Del Tin 2151 Alexandria Type XIX Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly, with contributions by Russ Ellis
As the age of mail gave way to the age of plate armour, sword design also began to evolve in an attempt to deal effectively with plate armour. The broad, flat, and flexible cutting surfaces that were a defining characteristic of early designs gave way to diamond, hollow-ground, and flat hexagonal cross-section blades. The latter design often featured multiple fullers that were added in an attempt to reduce the blade's weight, while at the same time preserving its rigidity. Swords with these hexagonal cross-sections were intended for efficient use in both the cut and the thrust. Many blades of this type featured little, if any, profile taper from the shoulder to the point as well as strongly chamfered and well-defined edges. The result was a fairly stiff blade with point-forward balance. These characteristics emphasized both the thrusting and the cutting potential of the sword. The blade's cross-section would have also possesed enough mass and robust enough edges that it could have functioned as a reasonably effective impact weapon. If used in that fashion, it could have stunned an enemy wearing plate armor without excessive risk of breaking or damaging the blade.
Until recently, swords of this type were considered to be a late development, coming in the 16th century. However, a more thorough examination of the type tells a different story. Many of the surviving examples of this type were originally deposited in the Hall of Victories in the Arsenal of Alexandria. Many of the European arms deposited therein were captured war trophies or given as part of a yearly tribute. The caretakers of that arsenal were careful to note the date in Nashki engraving on the ricasso of each blade. These scripts bear dates from the 14th through the 15th centuries. It is reasonable therefore to assume that the type was in existence as early as the latter 14th century and it can reasonably be concluded that the type may have been in use as early as the mid 14th century. In his typology of the medieval sword, the late Ewart Oakeshott classified swords of this design as the Type XIX.
In the early 1980s replica swords made by Del Tin Armi Antiche, of Maniago, Italy, began to be imported into the United States. Prior to the introduction of this new line the vast majority of replicas commonly available in the USA were strictly of a decorative nature. Consequently, the American collecting community greeted these swords with enthusiasm. Today, under the guidance of Fulvio Del Tin, the company quietly sells quality replica arms to enthusiasts all over the world.
The sword that is the subject of this review is a loose interpretation of Oakeshott's Type XIX. This sword is designated by Del Tin as the DT2151 Hand and a Half Sword. The original that this sword is meant to replicate is currently housed in the The Royal Armouries, Leeds (IX-950). The replica sword is bigger than the original. For example, the original has a 34-inch blade instead of the 38-inch+ blade of the replica. In his book, The Sword in the Age of Chivalry, Oakeshott provides this additional descriptor of Type XIX swords: "The grip however is quite short; it is a single-handed weapon." Why Del Tin chose to deviate from the original sword's specifications is unknown. Perhaps this comes from a design process used by many replica manufacturers: interpreting a sword's design from a two-dimensional photograph. When viewed in the context of a photograph the sword can appear to be of hand-and-a-half design due to the relative scale of its blade and grip. The other dimensions of the two swords are proportionally different as well. The original sword also has deeply inscribed Nashki script on the ricasso noting that the sword was deposited in the Hall of Victories in 1432. Del Tin elected to omit this detail from the replica since it was something obviously added to the sword well after its original construction.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
Even though the DT2151's overall weight is acceptable for a sword of this size, its handling qualities are rather sluggish. This can be attributed primarily to the sword's mass distribution. Del Tin swords are widely used by performance troupes, re-enactors, and for theatrical stage combat. Swords that are used in these activities typically see quite a bit of abuse. Because of this, Del Tin blades are a bit overbuilt and feature additional blade mass in order to maintain a degree of durability. Consequently, the typical Del Tin sword will be heavier than the sword it is meant to replicate. While this does achieve the desired durability it also negatively impacts the sword's dynamic handling qualities.
Due to the sword's status as a review sample no cutting exercises were performed. However, the sword was put through several dry handling drills. The sword tracked fairly well into the cut but was a bit slow in recovery. Transitions from postures of attack and defense were cleanly executed but only with conscious effort. The DT2151 is not a sword with a natural dynamic sense of movement. During aggressive movements, some movement of the tang within the sword's grip could be felt directly below the guard. The twisted iron wire that covers the sword's grip provided a good secure gripping surface. No gloves were used during handling yet the grip was still comfortable and not overly abrasive.
Unfortunately, the DT2151 does not possess the kind of dynamic handling that many students of the longsword now require. On the other hand, the DT2151 is a workable sword within the context of martial use. It may not be ideal but it is more than acceptable when compared with other swords of similar cost.
Fit and Finish
The DT2151 features the same utilitarian finish that is present on all Del Tin products. This is a somewhat coarse satin finish that is not unattractive and is easily maintained through use. Given the aforementioned uses to which Del Tin arms are routinely subjected, a higher level of finish would be impractical and unnecessary. The entire sword is also covered with a hard lacquer coating. This coating provides a durable barrier that will protect the sword while it is being carried or displayed; however, it will quickly be damaged during use.
The guard and pommel have been investment cast from mild steel, and the guard's finger ring appears to have been cast integrally with the guard itself. The guard's bow-tie profile is a good aesthetic fit in relation to the proportion of the sword's blade and pommel. The DT2151's pommel is plain and unadorned. Its only detail lies in the slight convexity of its surfaces. This one small aspect of design enables the DT2151 to have an austere and utilitarian appearance, instead of a crude and simplistic one. The guard is also much more tightly fitted to the blade than those featured on Del Tin swords of years past. This will aid greatly in preventing the loosening that occurs through use with so many swords at this level of quality. The iron wire that covers the grip is cleanly and tightly wound. There are no gaps between the strands as it loops around, and the wire remained tight throughout the conducted handling drills.
The entire hilt assembly is held together by cold peening the end of the tang over the top of the pommel. There are numerous hammer marks on the top of the pommel that attest to this method of assembly. This type of compression fit is not optimal for a sword of this type. This method of construction places undue pressure upon the sword's components that can lead to fatigue and failure later in the sword's working life. On the other hand, this method of securement is commonly used on swords in this price class. While the DT2151 may require the periodic tightening of its components, it should give acceptable service. The overall appearance of the DT2151 is one of stark utility. Through the incorporation of the guard's finger ring, as well as the shape and proportion of the guard and pommel, the DT2151 gives the appearance of an austere workman's tool instead of an overly crude instrument. The triple fullering at the blade's ricasso also adds greatly to this effect.
The Del Tin DT2151 is not a flashy or elaborate sword, nor do its proportions accurately represent the existing antique upon which it is based. The sword also possesses mechanical deficiencies that prevent it from being an outstanding performer within the field of modern replica longswords. However, the DT2151 should be viewed within the proper context. This is a sword that is designed to fill a variety of roles, from stage combat tool to re-enactment blunt, and perhaps as a martial training tool. In order to make the sword usable for all of these activities while maintaining its affordability, compromises have had to be made in its design. In the case of the DT2151 these compromises seem to have been reasonably executed. For anyone desiring a longsword for theatrical use, or as a costume accessory for a living history interpretation, this sword would be a good choice. It would also serve moderately well as a lower cost training tool. When placed within the proper context, this sword can be recommended. This DT2151 longsword by Del Tin Armi Antiche should serve adequately in any of the aforementioned roles.
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: Patrick Kelly