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#172255 - 08/08/05 10:02 AM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: globetrotter]
Armed_Man_Piker Offline
Member

Registered: 09/24/04
Posts: 440
Loc: East Coast U.S.A.
Quote:

a machete fits the framework of historical weapon design - if the technology had been available through out history to manufacture machetes, for 99.9% of human history they would have been the best weapon on the field.




Whoa, hold on there, son.

I just stated a couple of posts back that folks have been able to make high-quality swords (with stiff yet flexible blades, varying carbon contents in the blade, etc) for thousands of years.

While the machete is clearly a simple type of sword (used mainly for agricultural applications), there are certainly plenty of other sword types that have many advantages over the machete.
_________________________
And the rapier blades, being so narrow and of so small substance, and made of a very hard temper to fight in private frays... do presently break and so become unprofitable. --Sir John Smythe, 1590

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#172256 - 08/08/05 12:35 PM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: Armed_Man_Piker]
globetrotter Offline
does unto others before they do unto him

Registered: 01/10/05
Posts: 637
Loc: ny usa
actually, I used an incorrect word - history implies that period for which we have written record, which isn't that long, only 4 or so thousand years.

for 99.9% of human existance, the type of machete that you can buy for 30 bucks at a hardware store would have been the best weapon anybody had every seen. yes, about 800 years ago, weapons that were of similar quality were becoming available to the select and wealthy few, but they weren't that common, and they were very very expensive to manufacture. It was probrably only around 1800 that mass manufacture of high quality steel swords came about.

steel only becam common in the midle of the middle ages, and then it was still pretty rare. iron has been available for about 2200 years, more or less, of varying quality. before that, you are talking bronze and copper.

even without taking into consideration production issues, sure, there were some nice swords out there - realistically speaking I am not convinced that they had the suppleness, the ability to hold an edge, the strength and the lightness/weight distribution of a machete, except for the very very top end weapons manufactured by spetialists in japan, spain, possibly damascus.

I stand by the statememt that the common hardware store machete is probrably was good a weapon as almost anything that has seen battle in human existance, before the industrial revolution and has probrably killed as many people as were killed by swords in rome's wars and alexander's wars put together.

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#172257 - 08/08/05 12:43 PM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: globetrotter]
Charles Mahan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/14/04
Posts: 2502
Loc: Denton, Tx, USA
Quote:

actually, I used an incorrect word - history implies that period for which we have written record, which isn't that long, only 4 or so thousand years.





Actually, I was under the impression that written language goes back around 6,000 years.

As for the machete being better than everything on the battlefield, I'm guess it would have been less than useful on the average Japanese battlefield where most injuries were caused spear, and projectile weapons(arrows, rocks, etc). When it comes to facing a pike wall, a modern machete would not prove all that useful. Do you think Machete's would have helped the French at Agincort? And a guy with a machete versus a competent rapier man is gonna have some difficulty.

"Better weapon" is an entirely subjective term.
_________________________
Iaido - Breaking down bad habits, and building new ones.

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#172258 - 08/08/05 12:59 PM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: Charles Mahan]
globetrotter Offline
does unto others before they do unto him

Registered: 01/10/05
Posts: 637
Loc: ny usa
good point. actually, not to play with semantics, but that does fit into what I was discussing- humans have been making weapons for at least 500,000 years, the tactics of the long bow and the pike were developed less than 800 years ago, making them available for about a fifth of one percent of human existance.

but that is just nit picking - of course, the geneus of the british long bow was that no shock weapon could really address it well, and the buety of the line of pikes was that it was such a fantastic way to break momentum. for me to use a term like "best weapon" was a little asinine, but I was replying to the idea that since the machete wasn't developed as a weapon, it shouldn't be discussed here. I would suggest that, if people had the technolgy to develop the machete they would have.

concerning a guy with a machete and a competent man with a rapier - that I am honestly not sure of. maybe, maybe not, if you were to take a person who had been trained with a short sword style, and/or a short sword and a buckler or a short sword and a stick, you might have a very interesting fight on your hands.

if nothing else, the machete will have pretty good choping power, pretty good speed due to the lightness, an excellent edge, very hard blade that is capable of withnstanding punishment. it might make for an insteresting fight.


and yes, the written word goes back about 6,000 years, very little of our actual history goes back any more than 3,000-4,000 years, though

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#172259 - 08/08/05 10:32 PM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: globetrotter]
Benjamin1986 Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 611
Loc: Republic of Texas
Guys, while this is an interesting tangent, perhaps this should be moved to another topic.

Globetrotter, the machete is a big knife/small sword. therefore, it fits perfectly into the realm of this discussion.

Oddly enough, I remembered a story from the Daniel Watson, founder of Angelsword that is relevant to this discussion
Quote:

During my early twenties there were numerous adventures, lots of traveling in Mexico and Guatemala, some of which may have gotten a little far across the legal borders as well.

There were times that my buddies and I were the first white men that the locals had ever seen. I carried a large (20”OAL) camp knife/bowie/shortsword upside down off my left shoulder so that it could be drawn and the cut made with a single move. In one village in Chiapas we were greeted by a group of men closing the street with drawn machetes. Backing up might have been worse than going forward. Passing a table full of fruit I made several extremely rapid chops through a cantaloupe, skewered a section on the tip on my knife and flashed it right into the face of the guy I took to be headman. “Melon?” By their tradition eating together was a token of friendship and he had the choice before him. Melon or blade? We ate melon. They cut trail for me all the next day.




If you follow the link, you will find other interesting stories as well.
_________________________
Fencing Club at UH

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#172260 - 08/09/05 12:15 AM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: globetrotter]
Armed_Man_Piker Offline
Member

Registered: 09/24/04
Posts: 440
Loc: East Coast U.S.A.
Globe,

Quote:

for 99.9% of human existance, the type of machete that you can buy for 30 bucks at a hardware store would have been the best weapon anybody had every seen.




If you honestly believe that, then your knowledge of period weapons must be severely limited.

Quote:

yes, about 800 years ago, weapons that were of similar quality were becoming available to the select and wealthy few, but they weren't that common, and they were very very expensive to manufacture. It was probrably only around 1800 that mass manufacture of high quality steel swords came about.




Sounds like you have to do a bit more homework.

I already mentioned high-quality Celtic swords, like the 2,000-year-old example seen by Peter Connolly.

In addition, the Ancient Iberians consistently made iron swords of the highest quality, several centuries before the birth of Christ. One writer of the time commented on their manufacture:

"...regarding the preparation of these iron sheets for the so-called Celtic and Spanish swords: to test if these are good, they take the hilt in the right hand and the point in the left, holding it horizontally above the head, then pull downwards on both ends until they touch the shoulders, the release them quickly. Once the sword is released, it straightens again without showing any kind of distortion. This is due to the fact that the iron is extraordinarily pure, and is worked on later with fire, in such a way that it does not contain... any defect; neither does the iron get too hard or too soft.

...The sword owes its flexibility to being composed of three layers, two hard and one soft one in the middle."


You should also be made aware of the fact that the superb European pattern-welded blades--most often associated with the Vikings and the Frankish smiths of the Rhineland during the Dark Ages--were in fact first made by the Celts of the La Tene period (450 B.C.-50 B.C.).

By 900 A.D., the manufacture of homogenous steel swords was introduced by the Frankish Rhineland smiths, and it became the standard European method of manufacture from then on.

All of these pre-date your "800 years ago" claim by a wide margin.


Quote:

steel only becam common in the midle of the middle ages, and then it was still pretty rare. iron has been available for about 2200 years, more or less, of varying quality. before that, you are talking bronze and copper.

even without taking into consideration production issues, sure, there were some nice swords out there - realistically speaking I am not convinced that they had the suppleness, the ability to hold an edge, the strength and the lightness/weight distribution of a machete, except for the very very top end weapons manufactured by spetialists in japan, spain, possibly damascus.




I guess you don't have much experience with handling original weapons, either.

Mr. Mahan and other JSA folks can doubtlessly tell you about the sharpness and edge-holding ability of Japanese blades.

For myself, I have been fortunate to personally examine several orignal European pieces--the late Frankish pattern-welded sword I mentioned, a couple of Medieval "knightly" swords, a couple of Renaissance-era rapiers, and several basket-hilted broadswords and backswords from the 17th and 18th centuries.

All the originals I have handled have been lighter and far better balanced than the vast majority of modern replicas. Only the most expensive of modern pieces even come close.

My old fencing maestro experienced the same thing when he received a private tour of the Tower of London's swords (including ones that aren't on public display), and he was able to handle far more swords than I have.

As for sharpness, things like the remains of the slain at the Wisbey Grave Pit, and eyewitness accounts of the Jacobite Rebellions (to name only a couple of examples), speak for themselves.

You are also wrong in thinking that Japan, Spain, and Damascus were the only places capable of producing first-rate swords. The fact is that high-quality edged weapons were manufactured in many places--in addition to Spain (Toledo, specifically), there were major centers in Italy (Milan and Brescia), Austria (Innsbruck), Germany (Cologne, Solingen, etc), and France (Bordeaux).

Nor should you think that Syria (Damascus) was the only place in Muslim circles that produced fine swords--writing in the 9th century A.D., the Arab metalurgist Al-Kindi stated that the best swords came from Yemen, Qal'a, and India (and don't forget that the excellent wootz steel was an Indian specialty).

Quote:

I stand by the statememt that the common hardware store machete is probrably was good a weapon as almost anything that has seen battle in human existance, before the industrial revolution and has probrably killed as many people as were killed by swords in rome's wars and alexander's wars put together.




Fine--give us some evidence for your claim.

You seem to be under the impression that, prior to the beginning of the 19th century, folks weren't able to consistently make quality swords. That clearly wasn't the case. You claim that good weapons were "very very expensive to manufacture", but that depends both on the time period and specific culture you are talking about. Sword-based martial cultures (the Ancient Iberians, the Ancient Celts, the Ancient Romans, the Medieval Germans, the Renaissance-era Spanish, the Renaissance-era Germans, etc) clearly displayed the ability to mass-produce good quality weapons--swords that were in demand not only in the homeland, but abroad (take, for example, the demand for German sword blades in Scotland). Look at armies that used the sword as a primary tactical weapon--the Iberians, the Celts, the Romans, the Spanish in the 15th and early 16th centuries, and the Highland Scots from the 16th-18th centuries--and you will see plenty of 1st-rate swords.

Best,

A_M_P
_________________________
And the rapier blades, being so narrow and of so small substance, and made of a very hard temper to fight in private frays... do presently break and so become unprofitable. --Sir John Smythe, 1590

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#172261 - 08/09/05 10:32 AM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: Armed_Man_Piker]
globetrotter Offline
does unto others before they do unto him

Registered: 01/10/05
Posts: 637
Loc: ny usa
armed man,

I can base my argument on one simple fact - in the wars that took place in the great lakes region of africa in the 1990's, about a million people were killed by simple agricultural machetes. the people fighting and doing the killing had pleantiful access to traditional african weapons - iron tiped spears, leather shields, wooden clubs, iron knives - the type of weapons that were very common around the world up until the iron age. they chose the machete as their primary weapon.

from that, I can infer that a person who has grown up with and trained with traditional fighting weapons finds the machete to be a more effective weapon, he probrably knows what he is talking about.



concerning your other points - I think that our disagreement boils down to an issue of cost of weapons. I concede your timelines and accurate and well thought out. I hope that you will agree that a full steel sword, or the type that you disgribe and have seen was a fairly rare and costly weapon - that before the very late middle ages it was almost impossible to field an army armed primarily with quality steel swords in large numbers - a few thousand broadswords represented a relativly large army.

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#172262 - 08/09/05 10:51 AM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: globetrotter]
glad2bhere Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 08/11/00
Posts: 663
Loc: Lindenhurst, Illinois USA
Sorry, guys, I really don't want to let this point go, and I think GLOBETROTTERS' anecdote underscores my thought.

An item pressed into service AS a weapon is not the same as an item originally INTENDED as a weapon. A machete certain CAN be an excellent weapon but I don't know that it was INTENDED as a weapon. A Kukri is intended as weapon and Gurkhas train with it as a weapon though it is also a "camp knife" in the smaller version. On the other hand, a machete is an agricultural implement whose design also easily lends itself as a weapon when the situation might call for it. Now earlier we were talking about a gladius and I submit that it was designed and intended as a weapon though someone could probably have used it for clearing a camp area, yes? I think the only question that might remain would be how short might an item be before one could no longer call what they were using a "sword" and start to call it a "knife". For combat purposes I suggest that the Jpanese wakizashi (~ 20 inches) and the Korean ssang gum (two feet, five inches) give us quite a range to work with, yes? Thoughts? Comments?

BTW: I also notice that noone has brought up the manner in which people might train with a sword to accomplish its work in combat. I think that people who have not actually trained with a shin guem such that they have actually had to weild the weapon so as to sever a target or penetrate a resistant target (IE. a straw bundle or a hay bale) may be kidding themselves about actually using a sword in combat. It really does not work like one see in the movies, which is why training in sword disarms does not work the same in the abstract as it does against some who is actually trying to inflict damage with a sword. FWIW.

Best Wishes,

Bruce

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#172263 - 08/09/05 11:23 AM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: glad2bhere]
globetrotter Offline
does unto others before they do unto him

Registered: 01/10/05
Posts: 637
Loc: ny usa
I would suggest that if a "widget" weather desiegned by its manufacturers to kill or not, is an efective "sword", and would have been designated as such in a different time period had the technology required for its manufacture been available, then it is a sword.

agreed - there are a few minor parts of a machete that would not have been developed as they were, if the machete was purpose designed as a weapon. on the other hand, the majority of the design would be kept.

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#172264 - 08/09/05 12:12 PM Re: Realistic Sword? [Re: globetrotter]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5822
Loc: USA
Globe

"Chose" is perhaps a misnomer.

Of the items you list they "could" has used, I would guess that since the advent of firearms not many folks would have spears handy.

But they would have ready access to mass produced machetes.

"Iron knives" my guess is that they have them but that they lack the reach of a machete.

Again the machete is an item found in every home and carried regulary by the folks.
Might just be case of usiing what was handy

Clubs, readily availble--but no edge.

Overall I would say the machete "might" have been the best overall weapon of opportunity--not "really" the best weapon.

The only way to really prove your point would be show that they had ready access to other weapons--and picked the machate over them.

I would also question the figure of "million" folks killed with machete.
Firearms certainly killed many.

And if the acts in Dufar are any comparision--then many folks were rounded up at GUN POINT then killed by other means.
Not sure that "really" would count as example of death by machete.
Sure thats what killed you but still.


Edited by cxt (08/09/05 12:19 PM)

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