Why do we all complain about rat-tail?

Discussion in 'Fantasy Weapons and Armour' started by tharkun, Jan 26, 2004.

  1. nasnandos

    nasnandos New Member

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    Here is my two cents...

    I think there is some confusion as to what "full tang" and "rat tail" means. A real "full tang" means the blade and handle are one piece of steel and handle scales or grips are pinned to both sides of the tang. The tang remains visible along the outer edge because it is not enclosed. The LOTR movie swords were not made this way.

    What most people nowadays call a "full tang sword" is one with a tang that extends all of the way up to, or into, the pommel where is is secured via steel pins through the side or a "rat tail". The rat tail is simply the tang tapering at the end into a round bar shape so it can be threaded. The pommel is then screwed directly to the tail, or in some cases it slides on with the tail extending through and a nut is used on the end to secure it. I have a Paul Chen sword made the latter way. Historically these tails extended through the pommel and then were peened flat so the end flared out and secured the blade. Most modern swords have the pommel thread onto the blades.

    The rat tail bar can be ground one piece out of the tang or simply welded to the end of the tang. There is a right and a wrong way to do this. Some cheap swords coming out of Pakistan and China have a tang that stops as soon as it gets to the hand guard and then a welded rat tail bar runs THE FULL LENGTH of the handle. This gives no stability or shoock absorbtion to the blade and the bar or the weld will easily break. UC's LOTR swords are NOT made this way.

    The tang typically should extend at least 1/2 to 3/4 into the handle, or in some cases all the way to the pommel, before it tapers down to the tail, formed or welded. It depends on the steel weight, width, thickness and the length and thickness of the handle. For instance, the Narsil tang extends 1/2 into the grip before the rat tail, but the rat tail is encapsulated with a solid steel tube to eliminate movement and absorb shock which can lead to breakage. The Ranger sword is much shorter and has a wider handle so it has a full length tang that tapers into the rat tail at the pommel. Hadhafang has a full length tang that runs into the pommel where it is pinned through the side of the wood, under the pommel cap.

    There is alot more to a good sword than that, but I don't want to put anyone to sleep.

    I must agree with the previous posts, these are collectibles, not fully functional combat swords. I would never want to use anything but good carbon steel blade with a full length tang, or even full tang in the case of my Criswel 28" D2 katana, for practice or combat. Anyone interested in learning how to really use a sword should get the right tool for the job first. The LOTR swords are just too cool looking to mess up!
     
  2. Doombringer

    Doombringer The End of All Things

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    Thanks for clearing things up, Kit.

    I guess it goes without saying... as there are a few different types of "rat tail" configurations, there are a few different classifications of "full tang". I think the whole reason everyone thinks of those obvious "full tang" swords you mentioned is because the tang is so easily seen. Therefore, it is obviously full-tang... it runs the entire length of the handle without question. When you have a sword where you can't see the tang at all, one has to wonder... even if it truly IS full tang you still can't see it.

    I'm curious. Is that encapsulated steel tube the cause for some of the rattle complaints? It seems like it would be the reason for noise.
     
  3. swordsman

    swordsman New Member

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  4. gandalf23

    gandalf23 The White Wizard

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    I second that swordsman. I rather enjoyed reading about the difference and how the LoTR swords are made.
     
  5. Orkin

    Orkin The Fighters Guide House Member

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    The tang appears to be about three times as wide as the threaded part a the end of the tang where the pommel is screwed on. AFAIK this is about the thickness of a tang on an Atrim, which is certainly battle-worthy, and as wide as some historical blades (but not all). Not what I would call a rat-tail.
    We need standards here, and clear definitions.

    The distinction with stainless is that it is a dog to sharpen (high abrasion resistance) but goes blunt easily (low compression resistance). Theoretically, if you're not planning to sharpen it (say for reenactment) you should be ok. Whether it's tempered and tempered correctly, you're on your own...

    @#$%%^! Zounds! :mad:
    Now what happened to that picture???? I'm getting tired of this.
     
  6. swordsman

    swordsman New Member

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    If you really want to get a good read about the construction stright from the creators mouths you really need to read this.

    The Men Behind the Swords in “The Lord of the Rings”
    An interview with Peter Lyon and John Howe
    By Björn Hellqvist

    http://www.algonet.se/~enda/a_lotrinter.htm

    Aslo Blade magizine interview Kit Rae last year and his comments can be forun on our site concerning that interview. It is on the right side of the home page

    http://www.bladesbybrown.com/lotr.html
     
  7. Justice

    Justice New Member

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    There we go, that's a big distinction. A FULL LENGTH TANG is different than a FULL TANG, but in our busy world of shortening phrases and such we have just come to call any sword with a complete tang ready for battle worthiness a full tang sword.
     
  8. Yasmar

    Yasmar New Member

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    Since we now have good descriptions of the tang construction of Narsil, Hadhafang, and the Ranger Sword, here is my contribution of Glamdring's hilt/tang construction. (My Glamdring is the only one of my LOTR swords to have loosened enough to dismantle.)
    I have taken pics, but I still have to finish the roll of film and develop it before I can scan and post them, so I made this nifty diagram instead!
    As you can see, it is rat-tail with what seems to me would be a fairly weak weld only 2.5 inches from the blade's shoulders. The grip is cast metal, not wood, under the leather, so anybody who has one that "rattles," this could be the metal tang rattling against the core of the metal grip. (Mine doesn't seem to have this problem; fits nice and tight when I reassemble it.)
     

    Attached Files:

  9. tharkun

    tharkun coraxion

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    Hey, thanks, that's clearing some things up, Yasmar!!!
    I would really like to see the pics you've made!!!!!
     
  10. Dáin Ironfoot

    Dáin Ironfoot Azog's bane

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    Can a total sword newbie ask a question?

    I understand these swords are not combat swords and I do not intend to hit anything with them or try to fight with them...

    However is it still ok to pick them up... hold them in your hand prehaps swing them around a bit? I ask this mainly because the sword I am waiting for is the elven warrior sword and ever since I saw FOTR I have tried to imagine what it would be like to handle one of these unusual weapons.

    Sorry if thats a stupid question.. thanks!
     
  11. swordsman

    swordsman New Member

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    Yes you can ask questions like this. This is the whole purpose of this forum. I know it gets confusing to some new collectors out there with all the bla bla about functional & Non Functional swords but it is not very hard to understand when you look at what you intend to do with the sword. The Lord of the Ring swords are totally non-functional display swords. They are not made to actually use as a weapon. They are made with materials that are not suited for that purpose. The reason they were made this way was because they are intended to give fans of the books and movies the opportunity to own an actual representation of there favorite sword of Helmet at a fair and reasonable price. If these swords were made functional they would be double or triple the cost to make and would make them out of reach of most collectors. For this reason the swords fill a niche that thousands of collectors are thankful for and are happy to but just to look at and say that is an exact replica of this sword or that sword from the movies.
    Some people would have you to believe that these swords will fall apart on you when you pick them up. Not so, they are very durable and sturdy swords. They are made from high quality materials and are the best representations of the movie props ever to be made. United Cutlery uses only the highest quality materials and craftsmanship to manufacture these swords. They are very sturdy and can be handled waived and in my opinion will stand up to most any type of handling the collector would do with it. With that said they are not made to go out and chop wood with or pumpkins watermelons etc. They were not made for this and we don't recommend you to do it. However I have done all the above with several versions of the lotr swords without one of them breaking. Again I am not saying you should do this with them or any sword for that matter unless you have been trained in safety and swordsmanship. The point I am making is that there are lost of folks want others to believe that the lotr collectibles weapons and Armour are not able to take abuse. well trust me thy can. Now if your interest is in doing actual demonstrations of cutting and fighting with swords I strongly suggest you get a functional sword that has all the right tangibles to insure that when you do use them like that you will be safe and others around you will be too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2004
  12. Dáin Ironfoot

    Dáin Ironfoot Azog's bane

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    My main interest is in the beauty of the prop (or replica). That being said the EWS fascinates me. A curved almost staff like weapons that the stunties seemed to be able to do the most fluent and graceful moves. So if I could just pick up and copy the move the elves of the second age performed in the prologue of FOTR (on the air :p I have a big imagination)I would be very happy.

    Thanks for a very informative and friendly post Swordsman! It's made things much clearer!

    Thanks!

    Dáin
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2004
  13. amondray

    amondray New Member

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    wow this really dissapoints me....i mean it dosent even go halfway before it starts the rat tail...this makes it even weaker than narsil which kit said started about halfway in to the handle. Please correct me if im wrong.
     
  14. NCO MOS18B

    NCO MOS18B Better than you.

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    It's completely fine to swing them around, I do it all the time. Hell, I ever used them for mock combat before I realized that wasn't a good idea, and they held up fine for the most part.
     
  15. Doombringer

    Doombringer The End of All Things

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    Swinging them around is fine. They're sturdy enough to put up with that sort of use for some time I imagine, just don't smack them against anything. The tang might hold up against the impact, but the stainless blade may receive damage. And who wants a damaged sword? They look best when flawless.

    The Elven Warrior Sword may actually be made MORE sturdy than, say, Glamdring, because of its unusual design. It is 50% sword and 50% hilt (grip). I imagine the tang will extend through more than half of the grip, if not ALL of it. Who knows :)
     
  16. NCO MOS18B

    NCO MOS18B Better than you.

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    With the exception of the "bad guy" swords, ie. Witchking, Uruk, etc. Those look a lot cooler with nicks and stuff.
     
  17. Grabsteinkraut

    Grabsteinkraut Good friend of John R.R.

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    I've also tried to swing them (i actually own Narsil) and it's ok.
    I also hitted some objects, not as hard as i can : trees, pumpkins and even mettalic objects (but these ones were accidently), and my sword still is OK. After all that i've red, i'm quite surprised and take a lot more care about my precioussss sword. But to keep on fiting, i've bought the uruk-hai simitar, with seems a lot more resitant.

    P.S. For those who had the "Kling" and "Tap" sound problem, i've got a trick: fill the holes between the bade and the guard whit small bits of paper with a small screwdriver. Pack it well, and it should be Ok (i'll post some picks later)
     
  18. Witchking

    Witchking Undead Ringer

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    Also try tightening the pommel by twisting it. This helped my WK sword tighten up a bit.
     
  19. Grabsteinkraut

    Grabsteinkraut Good friend of John R.R.

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  20. Doombringer

    Doombringer The End of All Things

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    Not a bad diagram of tang types.

    Unfortunately it is right and wrong. Most tangs are encapsulated. The "full tang" with the scales bolted to either side of the tang is mostly something present on newer katanas or "ninja swords" and even steak knives. I think it is not only done for strength but also for appearances. Seeing the tang can convince people that the weapon/knife is stronger (and usually it is).

    And as we know, a rat tail usually consists of a threaded bar welded onto a shorter tang, not just a thin tang with a treaded end. A thin, but full-length tang with a threaded end is still effectively a full tang. A bolted or peened end is better, of course.
     
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