Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > European Armoury

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 6th May 2009, 02:57 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,586
Default Swordbreakers: A Myth ?

All this talk about rapiers set my swashbuckling mind on another adventure,
the myth of the deadly 'swordbreaker'.

From "Schools and Masters of Fencing" (Egerton Castle,London, 1885, p.246):

"...the very vicious looking and somewhat fantastic so called 'swordbreakers' represented as usual fencing weapons of the 'main gauche' class by so many writers in arms and armour, never were at any time but the result of individual fantasy. As fencing implements notwithstanding thier elaborateness and forbidding appearance, they are decidedly inferior to any ordinary dagger. If they were ever used at all, it was probably in the right hand and alone, not in conjunction with the rapier. No mention is ever made in old books of fence, and thier date must be ascribed as 'anterior' to the 16th c."

It seems I have seen this topic discussed somewhere, but too long ago. In many cases the rapier and left hand dagger were made en suite, anybody ever seen a set which comprised one of these dramatically dentated daggers?

Fernando, I just know somewhere in that corpus of esoteric arms literature there must be something on these !

Comments, observations pulleeze.

signed,
'Z'
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 06:22 AM   #2
fearn
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,247
Default

Hi Jim,

Another great topic. Couple thoughts. One is that the Japanese had "sword breakers" as well, and it's not clear how often they broke swords. Rather, I think they were better for catching swords, and if the sword broke under the stress, so much the better. A second thing from the Japanese side is that some of the sword breakers seemed to be more "gadgets" than regular weapons.

I'll be interested to see what others come up with.

Best,

F
fearn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 08:16 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,586
Default

Hi Fearn,
Thanks very much, and I wasn't aware the Japanese had these too.
Your note on the 'gadgetry' is well placed, as I've ravaged through references here, it would seem that these may well be another of those romanticized notions that have become emplaced in arms literature.

While I'm anxious as well to see if anyone out there has references to these actually being used, or knows of authentic examples, here are some notes on what I have found so far.



In the Wallace Collection (1962, Sir James Mann) #A867, and A868 are 'sword breakers'.
#867 (German c.1600) is described as having 14 deep teeth, each fitted with a spring catch which allow the blade to enter, but not withdraw. The teeth are separately wrought and brazed into the blade. Supposedly the blade would be easily broken with a turn of the wrist...? While it seems that many rapier blades were fragile, it seems also known that these blades were forged to withstand considerable forces, although certainly any flaw might compromise it.

#868 seems to be the example used in several references, one that I found was "Daggers and Fighting Knives of the Western World" H.L.Peterson, 1968, where it is shown as Plate 51. This example in the Wallace collection is shown as Italian c.1600 and states it is intended for use as a dagger.
It is noted in the text that this example has barbed heads on the teeth that work with springs also, and that the blade has been broken and repaired in the middle.

This brings the next observation. Would these deeply indented blades not be compromised themselves in trying to break a blade, let alone trying to thrust into an opponent?
Sir Richard Burton ("Book of the Sword" 1884, p.138) discusses the entire uselessness of toothed or serrated blades, in particular the toothed bayonet in which if successfully penetrated would become deeply lodged in the victim.
He illustrates several of these 'sword breakers' referring to them as 'so called' suggesting perhaps he questioned the veracity of that potential.

Burton was a well known and respected master of arms, and certainly must have known Egerton Castle, who wrote the following year and described these in the reference I previously cited, in which it is suggested unlikely these were ever used as such.

In "The Smallsword in England" (J.D.Aylward, 1945) the focus is obviously on the smallsword of the 18th century, and apparantly the use of the left hand dagger had fallen out of use in fencing in the 17th, however in his historical references to fencing, in particular disarming opponents, there is no mention whatsoever of the use of sword breakers. He does describe various methods of physical combat in disarming the opponent by grabbing blades etc.

Without a wide number of these unusual daggers being found in numerous collections, and corroborating contemporary description of thier use, it would seem that perhaps Castle may be right in questioning actual use of these.
As Fearn has noted with the Japanese examples, maybe this was just fanciful gadgetry.

Hopefully we can find more ,

All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 04:42 PM   #4
Matchlock
(deceased)
 
Matchlock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default

This early 17th combined lantern shield left hand iron glove and sword catcher is at the Imperial Armory Vienna. It does not appear to be robust enough to actually call it a sword breaker, though.

Michael
Attached Images
  
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 05:14 PM   #5
celtan
Member
 
celtan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: PR, USA
Posts: 679
Default

Hi Jim et al,

Some of the japanese and chinese versions don't even look like a weapon, but more like a trinket, or a hair styling utensil, a comb...

Dojo Senseis and police often use an odd-looking stick called a Jute, but it's more a sign of rank and authority than anything else.

I'm following all the threads, but I haven't had anything interesting to contibute so far. I have always found difficult to believe that you can break a sword by catching it with a main-gauche and a mere flick of your wrist.

As a catcher-deflector cum stabbing weapon, the LHD is cumbersome for every day carry, but certainly a useful and very deadly weapon. Easy to thrust between the ribs.

Sword breaker? Nah..

Alas, they do look beautiful..!

: )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Fearn,
Thanks very much, and I wasn't aware the Japanese had these too.
Your note on the 'gadgetry' is well placed, as I've ravaged through references here, it would seem that these may well be another of those romanticized notions that have become emplaced in arms literature.

While I'm anxious as well to see if anyone out there has references to these actually being used, or knows of authentic examples, here are some notes on what I have found so far.



In the Wallace Collection (1962, Sir James Mann) #A867, and A868 are 'sword breakers'.
#867 (German c.1600) is described as having 14 deep teeth, each fitted with a spring catch which allow the blade to enter, but not withdraw. The teeth are separately wrought and brazed into the blade. Supposedly the blade would be easily broken with a turn of the wrist...? While it seems that many rapier blades were fragile, it seems also known that these blades were forged to withstand considerable forces, although certainly any flaw might compromise it.

#868 seems to be the example used in several references, one that I found was "Daggers and Fighting Knives of the Western World" H.L.Peterson, 1968, where it is shown as Plate 51. This example in the Wallace collection is shown as Italian c.1600 and states it is intended for use as a dagger.
It is noted in the text that this example has barbed heads on the teeth that work with springs also, and that the blade has been broken and repaired in the middle.

This brings the next observation. Would these deeply indented blades not be compromised themselves in trying to break a blade, let alone trying to thrust into an opponent?
Sir Richard Burton ("Book of the Sword" 1884, p.138) discusses the entire uselessness of toothed or serrated blades, in particular the toothed bayonet in which if successfully penetrated would become deeply lodged in the victim.
He illustrates several of these 'sword breakers' referring to them as 'so called' suggesting perhaps he questioned the veracity of that potential.

Burton was a well known and respected master of arms, and certainly must have known Egerton Castle, who wrote the following year and described these in the reference I previously cited, in which it is suggested unlikely these were ever used as such.

In "The Smallsword in England" (J.D.Aylward, 1945) the focus is obviously on the smallsword of the 18th century, and apparantly the use of the left hand dagger had fallen out of use in fencing in the 17th, however in his historical references to fencing, in particular disarming opponents, there is no mention whatsoever of the use of sword breakers. He does describe various methods of physical combat in disarming the opponent by grabbing blades etc.

Without a wide number of these unusual daggers being found in numerous collections, and corroborating contemporary description of thier use, it would seem that perhaps Castle may be right in questioning actual use of these.
As Fearn has noted with the Japanese examples, maybe this was just fanciful gadgetry.

Hopefully we can find more ,

All the best,
Jim
celtan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 05:37 PM   #6
kisak
Member
 
kisak's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Stockholm
Posts: 182
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
This brings the next observation. Would these deeply indented blades not be compromised themselves in trying to break a blade, let alone trying to thrust into an opponent?
First of all, I'm assuming that the European sword-breaker here is the "saw-like" ones, and not the trident main-gauche. (I have seen the latter described as a sword-breaker before, so it felt best to make sure we were all on the same page.)

The indentations, especially if not properly rounded off in the bottom, would certainly make for stress raisers, and thus weaknesses in the blade. I wonder if the torque of trying to break another blade might not be worse than the linear stress from a thrust though, but that's mostly speculation.

One possibility perhaps is that these sword-breakers are akin to many if the odd combination weapons lying around, ie more or conversation pieces and the smith showing off what he could do than anything seriously intended as a weapon? (I hope I'll never have to eat somewhere where flintlock cutlery would seem like a necessity.)

Also, in regards to so-called sword breakers in general, regardless of culture. These tend to have shapes which would be quite suitable for catching the opponents blade (as it'd be hard to break it otherwise). However, if you can catch and control your opponents blade for a moment, then breaking it might perhaps be unnecessary in many cases, in that you can then simply run him through instead (that supposedly often being the ultimate goal of it all). So while some rather exotic things may have been made with the intent of being good at catching the sword of an opponent, the idea that one should then break the opposing blade apart may have been slapped on later, at least in some cases.

Finally, I'd wonder a bit about the tempering about a sword which can be broken just by a twist of the wrist like that. Not having tried it I guess the leverage might be larger than I think, but it still strikes me as odd.
Attached Images
 
kisak is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 05:49 PM   #7
Matchlock
(deceased)
 
Matchlock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default

Hi Jim and all,

Please pe patient. I am tracking down a photo of a very stout and technically refined combined blade catcher and breaker at the collections of the Historic Museum Dresden and will post it as soon as possible.

I am sure it will add greatly to our discussion.

Michael

Last edited by Matchlock; 6th May 2009 at 07:42 PM.
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 07:08 PM   #8
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,586
Default

Michael, now THERES a sword breaker, catcher, etc etc! It looks like there might have been an ancestor of James Bond's 'Q' working in the armouries! Thats excellent, thank you for posting that, and looking forward to the example you're searching for...if anybody knows thier way through these museums you do !

Manolo, your contributions and observations are always well placed and astute, and I cannot imagine anything you add not being of interest!
Its good to have perspective and opinion on items being discussed as we try to locate support either for or against the actual use of these items. I was not even aware of the Japanese items that Fearn brought up, so at this point they bring in interesting dimension to the discussion, even though the main focus is on these European left hand versions.

Kisak, excellent note on the expanding triple blade form, and I must admit I had forgotten to include that type as I was intent on the deeply toothed example. In the references I looked at, those were indeed mentioned, and included as a 'rare' type blade, just as the toothed version (Peterson).
Thank you for the confirmation on my thoughts on the compromising of blade strength on these toothed blades.
What brought that to mind was the blades from China and India which had pierced channels in the blade carrying movable 'pearls' (actually usually bearings) which caused noisemaking effect. It seems that Philip Tom had noted that these were likely parade or ceremonial swords or daggers as the 'worked' blades would have had thier strength compromised, so would not be advisable for combat.

I burst out laughing on the comments on flintlock cutlery!!! then as I read down...here you have posted some!!! LOL!! That 'Q' !! Relatives everywhere!

I have always been intrigued by combination weapons, and always recalled a book I had in my younger years titled appropriately "Firearms Curiosa" by Winant. It does seem of course that armourers and weapons makers often exercised thier innovative imaginations to the max!! In many, if not most cases, these were just as labeled...curiosities, and that was the reason I posted this thread, to discover the feasability of these 'swordbreakers'.

It does seem that if one of these blades, in which your very life hung in the balance in its quality, could be snapped with a flick of the wrist, that bladesmith would definitely have questions to be answered. If my understanding is correct, one of the purposes of bladesmiths marks, was to guarantee the quality of his work. The guilds monitored this, while of course the marks were used for other bureaucratic purposes as well, and presumably held these makers somewhat accountable.
It would be interesting to research town or guild records, in which bladesmiths had disclaimers posted against failure of thier blades caused by the 'foul play' of use of one of these devisive daggers.

Again, as far as is known, no corroborative contemporary mention is made of the use of these or any other device for breaking the blade of an opponent.
The existence of only a couple of these, and the question of thier veracity since the 19th century by well established authorities on arms, compells me to believe these.....along with considerable of weapons curiosa, whether ethnographic or European....are likely the works of earlier 'Q's, and inadvertantly intended to drive we later weapons historians mad!!!


Thanks so much guys!! Great observations and discussion,

All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 07:40 PM   #9
cornelistromp
Member
 
cornelistromp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 987
Default

Hi Jim,

very interesting thread. I found 4 different types.
1. Spanish main gauche with short sword catchers.
2. the saw teeth with locker (cf Boccia see pic and wallace coll.)
3. the saw teeth without locker (see bannerman 1926 and my pic)
4. the massive eastern type. (my pic)

regards from Amsterdam
Attached Images
     
cornelistromp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 07:42 PM   #10
fernando
Lead Moderator European Armoury
 
fernando's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Portugal
Posts: 8,604
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... Fernando, I just know somewhere in that corpus of esoteric arms literature there must be something on these ...
Ah Ah Ah !
You are well aware that my vestigial library is composed of all possible mediocre stuff, only surpassed in mediocrity by its owner
In my imagination there must have been zillions of sword breaker types. Some could have been for the right hand, used in regular troops, by specialized sections, to disarm and break down the oponents first impact; these guys would have to be backed by efectively armed ranks, as having these things in their right (or both hands) they would be defenseless. This pattern of one type of impact weaponry being backed in battle by other, is often seen in classic battles (square); i wouldn't reject the idea of sword breakers having being an eventual resource.
As for the left hand sword breaker being more of a fantasy, this appears to be so virtual as the 'rompe puntas' in cup hilted swords; one wonders how much skill it takes to catch the opponent's balde tip inside that tiny cup rim and manage to brake it, without wasting the oportunity. Yes, the skill would be the oportunity, as i don't think it takes much strenght to break a blade tip. A bit like Judo fighting; the greater the balance of the opponent, the greater becomes the blow you apply. On the other hand, those trained guys surely had rather strong fists/grips/hands.
But let's see the precious stuff Michael is about to show us.
Fernando
Attached Images
 
fernando is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 08:04 PM   #11
Matchlock
(deceased)
 
Matchlock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default

Great job, Cornelis, thank you!

Now let's add the Dresden piece which, as well as one of your Spanish items, clearly shows signs of hard employment as a broken tooth has been repaired by copper soldering. It was made in Italy in about 1585 and given to Christian I, Elector of Saxony, in 1587.

Please note that all these multifunctional items are actually combination weapons. In the case of the Dresden combined blade catcher and breaker, you can see little riveted swivelling stops at the entrances beween the teeth: once the opponent's blade was caught between two teeth the stop would immediately prevent it from been withdrawn, and it could be broken.

I add more of these combined edged weapons from various museums; they are all united in a highly recommendable book:

Heinz-Werner Lewerken: Kombinationswaffen des 15.-19. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1989, ISBN 3-327-00516-8.

Don't worry about the text being in German; the huge and detailed photos, as well as the datings and exact measurements, will be perfectly understood by everyone!
It comprises important items from the Met, The Royal Armouries Leeds, the German Historic Museum (DHM) Berlin and of course the Dresden museums.

Best,
Michael
Attached Images
         
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 08:15 PM   #12
Matchlock
(deceased)
 
Matchlock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default

Here's a link where to purchase numerous cheap copies of Kombinationswaffen at abebooks.com:

http://www.abebooks.de/servlet/Searc...waffen&x=0&y=0

Michael
Attached Images
  
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 08:42 PM   #13
fernando
Lead Moderator European Armoury
 
fernando's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Portugal
Posts: 8,604
Default

A pity they are all in 'alemăo' .



Fernando
fernando is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 09:08 PM   #14
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,586
Default

Absolutely fantastic you guys!!!!
This is exactly the kind of discussion and analysis I had hoped for

Questions like these have often been on my mind in years gone by. However, using the only resources typically at hand, as I have cited in my original post the results were at best, inconclusive. Any sort of sound analysis was unlikely without field study, clearly out of reach, or the opinions of many arms writers who often perpetuate those of earlier writers left only unresolved questions.

Finally, here we have international expertise with fantastic resources compiled into a wonderfully comprehensive forensic study of our topic!
The examples shared here by Michael and Cornelius from thier files are amazing and most of these I have never seen before.
Thank you both so much for posting all of these, and Michael, for such great detail, as well as the link to the combination weapons book.

Fernando, you are far too modest, and as I have always noted, you always come up with references from Portuguese resources, which have too often not been adequately represented in international historical exchange in altogether too many studies. You have always represented the key importance of Portugal well in your outstanding contributions, as well as your keen insight into the weapons.
Just as you have mentioned, the 'rompepuntas' is yet another fanciful interpretation devised by romantic writers it would seem, and a good example of this kind of perspective with weapons. I was not aware of the Portuguese influence noted with the trident type parrying weapon, but seems to make perfect sense.

I must say however, that with the numerous examples presented here by Cornelius and Michael, the evidence for at least some degree of actual use of these 'swordbreakers' seems compelling, especially with the evidence of damage in one or more. This of course admittedly may be the result of curious 'testing' or 'horseplay' with these in later years, but I note that here only as a matter of consideration.
The best evidence will be in finding contemporary records advocating or discussing the use of these in actual sword combat.

Thank you again guys, very very much!

All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th May 2009, 11:13 PM   #15
fearn
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,247
Default

Hi Jim,

Fun thread!

I keep being reminded of the episode of Mythbusters where they attempted to cut a sword with a sword, and proved how difficult that feat was (basically, those movie shots of people cutting others' rapiers in half wouldn't work). Given that brute-force, edge on hacking of two swords against each other was insufficient in most cases to break either blade, I'd be real surprised if either the European or eastern sword-breakers actually lived up to their names. Rather, I think they're for grabbing and temporarily holding blades. That would give a small advantage to the person with the sword-breaker, and might justify the use of the weapon. It would also explain the damage seen.

Just a thought,

F
fearn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th May 2009, 09:07 PM   #16
Paul Macdonald
Member
 
Paul Macdonald's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Posts: 48
Default

Hi Folks,

A good topic.

If I may shed some light on the practical potential and effective use of these weapons...

The legend of `swordbreakers` is one that has been repeated and accepted in history every bit as much as `blood-grooves`!

Let us first look to the blades that these daggers are supposed to break. The `swordbreaking` daggers predominately date from the C17th, and are designed to be used in conjunction with and be facing the civilian rapier in single combat.
Rapier blades of the C17th do vary in section, width and thickness, largely depending upon the fencing style it is designed for, or down to personal preference in size and weight.

Regardless of width and thickness though, one essential standard prevails - that of quality of temper required for any rapier blade of practical use.

The thickness of any one well made and tempered rapier blade will vary from forte to foible with distal taper, becoming thinner towards the point, but in a different manner to a broadsword blade.

A broad or backsword blade is designed primarily to cut effectively and be light and fast in doing so. The distal taper therefore is pronounced, with many original blades tapering to a fraction of 1mm thick near the point. I have handled many originals where the blade steel tapers to the thickness no more than that of heavy paper or thin card. Steel this thin is effective for a cutting blade.

A rapier blade is designed primarily to thrust and pierce. It is designed to be used for two combative scenarios - the pre-arranged duel and the street fight. In the street fight, that piercing blade must pierce the body efficiently through whatever clothing the opponent wears. A blade too thin here would be a liability. Some thickness of steel and hardness of temper is therefore required for a good rapier blade to pierce without overly flexing.

Any well tempered and hardened blade is difficult to break without large amounts of leverage and pressure. Effective mechanical leverage relies upon some distance between point of contact (fulcrum) and the point where force is applied.

For dagger examples where the quillions turn towards the point, then yes, these can effectively catch an opponents blade, but there is minimal distance from point of force (hand) and fulcrum.
This combined with the fact that pommels and quillions are traditionally crafted in a softer working material than the weapon blade gives us combined elements of insufficient force of leverage and weaker material of construction. These do not give us practical dynamics with which to physically break a blade.

Also martially speaking, there is no great advantage gained to breaking an opponents blade. A broken blade is never a blunt blade, but a sharp and jagged ended blade that is just as easily stuck through face or belly all the same.

Advantage can be gained however, in restricting the opponents movement in terms of footwork or bladework. Simply trapping the opponents blade for a second or a fraction thereof is all that may be required for a successfully placed thrust, all the while secure from your opponents offence.
Downturned dagger quillions firstly act as a check to stop the opponents blade sliding or bouncing off onto your own target at the moment of defence. Once the blade has entered here, a turn of the dagger in the hand can also momentarily lock the blade in place while your own attack is made.

I hope that this helps regarding practical function of main gauche dagger forms

Macdonald
www.macdonaldarms.com
http://www.historicalfencing.org/Mac...mory/index.htm
Paul Macdonald is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 05:19 AM   #17
fearn
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,247
Default

Gotta admit, I'm thinking that some of these (like that lantern shield) should be cross-posted in the "10 weirdest blades" thread....

F
fearn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 07:22 AM   #18
VANDOO
(deceased)
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: OKLAHOMA, USA
Posts: 3,138
Default

I AGREE THESE WERE PROBELY FOR PARRYING THE OPPONENTS LONGER SWORD GIVING YOU A MOMENTARY OPENING FOR A LUNGE. IT IS ALSO POSSIBLE THAT IT COULD BE TWISTED IN SUCH A WAY AS TO DISARM AN OPPONENT, A BLADE MIGHT SOMEHOW BE BROKEN BUT I DOUBT THAT WAS ITS MAIN PURPOSE. THE SPRING LOADED ONES MIGHT MAKE A GOOD DISTRACTION IF THE OPPONENT HAD NEVER SEEN ONE WHICH COULD ALSO LEAD TO AN OPENING. A PERSON WOULD ALWAYS BE VERY WARY OF SOME ODD LOOKING SPIKEY THING HE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WAS OR WHAT IT COULD DO.
THE BLADE BREAKERS THAT I THINK COULD PERHAPS DAMMAGE AN OPPONENTS BLADE AND PERHAPS WEAKEN IT ENOUGH TO BREAK IN THE COURSE OF A BATTLE WERE THE GREATSWORDS. THE BLADE PROTRUSIONS ALSO SERVED AS A SECONDARY GAURD WHEN FIGHTING BUT IF A HARD STRIKE WAS DEFLECTED PROPERLY AND THE FULL FORCE FELL ON THE OPPONEMTS SWORD EDGE IT WOULD SURELY DO DAMMAGE. THE ZWEIHANDER IS ONE SUCH GERMAN SWORD.
Attached Images
  
VANDOO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 07:23 AM   #19
Gavin Nugent
Member
 
Gavin Nugent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,464
Default Hmm sword breakers

Great Discussion guys and some very valid historical references.

Personally, I do wonder if this name "Sword Breaker" has been taken out of context.
There is no denying that these are real weapons whether actually used or not remains to be proven absolutely. But for these daggers to break a sword of old I think not.

To my reckoning, the name is used out of context, I believe "sword breaker" to be breaking the path and application of the sword, not shattering the blade. They are after all its a parrying weapon and they do break the path of the on coming blade, be it catching in grooves on the blades or the guards.

My 2 cents and food for thought.

Gav

Last edited by freebooter; 8th May 2009 at 09:55 AM.
Gavin Nugent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 08:55 AM   #20
cornelistromp
Member
 
cornelistromp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 987
Default swordbreaktest

OK the test

I made a test with my tooth sword breaker and a 1620 rapier.
I did not do the full break test yet

when the rapier blade is between the teeth, it is really easy to hold the blade firmly without any tension. if you change the angle a bit the rapier blade is in a fixed position. it is very difficult to pull it out.
I also do think that a thinner rapier blade can break if you make the right move with it.

however I do agree that the main purpose of the left hand "sword breaker"
is holding the opponents blade for making a counter attack.

re: spring dagger
with this dagger it is not possible to hold or to break a blade.
I think the use of this dagger is to increase the "blocking surface".

re: 2 Handers zweihander
I think we have to open a separate thread there are a lot of stories and statements about the use of this interesting sword.

regards from Holland
Attached Images
  
cornelistromp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 11:35 AM   #21
Paul Macdonald
Member
 
Paul Macdonald's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Posts: 48
Default

A couple of lovely pieces there, thanks for sharing!

Regarding the zweihander langets, the primary function of these are to guard the hand when the sword grip is shortened (ie. one hand on grip, one hand on leather covered ricasso, which is more effective in close combat).

Stops you losing fingers
Paul Macdonald is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 01:06 PM   #22
broadaxe
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 323
Default

Hi folks, I'm glad I managed to hop on this super-fascinating thread. Weird enough, only last week I had given a small presentation regarding that book, Kombination Waffen and someone in the crowd talked about those so-called Sword Breakers that "could snap an opponent's blade with a flick of the wrist". I told him that this is impossible due the facts mentioned here earlier by Paul Macdonald.
I'm always for "experimental archaeology", for this I have a small educational collection. Among other things a trident-style Main Gauche. I tried to break (each in several places along the blade) the blades of a large rapier, smallsword, old style epee and a foil. Now, I'm a kind of a physical person and it is just impossible. The only thing came close to snapping was the foil, while was being bent at its last third by a tremendous effort.
For your amusement I found this link - check it from 3.30!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9xmM...eature=related
broadaxe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th May 2009, 10:04 PM   #23
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,586
Default

This thread truly does continue to get gooder and gooder ! thanks to such fantastic participation from all you here!!

It is especially exciting to have the expertise of Maestro Paul MacDonald, whose eloquent explanations of the dynamics involved in actual sword combat and that perspective in the use of these intriguing anomalies.

Great input Vandoo, and well placed observations, especially on the parrying elements on these two handers!

Gav, absolutely outstanding thoughts on the application of the term "sword breaker', I had not thought of that possibility. It is often challenging to try to understand a term colloquially applied to a weapon in the parlance of the time and referring to its actual purpose.
I think a similar case for example would be the small Scottish dagger traditionally worn in the Highlanders stocking...the 'skean dubh'. The term 'dubh' (Gaelic =black, dark) has long been thought to suggest the darkened wood often seen in the hilts, and that were typically 'black'. Actually the term 'dubh' can also, from what I understand mean dark = unknown, or hidden or concealed. Apparantly this comes from these 'hideout' weapons being hidden from view. The Highlander, typically heavily armed, would relinquish his armoury in a visit to avoid personal affront, but always maintained 'backup' just in case!

I discovered some of this with the origins of my own name, McDougall.
Apparantly in Gaelic, MacDhubghaill, = son of the 'dark' foreigner. Since the ancient ancestry is Norse, these ancestors were hardly likely to be 'dark', however, in those early times, it was certainly unclear often, exactly where they from. Holding true to my ancestry, some question what planet I am from !

It certainly does make sense that the main gauche would be intended to 'break' (impede) the attack of the other blade, and these elaborately featured daggers would not only be psychologically disturbing to an opponent , but would have good potential to 'hold' the blade.
Excellent perspective very much worthy of serious consideration and further research, possibly more evidence in contemporary material.

Sa'ar, its great to have you with us, and its great to have your observations from a fencers perspective, as I know you are very much involved in that pursuit, and very much in the historical perspective.

Cornelis, outstanding empirical approach, and thank you so much ....but please be careful with those magnificent pieces! Excellent illustrations that truly add to the effects of actual implementation, and well placed remarks to add to consideration as we evaluate the possibilities here.

This truly is becoming MYTHBUSTERS in weaponry!!!


Thank you gentlemen, so very much!!

Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th May 2009, 03:08 AM   #24
fearn
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,247
Default

Hi Jim,

This is better than Mythbusters, because we've already got results. That might be sour grapes from pitching some weapons myths on their board a few years ago, but still it's fun to see people trying swordbreakers out and seeing what came of it.

Couple more thoughts. I think there might be a reason why they're called swordbreakers rather than, say, swordtrappers. If I was in a duel with you, and I had this weird gizmo called a "swordbreaker" in my off hand, you'd think, "right, amateur, that'll never break a sword." Then I'd trap your blade with it and skewer you. If I had a "swordtrapper" in my offhand, you'd take one look at it and be extra careful. Sometimes a misleading name is useful.

While I'm not sure how common swordbreakers are vs. main gauche blades, if they're less common, I'd guess it was because they're only useful if you've got a blade in your main hand. A main gauche is still a dagger, after all.

Great thread!

F
fearn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th May 2009, 02:17 PM   #25
celtan
Member
 
celtan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: PR, USA
Posts: 679
Default

Some interesting main gauche pictures I have collected from the net in the last years. The serrated borders and decorations in many make me believe they were designed to prevent the opponent's blade from sliding away while pushing them out of the way for the riposte
OTOH, I still can't figure out the reason for so many holes and even ricasso-wells in some of them. To lighten the blade, or insert poison perhaps?
Please note that the Artileria Blade is a 19th C Victorian remake made in Toledo from the original.
Manuel Luis
Attached Images
            

Last edited by celtan; 9th May 2009 at 02:28 PM.
celtan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th May 2009, 03:05 PM   #26
Paul Macdonald
Member
 
Paul Macdonald's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Posts: 48
Default

The oval recess in the ricasso as pictured above is for the thumb to fit in.

The grip is held with four fingers wrapped around and the thumb sits over the rear of the crossguard to sit on the ricasso face. Many original main gauches have this thumb recess to accomodate this grip.
Paul Macdonald is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th May 2009, 11:43 PM   #27
celtan
Member
 
celtan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: PR, USA
Posts: 679
Default

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the explanation, I suspected as much. And yet, the small size of the well doesn't seem able to properly fit a thumb.

OTOH, our ancestor were smaller...

Best

M

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Macdonald
The oval recess in the ricasso as pictured above is for the thumb to fit in.

The grip is held with four fingers wrapped around and the thumb sits over the rear of the crossguard to sit on the ricasso face. Many original main gauches have this thumb recess to accomodate this grip.
celtan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th May 2009, 07:33 AM   #28
Gonzalo G
Member
 
Gonzalo G's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Nothern Mexico
Posts: 458
Default

Briefly, let see some facts:

1. The term is not used in spanish for any weapon. It seems a popular name used in other countries.
2. The main gauche have several names in spanish, but none is equivalent to ´swordbreaker´
3. The main gauche is used in the rapier fencing, and not with other kind of swords. It is mainly a civilian weapon, but not exclusively. We can differenciate very clearly the main gauche used in rapier fencing from other kind of weapons showed here.
4. The main gauche used in rapier fencing does not pretend to breake a sword blade, but only catch it or stop it, as it has been said before. Eventually, it is used to attack or to finish a wounded enemy.
5. I agree with kisak. The blades used in swords from this period have not the hardness as to break them. They are more easily bended.
6. The spanish rapier was generally made with a core of iron, with an outer envelope of steel. At least in Toledo. I don´t believe this rapiers are easily broken.
7. The rompepuntas (point breaker) has that popular name in their time (and not from a romantic writter), though its purpose was to deviate the point of the opponent´s sword from the hand, as it is a difficult maneuvre to catch the point of a sword with it and breake it. Neverthless, the point of a rapier is more fragile due its slenderness and the fact that it has not the iron core the rest of the blade has.
8. The chinese used to defend from a sword mainly with the use of a shield, and only the martial arts schools developed other defensive weapons, more or less experimental.
9. I also don´t believe that a nihonto could be broken with this kind of weapon, for the same reasons that in the case of the rapier. The soft core and the selected quenching, the multi laminated layers and the thickness of the blade, makes it very difficult.
10. I agree: the term is probably given from popular use, and is more a myth than other.
Regards

Gonzalo
Gonzalo G is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th May 2009, 01:47 AM   #29
Jeff D
Member
 
Jeff D's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: B.C. Canada
Posts: 473
Default

Hi Jim,

I posted this question on this forum where they are more interested in the martial arts aspect of swords. http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB2...=215693#215693 . I think they have it right, that the term break in the sword fighting treatises means to tie up, slow down or 'render useless' , ie: these are sword brake(r)s rather then sword breakers.

All the best
Jeff
Jeff D is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th June 2009, 04:09 PM   #30
Matchlock
(deceased)
 
Matchlock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default Just sold by Christie's: an Expanding Left-Hand Dagger

Just in case anyone likes to care.
Michael
Attached Images
     
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 10:18 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.