Ethnographic Edged Weapons
  Etymology of 'fuller'

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Author Topic:   Etymology of 'fuller'
Lee Jones
posted 05-19-2002 10:22     Click Here to See the Profile for Lee Jones   Click Here to Email Lee Jones     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Received in my e-mail

My last name just happens to be Fuller.

Who was the first group of people to use the fuller technique on swords? If it was the vikings, why did they call it a fuller?

It's to make the sword stronger, 'fuller' i guess. As far as we know it could be a poor stanslation. But lets assume its correct for lack of information.

It looks like a furrow to me and dictionaries infer that it has american origins and therefore appeared within the 19 or 20th century (i got this online somewhere...a guy said he read a dictionary...etc)

But that's just his interpretation. I hope you can clarify. Thanks.

The Oxford English Distionary does go back only as far as into the 19th century in reporting fuller in the context of a groove such as on a sword. But as fuller in the context of 'one who cleanses and thickens cloth by treading or beating it', the word goes back to Old English with a reported use around 1000...

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Jim McDougall
posted 05-20-2002 03:04     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

It does seem that the term 'fuller' as applied to a groove in a sword blade is an English application of c.19th century, and probably late. All the references I checked use the terms grooved, channeled interchangeably. The famed British scholar Richard Burton uses the French term 'cannelures' for the grooves in his 1884 "Book of the Sword".
Frederick Wilkinson in "Edged Weapons" (1970, p.14) brings up the popularized collectors term 'blood gutter' and notes that the true function of these channels was "far less sanguinary", being for lightening and strenthening the blade.
H.R. Davidson supports that fact in her "The Sword in Anglo Saxon England" (p.39) noting that the groove seen from c.8th century on sword blades had become "...popularly known as the blood channel; although this term is not found in early literature". It is interesting to note the Danish term for the groove is 'blodrende'.
Since it appears that the term 'fuller' has an English root and application, and the early definition for the word refers to the compacting or felting of cloth, it should be noted that the term also defines a "half round hammer used for grooving and spreading iron" probably the the same ME word referring to the textile reference. Possibly the term 'fuller' simply became used colloquially to the tool due to process similarities, then to the resulting blade feature.
Once again, the folklore of these terms, it would be great to put together a glossary with the etymology and explanations of them.

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tom hyle
Senior Member
posted 05-22-2002 13:23     Click Here to See the Profile for tom hyle   Click Here to Email tom hyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is my information (primarily from blacksmithing books) that the term fuller originally referred to a hammer shapped for making grooves or a hardie similarly shaped for the same purpose, and was colloquially applied to the groove made by such a tool. (a hardie is a specialized extension that attaches to an anvil by a hole in the anvil) Many such terms are simply English words. For example a hammer for making things flat is called a flatter, but an exact interpretation of how grooving something makes it more full, I do not have, and such may even turn on an antiquitous meaning of the word "full".

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