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Old 13th December 2019, 05:54 PM   #1
kronckew
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Default 1804 version spectacle or 'Trafalgar' Cutlass

Just got back from a local auction where i picked up this 'sword' for almost nothing. Listed as a 'crude sword'. General household sale, nobody else bid.

Auctioneer told me it came from a local attic where it's been hiding for at least 40 years and more since the current home owner bough the place & just found it during a recent remodelling. Auctioneer had no idea what it was. He didn't see any markings under the paint. I told him after I'd paid for it what it really was.

Anyhow, took me a minute a few days back to figure out what it really was when I first saw the thumbnail catalogue picture which was a lot smaller than the online one below, the orange guard and small size of the picture threw me off till I enlarged it. Orange paint appears to be primer, rest of sword is japanned in black which is flaking off, so I'm guessing a past owner intended to repaint it. Will clean and repaint it myself in a bit. Bit of rust, a few tiny blade edge nicks, still quite sharp.

Found a suspicious area & rubbed some of the lacquer & found an Ordinance broad arrow mark, doubled with the second pointing at the first, indicating it was sold 'out of service' and surplus, probably later when the newer versions were issued. The 'spectacle' guards were used well before 1804 in the murky past when Captains bought their own ones for the ship, the older ones had basicly a round iron grip, more like a section of pipe without any chequering or grooving. the 1804 'Trafalgar' version added the grooved textured cast iron grip. Contrary to the name, there were likely not issued to Nelson's fleet in any numbers as they were too new. they were also replaced with a more 'modern' bowl guard not too many years later, also with a slightly curved blade. The RN reverted back to a straight blade later tho.I note that the Ordinance supply people, being Army, thought ALL swords should have a slot for a sword knot, so they provided one near the grip end, even tho the RN never asked for the slot or issued them with sword knots and never used them if they were used to fight with. Mostly stored on board without scabbards and in racks which could be unlocked when going to battle stations to be more readily available if needed.
Will take some better photos over the weekend.
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Last edited by kronckew : 13th December 2019 at 06:06 PM.
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Old 13th December 2019, 09:50 PM   #2
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Congratulations. It is such a fantastic feeling to find something that no one else knows what it is.
Looking forward to seeing the markings and what lies underneath.
Regards
Ken
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Old 13th December 2019, 10:22 PM   #3
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Just for interest, the bright orange is not really that colour in person. it looks exactly like I remember red lead primer looked like, quite a bit darker and redder (and a bit dirtier,musta been the lighting they used when snapping the photo.) They grip is not nearly that rusty looking close up either. I gather the 'japanning' was done with a mix of asphaltum (tar) and spar varnish, sounds logical aboard a sailing ship... Might have to make some myself. Or maybe just use Rustoleum. 😉
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Old 13th December 2019, 10:46 PM   #4
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great find , well done.
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Old 14th December 2019, 10:19 AM   #5
fernando
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
Orange paint appears to be primer ...

Minium red lead ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
... Will clean and repaint it myself in a bit...

Why not just clean it ? .
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Old 14th December 2019, 11:49 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Minium red lead ?


Why not just clean it ? .


I will, but they were traditionally japanned black for racking aboard ship to protect from salty weather. I want to cover up the red in any case. may get the paint off the blade and not paint that part...
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Old 15th December 2019, 12:01 AM   #7
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Very nice find, Wayne! I personally would clean the blade and refinish the discs to their traditional japanned black. Lots of questions to consider once you have the sword in hand. Is it for sure the Brit m1803 and not the popular (and later) knock-off German Schnitzler & Kirshbaum pattern which often even has spurious GR mark. See Gilkerson for the pattern I'm talking about. Many of these 1803's were contemporary to 1800-15. I used to believe that if they didn't have the cursive GR/crown, they were post-1815 surplus or overstock sent abroad for private purchase. In actuality, there were many makers of this sword pattern during the war period who used the block letter GR stamp, their own smith stamp or no stamp at all. As you indicated, the double broad arrow seems to indicate a true Brit that might have seen service during the war but was sold out to other naval powers later as private purchase. We'll know more when you clean the item-
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Old 15th December 2019, 11:20 AM   #8
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Hi Wayne,

I agree with Mark - leave the blade clean. Be careful clearing the paint off, obviously on the ricasso, but also on the spine of the blade near the hilt as this is often where the makers name appears. There were a number of different Brit manufacturers that put the company name on the spine.

Looks like a great find! There are lots of fakes out there but you would have known as soon as you picked it up. The modern repros are clunky with all the weight forward but the 1804, for all its not very attractive lines, feels light and fast in the hand.
I have not handled a German Schnitzler & Kirshbaum cutlass that Mark mentions but these were, as I understand, made for private purchase merchant fleet use. So copied as a functional weapon not as a repro.

Regards, CC
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Old 15th December 2019, 03:40 PM   #9
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Wire-brushed & emery papered (2000 grit) the blade, paint tended to smear and clog it tho. took some crappy pics, today's weather is not brilliant for photos. Will clean more after I recover. Might get some solvent paint remover. Intriguing set of 4 marks on the start of the knuckle guard that may be letters or numbers mostly filled covered by the paint.

Ayway, broad arrows stand out, can't see any other marks on the blade. paid attention to the spine but couldn't see any real signs of lettering under a strong light there may be hints. Photo of the spine near the guard shows what may be a ghost marking I cant sharpen.
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Old 15th December 2019, 06:17 PM   #10
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Looks like you've got a decent sword, Wayne .
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Old 15th December 2019, 06:49 PM   #11
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When you take a chance on a low estimate item with a bad description, sometimes you win, sadly not as often as you lose, tho it's less painful if the price you pay is low. It helps having people here that can provide knowledge, like yourself and CutlassCollector, M Eley, Thin red line, K Maddock, and the others who will post here (and those who do not). Thanks All.
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Old 15th December 2019, 08:38 PM   #12
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Hi I agree taking a chance sometimes works out and sometimes does not. But you remember more the wins than the losses.
I got a Richardson of cork ( southern irelaand provincial capital) percussion pistol today. Just a few bad on line pictures and I took a gamble. I will be picking up during the week.
I never knew anything about spectacle cutglasses so thanks for the education. Nitromores should work well as I find paint that clogs emery paper generally is solvent removable. I used work in a lab so dichloromethane was common available to me and rarely did the point win.
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