A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Del Tin 2155 Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The 14th and 15th centuries saw a rise in plate armor on the battlefield, and it is commonly known that swords began to change to adapt to such armor. The thrust became paramount to get between the joints of the armor, such as in the armpit or groin, where a plate covering would restrict movement. While the sword is well known for changing with the rise of plate, an often-overlooked aspect of fighting against an armored opponent, however, is the dagger.
One critical aspect to what the Germans called harnisfechten, or armored combat, was knowing how to fight when the engagement was too close for swords. Often times the sword had to quickly be discarded, or was even lost in the heat of battle. The rondel dagger was used for just such an occasion. The typical rondel has a long triangular shaped blade, with a narrow triangular cross section. These were usually single edged, though often not edged at all, being a weapon that relied primarily on the thrust. The guard and pommel are generally both disc-shaped and known as "rondels", giving the dagger its name. When fighting came to wrestling distance, the dagger could maneuver much more easily, where a sword would quickly be pinned to the body and be rendered useless, and joint locks and throws were utilized alongside the dagger.
While this dagger was used against armor, it was also commonly used for unarmored fighting, such as in the case of the judicial duel. Many period manuals by masters, such as those by Hans Talhoffer or Filippo Vadi, detail advanced knife fighting techniques utilizing grappling, throws, and an understanding in body mechanics that would work just as well in plate as without.
The DT2155 dagger is made by Del Tin Armi Antiche based off a typical 15th century rondel design. Del Tin is a famous name for reenactors, martial artists, and collectors alike as being a company that makes a good product at an entry level price.
The dagger was purchased through Art Elwell's A Work of Art. Art was quick to respond to my e-mail inquiries, despite being busy himself with going to events to sell his wares, and promptly shipped the dagger to me.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
While this dagger has a single edge, it is without a doubt a thruster, and feels so. Period manuals show this style of weapon held in both the "hammer fisted" grip (blade extending from the thumb side of the hand) and the "ice pick" grip (blade extending from the pinky side of the hand), and it is easy to hold this dagger in either manner. The grip has a spiral groove pattern that keeps it from sliding around, and the disc shaped pommel and guard lock the hand into place. The dagger came unsharpened, though it is beveled to be a single edged blade with a 2 3/4" false edge. This is a weapon that would serve well in a knife fighting duel or on the battlefield as a backup weapon.
Fit and Finish
This is a simple dagger with a dash of elegance. The blade is a no-nonsense design, single edged and tapering strongly to a point. The blade is stamped with a small DELTIN name near the guard, and is otherwise unmarred with clean lines. The pommel and guard are cast, and the pitting marks are visible, but for a piece in this price range (around $150 US) this is very acceptable, and is not really a detractor in appearance. There are some decorative elements around the diameter of both the guard and pommel, and while these are not entirely on-center, they are still attractive. Medieval specimens often times did not have even decorations, either.
The grip is some type of wood that is soft enough to be dented with a fingernail. It is carved with a spiral pattern that is both attractive and functional, and stained dark brown. It is very rough feeling, though, and could have used further sanding.
On the pommel is a brass nut that the blade is peened onto. The brass is a nice contrasting color to the otherwise all-steel fittings.
This is an excellent buy for the price for anyone desiring a rondel dagger. I have seen other daggers of this style in this price range that really don't stand up to the same quality in fit, finish, functionality, or historical accuracy. While there are flaws I could easily pick on, those flaws are pretty small, making this well worth the price.
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