Chinese Sword

The usually encountered Chinese war sword has the same general design and proportions as the one illustrated below but is longer and more massive and has a scabbard and hilt covered with either shagreen (shark skin) or ray skin which was usually lacquered and then ground to a smooth surface. Despite its smaller size, this sword makes an effective weapon and may probably had been used as the Japanese used the Wakizashi, or it may have been made for a young son of a nobleman or person of some importance. I doubt that it was made for stage use because of the blade's weight and the sharpness of the edge.

Scabbard Construction:
The method of construction and the materials used for making the scabbard of the sword shown have defied a logical explanation until recently. Here are my deductions: The scabbard is made of wood, in two halves, which are probably joined with hide glue (which is universally used in China and applied hot). The scabbard is wound with a helical coil of brass wire at about 10 turns per inch. Each of these wire turns needs to be tightened. This is done by grasping the wire with narrow-nose pliers which are given a twist of some 30-40 degrees. By so doing not only is the winding made very tight, but a decorative geometric patters is formed. The entire surface is now coated (probably by brush) with a very hot asphaltum-like material which hardens upon cooling. (Natural asphaltum is probably slowly boiled to get rid of the higher fractions, leaving a material of higher molecular weight which is thermoplastic and becomes quite hard upon cooling. Statuettes of household deities are cast with this type of material in Japan and, most probably also in China). The hardened material is now filed and polished to a smooth surface, during which process the uppermost part of the brass wire is also removed so that the wire and asphaltum surfaces lie in a contiguous plane. This procedure not only gives a strong structure, but one that is completely impervious and waterproof.

Using a small but powerful rare-earth magnet, the scabbard and brass parts were probed for magnetic properties. The regions marker "*" in the image showed some slight magnetic attraction but only at the back and cutting edge of the scabbard. Much more surprising was the fact that the entire brass guard (marked with "**", and shaped like a shallow cup) was slightly magnetic in all its parts! (paramagnetic? ferromagnetic?). My guess is that it was made of an impure alloy containing a small part of ferromagnetic material (iron). The reader is invited to draw his/her own conclusions.

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