An Angus Trim/Christian Fletcher Collaboration
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly with comments from Angus Trim and Christian Fletcher
Like many modern sword lovers my fascination with the topic didn't spring to life from the walls of museums or auctions houses. While my interests have long since swung towards historic reality they actually began within the realm of fantasy. As a child I spent many a Saturday afternoon seated in front of the family television, where I watched the exploits of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and others. I have always been a voracious reader and I devoured the writings of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and finally, J.R.R. Tolkien. While the others were read as often as possible, it was Tolkien's work that was held in the highest esteem by my friends and me. The writings of the late Ewart Oakeshott came later, but when I was a boy I walked the plains of Barsoom with John Carter, and crept through the Mines of Moria with Gandalf the Grey.
Now, after literally decades of hoping and waiting, fans of Tolkien's rich world have been treated to a sweeping visual spectacle. Director Peter Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien's most famous work, The Lord of the Rings, became an instant classic from the first moment of its release. That the third installment in the trilogy, The Return of the King, received the Academy Award for Best Picture is proof enough of what an impact these movies have had. For students of the sword, both fantastic and realistic, one of the nicest surprises of Jackson's movie trilogy was the swords used therein. All too often swords depicted in fantasy cinema verge from the flamboyant to the ridiculous. Not so with the swords of Jackson's universe. These swords were designed by Jackson's staff at WETA, with input from noted artist and medieval re-enactor John Howe, and were manufactured by sword smith Peter Lyon. While the designs do have an obvious fantastical flare they are far more subdued when compared to the usual fantasy sword fare. These designs rest firmly within the "Not really, but could have been" category.
Several companies immediately jumped on the bandwagon with replicas of these designs. All of these range from rather nice (with some dubious adherence to copyright laws) to pretty shoddy. Most have been of a strictly decorative nature, however, some of the one-off creations appear to be structurally sound. In my opinion, the best versions of these swords have been produced by a collaboration of two well know makers, Angus "Gus" Trim and Christian Fletcher. These swords are not direct copies of the movie props. Instead, due to the aforementioned copyright issues, they are close inspirations.
One of the most popular swords from the film trilogy is one used by the character Boromir, as portrayed by actor Sean Bean. According to sources within the industry this is one of the designs that has been in high demand for replication. Christian Fletcher and Angus Trim have collaborated in a sword, which closely models the sword of this ill-fated Gondorian Prince. Called the Redeemer, this sword is the subject of this review.
As has already been stated, the Redeemer is a combined effort between two talented makers. As supplied by Angus Trim, the sword is very Spartan in appearance. The blade is that of the standard ATrim AT1429, and is similar to a Type XVI in the late Ewart Oakeshott's classification. The blade is mounted with a simple guard of square cross section and a pommel of a flattened pear shape. These components are the same ones used by Christian Fletcher during his upgrade. The sword was supplied with a standard ATrim grip of wood, covered with leather. Any comments concerning the sword's finish and handling while in this state would be superfluous. This sword is intended from the ground up to be the basis for the Redeemer. Consequently, this sword is only shown here for the purpose of a before and after comparison.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Angus "Gus" Trim and Christian Fletcher.
Fit and Finish
The factory grip has been replaced by a covering of brown leather, which covers the core in a spiral wrap. The leather overlaps itself, thereby creating a ridged effect. This increases the gripping ability of the covering as well as adding visual detail. The sword's pommel is little changed from its factory supplied condition. It retains its flattened pear shape. The biggest change is in the method of securement. On standard ATrim models the assembly is secured by a threaded tang, and pommel nut, assembly. The Redeemer has dispensed with the pommel nut, and the tang is instead peened over the pommel. This is a deviation from the standard, which I was happy to see. The sword's blade has been left in its standard configuration, as supplied by Angus. The flats of the blade are fairly well finished. The finish is just a bit coarse but doesn't detract from the overall look of the sword. The blade's three quarter length fuller, while showing an improved finish over earlier ATrim swords, is still a bit rougher than I would personally prefer. There are still machining marks present in the fuller, which really shouldn't be present on a sword in this price range. Having polished several ATrim blades I can attest to the fact that this is not a difficult process to manage. While this issue wouldn't prevent me from purchasing a Redeemer, it is the only negative feature on an otherwise outstanding kit. Consequently, it bears mentioning. There is a slight secondary bevel at the blades edge, which does not detract from the blade's appearance. The furniture has been darkened for a more aged appearance, which really adds to the visual dignity of the sword.
The Redeemer kit is completed by a belt and scabbard. While these items are sold as options, I really can't see buying the sword without them. The scabbard is fashioned from a wooden core covered with leather. The leather has been glued to the core, with a seam running down the back of the scabbard. Beneath the covering Christian has placed cording in a ridged pattern that mirrors the blade's design. Over this additional strips of leather have been added for a crisscross effect. The scabbard has been finished off with a metal chape, and a locket in the form of two metal bands that are joined at the scabbard's back. The metal furniture has been aged in the same manner as the sword's furniture. The scabbard's belt is fashioned of black leather that has been covered with red leather plaques. These plaques have been stamped with a decorative knot-work design. The belt is finished with metal lockets, as well as a very attractive and unique buckle.
All of the leather and metal work on the scabbard and belt has been cleanly executed. When combined with the sword itself this results in a very visually striking kit that any Gondorian noble would be proud to wear.
While the Redeemer is a striking fantasy creation it is also an efficient weapon. One of the issues with the movie prop concerns the relationship of the sword's mass. The prop's short single-handed blade has been combined with a pommel that is far too large for proper mass distribution. This is not necessarily a criticism, but merely an observation as the movie sword was made within certain artistic parameters. It must be remembered that movie swords are props, first and foremost. They are made with the desire to impart a certain visual impact. The Redeemer, however, was intended to function as a usable sword as well. Consequently, the sword's mass distribution has been kept within working parameters; so that the sword's dynamic handling properties are not compromised.
Although the Redeemer features a grip that is long enough for two hands, it is primarily a single-handed sword. (The movie prop was simply a single-handed sword with a long grip, presumably done for visual effect, not functionality) When handled with a two-handed grip the sword is really too light, and short, for effective work. In this mode the sword's point control isn't adequate, nor does it track well in the cut. On the other hand (the single one) when used one-handed, the sword follows the point very well in a thrust. It also features enough blade presence so as to give good impetus to the cut. All in all, the Redeemer is a sword which handles well while remaining true to the spirit of its creation. When attempting to turn a fantasy creation into a functional instrument, compromises have to be made in design. Christian Fletcher and Angus Trim have accomplished this to a very fine degree.
Comments from the Creators
Angus Trim had this to say concerning the Redeemer:
The Redeemer is based on the blade of the model AT1429, Oakeshott Type XVI. About a year ago, Josh Hemmingway, former owner of All Saints Blades, bugged me about using that blade with a hand and a half hilt to attract the "Ren Faire Fantasy crowd". When I hesitated, he asked, "Can it be done while maintaining the harmonics and dynamic properties?" Well, Yes and no... The AT1429 has proven to be a versatile design, such that I could indeed add a 7-inch handle to it and get the "harmonics" while having decent dynamics; though not as good as with the stock handle and pommel. Once I had a sword prototyped out for Josh, he looked it over, and got this real funny look in his eye. He asked if I could modify the result, with a "beakbreaker" cross-guard and a shorter handle.Christian Fletcher had this to say concerning the Redeemer:
Then he got out an image of the sword used in the Trilogy. I could see the similarity, so I agreed to try it out, cutting the hilt down. I came up with a sword that would work, but the "aesthetics" of the handle, guard, and pommel were "rough". It then went to Christian Fletcher for him to perform his magic. After the sword came back, I got it back to take the modified pommel, and make a pommel pattern that would look like the hand modified prototype, and answer my harmonic needs. The result is the "Redeemer". It's a very pleasant handling sword. I wound up pleased with the result.
I really love Redeemer and appreciate your asking me about it. Its design incorporates some features that I had not attempted before such as the prominent faux rain chapes at the center of the guard and the layered spiral grip wrap and the antiqued finish. The scabbard, sword, and belt on this one were all designed as a complete package. I wanted a robust, no-frills working sword, which displayed a sense of style and high level of detail without resorting to gaudy ornamentation. Thanks to Angus' blade work, which could take the hilt and still cut very nicely, I think we got what we set out to do.Conclusion
Any criticisms I have of this ensemble are very minor indeed. Angus "Gus" Trim and Christian Fletcher have collaborated in a kit that is very striking in a visual sense, yet still retains the dynamic handling properties of a working sword. All this has been accomplished while remaining true to its cinematic inspiration. While other companies have chosen to make inferior decorative copies, it is refreshing to see two talented individuals combine their talents in this fashion.
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