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yue fei dao project

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:56 pm
by omni
This is an unusual request, but i'm interested in making a 'yue fei dao' and would appreciate any construction advice that you all may have to offer.

Following on from the earlier topic on 'yue fei dao' i appreciate that this will not be an historically accurate reproduction.

I have a blacksmith who is prepared to make the blade, and i would like to model it on the unusual squarish shape of the 'yue fei dao' pictured in Scott's two-handed swordsmanship video.

I would especially appreciate advice from anyone who understands the construction of a pole-arm/'dadao' type weapon.

At this stage the basic premise is to make a 1:1 handle:blade weapon, of ~ 1.6 metres (5+ feet).
It will be a monosteel blade - nothing fancy.

We need to know about:
handle construction (wood or wirebound?)
thickness and width of blade,
and guard and pommel fittings construction.

If anyone has measurements of 'yue fei dao' or similar weapon, that would also be appreciated.

I'm aware that its a big ask and an ambitious project, and it might prove too difficult once we've worked out the details.
But its something i've wanted to do for a while!

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 3:59 am
by Peter Dekker

These kind of Chinese weapons often had a full tang construction with holes in it to attach a plate of wood on either side. I have a (rather crude) podao here that nearly has a 1:1 blade handle ratio. It has a full tang construction running all the way through the handle that is backed with two plates of wood on either side to make it round. The plates are secured with three iron pins that are peened over a rectengular piece of metal that is somewhat sunk into the wood. At the end the tang forms the pommel. The tang runs the entire width of the shaft and is visible on either side. It is on average 6mm thick and 27mm wide.

While my example does not have a cord wrap and may never have had any, but I believe a simple circular cord wrap was common on such weapons.

For the guard you might be pretty safe with a simple iron disc guard.

I add some pics that might help clarify what is said above:

Overall. One iron pin goes through some 10 cm behind the guard, the last one is right near the ring pommel and the third one is in the middle of these two.

Tang exposed on both sides of the grip.

Iron pin peened over square plate that is sunk into the wood.


Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 5:54 am
by omni
Fantastic! Thank you Peter, for that information and advice - it's exactly what we need.

A couple more questions:

Where is the point of balance on the weapon? (i assume mine should be similar)

What is the purpose of the pommel ring?

I'm really pleased to have such a good response, it's very encouraging.
Btw, that's an impressive display you have.

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 6:40 am
by Peter Dekker
You're welcome. I'm happy that my own gathering obsession can be beneficial to others.

Some additional info:
The total length of this weapon from tip to were the ring starts is 144.2 cm. It is balanced 7.5 cm from the shaft side of the guard, at about 50% of it's total length excluding the ring.

The shaft is 79.7 cm long excluding the ring which has a diameter of 4.5 cm inside and 5 cm outside. The blade length, measured from the end of the shaft to the tip, is 64.5 cm.

It weighs 2380 grams.

This point of balance is interesting as it allows for surprisingly precise handling when held with one hand at the p.o.b. and the other one at the very end of the shaft. It turns into a monster with more range and cutting power but unwieldy handling characteristics as you shift your hand backwards, even when only moving it 10 cm. I haven't had any proper training with these but I can imagine the wielder to have shifted his hands from these points depending on what he was doing.
Btw, that's an impressive display you have.
Thanks! You might notice my interest in archery related items..


Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 6:52 am
by Peter Dekker
Oh I forgot to respond on the use of the pommel:

It's a subject that has been under discussion before but no concise theory has yet been given. It is interesting to note that ring pommels were a common feature on knives and swords from China since ancient antiquity.

The feature appears to have dissapeared for a while, the weapon descriptions of the Song Wujing zongyao, Ming Wubeizhi and Qing Huangchao Liqi Tushi all host a variety of swords, sabers, falchions and pole-arms but none with ring pommel.* The feature made a comeback on dadao and podao in the late Qing of the 19th century and was used on edged weapons well into the 20th century.

*I do not own complete copies of all these works, so I might have missed something.

Picture of a 20th century Chinese soldier with a dadao with ring pommel on his back.


Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 11:30 pm
by omni
Thanks again Peter, with the information you've given i can see how it is going to come together.

The balance and handling you describe is exactly what i'm looking for.

I think we will do without the ring pommel, and end with just a plain pommel (still an extension of the tang) to help secure the handle.

Now all that remains is to consult with my blacksmith, i hope by next week he will be able to begin!

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:10 am
by Scott M. Rodell
omni wrote:... all that remains is to consult with my blacksmith...!
Just wondering why you are having a blacksmith make this dao for you? Why not have a sword smith make it for you? The reason I suggest this is you want the steel to have a proper temper & edge hardness. That way it will handle like a sword & you could use it for test cutting in the future. If a blacksmith makes it out of iron, it will be too soft & will likely break with consistent cutting. A sword maker could do an inexpensive stock removal version for you in mono-steel.

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 10:33 pm
by omni
Hi Scott,

The blacksmith I know uses all kinds of metal...he's made some blades in the past, so he's more of a general metalworker.
The 'blacksmiths' around these parts tend to be enthusiasts who get into the trade because they are so interested in it, and thus they have a go at a wide range of metal-work.

There aren't any professional blade/sword smiths in my area that i'm aware of, or else i would have used them :)

Thanks for your concern Scott.

Posted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 11:09 pm
by omni
Something that's been bugging me about this blade is the tip.
I've been wondering why they wouldn't add a point to it to increase its functionality - it seems strange to have a pole-arm that can't stab.

My three thoughts:

1. It can be used to stab, but a sharper point would cause the blade to become more easily stuck in the target - especially a charging horse. The flatter tip would prevent this.

2. the powerful cuts of such a long bladed weapon might put too much strain on a thin tip, damaging it.

3. Is it something to do with the consistent thickness of the blade, for the sake of powerful cuts?

I can only speculate. What are your thoughts?

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:10 am
by Scott M. Rodell
omni wrote:... wondering why they wouldn't add a point to it to increase its functionality ... strange to have a pole-arm that can't stab.
...three thoughts:

1. It can be used to stab, but a sharper point would cause the blade to become more easily stuck in the target - especially a charging horse. The flatter tip would prevent this...
I'm glad you brought this up. The truth is, in many cases, such as this one, we just don't know for certain. That is, though some of the tradition has survived (in the shape of weapons forms) most of the tradtion has faded away. We are left to guess at things that would have been common knowledge in the past. Of your three thoughts, I believe the first is correct. One would never want the tip of any weapon to get stuck in the target. It would be easy to penetrate deeper than necessary & get stuck when using a heavy polearm.

Available Dadao

Posted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:25 am
by Scott M. Rodell
There are also Dadao available from:

Cold Steel


Zhengwu Sword & Knife

You might want to consider one of them for your project...

Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:21 pm
by omni
Thanks Scott,

wanting to make the dao has made me think harder about these kinds of issues.

Posted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 4:40 am
by omni
Another question to whoever can help:

If the pommel is part of the tang, how can the guard be slid on?
Or, is the guard a permanent fixture of the weapon, unlike the huanuo swords i have seen, where the fittings can be completely removed?

Also, does anyone know what the blade geometry should be on a heavy weapon like this?


Posted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:16 am
by Scott M. Rodell
omni wrote:... pommel is part of the tang, how can the guard be slid on?
I believe the ring pommel is put on last & then the wood grip is attached. The sword would not be taken part once assembled.

Only modern Chinese swords employ the detachable hilt.
omni wrote:... blade geometry ... on a heavy weapon...?
Accelerating curvature with lots of meat toward the edge to give it strength, something like an axe. Remember, edges don't have to be razor sharp to cut. You can split a long with an ae that isn't sharp enough to draw cut your skin.

See the thread: Edge Sharpness Vs. Application

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:40 am
by omni
Awesome. Thanks again Scott.