Posted: 21/06/19 (11:54am)
Sometimes I buy a sword that I really do not want to sell. Sometimes I give in and keep it.
I used to do that more often when I started than I do now. About 10 years ago, at a fair here in Scotland, a fellow dealer told me that I had to decide whether I was a dealer or a collector. He told me that I could not be both. I disagreed with him then and still do. Of course, one can both collect and deal. One just has to be firm with one’s self and resist keeping items that were bought to sell. It isn’t always easy.
Now I find myself struggling with whether or not to keep a beautiful 1796 pre-regulation flank officer’s sabre. As a collector, it ticks all the boxes. Top maker, dateable to the turn of the 18th Century – a Peninsular Wars, maybe Waterloo sword. A rare pattern, a beautifully engraved blade with unique engravings as well as the maker’s name and owner’s initials. Moreover, it is in fantastic condition, complete with scabbard. I’m wavering…
Should I? Shouldn’t I? It owes the business a serious chunk of change. But…
Maybe I’ll sleep on it. For a month or two…
Posted: 11/05/19 (15:38pm)
As usual, I am beginning my blog by making excuses for why I have not written for so long. To be fair, my excuses are genuine and not just laziness. I have been remarkably busy in so many ways – most of which are so mundane as to make them unworthy of writing about.
Bygone Blades is doing well and keeping me on my toes trying to find new and exciting stock items. That in itself is time consuming. I spend a couple of hours every day (usually in the evenings after a full working day) going through auction catalogues, followed by more hours spent researching and learning about the history, patterns and values of swords, bayonets and knives of all descriptions. There is so much to learn!
Having identified items of interest, and before going to the auction, I research each item. I learn about the pattern and variations, establish whether or not there are fakes on the market and if so how to identify them. I learn the values of the items so that I know what I can reasonably expect to sell them for and from this; I set a price that I can afford to pay and still make a living. All this takes many hours over many days.
As well as doing research, there is the day-to-day running of the business – responding to emails and enquiries, updating and maintaining the website, search engine optimisation, administration and accounting, packaging up sales and taking them to the delivery depot, etc., etc. All the little things that take time and eat up half of each day before I begin work in my workshop, completing customer restorations and commissions or cleaning newly acquired stock.
Twice a week I set up my photographic studio and photograph new items for the website. I edit the photos and then write the listings (often requiring more research). Listing stock a couple of times each week helps maintain my search engine ranking - regularly updating the website by adding pics and text helps keep me higher up the search results.
I spend a lot of time away from home at auctions and estate sales. Often I have to take pre-prepared stock listings with me so that I can update the website while I’m on the road. I also continue doing all the daily admin etc. This happens even when I am on holiday!
In fact, only two weeks ago today, Sue and I returned from having a fortnight holiday during which I continued to do all the daily tasks including listing stock twice weekly and responding to sales and enquiries – I bet you didn’t even notice that I was away!
As it was my 50th birthday, Sue and I decided to have a special holiday so we went to Hong Kong for 3 nights then on to Bangkok, Thailand for another 3 nights followed by 8 nights on the beach. We had an amazing time. Thailand is one of the friendliest countries we have visited, the people are quick to smile and have a lovely, friendly manner. Hong Kong too was a great experience, enhanced by the friendly and helpful people.
Coming home was a “hot guns” landing, straight back into the thick of it. I had to get sales packaged up and shipped off along with receipts and emails written (I respond to each customer personally and do not use a generic template – it takes a little more time but I believe in the personal touch). I also had to find more stock.
I have just been away at auctions. I got home at 1am yesterday (Friday). I left home at 6am on Wednesday. It was a real whistle-stop trip and I covered quite a distance, almost 1000 miles from home in Scotland down to the south coast of England and back. It was well worth it. I bought some great and rare items, the first of which, a rare French Napoleonic period naval officers’ fighting dirk I added to the website yesterday evening.
I will add another great item on Monday…
Today is the weekend – for some at least. I have spent the day so far packaging sales and taking them to the post office, followed by a few emails, responding to enquiries and finalising the acquisition of more stock. Then I did some research on naval dirks and now I am writing this blog (I had to break off to email a customer to thank them for the purchase that they just made).
So this is why I do not get round to writing my blog every week. I am always on the move and I do not want to bore you with the minutiae of my daily work. When I have something to say, that I hope will interest you I will write about it. In the meantime, I will just crack on with getting things done. It is not just a job; it is a passion, a commitment, a way of life. I work hard but I love what I do.
I play hard too!
Posted: 08/04/19 (17:33pm)
I am buzzing! I haven’t blogged for over a month now as I have been so busy and also didn’t want to bore anyone with the comings and goings of my working life. But now I have something to share. I am so excited that I am bursting to tell everyone!
Today is my 50th birthday (not such great news), but what’s got me so thrilled is that Sue has whipped the family together and they have all pitched in to buy me a place on a sword making course to make a sword of my choosing! Woohoo!
I can hardly wait! I have already decided that I am going to make a Katana. I have some beautiful and very old Katana in my personal collection and I have long wanted to experience what it takes to make such an amazing sword. I am bubbling over with excitement!
I will of course share my experience of making my katana along with photos (provided the bladesmith is ok with that – I am sure he will be) in future blogs. My course is booked for the end of May.
Posted: 23/02/19 (15:18pm)
Ten days since my last blog. Ten busy days.
I've driven over 2000 miles and visited 5 auctions. I’m currently in England, near Cambridge and will be driving home to Scotland tomorrow afternoon.
It has been a successful road trip. In Newcastle, Leicester, Peterborough and Ipswich I picked up a couple of lots at each auction, but yesterday near Lowestoft I hit the mother load.
On auction were the contents of a small private museum of militaria, comprising hundreds of swords and bayonets, many of them rare, some of them extremely so. If only I'd had more money...
I managed to pick up some great items. Among my favourites are a first pattern Canadian Ross rifle bayonet, an Austrian M1849 Jager Carbine sword bayonet, a Peninsular Wars period Brown Bess socket bayonet by Osborn & Gunby, two Prussian M1855 Fascinemesser, a first pattern French Berthier bayonet, a late 19th century Morro Kris and a British P1856 Pioneers hanger by Wilkinson. All of them scarce if not rare. The absolute star however is a Brunswick sword bayonet marked to the 1st New York Volunteer Artillery. The regiment was raised in 1861 and saw action throughout the Civil War.
I also have two P1907 Lee Enfield bayonets by rare makers. One made by Vickers and the other by Chapman.
All of the above and more will be added to the website over the coming weeks.
Posted: 12/02/19 (12:17pm)
What a week it is shaping up to be! I have managed to get hold of a couple of extremely rare items. Both from the Napoleonic/Peninsular Wars. The first is a Royal Field Artillery enlisted man’s short sword dating from the early 1800’s and the other is an Artillery officer’s dirk from the same period.
I will be adding the artillery gunners/artilleryman’s side arm to the website later this week. The officer's dirk is not for sale but I wanted to share it with you by way of my blog.
Both of these artillery side arms are incredibly hard to find. The chance of finding additional copies and in such great condition is about as likely as getting bitten by a toothed chicken!
This incredibly rare military dirk was the property of an officer of the Chester-le-Street Volunteer Artillery, which was raised on the 1st October 1803. The Chester-le-Street Volunteer Artillery were disbanded in 1811.
Artillery officers of the period carried a cavalry type sabre but when dismounted to command a battery, they often chose to carry a dirk instead. The cavalry sabre, intended for combat on horseback was too long for the type of close quarter fighting that took place when defending the battery on foot. The most senior officers would have remained mounted in order to move quickly between batteries and better oversee and command the regiment. That being the case, it is likely that this dirk was the property of one of the nine fighting officers.
Those officers were:
Major Richard Bell; Captain Luke Collins; Captain John Johnson; Lieutenants William Pubus, George Greenwell and William Matthews and Second Lieutenants Joseph Sowler, Robert Tanner and John Croudace.
The 374mm double-edged blade has a long central fuller on both sides, running to within 15mm of the spear point. The blade is in excellent condition, bright and clean with only a few small patches of tarnish. The blade retains its fighting edges.
The octagonal ivory grip is in good condition and has a gilded brass bolster, recurved crosspiece with ball quillons and a faceted, cushion pommel and button through which the tang is peened. The hilt retains much of its original gilding.
The dirk is complete with its original black leather scabbard with gilded mounts. The leather is in great condition and the stitching is intact and sound. The throat of the scabbard bears a circular cartouche within which is engraved “Chester-le-Street Volunteers.”
One to keep and cherish.
In a day or two you will find the Artillery gunner’s sword and additional photographs in the “Newly Added” section of the website.
Posted: 28/01/19 (16:08pm)
The P1796 Light Cavalry sabre restoration is finished. As you saw in the previous blogs, there was a lot of work to do. The sabre is now looking much better and, importantly, is safe. The tang is now strong and the blade secure.
Before Christmas I received the scabbard and hilt furniture back from the media blasters and all that was left to do was to polish the parts and then put everything back together again.
It is often a little tricky to know how much polishing to do. I feel that it is always better to err on the side of caution. After all, if someone wants to polish further they can always do so. No amount of polishing will ever remove pitting and to grind off so much material as to level out the pits would leave one with paper-thin steel.
Having polished the hilt furniture, it was time to peen the tang. As mentioned before, the ideal length of tang to leave protruding for peening is equivalent to the diameter of the tang plus 1mm. I measured the correct length then cut off the surplus.
Once the blade was firm in the hilt, I used a drill press to make the hole for the cross rivet and then repeated the peening process on both sides. Lastly, I made a rawhide washer for the base of the blade.
I am quite happy with the work and I feel sure that the customer will be too.