A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Albion Armorers Next Generation Knight Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
For most of the Viking Age and the proceeding early Middle Ages, the cut was the preferred method of delivering an attack with a sword. For most of this period, the cut reigned supreme and a single-handed sword that was designed towards this end was the standard. Most sword blades of these periods feature a moderate profile taper and only a rudimentary point. However, beginning in the late 11th or early 12th century, sword design began to change. The factors of technological advancement in armour as well as changing battle tactics surely played key roles in this evolution. While mail was still considered to be state-of-the-art in armour, it too began to change. The simple short-sleeved haubergons of earlier periods developed into long-sleeved hauberks, often with an integral hood known as a coif. These improvements were accompanied by the increased armouring of the legs with mail hose known as chausses protecting these areas. Increased protection for the head was also developed in the form of helmets that featured integral faceplates that replaced the simple nasal guard seen on earlier helmets. These helmets in turn developed into the all-encompassing great helm that is so familiar to students of medieval arms.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the cut was still the primary method of offense. However, it was recognized that another method of attack was needed to deal with these improving defenses, and the thrust was the obvious choice. Consequently, the sword's blade began to show very visible signs of change. While its broad cutting surfaces remained, the blade began to exhibit a distinct profile taper. The blade's fuller that had previously run the length of the blade was also shortened. These changes resulted in a blade with a much more acute and serviceable point. Another byproduct of these changes was a shift in the sword's distribution of mass. The single-handed sword now featured a point of balance that was generally closer to the hilt as well as a pivot point that was closer to the tip.
The end result was a sword that was a significant step forward in development. While the sword possessed nearly the same cutting power as its predecessors, it also featured a much increased thrusting ability. This new design was far more capable in dealing with the aforementioned improvements in armor than the previous sword types. It should come as no surprise that this new design became very popular. In fact, it is depicted in period artwork far more than any other sword design of the 13th century. This alone should attest to its popularity and success. In his typology of the medieval sword, well-known author Ewart Oakeshott designated this design as the Type XII. A modern recreation of this type is the subject of this review.
Our review sample is manufactured by Albion Armorers of New Glarus Wisconsin. Albion has chosen to name this particular sword the Knight, and a knightly weapon it surely is.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
Albion's Next Generation Line of swords was introduced in 2003. To say this product line has been a success for the company would be an understatement. The Next Generation Line features aspects of hilt construction and blade geometry that that were previously non-existent in the replica sword market. For more information on these features please see our hands-on review of Albion's Baron Sword. The Next Generation Line is based upon Ewart Oakeshott's well-known sword typology. As such, the Knight fills the niche of the classic Type XII sword. Many collectors and practitioners consider the Type XII to be the classic knightly sword from the high Middle Ages. The Type XII's profile has come to symbolize the epitome of the knightly sword for many enthusiasts, and this symbolism has been well executed in the Knight.
Fit and Finish
The Knight's guard is of Oakeshott's Style 2, a type that saw its highest popularity from 1200 to 1350 AD. The guard features an octagonal cross-section that can generally be dated to the later half of this period. The central portion of the guard is rectangular in cross-section. As the guard extends outward it narrows into an octagonal cross-section and then flares out to trumpeted ends that maintain the same octagonal shape. This design gives the guard a waisted appearance that is attractive both in its visual aspect and its proportion.
The pommel is of Oakeshott's Type J, a type that was most popular between 1250 and 1400 AD. After this period, the type saw occasional use up until 1450 AD. The pommel features beveled faces that have been strongly hollowed out. It is also of a slight oval shape in profile. These aspects of design provide a pommel that is clean in its execution and appealing to the eye. Both pommel and guard have been given the same satin finish that is used on the blade. These components are manufactured from mild steel using the investment casting process. Albion contracts this aspect of their manufacturing with a foundry based in California. The level of detail possible with quality investment casting has always impressed me. When finished by Albion's cutlers, these components are second to none in the production field.
The sword's grip has a leather covering that has become another Albion signature. The thin leather covering is glued over a core of stabilized birch. The grip features two cord risers underneath the covering; one at each end. After the leather is glued into place, it is bound with cord until dry. After completion, the covering's seam is burnished to near invisibility. The end result is a grip that provides an excellent gripping surface and is also aesthetically pleasing. The final feature of the sword's assembly consists of a rivet block of pyramidal shape. The end of the tang has been hot-peened into the rivet block and has also been finished so as to be nearly indistinguishable.
The final result is a sword that features a subtle dignity in its appearance as well as an excellent level of fit and finish throughout.
As with all of Albion's Next Generation swords, the Knight was designed by noted swordsmith Peter Johnsson. Peter has devoted much of his time to the hands-on examination of surviving antique swords. Consequently, he has developed a deep grasp of the complexities of blade geometry, mass distribution, hilt construction, and a host of other mechanical issues. Perhaps more importantly, Peter has gained the experience necessary to grasp how these individual qualities must work together to produce a sword with the appropriate dynamic handling qualities. The Knight is excellent physical proof of Peter's abilities as a researcher and sword designer.
Cutting exercises were performed using rolled Japanese tatami mats. This material has been widely used within Japanese martial practices for centuries. It has also become a very popular medium for cutting exercises within the western martial arts community. The Knight completed all cuts cleanly and effortlessly when used against this relatively soft cutting medium. The sword also exhibited excellent point control during thrusting maneuvers. The sword's mass followed the point well into a thrust, and at no time did I experience any trouble keeping the point on target.
The Knight's blade features the flat lenticular cross-section that is one of the defining characteristics of the type. Consequently, the sword's blade exhibits more flexibility than one would find in a more rigid design dedicated to the thrust. However, the Knight should still have given good service against many of the more lightly armoured combatants found on the medieval battlefield. It would also provide improved penetration against the improving mail armor of the period when compared to the earlier designs. The sword's excellent dynamic handling qualities would make it an outstanding candidate for use in the sword and buckler techniques outlined in one of the oldest medieval combat treatises: The Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33. Believed to date from the late 13th century, this manuscript outlines a complex system of combat with the single-handed sword and buckler. The Knight's responsive and agile character makes it an obvious choice for this style of combat.
After a quarter of a century spent handling replica swords, it isn't very often that a sword surprises me. However, this sword did exactly that. As soon as I removed the Knight from its box I was immediately taken with it. Its dynamic and responsive handling qualities are second to none. The use of absolute descriptors is a practice that I try to avoid. Experience has shown me that it can be a perilous undertaking in the field of arms study. However, in this case I am forced to break that rule. This sword features performance and handling qualities that provide a perfect blend of powerful attack and responsive defense. I have always looked upon Oakeshott's Type XII as one of the classic designs of the high Middle Ages, perhaps even the classic design of the period. Many modern sword enthusiasts share this opinion. When one experiences this sword's handling qualities as well as the attention to detail in its construction, it's easy to see why. The Knight by Albion Armorers is simply an excellent sword.
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: Patrick Kelly