Posted: 07/12/17 (11:32am)
So here it is, Christmas again. Where did the year go to? It is such a cliché to bang on about how fast time flies by but...
The year has been something of a whirlwind and rollercoaster combined. At times I have been rushed off my feet and barely have time to catch my breath, while at others it seems to have dragged by. I guess the same can be said by all of us.
During the course of the year it has been an absolute pleasure dealing with customers from all over the world and nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when a collector is able to repatriate a sword or bayonet. This year I have sent a Chilean cavalry sabre back to Chile, German swords and bayonets back to Germany, Portuguese bayonets to Portugal, French swords to France; the list goes on, and includes two English swords which have gone home to the families of the original owners. I love it when that happens.
I have also bought some beautiful swords, some of which are now on the website. Others are in my own collection but will/may in due course be offered for sale. My favourite purchase this year is without doubt a Muromachi period O-Wakizashi by the renowned Japanese master, Nagamitsu. I even had to buy an antique Japanese Katana stand just to display it. Thank goodness Sue is so understanding and accommodating because it now has pride of place on the sideboard in the lounge!
After years of restoring swords in my personal collection I decided this year to offer this service to customers. At some point I shall get around to adding a page to the website. I enjoy being able to return a badly damaged sword to its original, but aged condition and those of you who follow Bygone Blades on Facebook will have seen a P1803 flank officer's sabre which I have recently restored for a very happy owner. Here are a couple of before and after photos.
As you can see, the 1803 needed some major TLC and both I and its owner are very pleased with the results. Apart from the immediately obvious, the sword also needed to have the grip repaired and rewired and the blade was cleaned and neutralised before being coated with Renaissance Wax.
For anyone interested in a sword restoration please contact email@example.com
Other examples of customer restoration projects I have completed recently are the replacement of the shagreen (ray skin) and rewiring the grip of an 1845 pattern infantry sword, re-pointing a broken British cavalry P1885 and repairing the grip on a French cavalry sabre. At present I am working on another P1803 and am waiting for the new ray skin to arrive so that I can finish the grip and rewire it before reassembling the finished sword.
I have been rather lax as far as my blog goes - I have just been too busy - so just in case I don't blog again before Christmas, I want to wish everyone reading this a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.
All the best,
Posted: 02/11/17 (9:29am)
I have been so busy of late and it has been a while since I last blogged. Now I have something very important to blog about.
Proposed Home Office legislation could destroy my business and stop my only source of income; and not just mine but all those in the UK, who, like me make their living from selling and restoring antique edged weaponry.
If this new legislation is approved it will make it illegal for anyone to post an edged item such as a knife, bayonet or sword to any residential address in the UK.
The proposed-prohibition on posting knives or other bladed-articles will affect businesses and collectors alike. No one in the UK will be able to purchase a sword, knife, bayonet or any other edged weapon online. No one in the UK will be able to post their sword for restoration, or, having had it restored, get it posted back to them. Auction houses in the UK will stop using web based auction facilitators such as Invaluable and The Sale Room because they will no longer be able to accept online bids unless the bidder is able to personally collect any lots they buy. UK collectors and dealers will no longer be able to buy items from abroad because they will not be allowed to have it sent to them. International customers will also not be able to have their purchases posted to them from the UK so international trade will stop.
The list goes on, but you get the point and I am sure can add many more.
The consultation document is very unclear about what exactly will be covered by this prohibition and what the legal exceptions, if any, would be.
No yob, terrorist or murderous teenager has EVER conducted an attack with an antique weapon, much less purchased one specifically to do so. Yet this illogical, knee jerk response from the government seems to imply that every sword and knife in the UK, new or old, is a murder waiting to happen, and that being able to receive them through the post is going to facilitate this. Nonsense! This is the government showing their ignorance.
Tragic and terrible things do happen but usually involving kitchen and craft/hobby type knives. Never antiques.
Now a days nearly all businesses are moving online, and at a time when the UK is desperately trying to promote international trade, the Home Office is being ridiculous in proposing that legitimate dealers, restorers, collectors and a diverse number of other groups that would be affected should be restricted to conducting face to face business.
I urge you to join me in voicing your opinions and to lobby the Home Office to think long and hard before passing this bill without significant amendments. Contact your local MP (as I have done) and please take the time to read the Home Office consultation (link below) and respond to the online questionnaire.
Whether like me you are a UK based dealer or restorer, or your interests lie in collecting, all our futures depend on it. The same applies to our international friends. If the bill passes unchanged, they will not be able to buy from the UK.https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/offensive-and-dangerous-weapons-new-legislation
Posted: 13/10/17 (11:11am)
So first the specifics.
Blade length: 42 cm. Width at ricasso: 29 mm. Spine thickness at ricasso: 6 mm.
Flat spine and single edged blade with a broad, single fuller on both sides. Double edged for the last 14 cm.
Brass hilt furniture and bone hilt.
Scabbard is leather with nickel or nickel plated fittings. They could be silver but I think it is more likely that it is nickel.
The ricasso is marked with an oval comprised of dots containing the initials "F. H." which is the maker's mark for Friedrich Horster (the elder) in the early to mid 19th Century.
And there my knowledge about this dagger/hunting sword ends. In fact, I am assuming it is a hunting dagger/sword. It may not be, although I think it is a reasonable assumption. It certainly looks like a mid 19th century hunting sword but it could be a Prussian naval hanger. The line between hunting hanger and naval hanger or cuttoe is very blurry, indeed, naval hangers derived from hunting swords. Even the name "Cuttoe" is a corruption by early English sailors of the French "couteau de chasse" meaning "hunting knife."
So, I would love to hear from anyone who can shed more light on this. Please do get in touch either through the website or via Facebook.
On the subject of Facebook, I ran a competition, well, actually a give away, on Facebook. All entrants needed to do was to like the post, comment on which item on the Bygone Blades website they liked the most and then share the post. Having done that they would be entered into a draw to win a mint condition Swiss M57 bayonet which I would cover the cost of sending to the winner - wherever they were in the world.
Disappointingly, despite having over 2000 views, very few people entered. In fact, prior to the give away beginning I had decided to give the bayonet to whoever the 73 entrant was. I didn't get that many entries. In the end, I wrote the entrant's names on a cloak room/raffle ticket and drew one from a bowl.
Why so few entries? Surely the required like, post and share wasn't too much to ask? Certainly, there were some people who liked the post but didn't comment or share it, so they weren't entered. Others shared the post but didn't comment or like it. I wasn't sure what to make of this. Were they sharing it so that friends could enter, but they themselves were not interested in winning the bayonet?
Maybe it was the prize itself? Ok sure, Swiss bayonets are not exactly top of many people's want list but it was free and in great condition. It is also a very well made, high quality bayonet produced by Victorinox (of Swiss Army knife fame) and would make a great practical knife.
I guess I'll never really know why so few people entered. It hasn't put me off though and I will be having another give away soon.
I'm thinking a sword this time. But a sword is a valuable thing to give away and an expensive item to ship so I am a little nervous. Maybe I'll stick with another bayonet and see if the number of entries picks up before I offer a sword.
Posted: 04/10/17 (15:40pm)
It has been a hectic week! I've loved it!
Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that last Thursday I flew down to London to attend an auction. I left home at 3am in order to catch my flight from Edinburgh and be in London for 8am. It was well worth it.
I went with a reasonably long list of wants, knowing that I was never coming home with everything on the list and hoping that I would at least be able to buy my top three. In the end I was able to buy only one of the swords I wanted. The prices were very high.
So what did I buy? A Japanese WW2 Type 95 NCO shin Gunto with over 80% of its original paint on the scabbard and hilt and with matching numbers. It is a beauty!
It was after midnight when I got home from London and after a short lie-in, I was off again, by car this time, driving down to Cambridge. Those of you who know the UK will be wondering why I didn't just go from London to Cambridge, but this trip was more of a family affair than a business one. It was my older brother's 50th birthday and Sue and I both wanted to be there, so I had to return to Scotland so we could travel down together.
As luck would have it, there was a huge antiques fair in Peterborough so on Saturday, Sue and I paid it a visit. I am very glad we did. I managed to do some networking and even made a sale! I also came across the mint condition US P1917 bayonet which I have just listed.
Another of my purchases was something completely different. I thought long and hard before buying it - not just because of what it cost me, but because of what it is and represents. I am talking about the massive executioner's axe which I have just added to the site.
As a collector and dealer in antique edged weapons, I know that it is highly likely that some, maybe many of my items will have taken life. The taking of life in combat, against a similarly armed and atavistic opponent is however very different to the cold blooded killing of a condemned individual, someone whom the state has decided (for whatever reason) to kill. Especially given that many of those poor souls were guilty of nothing more than having offended a local aristocrat or fallen out of the king or queen's favour. It still gives me pause even now despite the fact that, as a dealer, when the time came to act, I bought it. I hope it sells soon - it's not really my cup of tea!
Posted: 22/09/17 (16:46pm)
I went to an auction yesterday to buy a sword. Several swords in fact.
I left home just after 3.30am yesterday to drive down to an auction in England. It was raining heavily, very dark and windy and the first hour and forty minutes of my drive was along winding, sheep and dear strewn country roads. The journey didn't improve once I reached the English border and continued down the M6 motorway. The heavy rain meant that the motorway was a fog of dense spray thrown up by every vehicle. My neck was stiff and my shoulders ached five hours later when I reached my destination. It was worth it though.
As always, I had planned my journey to get me to the auction with enough time to inspect the lots prior to the auction starting. This meant getting there several hours before my lots were going under the hammer because once the auction starts, viewing is no longer possible and in most cases, as with yesterdays auction, the lots are off limits.
Why not bid on-line? Why not request additional photographs and condition reports and bid from the comfort of my own home? It is certainly very easy and now-a-days there are several web based groups that facilitate doing so. Why not?
Because as was proved yesterday, and in the past, so many auction houses, while experts in granny's crockery, struggle to accurately identify let alone describe anything sharp and pointy.
I turned up at the auction with a long list of lots I was interested in and was soon crossing them off. First on my list was a WWII Japanese officer's shin gunto, incorrectly described as a Meiji period katana. The gunto was in very poor condition. The blade was terribly (and deeply) scratched. A condition report and additional photos had been requested - by me, and had been posted on the auction website as well as a prominent online auction facilitators site, but the scratches were far more significant than described and were almost indistinguishable on the photographs provided. The tang photographs that I also requested showed a signature however on inspection the blade was clearly machined with an applied hamon. Lastly, the mekugi was missing and had been replaced with a badly carved and ill-fitting piece of wood. None of this was mentioned. In fact the sword was described as being in good condition! I immediately lost interest in it. As did everyone else in the room. The sword sold to an online bidder for £530 plus buyers fees and delivery costs. Someone has an unpleasant surprise heading their way.
The second lot of interest to me was described as a Victorian Scottish basket hilt. It wasn't. It was a poor replica and not only that, but the scabbard it was photographed with did not even fit the sword! Again, no-one in the room was willing to part with any cash to own it and it sold to an unsuspecting online bidder. Knowing that all requests for additional information and photographs were posted on the auction houses own website as well as on the Saleroom's website, I can say with certainty that the online buyer will have been totally unaware that the scabbard was not correct for the sword or that the sword itself was a copy.
Not to labour the point but I found a further three fakes within the lots at this auction, all of which sold to online buyers. The buyers of these lots (the fakes) are able to return the items as they were sold as being genuine and not "in the style of," "type" which is usual auction speak for "fake," but first they have to know that they are fake and then they have to return them. They will not get a refund on the delivery or return costs.
Yesterdays auction was par for the course. It is incumbent on the buyer to satisfy themselves that the items they bid on are correctly described and in good condition - all auction houses have this disclaimer. When bidding online it is very hard to do so. Very often the auction houses themselves are unaware that something is amiss or that damage exceeds the norm and as such these things are not included in requests for additional information and condition reports. Caveat emptor!
So, how did the auction go for me? Very well, I came home with sixteen items, the first two of which I have just added to the site.
It is always better to buy in person from an auction house but if you can't, be very specific about the information you request. Don't just ask for a general condition report.
I will be leaving home at 3.30am again next Thursday to catch a flight from Edinburgh to London. Fingers crossed I will be flying home Thursday night after another successful auction. And yes, as long as the swords are in the hold it is no problem to take them on the plane.
Posted: 15/09/17 (12:08pm)
Well, what a week. Sales have been good and I really appreciate hearing from my customers. It is very important to me that people are happy with their purchase and my service and I am very grateful when someone takes the time to write to tell me. I am always happy to answer questions and help in any way - even if it is just to pass on a link or recommend a particular site for research.
On the subject of research, I was thrilled to discover that a sword I bought recently at a Cornish auction was fitted with a very rare and special blade.
The blade was made circa 1590 in Solingen by a blade-smith called Jaspar Bungen. The spelling of the inscription at first glance does not look like the name Jaspar but in the 16th Century (and later) the letter "I" was used as a "J." On closer inspection of what looked like the second letter "I," I discovered it was actually a letter "P," giving me the name "Jaspar." The surname "Bungen" is clearly legible. There are slight variations on the spelling of this smiths name, the most common of which is "Bongen" which appears on later blades, those produced in the early to mid 17th Century.
The Solingen orbs and the Passau running wolf further help date this blade.
It wasn't unusual for Infantry officers to replace the standard spadroon blade on their P1796 with one more suited to fighting - after-all, their life could depend on it. It is however quite rare to find one with such an old replacement. Any theory as to how this came about is merely supposition but looking at the swords relatively unadorned guard and hilt and the use of copper instead of silver wire on the grip, I would hazard that we are looking at a sword belonging to a young officer of lowly rank and limited means. Someone who was more likely to re-use a family heirloom blade instead of having a new one made. It would also have been the younger, low rank officers who would have been more likely to have to use their sword in battle, so requiring a more fighting fit blade.
Isn't that part of why we love and collect these weapons? The great stories and romantic imaginings that accompany them.