Del Tin 2156 Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

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It is safe to assume that medieval combat was fast-paced and chaotic, and that no matter how well a fighter was trained, sometimes the unpredictable occurred: a piece of armour could become damaged enough to hinder mobility; the fighter could have been unexpectedly thrown to the ground by an aggressive opponent. Period manuscripts detailing medieval fighting often show judicial duels in which one or both combatants had become disarmed. If disarmed, a knight would have resorted to a back-up weapon when available: quite often this meant the time-honored dagger.

During the 14th century a certain type of dagger, known as a rondel dagger, became very popular among the knightly class as a back-up to the primary weapon. So called because the grip was sandwiched between two round discs, known as rondels, this dagger most often had a cutting blade that tapered to a sharp point. Such a dagger could slash well enough in an unarmoured situation, but its primary method of attack was the thrust. The thrust was deadly against an unarmoured opponent, and daggers of this type could have also been used to thrust into the gaps of plate armour, either to simply stab the opponent underneath, or to pry apart and damage bits of the armour to get beneath it.

Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy has been a mainstay in the replica edged weapons market as a source of reasonably-priced quality reproductions, predominantly from medieval Europe. The DT2156 reviewed here is an example of a rondel dagger that could have been seen sometime in the 14th to 15th centuries for use on the battlefield as a backup weapon or for use in the judicial duel.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:12 ounces
Overall length:16 1/4 inches
Blade length:11 1/2 inches
Blade width:1 1/16 inches at base, tapering to 1/2 inch
Grip length:4 inches
Point of Balance:1/2 inch from guard

Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.

Handling Characteristics
This dagger has a very solid feel to it. The blade is very stiff and sturdy, allowing the dagger to be thrust into the joints of plate armour without bending. The dagger is completely blunt, as all Del Tin weapons are, and sports a round tip. The edge bevels, however, show a triangular cross-section with a short false edge. While the edge may not be too much trouble to sharpen, the tip may prove slightly time-consuming to reshape. Even if the edge were sharpened, however, this dagger is definitely a thruster, and feels like it.

The grip is completely circular in cross-section, which made edge alignment hard to determine without looking down at the blade. While I would prefer a grip that has an oval cross-section, there are many period examples of rondel daggers with both types of grips. The carved grip provides a very secure grip.

Fit and Finish
This dagger is very attractive in a rugged sort of way. The weapon has a very utilitarian look, with just enough decoration to make it an interesting piece. The wooden grip is carved with spiral grooves, and the brass rondels are just barely flashy enough to look good, but do not look gaudy or detract from the overall function.

It seems as though this dagger is the twin of the DT2155 Rondel Dagger in different dressings. The two appear to share the same blade and wooden grip, with the only major difference being the rondels themselves. When held side-by-side, they even feel the same. A buyer who has handled only one but likes the appearance of the other can safely purchase either without much mystery.

If one is looking for a sharp dagger, the DT2156 by Del Tin Armi Antiche is certainly plausible as a quality economic piece, provided the buyer is willing to do some grinding work. Regardless, it is a very serviceable weapon, and would work very well for reenactors, stage combatants and martial artists that want a functional and sturdy rondel dagger.

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

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