Darkwood Armory Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Pamela Muir
The rondel dagger gets its name from its disc-shaped guard and pommel, called rondels. During the 14th and 15th centuries the rondel dagger was a popular knightly weapon. It would have been worn on the right side and used as a back-up weapon when fighting was too close to use the primary weapon or when the fighter had otherwise been disarmed. The daggers varied in length and their blades were usually single- or double-edged, although in the 15th and 16th centuries some rondel daggers had triangular blades with equal sides, often lacking cutting edges. Although the dagger could deliver a potentially dangerous cut against an unarmoured opponent, its most common and deadly attack would have been the thrust, especially through openings in the opponent's armour.
In my study of western martial arts, one of the weapons that I have enjoyed learning to use is the rondel dagger. I own a pair of rubber rondel daggers for practice drills and free play, but felt that a sharp rondel dagger would aid my understanding of the weapon, just as a sharp sword used in cutting practice helps me to understand and clarify longsword techniques. Darkwood Armory offers a blunt, flexible practice rondel dagger that I've admired, so I contacted proprietor Scott Wilson about making a sharp version for me. I requested a carved yellowheart wood grip and a stiff, sharp blade. All of the other details I left for Mr. Wilson to decide. He was very pleasant and I enjoyed doing business with him. He seemed nearly as excited about the project as I was. It took about three months for the finished piece to arrive and I was quite pleased with the results.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Darkwood Armory of Florida.
Naturally, the first thing I did after I removed the dagger from its packing material was to stab the box repeatedly. It surprised me that I felt absolutely no resistance. Cutting was not nearly as effective at first. I needed the perfect flick of the wrist with the last inch of the blade hitting the target to make a good cut. I sent an email to Mr. Wilson to thank him and I mentioned my experience with box stabbing. He sent the following reply:
"We found that it went through a plastic garbage can like butter as well. Glad you liked it. One of these days I will make me one to keep."Testing it on a cardboard box was not enough, so I took it to a cutting party and used it against watermelons and water-filled two-liter soda bottles. My first stab against a soda bottle ended with the bottle impaled on the dagger all the way to the grip; again I had felt no resistance when the blade met the target. After the box practice, I had a feel for how to perform cuts and so the soda bottle ended up with some nice slits cut into it. Every downward thrust into a watermelon ended with the dagger passing completely through the melon and becoming embedded in the Styrofoam block used as a cutting stand. Using the dagger to slice the watermelon was nearly effortless.
Though many historical examples of rondel daggers have rondels the same size at the top and bottom of the grip or the upper rondel larger than the lower rondel, I like the feel of the smaller upper rondel. Moving between forward and reverse grips can be done smoothly. In either grip, it feels quite comfortable and maneuverable.
Fit and Finish
The dagger has an overall rugged appearance. The blade was not taken to a high polish. The rondels have been darkened. The pommel has distinct hammer marks where the tang was peened. The piercings on the rondels are a nice detail and add elegance but keep the overall appearance simple. The handle is carved into a simple spiral pattern that brings out the yellow color of the wood and shows off the grain of the wood. It is also quite comfortable in the hand.
The blade is of triangular section, single-edged, and extremely stiff. There is almost no flex at all, which makes it perfect for thrusting through gaps in armour.
This Darkwood Armory dagger has a rugged and business-like appearance with a touch of elegance added through the spiral carving on the grip and the pierced rondels. Handling it helps me to realize how extremely useful and lethal the dagger can be. I would recommend Scott Wilson's work for someone in the market for an attractive simple rondel dagger.
About the Author
Pamela Muir is a suburban homemaker from Virginia with a small, but growing, sword collection. She studies and practices historical European swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing.
Medieval and Renaissance Dagger Combat, by Jason Vail
Photographer: Bill Grandy