Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

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Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Mark T » 04 Jul 2012 10:10

In these recent videos from the Arctic Fire event, Peter Johnsson shares his most current ideas on medieval sword design and aesthetics: http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php ... ntry223115

There are two presentations: the first covers physical sword properties in terms of performance (static, dynamic, and harmonic balance); the second gives us a theory of the asethetics that overlays this, including ideas drawing on geometry and design principles of the time.

My personal guess is that Peter's right: this opens up a whole new vista of research into sword design, both in history and for the future.

After seeing this second presentation, it's worth going and looking through every sword book you have ... and then your collection. Having these particular understandings of design principles in mind becomes a little like having 'augmented reality' when looking swords ... I don't think I'll quite ever look at a sword the same way again.
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby admin » 04 Jul 2012 12:02

Great stuff - For those who aren't aware, Peter published an article about this in the last issue of the Park Lane Arms Fair catalogue, which is well worth getting hold of. Thanks for posting this Mark.
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby bigdummy » 04 Jul 2012 14:50

I bought a book just to get this article, it arrived yesterday and I've only skimmed it but it is beautiful (the whole book) from what I understand of the article it goes a bit beyond aesthetics.

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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Mark T » 04 Jul 2012 22:46

Yep, far beyond aesthetics: design science, geometry, medieval philosophy, religious symbolism, the medieval craft of memory, how to recreate full profiles of historical swords for which we only have fragments, principles one can use in designing a sword today ... and a bit more. :wink:
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Motley » 05 Jul 2012 14:13

This is too awesome for words, thanks for cross posting it here.

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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Andrew Shultz » 05 Jul 2012 18:24

That does look like an article I would like to read... is there an easier outlet to order from than just emailing them? If not I'll just go do that.
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby bigdummy » 05 Jul 2012 19:12

"In the case of an ailing social order, the absence of an adequate diagnosis... is a crucial, perhaps decisive part of the disease." -Zygmunt Bauman

"With any luck we'll be in Stalingrad by winter. " - Anyonymous German soldier
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Chiron » 05 Jul 2012 19:35

:shock: Truly amazing, and in some ways a no brainer, but yet mind boggling,it makes sense that they would of used euclidean geometry to create the proportions, but the intricacy of it is what is astounding. I actually watched this during a thunderstorm, of course being Swiss thunder it was kind enough to be punctual regarding the reveal.
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby bigdummy » 05 Jul 2012 20:21

hahahaha
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Andrew Shultz » 05 Jul 2012 22:27




Thanks, I would not have expected a book marketed as it is there to have an article like this inside and never would have found it.
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Mark T » 09 Jul 2012 06:31

Just to clarify: Peter has written about this in two recent publications - the Park Lane Arms Fair catalog, mentioned by Matt, as well as Capwell's book about the Wallace exhibition.

He's just published a bit more context over at myArmoury, which is worth reading: http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic ... 7&start=20
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby admin » 09 Jul 2012 10:45

Thanks for this Mark, very useful.

I'd be interested in hearing people's views on this theory, by the way, once you have seen the lecture or read one of the articles.

My feeling is that he is definitely on to something, but that maybe this 'method' was not universal or not quite as all-encompassing or involved as is proposed here. In some cases it seems like there are too many exceptions to the 'rule'. If we draw enough circles or lines then of course when could make everything conform to its own 'pattern' - I find it more convincing when things fit within more simple relations, such as a square or circle (for example, a hilt being as long as it is wide, as hinted at in Vadi's text of the 1480's).
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby bigdummy » 09 Jul 2012 15:10

I found it convincing, but it's hard to say how far or wide it goes, or how far back. If it is Christian or based really in Classical sources or something else. The correlation with the Gothic Cathedrals and castle architecture is pretty strong. But he has stated it is a work in progress, more context is desperately needed as with most things HEMA or sword related, it will probably be a lifetime of work for him. I agree also that it's possible (as he himself acknowledges) to find patterns when seeking them, so it can be overstated.

I wish his speeches at the "Arctic Fire" conference were on some better media, vimeo or even youtube or something, that format sucks it's constantly interrupted by commercials and not accessible as a direct link. I think his first lecture, before he gets into his theory, is a very good introduction to forging steel swords and everything that entails. I love his line "a sword is more like an airplane wing than a crowbar".

I do think his theory is fascinating though, and the correlation with fibbinacci series and this concept of "as above / so below" correlates with a lot of other stuff I've been reading about Medieval culture and design principles, as well as the fairly universal education that nobles, burghers and even a lot of peasants got back then (i.e. the 7 liberal arts). In other words this is how people were taught to think and it was reflected in many other parts of their society.

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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Motley » 09 Jul 2012 16:48

bigdummy wrote:...stuff...

BD


What BD wrote.

Darn! I just agreed wholeheartedly with Jean! how? what? why? :-)
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby bigdummy » 09 Jul 2012 16:58

I take that as a HUGE PERSONAL COMPLIMENT
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Chiron » 09 Jul 2012 19:22

Working in proportions as he mentioned has some very practical advantages even today. It instills a natural balance into the dimensions, and working with euclidean (straight edge and compass) geometry on the basis of a single circle gives a level of precision that its hard to get even with modern measurements. That's one reason they preferred using proportion in the cathedrals. It comes naturally give a curios kid a compass and let him play with it awhile and he'll start drawing similar designs. As he said it is mainly a tool inside you have complete freedom. The philosophical stuff would also appeal to them and with good reason elegance and functionality combined into method is almost the definition of beauty, be it of thought or form, isn't that why we call what we do an art .
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby CaptainAbrecan » 31 Jul 2012 13:44

Anyone who has been a draftsman for a little while (or still is, CAD and all) knows all this already. When I first started, I went ahead and tried to find meaningful relationships with every bit of construction geometry. The designs that don't have this are crude and usually redrawn (working in employ you have to tolerate other shitty draftsmen). My own designs, and looking at other manufactured things I can easily see that the centerpoint of an arc happily coincides with other relevant geometry & et cetera; this is all obvious to a draftsman.

I've just never seen it linked to symbolism like this before, he is implying that it was culturally relevant way of engineering, which is new to me. Pretty damn cool :shock:

Peter was saying he doesn't know how prevalent this was. I can assure him, as many other draftsman could, that humans who are actually good at making technical drawings have been drawing this way for thousands of years. It's just that as an atheist I never really found any spiritual symbolism in the shapes themselves. All good designs use the golden ratio and other sacred geometry to define their shape, balance, profile et cetera. Draftsman who don't like their job never get into this sadly, so you don't see it in crudely drafted thing such as children's toys and other consumable products. BMW's engineers also rediscovered this way of design, as Peter did.

They call it the Efficient Dynamics Engineering Principles, in their own design firm. It is a rather comprehensive implementation to achieve emotional design. It is actually a funny thing to other engineering groups, because BMW's engineers are so old-fashioned that they had to take to explaining the design process as 'form follows function' in order to trick them into embracing it :lol: We will see lots of neat cars from the BMW Group Design Division that embrace proportion soon enough.

But as I said, fully harmonized design principles and a fully integrated design philosophy doesn't surprise a draftsman, no matter how far back in time you go :D
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Mark T » 09 Nov 2013 00:02

Quick update: a 6 DVD set from the Artic Fire event - including Peter's two lectures - is now available for just US$30: http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.p ... opic=25759

Production values look very high.

Enjoy!
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Re: Peter Johnsson lectures on sword design

Postby Thearos » 20 Nov 2013 15:35

I do think my Hanwei hand-and-a-half sword / longsword would be much improved if the blade were kept, but the guard were slightly bigger, and curved as a lovely segment of a circle.
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