Weapons: Caring For (Blunt) Edged Weapons

Swords and seaxes being constantly battered against each other will require regular care. Even if they are left unused, they will rust if not stored properly, or regularly attended to. What you have to do and how often depends on how heavy the use is, the properties of the blade and the blades it is used against, and the conditions i.e. weather.

Damage to edges:

There’s two sort of damage to sword edges, “burs” and “chips”.
A bur is where the metal has been dented. Metal will have moved inward from the edge of the blade, and been pushed outwards into a lip that “thickens” the blade.

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A chip is where metal has fragmented off the blade and left a gap, usually with sharp edges.
It is also sometimes possible to pick out where a spark has been struck off the blade. Spark sites are often discoloured with metal oxides, usually blue or purple.

Removing Burs

There’s a couple of things that can be done with burs. Either you can just grind them off with a file or a whetstone, or you can try to beat them back into the blade. If the lip of a bur has folded back on itself, hammering will only make it into a sharp flake of metal lying flat on the blade, that will flake off in combat. On the other hand, hammering will work-harden the edge more and reduce the wear on the sword.

Dealing with Chips

Once the chip is there, there’s no way to replace the metal, so the best you can do is smooth the edges of the chip so they aren’t sharp.

Whetstone or File?

A file should not be used on hard edges. This is likely to damage the file and takes a lot of work anyway. Files are better for untempered edges, of mild steel or EN45 where there is no point in using a whetstone. The best way to use a whetstone is in a circular motion, using as much of the blade as possible. The edges of the whetstone can be useful for getting into chips.

Whetstone Waste

The downside of a whetstone is it leaves a grey dust behind. That’s whetstone ground off in working on the steel. Whetstones will only last so long before they’re work out and start to fall apart. The whetstone dust can be useful to collect on a rag. After you’ve finished working on the sword, you can use the whetstone-covered rag as an abrasive (although it will leave faintly visible scratchmarks).

Is it Safe?

After you’ve finished working on a blade, the standard marshals’ check is to run a gloved hand down the blade looking for sharp bits and notches. If you can feel the glove catching on the blade, then it needs more work.

NOOooooooooo! My Sword’s going to Rust!

Rust is infinitely easier to avoid than it is to get rid of. Getting rid of rust requires toothpast, metal polish and a great deal of work. Lets assume that as usually, battle practice got rained on (and you didn’t just slope off to the pub). The first thing you’ve got to do is get the sword dry. Use a towel, or a dry bit of kit, or even a damp bit of kit, but get rid of as much of the moisture as you can, immediately. When you get home, get out the WD40 and spray the blade. This will drive out any remaining moisture, but WD40 evaporates too easily to protect the blade for any length of time. So wait a bit, then wipe off the WD40 and replace it with bike oil or engine oil, which is thicker, and will form a coating. It doesn’t have to be slick with oil, just coated.

HANDS OFF MY BLADE!

Basically, humans are corrosive. Any finger print you can see on your blade will turn into rust pretty quickly. So when showing your blade to the public, hand it to them grip first and explain that the blade is oily. That will usually discourage them from mucking about with it. If people do put their fingers all over your blade (hehehe) then oil it afterwards.

Sheepskin Sheaths

It appears that swords were sometimes (perhaps often) stored wrapped in sheepskin, either actually in a scabbard, or in just wrapped up in sheepskin. Examples of both of these have been found in our period. Sheepskin then would still have had a natural coating of lanolin, a natural oil, which would have protected the blade from rust to a degree. However, sheep’s fleece is naturally good at retaining oils. Including modern oil. Storing you sword in a sheepskin sheath (at least) will keep the oil on your sword and hopefully exclude moisture in the air.

Rust…

Getting rid of rust completely is nearly impossible. A good way to go about it is to put some tooth paste (which is a mild abrasive) on a rag, and rub hard on the rust-patch to remove it. Applying WD40 and scrubbing with a plastic pan scourer can also be effective. Metal polish may restore some of the shine to the blade, but you will probably be able to tell where the rust was by a sort of black patina.

Swords & Fires

If you’ve ever seen swords in films being used as impromptu spits or pokers, forget it. With a tempered sword this will alter the temper and probably result in interesting things happening next time you use it.

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