Del Tin 2143 Hand-and-a-Half-Sword
A hands-on review by Shane Smith
According to the manufacturer, this elegantly deadly sword is not so much an exact replica of a particular historical piece as much as it is an approximation of a generic pattern of sword employed at the 14th century battle of Crecy. As armour was improving and plate was becoming ever more common at that time, a higher value was being placed upon the thrusting capabilities of the swords of the day. Simply put, you can't cut plate with a sword but with a stoutly tapered blade, you can defeat the mail under it at the joints with a deft and powerful thrust. The replica sword in question was obviously designed and conceived with just that thought in mind. From the acutely pointed, continuous-taper of the blade to the stiff diamond cross-section, this sword and those upon which it is patterned may well be an armoured foe's worst nightmare short of projectiles and pole-arms.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
This sword is truly a joy to wield. The close Point of Balance makes for a very quick sword in spite of the considerable weight. The first thing I noted upon getting my hands on this sword was the extreme business-like feel it exudes. This weapon likes to be in motion and DT has done a fine job on the intangibles with the DT2143. The sword when held does what any good sword should do in my opinion, it "tells" the Swordsman what it was designed to do. In this case, it wants to make a deft parry or two and deliver a fiercely penetrating thrust with its acute point. That it does well. It is likewise tremendously responsive in floryshes and drills and the wide (and beautiful) cross-guard does not hinder natural motion in the least for me.
As fine as this weapon is for use against armor, it is not in any danger of being considered a top contender for unarmoured work. I engaged in a bit of test cutting with my blade that was professionally sharpened. I use the term "sharpened" fairly loosely as this particular sword's geometry is much more like a tuck than is the typical blade used for such purposes. As such, it will never be too terribly sharp no matter how skilled the artisan applying the edge. That said, it would cut the dreaded 2-liter water-filled bottles if struck with full power from the full arm with some difficulty though the cuts are never very clean and the last of the cut normally degrades into a ragged tear of the plastic. I also made a few less than full power cuts and was rewarded with a flying bottle and a rattling hilt. If you plan to cut with this sword, you may as well fully commit from the outset or you will need your ball-peen hammer and a wood block in short order, as the hilt is likely to loosen up due to use. (See Björn Hellqvist's article to learn how to tighten up a hilt.)
Early in my testing, after one of these less-than-successful cuts, a small tear was noted in the leather wrap at the pommel running lengthwise forward about an inch. I suspect a minor crack of the handle though I can see no other evidence of that. I sincerely hope that one day in the near future, Del Tin will stop welding many of their longsword tangs, as that does create a structural weakness in the hilt as a fairly fast rule. It's generally accepted than a one-piece solid tang is more durable and less prone to breakage than one having a welded-on extension.
I also attempted to cut some heavy 3/8" walled, 6" diameter cardboard tubes that I test all of my sharps on. This blade is a non-starter against this medium. A dent is all that was accomplished on the first and only attempt, though out of spite I did finish the tube off with my DT 5143, which of course easily devours such things. I will point out that thrusts clean through these heavy tubes are no trouble from the half-sword with the DT2143 "Hand and a half".
I next moved into this sword's natural element. I got out my harness for the day and a sacrificial helm with which to christen this sword properly for its ongoing service in my historically accurate armoured work. The DT2143 proved its usefulness, with the help of an associate of mine who was likewise in harness, for the historically accurate leveraging maneuvers seen in the source-texts thanks to its stiff temper and substantial cross-section.
Later in the day came the "proof test" that I deem necessary for all of my personal war-swords. I struck the helm mentioned above with full-power strikes with both edges to prove the DT2143's toughness to myself if no one else. I take a lot of heat for this test but I think it's worthwhile for war-swords because, if nothing else, it gives me confidence that my blades will not fail when struck into a shield rim or the cross or edge of an opposing blade in a critical moment. To date, all of my personal blades have passed this test but for one who's edge disintegrated on impact due to overly thin secondary edge geometry according to its manufacturer who has since corrected that deficiency. The DT2143 did well and there was literally not a scratch on its edge nor any other damage. The helm did not fair so well.
Now on to something that is more in keeping with historical accuracy; I set a few full power thrusts from the halfsword to the side of this helm. The result? Penetration. The DT2143 will pierce 18-gauge plate under favorable circumstances with little difficulty. That is not too terribly surprising considering that I was now using this hilted spike to do that for which it was intended. Impressive performance to be sure; and again, not a scratch.
Fit and Finish
The fit and finish of this sword is typical Del Tin. The blade is finished in an even, satin polish and is very well done as I've come to expect. The grip was tight and the leather wrap was well executed and the sword had the "ring of steel" right out of the box indicating a properly peened and fitted hilt (although two re-peening fixes were needed during testing over the course of a week). The uncommonly wide cross is especially beautiful to my eye. The biggest complaint that I have with this sword (and most all DT's) is the presence of several minor casting pits and flaws in the furniture. This does not bother me so much, but a new buyer needs to be aware that this is a standard quirk of many Del Tins. There were also a few machining and polishing flaws evident in the pommel, though these do not seriously detract from the overall visual impact of this striking design.
The DT2143 is a stout and agile war-sword that has more than proven its makers were on to something good when they conceived of this serious anti-armour weapon. In my estimation as a guy that spends a lot of time training in the historically accurate armoured combat methods, "It'll do". In fact, it will be "doing" in my hands in earnest practice for quite a while based on my personal experiences with this example.
Now if only Del Tin Armi Antiche would stop welding those tangs all would be well...
About the Author
Shane Smith is an avid Swordsman who started his martial arts journey studying and eventually teaching Asian martial arts. One fateful day, he stumbled upon the Western European methods quite by mistake while doing research. After being soundly bested and thoroughly impressed by the quality of the fencing observed on his first visit, he joined the Virginia Beach chapter of the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA, formally HACA) where he remains very active.
Photographer: Shane Smith