Daggers used as utility knives

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Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Vino » 29 Nov 2014 15:50

Would someone wearing a dagger also carry a utility/eating knife or did they just use their dagger? Did medieval people distinguish between daggers and knives?
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Monzambano » 29 Nov 2014 16:32

The 16th C Swiss or Holbein Dagger had a set of eating utensils integrated into the scabbard - so by that time, dagger proper and eating utensils are clearly diverging.

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O93197/holbein-dagger-dagger-sheath-and-unknown/
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby tea » 29 Nov 2014 20:45

You see lots of examples of larger knives with companion blades, which point to small utility knives still being useful. I also seem to recall that we see both lots of small knives and lots of larger seaxes/weapon-sized knives in Norse graves, and generally you'll see both, not just one - which again points to using them as separate tools.

From a practical level, a dagger is a very different tool to a small eating knife. They serve quite different purposes, and trying to do fine work with a long rondel or bollock dagger is impractical. 10" of blade makes for a very poor utility knife. So my guess is that small knives were absolutely standard as companions to larger blades, used for fine tasks like eating or trimming or whatever.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Vino » 29 Nov 2014 23:18

I see. I'm having some trouble understanding the role of daggers in the Middle Ages, as the sidearm role is already filled by the sword. Was the dagger sort of a sidearm to the sidearm? I know in some medieval cities it was illegal for common people to carry swords but that can't have been the only reason daggers existed.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby tea » 30 Nov 2014 01:18

A sword is 2-3lbs and 3-4ft of steel. That's quite bulky in day to day life, when you might need it only rarely. Carrying a dagger is much more convenient, and it's still an effective weapon if you need one. In sufficiently close quarters it can even be a better weapon than a sword.

On the battlefield, it's lightweight, easy to carry, and stays out of the way well. You might not carry a sword because you're already handling a lot of items, or you might find it gets in the way, or you might just not have time to draw it - but a dagger is fast to draw, precise, and can kill easily enough. The precision is another key aspect - because a dagger is shorter, it's easier to place the point exactly where you want it, which is exploited regularly in armoured fighting.

Oh, and finally it would probably be significantly cheaper than a sword.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Vino » 01 Dec 2014 14:24

Image

I'm somewhat puzzled by this picture, I thought rondel daggers were used point-down and thus worn at the right hip, but this picture shows merchants all wearing rondel daggers on their left hips as if to draw them like a sword.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Monzambano » 01 Dec 2014 23:53

Are you sure the picture is not mirror-image? I would not hold my tool like that..
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Vino » 02 Dec 2014 00:41

Monzambano wrote:Are you sure the picture is not mirror-image? I would not hold my tool like that..


Of course! I can't believe I didn't realize that.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby OK » 03 Dec 2014 06:23

The image is not reversed. Look to the jackets.

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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby tea » 03 Dec 2014 11:14

I can't personally make out enough detail to tell whether the image is reversed - although daggers on the left hip would lead me to guess it. I don't think early medieval jackets were fastened consistently enough in one direction to be able to say that one way round is definitely correct based on those.

Regardless, you can draw a dagger point up or point down from either the left or right hip, with either hand. The point forward grip was known and used - there are some very strong parries which feature it - but the point down grip gives a more powerful thrust. When normal clothing is several layers of fabric, light slashes don't cut it, and those thrusts are what's needed.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Vino » 12 Dec 2014 15:05

tea wrote:A sword is 2-3lbs and 3-4ft of steel. That's quite bulky in day to day life, when you might need it only rarely. Carrying a dagger is much more convenient, and it's still an effective weapon if you need one. In sufficiently close quarters it can even be a better weapon than a sword.

On the battlefield, it's lightweight, easy to carry, and stays out of the way well. You might not carry a sword because you're already handling a lot of items, or you might find it gets in the way, or you might just not have time to draw it - but a dagger is fast to draw, precise, and can kill easily enough. The precision is another key aspect - because a dagger is shorter, it's easier to place the point exactly where you want it, which is exploited regularly in armoured fighting.

Oh, and finally it would probably be significantly cheaper than a sword.


So daggers were generally carried instead of a sword rather than in addition to it?
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby tea » 12 Dec 2014 15:15

Vino wrote:So daggers were generally carried instead of a sword rather than in addition to it?


I would suspect most people aren't carrying swords in day to day life, and have a dagger instead. When they are carrying a sword (e.g. travelling), they'll have a dagger as well. All sorts of reasons a sword might be impractical or illegal in a given area, but a dagger is generally fine. If you look at that picture linked above, they're all doing manual labour of some type. Wearing a sword for that is going to get in the way and be unnecessarily fatiguing, but the dagger just sits on the hip out of the way.

On the field, it's your ubiquitous backup weapon, fast to action and effective enough. And because they're so short and light, they stay out of the way better. So if you have a sword there's no reason to not also have a dagger, and if you decide a sword is too cumbersome, there's still no reason to not have a dagger.
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Re: Daggers used as utility knives

Postby Vino » 25 Dec 2014 20:06

tea wrote:
Vino wrote:So daggers were generally carried instead of a sword rather than in addition to it?


I would suspect most people aren't carrying swords in day to day life, and have a dagger instead. When they are carrying a sword (e.g. travelling), they'll have a dagger as well. All sorts of reasons a sword might be impractical or illegal in a given area, but a dagger is generally fine. If you look at that picture linked above, they're all doing manual labour of some type. Wearing a sword for that is going to get in the way and be unnecessarily fatiguing, but the dagger just sits on the hip out of the way.

On the field, it's your ubiquitous backup weapon, fast to action and effective enough. And because they're so short and light, they stay out of the way better. So if you have a sword there's no reason to not also have a dagger, and if you decide a sword is too cumbersome, there's still no reason to not have a dagger.


What you're saying makes sense but in much artwork it seems people are carrying swords without daggers or even any kind of knife, did medieval artists just not bother depicting them?

I'm also wondering about those very long rondel daggers and baselards that are essentially short swords, were they used in the same role as a normal-sized dagger or as a sword?
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