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Old 6th August 2018, 05:47 AM   #1
Bryce
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Default British or Indo Persian Blade?

G'day Guys,

I have this British sword which is a bit of an enigma. Either it is a British made copy of an Indo Persian sword blade or it is an original Indo Persian blade that has been rehilted and engraved.


The blade is 78cm long and 3.3cm wide at its widest points which are at the ricasso and yelman. It has no fullers and much less distal taper than you would normally find on a British sword of this period. Most of the blade's curve is in the second half which is also very unusual for a British blade. The spine of the blade is slightly rounded which is also unusual. Unfortunately the tip of the blade is extensively pitted from past corrosion. It is engraved with the Initials J St L and the crest of the St Leger family, which makes it likely that its original owner was John Hayes St Leger who was a career army officer and one time best friend of George the Prince of Wales later King George IV. There is also the faint remnant of the pre 1801 British royal coat of arms engraved on the blade and the name of the British sword cutler Thomas Gill. It would be unusual for a British sword maker to put their name on a blade they didn't make.


I can see no evidence that the blade may be wootz, apart from the fact the steel has a "different" look about it, which may be just my imagination. I have read that wootz patterns may be masked by the wrong polish and the faint engraving suggests this blade has been extensively polished in the past. I should also add that John St Leger spent time in India.

I am looking for some advice, namely:


1. Do other people think the blade looks Indo Persian and could be wootz?

2. How can I test if it is wootz, without ruining the patina of the blade?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 6th August 2018, 06:05 AM   #2
Ian
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Hi Bryce:

This one may get more informed responses about British swords in the European Armory, so I'm transferring it over there. The Gill family, including Thomas Gill (II), were prominent British sword makers, and I don't see anything here that would persuade me that this is not a British made sword from that maker. The broad V-grind to the edge is similar to the grind on many tulwar of the 18th and 19th C., and it is possible that the sword was sharpened locally during the owner's time in India. As far as it being a wootz blade, I don't see any evidence of that, but a little cleaning and etching under the langet might be informative (without affecting the patina on the main part of the blade).

Ian.
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Old 6th August 2018, 08:57 PM   #3
ariel
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I fully agree: 100% British.
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Old 6th August 2018, 11:02 PM   #4
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Looks like a British 1788 Light Dragoon sabre
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Old 7th August 2018, 09:36 PM   #5
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Thanks guys,

I think I may try etching a small patch of blade.

Thinredline, the hilt is certainly in the style of the 1788 light cavalry officers' sabre, but the blade is very different.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 8th August 2018, 06:20 AM   #6
Roland_M
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
How can I test if it is wootz, without ruining the patina of the blade?


Hello Bryce,

first you should check every inch of the untouched blade with a magnifying glass and a small LED-flashlight for laminations or traces of wootz.

If you find nothing I would suggest to use a mild etchant like 4% Nital or 5% Seno 3207 without previous polishing. You can remove this staining without destroying the Patina (which is in my opinion just corrosion).

Another simple way is to hold the blade under running hot water (>50C) and wait for a while. This would normally bring out laminations, if there are some, without touching the patina.

I think like the others, this is a high quality European copy of a Persian Shamshir or Kilij with a European hilt. These blades were extremely popular among cavalry officers during the Napoleonic campaigns.


Roland
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Old 10th August 2018, 11:32 AM   #7
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All that is cast/crucible, is not necessarily classified as wootz. I wouldn't bother with etching it. It does look like crucible steel, as you can see the dentritic structure if enlarging the images.

There is a polished look of cast/crucible 18th and 19th century British blades that has kind of a fine sparkly look. My Wooley Deakin&Co blade has such a look and likewise a less polished yataghan I own. The yataghan blade regarded by some as "low resolution wootz" is simply a less figured and homogeneous crucible steel. The dentritic structure evident without the whoorls and patterning of fine wootz. A lot of fine wootz work a matter of how the cakes are processed/smithed.

Anyway, here is a segment of imaging from my yataghan blade, the Woolley blade hard to capture but sparkles in refracted light.

Cheers
GC
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Old 10th August 2018, 11:49 AM   #8
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A simplified article on British cast steel re Huntsman et al
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sh...cabbard-is-This
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Old 10th August 2018, 09:24 PM   #9
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I don't have any expertise, but I'm curious.
Having a plain, unfullered blade strikes me as a rather unusual feature on a light cavalry saber. Was it more common than I thought?
Also, the hilt has many French-like features: the narrow "ears", the "rolled" backstrap with brazed pommel plate, the three nails, etc...
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Old 11th August 2018, 10:09 PM   #10
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Thanks for your input on crucible steel GC. Are you sure that is the right link? It takes me to a link on scabbards?

G'day Madnumforce, plain unfullered blades were a lot less common than fullered blades, but not unusual. They seem much more common after the Egyptian campaign of 1801 than the period 1788 - 1796 when this sword was likely made. Below is an example of a British sword with a similar unfullered blade made circa 1810-20. What is unusual about this blade is that it has the long ricasso found on Indian blades, slightly rounded back edge compared to typically flat for British swords, and much less distal taper than usual. This results in a very blade heavy sword with the point of balance far from the hilt. This is not typical for a British sword of this period.

John St Leger was a very "flashy" officer and I would have thought that if he wanted an Eastern style blade, he would have procured an authentic wootz example rather than had Thomas Gill make him a copy. However, it is unlikely that Thomas Gill would have put his name on the blade if he was simply rehilting an older blade. Usually he would have put his name on the scabbard mounts instead.

Below is a portrait of St Leger, commissioned by the Prince of Wales, before this sword would have been made.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 12th August 2018, 04:21 AM   #11
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Old 20th September 2018, 05:25 AM   #12
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G'day Guys,

I test etched a small window on this blade and there is no sign of a pattern, so it is a british copy of an Indian blade made by Thomas Gill.


Cheers,

Bryce
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