Heavy reenactment swords

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Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Dave B » 24 Jun 2010 09:10

Lyceum wrote: It's cool that re-enactors are moving onto more sensible weapons, the ones I deal with it have arming swords ("broad sword" or "barbarian swords" apparently. :lol: ) that outweigh my Hanwei. :lol:


Now there's an interesting subject. I was handling some origional swords at the reserve collection handling session at SWASH, and I was surprised how heavy one arming sword was The relevant curator is quite convinced that its a 'real' sword, not a processional. Since then I've been looking more carefully at swords in museums and there seems to be quite a variety.

Having said that Reenactors often use heavyish swords because they need a wide tip.
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Re: Knight shop plastic sword breaks

Postby Paul B » 24 Jun 2010 09:18

and a wide edge.

adding 2mm to an edge thickness can easily double the weight of a sword. Some makers hollow grind their re-enactment swords to offset this.
Still, there are still a lot of re-enactment swordsmen who see indestructability as more desirable than acurate weight and handling. Cant say I blame them, considering the use they are put to. Hanwei dont last 5 mins on the re-enactment field, whereas lancaster armouries sell bucket loads of railway sleepers with hilts
.... or I could be completely wrong.

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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Phil C » 24 Jun 2010 10:41

Heavy blades are also an old convention born of circumstance, rather than reality.

3mm edge is simply 5mm rounded off- stock is sold in 5mm thicnesses, a quick kiss with an angle grinder and it is now "blunt"
Rounded tips match easily found coins (varying from an old 10p piece to a £1 coin)
EN45 is used cos that was most easily purchased
10mm bearings are used on speartips are used cos that's what Kim Siddorn had lying around in his garage 25 years ago
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby admin » 24 Jun 2010 10:41

Yep, quite simply, most reenactment swords are not swords. :)

However, it is certainly true that original swords vary hugely in weight and mass distribution. In the earlier days of the WMA/HEMA community there was a slight obsession with pushing the point that real swords are light, but quite simply they aren't always. Looking at 'normal' sized original longswords you can find weights ranging from 2lbs right the way up to 'reenactorish' 5lbs+. What is perhaps more useful is to talk about the most frequent range of weights, so for an 'average' longsword we're looking at 2.5-3.5lbs, rather than the average found on reenactment fields which is more like 3.5-4.5lbs. However, I have to say that reenactment swords, both in authenticity of design and in weight do seem to have got better in recent years, perhaps thanks to demands from HEMA.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Lyceum » 24 Jun 2010 10:53

Mayhaps, I don't know I'm far from an expert in any of these fields, despite knowing a few (and even messing about with a few) I must point out that I don't re-enact by the way.

I think that they're heavy for a variety of reasons: Safety (requiring big edges and points) Cheapness (It must be cheaper to make an SLO than to balance a blade etc) This weird obsession with meaty Barbarians/Knights swinging heavy crap. Maybe the relative difference in weight in comparison to Victorian foils when all this stuff started?

I don't know, I mean I didn't mind their blades over much, sure they were heavy and felt dead in my hand but thanks to proper technique and muscle mass I could still move it around a lot quicker than them, furthermore if you needed to kill someone with it a blunt blow to the skull is just as good as a cut. :lol:

I'm suprised what you say about the variety of long sword weights Matt, surely because we're talking about the same type of sword over a long period though? so manufacturing processes improved and so on? I know the blade was meant to fit the man (well Vadi says so) but that couldn't explain such a huge difference could it.

God a 4lb sword :S:S
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby admin » 24 Jun 2010 10:59

4lbs is not unusual at all. One of the most famous one-handed swords in the Wallace Collection weighs 3.5lbs.

I prefer longswords of about 3.5lbs. Don't like lighter ones.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Lyceum » 24 Jun 2010 11:03

Oh no I'm not questioning that, just suprised really as I always thought a relatively lighter sword would be preferable since after all it's still your body and your technique putting the force behind the edge, right?

I haven't tried any heavier ones, but I'd bet that I much prefer swords on the lighter side, I have the cheap Hanwei, it feels like air, sure I could use something heavier but meh.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby admin » 24 Jun 2010 12:10

There are all sorts of different advantages and disadvantages to heavier or lighter swords, and to swords with different points of balance. It depends totally on personal taste and on what you want to achieve with the sword. The sword you want for fighting other swordsmen unarmoured will often be very different to the sword you want to use in war in armour, or the sword you want to use on foot versus mounted, or against another armoured man versus lightly armoured troops with polearms etc.
The fact is, there are all sorts of swords, of all sorts of weights, stiffnesses, lengths, shapes etc because there are countless situations to use swords in, and countless different personal tastes.
It is patently obvious when looking at and handling original swords that some are optimised for one type of use, and others for a different use. Light or heavy is not better by itself.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Phil C » 24 Jun 2010 12:27

Then there is the opposite problem for later era reenactors-for some reason the blades are about the right weight size and weight and yet the hilts are often incedibly bulky, probably to make casting easier
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 24 Jun 2010 12:30

This is quite an interesting discussion. I enjoy both HEMA and re-enactment, as they are both enjoyable in different ways, and it is true that different weapons are required due to the different ways in which the weapons are used.

My preference for re-enactment combat is a slightly heavier sword for a few reasons. Durability as mentioned earlier is important, as is a strong rounded blade. Edge to edge blocking is very popular in re-enactment and other theatrical combat, and even if I try and perform my parries with the flat of my blade, my opponent's often block my edge with theirs, so a strong edge that can take repeated hammering is very important. An interesting other reason is that the weight of a heavy sword is actually of great help when fighting against spearmen: with a light sword, if a spearmen thrusts at me, I have to make more of an effort to parry and push the spear down towards the ground with my sword. If my sword is a little heavier then the natural momentum of the heavier blade pushes the spear towards the ground even as I parry, so in my experience on the re-enactment battlefield (much of which has been spent fighting against spearmen) I prefer a slightly heavier sword for the extra parrying capabilities against spear shafts. This is not something I have been able to find reference to in any of the books, manuals or manuscripts that I have read, although I have been looking to see if anyone mentions it anywhere, rather this is an observation from my own experience in the field.

For HEMA combat I prefer a lighter sword as long as it is still durable, although for practicing drills and suchlike I prefer my heavier re-enactment weapons. If I can perform my drills and exercises with a sword that weights half a kilogram more than the sword I would use in actual combat, then when it comes to the actual combat then my muscles are better built and developed thanks to the increased training weight.

The only weapon that I really dislike being heavy is a basket hilted sword. I find that if the blades for those weapons are overly heavy then it places too great a strain on my wrist for me to be comfortable with them. Unfortunately I have not had much experience with different Highland backswords and have not had a chance to handle a good quality sword of this style - does anyone know what the weight range was for these weapons?
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby admin » 24 Jun 2010 13:14

I have had the pleasure to handle quite a large number of 16th-18thC basket-hilted swords over the years, mostly at antique arms fairs such as the Park Lane Arms Fair (a great way to handle such swords - well worth the entrance fee!). Basically they, like many other types of sword, exhibit a great variety. There are big ones, small ones, heavy ones, light ones, stiff ones, floppy ones, thrusty ones, choppy ones... Seriously, I think I have seen just about every reasonable type of blade mounted on a basket-hilt. Even looking at the blades of a limited type, such as Venetian Schiavona, 'Mortuary' hilts or 18thC Highland basket-hilts, they have all sorts of blade on them. From practically a spadroon or rapier blade right the way up to things that look like executioner's swords. In Warwick Castle there is even an 18thC Scottish basket-hilt with a 16thC wavy 'flamberge' blade on it. :D
Overall, if we're talking about 17th-18thC British basket-hilts then in my experience they tend to weigh between 2 and 3lbs (usually nearer 2lbs) and have a point of balance between 3 and 6 inches from the guard. So very variable. And that is ignoring the extra long and heavy ones that seem clearly meant for regulation dragoons/cavalry.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 24 Jun 2010 13:52

Thanks for the information :-) I will really need to try to make it to some of these fairs at some point, they sound like they are very interesting experiences. Are there many held in Scotland, do you know, or are they mainly in England?
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby admin » 24 Jun 2010 13:58

I'm sure you have them up there. But to be honest I'm only really familiar with the South-East and London fairs. Park Lane is the highest quality one, attracting the most expensive dealers and auction houses like Christies. But the London Arms Fair (held near Earl's Court) is generally bigger. Neither are even half the size that they used to be 10 years ago though, for various economic reasons.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Peter S » 24 Jun 2010 20:05

I think the balance is at least as serious an issue as the weight alone. Some reenactors I know want a very, very hilt heavy sword so their sport-fencing derived technique will be quicker. It makes a lot more difference to me than how heavy the whole thing is.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Phil C » 24 Jun 2010 22:25

Whereas I only ever carry sharps at reenactments these days- mainly made to my spec from composite parts so they handle nicely.
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Re: Heavy reenactment swords

Postby Dave B » 25 Jun 2010 11:27

admin wrote:It is patently obvious when looking at and handling original swords that some are optimised for one type of use, and others for a different use. Light or heavy is not better by itself.


Absolutely. If there was only one 'ideal' then there would only be one type of sword at a given point in history. variations in use mean that there are many types and subtypes of sword. If you want to get a feel for this the armouries are very accomodating of visitors to the reserve collection. they have thousands of different swords, often dozens of a given type together. you can make an appointment and go in, put on a pair of cotton gloves and pick them up (swishing is, sadly, discouraged). the fantastic thing was the late smallsword - so much lighter than expected that It seemed to jump up of the desk when I picked it up.
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