Ancient Edge 14th Century Bastard Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
Bugei Trading Company is a California based entity that has long been known for its quality offerings in the area of the Japanese sword arts. Bugei primarily deals in weapons manufactured by CAS Iberia / Hanwei, a Chinese based company owned by Paul Chen. Custom creations utilizing blades made by well-known bladesmith Howard Clark are also available. Some time ago, Bugei's owner James Williams started to develop an interest in the European sword arts. In short order, Bugei's subsidiary, Ancient Edge was born.
While swords manufactured by Hanwei can be obtained through Ancient Edge, swords from other makers such as Albion Armorers, and Museum Replicas Limited are also available.
James desired to present an offering that was unique and exclusive to Ancient Edge. The result is the Ancient Edge 14th Century Bastard Sword. This sword is based upon an existing antique of Italian manufacture, which currently resides in New York's The Metropolitan Museum of Art. While the Ancient Edge offering is based upon this sword, it is apparent that this association is a loose one at best.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Ancient Edge of California.
Note: Both test samples submitted for review were prototypes. Specifications may vary in the final production models.
As a rather serious martial artist, James Williams requires that all of the weapons sold through his company be of a functional nature. James stated that, while this sword was not a direct copy of an original, he had examined quite a few designs offered by other companies. From this experience, James was able to combine the features that he found desirable into one design. It is obvious that the end result is a European sword that has been designed by someone with a lot of experience using the Japanese katana.
Fit and Finish
Two prototypes were submitted for evaluation. Prototype One is a more roughly finished specimen that is not pictured here. Prototype Two more closely approximates the appearance of the production version. The blade's surface is finished with a somewhat coarse satin finish. This is a finish that is very similar to Hanwei's Godfred Viking Sword. The blade's fuller is finished in a higher gloss finish meant to contrast with the body of the blade. This contrasting finish has never appealed to me personally, and while discussing the sword with James he indicated that the blade would most likely be given an even satin finish in its final production form.
According to James, the main reason for the use of brass is two-fold. First, brass does not rust and corrode like steel; so this is an issue of practicality. James did state that stainless steel could have been used as a furniture material; however, this would have increased the sword's cost past its target price point of $295.00. Secondly, James simply likes the appearance of brass. The guard has been cast with a series of simple geometric lines covering its vertical surfaces. This very basic decoration does provide a certain level of visual detail. The sword's pommel is manufactured in an undecorated spheroid shape.
The sword's grip is covered with leather that has been glued into place. The covering's seam is very cleanly executed. I have seen much more expensive swords with grips of this construction that weren't as neatly done. The grip's core has been fashioned in a grooved design, which provides a very secure and comfortable grip when combined with the leather covering.
One pleasant surprise regards the fit of the sword's components. All components are very tightly fitted. No apparent gaps or looseness could be detected during the handling of the piece. Unlike most swords in this price range of European design, this sword features a tang that has been peened into place. When observing the end of the tang it will be noted that the tang maintains its rectangular cross section throughout. This provides for a much more secure assembly than can usually be obtained by a screw-on pommel.
James stated that he wanted to design a European sword "that I could really use". While examining many of the current offerings in this price range, James found many of them to be too heavy. The end result of the design process is a sword that handles quite easily; perhaps too easily. Many swords have a blade presence ranging from moderate to excessive. This sword is at the opposite end of the spectrum, in that it has almost no blade presence. As a dual-purpose cut and thrust design this sword really needs to have more mass in its blade. This will improve its performance by allowing for greater impact during cutting as well as allowing the sword to follow its point in a thrust. The blade is also overly flexible. More rigidity is needed for the blade to reach its full potential in thrusting techniques.
James and I discussed this at length and several solutions were considered. I advised James that I felt that the blade should be made thicker. When combined with a more radical distal taper this would allow for greater blade mass, as well as greater rigidity. This would also provide more material in the blade's edge geometry, allowing for a stronger edge. I stressed to James that we weren't talking about a large increase. All that is needed is a small increase in these factors for the blade to be much improved in these areas. If done properly, this will result in a much more capable and stronger blade. At the same time the sword's mass distribution will not be compromised, allowing for that easy handling quality that James is striving to get. James did suggest eliminating the blade's fuller as a way to increase it rigidity. While this is one possible solution, I would personally prefer to see the fuller remain.
The blade does seem to possess a good level of heat treatment: something that has been a bit of a hit and miss thing in the past with Hanwei's European offerings. James and the Bugei staff, in various cutting and drilling exercises, has used both of the prototype samples. Both swords have remained tight in their construction.
I found James Williams to be very receptive to feedback, as well as being very serious in his desire to create a functional and affordable European sword. The sword itself did possess a few minor deficiencies, at least in prototype form. However, any perceived deficiencies could be forgiven when the sword's price of $295.00 is taken into account. I would rate the Ancient Edge 14th Century Bastard Sword as a very worthy offering regardless of what its final form may become.
About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.
Photographer: Nathan Robinson