Vladimir Cervenka Type 1 Schiavona
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

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The Renaissance saw the rise of the complex-hilted sword, but like so many other aspects of the sword, the complex hilt took on many forms. Within these forms, there are certain styles that can be associated with certain groups, such as the Scottish basket-hilt. The schiavona is another such form. This style of sword can often be found with a variety of blade configurations, from wide cutting blades to narrow thrusting ones, but the hilt form is generally associated with Venetian mercenaries of the 17th century.

Vladimir Cervenka is an arms and armour maker located in the Czech Republic. His replicas are based on original pieces and are forged and ground by hand. The schiavona reviewed here has a hilt style that Oakeshott categorized as a Type 1, and is seen on Cervenka's Web site as catalog number 2000211.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 12 ounces
Overall length:40 inches
Blade length:33 3/4 inches
Blade width:1 1/2 inch at base, tapering to 1/2 inch
Ricasso width:1 7/8 inch
Grip length:4 1/8 inches
Basket opening width:5 inches
Guard width:5 inches
Point of Balance:3 1/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~21 1/2 inches from guard

Replica created by Vladimir Cervenka of the Czech Republic.

Handling Characteristics
This sword has the interesting ability to be gripped in different ways. When held "ham-fisted", with all of one's fingers around the grip, there is a small amount of blade presence, one that feels very nice for hard cuts and heavy duty fighting. This grip allows for a very authoritative strike but is still light overall and quick. Thrusting is still possible, but holding the sword in this way makes it clear that the cut is going to the preferred method of attack.

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Grip, Thumb-ring,
and Ricasso

The right-handed hilt has a thumb ring to aid in control of the blade. When one grips the sword with the thumb through this ring, the sword is very nimble, allowing the sword to be maneuvered in a much quicker manner, with some sacrifice in authority on the strike. Using the thumb ring makes the sword feel like the balance point is closer to the hilt. Small, circular cuts from the wrist feel a bit more natural than larger elbow and shoulder cuts.

The ricasso is well-protected, and another possible gripping option is to wrap the forefinger around the guard. This drastically changes the feel of the sword from a cutting sword into a thrusting one. Held in this manner, tip control is excellent. While one can certainly cut well enough in the grip, this no longer feels natural.

What is especially nice about the multiple grip options is that, regardless of how one chooses to hold the sword, all three methods described above feel very good in the hand.

The grip itself has a little more girth than many other swords, which is not a big issue with my own large hands, but could be uncomfortable for those with smaller hands. Aside from the thickness, the grooved grip provides a good secure surface, and the classic schiavona basket provides ample hand protection without sacrificing wrist motion. The basket-hilt could even be used as a close quarters weapon if a fight became pressed.

Fit and Finish
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Pommel Detail

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Blade Inscription

Vladimir Cervenka's work seems to have both its pluses and minuses, but within the context of the price point, this is overall a very nice piece. The outside of the basket is polished nicely, with some evidence of forging flaws. These forging flaws do not detract from the look, rather they give the piece a nice, handmade feel without looking too sloppy. There are a few spots that could have been finished better, but this would have likely increased the cost due to the intensive manual labor involved. The inside of the guard was left very rough.

The blade exhibits the wavy ripples of uneven grinding. The polish is somewhat strange looking: It appears as though it was highly polished to a mirror finish, then gone over again lightly with a rougher-grit sandpaper. This gives it a simultaneously very shiny yet used look, and I'm not certain that I like it. I think I would have preferred a satin finish myself, though this is not a fault in the workmanship, just an observation of personal preference.

The blade is inscribed with a blackened mark that says Gracia. It is very nicely done, giving a feel of antiquity with its just barely imprecise lines. I do not know if the blackening was commonly done in period or not, but the contrast with the brighter steel of the blade does make it stand out more.

The grip, as mentioned before, is rather large. The black leather wrap is stitched tightly and evenly along the side. The cording underneath evenly gives grooves in which twisted brass wire is wrapped. This is well-made, though the finish of the leather is slightly coarse.

The schiavona, surprisingly, is an under-replicated style of sword. Modern reproductions seem to be rare, perhaps in large part due to the complexity of the hilt. It is, however, a beautiful style, and it is always good to see makers who attempt to accurately replicate historical pieces.

Vladimir Cervenka has created a very nice reproduction that does not break the bank in comparison to most custom makers. It is not quite a masterpiece, but it is still a very attractive piece that is also a nice feeling, functional sword.

About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.

Photographer: Nathan Robinson

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