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Second Phase of the P1796 Restoration

Posted: 06/12/18 (12:17pm)

I spent some time yesterday making a new grip for the P1796 light cavalry sabre. I started with a block of seasoned oak. The first stage was to reduce the block. I used the grip collar from the sabre to outline the front of the new grip – the part that will eventually fit inside the grip collar.

Having marked the wood, I reduced it using a Tenon saw. I prefer to work with hand tools; a band-saw blade wanders as it cuts whereas a stiff bladed saw, such as a Tenon saw will give one a nice precise cut.

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After reducing the block, I roughed out a blank of the grip using a coping saw. A coping saw is ideal for cutting curves.

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I regularly referred back to the original steel grip furniture to ensure that I was getting the right shape and fit.

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Once happy with the general shape I roughed in the grooves and again tested the fit.

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That is as far as I was able to get in the time I had available yesterday. This afternoon, between jobs, I will finish the grip by rounding it fully and sanding it smooth, ready for the leather and wire finish which I will describe and show in the next blog. 
You may be wondering why I am doing this restoration between jobs as opposed to cracking on and getting it done in just a couple of days. Well, the answer is that when I agreed to take on the project, I informed the customer that I would not be able to make a start on it until early in the New Year. By using the down time on more urgent jobs - while I wait for glue to set or stain to dry etc, I am hoping that I will get this sword finished before Christmas and so be able to give my customer a pleasant surprise - although if he is reading this blog it will not be much of a surprise.

British P1796 Light Cavalry Sabre Restoration

Posted: 26/11/18 (12:26pm)

I made a start on the 1796 Light Cavalry sabre. As you can see from the photo, a previous owner had made rather a mess of re-hilting the sword. The new owner wants it returned to how it should be. 

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Notice the gap between the ricasso & leather washer and the front of the guard. For some reason, when replacing the original grip, someone added a wooden block. I really have no idea why they did this. 

 I began by un-peening the tang and removing the string, pine wood, glue and leather "repair," In doing so I discovered that the tang had been irreparably damaged.

Broken Tang


Not only was the tang double drilled, the drilling had cut through the edge, leaving only a few millimetres of steel attaching the blade to the tang. On closer inspection, I found a hairline crack through the remaining section. There was absolutely no strength or integrity to the tang and the consequences of swinging the sword - even without impact, could have been catastrophic. It is likely that the bend and crack in the tang were the result of just such an action and it is a miracle that the blade did not fly out of the hilt and that nobody was injured.
I am going to have to remove the damaged tang from before the holes, fashion a new tang and weld it onto the remains of the original. There is enough good steel for me to make a strong weld, after which the tang will once again be able to support the stresses of use. Regardless of whether or not the sword is going to be swung in future, it is vital that its strength and integrity are intact.

Once I have remade the tang, I will carve a new grip from oak, wrap it with shagreen, re-wire it and reassemble the hilt before re-peening the tang. Then I will make a replacement cross rivet, drill one neat hole through the new grip and tang and peen the cross rivet in place through the ears. Once again it will look as it should and would have looked when first made.
I will also media blast the guard and back strap before reassembly, re-polish the blade and media blast the scabbard before re-polishing it. I will not be able to do anything about the pitting to the scabbard and hilt furniture but having removed the rust and polished the steel, the sabre will look a great deal better.
Several applications of renaissance wax over the following weeks will protect the steel and help to prevent new rust from forming.
As promised, I will keep you posted on how the restoration progresses.

Business as Usual

Posted: 20/11/18 (14:44pm)

I got back last night from another buying trip. After driving down south the previous weekend, I had not planned to be on the road again quite so soon but there were some great items coming up in auctions down in England and for the reasons mentioned in a previous blog, I wanted to inspect them in person before bidding so I drove back down south on Thursday. I am glad that I did. One item was a fake and others were not as good as the photo on the auctions websites would have bidders believe.

I did not get all that I had hoped. Many of the prices were too high for me to cover my costs and make a living, but I am very pleased with the seven items that I did buy. I now have enough new stock to list a couple of items each week until February 2019. That doesn’t mean to say that I am not going to buy any more. I am always on the lookout for good stock items, but given the time of year and the possibility of imminent snow, it means that I am not forced into making long and unpleasant road trips in winter conditions.

I can’t quite get my head round to thinking about Christmas. The weather has been so unseasonably mild and sunny that it is hard to believe that there are only five weeks until Christmas Day. Having said that, the weather has taken a turn for the worse and we have snow forecast for later this week.

I have so much to do. I have just taken on quite a major restoration on a P1796 Light Cavalry sabre and it will have to join the cue behind the other items patiently waiting their turn. Thankfully, the sword’s owner has accepted that it will be early in the New Year before I am able to get it done. When I do begin work on it I am planning to describe it in a blog and will include photos.

900 Miles and a Naval Cutlass

Posted: 12/11/18 (13:08pm)

It was a busy and very enjoyable weekend. I drove just under 900 miles and came home with a great find.
My road trip began on Friday morning in Scotland. I drove non-stop down to Derby, about 300 miles south, and picked up a lovely late 18th Century, George III naval cutlass. The cutlass has a plain wooden grip with a brass D-guard and scallop shell. The 656mm, broad, curved blade is stamped with a crowned GR. I also picked up a nice, bespoke George V P1897 infantry officer's sword.
From Derby I headed down to a motorway services just south of Peterborough, to rendezvous with a friend and long time customer, to return to him a lovely Georgian hanger that I had worked on and to collect from him a 1796 light cavalry sabre for restoration.
By then, it was about 8pm and Sue and I had had enough driving. It was time for supper so we enjoyed a deliciously unhealthy KFC at the services before continuing our journey to my parents home.

On Saturday morning, joined by my parents, we drove to Sheringham on the Norfolk coast. I left Sue and my parents to enjoy Sheringham while I headed off in the hopes of buying a few more swords. Unfortunately I didn't manage to but I enjoyed the morning and meeting the man who had the swords for sale. The seller wanted a fair retail price for his swords but it would not have allowed me to cover my costs, much less make any money so we were unable to do a deal.
By then it was past 1pm and time for lunch. We had reserved a table for 1.15pm so had to rush. I never did get time to stroll around Sheringham and enjoy being by the seaside, which was a shame because Sheringham is a pretty town and it was a beautiful sunny day.
The drive however was lovely. Norfolk is a beautiful county.

After a brief visit to a large car boot sale on Sunday morning - you never know what you might find (this time it was nothing), it was time for Sue and I to head back up to Scotland. We had a long drive home.
It was a lovely weekend. It is always great to see my folks, and to be able to combine doing so with buying more stock and collecting restoration commissions just adds a cherry to the cake.

Auction Mischief and Mailboxes Greed

Posted: 06/11/18 (16:43pm)

We had a wonderful weekend in York. What a beautiful and history rich city! We came home and as usual hit the ground running. I was very busy last week, working on restorations and attending a number of auctions, and this is what I want to write about today.

My decision to write about the risks and costs of bidding at auctions is prompted by the number of replicas/fakes sold at auction and by the rising cost of auction fees and delivery charges for online bidders.

Many auction houses in the UK now charge buyers fees in the mid to high 20% range. Some are approaching 30% and the greediest ones have already exceeded that! Between the sellers' and buyers' fees, auctions can rake in around 60-70% of the value of an item without ever having owned it!

Not only can bidding at auctions be expensive. It can be risky too. Auctions make little effort to accurately describe the lots, relying on the bidders to know what it is they are bidding on. If you are going to bid, make sure that you have inspected the lots beforehand. If you can’t be present, request a detailed condition report, asking for additional photos and a description of “any and all damage or faults.”

Be aware that the person giving you the report might not be familiar with the items and may not realise that the item is a replica or that something is bent or missing; that the scabbard is incorrect for that sword or that a blade has been cracked, shortened or re-pointed.

You are always better off asking specific questions and numbering them so that it is easy to see which ones have and have not been answered. A block of text makes it much easier for the auctioneer to bypass questions they would rather not answer.

Make sure that you request the condition report and additional photos well in advance, allowing yourself time to follow up. Often the initial condition report you receive will be generic photographs of the lot/s. Don’t be afraid to write back and press for answers. Make the auction do their job properly – they charge enough!
Again, be aware that the fall back position of an auction house not wanting to divulge information that may discourage a potential bidder, is for them to claim limited knowledge of an item, leaving you non the wiser and putting the ball firmly back in your court. 

Even with a detailed condition report, always keep in mind the fact that the auction house may not realise that the item they are selling is “wrong” in some way. It is up to you to discover this.

Auctions are also quite happy to sell replicas/fakes. Every week I see replicas sell as if they were genuine. Earlier this year I witnessed an online buyer make a very costly mistake. They bought a fake M1888 Lee Metford Mk1 Type 1 for around £500!
Last week I watched a replica of a 1799 naval sword sell at auction for more than it cost to buy from the online shop that originally sold it. The sword was wrongly described as a cavalry sword, with no age or pattern identified. The auction house will have known that the sword was a replica – it was only a couple of years old, but they are not required to divulge this information unless specifically asked. A physical inspection of the sword, or failing that, a few minutes online would have told most bidders that it was not genuine, but clearly, the online bidder who bought the sword failed to do their homework. By the time the buyer receives the sword, the auction fees of over 26% and Mailboxes exorbitant delivery charges will mean that they have paid around double the cost of buying the sword from its original retailer.

If you are going to bid at auctions, learn their ways and their lingo. If an auction house neglects to mention a period or pattern, it could be because they don’t know, but it could also be because the item is not genuine. If an auction, uses words like “style” or “type” in an item description, for example, “an Enfield type…” or “World War 1 style…” they are telling you that the item is probably not genuine. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) very much applies. The remote selling laws that give online customers a grace period during which they can return purchases do not apply to auctions and by bidding, you are agreeing that you have inspected the lots and are happy with their condition and authenticity.

Do not be fooled by auction valuations. Generic £30-£50 or £50-£100 estimates on bayonets and swords are in part a fishing trip – attempting to encourage bids, and partly again, lack of knowledge on the part of the auctioneers. You are never going to get that sought after sword or bayonet for those prices!  

If you bid at auctions online, the chances are that you will need your purchase delivered to you. This allows the auction to squeeze even more money out of you. Expect to pay 4 or 5 times the actual delivery cost. That is if you are lucky enough to find an auction with in-house shipping. Most auctions now use a company called Mailboxes.

Mailboxes will charge around £100 to arrange for delivery of a parcel that actually only cost around £12 to deliver.

I have just received a quote from Mailboxes for delivery of a sabre and a hunting sword. Mailboxes routinely use Parcelforce to make their deliveries. Parcelforce charge £12.12 to deliver a 2kg parcel and only £1 more for up to 5kg and 160cm in length. Mailboxes have quoted me £99.99 and that’s after applying a discount!

Now, I understand that time is money and someone has to collect the sword from the auction (along with all the other items they are there to collect), wrap the sword in bubble wrap, put it in a box and tape it up before taking it to the post office, but REALLY? £100? That’s just greedy.

Whenever possible, I attend auctions in person, that way I always know exactly what it is I am bidding on, allowing me to guarantee the authenticity of the items I later offer for sale. If I can’t attend in person (which is rare), I at least try to find auctions that are within travelling distance to collect whatever I buy. Given the number of budget airlines, It is now cheaper for me to fly from Edinburgh to London, Paris, Berlin or Brussels to bid at an auction in person than it is for me to pay Mailboxes to arrange delivery!

A Ramble Through the Shambles

Posted: 26/10/18 (13:57pm)

The week has flown by, as usual.
I have been trying to get to grips with updating the website and adding SSL certification. I haven't managed.
I bought the SSL certificate (my knowledge of exactly what that is remains limited) because a kind lady over the telephone scared the living daylights out of me by telling me that unless I had one, Google et al would soon start to discourage people from visiting the website.
Now I am by no means an easy sell and telesales reps usually get short shrift from me but the lady was very sincere, and it was I who phoned her, not the other way around, so as well as renewing my web hosting (which was what I had initially phoned about), I further stumped up for certification, that until then I had never heard about.
As soon as I had finished chatting to her, I checked with my web guru, and he concurred. Apparently, even though it is not actually necessary, the powers that be are starting to view websites with SSL certification more favourably than those without. This is especially the case when it comes to ranking websites on search engines.

Ok, so great. I had renewed my domain names and hosting, now to add my SSL certification...

… Apparently first I have to generate a CSR certificate - whatever that is...

… I'm still trying...

… I gave up.
I phoned my web guy. He's coming on Monday.

When it is finally done, no-one will see or notice anything new or different about my website. But Google will love me. They had better do. What a fiasco!

Ok, so the weekend is upon us. Last Sunday, Sue and I spent the day in the walled town of Berwick-on-Tweed. I had arranged to meet a guy and to buy two sword canes - which I duly did, then Sue and I went for a nice lunch after which we walked along the town's defensive wall. It is a very picturesque town and well worth a visit.
The sword canes I bought are great. Again, once I have given them a clean and photographed them, I will add them to the website.
I also bought a couple of bayonets at auction, also soon to be added. When not at auction or scrambling my brain trying to decipher computer tech speak, I have been working on customer restorations. I have just finished re-gripping a Georgian Naval hanger and tidying up the scabbard. It is a lovely sword - I wish I owned it. I have yet to show it to the customer but I think he will be very happy with the result.

This weekend we are off to York. Sue has been working long hours all week, out before 9am and not home until after 9pm every day, so I decided to surprise her with a weekend away.
I have booked what I hope will be a nice hotel in the city, walking distance from the Shambles, and we are going to spend the next two days absorbing the history, culture and atmosphere of York.
I am really looking forward to visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre and the Castle Museum and have, with minimal grumbling agreed to go on the Chocolate Experience tour. We leave later this afternoon.
Hope you all have a great weekend too.
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Keywords

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