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  1. #1
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    Wearing a basket-hilt claymore with kilt...

    I was at the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival over the weekend. Even though it was their Highland theme weekend, I decided not to wear the kilt because I'm still torn on the issue of whether I like the idea of wearing the kilt as a 'costume', especially in the anachronistic (or completely fantasy-based) way most people do it at these type events.

    Nonetheless, we had a good time and my wife saw a lot of others wearing kilts in ways that she thinks I should emulate for the next Renaissance festival. I'm still mulling that over in my head. But while we were there, I wandered into a booth selling armor and swords, and saw a reproduction basket-hilt claymore (this one was a backsword) that I took a shine to. It was an impulse buy, and I came home with it.

    So now that I've bought the darn thing, I might as well wear it at the next faire, whether I'm kilted or not. But I'm wondering how it was typically worn, historically. I've never been a sword guy, so I'm not even fully familiar with all the terminology and such. Help a brother out with some photo examples and a "how to wear a basket-hilt claymore for dummies" type tutorial.

    The first thing I noticed about it is that the extra weight of the basket hilt makes it hang out of balance compared to other swords. I tried several different frogs for it at various vendor booths, but it just wouldn't hang at the right angle. I'm thinking it may need to be worn on a baldric. And going by memory, I think this is how I usually see it worn.

    Can you show me some historic examples, or walk me through the best way of carrying it?

  2. #2
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    Throughout the history of the basket hilt sword it has been worn and carried in exactly the same way, regardless of the time period.

    In simple terms the sword is worn on the weak side, suspended from a baldric worn over the strong shoulder and crossing over the body to the the hip on the weak side. The baldric is a form of belt, about 3-inces wide, and usually with a buckle in the area of the chest, to facilitate the putting on and taking off of the sword.

    The sword is attached to the baldric by the simple expedient of passing the scabbard thru a sleeve-like loop which is part of the baldric. It is usually held in place by a small stud attached to the scabbard which fits through an equally small opening, or hole, in the sleeve of the baldric.

    Any photo of a Drum Major in full dress would show you what a baldric looks like, and how it is worn.
    Last edited by MacMillan of Rathdown; 23rd April 12 at 06:21 AM.

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacMillan of Rathdown View Post
    Throughout the history of the basket hilt sword it has been worn and carried in exactly the same way, regardless of the time period.

    In simple terms the sword is worn on the weak side, suspended from a baldric worn over the strong shoulder and crossing over the body to the the hip on the weak side. The baldric is a form of belt, about 3-inces wide, and usually with a buckle in the area of the chest, to facilitate the putting on and taking off of the sword.

    The sword is attached to the baldric by the simple expedient of passing the scabbard thru a sleeve-like loop which is part of the baldric. It is usually held in place by a small stud attached to the scabbard which fits through an equally small opening, or hole, in the sleeve of the baldric.

    Any photo of a Drum Major in full dress would show you what a baldric looks like, and how it is worn.
    Ah, OK. Baldric it is, then. That's the way I was leaning, due to the balance issue of the heavy hilt. I'm guessing this is why it's always been worn on a baldric? It seems more of a fixed angle, keeping the hilt from flopping down like it seems to do on a simple frog hung from a belt.

    I looked at a couple of baldrics at the faire and have a general sense of how they work. But I didn't buy one because I wasn't impressed at all with the quality of the workmanship, especially for the price they were asking. I'm thinking I can make one myself, for a more custom fit/angle and better quality stitching. I'm not sure I'd want to get as fancy with the hardware as I usually see on drum majors, though. Any idea where I can find 3" buckles and keepers that aren't too ornate? I'm thinking even a simple round brass buckle (like the "Jacobite baldric" in HenryT's link) would work just fine. I could use one of Tandy's "reenactor buckles" if I had to, although I would hope I could find something a little better looking.

    The scabbard has only a metal 'clip' on one side. I just hung it on my belt for the afternoon using that clip. But I'm thinking the clip would serve the same function as the stud you mentioned. It would be a simple matter to punch a hole or cut a slit in the sleeve of the baldric for correct positioning.

    Now, this may seem like a dumb question. But when wearing a baldric with a kilt, I'm assuming it's worn over the kilt belt (i.e. put on last, and taken off first) with no interconnecting pieces. Is this correct? Some of the baldrics I saw seemed to have been mated with other waist belts and somehow connected to them. This isn't necessary, is it? Or would it make things more stable (less prone to sway) if the baldric were connected to the kilt belt?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobus View Post
    I'm not sure I'd want to get as fancy with the hardware as I usually see on drum majors, though. Any idea where I can find 3" buckles and keepers that aren't too ornate? I'm thinking even a simple round brass buckle (like the "Jacobite baldric" in HenryT's link) would work just fine. I could use one of Tandy's "reenactor buckles" if I had to, although I would hope I could find something a little better looking.
    The most historically common, in Scotland anyway, seems to have been a "double D" style buckle. There are a couple you might find suitable on this page: http://www.gggodwin.com/cartgenie/prodList.asp?scat=64

    The scabbard has only a metal 'clip' on one side. I just hung it on my belt for the afternoon using that clip. But I'm thinking the clip would serve the same function as the stud you mentioned. It would be a simple matter to punch a hole or cut a slit in the sleeve of the baldric for correct positioning.
    Sounds like you have one of the backswords made by Hanwei in China. The weight, balance, and basket size of those are more historically accurate than most other "production" pieces out there. Both clips and studs were used on the scabbards; I think the clip is an older feature more common to personally owned weapons and the studs were more for the sake of military uniformity.

    Now, this may seem like a dumb question. But when wearing a baldric with a kilt, I'm assuming it's worn over the kilt belt (i.e. put on last, and taken off first) with no interconnecting pieces. Is this correct?
    Yes.
    Last edited by Dale Seago; 23rd April 12 at 10:45 AM.
    "It's all the same to me, war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace."

  6. #6
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    "it was their Highland theme weekend, I decided not to wear the kilt"

    OK,

    Here's a nice source for baldrics;
    http://ravenswoodleather.com/index.p...arch_str=&pg=1
    Order of the Dandelion, The Houston Area Kilt Society, Bald Rabble in Kilts, Kilted Texas Rabble Rousers, The Flatcap Confederation, Kilted Playtron Group.
    "If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk"

  7. #7
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    I like these folks' baldrics (I own one of the late 17th C ones with the double frog, which a talented friend fancied up with some brass additions):

    http://www.thequartermastergeneral.c...=leather_goods

    Yes it's put on last, and does NOT connect at all with a waist belt. The "clip" on the scabbard is called the locket. It can fit into the baldric's sleeve one of two ways:



    Brian

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin

  8. #8
    Join Date
    10th October 08
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    Just out of curiosity...

    I have a repro basket-hilt with metal scabbard. It has two rings built into it. I presume these would be for a sword-hanger type arrangement (like a cavalry officer?) rather than a baldric?

    Not that I'm planning on getting anything right away - I don't think I'll be going anywhere that it would be acceptable/expected wear anyway - but where would I get such an item? I've casually browsed a few sites, but not really seen anything that would probably work.
    John

  9. #9
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    Hi Tobus, I appreciate your desire to preserve the dignity of proper highland dress but I feel it’s a shame to leave a kilt hanging up when it could be worn, so here's what I do: when attending costumed events myself (similarly with folk wearing a complete mix from funny T-shirts, through fancy-dress to historically accurate period dress) I usually take the opportunity to wear a kilt, but always add other elements so that I am identifiable as costumed, e.g. as a Steampunk, neo-Victorian, pirate etc etc with the kilt as one element of that, as natural as trousers. I wear my modern style kilt with pockets with make-believe kit, but when historical & smart enough to warrant it, my 8-yard synthetic or 5-yard wool, standard sporran, even flashes etc.

    As MacMillan of Rathdown states, shoulder belts continued as the traditional Highland method of carriage when lighter swords were often transferred to the waist, although inevitable exceptions do exist at odd times when the basket-hilted sword was carried on the waist-belt by e.g. regimental staff officers wearing kilt as well as pantaloons ("trews"), particularly in the volunteer brigades and both white “buff-leather” and black leather sword waist-belts were issued, so I suppose these things were subject to some variation and that the association with the shoulder-belt was particularly with the Highland ensemble rather than strictly with the hilt. This is emphasised by the late Victorian regimental vogue for using cross-hilted swords for Undress and then interchangeable hilts, preserving the baskets for different Levees & Full Dress, by most Highland regiments for some years, without swapping scabbards or suspension method.

    The sword shoulder-belt was so firmly part of military Highland dress that when regimental pipers discontinued wearing the sword, the Regulations of the late 1870s specifically mentioned that they should continue wearing the shoulder-belt anyway. The tendency during the Napoleonic conflicts of light company officers to follow the usual practice of their counterparts in ordinary Line Regiments of wearing a sabre was curbed by the late 1820's, e.g. in the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameron Highlanders) Regimental order of 1817 "The flank officers, when in Highland uniform, are to wear frog-belts and claymores the same as the rest of the officers".

    The most usual method of attachment from early-modern times was indeed through a loop or "frog" integral to the shoulder-belt or in a stiffer material & sewn onto it (e.g. leather onto a fabric or fabric-leather composite belt) and usually made secure with the "button" or "frog stud" (sometimes literally a round knob, sometimes the clip type) on the metal "locket" going through a slit in the frog, occasionally a buckle.

    In Highland Regimental pattern scabbards, e.g. the classic 1822 Regulation scabbard, one often finds loose ring attachments in addition to a frog-stud (& some later ones with only rings). The rings are for the attachment of "slings", which hold the scabbard at the appropriate angle, particularly for mounted officers. The frog-stud was often retained so the scabbard can by "hooked up", to quickly switch from the long sling length ideal for mounted wear and cutting a dash to something shorter & more manoeuvrable dismounted. Both waist-belts and shoulder-belts could accommodate either sling or frog. The enormously wide black leather shoulder belts with huge fittings were at least for a while a distinction of pipers while their fellow NCO’s wore more normal proportion white “buff" shoulder-belts.

    Regimental basket hilts were indeed eventually worn with a Sam Browne belt, the brown leather waist-belt with one supporting crossbelt, or with two going straight over each shoulder leading to more modern rigs. I believe they were suspended from this with a frog, depending from two short slings from the waist-belt, one either side of the scabbard, giving a more upright carry, but with the weight supported by the shoulder-belt(s).

    The shoulder belt is much more convenient than a waist-belt if you are armed all day. In practical terms (irrespective of military regulations) I can recommend buckling the waistbelt over the baldric if you need to run in it - to reduce the 'bounce', but otherwise it's far more convenient for sitting, negotiating overly familiar crowds, vending stalls or public conveniences to pop it on last so you can hoik it out of the way, tuck it under your arm etc. without having to constantly work the scabbard-frog attachment, which you don’t want to get too loose. Many 18thC paintings show officers holding their swords, in the scabbards, to one side or up by their armpit, sometimes to better frame it and there's a painting of John Gordon of Glenbucket which clearly shows him doing this with a view of the frog on his shoulder belt (although this post indicates that there were some Victorian additions to the painting):

    BoldHighlander's post #80 Historic Painting Thread


    Some potted advice for new sword owners, which I include as many of us might not get the guiding hand and instruction from an organised group:
    The short of it: use common sense and make a good impression for the sake of our kilted community.

    Some tips: never let it out of your sight unless locked up or guarded by your shield-maiden, or right-hand man. If blunt, you might decide to let others handle it under supervision, but you may find yourself criminally or privately liable if they are pillocks, or just cack-handed, you'll have to check you local laws and exercise discretion. However, I'm pleased to say every adult I've ever handed a sword has treated it with reverence. I think that's the best case for having one, not a lot of things do that.

    When I let kids or anyone I don't know look at a blunt, I keep hold of the blade, point up. I remind them that I keep it blunt especially just so I can let people like them hold it. An 11 year old recently just nodded said knowingly "Ah, Health & Safety"!

    If sharp, you really do have to be more circumspect. A walking stick can be used to kill you with a little effort or a lot of carelessness, a blunt replica broadsword will kill fairly easily, particularly with blows to the head or thrusts to the torso, though it may fall apart doing it, a good sharp will disassemble bits of you without anyone really meaning to. I imagine many Americans are very familiar with firearm safety, or at least power-tool safety, its somewhere between the two, I imagine.

    You will know best if the local coppers have got a "knife-crime" reflex or are sensible to Scottish tradition &/or re-enactment - I get more attention here wearing a neat, padded, leather bike racing jacket to a family pub than I do walking through town at 2am with sword, knife, spear and shield. I love my town.

    Transport it padded in a locked car boot or well supervised case or kit bag (ex-army ones are much cheaper than purpose made sports bags and have plenty of room for padding or the other kit). Public transport often has it's own regulations about such things, and in the UK the Transport Police have the powers to permanently confiscate your gear on the spot, though they are, as far as I'm aware, only very sensible about it in reality. If you have any concerns & don't have your Highland Dress on or with you, I recommend you have or a good photo of you wearing it, perhaps a flyer for the event you've been to or are going to, or something to indicate your membership of a relevant group like a Clan or Burns association. A kilt with a claymore will do for most people, but not necessarily near a pub on a match day.

    Be aware they take some propping up in corners and are prone to pull your chair over as soon as you get up, if hooked on the back. When in confined areas, keep a hand, or wrist in contact with the hilt, (resting on the pommel looks more sensible than holding the grip) to keep it more upright and free from snagging - this is very natural & comfortable. If you bow or lean, it is good practise to keep the sword from doing the same & risk goosing or tripping someone behind you: you can just keep your hand on the pommel or take the grip, but the old genteel way was to stretch your (sword-side) arm out & down so the wrist / forearm pushes the hilt back upright as you tilt.

    I know some folk are of the opinion that a sword is overdoing things with Highland dress, "that's Victorian, not Jacobite" etc. I say life's for enjoying, you're flying the flag for a bit of the culture that interests a lot of people, it's a lot more harmless than a buying a sports car or taking up extreme sports, a sword has always been a symbol more than a weapon, yes always. Don't wear it to church, unless asked, but you can offer - it's a good illustration of "Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one", Luke 22:36.

    If you want to learn how to wield it, watch some YouTube clips as a sobering warning against looking foolish first. I can recommend some books, but nothing beats some brief instruction. You don't have to sign up to a hardcore Western Martial Arts Fight-Club, most re-enactment groups of most periods will enjoy you dropping in at an event to chat & see the basics and some will give you safety training you if you join for the weekend. There are even blokes in kilts to be found hanging around Clan stalls at Highland events, just longing to have an excuse to whip their own swords out from under the table and start waving them about shouting battle cries, but you know what that lot are like, or rather you probably know a lot of them from X-Marks ;-)

    If you want to wield a sword well, first learn how to dance...

    Hope I haven't bored anyone, my main source for regimental details is Brian Robson’s ‘Swords of the British Army”, a wonderful tome for recovering swordsmen.
    Last edited by Salvianus; 25th April 12 at 09:40 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    John,
    Check out the link in posting # 6 from Zardoz. Ravenswood Leathers has a baldric with snap hooks on it and will work very well with your metal scabbard with the rings on it.

    Cheers,

    Brian

    Brian Woodyard
    In the lowlands of Maryland
    Fear Colgach Fear Baolach
    A angry Man (is) A dangerous Man

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