A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors

Custom Rondel Dagger from Arms & Armor
A hands-on review by Gordon Clark

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The rondel dagger was a very popular sidearm during the 14th and 15th centuries. While extremely simple in basic design, the rondel dagger has been executed in an amazing variety of ways. Many historical examples of this style of weapon, which features disc-shaped rondels on one or both ends of the hilt, survive today. The discs at the "pommel" and/or "guard" may be solid metal, layers of metal and wood, or some other combination. The blade is seen in a myriad of forms, including single-edged flat or hollow-ground, double-edged, triangular with little or no edge, and others.

While researching daggers, I decided I wanted to add some larger samples to my collection. I had placed two custom orders with Arms & Armor over the past three years, and very much liked the results, so I naturally contacted Craig Johnson at A&A. One of the custom orders was a glaive, and I thought a long-bladed rondel dagger would be a nice companion piece. We corresponded a few times, and I described the rondel dagger types that I particularly liked. We chose two specific features; a long hollow-ground blade, and a hilt featuring steel bands wrapped around the grip. Otherwise, Craig and Arms & Armor pretty much had free reign on the design.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:1 pounds, 2 ounces
Overall length:20 1/4 inches
Blade length:15 1/2 inches
Blade width:7/8 inch at base, tapering to 3/8 inch
Grip length:4 1/4 inches
Guard width:2 1/4 inches
Point of Balance:At the guard

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
Despite having a 15-inch blade, the blade presence of this dagger is almost unfelt. The steel bands wrapped around the grip of this dagger give it a substantial and secure heft and feel, but the hollow-ground blade is so light as to feel almost weightless in the hand. The dagger balances directly at the guard and wielding it feels very much like using a medieval ice pick. While it has a sharp and serviceable edge, one immediately knows upon holding it that this is a stabbing weapon.

Fit and Finish
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Side view

Fit and finish are similar to other custom items I have seen from Arms & Armor, being very nicely put together but with enough imperfections present that it is clear that this is a hand-made item. The steel bands wrapping the grip are trimmed at the edge with twisted bronze wire and are particularly nice; they fit the wood grip perfectly. The discs themselves are steel, with a satin finish, and are quite utilitarian in appearance.

The hollow-grind of the blade is uniform, and well executed. The back (unsharpened) edge is domed just a bit, giving some extra visual interest. The scabbard is wood cored and covered with dark tan leather. Arms & Armor went the extra mile and tooled the leather to be similar to a picture of an actual medieval scabbard. The steel chape is simple, but well executed.

Going into this project, I wanted a piece that both appeared like it could have belonged to a rather common man-at-arms of the 15th century, but one with visual appeal and impact. Those criteria are somewhat contradictory, but what I ended up with fills them both nicely. The dagger is clearly well made, and the steel bands wrapping the grip give it a real visual punch, but at the same time, it appears to be made for hard use, and not display. Of all my collection, this piece from Arms & Armor is the one that gets the largest reaction when others see it in person. I'm very happy with it.

About the Author
Gordon Clark spent seven years as a wandering college mathematics professor before settling down to a real job. He is now an analyst for a scientific consulting firm in the Washington DC area. A few years ago he realized a childhood dream of owning a real sword. His wife says that he has re-realized that dream too many times since then.

Photographer: Gordon Clark

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