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Historical Inspiration This forum is dedicated to the discussion of historical knife design and its influence on modern custom knife work.

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  #1  
Old 04-19-2006, 12:54 PM
Jonathan Gage Jonathan Gage is offline
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Seax sheath: Practical for a weapon?

I would appreciate input from anyone who is proficient with weapons on this topic.

This Seax was to be carried sideways across the waist with the handle sticking out to the right and the edge of the blade was to be pointed upwards. It strikes me as an inefficient way to unsheath such a blade if it were to be used as a weapon.


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Old 04-19-2006, 01:30 PM
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I've worn one with the sheath on my back, on the side and on the front. I'm not sure what source leads folks to believe that it was worn in only one manner... not saying that there isn't one, just that I've heard the same thing anecdotally, and question it.

When worn on the back it is out of the way and not going to bang into anything. It wold also be largely hidden by a cloak. I find I can still draw one well enough by turning my hand upside down and grasping the handle. When worn in the front it is kind of in the way, depending on length, but very accessible. Same with the opposite hand / waist positioning.

I think that where it was worn depends on the general situation at hand, so to speak.


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Old 04-19-2006, 01:45 PM
Jonathan Gage Jonathan Gage is offline
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That is one of the building blocks to my theory that the seax knife was primarily a tool, not a weapon. There are drawings/carvings that show the seax knife being worn in front, and I'll have to look up the source that says the blade was carried edge upwards.
I've been set in my theories and seax designs for a few years now, but it is time to see if they have any cold shunts.


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Old 04-19-2006, 02:28 PM
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There are definitely sheaths with the blade edge up; held by two loops.

The "Eyewitness Books: Viking," by Susan Margeson has an excellent example on the front cover:

Nicely pictured on Amazon.

You could wear one of these however you wanted.


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Old 04-19-2006, 03:26 PM
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any knife can be carried in just about any manner, depending on how it's used and what materials are available for the sheath.

I'd guess, with absolutely no basis in archaeology, that one reason to carry it in the sheath blade-up would be to prevent it cutting through sheaths of poor material quality, and then having that turn into some kind of tradition.

Wearing in front makes it quite easily accessible. For most things.

I have trained for many years in bladework in martial arts, and while no 'expert' by any means, I have learned that you can leverage the relative positioning of any two objects, one of them being a hand. Hands want things to be 'handy' and so one can optimize draw locations based on that or for surprise, let's say.

I have an 18 inch wooden Seax I train with along with sticks and swords and other objects of assorted size and shape.

I LOVE your enthusiasm!
These are things I now think I should have written about here if I wanted easy and simple answers to my own questions.
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Old 04-19-2006, 07:59 PM
Jonathan Gage Jonathan Gage is offline
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So, to help end this thread, no disagreements then that the way the Seax knife was carried would support it as being a tool first and weapon second? Plausible train of thought?


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Old 04-19-2006, 08:25 PM
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Anything can be a weapon. Mode of carry doesn't have that much to do with it, it's all in the mind. When all we have to go on is a few archaeological and/or scanty manuscript examples, we do the best we can with what we have, but don't assume that's all there is.

To repeat myself from another post, look out for fashion. Look at all the "neck knives" you see at mountain-man-type events these days. Now guess how many are historically documented...
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Old 04-19-2006, 09:02 PM
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I agree completely.
A seax was intended as an all-purpose tool (from what I've read).
heck, even in 'viking' sagas, it mentions somewhere that so-and-so slew what-his-face with his SEAX, since so-and-so's sword had gone somewhere.

[shame]. My memory sucks.
I thought it was beowulf and grendel,
but having seen that atrocious movie,
there's only one instance of a Seax getting pulled out and not even used.
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Old 04-20-2006, 10:32 AM
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Grettir finds a single-edged "short-sword," in a burial mound after fighting off the howe-wight buried there. He kills more than a few folks with it, indeed even crushing someone's skull with the back side.

The Saxons are known for their "long fighting knives," called Seaxes. (Of course there's also Seaxnot for potential etymology.

Here's a general rule that seems to pan out: the longer the Seax, the less likely its primary function is that of a tool. Thoughts?


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Old 04-20-2006, 11:42 AM
Jonathan Gage Jonathan Gage is offline
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Thats my vote, longer seax, more of a weapon.
I would put forward that there may have been two seax grinds. A tool grind and a weapon grind.


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Old 04-20-2006, 11:52 AM
Jonathan Gage Jonathan Gage is offline
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I would also take it a step furthur by conjecturing that the larger seax weapons evolved from the smaller tool and the angled back of the larger weapons were a left over romantic redundancy, part of a transition period, which was unnecessary and soon lost.


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Old 04-20-2006, 12:04 PM
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I would think that the cross draw carry is the most handy for access to tool or weapon. Faster because it eliminates one step in tip down carry which is tilting the sheath to horizontal before drawing.


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Old 04-20-2006, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Gage
I would also take it a step furthur by conjecturing that the larger seax weapons evolved from the smaller tool and the angled back of the larger weapons were a left over romantic redundancy, part of a transition period, which was unnecessary and soon lost.

I might have to disagree- the large choppers of the early Migration era evolve into the small utility knives of the Viking Age. The angled spine of the broken-back Seax arrive comparatively later (7th C. CE-ish,) and are generally Anglo-Saxon. The rounded wharncliffe-like blade shape goes from 4th C right on up to the late Langseax in Norway.



Second from the bottom is typical early Migration (upside down,) and the next one up is mid-Viking Age.

(Du Chaillu, The Viking Age, Vol II p. 70.)


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Old 04-20-2006, 01:35 PM
Jonathan Gage Jonathan Gage is offline
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Seeing how that first thread of mine had branched like the tree of life, I have started another thread for the time talk to help keep things organized and easily accessed.
...and I love disagreements, therein lies adventure


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Old 04-20-2006, 02:54 PM
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Not being much of a scholar that seems to be here I am going to draw on a modern parallel. I served on an amphib unit in the Navy where we carried our 782 gear, about a 75 pound setup. We were cautioned on what additional gear we packed as even and additional half pound would be noticeable. With many of the warriors of the ancient eras having to carry a great deal more gear than I carried I with me, (I didn't have to carry much food or my tent) I can't see an itemed carried not having to be used as a weapon and a tool.

I tease some of my hunter buddies who carry 5-6 different knives into the field. Some of them even carry large kits with a dozen blades. I say it must be nice to carry all that stuff in a truck and not have to walk 50+ miles carrying all of it.

Hope this makes sense,
Jim


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blade, bowie, case, chris, common, dagger, design, fixed blade, forge, full tang, germany, hidden, hidden tang, knife, knife making, knives, made, seax, sheath, simple, tang, tribal, utility


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