Category: kilij

Why the Ottoman Pala is the Ultimate Slashing Sword

Today we’re going to be looking at a variant of the venerable ottoman kilij. this is a turkish pala, from around 1780. The pala was a specific subclass of kilij, and is an infantry weapon designed for performing draw cuts. 

This video is an updated version of my 2017 video, with a few corrections and expansions as well as better video and image quality. 

This example features a blade made out of turkish ribbon twist steel, a style of multi bar pattern welding renowned for its technical difficulty and attractive starburst patterning. It features a scarf welded iron tang.

The crossguard is made of a copper alloy, and features langets extending down towards the hilt, and into the blade. These help secure it in its scabbard. The grip is made of horn. 

The history of the turkish sabre, or kilij, extends back into the 15th century, when the distinctive yalmani style of kilij formed. The term Yelman refers to the flared tip and false edge seen on these swords. Earlier examples would have a sharpened false edge, but this one does not. 

One very unique feature to this infantry pala is the T shaped spine. This spine shape provides stiffness and allows for an extremely fine edge geometry. It does, however, prevent you from cutting “normally” with a large majority of the blade, as the spine causes resistance in a chop. This forces you to perform draw cuts with this blade, or to cut with the distal portion, known as the foible.

The blade also features a unique curvature, being straight in the forte, before having a slight recurve and a strong secondary curve, before transitioning into the foible. 

The foible of this blade is very thin, being 1.5mm at it’s thickest, and relatively broad. This makes it rather flexible, and also makes it less efficient at thrusting.

This example weighs 673 grams, and is 79cm overall with a 66cm long blade. It balances around 17cm from the guard, and feels very light and maneuverable.

This is owing to the light weight, and the curved blade which makes edge alignment feel more natural. 

This is a very formidable and functional sword. The acute edge is well suited to slicing through textiles, and the light weight and maneuverability make it fast to swing and recover with. Despite being such a functional weapon, the blade is still truly beautiful, featuring a bold and tight pattern.

Fabulous Ottoman kilij, 19th century.

from Olympia Auctions

Curved swords and how to cut with them – kilij, shamshir, tulwar, sabre

A Pipeback sword that works: Wootz Kilij / Pala circa 1790

This is a kilij, (Turkic word for “sword”) also known as a Pala (specific to this style of short sabre with a “T” shaped spine).

It is made of wootz, a type of crucible steel that has distinct patterns. This particular style of wootz is known as dendritic wootz, as it has dendrites, or branches of bright lines (cementite) on a dark background (sorbite). (Although it is possible this is pattern welded and I am just blind)

In the top right image you can see a distinct band of pale steel. This indicates a “scarf weld”, where two bars of wootz were forge welded together by heating them to a orange color, then hammering them together. The reason for this is likely because the top / end section of wootz billets is often dirty and crumbly, so it gets cut off and a clean bit is used for the tang.

This style of sabre has a very, thin, fine edge, making it an exceptionally good slicing or slashing sword. The heavy curve further emphasises this. The thick (10mm) spine prevents you from chopping deeply with a typical cutting motion, requiring you to “draw cut”, pulling the blade along your opponents flesh and rending it apart.

This style first appeared around 1750-1770, and this example is from around 1780-1790. It is likely Turkish / Ottoman, and feels amazing to handle. Whilst the point of balance is something like 18cm away from the guard, it just floats when you hold it. You can barely tell you’re holding a sword.

Length: 84cm

Blade Length: 70cm

Weight: 670 grams

Point of Balance: 18cm