Smallsword options?

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Smallsword options?

Postby Stevie T » 23 Oct 2012 01:12

I've been looking to expand DT's repertoire and smallsword has taken my fancy, though I'm not sure which source I'm going to go with yet.

The main problem I've had is finding a sparring safe simulator that I'm happy with. Some sort of modern foil will be okay as a group loaner weapon, but knowing my lot they wont like that and will want something that looks the part. I've searched around on the web but haven't seen much that I like, fugly steel hilts and none of them appear to be that cheap.

So, I contact a friend I met at Fechtschule York who is into HEMA and produces "re-enactment" stuff. It turns out he has a 1714 original small sword he could take a mold from and is willing to produce a hilt without the blade. I only asked for the hilt as I'm thinking of using an Epee blade for ease and standardisation.

He's willing to do a 'fresh out of the mold' version to make it cheaper for those willing to put a little effort in to keep costs down, as well as doing the full hilt with all the bells, wire wrapped or sharkskin etc, for those who'd prefer a more professional finish and are willing to spend a little extra on the skills of a craftsman. He's probably looking at £130-150 (depending on specs) for the fully finished version if there are enough people interested.

So, my questions are;

Who'd be interested in buying a smallsword hilt?

and

What off the shelf blade would be best suited to doing smallsword training and sparring?

Here's a pic of the sword that the hilt would be copied from -

Image
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Stevie T » 23 Oct 2012 01:28

This is the man in question's website

http://www.elmslie.co.uk/gallery.php
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby J G Elmslie » 23 Oct 2012 04:26

Guilty as charged, m'lud.

It should'nt be excessively difficult to make a replica based directly off the original (I've got another smallsword of slightly later date with a chunkier guard to hand that I can also take moulds from if prototyping of the smallsword were to find it uncomfortably small for modern gloves etc), without needing to get access to museums, so smallswords are pretty easy to do. Easier than getting 13th C falchions or 15th C messer, certainly - I dont have one of them lying around my house. (alas.)

design-wise, it is'nt even too difficult to modify the components to fit a modern epee blade... famous last words. I'd like to make sure on the length of blade tangs and similar dimensions beofre saying that for certain, of course - knowing my luck, I'll discover the standard blade tangs are 5mm too short or something fustrating like that. I'm afraid modern fencing blades arent a product I'm particlarly familliar with, so I'll have to pick one up to know exactly what's possible design-wise and how much adaption is needed. the big worry will be ensuring that the knuckle bow, which seats into a recess in the pommel, does the same on a screw-fixed pommel. I think I can come up with a solution to that one though.


the sticking point is of course the cost - and the challenge of making them economical to the customers. I can easily make them for anything from £300, up to whatever a customer would/could be willing to pay, for exactly what that customers' desires might be - be that inlaid detailings, precious metals, chasing, engraving, blade bluings, you name it. That's exactly the same service as I could do for a replica 15th C longsword, 16th complex-hilted sword, or a 9th C viking hilt.
(and I now have mental images of the sort of silver wire inlay I can do on viking hilts, on a smallsword. my god that'd be insane.)

But, I'm under no illusions, I know that very few people are going to want to buy stuff for HEMA use at that price. As with most craftsmen making things, I'm acutely aware that I have to charge a fee that leaves me in envy of Macdonalds burger-flippers' rates per hour, because most customers simply arent willing to pay the price that such work actually should be charged at, not least when there's craftsmen in places like poland and the czech republic who have superb talents, and far lower living costs than here, who will always be able to undercut me. I put forward plans for some feders at the start of the year, but it quickly became apparent that when my production costs alone would come close to the price of a regenyei or ensifer feder, while the feedback I was hearing was things like "If its under £180, I'd get one", and I know the blade production, heat-treatment and hilt castings would cost me £140 even if they're bulk orders, before I've even started on polishing the hilt parts, creating grips, making the parts fit perfectly, etc etc, well... there's no way I could economically compete with the eastern european craftsmen for the sort of money the HEMA community is willing to spend on a weapon.

Most of the stuff I've been working on this last year (when I've not been doing historical consultancy to the videogame industry) has been for living history types; jousters or the likes, where the first criteria is absolute accuracy, not what the price is, and slowly build a reputation for absolute quality and accuracy, to compete with the craftsmen like Peter Johnsson, Patrick Barta, Fabrice, etc, rather than for churning out stuff that's "ok", like armourclass or the likes.

Hence the suggestion while discussing this with Steve earlier - my cost is in terms of the time put into each one, making those chunks of metal go from fresh castings, to perfectly finished swordhilts. The raw material costs of each hilt are fairly minor when done in nice bulk batches - simple law of economics there - and I can cut the material costs right down when compared to a one-off. So, what I'm thinking is effectively a kit for a "build-yourself" 18th C smallsword: castings of a shell guard and quillon set, pre-fettled to ensure a close fit together, a pommel, pre-tapped for a modern standard M6 screwthread, and the wooden core of the hilt, pre-drilled, with a reel of wire, and a guide to how to do an 18th C style spiral-bound wire wrapping the hilt.

I'll likely offer a rayskin variant for those who'd like to get thier grips fishy, and a pre-made wire-bound hilt too, for those truly terrified of borking that up. so people can get one to suit.

Then its down to the customer to enjoy the wonderful hours of work polishing away with a bench polisher if they have one, a dremel, as an alternative tool, or for those on even tighter budgets, elbow grease and ever-finer grades of emery paper, to turn the dull metal into the gleaming hilt of an early 18th C smallsword


Steve's original query was for castings in brass, which is a material I'm rather wary of - not least as its mostly associated with shitty "toledo" knock-off swords and the likes, and not a material I've particularly used. The original is gilded bronze (The gilding sadly much worn on the exposed parts of the hilt.), and while I assume few people are deranged enough to go for gilded replicas, most at least want a decent looking finish, so I'd be inclined to have castings done in bronze, like the original. Brass, to my eye looks cheap and nasty, plus is weaker. So I'd prefer bronze if possible, since I dont want to be selling stuff that breaks easily, as I'm sure you'll all understand. In theory, I could modify the pommel a tiny bit to compensate for the difference in density, and do steel as well, but really only if there's enough demand to ensure I'm able to do large casting batches of both. I cant get some of a batch cast in steel, and the rest in bronze, after all - so it would have to be large enough batches of one or the other to ensure the bulk savings.

Prices are very much a guesstimate just now, knowing what it costs to have the sort of stuff I'm normally making done. but I think that if I'm able to get interest from about a dozen people at a time, then a raw casting set and the parts is easily viable in the £130-150 ballpark, and ensures that I'm not making a loss on them and the time it takes to produce master moulds from the original (such moulds will have to be cleaned up with quite a lot of work here, since, obviously, I'm not going to destroy a 300-year old sword by disassembling it, just to get easier moulds from it!).


Hopefully that's given an insight from my point of view, and the sort of criteria I'd need to make it viable.
J.G. Elmslie, cutler and manufacturer of replica arms: http://www.elmslie.co.uk
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Phil C » 23 Oct 2012 08:47

Jacob's Armoury are also doing a similar deal at the moment- http://www.facebook.com/JacobsArmory

In the menatime the simplest and easiest smallsword simulator is a foil hit with ambdiextrous grip and 32" V blade from Leon Paul. They stand up well to the major styles of smallsword play, arrive quickly and are cheap. They also stand up well to play against broadswords, halfpike, spadroon &c. without wincing at the the potential breakage.

As for treatises there's a huge range but I'd go for Girard since he summarises all of them nicely into one cohesive system, as well as giving summaries of variations, techniques against other weapons and details not only salle play but also play for the rencontre, as well as providing a nice philosphical basis for his system. I just happen to have translated it recently and it can be ordered from the link in my signature ;-)
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby The Salmon Lord » 23 Oct 2012 09:03

Phil C wrote:Jacob's Armoury are also doing a similar deal at the moment- http://www.facebook.com/JacobsArmory

In the menatime the simplest and easiest smallsword simulator is a foil hit with ambdiextrous grip and 32" V blade from Leon Paul. They stand up well to the major styles of smallsword play, arrive quickly and are cheap. They also stand up well to play against broadswords, halfpike, spadroon &c. without wincing at the the potential breakage.

As for treatises there's a huge range but I'd go for Girard since he summarises all of them nicely into one cohesive system, as well as giving summaries of variations, techniques against other weapons and details not only salle play but also play for the rencontre, as well as providing a nice philosphical basis for his system. I just happen to have translated it recently and it can be ordered from the link in my signature ;-)


The next step up is to take a hilt from a Barnett Spadroon, throw away the ghastly blade and put a size 2 Leon Paul V steam epee blade onto it.

In fact i'd always using the Leon Paul steam epee blade. Its very good for training and takes a lot of abuse. Dont use foil blades. They suck.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Dave B » 23 Oct 2012 10:03

Very interested by this.

J G Elmslie wrote:design-wise, it is'nt even too difficult to modify the components to fit a modern epee blade... famous last words. I'd like to make sure on the length of blade tangs and similar dimensions beofre saying that for certain, of course - knowing my luck, I'll discover the standard blade tangs are 5mm too short or something fustrating like that.


Thats easy. I can measure and draw up the arraingement for you if you like, they are relatively long, modern french grip eppe pommels sit well back of the wrist joint in order to bring the balance back without using a heavy pommel.

Phil C wrote:In the menatime the simplest and easiest smallsword simulator is a foil hit with ambdiextrous grip and 32" V blade from Leon Paul. They stand up well to the major styles of smallsword play, arrive quickly and are cheap. They also stand up well to play against broadswords, halfpike, spadroon &c. without wincing at the the potential breakage.


I made one up like that, but have given up and dismantled it. the grip is designed to force you to hold it 'thumb on top' and I like thumb on the back. I'll probably file off the shaping and wrap it in racket tape. I much preffer the simple slim beech grips I had made for the batch of early foils I made up a while back. mind you I could have a batch of those made up the right size to go with the leon paul components, a freind who's a woodworker did them for pennies.

The Salmon Lord wrote:The next step up is to take a hilt from a Barnett Spadroon, throw away the ghastly blade and put a size 2 Leon Paul V steam epee blade onto it


Yep, I made one up like yours, but the barnet swords have got a lot more expensive.

The Salmon Lord wrote:In fact i'd always using the Leon Paul steam epee blade. Its very good for training and takes a lot of abuse.


Yep, really good blades. Excellent. At my modern club we have either a foil blade or an old style Epee blade go 'poing' and loose the last 6 inches maybe every other week. I've yet to see one of the Vee blades broken.

What I'd really like is a plain steel practice hilt, but the Martinez one is quite pricey:
http://www.martinez-destreza.com/shop/weapons.php
and the Escrime sport 7 one that looked nice has been out of stock for a long time and it's disapeared of the website. I was talking to them about buying a batch of the castings, but they lost interest in talking to me.
and the Zen warrior one is just wrong:
http://www.zenwarriorarmory.com/catalog.php?item=244&catid=70&ret=catalog.php%3Fcategory%3D70
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby knirirr » 23 Oct 2012 10:07

Does anyone know what happened to Popinjay hilts? With a 32" LP blade they're very good.
I would be interested in a source of good small-sword hilts, although I like them very plain.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Dave B » 23 Oct 2012 10:25

I think they disapeared some time back. Like you I'd like simple and plain. I've been looking around for bits, there are several people in the states making swordswords with plain steel castings, but non of them seem quite right somehow, and there is the whole shipping from the states thing, so if someone ends up doing a UK one that would be good.
http://roguesteel.com/bilobate_smallsword.html
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Joolz » 23 Oct 2012 10:27

Steve, I posted a long reply on your FB request, before seeing this thread. I have a Chevalier d'Auvergne smallsword (brass hilt) which I use in the salle (cost around £140), and it's not let me down yet. I've also made training 'smallswords' using Leon Paul blades, both from John Barnett hilts and using my own hilts, but they aren't 'true' smallswords with the pas d'ane etc.

Joel Mason's smallswords are made from brass castings from The Rifle Shoppe and Najecki Reproductions in the States, which are reasonably priced (although TRS can have long waiting periods).

I have also made smallswords up from castings taken from originals, available from Smiling Fox Forge in the States. These are very pretty. However, castings taken from original swords suffer from one major drawback - they end up smaller than the originals because of shrinkage. As these things are diminutive in the first place, you end up with wire-thin knucklebows, quillions and pas d'anes which snap at the first blow (I have seen many examples of this).

Deepeeka make two different versions of the smallsword, one with a triangular blade, the other with a colichemarde blade. The blades are untempered junk, but the hilts are pretty solid brass, and can be picked up for as little as €80 from the continent. Just add a LP blade.

Other than that, you could always try the currently over-priced Hanwei stainless hilts - heavy and over-built but readily available and tough as hell.....

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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby knirirr » 23 Oct 2012 10:29



That's quite nice. With a fatter grip and no arms it would be just the sort of thing I'm looking for.

Joolz wrote:but they aren't 'true' smallswords with the pas d'ane etc.


Just the way I like them!
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Dave B » 23 Oct 2012 10:35

knirirr wrote:Does anyone know what happened to Popinjay hilts? With a 32" LP blade they're very good.
I would be interested in a source of good small-sword hilts, although I like them very plain.


A further quick google search seems to suggest that Adam WIlliams who made the popinjay stuff died of a stroke.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Joolz » 23 Oct 2012 10:38

Dave, I contacted Sport 7 about getting hold of castings for their hilt - they wanted €80 each plus delivery (based on 4 off). They were open-ended about availability (which sugggested they didn't have any, and weren't going to cast any anytime soon....). I let it drop, and I see they have, too, judging by their site....
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Dave B » 23 Oct 2012 11:00

Thanks for the Info Joolz. Sorry about the slight thread Hijack Steve.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Joolz » 23 Oct 2012 11:10

Oh and James, a construction tip (I've worked on many smallswords, however, apologies if this is 'sucking eggs') - because (as you mention) the pommel has to line up with the tip of the knucklebow, the pommels are not usually threaded. Most originals are peened, but if you want to use a threaded fencing blade, you end up needing to lop off the existing pommel knob (cast as part of the pommel) and turn a separate threaded pommel knob, and use that to keep the hilt together. It's the only practical way to adapt a peened smallsword blade to a threaded one.

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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Phil C » 23 Oct 2012 11:31

Joolz wrote:Joel Mason's smallswords are made from brass castings from The Rifle Shoppe and Najecki Reproductions in the States

He's also doing a set of his own castings from an original, first ten to sign up get a significant discount.

The other option is to find a knackered 1976 officer sword and use that as a donor hilt, occasionally original hilts also appear on ebay and places like Trident Arms.

Mark Ogden-Quinn keeps threatening to make simple steel hilts a la Popinjay, I'll give him another kick...

I can get the Barnett hilts cheap (about £35 each) but have to order twelve at a time and then send them on.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby admin » 23 Oct 2012 13:10

Joolz wrote:Oh and James, a construction tip (I've worked on many smallswords, however, apologies if this is 'sucking eggs') - because (as you mention) the pommel has to line up with the tip of the knucklebow, the pommels are not usually threaded. Most originals are peened, but if you want to use a threaded fencing blade, you end up needing to lop off the existing pommel knob (cast as part of the pommel) and turn a separate threaded pommel knob, and use that to keep the hilt together. It's the only practical way to adapt a peened smallsword blade to a threaded one.


You can't just use a regular pommel and screw a nut on the end of the tang?
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Dave B » 23 Oct 2012 13:30

I just use 'acorn' nuts, but I'm not as classy as Joolz.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Stevie T » 23 Oct 2012 15:19

Thanks for all the advice guys!

Given me a lot to think about, though I'll probably end up studying Hope as he is at least British so I can work directly from the MS.
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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby admin » 23 Oct 2012 15:20

Well, he's Scottish anyway. :P
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Smallsword options?

Postby Stevie T » 23 Oct 2012 15:25

admin wrote:Well, he's Scottish anyway. :P


He writes in the proper language so at least he's trying.
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