Angus Trim Model DD1404 "Moonbrand"
A hands-on review by Thomas McDonald, with comments by Kenneth Jay
Ewart Oakeshott, an authority on medieval arms in Europe, created a typology developed to attempt to categorize the various types of swords seen throughout the history of arms. Collectors and scholars alike often refer back to his typology when referencing swords, attempting to create a common ground of understanding for a given example.
A favorite sword in the personal collection of the late, great Ewart Oakeshott was a medieval sword of Type XIV, circa 1300, which he dubbed "Moonbrand", aka "The Household God". Mr. Oakeshott described this sword as "the very model of a Type XIV", with its broad blade, cross, and pommel, having "extremely good balance", and moving "very quickly and lightly".
This particular sword sample has served as inspiration for a new production sword: the DD1404 by Angus Trim Swords.
Angus Trim, a machinist by trade, utilizes a CNC machine to mill his blades to shape, sending them out to a commercial heat-treating facility for hardening, and finishing up each blade by hand. Gus makes all the hilt components, and fine-tunes each sword for optimum performance.
Knowing that I am a fan of big "manly" cutting blades, Gus figured this piece would be right up my alley. I received a model DD1404 for testing & review via All Saints Blades, at his request.
Ken Jay, who collaborated with me on this review, purchased his via The Armoury, Wasilla Alaska for his own personal collection, and was eager to share his thoughts on this model.
It should be noted that the sword I received was a test piece and not in as high a level of finish as Ken's sword. Also the guard on mine was a straight bow tie cross, whereas Ken's is the down turned variety as seen on the original.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Angus Trim Swords of The Pacific Northwest.
Fit and Finish
As my taste in reproduction swords leans heavily towards historically inspired pieces, I was quite pleased to receive this sword. It is styled very much along the classic lines of the original "Moonbrand".
Gus's models are typically crafted more in the general typology of historical swords as opposed to reproducing any particular authentic example. It was rather cool to see him make one much closer in this case. The main compromise for this piece is its takedown hilt construction, with threaded tang and nut assembly; the original's tang having been secured through peening.
Being a test piece, the level of polish was quite acceptable; all its lines, fullers, etc., being well done, straight and true. The only real blemish is a few lines down the center of the blade from where the fullers end to the tip, which I'd imagine are a result of the machining process.
All the hilt's components were very secure, and fit well together. The leather wrapped grip felt wonderful in hand, and features raised wooden collars carved at either end.
The DD1404 is one of the first new generation "stout" single-handed swords by Gus. Others in this genre include the 1316, 1429, and 1431 models. These seem to be characterized by blades approximately 30" long and 2"+ in width and weighing just under three pounds.
Ken's DD1404 arrived with furniture identical to that pictured on The Armoury, Wasilla Alaska site. The guard is a long curved bar shape. The four fullers are not blued. Overall appearance is very similar to Oakeshott's sword in Records of the Medieval Sword. The blade profile is symmetrical and the grind lines are well done. The fullers are nearly identical in length. The blade width, four short fullers, long guard, and large pommel make for a striking appearance. The leather-covered grip is very well done. Overall, Ken finds it very pleasing to the eye.
Like Ken, I too was surprised at how big this piece actually is. I had envisioned an all-around shorter, thicker, piece: something along the lines of an over-developed Cinquedea. Not so! Despite its formidable size, and its big honking pommel, I found it a breeze to swing. Its big kite-shaped blade is thinner and more flexible than I would have predicted; getting up to speed very fast.
Gus has really trimmed the fat with this blade, keeping it nice and thin where it should be, and giving it that "quick and light" feel Mr. Oakeshott talked about. It retains all the size and power a big medieval cutting blade should have. I liked it a lot!
I did a series of cutting tests with small trees and branches around my yard. Several of them were up to 2" inches in diameter. The blade blew thru them quite easily. No nicks or damage occurred: at worst a little bit of scuffing! I also did the usual lighter target: water filled pop bottles, rolled newspaper, and rope. It did a fine job effortlessly slicing thru all these mediums.
Since most of my personal collection has become rather high-end custom pieces, I do so enjoy the carefree abandon of punishing one of Gus's swords and pushing it several steps beyond what I'd normally do to my one of my own these days.
I've never had one of Angus's blades fail me when cutting targets of reasonable, and not so reasonable, materials. His reputation for having tough, high performance, dependable, swords is 100% on the money. Given the price point, they are a very good value for the dollars spent.
Ken felt that the "proof is in the pudding", so trudged out the cutting stand and a collection of pool noodles. His primary concern was getting the DD1404 up to velocity. He's used to lighter swords and the three-pound blade is just slower, so was surprised when he began whacking the noodles. It's certainly slower, but is a cutting monster. Mass and blade geometry seem to work together as the blade cut through the 3" and 4" noodles with ease. The cut could be heard, but virtually no resistance was felt. Backhanded cuts seemed as easy as the forehanded ones. Without a doubt, this is the best single-handed cutting sword Ken owns, beating even his Atrim Type X.
The DD1404 isn't really designed as a thrusting sword but seemed willing as the point cuts its way through a target of ganged-together 4" pool noodles.
Despite early reservations, Ken is sold on Gus' concept of a well-balanced three-pound single-handed sword. He feels that the DD1404 is one of Gus' more attractive pieces and a superior performance cutting sword.
I think Angus Trim has done 'ol Moonbrand quite proud, with his version of Mr. O's famous type fourteen. He truly has captured the look and its described feel, while keeping its performance to the high standard he has set for all his swords. He has also kept it as an affordable option for the 21st century knight. Not bad!
About the Author
Thomas McDonald has been collecting swords since the 1980s. His interests have taken on a serious Scottish slant, with the baskethilt claidheamh mor being his main focus. He loves all types and styles of the sword but the call of his Highland roots is strong.
Photographers: Thomas McDonald, Lee Reeves, Ewart Oakeshott, and D. A. Oliver