Saturday, 12 May 2018

Turkish Sabre: Karabela

My second important sabre in my collection just finished recently. I already have a 16th cc replica, this time I wanted to have a later time, 17th-18th cc. It is of the Ottoman 'karabela' type. It was custom made by the famous swordsmith Osman Baskurt.

  • Weight 730 gr
  • Balance is at 17 cm from crossguard
  • Lenght 93 cm 
  • Width 3.4 at c.guard and 3.5 at spur (mahmuz)
  • Thickness of spine starts from 8 mm tapers to 6 mm at spur
  • 1070 steel
  • Steel folded to 324 layers

I was also very interested in the making of the sabre, so here is the swordsmith's comments and step by step pictures. This sabre is forged by an old technique similar to the japanese one. 1070 steel started from 12 layers and folded until 324 layers there are some patterns but they are not contrast of nickel or carbon but contrast of layer connection due same steel folded on each other and steel polished to mirror finish like in old times.

The Crossguard is made from mildsteel and hilt made out of cherry wood and given an antique look to it. Scabbard covered with brown sheep leather and repousse work has done and all the design on fittings taken from an original example

Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Turkish Horse

Summary: 'Recently a genetic study was published confirming that a lot of horse breeds around the world have Turkish horse DNA, especially the English Thoroughbred'

Dear friends, an old Polish saying goes like this:

Horse Turkish, 
servant Mazurish;            
Hat Magyarian, 
saber Hungarian.   

The English Thoroughbred (ETB) is the worlds fastest horse and maybe the most known. It is the horse breed that you see in the horse races and it is widespread throughout the world in horse riding clubs, polo/Polocrosse clubs, etc. It is maybe the first horse that comes to your mind if you think about horses. It is among the most valued as well with top foals sold at prices over 1 million USD.

English Thoroughbred horse (ETB)

There is a lot of discussion about the provenance though. It all starts with my ancestors, the Ottoman Turkish army loosing the battle of Buda (Hungary) in 1686. In this battle, European forces capture a Turkish Warhorse and bring it back to England, calling it the 'Byerley Turk' named after Lord Byerley who was in the possession of the horse. Recognising the qualities of the horse, they started a breeding program. Together with a second (Darley Arabian) and third (Godolphin Arabian) foundation Sire, these 3 horses were the basis for the English Thoroughbred. (It is to note that European horses were no match in battle against Turkish horses in terms of speed and stamina (see: The European destrier horse))

So far so good, the discussion is around which breed's genes were dominant as they are different breeds involved. It was widely accepted that the main ancestor of the ETB is the Arabian horse (also due to a strong Arabian horse lobby). 

You could say that there are some points against this view:
1. The original Arabian horse looks very different from the ETB. It is smaller (14-15 hands vs 16hands)
2. Dished face of Arabians in many lines vs the straight long face of the ETB
3. A different confirmation and muscle/body shape
4. The speed - The ETB is much faster than the Arabian horse.
4. Even the mentality of the horse differs, Arabs being more spooky and difficult to handle by nature
5. The speed and endurance were unseen in Europe before, so they bought further Turkish horses and used them in the breeding of the ETB:
  • Darcy White Turk
  • Edward Hale's bayTurk
  • Belgrade Turk mare
  • Helmsley Turk
  • Darcy Yellow Turk
  • Place's white Turk
  • Akaster Turk
  • Carlisle Turk

Unfortunately, today, the old Turkish breed is extinct in Turkey, but the closest relative lives on in Iran and Turkmenistan, the Akhal Teke. Just looking at the horse you will see that it resembles the ETB much more than the Arabian horse. These horses have top speeds similar to the ETB and are also amazing in long distance riding. This breed is a true war horse. For example, in 1935 a 2600 mile race from Ashgabat to Moscow was held with Akhal Tekes!

Akhal Teke horse

In contrast, here is an Arabian horse:
Arabian horse

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Ottoman Turkish War arrow replicas

I built Ottoman Turkish arrows in the past and with each time I learned new things. This is my passion for the last years.
Archery is the art of repetition. You are constantly trying to keep every factor the same with each shot - bow arm angle, pulling arm angle, draw length, anchor point, aiming point, release etc in order to increase accuracy. If everything is the same, then theoretically you will hit your target each time. In reality it is not so easy e.g. you can't guarantee aiming at the same spot, especially if you are shooting instinctive (without any aiming device, scope). One of these factors is the arrow. Your arrows need to be as uniform/standard as possible. If one weighs 3 gram more, is slightly shorter, is differently tapered, you will not hit the target with your next shot even if you aimed at the same spot or managed to keep all the other factors the same.

(Some past work:)
Ottoman war arrows with broad heads with sinew wrapping

Ottoman target arrows

Ottoman war arrows with armour piercing heads, sinew wrapped

Now I tried a new set of 20 Ottoman war arrows, again it is maybe better than my last sets but it is only an iteration to build the arrow masterpieces in the museums. I feel it is impossible to get close to the craftsmanship of the old arrow masters.

The first challenge I faced was the arrow length, which is correlated to the weight, which is the second challenge. Our ancestors in the 16th-17th cc were smaller than us, thus their arrows were shorter (typically 68-72cm total length). If you replicate a museum arrow 1:1, you will not be able to shoot it. Yet how will you make it bigger? and how heavy should it be?

First of all, the typical anchor point for Ottoman war archery is just below the chin, similar to today's olympic archery. With this anchor point, my draw length is 27.5 inch.

I found different arrow information in catalogues, books, online and collected the weight and length information in an excel table. Then I created a graph in which you can see the ratio length to weight. I included Ottoman and also Tatar war arrows. Slowly you could see clusters of typical arrow length and weight. I also included an average line each. (if you find any more arrow specs, let me know I will include it).

As my draw length is 27.5'', I reckoned with a total arrow length of 74cm (including arrow point and nock). For that length, I assumed the arrow weight will be around 27 gram according to the above graph.
The above is good reference. I see a lot of Turkish colleagues drawing until the ear (and breaking those Grozer Turkish bows). Drawing to the ear is rather Tatar archery and you need a Tatar bow which has a longer draw.

Second challenge is the tapering (called endam in Turkish). Turkish arrows are always tapered which makes the arrow more aerodynamic, thus increases speed. It is thinner at both ends and thicker in the middle. But how thin?

Below are measurements for a Turkish war arrow from a museum (blue). Thickness is measured in mm starting from the base of the shaft right after the arrow head. This way you can 'visualize' the taper. This original arrow was shorter than the arrow I wanted to make. So I tried to estimate values for a slightly longer arrow. The result is the red graph. You will see how far more superior the old masters are! If you pay close attention you will see that the blue graph resembles a cross section of an airplane wing. 

Anyway, my arrows are not as perfect as the old Turks' arrow but still they fly very well.
Some extra information:
  • The arrow points are handforged steel with hardened tips, 3.6 gram.
  • Added bone washers so the arrows survive the impact on armour
  • Total arrow length: 74cm
  • Total arrow weight: 26.5 gram

Gokmen Altinkulp

Feathers in preparation (without quill)

Shafts after painting

Arrow heads: hand forged armour piercing heads with bone washers