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Old 28th May 2023, 11:30 PM   #1
wildwolberine
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Default Montagnard dha?

Iíve had/sold many typical Thai daab, Iím more interested in the Montagnard dha from Vietnam. (Interest in crossbows led to interest in Montagnard material culture in general). This sword was supposedly collected by actor Peter Leeds while on a USO tour. Thick blade with embellishments. Guard is an aluminum French Indochina coin marked 1945. Hilt is bamboo with recycled metal fittings.
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Old 29th May 2023, 03:18 PM   #2
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That's a nice dha. To clarify this is a Vietnamese-made sword, correct? I recently acquired a Thai-made dha, along with a shorter bladed knife of the same construction. You are undoubtedly familiar with these. I'm interested in why aluminum was used as guards on these. On mine, it's a roughly 1/8 inch thick stamped aluminum sheet. I wonder if the availability of French aluminum coins started the use of this material as a guard, then later continued as scrap aluminum became more available with the warfare in the area. Aluminum as a guard material would be my last choice as a guard due to being a softer metal.

You mentioned Montagnard crossbows. I looked at one for sale by a former US GI that he acquired in Vietnam during the war. I passed on it due to the bowstring missing. Still, an impressive weapon and the former GI told a few stories about the crossbow's impressive penetrating power.
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Old 29th May 2023, 03:29 PM   #3
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Yes, at least according to the seller itís from Vietnam. Iíve communicated with a dha collector in England & he confirmed origin. Good question about aluminum, I think it may have to do with the French coins.

The crossbows from that region are really diverse and interesting, I have a few right now. Will post in the future. Finding bows with all the components that arenít made for sale can be challenging (strings break, triggers fall out and are lost). Have also heard returning vets had to ďdisableĒ the bows to bring back.
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Old 5th June 2023, 05:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHite View Post
... To clarify this is a Vietnamese-made sword, correct?
This is likely a "Montagnard" sword. Montagnard (Fr. mountain people) is a general term for various ethnic groups that occupy mountainous areas mainly in Central Vietnam, but extending to the north into Laos and the south into parts of Cambodia. Related groups are also found in neighboring southern China (Yunan Province). When I lived in Minneapolis, I met a sizeable number of Hmong who were considered part of the "Montagnard." Some of them did not like being called Vietnamese, and many had fought with the U.S. against the North Vietnamese.

Quote:
... I recently acquired a Thai-made dha, along with a shorter bladed knife of the same construction. You are undoubtedly familiar with these. I'm interested in why aluminum was used as guards on these. On mine, it's a roughly 1/8 inch thick stamped aluminum sheet. I wonder if the availability of French aluminum coins started the use of this material as a guard, then later continued as scrap aluminum became more available with the warfare in the area. Aluminum as a guard material would be my last choice as a guard due to being a softer metal...

The daab you refer to generally do not have functional blades. They are decorative items, sold mainly to those who travel—GIs returning from the Vietnam War often brought them home as souvenirs. I don't think that prior use of French aluminum coins had much to do with later daab being decorated with aluminum scavenged from scrap metal. This was more of an opportunistic usage.

A variety of French (and Chinese) coins were used occasionally for guards and as decorative objects on Indochinese swords and knives (usually alloys of silver or copper). These coins were made from fairly soft metals that, although durable, would not have made very good guards.
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Old 6th June 2023, 12:24 AM   #5
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Here are two pictures of the Dha or Daab that I own. The blade is 7mm thick where it meets the guard. It tapers down to the end. There's various markings and a metal insert on the spine. This blade seems to be very functional and sharp. Still, it is most likely made for the tourist trade.
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Old 6th June 2023, 12:48 AM   #6
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Hi AHite,

When I used the term "non-functional" in my previous post, I meant that the blades are usually poorly tempered and soft. Trying to use them to cut will blunt the blade quickly and they tend to bend easily. They can be sharpened and used as a weapon in a pinch, but not a very good one.
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