Archive for July, 2008


Unpushable Spider Legged Push Daggers…

So today I thought I’d post about an little push dagger that… Can’t really be used as a push dagger:

Skull Spider

click image to view full size

click image to view full size

Ah yes… The classic tenets of form following whatever the heck suits the knife maker at the moment… *Sigh*

Now don’t get me wrong. I do like the aesthetics of this blade. the combination of a skull head with spider legs is actually quite a cool concept, and apart from a couple of the legs emanating from weird angles, I like the overall design.

Except I wish they would have used it as something other than the grip of a weapon for whom the grip shape is particularly relevant, indispensable even, to it’s proper intended use. This is just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure no one really wants a palm full of metal spider legs and skull spider mandibles when wielding a push blade. But you know, I’m just particular like that…

At least the site on which I found it had the good sense not to try and call it a push dagger. So I suppose it’s a cool blade, just so long as you aren’t planning to actually use it.

Use it…?

LOL Yeah, right. What am I thinking…

Skull Spider – [True Swords]


In Soviet Russia, Swords Wield YOU!

Sorry for the cliched heading, I just couldn’t resist… 🙂

Anyway, today, at the behest of one my regular readers, I’m going to talk about Russian swords. Actually mostly about one specific Russian sword, The Russian Shashka (also sometimes called the Shashqua). Lots of info below, so grab a cuppa joe, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride…

In the history of pretty much every nation in the world, there is always at least one bladed weapon that is a predominant, and sometimes even defining, fixture of the culture. Russia is no different, and for them, that weapon is a saber. A very unique saber called the Shashka .

As I pointed out in a previous post, the saber is a very strong and versatile sword design. It is heavy enough to be used for work that would make a Japanese Katana simply asplode, is straight enough to be a good thrusting weapon, but still has enough curve to make an excellent cutting weapon.

The Russian military needed a sword that was as tough as they were, and this saber fit the bill on all counts. There are, in fact, several different kinds of historical Russian sabers, but I found three specific variations that seem to stand out.


The first, and fairly common design is the officer or calvary saber. This has with an inward curving pommel, and a full and often ornate hand guard. This is a common design that is used today by the military forces of many different nations. No surprises here:

Russian Calvary/officers Shashka

click image to view full size

click image to view full size


The second is a cross between a standard saber and Persian scimitar hilt, with an inward curving pommel, and a cross guard. Very close in design to the Persian shamshir, except straighter, heaver and stronger, with a fuller (or two):

Russian Shamshir Style Shashka

click image to view full size

click image to view full size


The third, most distinguished design, and the one we will primarily be talking about today, is the Caucasian Shashka design made famous by the Cossacks. When one mentions the Shashka, this is the sword that will most likely spring to mind:

The Shashka

click image to view full size

click image to view full size

This Shashkas basic design originated from a weapon used by the people of the Caucasian mountain ranges, but was later adopted by Russian and Ukrainian Cossacks, due to it’s better overall design.

While there are numerous examples of highly decorated Shashka, In keeping with the great Russian tradition of strong, no frills, form follows function weapons design, the basic shashka has a number of unique design features that clearly demonstrate how the sword was intended to be used. We’ll start with the blade.

The blade on this Shashka is a fairly standard single edged, curved saber design that is great for both hacking, cutting and thrusting. However that where the similarities to most other sabers end. The blade on a Shashka is often either hollowed out, or has two, sometimes even 3 fullers. This was done in order to both cut weight and improve the stiffness of it’s fairly wide blade.

Hilt and blade of a Caucasian style Shashka

click image to view full size

click image to view full size

The hilt of a Caucasian Shashka is also very unique. The first thing you’ll notice on the Caucasian Shashka is that there’s no guard. Apparently the Caucasians, and later the Cossacks, were so bad ass, they could deflect sword strikes with their bare hands… Ok, so maybe they wore heavy gloves, but still. I guess if you’re that good you don’t need a guard… No really. I kid you not. Go look up Systema sword defense techniques if you don’t believe me… 😛

I have also seen it argued that the lack of a guard was to improve the inherent cutting ability of the sword, as a guard generally reduces how close to the hilt a cutting motion can begin. I kind of doubt this is the case, since in most scenarios, practical considerations would make it difficult to use that extra inch or two of edge right next to the grip in a combat situation. I’m more inclined to believe they simply never found a guard necessary for their fighting style, and so never saw a need to implement one. Not to mention it greatly simplifies manufacturing and maintenance.

A few other interesting features of the hilt was that it was actually curved forward slightly, has an unusually small grip, and ended in a rather large and abrupt pommel, that was often bifurcated:

A Bifurcated Shashka Pommel

click image to view full size

click image to view full size

The short grip was intended to ensure positive one handed placement, and the large, split pommel ensured that the sword remains seated properly in the hand and could not slip out of the hand, as well as provide a tactile feedback to the user about what the sword was doing.

Each of these small details had a specific function: To enable the sword to be used quite vigorously using one hand. Compared to the Japanese Katana, which is clearly designed to be used with both hands on the grip, it is clear that a lot of design thought went into the one handed grip approach, which makes sense when you consider that they were also great horsemen, and the ability to use a sword one handed while riding a horse would have been a great boon to the Russian calvary…

One other interesting feature of the Shashka involved not the sword, but the scabbard. Unlike most other swords, the scabbard of the Shashka often covered the grip, right up to the pommel, in addition to the blade. I imagine that this was to protect the grip surface from the elements, as well as provide a little extra shielding for the blade, without resorting to the comparatively time consuming Japanese practice of perfectly mating the opening of the scabbard to the collar on the hilt. As usual, a simple, but effective Russian approach to solving a problem:

click image to view full size]

click image to view full size

The Shashka has also naturally played a prominent role in Russian and Cossack tradition. In fact, just like some traditional Chinese art forms, the Cossacks are one of the few cultures to make common use of two Shashka in traditional forms:

Old School Shashka Joint.

The New Shashka Hotness…

Now that is my kind of art… Old or new… It’s all good. And all kinds of cool. There are definitely more than a couple of those dual sword moves I need to learn… : ) I wonder how effective those moves would be in combat… Or are those just limited to making vodka orange smoothies without a blender…?


A Sword Worthy of Running a Foot Through…

I don’t know if any of you saw this, but there was a recent article in the news about a Lebanon, Ind. woman who accidentally ran her foot through with a sword during a Wiccan good luck ceremony at a local cemetery.

Now I suppose sword injuries are an occupational hazard if your religious beliefs (or hobbies) involves a lot of sword play or even just frequent handling, so I can see how this could happen. In fact I know people who have had similar misfortunes, including a friends somewhat recent incident… (You know who you are 😉 )

But here’s the thing. Though I’m not normally one to laugh at anothers misfortune, but I have to admit I find the whole idea of “running ones foot through” a little funny. It’s just one of those weird kind of accidents that when I read about I get this picture of the Three Stooges, or Laurel and Hardy in my mind and I can’t help but grin.

Yes, I’ve cut myself on numerous occasions. I have yet to completely impale a foot, (at least not with a sword) but have done equally dumb things to my hands and feet, legs, arms, etc. So it’s not like I can’t sympathise on the pain of having a blade turn on someone. It’s just that, most of the time when they have turned on me in the past, it was because I was being a dumb-ass, and they got tired of having to deal with it. 😉

I just still laugh at myself when I remember the stupidity of these incidents. You know, it’s like a cartoon boulder falling on Wiley Coyote. After he’s been blown up by his own rocket. In real life I suppose it’s not supposed to be so funny, but in the toons… Ok, so I’m possibly a really jacked up individual. Maybe. Most likely. Whatever. I never claimed to be normal. So there!

But back to the blade at hand, I thought it interesting that less than a day before I read this article, I ran into an interesting sword on a UK site called Witchcraft Ltd. The timing…? Creepy… Check these out:

[Click to view full size]


[click image to view full size]

Ah, now ain’t it a beaut? This sword is hand forged by Wayland forge for Witchcraft Ltd. specifically for things like Wiccan ceremonies and stuff. And while it lacks some of the flash, finish and glam of it’s more commercial counterparts, it is exactly the kind of sword i like to see.

This Ram sword, so called ostensibly because of the double ram horn shaped pommel, is a study in sword simplicity and elegance. I would almost say it’s a no frills sword, except that it isn’t. The blade has an excellent profile, with smooth but subtle curves and the two interesting curlicues on the spine.

The simple unfinished grip curves up and into the rams head at the pommel. And that’s it. So simple, but so very engaging. Here’s another one:

Spiral Path

Spiral Path

[click image to view full size]

Another similarly designed but very interesting sword. Spiral path carries the same simple finish, but an even more aggressive blade profile, carrying the same two curlicues on the spine of the blade, but with a deeper, almost scimitar-like curve starting half way to the tip of the blade.

And, as it’s name aptly describes, a simple slightly contoured but unfinished grip rolls neatly into a tight coil at the pommel. Simple but beautiful. And these are not so much the sinister lines I usually prefer, as much as elegant and organic. It’s interesting how much character such a simple sword can have.

That’s not to say these are without any deficiencies. From my perspective, these really do need a proper grip, with either scales, or a wrap, as well as a good guard. I think these are definitely a necessity for a good sword. But then my perspective is more combat oriented than ritual, and so I cannot really fault the simple organic elegance the designer had in mind for these swords.

There are a couple of more traditional looking blades, albeit with the same simple finish, on the site, however I have to say these two are my favorite. Though now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure i would prefer to have a foot impaled with one of these, or with one of your regular, run-of-the-mill flashy swords.

For one thing, I’m thinking a shiny highly polished mirror finished sword would probably go in and come out smoother than a simply finished sword … But that’s just me thinking aloud here…

The Ram, Spiral Path swords – [Wayland Forge/Witchcraft Ltd.]


How NOT to design a wrist blade…

So today I found some time to do my internet blade browse thing, and came upon this little no no…

Close Quarters Combat Fighter - Click to view full size

Close Quarters Combat Fighter

[click image to view full size]

Now this is a no-no for reasons i will get into shortly, but it is ostensibly a rather cool looking little wrist weapon. It’s got a steel fist plate/guard with recesses that are used to store a pair of stainless steel spikes (with leather thong tassels, no less), and the front of the plate is formed into these three spikes that project out over your knuckles.

This is the kind of thing that would be cool to pull out of your pocket and strap on your fist, with a menacing glare, just before a barfight. At least in theory. In practice, you’ll just have to hope your would-be opponent is sufficiently dissuaded to back down based on it’s rather sinister aesthetics alone. Because I can almost guarantee the fight might not go exactly the way you might think with this thing on…

Though it may not seem particularly obvious, there are some rather problematic design flaws with this weapon. The biggest, and one which I talked about a little bit in my Assassins Creed Blade Guide, is the need for a stable platform upon which to mount any wrist or arm mounted blade. This weapon, unfortunately, does not have any such secure mounting.

If you look at how this weapon is designed, you will see that the metal plate/hand shield is riveted to what looks like a nylon mesh web, to which a strap with velcro has been attached. In the front there appears to be a covered elastic band that has been bolted/screwed to the plate somehow. All seems well and good, you might think, until you realize the following:

1. Velcro, when used by itself, is perhaps one of the worst ways to secure a wrist mounted device. In this case it was used to ensure a tight fit of the rear strap, regardless of the wearers wrist size, because that secure fit is a very neccessary requirement of a wrist worn weapon. However because velcro is designed to be pulled off with little resistance, all it would take is a sideways glancing blow from something else to loosen it, or even worse, make it come off altogether.

Velcro does have the strength to be used for applications like these, but needs to be part of a properly designed fastening mechanism, with a secondary fastening device, wrap, strap sleeve, or lock mechanism covering the velcro strip, in order to make sure it can’t just be pulled off once it’s secured. Or just a regular tried and true buckle. So… – Strike One.

2. That band on the front? The elastic one? That’s a nonstarter. First because an elastic band will never give you a solid mount for ANYTHING that will be used in this fashion. It will move when you don’t want it to, allow the whole thing to slide backwards when you need it to stay in one place, and will generally be a major nuisance. It really needs to be another nylon/velcro strap.

And I can’t see how exactly this is fastened to the plate underneath, but using a couple of screws with an elastic strap doesn’t seem too bright of an idea either. You run the risk of the strap stretching out and slipping out from under the screws/bolts/plate, whatever they have under there. Just not the best idea. So for that – Strike Two.

3. The last is not as obvious a problem, and probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if the straps weren’t such a mess, but if you look at how that rear strap is attached, you’ll see that it isn’t really attached to the plate. It’s stitched to the nylon webbing an inch or so after the plate ends. This, IMHO, is a problem. A rather insidious one.

In general things like this work best when the mounting straps are attached to the most rigid part of the platform, which, in this case, is the metal plate. NOT the flexible nylon webbing. Either the webbing should have been smaller, or the plate should have been longer, but either way, the velcro strap should have been attached to the rear of the plate.

Seriously, when a weapon mounting strap is attached to a flexible, non-rigid spot on your wrist mounted weapon, bad things tend to happen when it is used… Trust me. The possible resulting carnage to the wearer if it is used like this would not be pretty. So all I’m going to say is… Steeeerike Three!


But for most of us, we can overlook all of that glorious phail, because it does look cool. Be nice to hang up on your wall. Or for some impressive LARP action. Just don’t count on it for any real CQC. At least not without a major redesign. Actually it would be really easy to redesign, and would be a fairly formidable weapon if properly outfitted and secured. So maybe it’s not a total loss.

But I do have one  little question… What’s with the freakin’ tassels?!?

Close Quarters Combat Fighter – [True Swords]


Freaky Wings of Blade…

I posted recently about the various niches in “bladed art”, and thought this would be an interesting addition to the list of things that get a hearty “What in the name of…” from yours truly:

The Night Glider

The Night Glider - Click to view full size

Now I found this… creature… on an Australian website while looking for something else, but it definitely caught my eye. Now I know I had mentioned before that there were quite a few crossover bladed art pieces, but this is something new…

The Night Glider

The Night Glider - Click to view full size

The Night Glider looks to be a cross between a dragon, a greyhound, and a vengeful revenant… Except it’s limbs have been replaced by rather substantial blades. It’s arms are a set of outstretched dragon like wings, tipped with a large fore-to-aft curving blade, with a smaller sub-blade protruding backwards from where the traditional thumb joint would normally be in such winged marvels.

The Night Glider - Click for full size

The Night Glider - Click to view full size

It’s upper body and head are suitably revenant like, looking like an incompletely (but symmetrically), decomposed skeleton brought back to do some… Errr unsavory task. The back half is an interesting mix of bony canine (hence the greyhound reference) and dragon, complete with pointy tail. What’s even more striking is that the rear paws of this particular canine have been replaced with a set of rather intimidating blades, which kinda raises the thorny philosophical question… How does it land?

The Night Glider

The Night Glider

In fact, given how much of it’s extended skeleton has been converted to blades, albeit unsharpened ones, I dare say this unfortunate chap must actually fly (or glide…) continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week , 365 days a year, as it appears to be ill equipped for any kind of terrestrially based activity… That’s assuming it could actually fly with metal wings.

Actually, now that I think about it, why not? It worked for Archangel didn’t it? All it would have to worry about would be sticking the landing. Or not sticking the landing. Depending on how you look at it.

Ok, I’ll stop rambling now…


A ronin blade that makes… *GASP* Sense!!

At last! I’ve found a variation of “Black Ronin” weaponry that doesn’t make me want to stab someone in the eye with an 8 year old sliver of rancid, over-salted rhinoceros jerky:

Musashi Midnight Ronin Katana

Musashi Midnight Ronin Katana

[View full size]

Ok, ok, so it’s a “Midnight Ronin” weapon as opposed to “Black Ronin”, but it’s still a chip (albeit a very small, and rather tastefully carved and crafted chip) off the old “Black Ronin” block. Seriously. Ronin were masterless, discredited Samurai.

And yet they seem to be the modern blade makers equivalent of smugly saying “Yeah… It’s a V8…” to a muscle car gear head. Perhaps I should come out with a specialty “Convict” line of weapons. Shivs and zip guns and whatnot. I’m sure they’ll sell like hotcakes…

But I digress. I must admit, Musashi Forge does have a way with steel, AND they get props from me for correctly using the term Ronin in the naming of a blade. Unlike the many other jokers whose blades we have seen in countless previous posts, THIS is actually a Samurai sword. Make no mistake. Ronin were Samurai.

The fact that they were masterless did not automatically make Samurai discard their trusty swords and pick up those ridiculous “Black Ronin” weapons we see all over the place. Nor did they go to the local blacksmith and say “Hey blackie, you need to make my sword black, cause I’m a Ronin now.” That’s just plain ridiculous.

No, they were samurai, as they were before, same swords, same techniques, same code of honor. They were often just Samurai who had been dismissed, dishonored or simply parted ways with those whom they previously served, for any number of often valid reasons. But the tools remained the same. Much like this one. And a glorious tool this is too.

Now as I’ve said before, I’ve seen so many shiny blades that they really do little for me. And this one, at least so far as the blade is concerned, is not much different form most other high quality katanas. Now don’t get me wrong, It is an excellent hand made blade, with outstanding fit and finish, as are most Musashi forged blades. And I love the almost cobalt blue saya (scabbard), as it is a nice but rarely used color. But what really caught my eye on this weapon was the hilt. Specifically the very beautifully done tsuba, fuchi and kashira.

Musashi Forge – Midnight Ronin Katana – Hilt

Musashi - Midnight Ronin

[view full size]

The copper kashira (or pommel), fuchi (collar) and tsuba (guard) have been painstakingly formed with beautifully designed dragons, a horse, rider and carriage, a monk and even a hut, all beautifully accented and highlighted with real gold and silver paint. Absolutely beautiful.

Now If only they would combine the hilt fittings on this sword with one with a black blade… I’d totally be all over it. No second thoughts. I guess I must admit to being addicted to Black Ronin weapons. Just so long as they are actually authentic “Samurai/Ronin” swords, and not bastardized mutant “Ninja” weapons masquerading shamelessly as such…

Musashi Forge Elite series – Midnight Ronin Katana – [True Swords]


A rather wicked bowie…

A while back while doing some research on a little project, (the results of which you may get to see here at some point in the future) I ran across a wicked looking little sword:

Viper Night Bowie

Viper Night Bowie

[view full size]

Now you may notice, if you go to the site I found this sweet looking sword on, (link at the bottom of the page) that it is called a “Black Ronin Full Tang Ninja Sword”. I chose to use the Viper Bowie because frankly there are too many Black Ronin weapons floating about, and also because this swords design, beyond anything more than being fairly straight, actually has more in common with a bowie than it does a ninjato.

However, as swords go, this one combines a rather unusual number of bowie-like design elements, such as a false edge on the spine that seems to run into a long clip-like point, opposite a blade with an almost imperceptible belly. Definitely Bowie inspired. Beyond that you have a serrated section below the straight edge that runs into thee short cut our ricasso, and into the small finger guard.

Behind the false rear edge on the spine of the blade we see a set of cut outs, much like those on the survival knives I blogged about a while ago, that runs into a small raised section that looks almost like a thumb rest with a grip slots cut into the surface. The blade itself has been rather heinously violated by a set of three slots set between the serrated section of the blade and just below the cut outs in the spine.

If you look at the profile of the blade, you can see that it is actually at it’s narrowest just above the slot area, and gets wider before and after, which, to me, makes the placement, and even the existence of those slots all the more mind boggling.

Black Viper Bowie

Why remove more material so close to one of the weakest parts of the blade? Maybe they like seeing swords bend/snap in half at inopportune moments, impaling the users big toe with a wayward slab of sharp black steel? Looking at some of these designs, I can help but ask…

Yet another interesting design cue was the black cord wrapped grip, which, in addition to having a nice gradual swell towards the open pommel, is actually biased forward a little, kinda like how a kukri is designed. I can imagine this providing a great grip for the weapon. This weapon seems to have been designed for more for heavy duty chopping, rough cutting and thrusting duty than anything else. Definitely not a Ninjato inspired sword.

But Ninjato or Bowie, between the flat black finish, and it’s wicked, no nonsense design, this sword by any other name is still freakin’ sweet…

Viper Night Bowie – [Swords 24]

July 2008
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