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Old 3rd May 2011, 08:22 PM   #1
Tatyana Dianova
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Default Bhutan sword with chromed blade: advice needed

I have bought recently a beautiful Bhutan sword. The fittings are made from massive silver (tested) and nicely decorated.
The problem is that the blade is chromed, although it is thick, has a nice geometry and is razor sharp. The scabbard wood and the leather look pretty new (I mean second half of 20th century). The silver scabbard fittings have a milky white appearance inside and no brown patina (I have removed them for cleaning). They are also in a very good condition; there are no scratches, damage, etc… The red fabrics on the hilt look also recent.
So, the whole sword is of really good quality and looks like it was brought with the time machine :-) Is it possible that the complete sword was made recently? Maybe it explains the chromed blade? Then the chrome finish is original and shouldn’t be removed... What do you think?
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Old 3rd May 2011, 08:23 PM   #2
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More pictures:
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Old 3rd May 2011, 08:33 PM   #3
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Tatyana, you clearly have doubts. I wonder if that is silver plated and masked off so you have silver and brass showing on the decorative metal work? It seems clean on the handle in a way that causes doubts and the leather. Dare you sratch the silvery scabbard. That chrome is very clean like a new motor cycle exhaust back in the day when they were chromed?
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Old 3rd May 2011, 08:49 PM   #4
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No Tim, it is a solid silver everywhere, although not sterling - I'd say pretty low grade. I have tested it with a jeweller's file and silver acid. I am collecting oriental silver jewelry and silver plating is not news for me The yellow accents may be gold, but I do not have a gold testing acid...
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Old 3rd May 2011, 09:06 PM   #5
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So could it be fire gilding on the silver? It has a haphazard look and there is a lot of oxidiziation there, that also seems to be on the gold? I am just curious. It is still a nice sword.
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Last edited by Tim Simmons : 3rd May 2011 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 3rd May 2011, 09:13 PM   #6
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Hello Tatyana,

the comlete sword have a good quality but I have no clue if it is recent or old. Maybe someone have done a "over-restauration" by the leather, red fabric and the chrome?
How to remove chrome from a blade Jose have described here:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=13662

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 3rd May 2011, 10:55 PM   #7
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A lot of new stuff on it, chrome, and clean silver. The silver doesn't bother me but the rest does.
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Old 4th May 2011, 02:32 AM   #8
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The Bhutanese are again making swords, including with traditional blades, and I have seen some up close (when I get a chance, I can get some photos off my other computer). The most difficult thing to produce and get right is the pierced work of the pommel. The modern ones I have seen seem to have sharper edges than the old ones. The reverse side, with the hexagons, is actually more regular than most old ones I have seen.

In all, this is likely all new work, but quite good and interesting and worth having.
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Old 4th May 2011, 02:54 AM   #9
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I should say that the most difficult thing to reproduce is a traditional blade. But a few years back, Bhutanese smiths worked with some German ones and produced some convincing reproductions, and the Bhutanese continue to do so. But it's not necessarily common, easy or cheap. The custom of wearing a sword is still common enough that its conceivable that reproductions with unconvincing blades have been produced in recent years, just as some were produced in India presumably using "monosteel" in the 1970s, after the indigenous sowrdsmithing art had largely died out (but Bhutanese smiths continue to turn out large numbers of utility blades, largely of billets of imported steel).
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Old 4th May 2011, 07:38 AM   #10
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Thanks everybody for the replies and opinions!
Tim: I have no clue what the yellow colour is and how was it made, sorry...
Detlef: I know it is quite a pain to remove the chrome, and in case of this sword it seems to be unnecessary.
Dennee: thank you for the expert opinion; I came to the same conclusion logically. It means that I can leave the blade as it is, and save me some heavy work It would be interesting to to see other modern swords examples. I am glad to hear that the traditional skills are still alive in Bhutan!
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Old 4th May 2011, 11:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tatyana Dianova
Thanks everybody for the replies and opinions!
Tim: I have no clue what the yellow colour is and how was it made, sorry...
Detlef: I know it is quite a pain to remove the chrome, and in case of this sword it seems to be unnecessary.
Dennee: thank you for the expert opinion; I came to the same conclusion logically. It means that I can leave the blade as it is, and save me some heavy work It would be interesting to to see other modern swords examples. I am glad to hear that the traditional skills are still alive in Bhutan!


Hi Tatyana,

I believe I had a quick look at this sword a while ago here in England.
I was and am of the opinion that it is recently made (entirely).
Even so, it seems to be rather well made and is certainly unusual.
I wouldn't change it at all, I wouldn't remove the plating or anything. I think it's worthy of a place in any collection as a finely made modern continuation of a traditional form.

Despite the plating, the other elements are very traditional and well executed.

Were it mine, I would concentrate on trying to identify (if possible) where these are being made and by whom.

Best
G
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Old 4th May 2011, 12:24 PM   #12
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Gene: you are right, it is the same sword and it was sold by one of the forumites on eBay. The end price was very reasonable, so I am satisfied with the purchase, although it turned out to be recently made (I was bidding keeping in mind this possibility :-) And I am glad that I shouldn't remove the plating
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Old 4th May 2011, 01:42 PM   #13
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I do not know anything about Bhutan arms, but the fittings look very fine. With total lack of knowledge in the area I admit I was fooled into thinking they're old.
As for chrome-plated blade... I found chrome-plated shamshir blade once. Why was it chromed, no idea. It was looking totally shiny brand new, what gave is the cartouche:-) otherwise it'd be lost forever:-) see before and after pics.
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Old 4th May 2011, 02:14 PM   #14
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Over the years I have had a number of different blades with plating, usually chrome plating, but on a couple of occasions I seem to recall it was nickel.

In all cases I dismounted the blade and gave it to a plater to reverse the process and remove the plating.

In all cases the removal was totally satisfactory.

After the plating had been removed I did a light polish with wet and dry paper and etched.

The results of the etching were not always all that pleasing. On a couple of occasions I finished up with truly excellent blades of mechanical damascus and another of wootz; some khukris had blades that were composed of haphazardly welded bits and pieces; a couple of blades were mild steel or iron with no pattern at all. One jambiya was revealed as total junk--- the rib down the middle of the blade was a line of electric welding.

If the plating on this Bhutan blade were to be removed it could be a win, or it could be a loss.
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Old 4th May 2011, 04:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Over the years I have had a number of different blades with plating, usually chrome plating, but on a couple of occasions I seem to recall it was nickel.

In all cases I dismounted the blade and gave it to a plater to reverse the process and remove the plating.

In all cases the removal was totally satisfactory.

After the plating had been removed I did a light polish with wet and dry paper and etched.

The results of the etching were not always all that pleasing. On a couple of occasions I finished up with truly excellent blades of mechanical damascus and another of wootz; some khukris had blades that were composed of haphazardly welded bits and pieces; a couple of blades were mild steel or iron with no pattern at all. One jambiya was revealed as total junk--- the rib down the middle of the blade was a line of electric welding.

If the plating on this Bhutan blade were to be removed it could be a win, or it could be a loss.



Thats a very interesting thought Alan.
Reverse electro-plating. I know a chap who uses a similar process of reverse electrolosis to remove Verdi Gris from ancient coins while his is on archeological digs. He's made a 'kit' that works off of the car cigarette lighter (with a jam-jar of something to dip the coin and electrodes in I think) I wonder if a home kit could be made for removing chrome/nickel?

I'll be seeing him this weekend, I'll see if he has any idea of how it could be adapted.

Best
Gene
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Old 4th May 2011, 05:13 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atlantia
Thats a very interesting thought Alan.
Reverse electro-plating. I know a chap who uses a similar process of reverse electrolosis to remove Verdi Gris from ancient coins while his is on archeological digs. He's made a 'kit' that works off of the car cigarette lighter (with a jam-jar of something to dip the coin and electrodes in I think) I wonder if a home kit could be made for removing chrome/nickel?

I'll be seeing him this weekend, I'll see if he has any idea of how it could be adapted.

Best
Gene



Hi Gene,
found this on an engineering forum........

The proceedure is very much the same as removing rust but with different chemical. First, degrease completely and scrub thoroughly with detergent. Mix 1 cup of Muriatic acid with 3 gallons of water in a plastic bucket. NOTE; ALWAYS ADD ACID TO WATER. NEVER WATER TO ACID !!! (It WILL explode) Hang two or three copper wires (#12 or larger) around sides of bucket. Connect these to ground of battery charger. Hang item to be dechromed in fluid with positive lead connected. Be sure part doesn"t touch ground wires. Within a few seconds or minutes, depending on thickness of chrome, it should come clean. More or less time as required. When finnished, wash parts in mild soda water solution to nutralize acid. (Do this right way to prevent rust) As with any caustic acid, handle with care.

I would add that the fumes are 'unhealthy' so should be done in a well ventilated area.

I should also add that by lowering the concentration of acid, the de-chroming would be slower and more controlable.

Kind Regards David
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Old 4th May 2011, 05:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
Hi Gene,
found this on an engineering forum........

The proceedure is very much the same as removing rust but with different chemical. First, degrease completely and scrub thoroughly with detergent. Mix 1 cup of Muriatic acid with 3 gallons of water in a plastic bucket. NOTE; ALWAYS ADD ACID TO WATER. NEVER WATER TO ACID !!! (It WILL explode) Hang two or three copper wires (#12 or larger) around sides of bucket. Connect these to ground of battery charger. Hang item to be dechromed in fluid with positive lead connected. Be sure part doesn"t touch ground wires. Within a few seconds or minutes, depending on thickness of chrome, it should come clean. More or less time as required. When finnished, wash parts in mild soda water solution to nutralize acid. (Do this right way to prevent rust) As with any caustic acid, handle with care.

I would add that the fumes are 'unhealthy' so should be done in a well ventilated area.

I should also add that by lowering the concentration of acid, the de-chroming would be slower and more controlable.

Kind Regards David



Excellent! Did I mention that whoever finds the details needs to be the first to try it?

Gene
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Old 4th May 2011, 08:05 PM   #18
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Alex: thanks for sharing the pictures; they illustrate very well what Alan says. I believe you've used electrolytic method? It looks promising but I would better find a specialist...
Alan: I was almost sure I should leave the blade as it is, but now...
And to illustrate the Dennee's point about the pommel decoration a couple of pictures of the older piece. White metal mounts, recycled sword blade
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Old 5th May 2011, 02:06 AM   #19
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Here are pics of a knife that came to me more than 40 years ago as a piece of junk --- no hilt plates, no guard, no pommel, badly chromed blade.

I got rid of the chrome by giving it to a plater as described.

I gave it a rough polish , rehilted, gave it a sheath, and used it to kill pigs that we ran down up in the Moree lignum.

It is not wootz, nor mechanical damascus, but it does have a folded and welded blade that holds a very good edge and has high tensile strength.
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Old 5th May 2011, 06:23 PM   #20
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Tatyana,

I thought these might interest you, notice in particular the gold areas on the silver parts of the dagger hilt:
Page 185 swords and Hilt weapons.
'Eighteenth century dagger and scabbard, possibly Bhutanese, and a sword and scabbard possibly of eighteenth century date. The latter are decorated in the Tibetan 'plain style'; the Bhutanese attribution is purely conventional.'
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Old 6th May 2011, 12:22 AM   #21
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Contrary to "Swords and Hilt Weapons," I've never bought that the attribution is "purely conventional." Nor would I necessarily call those "Tibetan plain style," whatever that might be (and it might be a lot of things), especially since one is not plain. But while the plainer one has a Bhutanese-style hilt, overall its form does look similar to knives that were common in Lhoka, the Tibetan province north of the Bhutan border.

Sure, the two may not be provenanced, but I think there's pretty clearly a Bhutanese style distinct from styles of central Kham, southern Kham, and Amdo. Without settling or being able to settle whether "Bhutanese"-style swords, knives and scabbards were ever produced in Tibet proper (and they were certainly imported), it's pretty clear that they were produced in Bhutan.

Those two examples have scabbards or sheaths similar to most Tibetan scabbards in that they consist of an outside U frame within which a couple of thin slats of wood, covered with fabric usually, form the sides. But the C-shaped scroll at the toe of the scabbard shows up in these kind of Bhutanese dagger scabbards all the time, typically accompanying a profusion of pierced work. And I don't think that, without evidence to the contrary, these pommels could be called anything other than Bhutanese. Bhutanese pommels themselves were a valuable item.
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Old 8th May 2011, 07:42 AM   #22
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Tatyana, thanks for sharing your sword pics, I saw it for sale and was very tempted too. Denee, some great information you posted, thanks! My wife is Bhutanese and I've spent some time in Bhutan, picked up a few swords and knives here & there, old & new. From what I've seen over there, yes, traditional swords are still being made, although I have yet to see a new laminated blade like the old ones. These swords are still the badges of rank for government officials above a certain rank, and in the recent past, the numbers of officials allowed to wear such swords as badges (along with different colored scarves) have risen quite a bit.

There are still a lot of high-quality old swords in the possession of royalty (obviously!), nobility, old families, etc. These are very highly-regarded and are passed down to the next generation with much pride and reverence. Quite a few antique swords being carried today by high-ranking ministers from old families, nobility, etc. that have seen action during their great-grandfather's time as recently as late-19th century - and in many cases, the current owners know their swords' history, or atleast know that their relative carried this sword in action back in the day. I know about more than one high-ranked official today who is well-known as antique sword collectors. People with old swords and in need of funds know who to approach!

It is not uncommon to see old blades with their original hilt and scabbard, as well as old blades with newer hilts and scabbards and vice versa, older hilt and scabbards adorning newer blades. I've also seen quite a few swords like yours, Tatyana (have two myself) - decent hilt and scabbard with new-looking shiny blades. A number of government officials carry this type of newer traditional swords - including many lower-to-mid-ranking ones. This is not to say they might not have older swords, but many are presented these new swords, along with appropriate rank scarves when appointed to their offices.

Good point Denee brings about the worksmanship - the better quality older swords & fittings have a distinct worksmanship vs. even the top quality present-day worksmanship, and some of the present day worksmanship is pretty good!

You'll also see quite a few of these swords being sold in arts & handicraft stores in the capital Thimphu, as well as in other towns frequented by well-heeled tourists (and most tourists visiting Bhutan are the "well-heeled" type). Most look pretty decent at first glance - the hilt & scabbard - but you take them out and the blades are horrible - sometimes thin as cardboard, other times just a bar of steel, with crude hammer marks on them, etc. This is not to say all are disappointing, I've seen a few that are very well made and displayed with much pride. When I asked some shop-owners they said some of the fittings (hilt, scabbard, etc.) are made in Bhutan while others are made in nearby Kalimpong (in Darjeeling district of India), a town renowned for its Tibetan handicraft artisans, who make these swords/sword-parts based on Bhutanese designs - all specifically for the Bhutanese market. Incidentally, a number of these handicraft stores in Bhutan are run by Tibetan-Bhutanese, so them getting stuff made by fellow Tibetans outside Bhutan isn't such a surprise. Thankfully, I've not found these being advertised as antiques. It's also not uncommon to find decent quality older swords being sold in such stores - ones with nice laminated blades, etc. but the store-owners know the value of these swords and honestly, they're right up there in price with what you'll find in the West - infact in some cases, it may be more expensive to purchase an older sword in such stores in Bhutan than through a reputable seller in the West!!!

Sorry for the rambling, disjointed post - I'm just putting down stuff I picked up on while in Bhutan, as well as what I've read in books & online, particularly Phuntsho Rapten's article, "Patag the symbol of heroes" (which I'm sure most of you have read as well) - incidentally I've been meaning to pin down this individual and talk to him in detail, maybe someday in the future ...
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Old 9th May 2011, 07:40 AM   #23
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sta94: Thank you very much for the first-hand information! And I've never heard about the Rapten's article - most interesting read indeed!
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Old 9th May 2011, 03:17 PM   #24
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I think that Phuntsho Rapten may have relied a great deal on the expertise of one of his informants, a man that is said to have a considerable sword collection (I have spoken to his son).

Below are some new swords, including a couple of shots of a laminated blade.

The smiths are working a lot with silver, so my observation that the pierced floriate work is not as nicely rounded and delicate as on some of the older (iron) pommels is just a function of the softer material, which must consequently be thicker.
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Old 9th May 2011, 03:18 PM   #25
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Some hilts and a new laminated blade...
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Old 10th May 2011, 11:57 AM   #26
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Thank you Dennee for sharing the pictures! Some of these swords look pretty similar to mine. Really interesting indeed!
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Old 24th October 2017, 04:15 PM   #27
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Hello All,
Does anyone have more information on the German/Bhutanese smiths working together?

Yours, Ric
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