Three rapiers crossed

Depicting the device for the Order of Defense

When the SCA’s Order of Defense was created in early 2015, the device registered for the order was described as “(Tinctureless) Three rapiers in pall inverted tips crossed“.

Line drawing of device for the Order of Defense, obtained from OSCAR.
Download pattern

I wanted to learn about reasonable variations for drawing the device, so I looked into:

  • Spacing the blades: When I searched Google for images of medallions for the order, I saw the device depicted as having equal angles between all the blades, and as having varying angles between them.  Looking at the line drawings in OSCAR, the blades are not spaced evenly. The angle between the two lower diagonal blades is more acute than the angle between either of those lower blades and the upper vertical blade.   Yes, I did get a protractor out!
  • Where the blades should cross: The OSCAR sketches quite clearly show the blades crossing near the tips (roughly 1/5th the distance from the tip to where the blade goes into the hilt).
  • Which blade should be in front: The OSCAR drawings show the lower right diagonal blade on top. That google image search for order medallions showed many that have the vertical blade on top; far less commonly the lower left diagonal blade may be on top.
  • The hilts: Anyone who practices fencing, or who has an interest in the history of swords, will tell you that hilts can be anything from simple crossed hilts to complex swept filigree constructions.   (If it isn’t obvious already, I know very little about the anatomy of swords..)  This is borne out by the variation in how the hilts of the device are depicted in all the images I’ve looked at.
  • The direction the hilts face: the OSCAR sketches show the hilts for the two lower blades facing in opposite directions, like they would be if the swords were crossed while hanging on a wall.   In medallions,  the hilts for all three swords are often depicted facing in the same direction, ie. clockwise or anticlockwise round a circle.

So, as long as 3 rapiers are pointing into the centre of an imaginary circle and are crossed near the blade tips, it doesn’t matter:

  • how the swords are spaced round the circle; they don’t have to be equally spaced.
  • which blade should be in front; any of the 3 is fine.
  • what the hilts look like, as long as they are reminiscent of later rapier hilts not early simple cross-hilts (for the Order’s device).
  • which way the hilts face; they can face in different directions.

The device in double face tablet weaving

I started sketching the device in GTT, by working on the centre of the design, sorting out the three-way cross. I then extended the blades outwards, and when I thought the blades looked right, I added simple hilts.

In addition to the reasonable variations I’d already covered, I also considered:

  • Proportions: length of blade to length of hilts. I tried to keep the blades as long as possible, to emulate the proportions in the OSCAR drawings, to stop the swords ending up looking more like daggers, and to allow room for a bit of detail in the hilts.
  • Number of cards vs detailing: Reducing the angle between the lower two blades allowed me to reduce the number of cards while preserving the detail of the already simplified hilts. Also, to take advantage of natural diagonals in tablet weaving.
  • symmetry in tablet weaving: I did try having the hilts all facing one way, but it didn’t look right on a restricted number of cards. I switched to having the hilts of the lower two blades face in the opposite direction, and the pattern looked better.
Download pattern

After several tries, I made a pattern that I hope some may find useful.  It calls for 42 pattern cards, plus 3 border cards on either side. Samples were worked in Lizbeth Cordonnet #80, colors 611 and 647. The band was about 24mm wide.

Believe it or not, I did try to keep the number of cards used down to something sane!


GTT – Guntram’s Tablet Weaving Thingy – still my favourite weaving software

Handy Hands Lizbeth #80 – full range of available colors.

OSCAR – SCA Laurel Sovereign of Arms, Online System for Commentary and Response (heraldry within the SCA).

Sayyeda al-Kaslaania’s post on Order medallions. I liked the simplified treatment of the hilts.

SCA announcement of creation of the Order of Defense – The announcement refers to “Defense”, while OSCAR mentions “Defence”.  Not sure why there is a discrepancy.

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