A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Del Tin 5152 Schiavonesca Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly, with contributions by Russ Ellis
Throughout the history of the sword, designs have come and gone. Sword design has always been an evolutionary affair, influenced by things such as the increasing effectiveness of armour and even personal preference and fashion. However, some designs were found to be versatile and effective enough that they endured for long periods of time. During the mid-13th century a new type of sword began to emerge: the medieval longsword. Undoubtedly this was a response to the improving mail armour defenses being worn upon the battlefield. By the end of the century plate defenses would begin to be added as a means of providing the wearer with even more protection, and the longsword would begin a process of evolution that would continue throughout its existence.
The design of the medieval longsword would undergo many changes in the next two centuries to ensure a continued effectiveness on the battlefield. The original genesis of this design, the Grete Swerde or War Sword, was a design dedicated to the cut. At the time of its introduction, mail armour was still the order of the day and the broad cutting blade of this design was thought to be an effective answer to these defenses. This long and broad cutting blade was combined with a hilt long enough to be gripped with both hands, thereby allowing the user to generate an even more powerful cut. In his well known typology of the medieval sword, Ewart Oakeshott separated these large swords of war into two types: the Type XIIa and the Type XIIIa.
During the medieval period most of these swords were mounted with the simple cruciform style hilt so familiar to medieval sword enthusiasts. During the late Middle Ages and the early renaissance this broad-bladed style of longsword saw something of resurgence, often as a civilian dueling weapon. Many of these swords were mounted with fairly complex compound hilts. There were, however, interesting regional variations on the design. In the near east the Type XIIIa persisted for some time in the form of the schiavonesca, the sword of the Albanian, Greek, and Dalmation mercenaries collectively known as the Stradioti. The Stradioti were initially hired by the Venetian Republic during the republic's wars with the Ottomon Empire. The schiavonesca can be seen as the direct ancestor of what is considered to be the standard sword of the Stradioti in the late 15th and 16th centuries: the schiavona.
In the 1980s and early 1990s there was a noticeable lack of producers of quality production swords. One of the few companies that were able to turn out a quality product was Del Tin Armi Antiche of Maniago, Italy. Del Tin has been in the sword manufacturing business since 1965 and today still sells quality swords to enthusiasts all over the world.
The sword that is the subject of this review is typical of the schiavonesca type and sports a blade Oakeshott considered to be "vaguely" of Type XIIIa form. The original that this sword is meant to replicate is currently housed in the Palazzo Ducale Armoury, in Venice, Italy. The sword is true to the basic design of the original, maintaining the same proportions with the exception of being slightly heavier due to the rebated edge that Del Tin maintains on all their blades as a matter of Italian law. The blade is made from Chrome Vanadium steel heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of 50HRC.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
Del Tin swords are made to appeal to a wide audience. In the current marketplace there are swords designed specifically for stage combat, martial arts practice, historical study, etc. When manufacturing his product Fulvio Del Tin attempts to find a middle ground between these various pursuits. This approach typically results in a sword that may be made of quality materials and assembled in a solid fashion, however, as a consequence of this design philosophy Del Tin swords often lack much of the dynamic properties of the originals upon which they are based. The DT5152 is no exception.
During dynamic handling the DT5152 is quite sluggish and ponderous. The DT5152 was run through several solo exercises that confirmed this. The sword did not track particularly well during the cut. In fact, if any speed was attempted during the cut the sword would easily flow off track and a bit of effort was required to keep it on task. It would undoubtedly strike with authority during a cut but recovery would be rather slow, as well as requiring a bit of effort from the user. The sword does not track particularly well into a thrust either, with the point routinely wandering off target. This technique may be of lesser importance, though, given the sword's design. During handling, a slight flexing of the blade's tang was felt within the sword's grip beneath the guard. Del Tin swords are often known to require maintenance after use. Hilt components will sometimes loosen and require a repeening of the blade's tang to retighten the hilt assembly. Considering that there is already some movement within the hilt of this new review sample it is suspected that it will require some of this periodic maintenance if it is put to use.
Fit and Finish
The DT5152's blade features nice machining and a basic proportion that maintains the classic look of the Type XIIIa. The blade's three fullers are straight and cleanly machined. Del Tin fullers typically present something of a washed-out appearance but the DT5152's fullers are cleanly executed and add a pleasing bit of visual detail. There are no machining marks evident on the blade's surface. In fact, this sword's blade is one of the cleanest to be seen from Del Tin. The sword's guard and pommel are manufactured using the investment casting process. While these components are cleanly cast they do exhibit the same "soft" appearance of most Del Tin swords, in that there is a certain crispness of shape that seems to be missing. Still, they are attractive overall and very distinct in the world of reproductions. The grip features several risers, two positioned near the guard and one beneath the pommel. These risers are rather small and ill-defined and seem to serve no purpose other than to add visual detail. The grip is also covered in black leather. This covering is slightly tacky and soft and aids in establishing a firm grip on the sword. The covering is glued onto the wood grip core and this is quite sloppily done with excess glue and ragged edges being present. This feature does something to spoil the visual appeal of this austere yet visually unique replica sword.
The Del Tin Armi Antiche DT5152 is a unique offering in the world of modern replicas. Its design is not commonly replicated elsewhere and may offer the collector a unique specimen for their collection. Reenactors or living historians who wish to develop the persona of a near-east soldier or mercenary would find this sword to be an attractive addition to their kit. Stage combatants may also find this sword to be a visually striking tool or prop well suited for theatrical use. In this context, for Del Tin's primary audience, the DT5152 has much to recommend it. On the other hand, a martial artist should look elsewhere for a longsword that performs well in cutting exercises and dynamic handling.
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