Hilt construction

How to restore antique arms & repair practice swords.

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Hilt construction

Post by thenabi » Wed Jan 14, 2009 7:10 pm

I've looked all over here and the vast spaces of the net...trying to find both historical and modern hilt construction for straight blade jians. I see many modern ones with pommel nuts, and also a tang pin (like a mekugi?). Is this correct historically, and what is the preference for practitioners using modern blades?

How were the pieces traditionally fastened?

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Peter Dekker
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Joined:Tue Dec 06, 2005 7:46 am
Location:Groningen, The Netherlands

Post by Peter Dekker » Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:08 am


Historically these hilts were always just slid over the tang, and the tang end sticking out of the pommel was peened over. I've only seen this mekugi-like pin on one Chinese antique, a short saber I have. So we can say it is rather atypical for Chinese swords, but apparently not completely foreign.

Modern hilts are indeed often secured with a nut on the outside of the pommel, some also have an additional nut inside the pommel, and sometimes with a mekugi-like pin as well. (Huanuo swords and some other of the better forges use all of these methods that complement each-other.)

In my opinion the modern construction, when using at least two nuts and an optional pin, works quite fine. Sometimes one has to retighten the nut after some cutting tests because there may be some play between the softer wooden hilt and the fittings. Especially when the sword is relatively new. I guess that with the traditional method, they sometimes had to hammer on the peened end to accomplish the same. After a few tightenings this will become less frequent. I haven't had to do this on my regular cutting saber for over a year now.

An advantage of the modern construction is that hilts can be easily taken apart, something I personally like because I like experimenting with swords and changing things.

You may also want to see the useful thread by Philip Tom about how to keep hilts tight on reproduction swords and sabers:

Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.

-Bruce Lee

Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

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Joined:Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:48 pm

Post by thenabi » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:03 pm

Ah, ok. I've been thinking lately of hilt design; I had another question answered at sfi by Tinker regarding how in most designs the wood in the handle is under compression. I'm a fan of pommel nuts on anything but the dream sword, interesting that the mekugi isn't common historically. I see these in most entry level production jians.

Thanks for the info!

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