OT: Swords (was: Re: Whats the screwiest thing you collect?)

From: Philip.Belben_at_powertech.co.uk <(Philip.Belben_at_powertech.co.uk)>
Date: Tue Nov 30 12:01:06 1999

>>>> >Wow. My collection of sharp objects are strictly modern
>>>>reproductions. To
>>>> >the point where I took them to the vet and had 'em xrayed to see if
>>>>they were
>>>> >correctly made. Some were, come weren't. Sold the ones that weren't.
>>>> >
>>>> >> Swords can be neat, I have a friend who recently sold a japanese
>>>>sword for
>>>> >> $40k to one of those roving sword buyers. Some local yard sale had a box
>>>> This one was 650 years old, made by one of the best, and used in some major
>>>> ceremony. My friend estimated it will sell for 4 times as much in Japan.
>>>One wonders where your friend got the thing. I was under the impression
>>>illegal to export from Japan. (not sure where I got that impression though)
>>Apparently a lot of swords were lost in WWII and found thier way to the US.
>>The Japanese families that lost these swords are willing to pay big bucks
>>for them if they can be found.
> Japanese I believe sometimes would "surrender" their swords as a formal
> gesture. GIs would also rob bodies, etc. Getting them back to Japan is a
> fair sized industry.

Wow! Quite a thread for one so far off topic.

In no particular order:

At the surrender at the end of WWII, swords were formally handed over by
commanding officers (of ships etc.) as a gesture of surrender. This is a
western custom as well as (rather than?) a Japanese one. Seems strange that
they handed over valuable antiques, but it is the sort of extravagant gesture
that goes with a culture that commits ritual suicide...

I will admit to having two swords, but I am not a collector. One is a modern
fencing foil with a rubber tip. The other, that I think of as "my sword" (even
though my brother has an interest in it) is a bit more interesting.

It is the sort of sword that officers in the Royal Navy wore with dress uniforms
up to about 1914 (when the design changed slightly). It belonged to my
grandfather, so I assume he was commissioned as a midshipman (US: ensign) at age
16 (in 1913). He may have upgraded later to the newer design, but if so, this
went to the bottom of the sea with him in 1944.

The sword was made by Wilkinson (lately of razor blade fame but in his time the
UK's leading sword manufacturer) and sold by Gieves (a well known supplier of
uniforms, known in the services as Thieves), and it bears the number (which may
be a serial number) 56500.

The test of such a sword was not whether a handkerchief would fall in two pieces
if dropped on the blade ;-) - in fact, mine has never been sharpened - but
whether you could bend the blade so that the tip would touch the forte just
below the hilt. Swords that passed would have a "proof mark" set into the blade
at that point. Wilkinsons reps used to demonstrate this, but it was said that
Gieves' swords made by anyone else, although they bore the proof mark, would be
damaged if you tried it...

My sword is somewhat corroded. I got someone to clean off the worst of the
rust; he cleaned of "as much as he dared", which unfortunately reduced the
clarity of the designs etched into the blade, so this may have been a mistake.

Nonetheless, for such a heavy piece of iron (though not relative to my computer
collection!) it is amazingly well balanced. I wouldn't have any difficulty
wielding it in a fight, even though the grip is a bit too small for me.

FWIW I am told that swords should be preserved with suitable grease. Suitable =
hydrophobic. In particular, lube oil / axle grease etc. are NOT suitable.
Petroleum jelly is recommended; I have heard of olive oil being used; and I
imagine silicone grease and some of the water displacing penetrating oils would
also work.

FWI also W I have some small skill in European fencing (although I haven't done
any for a few years now), but have never studied Kendo...


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Received on Tue Nov 30 1999 - 12:01:06 GMT

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