Del Tin 5120 12th Century Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly, with contributions by Russ Ellis
An interesting facet when studying arms is noting how similar designs can develop in independent environments. Nearly all cultures capable of some level of industry developed spears, swords, axes, etc. A myriad of design variations can be found in the study of the sword alone. The basic concept of a sharpened length of metal with a grip on one end is a near-universal concept. In spite of these similarities, the aforementioned variations do occur and at times they can point to a very specific ancestral link.
Throughout most of the so-called "Dark Ages," much of the British Isles lay under the control of the Nordic countries, notably Norway and Denmark. This included the Hebrides, Isle of Man, and the area that would come to be known as Scotland in later centuries. Much of England itself endured Nordic rule and invasions of varying degrees until the Norman invasion of 1066 took the country out of this northern sphere of influence and placed it firmly under European influence.
Because of this long association with its northern neighbors many weapons of "Viking" design have been found in the British Isles. Many of these are old weapons from the Viking Age; however, swords have also been found that are clearly medieval in origin yet retain some of the unique characteristics of their Nordic ancestors. Several swords have been found that possess pommels of the classic lobated design characteristic of the Viking Age. Due to their design and method of manufacture, these swords are clearly from the medieval period yet retain something of the look of the older styles. The famous Maciejowski Bible, written during the high Middles Ages, shows a few swords with this distinctive pommel design.
The original upon which the DT5120 sword from Del Tin Armi Antiche is based was found in the River Ouse south of York, England, and is dated circa 1100. It is currently housed in a private collection. This sword can be classified as a Type XII in the late Ewart Oakeshott's typology of the medieval sword. This type is very nearly the stereotypical knightly sword. It is often the type displayed on stage, screen, and in illustrations. This is so true that when the word "sword" is mentioned this is the design that often comes to mind for most people. The Type XII can probably be considered one of the most common single-handed swords of the high Middle Ages. It enjoyed immense popularity from 1170 to around 1350 and extant examples are also dateable to earlier periods.
As is often the case, to keep the sword within the company's chosen price niche, Del Tin was forced to vary from the original in certain details. The pommel of the sword is a unique (and unclassified) five-lobed form and the reproduction faithfully reproduces that detail. However the original's pommel also seems to have been silver plated, which for obvious reasons of economy, Del Tin did not duplicate. There are also inscriptions on the blade of the original, mostly consisting of an indecipherable jumble of crosses and letters that the reproduction lacks. Another interesting detail is the cross. The cross of the original has one arm that is more strongly bent than the other. Although it would be tempting to suggest that this occurred during the centuries since the sword's manufacture, the evidence provided by a sister sword to this one found in Korsoygaden, Norway (which exhibits exactly the same characteristic) seems to indicate that the cross was probably designed that way. The replica's cross, however, is symmetrical.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
There was a time when quality replica swords were few and far between. In the mid 1980s Del Tin was one of the first companies to offer affordable replicas for sale in the United States. Since that time the replica sword business has become a highly specialized field. Swords can now be purchased that are tools for the martial artist or theatrical performer, as also serve as highly detailed objects of study for the collector. Del Tin has always attempted to find a middle ground somewhere between these specialties. The company's intent is to provide a sword that is strong enough to withstand the stresses of theatrical performance and reenactment yet retain enough aesthetic value to be appealing to the collector.
Fit and Finish
Rather than being assembled with the classic Viking design of an upper guard and pommel cap, the sword's pommel is cast from one piece of steel. This feature mimics the original sword's pommel construction. The reproduction's pommel exhibits numerous casting pits within the grooves and crevices on its surface. Overall, the DT5120's pommel possesses the slightly soft or washed-out appearance that is so common with Del Tin's cast components.
The sword's blade is a standard Oakeshott Type XII design. This consists of a relatively wide blade that tapers to a serviceable point, and sports a single fuller. The fuller is cleanly machined and finished, and runs nearly the entire length of the blade. There are no machining marks evident on the blade's surface although, like the hilt components, it is slightly “soft” in appearance and lacks the crispness of detail found on more expensive swords of this type. The DT5120 also features a wooden grip that is covered in black leather. This leather covering is glued in place with a seam clearly visible down its side.
This sword is an attempted replication of an interesting design that has been encountered mainly within the British Isles, particularly in its northern territories. It has also been called a transitional design. This is largely due to the obviously Nordic design of its pommel, although this is more likely a simple aesthetic choice. The DT5120 would look right at home on the belt of a living historian or reenactor who wishes to portray a northern Scottish warrior of the Middle Ages, or as an example of an interesting variation within a larger collection. These are the arenas for whom Del Tin Armi Antiche designs its swords, and the ones in which they work best. Unfortunately, the design elements that allow the sword to function well within these environments are also limitations. A practicing martial artist who desires a sword of this type that exhibits good dynamic handling qualities should look elsewhere.
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