Custom Arms & Armor Oakeshott Type XX Sword
A hands-on review by Gordon Clark
By the latter part of the 15th century, many different types of swords were in use. Many of these swords were of "cut and thrust" type. These swords were designed to perform as a cutting blade yet also offer point control for precise thrusts. Often such swords were personal sidearms, but some were swords of war: meant for battle with armoured opponents. The examples of Type XX swords presented by Ewart Oakeshott in his book Records of the Medieval Sword all seem to fall into this category. They are all large weapons, but most are "hand-and-a-half" swords, yet with a longer griprelative to the length of the bladethan is usually seen. The long grips and powerful blades of these swords give the impression that these were weapons of warupdated successors to the "great sword" of the 13th century.
This particular sword is not based on a specific historical example, but shares many of the characteristics of the Type XX swords presented in Records: a typical arrangement of fullers, a straight guard, a "scent stopper" (Type T) pommel, and a characteristically long grip.
Arms & Armor has long made some of the finest and most historically-based swords in the production market. They also occasionally do custom work. Since I was very happy with their production swords, I decided to go to them for my first custom sword. I had long admired the Type XX swords of Records but, at that time, I could not find a production example. I particularly liked the example shown as XX.4, but decided that sword was a bit too elaborate and that I would prefer something a little closer to what a 15th century man-at-arms might carry. I spoke with Craig Johnson at A&A and told him that I was looking for something that did not match any of the Type XX swords I had seen but that would not seem out of place in that collection. We talked for a while about the types of fittings and blades that I liked. Since it was my first custom sword, I was a bit anxious, but Craig was always patient and willing to give me progress updates as time passed.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
This is a big sword, but an amazingly quick one when wielded with two hands. The blade has a ricasso with three fullers. The middle one extends into the sharpened portion of the blade. This fuller ends about 3/4 of the way down the blade's length. From the fuller termination point to the tip, the blade is of strong diamond cross-section. This produces a blade that is quite stiff and strong, yet one that is not overly heavy. The long ricasso concentrates much of the mass of the blade near the Point of Balance (PoB). I believe this helps give the sword very good point control and allows the user to change direction much more quickly than one would think possible with a sword of this weight. This is a sword made for heavy cutting and thrusting. It is at a bit of a disadvantage at cutting light targets, but it still does a fine job on water-filled milk jugs, for instance. I asked Craig Johnson to write a few words about the sword, and he provided this reply:
The Type XX blades can have a fair bit of variety to them. The sword you commissioned is one I had not done before and when I was finished with it I was surprised by how well it moved for being such an obviously brutal combat sword. It has a presence in the hand that reminds one that the use of swords in armoured combat was a very nasty affair and one needed a blade that could dish out the damage effectively. This is a piece that would really shine in the halfsword grip.Fit and Finish
I find that the few imperfections add to the feeling of individuality and reinforce the fact that this is a hand-made, custom sword created specifically for me.
When I commissioned this sword, I thought of it as combining characteristics of other swords that I liked. Arms & Armor managed to produce a sword that contains many of these characteristics, but more than that, one that feels and looks just right. While I know that this is not a copy of an existing historical sword, I still feel that it could be. Every time I pick it up, the feeling of grace and power I get as it moves gives me a thrill. For me, this one exemplifies what collecting swords is all about.
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