the third from the bottom - best thing for breaking down cardboard boxes.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #125 on: June 24, 2018, 11:01:25 AM »

One of the most known weapons from Japans martial culture is the shuriken, or throwing star. Technically the shuriken concept covers a range of throwing weapons but the star shape is the best known today - many of us with casual access to metal working tools have made a few! But they are readily available for purchase, provided that you live in a country or state where they are legal.



The key features of a classic shuriken is the flat body, the sharpened steel tips and the hole in the middle. A throwing star will function without the hole but it gets harder to keep in your clothes without a bulky pouch.

The actual shape, as in number of tips and various fancy details, does not really matter as long as the steel is precisely evened out along the blade. As with any throwing weapon the precision comes down to balance and weight.



Contrary to what ninja and wuxia movies claim, a shuriken is not really a killing weapon and was not designed to be one (onless you wield it like a knife and actually stabs with it). Like a Roman Legionaire's throwing spear or a sikh's chakram the shuriken is used to distract the enemy and get off balance for a few seconds, which might be enough to close in on him with your main weapon and do the real job.



As with all martial arts there's no end to what people have come up with of creative use for what was once a reshaped farming tool. A shuriken can be used as a foot caltrop, or as a knife, or be poisoned.

Offline Liam Dale

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #126 on: June 24, 2018, 11:43:06 AM »
Everything is a weapon. And everything can be made into a weapon. Today's post is somewhere behind fiendishly clever and an impractical gadget. Behold the coin knife.











Several models of this type are readily available on the market. Some of them even have more than one function.
Oh, I'm in love with these... Never seen them before!

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #127 on: June 25, 2018, 11:04:09 AM »
In the military world things go in and out of fashion and style more than you would think. Weapons, gear, uniforms - if a successful nation has something, it gets copied. Hence why China made a copy of the M16 rifle, for instance. In the category of military bayonets there is a similar pattern. One such style were the Yataghan bayonets. They were first put into use by France in 1840, and over the next 60 years became copied by many other countries including USA and Japan.



The Yataghan is said to originate with a North African tribe which had a sword of similar fashion. And this is possibly the bayonet style that more than any mimic an actual sword, with its very long blade and proper grip. The key feature is the wave-like blade that would not be out of place on a saber.



I own one Norwegian bayonet of this type and it is easily mistaken for a sword; I have several 'normal' swords of the same length and solid design. It is easily a better weapon than a grenadier saber.

Online Oniya

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #128 on: June 25, 2018, 11:07:40 AM »
I'm having trouble seeing how that would get mounted onto a rifle?

Offline Thorne

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #129 on: June 25, 2018, 11:18:53 AM »
A careful look at the upper guard (the lower image shows it better) shows it has a hole in it where I am assuming you poke the end of the rifle through. Not sure how one secures the blade so it doesn't fall off in use, but I get the impression that it isn't all that complicated.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #130 on: June 25, 2018, 11:23:40 AM »
I'm having trouble seeing how that would get mounted onto a rifle?

The upper end of the crossguard has a hole big enough to push a barrel tip through. In the pommel is a lock that fits on a latch right below the barrel. It varies from rifle to rifle though; some would have the bayonet side or even top mounted. Hole-and-lock is probably the most normal configuration from 18th to 19th century.



I have some trouble finding a good picture of this bayonet mounted on a rifle. Probably because the sheer length and narrowness of the combination makes for a bad online picture.



What eventually killed the Yataghan was probably the new bolt rifles. The infantry man no longer fired his shot and charged with lifted bayonet, but simply reloaded. Also the machine guns were entering the battle field, which made the old bayonet charge rather more suicidal - and remember, in some wars the enemy would simply give up when charged by a unit of superior size. With sustainable rifle and mg fire the need to carry along a huge lump of heavy expensive steel was reduced and smaller and lighter designs took its place.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2018, 11:29:01 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #131 on: June 27, 2018, 05:38:14 AM »
Here is a weapon and tool that I bet everyone has heard about but few have actually touched. It was often popular in crime stories - and in actual crime - and has the distinction of being one of very few household items used frequently in murder. Today we are looking at the ice pick.



Before the advent of freezers and refrigerators, many homes relied on primitive means to keep things cold. One such way was to bring home a big block of fresh water ice by sled. Wrapped in straw or other insulating material and kept in a box in the cellar, this was both a storage place for fresh goods and a source for delicious ice for all kinds of drinks and icecream. (Incidentally, this is still a practice among Mongolian nomads.) In order to chip out a nice suitable piece, and hack that piece into smaller splinters, a sharp steel stick came in very handy.



An ice pick looks very similiar to another common tool, the awl. But whereas the awl is normally used by being hand pushed into material like wood or leather with millimeter precision and not much force, the ice pick is literally made for violence. The steel pick is considerably longer too. The similarity to the French Nail is obvious, but this is rather sharper and slimmer making it far more lethal.



Among known murders done by ice pick is the liquidation of Soviet politician Leon Trotsky, but the ice pick is also a familiar mafia weapon.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #132 on: June 28, 2018, 06:56:34 AM »


As civilian tools can be weaponized, so can military tools. One somewhat unlikely proof of this is the e-tool, aka entrenchment tool, aka personal field shovel. These mundane work tools were first issued near the end of the 19th century. Up till then full sized shovels had been a part of the general equipment train of any military unit and handed out to work parties as need. But warfare was getting more dangerous as rifle fire was getting not only much more precise but also disturbingly faster and standing bravely on the battlefield having a smoke and mocking the enemy was getting positively lethal. At the same time warfare was expanding in size, the equipment trains were just getting bigger and more bogged down on roads which had not expanded since Napoleon used them and ever bigger artillery pieces were testing the same roads - when they were not shooting them to pieces. Something had to be done. At first, shovels - still full size - were issued to the soldiers, but only 1 in 4 or even 1 in 8 got one. The others were dragging along heavy cooking implements and other camp equipment of the past. In some countries, soldiers were becoming mules.

Russia and Germany were among the first countries trying a new approach, giving every soldier a small but strong shovel each. Now every soldier could help with the big digging jobs, and get himself out of sight too before enemy bullets and artillery homed in on him. The usefulness of this was soon tested. Russia was embarking on a vicious war with a Japan that had started to arm its forces with machineguns. Germany had issued its own spade after the Franco-German war so the first major conflict their was tested in was World War One. Here, the shovel would not only prove to be the perfect digging tool but also a combat weapon.



In the trenches, which were shot to pieces and so narrow that a man could barely walk straight, the unwieldy rifles with their long bayonets were coming up short against weapons better suited from close combat: pistols, revolvers, knives, clubs, spikes - and shovels. Germans soon found that their sturdy one piece e-tools were highly suitable for having their edges sharpened, which essentially made them the hand axe of their era. Russians on their side of the conflict were quick to do the same. England had chosen a different type of e-tool, a pick with a loose handle, but soldiers were also sharpening this although this seem to have been less frequently done. France were still hanging on to the concept of work party shovels and French soldiers had to find other improvisations. USA were coming in late in the conflict but their spades were also suitable for the job.



The e-tool seemed to have found its shape but it was not perfect. Anyone running around with the old type in the back of their belt will know the problem; shovel handles have a fantastic way to find the inside of your knee when you are running. Germany had been looking into this and right before WW2 they had come up with a new solution; a collapsible or folding shovel. This reduced the total length of the shovel with almost a foot, yet the clever screw lock retained all the necessary strength - and even made it possible to turn the shovel into a 90 degree pickaxe. The new design was given to all new forces and was an instant success. So much that USA immediately copied it as well and issued a near identical version to their own forces. During the war, Germany and Russia would still be sharpening their e-tools for bloody close combat warfare and I can only assume that the same happened in the Pacific warfare.



In modern times, the e-tool of the western world has been folded yet again and now fits into a pouch on the belt. It is still a handy digging device but the short total length and the off-center weight makes it an awkward weapon. Russia has chosen to hang on to a field spade that differs little from the 19th century one, and train their special forces to use it in combat still.


It is certainly one way to faster a martial spirit.

There are also civilian versions, and some obscure or experimental military versions which typically add more functions of varying usefulness: saws, hammers, knives, axes, picks.

I keep one of those neat triple folders in my car for emergencies. It's on the heavy side for carrying around needlessly though.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 07:02:44 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Blade Lore
« Reply #133 on: June 29, 2018, 05:20:07 AM »
The folding knife is a derivative of the classic rigid blade knife, not a development. This means that although the folder takes the knife concept and adds to it, it isn't necessarily better - just more suitable for certain functions and purposes, like being kept in a pocket. The Swiss Army knife is again a derivative of the folding knife. So now I have a problem of definitions. Is the multi-tool folder primarily a child of the knife, the folding knife or the Swiss Army knife - or something entirely different?



The original Leatherman multi-tool, now much copied, was barely intended as a knife. Primarily it is a tool kit considerably stronger and bigger than the Swiss Army Knife, intended as an everyday tool for many types of workers. After 30 years on the market functions have been developed and improved.



The tong is the main tool in the kit, and to the best of my knowledge had not been available in anything but tiny size in folders up to then. The rest of the tools can be found in many other multifolders, but the Leatherman offers them in bigger sizes.



The full size Leatherman is usually carried in a belt pouch as it is a big slab of metal, but there are smaller versions that will fit in a pocket. Copies can be found at high and low prices, and the quality tends to reflect this. The original brand alone is one of the most sold multitools ever. One thing you will get only with the original is the guarantee; Leatherman repairs or replaces anything that breaks (I don't know if there is a fee).

A multitool kit of this size is a great resource in an emergency. I would still prefer a conventional tool kit. While everything in the set works, most of the tools are by necessity placed where they fit rather than for optimal handling.