Angus Trim and Christian Fletcher AT1520 Langeschwert
A hands-on review by James Byrnes
The longsword: The ubiquitous symbol of the middle ages is enjoying a modern day renaissance, due in large part to the convergence of two diverse factors. First, the rediscovery and interpretation of 15th Century Fechtbuch (fight books) has shed light on the immense power and grace with which this weapon was wielded by the warriors of the middle ages and renaissance, and the growing number of practitioners of these "western martial arts" are a testament to this weapons popularity and symbolism. Secondly, the immense popularity of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the realistic approach taken by Peter Lyon in making the sword props for the movie has finally portrayed the European longsword in a positive light. One can only hope this trend continues and that Hollywood stops perpetuating the myth of the 30 pound crowbar wielded by untrained thugs.
The AT1520 is an Oakeshott type XVIIIb. Possessing a flattened diamond cross-section with a gentle profile taper, the sword is designed as a compromise between thrusting and cutting. Blades of this profile are seen in the Iron Age LaTene culture and were also used in both the Roman Gladii and Spatha. Altogether, the flattened diamond cross-section is present in swords for roughly two thousand years: Not a bad life cycle for any design!
This type XVIII would have been commonplace from roughly 1400-1600 AD, across the breadth of Europe. It is a large war sword, perfect as a side arm for the Knight or man-at-arms. Very similar to many examples illustrated in various fechtbuch of the day, this weapon also enjoyed a large following amongst the middle class of the late middle ages. In Germany, whole schools of fence were developed around the longsword. Interestingly, the middle class citizens made up a large majority of these fencers. The marxbruder is an especially well known society due to the prolific wood cut's of Albrecht Dürer (see Billl Grandy's excellent Arms & Armor Dürer Sword Review for more on this wonderful artist and fencer). That then is the background with which I had this sword created. Taking stylistic cues from several pieces attributed to Germanic/Austrian province, I attempted to have the "Archetypical" langeschwert (longsword) made. I must say, I am extremely pleased with the end result.
The longsword being reviewed today is a joint effort of Angus "Gus" Trim, the blademaker, and Christian Fletcher, the cutler. Angus Trim is a maker of high performance swords designed for the Western Martial Artist. Using CNC milling to form the basic blade shape (blanks), the shaped bars of steel are then sent off to be "marquenched" (the tempering process) before being hand ground to final dimensions. This marquenching process results in blades with a uniform temper of 52 Rockwell scale (+/- 2 points) allowing for an excellent compromise between flexibility and edge retention.
The hilt, pommel and cross guard are products of Christian Fletcher. Christian was extremely helpful in understanding what I had envisioned, and making it a reality. Overall I was very pleased; however, I do have two minor quibbles. One, the original quoted time to complete was four to six weeks, which would have put it to be completed the last week of October (it took four months) and two, the communication from Christian's end could have been more proactive. I have addressed both these issues with Mr. Fletcher directly in the hopes that this will help him improve an already excellent service. I would and will most definitely do business with both gentleman again.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Angus "Gus" Trim and Christian Fletcher.
Price as purchased: $1010 US. Standard AT1520: $525.00; Scabbard with blackened chape: $275, Octagonal pommel, cross guard and hexagonal oxblood wrapped grip, with blackened hilt components: $155; Longsword Suspension: $55.
Amazing, pure and simple. This is perhaps the most nimble, yet powerful sword I have ever held. It flows from leger to leger (guard to guard) when practicing German Kunst des Fechten and the long hilt make winding a sheer joy. The sword is amazingly light for its size, yet displays no "whippiness" when cutting or doing solo drilling in the park.
Unfortunately, due to uncooperative weather, I have only been able to cut light targets (milk jugs and some cardboard tubes), and although these light mediums do not push the capabilities of the steel, they do provide a good idea of how the sword tracks through a cut. I was able to get very clean, straight cuts with both the long and short edges, in both ascending and descending cuts. The performance was very similar to that of the XVIII Sword by Michael "Tinker" Pearce that my guild mate Norman has: laser sharp, wickedly fast and dangerously addictive. In short, it rocks.
Fit and Finish
Overall appearance of the package is quite stunning. The oxblood-colored scabbard with blackened chape, black longsword belt, and then the blackened cross guard, slightly darker oxblood hilt topped off with the faceted blackened pommel combine to make a very attractive whole. The scabbard is a beautiful piece in its own right. With a longitudinal central ridge running from the chape up to the raised lip of the throat, the scabbard mimics the appearance of the blade, including both profile and distal taper. The seam on back is generally straight, only minor deviations are visible, none that I find in the least bit troublesome.
The longsword suspension consists of 3 laced attachment points. The bottom two share a common strap, which is very nicely looped over the belt itself, while the uppermost attachment point has a buckle that engages the end of the belt when worn. The arrangement is comfortable and secure. Whether or not it is entirely authentic I cannot say, but it does look good.
The sword itself displays Angus Trim's typical matte finish. The finish marks are present, resulting in the typical "Dawg Hamon" (A tongue-in-cheek term describing the pattern visible on the blade's surface). The blade shows no major aesthetic flaws, the profile taper being even and the central ridge arrow straight. At the very tip, it is slightly asymmetrical. I personally notice no negative effect from this, and truth be told, I think it helps keep the blade from being sterile and machine-produced looking.
The cross is machined mild steel, blackened at my request. Again I found no major aesthetic flaws. However, I cannot say that I am totally happy with the cross. It displays two bends in the plane of the blade, per my design request, but I am beginning to think I would prefer the recurved bow tie. I am still contemplating this.
The handle and pommel are definitely what sets this fine blade apart from all the other fine AT1520s out there. Displaying a hexagonal profile, wrapped tightly with fine cord, the handle is an attention getter. With three transverse ridges (top, middle, bottom) and a noticeable swell in the middle of the handle, it exudes the very character of the langeschwert. When framed by the blackened steel of the pommel and cross it really stands out. However, as nicely as Christian did the handle, the pommel is still the star of the hilt assembly. The pommel is an octagonal Oakeshott Type T4. The facets are slightly hollow-ground, and the top of the pommel is both hollow-ground and rises to the central tang nut. Christian really outdid himself on this, and he told me really enjoyed trying out something new. I was glad to oblige his creativity!
What else can I say? The sword displays character, performs flawlessly and is visually stunning. It is the quintessential langeschwert, and a weapon that joins my first Tinker as inviolate from the trading and selling that so often marks the life of a collector.
About the Author
James Byrnes is sales professional by day, Knight Errant (wannabe) at all other times. An avid role-player, he decided that collecting weapons and armor, and then actually being versed in their use was far more interesting in real life then in any pen and paper fantasy. James is a founding principle in the Rocky Mountain Historical Combat Guild and lead instructor of the "Kunst des Fechten" study track. He currently resides in Denver, CO with his wife, son and three hounds.
Photographer: James Byrnes