Posts Tagged ‘Damascus’

A Black Shikomizue for a Blind Swordsman…

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Anyone who is into classical Japanese sword flicks will know about Zatoichi, the blind wandering swordsman masseuse, whose skill with the sword was unparalleled. Those of you who know, will also remember that Zatoichi carried with him a shikomizue, or sword cane, which he used to great effect, as he wandered from village to village, helping those in need.

Those of you who are long time readers might know that I love shikomizue. They are the embodiment of simplicity of sword design. They may not be the best functional design, but as swords go, I just love the clean lines of a well constructed shikomizue. Add to that the fact that I love stick fighting, and that a shikomizue is basically a stick with a blade in it, and I probably don’t need to explain any further why I like them.

But until recently I didn’t think there was anything more I could possibly want out of a shikomizue until I saw this one:

Handmade Zatoichi Cane Sword Nodachi Shikomizue - Black Damascus

Handmade Zatoichi Cane Sword Nodachi Shikomizue - Black Damascus

This, ladies and gentlemen, is, in all honesty, the most beautiful shikomuze I have ever seen. 40+” of shiny, jet black lacquered straight cane saya, concealing over 28″ of mildly tapering black damascus blade showing an amazing deep, orange red damascus pattern. A single accent is visible when unsheathed, a gold habaki, sitting atop the tsuka. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Now I realize that I may be a little biased, but this combination is just.. I have no words. A shikomizue, in black, with a black damascus blade…

I think I know what’s going on my Christmas list this year… 😀

Handmade Zatoichi Cane Sword Nodachi – Black Damascus – [True Swords]

An Interesting Mughal Blade…

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

A while back, I had a reader ask for some information on Mughal period weaponry. Not knowing too much about it, I did some reading up and found that the Mughal period was a historic period in India that ran roughly from the 16th to 19th Century, where a large portion of the Indian subcontinent of Asia was ruled by Islamic Imperialists.

However I also quickly discovered that the Mughal period covered waaaay too much time and encompassed a large a geographical area that sported too many different but entirely indigenous weapon designs for me to single any specific one out. So due to my rather dwindling time resources, I wasn’t able to be much help (for which I apologize).

However during my travails, I did manage to turn up one rather unusual supposed example of Mughal weaponry:

The Sword of the Mughals

The Sword of the Mughals

This sword features a damascus blade that starts out fairly straight, but curves mildly towards the tip into a rather wicked looking point. The spine of the sword follows suit, except for the top third, which looks a lot like it was cut down from a much larger, wider deeply curved scimitar.

The hilt is also unusual for a Persian blade, featuring no cross guard, and almost straight grip, but a reverse curving pommel, molded into the head of a stallion. Overall an interesting (if a little perplexing) study in Persian weapon design.

This blade is an interesting mix of flavors, part scimitar, part broadsword, with an unusual hilt design. The weapon, as a whole seems to match little of the historical weapon patterns of the area that I’m aware of, but instead seems to be a variation of a mix of different Persian weapon styles that have themselves been modified.

As an example of Mughal style weaponry, I must admit to being a bit flummoxed by the design. Most of the authentic historical weapons I came across when I was doing my initial research on the topic, bore significant differences in design.

I’m tempted to say this is another fanciful but failed attempt by an overzealous weapon designer to create a historical Mughal blade with generous helpings of creative license thrown into the design process. But being no expert in Mughal specific blades, who knows…

But no matter. It does not look bad on it’s own merits, even if it’s just a little too tame by my standards…

The Sword of the Mughals – [Realm Collections]

Fun With Damascus Steel

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Today, I have a special treat for you. You may or may not know this, since it does not come up particularly often, but one of my favorite blade materials is Damascus steel. For two reasons. First, barring unfinished or tarnished steels, it is one of the only true “dark” finished steels that I know of.

The next reason is that, even though I have a great love for all dark weapons, (to me they have more character than most) the truth is that, most dark weapons are not inherently dark, and require special finishes, most of which rarely do any more than provide an aesthetic touch to a blade.

Damascus steel on the other hand, has an inherent dark aesthetic beauty that requires no artificial colorings or preservatives. Ok, so maybe there are some forms of Damascus that have artificial colorings. Some shades of Damascus require chemical treatments or the usage of special alloys or metals to achieve the desired effect.

But in the grand scheme of things, these are no worse than the coatings used to enhance the appearance of monosteels. Nonetheless, it is still the only type of steel that I know of, whose aesthetics are also functional, and whose enhanced cutting power does not really require any special finishes / treatments / coatings. Damascus steel has an inherent beauty all it’s own.

But the cool thing is that, in the hands of true metalworking artists, using these various other methods, Damascus can be made into patterns and colors of amazing beauty. I was quite thrilled to find a site that featured such beautifully wrought Damascus blades, each one uniquely and excellently finished to a level of detail that, much like J. A. Harkins work, totally blew me away…

I present to you a taste of the blades of Kevin and Heather Harvey of Heavin Forge. First up:

<_>

The Zulu assegai – In Damascus

Zulu Assegai in Gaboon Viper Damascus

[view full size]

Now obviously, as one of my favorite African weapons, this Damascus Assegai caught my eye. Definitely a thing of beauty. Due in no small part to the very eye catching Gaboon Viper Damascus pattern on the blade:

Zulu Assegai – Close up of Blade

Zulu Assegai Blade Close Up

[view full size]

Now this is a very unique spear, first because of the shaft style, which appears to have been carved to appear like a dark horn grip at the bottom, and smooths out the rest of the way up. Very cool. And the head sports a cool damscus pattern they have appropriately called called “Gaboon Viper”, as it emulates the characteristic diamond pattern found on the back of the aforementioned reptile… I’ve got two words for the head on this spear: Absolutely Awesome…

<^>

Persian Fighting Blade!

Persian Fighting Blade

[view full size]

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, I needn’t explain to you why I like this blade… It’s all about the points and curves… (I’m sure you can figure it out… 🙂 ) And it doesn’t hurt that it has a Damascus blade. Which is actually appropriate since Damascus steel is reputed to have been developed in ye old Persia and was also called watered steel at the time. No surprise, as Damascus does look like Steel with waves in it…

<^>

Next we have a piece i like to think of as from the West. The Wild West. California gold rush and and all that jazz… It should be self explanatory why:

Gold Rush Bowie

Gold Rush Bowie

[view full size]

Yep, we have a bowie knife, perhaps almost the trademark of the wild west, (besides the ever ubiquitous revolver), in an amazing gold and almost cobalt blue Damascus hue… I’ve always like gold accents on black blades, but this just takes it to another level altogether…

Gold Rush Bowie – Close up of ricasso and top of hilt

Gold Rush Bowie - Ricasso and Hilt

[view full size]

There’s gold in that thar bowie!… I seen it with my own two eyes!!

<^>

Finally, but certainly not least, we find a weapon harking from the dark continent of Africa, an interesting little dagger that reminds me of an insect for some reason. A long wasp maybe? I dunno. But here is it, in all it’s insect like glory…

African Dagger

African Dagger

[view full size]

Now this particularly dark brand of Damascus is one of my favorites, perhaps the only true dark steel in existence. And this sample is particularly beautiful, complementing the overall theme of this dagger very well. Between the African styled hilt, and the really very cool horn sheath, it’s perhaps one of the most intriguing implementations of a Damascus dagger I’ve seen to date…

<^>

And that’s all I’ve got for today. You can see more of Kevin and Heathers’ work at Heavin Forge. Perhaps what really impressed me was not only the creative use of color in the steel, but also the overall attention to detail, fit and finish on every weapon. Absolutely beautiful. Make sure you swing by their page.

As much as they were all great works of art, after looking at them all, I discovered I had a favorite. Probably because I tend to gravitate towards more dark colors and organic shapes, I liked that last waspy dagger best. It just spoke to me. We had a grand old chat.

I think I’m gonna give it a name. I’m calling it the Black Stinger… Yeah… In fact I think i’m gonna have to make myself similar blade one of these days. It won’t be nearly as cool as this one, but If it has half the personality, I’ll be looking forward to quite a few great conversations with it…

P.S. I’d like to point out, for the record, that I am not insane. Just a *wee bit* loopy when it comes to certain blades… But I’m totally harmless, I assure you… No really… 😛

Kevin and Heathers Damascus Blades – [Heavin Forge]

A Barbarian Sword…

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of blade designers who like to call their weapons “Barbarian” weapons. What is perhaps most interesting is that, to my knowledge, there are no predefined criteria for determining how barbary a weapon is. So how they decide which weapons are “barbaric” and which ones are “civilized” is beyond me. But then again, I am but a lowly blogger of  the occasional barbarian weapon:

Barbarian Sword

Barbarian Sword

[view full size]

Now In this particular case, I can see, a little bit, why one might refer to this sword as barbaric. On the surface, it does look kind of simple. But in reality the design is as elegant as any other I have seen, so it would be an assessment based on ignorance. Indeed, this sword has some very attractive elements.

The finish, for instance, is actually an acid etched damascus steel pattern. One of my favorite. Granted it’s a cheap way to finish a non damascus blade, but it still looks good. And then the blade profile. Very cool. a simple but interesting design, with a large ricasso, heralded by two smaller vertices just aft of the blade, and a smaller point on the spine.

All of this leading into a mildly curved black leather wrapped handle, and terminating in an unusually shaped pommel. I suppose the combination of simple lines and unusual accents is what i find so interesting about this sword. It just kind of quietly menacing. Not loud and deliciously evil looking. And not even particularly barbaric. Just subtly sinister.

And I can respect that.

Barbarian Sword – [All things Medieval]

Your Sword, Sir William?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Today we are going old school. I ran across this sword not too long ago, and thought it was another great example of classic medieval sword design. Much like the Black Italian Bastard Sword I posted about a while back. Except that this sword is fairly simple. No gimmicks, no fancy ironwork, just a great sword

Sir William Marshall Sword - Damascus

Sir William Marshall Sword - Damascus

I think I like this sword for same reasons as the Italian Bastard Sword. It is a simple, straightforward and strong design. Aesthetically, I do not find it as pleasing as the Italian bastard sword is. Perhaps because in straight swords, I tend prefer blades whose width does not change drastically from hilt to tip. In this sword, there is quite a large difference. However what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in simplicity, functionality and contrast.

The blade is of a standard tapered design. Not one of my favorites, but in this case, not too bad. A prominent fuller runs almost the entire length of the dark Damascus steel blade (this comes in both polished steel as well as Damascus), both to increase stiffness and reduce weight. The cross guard is a simple polished bar. Barring my personal issues with the change in width of the blade, it is, overall a great blade.

Sir William Marshall Sword - Polished

Sir William Marshall Sword - Polished

The grip is wrapped in black leather, interwoven with black leather strips, I’m betting more to improve traction, and non-slip qualities than for any aesthetic purposes, although it does look quite good. And it is all capped of by a simple polished round pommel.

Simplicity and functionality at it’s best. And even though from a visual standpoint, the Damascus steel blade is a big plus in my book (though the Damascus blade does come at a premium over the regular steel blade version), the fact that it is simply a strong and versatile sword steel makes it more of a functional improvement, than an design one.

This would be for the knight who wanted a sword that just worked. That could be depended upon. And you really couldn’t go wrong with this.

Sir William Marshall Sword – [Hanwei Shop]

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