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Old 1st October 2019, 12:10 PM   #1
Pieje
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Default Nimcha markings

Hi guys, a classic Nimcha with rhino handle.
...and a bunch of markings!

I read some old topics and it seems it's not easy to determine the origin of this blade or its markings...
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Old 1st October 2019, 12:51 PM   #2
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St. Lazarus crosses?
Overall, it is safe to refer to this blade as “ European” one. Moroccan nimchas sported a variety of blades, with large proportion of them being locally made, as well as French, Spanish ( due to geographical proximity and the presence of French and Spanish armies there) and a lot of Styrian/German trade blades.

Inscription in the fuller is difficult to read.
In the absence of this info precise identification of the blade origin is above my pay grade. My best guess would be German trade one based on the “ man-in-the- moon”.
Rhino hilt is really nice.
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Old 1st October 2019, 03:00 PM   #3
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Thx for this info!
Here a detailed pic of the inscriptions on both sides.
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Old 1st October 2019, 08:53 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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The subject of markings on the swords of North Africa, from kaskara and takouba as well as these sa'if commonly termed 'nimcha' is wrought with debate and speculation. While we know huge volumes of European blades entered these spheres and trade networks for virtually centuries, it is known that native armorers became skilled in producing blades as well.

In the case of these triple fuller single edge sabre blades it appears these are a Solingen type which was produced from around mid 18th c. well into 19th. While as noted, native armorers could produce blades, the availability of incoming trade blades was such it became unnecessary.

This example is indeed 'classic' as it is among possibly hundreds of the exact form and uncertain of how often I have seen these markings in similar configuration. The markings themselves are replications of some seen on both German and Spanish blades. The crosses are sometimes seen on koummya blades and resemble old Spanish types. The moon is an almost fanciful rendition of the magic/talismanic astral types seen on European blades.

It seems that there must have been certain entrepots in North Africa which applied these kinds of markings copying European ones onto the blades which came in as trade materials, From there they went to trade clients and into the networks.

These nimchas seem to date mid 19th into early 20th c. and as noted exist in some volume with certain variants of markings on blades. Briggs (1965) shows an example of one blade with variant markings.
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Old 2nd October 2019, 05:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall



It seems that there must have been certain entrepots in North Africa which applied these kinds of markings copying European ones onto the blades which came in as trade materials, From there they went to trade clients and into the networks.

.


Interesting point, Jim. In the case of the blade under discussion, maybe the letters aren't supposed to mean anything, like a specific name. Could well be that the workers at these entrepots, who may or may not have been literate, just put what could pass for Roman letters on a blade to add cachet to a product.

I'm sure you are familiar with the blades and, more commonly, barrels on weapons made in the Balkans with similar dodgy markings. Like badly misspelled versions of the name Lazarino Cominazzo. Or the cryptic sequences of capital letters repeated in sequential patterns done in imitation , albeit more crudely executed, of similar sequences seen in the fullers of rapier blades made by smiths in the town of Caino, in Lombardy. I've seen some of these letter patterns in which the characters appear to be derived from both Roman and Cyrillic letters.
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Old 2nd October 2019, 04:46 PM   #6
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Thank you Philip, as you note these letters are likely renditions of European words, phrases, invocations, and often names. These phenomenon in blade markings have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and the following is much of the perspective I have developed, hopefully somewhat accurately.

The characters, which may not be accurately rendered in the conventions of European alphabets, were probably of course simply meant to suggest quality.

As you mention, Caino was well known for lines of seemingly nonsensical letters, sometimes in curious repetition.
It is believed that this was a European convention of acrostics representing certain phases or invocations which had particular esoteric meanings.
These evolved in degree from combinations of varied religious applications including kabbalistic and often entwined with magic, occult and other connected symbolism including Masonic.

The interpolation of numbers and letters sometimes is involved as well, as letters may have numerical value, and vice versa, depending on the case at hand.

With such esoterica, even literate workers in Europe had difficulty duplicating these intricate systems of arcane lettering accurately if not properly initiated, let alone workers in other cultures trying to approximate them.

Good point on the combining of Roman and Cyrillic letters, and often even certain 'magical' symbols can be entwined in these kinds of groupings. It is hard to imagine what actual values were perceived by native artisans applying these letters and marks, but suggestion of quality was likely the end result sought.
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Old 2nd October 2019, 06:04 PM   #7
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Default letter and number patterns on blades -- historical context

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall



As you mention, Caino was well known for lines of seemingly nonsensical letters, sometimes in curious repetition.
It is believed that this was a European convention of acrostics representing certain phases or invocations which had particular esoteric meanings.
These evolved in degree from combinations of varied religious applications including kabbalistic and often entwined with magic, occult and other connected symbolism including Masonic.

The interpolation of numbers and letters sometimes is involved as well, as letters may have numerical value, and vice versa, depending on the case at hand.

With such esoterica, even literate workers in Europe had difficulty duplicating these intricate systems of arcane lettering accurately if not properly initiated, let alone workers in other cultures trying to approximate them.

.


In a European context, this tradition is explained very well by Oakeshott in Ch 12 of his masterful The Archaeology of Weapons which I am sure you have in your library. For the benefit of forumites who do not, here is an example he cites from a medieval Frankish blade:

SOSMENCRSOS with the N and R run together back to back and the
C intertwined into that combo and the Os enclose the
adjacent Ss.
He analyzes it as an acronym for a religious phrase, O Sancta Maria, Eripe me [rescue me] O CRiste Sancte... Keep in mind that in Latin, word order is flexible so transposition of letters in the acronym would not necessarily result in loss of meaning.

In a non-Christian context, there is a strong tradition of assigning numerical values to letters in the Hebraic tradition, in a codifying system that was also borrowed by peoples using Arabic script. Hence, "786" was a convenient numerical expression for the phrase Bismillah al-Rahmân al Rahîm which introduces each book in the Koran. These developments should be looked at in the light of the fact that in classical Mediterranean civilizations, numerals were represented by letters-- not only the Romans, but the Greeks and Israelites did so as well. A dedicated set of symbols, using zero as a place-holder in decimal numeration, originated in India and is the root of our "Arabic" numerals. An immeasurable gift to the world of mathematics, it made developments like algebra, calculus, etc etc possible. Imagine doing your tax return using Roman numerals and you'll see why,
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Old 2nd October 2019, 08:04 PM   #8
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I can't comment on the meaning of the marks nor their specific origin, but I've looked at some blade forum conversations, and experienced bladesmiths always recommend to apply stamped maker's marks to virtually complete annealed blades before heat treatment.

The marks on the subject blade are deep and well formed considering its surface condition. Thus, to me, the marks were made at the point of manufacture rather than sometime after it left the factory. Being a cross-theme suggests a Christian/European origin.

By the 19th C. and most likely well before, European swords were made by several separate craftsmen: forgers, fuller makers, finishers and heat treaters among others. It almost looks like a finisher went nuts with the cross stamp and really added lots of random marks before he sent it on to the heat treat operation. Other than the letters, I just don't see a rational plan here.

Best regards,
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Old 2nd October 2019, 09:19 PM   #9
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Thank you again Philip for further detailing these circumstances with numbers and letters in these key blade marking combinations. While complex it is in my view fascinating as this imbuements on blades were so integrally important.

Ed and Philip, one of the greatest conundrums for me in understanding, from metallurgical perspective, can blades be stamped with these kinds of marks after they are finished?

I have always taken crude or poorly formed stamped marks as the work of native craftsmen or importers, and added as they reached entrepots for dispersing into trade networks.

In some cases it has been presumed that certain blades, for example kaskara types, may have been produced explicitly for export to North Africa. These were stamped at the forte with the 'fly' mark of Kull, but it seems other marks were added after that.

I have seen remarks, I think in Briggs. where it is noted that small fracture lines occur around the area of a stamp so applied. Also, there are the dukari moons applied on a blade over the already applied thuluth acide etched calligraphy.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 05:14 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall


Ed and Philip, one of the greatest conundrums for me in understanding, from metallurgical perspective, can blades be stamped with these kinds of marks after they are finished?



Whether a blade can be stamped, engraved, or chiseled post-heat treat depends on the hardness achieved, and also the area of the blade affected by said process. The latter point is important because in various traditions, blades were differentially heat treated, the zone along the edge(s) becoming quite hard whereas the back or center remaining fairly soft. People automatically associate this technique with the Far East, but it has been observed on Western blades from a variety of sources, from hand-forged Bowie knives of the early 19th cent. to Italian rapier blades from two or three centuries earlier.

As an arms restorer whose practice involves a lot of blade polish, I have been able to observe a lot of this empirically. Since Japanese blade quenching involves only the edge zone, horimono can be carved on the relatively soft, burnished area above the shinogi and historically, many blades were decorated in this way post-manufacture. I have worked on Philippine blades with glass-hard edges, but with deep dents further back where some idiot tried to straighten a bend by whacking it with a hammer. If you can make such well-defined dents with a hammerhead, then a marking stamp can make quite an impression as well. Hit the edge with that hammer and it would likely chip or crack like the rim of a teacup.

Wootz is surprisingly variable. Many Persian and Ottoman blades with beautiful patterns are actually so soft that they can be shaped with a file, whereas a lot of Indian ones with low-contrast grainy structure are very hard. And yes, I've had to deal with some that have deep scars from percussion tools just as I mentioned above. And another thing -- a lot of Ottoman blades were subsequently decorated with aftermarket gold overlay, the steel would have to be deeply scored with a graver to crosshatch the surface, and annealing and re-tempering a wootz blade invites all sorts of problems especially if you want to preserve the watering.

The point that I'm trying to make is that you can't really generalize. These old blades exhibit a range of physical characteristics so something that may apply to some cases would not necessarily be applicable to all.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 08:31 AM   #11
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Nepali Kamis (blacksmiths) routinely heat treat their blades with boiling water as a 'coolant' from a tea pot on the critical heated edge to harden that, leaving the residual heat to temper the spine a bit softer. It takes them years of practice to learn how to do it right. Better they should bend rather than snap, you can bend a soft spine one back to workable in the field, but snapped blade can't be fixed there.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 10:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
Nepali Kamis (blacksmiths) routinely heat treat their blades with boiling water as a 'coolant' from a tea pot on the critical heated edge to harden that, leaving the residual heat to temper the spine a bit softer. It takes them years of practice to learn how to do it right..


I would imagine that the method works better on short, relatively wide single edged blades than long narrow ones. And having polished a few antique kukris in my time, the technique worked well. Edges were respectably hard, spines softer, and with a minor etch and rub-down afterward with very mild abrasive powder, a nice cloudy "temper line" can be seen.

A friend who makes knives once traveled to Thailand to see contemporary makers of daabs and other blades at work, and he reported that smiths use a rather long trough-like forge so that the edge side gets hotter, and they quench by immersing just the edge in the water bath, being careful to include the point on long curved blades, and then after some moments dunk the entire thing underwater. As you describe, it's all about technique and timing.

19th cent. Victorian writers have a low opinion of Burmese blades, but I've found, from actual polishing, that the better ones have a very precise and crisp hamon with a line of crystallization that is comparable to a lot of Japanese work. One would think that some sort of clay heat-sink, ŕ la japonaise, was used but I've not been able to verify this. BTW, the use of these clay coatings was mentioned by the Persian scientist Mohammed bin Ahmed al-Biruni in his treatise On Iron (10th century) and highly visible differential heat treat is evident on wootz shamshir blades made in Iran through the 18th cent.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 11:03 PM   #13
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The nimcha above looks remarkably like mine, with a blade in better condition.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=nimcha
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