Event Report: The Atlanta Blade Show 2006
An article by Jason Elrod
While I didn't get to see or handle all of Albion's swords the first night, I made sure that I was able to spend a lot of time at their booth the next day. In many ways, Albion was the only game in town when it came to production western style swords. While katana makers flourished, the only other venues for production swords came from CAS Iberia / Hanwei, Cold Steel (who didn't have anything new), and Angus Trim Swords. Luckily there were a few individual artists in attendance such as Vince Evans, Michael "Tinker" Pearce, Kevin Cashen, and William Lloyd of The Chiseler's Art.
Mike Sigman and Harlan Hastings of Albion really let their enthusiasm for the products show. There were times I almost wished that they would simply stop handing me swords with which to play. It was nice to see almost the entire lineup of swords including the blade blanks for the Meister, Knecht, and the Vassal. With a bit of luck the first Next Generation Meister should be available at the end of July or the beginning of August.
This was also the first time that I was able to see and handle Albion's Peter Johnsson Museum Collection and Hallmark Series lines. Unfortunately there was no Svante model to be found. The quality, handling, fit and finish are equal to, though not better, than the standards set by Albion's Next Generation line; in fact, the Solingen had a large casting flaw in the center of its pommel, which was a shame because this sword looked much better in person and has, in my humble opinion, fantastic handling characteristics. Both the Tritonia and the Saint Maurice of Turin sword were beasts to handle and I actually laughed the first time I picked up the Saint Maurice because its 9" Point of Balance made the sword feel much heavier than it actually was. It is definitely a sword meant to be used on horseback.
One of the appeals of Albion's lineup is the number and variety of swords that they offer, from the Roman Age to the Renaissance. Two of the Albion swords really appealed to me and they weren't two that I would have thought that I would have liked. They include the Next Generation Aquilifier and the Poitiers. These are swords that I never gave a second look at on Albion's Web site but could appreciate their subtle lines and handling in person. Having the ability to actually handle and see the items that you might have only seen on the internet or through pictures is one of the best reasons to go to the Blade Show. Another great reason to go is to get acquainted with the people.
Gus is also expanding his line considerably. The AT1508, AT1404, and the AT1403 are all made from thicker .36" 5160 stock and many of his swords are now three pounds and over. While he made a name for himself by creating ultra-light swords, he has not neglected the other end of the weight and handling spectrum. Gus always surprises me with something new.
Next to Gus was Patrick Jones, who was selling RSW's (Realistic Sparring Weapons). These training swords have a metal-reinforced plastic core, a foam layer to absorb the shock, and a fabric layer to hold it all together. One of them handled very similar to Gus's AT1211, and I believe was actually based off of it. I know a few people who use them for sparring and like them but I had never handled them before.
Amusingly enough to me especially since he didn't bring one of his own katana, Gus was seated right next to Bugei Trading Company's table. Let me apologize to the katana lovers out there. I know absolutely nothing about the katana or eastern martial arts so I'm not really able to provide much information since I didn't pay much attention to these makers. The least I can do is give a list of companies and artists. In attendance were CAS Iberia / Hanwei; Bugei; Dynasty Forge; Wally Hayes; Martial Art Swords; Cold Steel; Rick Barrett, Bladesmith and Anthony DiCristofano of Namahage Sword. While I might not know a lot about the traditional katana, I do know a lot about quality workmanship and Rick Barrett's and Anthony DiCristofano's work is fantastic. Unfortunately I didn't get to talk to Rick, but I had fun talking and listening to Anthony. He's a very intense man and, for what it's worth, made my favorite looking katana at the show.
While the bigger vendors get a lot of attention, the show consisted mostly of individual artisans selling their handmade wares. This for me is the heart of the show: where all of the interesting people and creations are to be found. Two people that stood out in the crowd were Kevin Cashen and William Lloyd.
I wasn't able to talk to Kevin as he was running about trying to buy supplies for new projects. I was, however, able to handle one of his pattern-welded hangers and some of his bowies. The finish on all pieces was excellent and the pattern-welding was fantastic: definitely works of art.
William Lloyd is a gifted artist. While his pieces are definitely fantasy-oriented, he assured me that they all have full tangs and are truly functional. I really enjoyed talking to him. A chatty fellow, he talked to everyone around him and anyone who walked by. William specializes in antler carving and, considering the amount of detail that goes into his work, I found his prices to be extremely reasonable.
And who can forget the jovial "Tinker" Pearce? He had some really crazy folders (how many edges can one man put on a blade?) including my favorite one which he calls the tactical sax folder. He also had three swords present, including one with a hollow-ground blade.
While myArmoury.com focuses mainly on historical edged weapons, I would be remiss to not mention a few of the wonderful knife makers who made up most of the show. Strangely enough, I know more about swords than I do knives, so I'm simply going to list a few of the artists who's work caught my eye: Lynn Dawson & Dennis Cook, Mitch Edwards, Anders Hogstrom, Raymond Richard Knives.
There were so many great artists at the Blade Show that it was impossible to meet them all or even remember all of their work. Luckily most of the people at the show have their own cards so you can contact them later if you aren't an impulse buyer. This is especially important to remember since some of these craftspeople don't have a Web presence.
If you get a chance to go, by all means know that it's worth the drive and the price of admission. Take it from someone who drove ten hours just to see the show for a day and a half. Next year I will most certainly be going and I'll be hitting as many seminars as possible. Perhaps I'll grow a beard and learn how to use a straight razor to shave without cutting myself.
About the Author
Jason Elrod is a retail manager with Borders Books in Dulles, VA. His sword obsession is tempered only by the knowledge that no matter how large his collection becomes, he still will not be able to use it to send his son to college.
Additional photos can be viewed in our Atlanta Blade Show 2006 Photo Album.
Photographers: Jason Elrod and Bill Duncan