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Old 6th October 2015, 05:17 PM   #1
harrywagner
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Default Pitch

I am curious about the use of pitch for securing blades to hilts. I have seen more than a few Jambiyas like this and have always been suspicious of them. I would be surprised if readers here have not seen the same themselves, but if not, please let me know and I will post some photos. What I would like to know is:

1. Is this a common and acceptable practice in the ME, or a shortcut?
2. When did knife makers start using pitch?
3. And most importantly, what does the use of pitch do to the desirability and value of a piece?

I hope I won't get in trouble for asking #3. I am not looking for any specifics, just an indication of what effect this practice has on an item's value and how experienced collectors view this practive. Thanks you.

Harry
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Old 6th October 2015, 06:33 PM   #2
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Default Jambiya blade mounted with pitch

Here is an example of what I am talking about. I find it diccifult to believe that the artist who made this knife, in all it's detail, would mount the blade like this. Personally, I think any Islamic weapon you find with a "pitch mount" is a weapon that has a replaced, or repaired, blade. I hope I am wrong about this.

Harry
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Old 6th October 2015, 07:37 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harrywagner
I am curious about the use of pitch for securing blades to hilts. I have seen more than a few Jambiyas like this and have always been suspicious of them. I would be surprised if readers here have not seen the same themselves, but if not, please let me know and I will post some photos. What I would like to know is:

1. Is this a common and acceptable practice in the ME, or a shortcut?
2. When did knife makers start using pitch?
3. And most importantly, what does the use of pitch do to the desirability and value of a piece?

I hope I won't get in trouble for asking #3. I am not looking for any specifics, just an indication of what effect this practice has on an item's value and how experienced collectors view this practive. Thanks you.

Harry
Hi Harry,
Answer to #1 is yes and no. Most, if not all of my jambiya blades, including the very few late 19thc and early 20thc items I have, are mounted in this way, and "no" I do not believe it is a "shortcut".
Cannot help with #2.
#3....no of course it does not reduce the desirability or value of the piece. It is how it was made in the first place by the craftsman who did the job.
When you receive the book you have on order ("Jambiya from the Ancient Souls of Yemen") you will see on page 180 that the method of fixing blade to hilt is by "resin/wax mixture".....in other words pitch, or the local version of it.
Hope this helps
Stu

Last edited by kahnjar1; 6th October 2015 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 6th October 2015, 08:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kahnjar1
Hi Harry,
Answer to #1 is yes and no. Most, if not all of my jambiya blades, including the very few late 19thc and early 20thc items I have, are mounted in this way, and "no" I do not believe it is a "shortcut".
Cannot help with #2.
#3....no of course it does not reduce the desirability or value of the piece. It is how it was made in the first place by the craftsman who did the job.
When you receive the book you have on order ("Jambiya from the Ancient Souls of Yemen") you will see on page 180 that the method of fixing blade to hilt is by "resin/wax mixture".....in other words pitch, or the local version of it.
Hope this helps
Stu
Thanks Stu,
I have passed on buying several Jambiyas I would have liked to have, but did not trust due to the blade being set with pitch. I am anxious to see what that book says, and what other collectors think. I am glad I have asked this question. I wish I had asked it about two years ago when I got started.

Harry
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Old 7th October 2015, 02:00 AM   #5
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Not only jambiyas but other pieces from different parts of the world also use pitch. A hard sticky yet easy material to use.
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Old 7th October 2015, 03:11 AM   #6
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Most Indian swords .
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Old 7th October 2015, 03:20 AM   #7
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I have read that a substance called "lac" was used in securing sword hilts, the lac insect secretes a sticky, resinous material called lac which is collected and used for many types of art work etc.

A quote from Arms and Armour: Traditional Weapons of India By E. Jaiwant. Paul
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Old 7th October 2015, 03:42 AM   #8
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Any grip that does not have a peened tang showing through the pommel, or a cover that obscures the peened button, OR has transverse pins or rivets has pitch or a similar substance.

Pitch has been used probably for millennia. There is evidence of it found in weapons going back a thousand years. In the European forum I remember Matchlock mentioning this in ref. to some of his weapons going back to c. 1200 AD.

As far as devaluing a weapon, does the pitch look old and distressed or was it amateurishly added? If it is still a weapon with known pitch use and falls within the aesthetically acceptable look, I wouldn't worry.
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Old 7th October 2015, 01:41 PM   #9
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Thanks for the comments. It sounds like I am worrying about nothing, and have likely passed on some good knives I could have bid on.

Harry
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Old 7th October 2015, 02:42 PM   #10
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Hi Harry,

Here is on of dozens of threads about resins and securing blades.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ighlight=tangs

Gavin
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Old 7th October 2015, 03:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Nugent
Hi Harry,

Here is on of dozens of threads about resins and securing blades.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ighlight=tangs

Gavin
Thanks Gavin,
This helps a lot. I wish I had asked about this earlier. I have passed up some fine looking pieces because I was unconvinced they were authentic, and more importantly, original.

Cheers!
Harry
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Old 7th October 2015, 04:34 PM   #12
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Harry, if you have a question we probably have the answer in the archives somewhere .
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Old 8th October 2015, 02:35 AM   #13
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This poses a question: As so many edged weapons have their blades secured by some sort of organic "adhesive", I wonder how often the blades simply flew off during hard use? It was probably a common occurrence, and documented somewhere in original text. Same as the breaking of stone axes, and clubs.

I have read of iron age combatants, stopping in mid fight, to straighten their sword blades with their foot. Probably common with bronze weapons as well.
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Old 8th October 2015, 05:29 AM   #14
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I don' think the various pitch types let go at a critical time very often Trench.

They are very tough and shock absorbent. Occasionally we find one a bit loose nowadays, but that is on swords etc. that are now very old.
I have had a few loose ones, and they take a lot of getting apart to re-set them. Heat is required but one has to be careful not to get the blade too hot.
I don't believe there would be a higher percentage let go at the 'wrong' moment than with any other type of sword.
If one appeared a little shaky, it would be re-set before it was used again I am sure, and then good for a Very long time.
We must remember that the various gums and saps used were developed hundreds of years ago, and would have been superseded with something else if not entirely suitable

Just my thoughts mind you!
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Old 8th October 2015, 06:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trenchwarfare
...

I have read of iron age combatants, stopping in mid fight, to straighten their sword blades with their foot. Probably common with bronze weapons as well.

early iron weapons had little advantage over bronze ones, except being easier and cheaper to make. we tend to think of iron and steel in modern terms. early iron weapons, usually made from a low carbon iron did indeed bend. in some respects this is better than the breaking of a harder weapon. you can fix a bend on the battle field (assuming you survive long enough), you can't do the same with a broken one. hardened iron weapons were produced later, and steel became better when they discovered tempering after the hardening.

a simplistic dissertation is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Age_sword

modern tests of bronze and iron weapons made with the ancient methods have been conducted, with expectations that the iron weapon may cut thru and destroy the bronze one. this did not turn out to be the case.

the dha/daarb of south east asia have long grip with the blade inserted, with quite surprisingly short tangs many 3 inches or so. they were held together with cutlers cement, ie a resin mix. there is little if any record of them failing in battle, one trick being the end of the tang was made slightly bulbous (unlike a number of more modern tourista models) and thus resisted the blade pulling out thru the resin. the full length tangs some with pins, or peened ends came much later, possibly after the sword was relegated to a side arm, or even ceremonial.
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Old 9th October 2015, 02:44 PM   #16
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Very good reply Kronckew!

Even in the Viking age some swords were still soft, and in the sagas we read of blades having to be straightened under the foot in battle.
As you so rightly saw though, bent is better than being left with no blade at all. :-)
Incidentally, quite a few British/ European sword blades have been found in rivers with no hilt fittings, and there was some speculation that they flew apart in use.
Speculation is probably the right term here, as there are so many variables possible it could take a Long time to discuss them all and we still would not know at the end of it.

Richard.
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Old 9th October 2015, 04:11 PM   #17
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yes, of course many bronze & even early iron blades had effectively no tangs and were riveted to a wood grip which would rot away. weapons were 'sacrificed' to the gods by throwing in rivers, ponds, lakes, etc. and broken and/or bent prior to that to prove how rich the donor was that he could afford to destroy & throw away a fine weapon. wealth was defined by how much you could afford to give away, not how much you had.

somewhere in there is the origin of excalibur loaned to him by the lady of the lake, and the (not excalibur) sword in the stone being a casting in a stone mould and the return of excalibur to the lady of the lake at the end of arthur's mortal life.
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Old 9th October 2015, 04:39 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
early iron weapons had little advantage over bronze ones, except being easier and cheaper to make. we tend to think of iron and steel in modern terms. early iron weapons, usually made from a low carbon iron did indeed bend. in some respects this is better than the breaking of a harder weapon. you can fix a bend on the battle field (assuming you survive long enough), you can't do the same with a broken one. hardened iron weapons were produced later, and steel became better when they discovered tempering after the hardening.

a simplistic dissertation is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Age_sword

modern tests of bronze and iron weapons made with the ancient methods have been conducted, with expectations that the iron weapon may cut thru and destroy the bronze one. this did not turn out to be the case.

the dha/daarb of south east asia have long grip with the blade inserted, with quite surprisingly short tangs many 3 inches or so. they were held together with cutlers cement, ie a resin mix. there is little if any record of them failing in battle, one trick being the end of the tang was made slightly bulbous (unlike a number of more modern tourista models) and thus resisted the blade pulling out thru the resin. the full length tangs some with pins, or peened ends came much later, possibly after the sword was relegated to a side arm, or even ceremonial.
Hi kronckew,
Here is a Burmese Dha I have that may illustrate your point. Thanks for sharing this info. It helps!

Harry
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Old 9th October 2015, 08:07 PM   #19
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Hello,

IIRC, Persian edged weapons tended to be set with borax as an alternative to pitch or resin/wax mixes.

Emanuel
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Old 10th October 2015, 07:30 AM   #20
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guess you use what's locally available...
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