Medieval sword sharpening

Open to public view.

Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 09:08

I was wondering if people could post here any medieval images of sword sharpening please.

First up is a well known example from the Romance of Alexander (1340ish):

Image
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 09:13

The Utrecht Psalter (834) - this is the best image I was able to find:

Image
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 09:16

Here's a better image of the Romance of Alexander:
Attachments
RomanceAlexander1.JPG
RomanceAlexander1.JPG (68.91 KiB) Viewed 18647 times
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 15:39

Of course it has to be said that we don't know whether they are sharpening here, or simply grinding after rough forging.

Here is an example from the English Luttrell Psalter (c.1340):
Attachments
Luttrell1.JPG
Luttrell1.JPG (52.27 KiB) Viewed 18629 times
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 15:52

A knife sharpener in c.1500 (French) -

Image
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby Dan Howard » 08 Jul 2012 13:00

Was this all they did or was there an additional process for putting a finer edge on the blade?
User avatar
Dan Howard
2nd Lieutenant
 
Posts: 387
Joined: 25 May 2010 00:53
Location: Maitland, Australia

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 08 Jul 2012 19:27

Who knows?! This is largely why I started the thread, because I'm looking for an answer to that very question. All I have found so far are hand or foot-cranked grinding wheels - I haven't even found an image of a desk-mounted whetstone. For the record though, the images of people sharpening stones above exactly match the 19thC images of soldiers sharpening sabres.. Which I find surprising. I always thought of the 19thC method as crude, but these medieval images show the same thing and we know that's how they were sharpening kitchen knives well into the early 20thC.

I did find an image of a 14thC man sharpening a scythe and in that case he was definitely doing something to the edge with an unidentified object about the size of a TV remote (a fine stone? a strop? a steel?), whilst the scythe rested in a couple of wooden uprights (a makeshift stand).

Having handled quite a few medieval swords, including one example from Castillon which has had minimal modern tampering, I would say that however they were doing it in the 14th/15thC they were doing it quite accurately to a fine edge - not like some of the brutal grinding you see on some 19thC swords. As I said above, maybe what we are seeing in these medieval images is not sharpening per se, but rather the grinding process which followed forging?
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 08 Jul 2012 19:31

p.s. I'll just throw out there that I recently accidentally sharpened a replica medieval sword which I have been sanding using a drill-mouted flap-wheel (I'm trying to match the cross-section of the original as closely as possible, which requires me to sand down the cutting surfaces in one area of the blade slightly) and whilst it was not remotely what we would today consider a 'razor' edge, it glided through every cutting target I aimed it at, without any further sharpening required. That had essentially been sharpened by a fine grade wheel alone.
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby Ariella Elema » 08 Jul 2012 21:21

There was a thread at myarmoury.com about images of sword polishers not too long ago.
http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p=245942&highlight=#245942

I've also seen an archaeology article somewhere about medieval scythe hones, but I didn't copy out the citation and can't find it anymore. What I remember is that the hones often have a hole through the middle so that mowers can tie them to their belts. The article was a collaboration between an archaeologist and a geologist. Many of the hones dug up in Europe aren't made from local rocks. They were evidently long-distance trade goods even as far back as the bronze age.

I wouldn't be surprised if the same kind of sharpening stones were also used to touch up the edge on swords. The only pictorial example I know of is this sixteenth-century picture of a couple of German executioners.
Image
Ariella
User avatar
Ariella Elema
2nd Lieutenant
 
Posts: 383
Joined: 31 May 2006 19:23
Location: Toronto

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby admin » 08 Jul 2012 22:33

Excellent stuff Ariella - that executioner's sharpening tool looks like it could be a similar thing to the what I saw being used on the scythe.

I saw the blade polishers, but I am fairly certain those are purely polishing, rather than sharpening (though I accept the two can be related).
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

I like swords more than you.
User avatar
admin
Emperor
 
Posts: 35093
Joined: 13 Mar 2006 17:28
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England.

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby Monster Zero » 09 Jul 2012 07:36

One thing to note too is that Scythe Blades were often peened to reshape the edge when it was rolled or deformed. This was done either on a small anvil with a hammer, or with a steel rod that was run back and forth along the edges to move the steel back in line.

I imagine the same could have also been done with sword blades.
Image
MC-Stats (Won/Lost/Fought/Open: 1/4/5/?)
Mostly Harmless...
User avatar
Monster Zero
Field Marshal
 
Posts: 16618
Joined: 17 Mar 2006 17:53
Location: Hamilton, NJ

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 09 Jul 2012 09:23

admin wrote:I did find an image of a 14thC man sharpening a scythe and in that case he was definitely doing something to the edge with an unidentified object about the size of a TV remote (a fine stone? a strop? a steel?), whilst the scythe rested in a couple of wooden uprights (a makeshift stand).

Edge maintenance of a scythe is usually done in two steps:

a) once a day - usually at the beginning of scything or during the midday rest - the user must reshape the blade on a small anvil with a small hammer (as MZ wrote):
http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/img/3-94a.jpg
http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/img/3-94b.jpg

He could use even a small "workbench" for this.
http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/img/3-94c.jpg

The usual position in the Central Hungary:
Image

b) as many times as he feels necessary - during the scything - he uses a fine stone to sharpen the edge:
http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/img/3-95c.jpg
http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/img/3-95d.jpg

the stone itself is stored in a horn filled with water:
http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/img/5-309a.jpg

The above details are from the Hungarian Ethnographic Encyclopedia, and from my own experience with scythes.
Emil Barta
Nullo modo, amice.
User avatar
Ulrich von L...n
Colonel
 
Posts: 1466
Joined: 24 Nov 2011 13:05
Location: Hungary

Re: Medieval sword sharpening

Postby Thearos » 09 Jul 2012 14:53

I have owned, in fact, a plastic horn filled with water, in which the whetstone fitted, to be worn on the belt while cutting grass with a sickle (Switzerland, summer 1981).
Thearos
Colonel
 
Posts: 1311
Joined: 30 Apr 2011 10:16

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 09 Jul 2012 17:18

Yes indeed. We used the same whetstone to sharpen both our scythes and our sickles.

Regarding the German executioner who sharpens his sword with a whetstone:
It seems to me that the position of the sword is a bit awkward, because it would have been rather uncomfortable to sharpen the sword around CoP, which presumably should be used for this kind of "actions".
Emil Barta
Nullo modo, amice.
User avatar
Ulrich von L...n
Colonel
 
Posts: 1466
Joined: 24 Nov 2011 13:05
Location: Hungary


Return to Arms & Armour, History, Militaria, Archaeology, Art

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 3 guests

cron