Del Tin 5173 Schiavona
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

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The schiavona was a popular design in the 16th and 17th centuries for basket-hilted swords, and lasted well into the late 18th century. While originally used by Slavic mercenary troops from Dalmatia on the Balkans in the service of the Doge of Venice, the design was picked up and used by other states as well. The genuine Venetian swords generally held the Lion of St. Mark insignia on the face of a brass pommel. Having a brass pommel is generally how most people imagine the typical schiavona, but many non-Venetian swords had steel pommels as well.

The schiavona's name is attributed more to the hilt form than any true type of sword. Many such weapons have very narrow rapier-like blades, while others have broad blades meant primarily for cutting. There is just as much variety to be found in-between. Many later period samples were married to backsword blades, showing that when discussing the schiavona, it is often times important to state what kind of sword it is intended to be.

Del Tin Armi Antiche has created their model DT5173 based off of a broad-bladed cutting style of weapon. The sword, as all of Del Tin's products, comes unsharpened. Del Tin is known for making swords that blend the line between an unsharpened sword and a sword intended to be a blunt for blade-to-blade use. This sword is no exception.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:3 pounds, 3 ounces
Overall length:39 1/4 inches
Blade length:33 inches
Blade width:1 3/4 inches at base
Fuller length:16 inches
Grip length:4 1/4 inches
Guard width:6 inches
Point of Balance:4 3/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~22 inches from guard

Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.

Handling Characteristics
As a primarily cutting weapon, this sword serves its function well. It does not feel light or lively in the hand, yet it feels quite purposeful: It wants to cut. There is a noticeable amount of blade presence, but maneuverability is maintained with the use of a thumb ring, which makes cutting quite manageable. Overall, it handles quite well, despite the fact that it isn't a very light sword. The grip has a spiral-wrapped cord underneath the leather that gives a good grip, and I have not had any trouble with the basket interfering with proper technique. The sword has a very solid feel to it as well.

Fit and Finish
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Basket Detail

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Pommel Detail

The sword captures the overall spirit of the style, though the basket is a little crude. The welds are clearly visible, and are particularly bad where the bars meet at the front quillon. The bars also appear to be cast, as there are large pits in certain areas. These factors do not affect the function of the sword at all, and to be fair, polishing these welds out would drastically increase the sword's cost (purchased in 2004 for around $500 US). Nonetheless, these blemishes are large enough that even a person who knew little of swords would notice. The basket is slightly large, though not overly so. One might guess that perhaps Fulvio Del Tin wanted to make sure that the sword would fit a variety of hands without exaggerating too much, as all of the originals of this type that I have seen had smaller cages.

The decoration on the pommel is definitely cast, but still looks attractive. The decoration is of a large circular boss surrounded by ten smaller ones. The circles are polished over a rough background, which is a pleasing contrast.

The blade itself is polished to a satin finish and is good looking. The fuller starts out clearly defined and fades into the blade as it goes towards the tip. The nice blade does look a little odd on the basket, which has a lower level finish, but does slightly help to make up for the basket's aesthetic shortcomings.

As a sword for reenactment or for use in bouting, this sword by Del Tin Armi Antiche works quite well as a moderately priced and good handling schiavona. As a decorator piece, it does lack many of the finer elements of a higher end piece, though it still captures the overall aesthetic feel. Considering the fact that for most schiavona replicas one would generally have to go a fully custom route, this is a welcome addition to the sword world for a moderately priced blade that is easily accessible. Collectors with higher demands for finish, however, will probably want to look elsewhere.

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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