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Old 24th November 2020, 08:40 AM   #1
AHorsa
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Default Cuphilt Sword with Damascus blade?

Hi there,

I would love to get your opinions on this sword.
Total length is 101cm, blade length is 82cm and blade width is 4,2cm.
There are minor remains of inscriptions on the blade, but most seems to have been "cleaned" away. The grip / wire was replaced I guess.
I am sure that the sword was "opened", cleaned and then re-assembled.

I would love to get your opinion if this sword is an authentic 17th century piece or a later copy.

How do you think about the pommel? It looks like a central european 17th century pommel. Do you think it anyhow could be belonging to the rest of the sword?

I am aware that blades were folded in this times but never found a european blade with such a structure. Is it possible that the blade is made from Damscus steel?

Thanks and best regards
Andreas
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Old 24th November 2020, 01:49 PM   #2
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That blade is quite obviously pattern welded.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_welding

Moreover, the pattern looks very similar to the pattern I have seen on some Indian Tulwars.

Indian or maybe German 19th century Historismus? Do not know.

Let's hope some fellow members could add more.

Last edited by mariusgmioc : 24th November 2020 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 24th November 2020, 03:15 PM   #3
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Hi Andy ,
Everything fits the bill, the guard, the type of blade, the pommel is fancier than the cup, but perhaps this was an officer's sword hence the blade, or a gift to someone with status.
The pattern welds this visible is very unusual indeed, never seen it like that before, but to me its all original and with that blade quality you might have something very rare and more valuable than the common ones.
kind regards
Ulfberth
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Old 24th November 2020, 05:22 PM   #4
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Could it be a Portuguese colonial cuphilt with Indian pattern welded blade used in Goa?
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Old 24th November 2020, 05:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
Could it be a Portuguese colonial cuphilt with Indian pattern welded blade used in Goa?



Actually that is a wonderfully placed suggestion, and this arming sword is indeed in line with 18th century Portuguese and Spanish cup hilt arming swords.
The pattern welding though, I think remained known in Germany, ironically where its process nominally was begun with Viking swords many centuries before. The process was clearly not regularly carried on but it seems that there was experimentation trying too reproduce the wootz blades of India and the Middle East in the 18th c.

I am not sure with the wootz predomination in India that pattern welding would have been done, but again, the Goa suggestion is interesting.

The pommel does seem more European, and the plain unturned quillons are notable.
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Old 24th November 2020, 06:10 PM   #6
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Thanks for your replies Gentlemen!

I was also thinking about a link to Indian Wootz steel and the Portugese engagement there. But the style of the blade must have been pretty european, taking also in account the remains of the inscriptions in the fuller (e.g. one can see an "O" very week). The blade als is amazingly flexible.
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Old 24th November 2020, 07:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
Could it be a Portuguese colonial cuphilt with Indian pattern welded blade used in Goa?


Very interesting indeed!

The blade is indeed of typical European shape but I see no reason why Indian smiths couldn't do it to meet a more specific European demand.

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Old 24th November 2020, 09:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
but I see no reason why Indian smiths couldn't do it to meet a more specific European demand.



No question, Marius. It is just not an Indian blade from its shape but possibly made in India in the European style
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Old 24th November 2020, 10:24 PM   #9
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I don't believe there is an inscription on the blade. Our brains are made to find shapes and we do see things that are not there. I believe the "O" is just part of the Damascus pattern.
Very interesting blade and I see something (design) at the ricasso
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Old 25th November 2020, 01:00 AM   #10
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This cuphilt is of European 'style', naturally inferring Spanish or Portuguese, and Germany also used the cuphilt in degree, but these arming type versions are typically colonial and 18th century.

I am unsure that India would be my first thought for pattern welding. India was renowned for its wootz of course, but I am not familiar with Indian blades using pattern welding. Naturally I would be interested in examples showing otherwise.

In India, especially with Portuguese arrival, there was strong interest in European style and of course blades. Indian swords often had European blades mounted, even rapier blades, a type of sword whose use had absolutely no place in Indian swordsmanship.

In the 18th century there was notable use of these cup hilt type arming swords in colonial settings, but not with this type of much earlier European blade form. It is important to note that Toledo by the 18th century had virtually become defunct as a blade making entity, and the reliance was on Solingen. It seems possible that a pattern welded blade may have come from Germany in latter 18th century in a commissioned case as there were instances of testing various blade forms and forging techniques in this time.
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Old 25th November 2020, 05:56 AM   #11
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The area near the cup seems to be made from a different piece of steel. Maybe reinforced later after the blade was broken near the hilt. I have some blades with reinforced areas like this to get more thickness in that critical area. If a blade will have a constant thickness the area with reduced material to fit the hilt will be most critical to brake. The logical solution will be ..to make it thicker in that area and to prefer a softer piece of steel outside ( like in a 3-layer / sanmai blade) for the repair. If a blade was broken in the past the steel was still an expensive piece of material. So why do not repair it ?. The blade seems to be made out of a raffinated steel, just to refine the steel , not with the intention to create a special pattern. The use of a raffinated, different piece for the reinforcement seems to be done in the past „to that time“.

Just my opinion about the blade, without knowledge about type of sword.

Best Thomas
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Old 25th November 2020, 08:13 AM   #12
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Thanks for your thoughts, Gentlemen and the interesting observation, Thomas.

@Will: It is defintely a remain of an inscription. It is hard to see it from the image, but when you turn the blade against light you see that such a pattern appears nowhere else than in the fuller. Also there are other remains in the fuller, which are identical on both sides.
It´s really a pitty that the inscription is cleaned away. Would be so interesting to know it.

What do you think about the pommel (which by the way shows two Mascarons and the small part beneath the rivet seems to be suplemented)? Does it belong to the sword?
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Last edited by AHorsa : 25th November 2020 at 08:27 AM.
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Old 25th November 2020, 10:25 AM   #13
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no it does not, the picture from up close shows a lot more , also the gripwire and ring against the pommel are a replacement.
kind regards
Ulfberth
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Old 25th November 2020, 11:24 AM   #14
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Thanks for your opinion, Dirk. Of course the grip-wire and rings are "new". For the pommel I wasn´t sure as it is an old period one.
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Old 25th November 2020, 11:49 AM   #15
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the pommel is sure an original and older than the guard , it could still be done in the peroid by an officer
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Old 25th November 2020, 11:56 AM   #16
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the pommel as shown in post 12 showing the figure that is a grotesque face in detail looks like Spanish last quarter of the 16th C .
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Old 25th November 2020, 05:19 PM   #17
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I can see pitting following the "0". This blade has had some significant corrosion and subsequent cleanings has actually smoothed and dished the edges of the pitting. I am seeing a combination of the pattern blade, staining and corrosion. That both blade sides have an 0 makes sense with this type of metal especially in the thinner areas as the design is 3D in the metal.
Try a 10x loop to get close up look. Blade corrosion that occurs when a blade is in a scabbard appears mottled and results in oval and wavy shapes due to water retention between scabbard and blade. It's difficult to imagine what a corroded blade looks like once cleaned, this one would have had the hard black rust as evident still in the recesses of the pits. This removes a substantial layer of the metal.
I suppose it's irrelevant now as to whether it had engraved letters or not.
I know one digital photo to the next can appear different too.
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Old 25th November 2020, 06:09 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ulfberth
the pommel as shown in post 12 showing the figure that is a grotesque face in detail looks like Spanish last quarter of the 16th C .


If it was Spanish I guess the pommel has a good chance to have been added in the sowrds working period. Also the degree of corrosion would fit to the guard. I know such mascarons / grotesque faces from a bit later german swords and pistols, 2nd half 17th century / around 1700.

@ Will: What is visble on both sides are other remains and they are slightly on another place. The "O" is only visible at one side. But anyway, what ever was there is gone...
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Old 25th November 2020, 10:35 PM   #19
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I would reiterate what others have already said; just because there are composite elements here, that doesn't mean this wasn't a 'working model'. As I'm always the dude that perpetually brings up 'Spanish colonial', I would again suggest this might be such a piece made from an assemblage of available parts on the frontier. The cup/bowl and guard/knuckle bow appear to be classic munitions-grade military, the pommel from an earlier piece. The blade is a puzzle, but also fascinating and has an amazing pattern. I am in agreement that the blade appears more European and of the classic shape for these type swords. The blade made in a forge in one of the Spanish colonies to proper shape, but in the local fashion? This isn't uncommon at all. The only thing that detracts for me is the wire grip. I'd pickle the metal black if it were mine...

A great piece none the less!
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Old 26th November 2020, 09:16 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
I would reiterate what others have already said; just because there are composite elements here, that doesn't mean this wasn't a 'working model'. As I'm always the dude that perpetually brings up 'Spanish colonial', I would again suggest this might be such a piece made from an assemblage of available parts on the frontier. The cup/bowl and guard/knuckle bow appear to be classic munitions-grade military, the pommel from an earlier piece. The blade is a puzzle, but also fascinating and has an amazing pattern. I am in agreement that the blade appears more European and of the classic shape for these type swords. The blade made in a forge in one of the Spanish colonies to proper shape, but in the local fashion? This isn't uncommon at all. The only thing that detracts for me is the wire grip. I'd pickle the metal black if it were mine...

A great piece none the less!


Yes a great piece. If not a local Indian blade I wonder if it could be a local Malay or Filipino Moro pattern welded blade? Or maybe Jim is right that this could be an experimental Frankish/viking revival pattern welded blade.

I love the pommel which looks baroque. It has a nut but looks like the nut is a separate part from the pommel.
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Old 26th November 2020, 11:41 AM   #21
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Does the blade pattern continue on the ricasso behind the shell guard?
Usually these kind of blades are not springy though I'm curious if it has some flex to it, it appears to be a light and fast blade.
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Old 26th November 2020, 01:16 PM   #22
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As far as I can see the ricasso doesn´t seem to have distinct pattern and the distinct blade pattern seem to "stop" at the last centimeters before the cup. I tried to mark it on the attached images.
The blade is indeed very light and extremely flexible compared to my Dutch field sword.
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Old 26th November 2020, 06:17 PM   #23
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Interesting that this blade has the same semicircular weld join as seen on circ. 1800 British swords joining the iron tang to the steel blade.
Also interesting the blade flexes, the steels used in the Damascus blade must both be hardened with spring qualities.
I would say quite a special blade in its day and today.
Could it be the blade is earlier than the hilt? An earlier blade re hilted to the then current type?
I don't think it's Indian made, their steel was not the quality of this. In fact many 1796LC blades were re hilted and used in India because of the steels better qualities.
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Old 27th November 2020, 07:56 AM   #24
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Hello forumites,

I believe we'd first had to ascertain that this really is not any genuine European blade from the most likely period before starting to go off tangents! From my point of view there is no need to refer to remote cultures as a putative origin for this blade...

1. As mentioned, welding a tang of soft iron (or very mild steel) to a blade is a time-honoured technique (in Europe as well as globally); it avoids breakage and unnecessary expenses (for higher carbon steel). IMHO there is no hint for any later repair work on the blade.
2. The blade is laminated. This is again a time-honoured, basic technique to combine different qualities of steel - with lower and higher carbon content, possibly also with different amounts of impurities like phosphor, etc. - especially if one wasn't able to control the steel quality or needed to work on a limited budget. If you economically forge-weld heterogeneous material, you tend to end up with laminations as seen here (regardless of the origin being Europe, India, Indonesia, Bangsa Moro, China, you-name-it...).
3. The structure of the laminations does not suggest that the blade smith was aiming at welding any controlled pattern especially done for show; I see no need to invoke sources famous for elaborate pattern-welding (Celtic, Alemannic, Viking, "Damascus", India, the SEA archipelago, ...)
4. In pretty much all cultures the quality of blades does vary (widely).
5. As an aside: There are lots of laminated blades originating from the South Asian subcontinent and neighbouring regions (as well as blades forged from crucible steel including wootz); and blades from both steel types may also exhibit elaborate pattern-welding if the blade smith did choose to do so.

From what I can glean from the pics, the only unusual feature of this blade seems to be that it got thoroughly cleaned, probably polished, and apparently treated with an etchant like ferric chloride or phosphoric acid in the not too distant past (if stored well, this look can be preserved for extended periods though). If such TLC were given more often by inquisitive collectors, I'm sure we would be more used to seeing laminated blades from all over Europe with contrasting layers of steel.

I can't clearly make it out from the pics: Are the edges (inserted or forming a central layer) made from steel with higher carbon content? This may be conflated by losses from sharpening during prolonged use and/or restoration.

BTW, good quality blades tend to become somewhat springy when they loose a considerable amount of material from prolonged wear (and/or restoration).

Regards,
Kai
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Old 28th November 2020, 10:08 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
Hello forumites,

I believe we'd first had to ascertain that this really is not any genuine European blade from the most likely period before starting to go off tangents! From my point of view there is no need to refer to remote cultures as a putative origin for this blade...

1. As mentioned, welding a tang of soft iron (or very mild steel) to a blade is a time-honoured technique (in Europe as well as globally); it avoids breakage and unnecessary expenses (for higher carbon steel). IMHO there is no hint for any later repair work on the blade.
2. The blade is laminated. This is again a time-honoured, basic technique to combine different qualities of steel - with lower and higher carbon content, possibly also with different amounts of impurities like phosphor, etc. - especially if one wasn't able to control the steel quality or needed to work on a limited budget. If you economically forge-weld heterogeneous material, you tend to end up with laminations as seen here (regardless of the origin being Europe, India, Indonesia, Bangsa Moro, China, you-name-it...).
3. The structure of the laminations does not suggest that the blade smith was aiming at welding any controlled pattern especially done for show; I see no need to invoke sources famous for elaborate pattern-welding (Celtic, Alemannic, Viking, "Damascus", India, the SEA archipelago, ...)
4. In pretty much all cultures the quality of blades does vary (widely).
5. As an aside: There are lots of laminated blades originating from the South Asian subcontinent and neighbouring regions (as well as blades forged from crucible steel including wootz); and blades from both steel types may also exhibit elaborate pattern-welding if the blade smith did choose to do so.

From what I can glean from the pics, the only unusual feature of this blade seems to be that it got thoroughly cleaned, probably polished, and apparently treated with an etchant like ferric chloride or phosphoric acid in the not too distant past (if stored well, this look can be preserved for extended periods though). If such TLC were given more often by inquisitive collectors, I'm sure we would be more used to seeing laminated blades from all over Europe with contrasting layers of steel.

I can't clearly make it out from the pics: Are the edges (inserted or forming a central layer) made from steel with higher carbon content? This may be conflated by losses from sharpening during prolonged use and/or restoration.

BTW, good quality blades tend to become somewhat springy when they loose a considerable amount of material from prolonged wear (and/or restoration).

Regards,
Kai


Are you arguing that this is a conventional European 18thC blade where lamination patterns were revealed due to thorough cleaning and chemical treatment? Can you show us any more examples?
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Old 28th November 2020, 01:04 PM   #26
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Well, within my ignorance, all that the blade resembles European is its shape, fullers, tapering profile and all.
That the guard would (should) be Iberian, is not at all an implausible assumption; even Portuguese, juddging by the quillons fixation method, welded to the bowl rather than with screwed wings. Notwithstanding cross culture between the two countries may determine either origin.
One thing is certain; the person that has composed this (weird ?) setup is laughing behind the curtains at us, trying to figure out its identity riddle.

By the way...
... May one ask, Andreas; where in the world have you acquired this sword from ?
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Old 28th November 2020, 08:45 PM   #27
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Hi Fernando,

I got it from an online auction in Germany.
But actually I am not sure if I keep it. On the auction images it wasn´t obvious that the blade is cleaned that much and that the rivet was opened as well as the renewed fixation of the quillons (welded). I asked for better images but didn´t get. As the seller is a dealer (who isn´t specialiced in antique swords) I have the right to return. I am unsure, as it is "touched" so much. On the other hand I like the overall style.
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Old 28th November 2020, 09:47 PM   #28
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Quote:
Are you arguing that this is a conventional European 18thC blade where lamination patterns were revealed due to thorough cleaning and chemical treatment?

I'm pretty sure that the laminations were enhanced by such treatment. A well-known example are the much earlier blades studied by Stefan Mäder: http://www.schwertbruecken.de/pdf/staehle.pdf

I'm stipulating that this might very well be a genuine European blade if the experts can't find any solid evidence that it doesn't fit. IMNSHO, just going by the unusual appearance is not compelling though.

Tell me which period this blade may originate from? I can't exclude it being a later reproduction but a few knowlegable folks here seemed to ponder whether it might be an older, refurbished blade.

I can positively state that this blade wasn't crafted by any traditional Moro bladesmith.
(Visayas and the whole Indo-Malay archipelago seem extremely unlikely as well...)

Regards,
Kai
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Old 29th November 2020, 03:03 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
I'm pretty sure that the laminations were enhanced by such treatment. A well-known example are the much earlier blades studied by Stefan Mäder: http://www.schwertbruecken.de/pdf/staehle.pdf

I'm stipulating that this might very well be a genuine European blade if the experts can't find any solid evidence that it doesn't fit. IMNSHO, just going by the unusual appearance is not compelling though.

Tell me which period this blade may originate from? I can't exclude it being a later reproduction but a few knowlegable folks here seemed to ponder whether it might be an older, refurbished blade.

I can positively state that this blade wasn't crafted by any traditional Moro bladesmith.
(Visayas and the whole Indo-Malay archipelago seem extremely unlikely as well...)

Regards,
Kai


Thank you for posting that publication!

We have tried to fit the sword into a possible colonial context given its basic and slightly unusual appearance. The idea is that swords were modified or assembled using whatever was available far away from traditional European swordmaking hubs.

The part of the sword near the cup and the tang doesn’t look that different from my 17thC Solingen made “Ayala” cuphilt rapier.

I have a fairly worn 17thC Austrian Reiter/Felddegen with a worn blade and some loss of material. If cleaned thoroughly and etched, it might reveal patterns but probably not as elegant and flowing as the sword under discussion.
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Old 3rd December 2020, 02:03 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHorsa
As far as I can see the ricasso doesn´t seem to have distinct pattern and the distinct blade pattern seem to "stop" at the last centimeters before the cup. I tried to mark it on the attached images.
The blade is indeed very light and extremely flexible compared to my Dutch field sword.


For what it is worth, the blade on my cup hilt arming sword is of similar profile and is also light and flexible. I posted it recently here: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=26389

Looking at the corrosion patterns on mine, I'm wondering if mine would reveal a similar pattern to yours if over-cleaned.
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