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Old 24th August 2021, 07:30 PM   #1
awdaniec666
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Lightbulb The Ultimate Karabela Guide

Hello there!
Id like to start a new thread about sabers of the Karabela type. I have already seen an old one on this forum which seems abandoned for a while.

My goal is to share and gather information consisting of pictures and data on weapon-architecture (point of balance, blade lenght etc.) and design linked with specific time periods and origin.

I will post information condensed in parts for this thread.

This topic has been researched with passion by people like Andrzej Nadolski, Wojciech Zablocki, Zdzislaw Zygulski or Wlodzimierz Kwasniewicz. I will share information I have gathered from many of these sources and original antiques. This could be interesting to non-polish speakers since I dont know of any translations of their works and authentic antiques are hard to get ones hands on.

The following text is meant to be useful for beginners and people already familiar with sabers in general. If anybody wants more information or is seeing wrong information on a certain topic, please comment.

I am aware of the fact that it is necessary to use some form of classification when talking about "swords". I would propose using the one set up by Wojciech Zablocki since its the easiest, yet still an accurate one.



One disclaimer left:
Andrzej Nadolski, one of the godfathers of antique polish saber research wrote in his book "Polish Arms" that the saber we call "Karabela" was called "szabla czarna" (Black saber) back then.
What does he mean by that? He further (fully rightly) distinguishes between
battle and parade version of sabers with that typical "Karabela"-hilt. In his opinion "szabla czarna" meant the battle-version, the term Karabela however is said to be used for the parade versions (Karabela kontuszowa; "kontusz" is the traditional polish dress from the sarmation period in Poland reaching its peak in times of Jan III Sobieski in the late 17th century. Polish nobleman (Szlachta) wore decorative versions to this dress. Sometimes with easy replacable hilts for further battle use of the blade).

I dont aim at researching the origin of the word Karabela or the origin of the saber/hilt as primary question since this topic leads to a lot of opinions and further professional historical research needs to be done and I am not a historian but a passionate on antique polish arms. This is important to me.

Writing this text I saw different passages sounding like my appreciation goes solely to the Polish variant of this saber type. This is not the case and I assure that this little work is free of politics and more, there has been always admiration from the polish side towards the near-eastern culture.

---
Nomenclatura

I am aware of traditional terms for sword parts. Since Im not an native english speaker, nor a polish one, I will translate some parts directly when it comes to Karabela-specific parts. I apologize for wrong terminology and will be happy and thankful for helpful constructive critique.

Since there is no actual pommel on the Karabela hilt, I will still use this term for the eagle-shaped end of the hilt. The polish term for that is "glowica" meaning something like "the heading".

Feather: Directly translated from the polish "pioro". This is the part on blades which have a sharpened false edge. The feather includes the whole part of the blade from the beginning of this false edge towards the tip. Since not all blades have sharpened false edges, not all blades have a feather. The feather is often marked by a "hammer". The term used for this part in english literature is the turkish word "Yelmen".

Hammer: Direct translation from "mlotek". This means a prominent part on the false edge on the blade often seperating the feather from the rest of the blade. Its purpose is thought to strenghten the blade architecture and force distribution. Some blades have one, some do not.

Beard(s): Translation from "wasy". This is the horizontal part going up-and downwards off the quillons. The beard going towards the blade is made to seal and rest on the surface of the sabers scabbard. The one going towards the grip is part of the grip attachment. (I searched for langets but am usure if its the same, sorry!)

Szewrony: "V-shaped" cuttings in the softer shell-parts of the grip made to protect the grip from slipping out of the hand.

---

PART 1

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Wojciech Zablockis (Further: "Mr.Z") classification of karabela-hilt sabers
(Source: "Ciecia prawdziwa szabla" 1989, p. 76)

Mr.Z: Has been a famous polish olympic fencer in the 70s and professional architect. As a passionate on antique polish arms he researched sabers especially from a fencers point of view. He described the combat characteristics for antique sabers and extracted theorys of practical fencing use for these weapons. His main interest lied in battle versions. Parade versions of sabers are uncommon in his analysis. Therefore the following classification describes those sabers which were knowingly used in battle or offer themselves by design to be used in such.

Mr. Z. categorizes polish sabers into different groups numbered with roman numbers. Class "I" are sabers we recognize as "16th-18th century polish hussar sabers". Those sabers we understand as "Karabela" are given the number "II".
He suggests dividing class II into three sub-groups: IIa, IIb and IIc.
Differences are mainly in blade design, but also partially hilt design too.

All class II sabers have the specific hilt design in common which looks like an abstract eagle head looking from the flat sides of the blade.

This classification is, of course, an open one, meaning there is no black and white. Some sabers share and mix characteristics.

---

Mr. Zs classification

IIa:
"Sabers with blades shapes consisting of a changing curvature (meaning "not forming a part of a perfect circle) and a broadened tip with a hammer with an anatomical grip broadening towards the pommel used from the 17th to the first half of the 18th century.

IIb:
Sabers with blades shaped as part of a perfect circle, without broadened, with an anatomical grip not broadening towards the pommel, used in the second hald of the 18th century.

IIc:
Short sabers ("tasak", old word which comes from czech meaning chopper, see also: Dussack/dussege. Tassak->Dussack->Dussege; sometimes called sinclair saber by english speakers but that isnt the same at all) with short and broad blades, with anatomical grips, broadening towards the pommel and quillons often bend towards the tip. Used in the 17th-18th century.

---

Functionality


"Class II sabers have the following functional-constructional atributes:
IIa and IIb are designed for tangential cuts from the wrist (Fencing on foot) and chopping cuts from the shoulder (Fighting from horseback). Under the defensive point of view this sabers are made for reflecting/deflecting parades."

Explanation for non-fencers: There are static parades (blocks/parries) and dynamic ones. The dynamic ones can be deflecting (adjusting the own blade to let the opponents blade slide down it) and reflecting parades (answering the opponents attack with a quick and short hit against the incoming attack to "deflect" the enemy and quickly do a riposte (answer-attack)). Class II is supposed to be used in the last manner since it enables the fencer to act very fast in theory. Mr.Z. claims this fencing style is easy to learn by beginners and very useful for experienced fencers.

Holding the Class II saber: One can hold the saber like a hammer with the thumb around the grip (Horseback-fighting) or place the thumb on the back of the grip for additional control (Fencing on foot). The main advantage of the specific "beak of the eagle" is in locking ones pinky finger tighly on it to ensure a secure grip. This is what he means when describing this grip as "anatomical".

---

Grip construction (Based on my experience and knowledge from literature and authentic antiques)

There are two ways class II hilts can be built. The main idea is to have the eagle-head shaped grip parts made of wood, bone or other materials securely attached to the blade by stabilizing it with metal parts shaped in the same form.

1. "Simple sandwich design"/"Full-tang-design": The blade has been made in a way that the tang already has been shaped in eagle-head form. Either primarily or secondary: Forging it in one go or attaching a plate to a simple tang afterwards. The softer grip plates are now attached by rivets through (mostly 3) holes in that tang from both sides. This is the strongest construction. It shares similarities with the hilt design of the german "Langes Messer".

2.1. "Uni-Blade-Design": The blade is made with a simple, thin and round tang met on sabers of all kinds. This same tang can be also peened to a pommel-style hilt in a typical "sword-manner". Since we want it to be mounted on a class II hilt, we need to weld it secondarily to a eagle-head shaped piece of metal which forms a "tub". "Tub" means it forms edges going in a 90 angle away from the flat piece for the softer "shell-parts" (again, wood, bone or other materials) to be placed securely in there.

2.2. The tub construction can be replaced with a simple flat metal plate. The break between the soft shell-parts and the metal can be now covered with a metal tape around the grip. This construction is the weakest one and many of antique saber hilts made this way are in bad condition after those 300-200 years.

---

The raw way of differentiating a polish Class II saber from near-eastern (NE) ones after Mr.Z.

This is only valid for Class II sabers in our context!

- Polish grips have an eagle-beak which forms an angle of max. 90 to the grip. Near-eastern hilts can be bent in the same angle but are mostly more open (>90). More open beaks are an advantage in certain fencing techniques but carry a higher risk of losing the weapon when parried hardly.

- Polish grips are rounded, not flat, with the back of the grip still narrower then the sides. This enables the fencer to carry out moulinets. Near-eastern hilts tend to have more round grips.

- Polish blades (Blade made for polish class II sabers) are shaped to form a curvature consisting of two perfect circle-parts (here you have to differentiate between IIa, IIb and IIc) with a short straight part between them. Near-eastern blades (Again, I mean blades for NE-sabers) tend to have more complicated shapes.

- Polish blades commonly have a more pronounced "feather" in opposition to NE ones. There are known examples of the opposite, but keep in mind there is no black and white and we do a generalization here.

- Polish grips broaden towards the pommel. Szewrons, rivets and all decoration are always made to protect from sliding and ease the holding of the weapon. NE-grips stay the same thickness and decorative elements have no functionality.

Mr.Zs short usage conclusion: NE-style sabers were mainly designed for chopping attacks from the shoulder. Polish sabers had the "advantage" of a grip designed for movement from the wrist. Overall, thse differences are not a big deal and come in play when comparing advanced fencing styles.

---

Quillons and beards

The Quillons can be straight, forming a cross or bend towards the tip. Class II sabers have no knuckle-bow or any other protection. Quillon lenght goes from 8 to 14 cm. They were made of stell or brass. Endings had different shapes but always in a simple style like spheres or rhomboids. Those bend towards the tip could have fish-tail looking shapes.

Beards are mostly from 7-9 cm in lenght (both together), mostly formed triangular with a rounded peak.

---

Who used the Class II saber in the 17th and 18th century (Mr.Z.s Overview)


- Ottoman Empire (mainly auxillary troops from the balkans, see Side-Info 1)
- Russia
- Moldavia
- Armenia
- Poland-Lithuania
- Marocco (similar style but with very short quillons; Museum Armeria Reala, Madrid, Spain; Items No. M45 and M46)

Side-info 1: In 16th and 17th century ottoman armies armor w asstored and distributed centrally, sabers were given out by the provinces setting out certain troops.

---

Physics

This one is interesting and helpful. To enable scientific comparison of whole weapons when it comes to handling and way of usage, Mr.Z set up a simple equasion:

A/B


A: Blade lenght in mm
B: Point of balance (PoB) in mm (usually measured from the middle of the quillons)

He took this data from many sabers in museums and private collections to determine "standarts".

His results for the polish ones:

- Polish Class II: 3,50 - 4,00 (main mass is located towards the hilt)
- Polish Class I: 4,5 - 5,5

(Keep in mind that blade were often re-used. If a Class I saber blade would be used on a Class II hilt this variable would grow to over 5,5)

He introduced a compoment C: Maximum curvature (this is measured from 1. the straight line (lets call it line X) between middle of quillons to the tip and 2. the point on the blade located farest away from that line X.

The following logical step is therefore (A:B):C

Polish Class II: 4-8
Ottoman Class II: 9-24
---



END OF PART 1
Please comment!
Part 2 will consist of few selected examples with images
Until then!!!

Last edited by awdaniec666; 25th August 2021 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 26th August 2021, 04:43 AM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Wow! This is outstanding, and welcome. Talk about a great entrance, and I like the way you have skillfully outlined the elements of the study of this fascinating sword form.
I like that you have noted the difficulties and issues with determining the etymology and origins of the 'karabela' term, which typically leads to distracting from the course of study of the form itself.

Also the political aspects of the karabela as far as its profound association with the Polish as a 'national' sword form often present distraction. That it was deeply revered as a sword form involved in parade and ceremony, as well as in battle is well noted, but its presence elsewhere is important to remember in addition to the Polish context.

Nadolski does have an English version of his book, but the others do not as far as I have known.
Another excellent work which is in English is "The Polish Saber: Its Origin and Evolution", Jan Ostrowski, 'Anthology of Arms & Armor, ed. Robert Held, vol.I
1979-80, pp.221-237.
In this he does give interesting overview on the karabela.

We have discussed the karabela many times over the past two decades here, mostly examining examples and discussions of their elements and features. As far as I recall there has been little attention to the more detailed descriptive terms (i.e.szabla czarna etc.) and the term karabela used collectively for the examples discussed.

It is great that you have added the nomenclature. While most here are familiar with the yelman term, I had only heard the 'feather' aspect many years ago from a Polish fencing master in New York.

You note English, nor Polish are not your first languages, but your thorough entry here is excellent. I look forward to seeing more discussion, and hope that those out there with examples of these sabers will post them for benefit of those discussions.

All very best regards
Jim
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Old 26th August 2021, 04:13 PM   #3
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Interesting work, awdaniec. Look forward to part II
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Old 26th August 2021, 07:52 PM   #4
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Great info. It dovetails nicely into some of my other reading. Especially the moulinets and shoulder vs. wrist cuts. I love bringing in practical applications of these items into our study of the metals, artistic decorative techniques, and cultural importance of pre-20th century edged weapons.

On a slight tangent. Would most sabers with a pommel that is bent forward ninety degrees or more from the hilt be for use of the moulinet? I.e. the Caucasian shaska?

Yours,
I.P.
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Old 26th August 2021, 11:22 PM   #5
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Interesting aspects I.P. though not sure most technical elements of fencing or sword fighting techniques are widely familiar to many researching these weapons. What I could find in Ostrowski ("The Polish Saber: Its Origin and Evolution", op.cit. 1979, p.233.

"karabela hilts have the shape of a stylized birds head................
...this shape assured a firm grip but like all Eastern sabers, the karabela was suitably chiefly for inflicting single slashes, in a duel, it required an uncomfortably high position of the hand and continuous parrying with the blade only instead of with blade, quillons and guard".

It is also noted that parade or dress examples often had damascene blades while combat versions had the same type blades as hussar sabers.

It appears that the oldest examples in Poland were among those captured in Vienna in 1683, and of course Turkish. By the second half of the 18th century the karabela had become a 'national' form and widely known during the campaigns for Polish independence and worn in a patriotic sense.

Apparently by second half 19th c. most examples were made in Cracow, Lvov and Vienna.

Other resources I do not have access to, but would be useful are by C. Jarnuszkiewicz :
"The Oriental Saber and its History and Technical Development", 1926
"The Oriental Saber and National Types", 1973
Both I believe are in Polish, but the 1973 publication was in London.
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Old 27th August 2021, 03:49 PM   #6
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Thanks again for those kind words!
You made few interesting points there Jim on which i wanted to briefly respond here, but get into in detail in a later part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
"(...), it required an uncomfortably high position of the hand and continuous parrying with the blade only instead of with blade, quillons and guard".
I think it was Zablocki who reported the "standart stance" for fencing with karabela-type sabers was the "seconde", for those who arent familiar with that: This means you hold the weapon with a very slightly bent ellbow with the hilt on the height of your eyes and the tip pointing in an angle of about 45 downwards and a little forward towards the opponent. I used to use this stance in a different saber-school and can say that it really tires your arm in the beginning but you get used to it. The main benefit of that stance is according to F.C.Christmann (German fencing master of Napoleonic dragoons and author of a fencing manual published in 1838) in beeing able to apply a lot of force into a cut by using the leverage of your wrist only ("moulinet-like-cuts").

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
It is also noted that parade or dress examples often had damascene blades while combat versions had the same type blades as hussar sabers.
I would love to see examples of those since I honestly cant remember seeing a damascene or wootz blade mounted on a karabela. But I know a lot of older battle-blades were mounted later on parade versions.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Apparently by second half 19th c. most examples were made in Cracow, Lvov and Vienna.
Indeed! Just to bring two names of decent karabela makers: Ignacy Hofelmayer from Cracow who worked in the mid 19th century and creating Karabelas in such a way that a lot of auctions houses nowadays have problems in telling the age and declare them as 18th century. I think price wouldnt be the reason since Hofelmayer sabers are very desired. Another makers were in Munich. Their names were Thomas and his son Johan Baptist Stroblberger. The father founded the workshop in 1791.
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Old 27th August 2021, 10:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Interested Party View Post
On a slight tangent. Would most sabers with a pommel that is bent forward ninety degrees or more from the hilt be for use of the moulinet? I.e. the Caucasian shaska?
For what I understand of fencing and deducting from Mr.Zs description moulinets are riskier the opener the pommel angle is because of the lack of "locking" your fingers into it it. This indeed is just an educated guess!
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Old 28th August 2021, 08:50 PM   #8
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Default The Ultimate Karabela Guide PART 2

In this part I will try to bring some hopefully clear examples to allow a first approach for determining the origin and age of a Karabela-type saber which will be called like in the foregoing part "Class II" (after Mr.Zs classification we now know).

The following pictures are from books which I own, past auction lots and also from forums around the world (this one and also some Russian websites which I walked through with a translator addon for my browser). Since this Guide is obviously for educational purposes only I will try my best to name the sources well. If anybody has an issue with an image posted, please contact me and I will try to replace the image.

----
The Ultimate Karabela Guide Part 2
---

Now that we had a brief but solid overview of the characteristics of Karabela-type sabers under the umbrella of Mr.Zs classification, its time to link it with visual context.
The human mind works best with putting things into its neural drawers. The expert on a certain topic is differentiated from the beginner by building bridges between different straight paths and allowing the variable "OR" coming into one's considerations. Therefore I will not get tired by repeating a mantra which was also mentioned in Part 1 of this Guide: There is no black and white.

Example:

"Polish karabela-type sabers had a pommel bent by a maximum of 90 degrees AND NE (Near-eastern) ones had a more open pommel."

The next step is bringing in our new friend "OR". Conclusion:
"Karabela-type sabers with a pommel bent by max. 90 are of polish origin OR can be of NE origin depending on different other aspects which can be found on a specific weapon."

The other aspects can be specific ethnic decoration, makers' marks, blade architecture, and many others.

---
A (very brief) look on the Class II history

As I continued to write I have seen a big informational gap when it comes to the time period in which Class II has been used, what it looked like in specific times, what the main purpose was (decoration/parade sword or for battle) and what materials were used.
I will address this problem here briefly to give a glimpse at my way to put things into some order.

Poland:

Today's Poland has a little in common when compared to its historical geography and ethnic mix. When talking about Poland in the sense for our study about Class II sabers, I mostly mean the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (PLC) which existed from 1569 until 1795. This time period marks also the peak of use for this kind of weapon in history and all places it was actually used. PLC was home not only to the Polish and Lithuanian people, but also Armenians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Huns, Germans, Czech, Jews (Im of course aware of the fact that Jewish culture is defined by its religion but nevertheless it's a very distinguishable culture) and many more. This comes into play since the troops of the PLC were composed of those different ethnic groups also. One PLC nobleman could have had a Class IIa saber with certain decoration on it which resembled his, f.e., extreme Catholic belief and without a feather, because he may not have used backhand cuts. Another PLC nobleman with his IIa saber could have been more on a political trip and therefore ordering a swordmaker to put his king's image in gold on the blade and wanting a very long feather since backhand cuts were his favourite way of fencing. Just keep that in mind that every antique weapon belonged to a real person as you, with different tastes and things that were important to them. It was a very personal item and made to assist in surviving an often very rough environment.

The earliest Class II-like sabers are said to be from the late 16th century and are supposed to come from the near east. One theory is claiming those swords evolved from an early Byzantine short curved sword with a stylized birds-head grip. This can be true or may be false, it doesn't matter for our purposes.
What does matter is what is hanging in different museum or private collections and can be therefore taken into consideration. Simply hard facts.

We see that the time period in which Karabelas started to get more and more decorative and for parade purposes is the mid-18th century. Those weapons had more complicated hilt designs (often accompanying a weaker construction and therefore vulnerable and risky to use in actual battle). We can assume that simple looking versions with attributes of a durable weapon are from the time period before, mostly between roughly 1650-1750. I will get into later and parade versions a different part.

Stanislaw Meyer helps us a lot.

[Figure 1]

There is an english version of that but I sadly don't have it. Wschd means "East" and Zachd means "West". Polska means of course Polish. The West was naturally everything westwards of Poland on continental Europe and "East" is meant to be the area from Hungary to modern day Turkey. Keep in mind that the "East" and the "West" were influenced by other cultures too, so you will find f.e. Persian influences on Ottoman culture bringing it further to Hungary and later Poland. Just for short: The Class I saber (I don't like calling it the "Winged Hussars Saber" (really don't like it for historical reasons, but you should know which type I mean) is such a marriage of East and West. The Polish knights used swords like everyone else in Europe at that time (f.e. Longswords) but after a time they adopted sabers which came from the East with different ethnicities like the Huns and Tatars to name just two. What the Poles did was to produce sabers with hilt-designs coming from the West, like a thumb-ring. This is just an example. It went further by the West replacing f.e. rapiers by sabers to their regular troops later than Poland and Hungary as we see in the 18th century.

But what is this kind of knowledge good for? Its good for knowing differences of weapon-purpose and therefore materials which limit this use. You simply will not find an original example of a battle Class II saber decorated with gems and its grip made of ivory. Battle weapons were made of strong materials in a very durable construction (f.e. see the hilt-design chapter in Part 1).

Class II sabers (all over Eastern Europe and the near-east) were used for battle, mainly from the beginning of the 17th century up to the mid 18th century. And that's it! Everything before will be some kind of (maybe even similar looking) predecessor and everything afterwards will very likely be a parade version or a memorial saber. There are exceptions but this is something for a different chapter.

What materials can we expect then on early Class II sabers? Simple and durable ones! Good steel was of course a high class technology back then. The grip shells were made of bone and wood. The guards were made of forged steel with sometimes mixed in silver (I don't know the reason for that silver though). The rivets were made of brass or steel and could be peened with iron or steel nails.

What techniques of decoration were used for battle Class II sabers? Mainly chiseling on the guard and the blase. Etching has not been used. There are examples with gilded decoration on the blade but this does not exceed very few square centimeters.

With that knowledge we can now take a first try on our first example!

---

The first saber we take a look at is a classical Class II saber similar to the ones one can find in the Museum of the Polish army in Warsaw. The source is polisharms.com. There is much to talk about a weapon like this as you will find examining this weapon along with me. As for the image quality I have chosen this picture consciously since a lot of antiques posted in the internet and on auctions sites too is in this (for a person looking for details) fairly poor quality. I won't get into scabbard analysis for now. Firstly we will examine this object straight by Mr.Zs classification, then we will try to broaden our opinion outside of it.

But lets see what information we can extract from it.

As you are looking at the image, try to use the information given in Part 1 to make an educated guess where this weapon could have come from and how old it might be!

[Figure 2]

Now, what can be found? We start by the simplest things. Lets just name the materials we can determine.

1. Handle:
-Shell:Very likely dark wood. (Could be oak or ebony alongside few others)
-Rivets: Likely brass with what it seems something unclear inside them
-Spine: Looks like brass too.

2. Guard: Steel (guess: unlikely casted, probably forged)

3. Blade: Simple Steel (But the image doesn't allow for a closer look if there is something like wootz/damascene)

Conclusion:

After this first glance we could say with a good conscience that this is a weapon made for battle use, because we see no gems or gold or any other laborious decoration. To strengthen this theory lets go on.

The Grip with its pommel

[Figure 3]

Clearly this shape looks like an abstract eagle head from the side. Its beak seems to form an angle of 90 or less: Going by Mr.Zs classification this saber is clearly of Polish origin. If you are stuck at this point and don't know why, take a look at part 1 of this guide.

The wood shells have szewrons and three brass rivets which are hollow.
[Experience input: A lot of hollow rivets were additionally riveted with steel or iron nails. These nails are absent in some antiques because of f.e. corrosion of iron or repeated remounting of the blade.]
Nothing else is found in the grip and everything seems to be just for securing the fencers grip on the weapon.

Conclusion:

Again, going after Mr.Z., this is a characteristic of polish Class II.

The Guard

Simple quillons with three lines on each side ended with angular spheroids. The beards are slim. Ones sense of proportion could tell its about 10-12 cm long. No further decoration, no inscriptions and no coat of arms.

Conclusion:

The guard here is just practical. For now, it doesn't allow for further investigation about the origin, but we can tell something about the age.

The blade

The whole shape of the blade is not a part of circle but begins with a straight section on the ricasso (the part of the blade just after the guard). It then moves on to form a consistent bow.
We find a feather at the blades later part and a prominent hammer on the edge of it marking the false edge. There are multiple fullers carved in, probably three. One of them ending by the hammer, two ending few centimeters from the tip.

It seems there are some makers marks and/or decorations on the ricasso but the picture quality does not allow for further investigation.

Conclusion:
The blade is typical for Class IIa after Mr.Z. The furrows and the hammer indicate that this blade architecture was made for durability in battle. The feather, which is a lot work to add on a blade, shows us somebody needed it (and was willing to pay more for that!) to use certain fencing techniques.

Main Conclusion

In short, our working-hypothesis for this weapon is:

"Karabela-type saber (of class IIa by Z. Zablocki) from the end of the 17th century of Polish-Lithuanian origin".

You might ask why I excluded the beginning of the 18th century? I would argue that sabers from that time very often had some kind of imagery on them since it was a time period of opulence and changeable politics. It was common for nobleman to demonstrate their affiliation to a certain party or belief by letting the swordmaker place corresponding decoration on the weapon. This is just an opinion matching with other characteristics of that specific weapon shown above and an overall "feeling" for this kind of swords. There are of course sabers with political/religious decoration before and later without!

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You try now!

Below I post an image of another Karabela. Feel free to examine it yourself and think about it. I will be happy if you post your results in a comment. This next Karabela is from a well known source, so if you already know the exact answer, you can still write it down, but hide the source so somebody who doesnt know it can still make his or her own guess. I admit that I could have choosen an easier example, but this is not about winning or loosing, but just about the fun exploring and learning. I will reveal the correct answer in a few days!
The next part will be about two weapons compared to each other but of different origin. I hope you enjoy reading and as always, please comment if you see something what doesnt match with your information or if you have any questions!
Have fun and until next time!

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Last edited by Ian; 31st August 2021 at 11:13 AM. Reason: Replaced graphics links with attachments
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Old 28th August 2021, 11:23 PM   #9
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Default The Ultimate Karabela Guide PART 3

I decided to change the topic for Part 3 of this guide from a comparison of two weapons to something different to dive deeper into the possibilities of deciphering the history of a Karabela. Namely the possibilities of origin of older blades mounted on Karabela sabers.

This part will be more about images rather than written information.
Please consider looking for more information in catalogs of museums, auctions and so on. There is much to discover and the following is just an impression about where to start your search when considering if a blade has been reused.

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The Ultimate Karabela Guide Part 3

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Throughout history many blades have been reused on newer hilts. A good blade was expensive and fencing techniques depend equally on the design of the blade as well as the hilt design. In particular, European saber blades had a quite consistent design which permitted a fencer to use a 17th century blade with an early 19th century hilt. No problem in that.

Below is a list of sword-types which I know regularly or sometimes had blades we can find on later made Karabela-hilts, the kontuszowa versions (parade) and also battle versions:
  • Hungarian sabers
  • Polish-Hungarian sabers (Stefan Batory influenced, Polish King from 1576)
  • Ottoman sabers (a lot were captured at f.e. Chocim in 1673 and Vienna in 1683)
  • German sabers (f.e. "Sbel zu teutsch gefasst" or the Dussack
  • Older polish sabers (f.e. Class I, "Hussar saber" (this is the last time I use this term for class I!)

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Examples:


Figure 4. Hungarian saber, 17th century


Figure 5. Polish-Hungarian saber, 16th century (Rstkammer, Dresden, Germany)


Figure 6. Ottoman saber, age unknown to me


Figure 7. German saber, 17th century (Wikipedia)


Figure 8. Polish saber Class I, around 1700(?) (National Museum in Cracow, Poland)


Figure 9. Example of a reused blade on a newer Karabela hilt - A Karabela kontuszowa with a 17th century blade (Gold inlay "IOANNES III REX POLONIARUM") with a mid- to late-18th century hilt (former Nuri Museum, Switzerland)



Figure 10. Another reused blade (Spocki Dom Aukcyjny, Poland)



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Part 4 will continue as planned with a comparison of two sabers the same age but from different origin.
Enjoy and comment!
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Last edited by Ian; 31st August 2021 at 11:14 AM. Reason: Replaced graphics links with attachments
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