Eric McHugh Seax
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The term seax is used to describe an early medieval knife, thought to be of German origin. The earliest known examples come from the 5th century from Frankish graves but the basic design was used well into the 11th century and spread throughout Europe. Variations of the design lasted even longer. The seax is a single-edged knife, usually with a thick spine that finishes with a clipped point. Some are quite utilitarian in appearance while others are finely decorated. The larger variations, which reach the size of short swords, were almost definitely considered weapons primarily, but the most common variations are smaller and served also as a basic daily tool.
The seax being reviewed here was hand-forged by Eric McHugh. The piece was made to be an Anglo-Saxon design inspired by multiple original knives. The blade was forged from 1080 steel and the fittings were forged from a 19th century iron anchor chain.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Eric McHugh.
This is a fairly long knife and it has a serious "all business" feel to it. It has a nice forward balance and feels very much like a kukri in terms of heft. This is a weapon that could handle light brush just as easily as combat. The single edge is very keen and could deliver hard strikes, but the long blade and narrow point would make thrusting ideal for fighting. The point is narrow, yet it is very sturdy due to the thick spine. That same thick spine makes for a very stiff, powerful blade and it also adds weight behind cuts. Its length gives it a good amount of reach, but because it is smaller than a sword it is quick to draw in an emergency and handier to use for day-to-day carry.
The cord-under-leather grip wrap is smooth enough not to be irritating to the bare hand, but it is also just rough enough not to be slippery. This style of weapon does not have much of a guard or pommel to keep the weapon from sliding in the hand, so the user needs to be cautious about this.
The sheath would hang horizontally at the hip. The knife fits far enough into the sheath so that part of the grip is covered, and this will not only help to prevent it from accidentally falling, but also helps protect the blade from the elements. The blade fits snugly while being easily drawn.
Fit and Finish
As far as these types of knives go, this particular one has a certain loveliness. It is a bare and serious looking weapon, but the craftsmanship is immediately apparent. Quite a bit of care was taken to make this a faithful historical recreation. The angular lines of the blade really capture the look of antiques of this design. The forged fittings are plain but nicely shaped.
The brown leather sheath is a basic design and is quite pretty. The hand-forged steel parts add both structural integrity and a nice touch of decorative flair to an otherwise straight-forward piece. This is the kind of practical but attractive sheath I would imagine a typical Anglo-Saxon warrior would carry around in his day-to-day life.
The seax was such a common design for so many centuries that it is almost a wonder why it is not reproduced more often. Certainly its design is very adaptable, being both sidearm as well as tool. This particular reproduction really captures the form and function perfectly. Eric McHugh's craftsmanship is readily apparent and he does not fall into the trap of trying to improve on a historical design by making unnecessary additions. He has recreated a piece that could have easily blended into a 10th century soldier's arsenal, despite not being based on one particular antique. This would be an excellent piece for either a collector of early weaponry, or for someone involved in living history looking for a high level of period accuracy.
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.
The Anglo Saxon Broken Back Seax, by Frank Docherty, myArmoury.com
Special thanks go to the owner of the seax, Andy Bain, who allowed us to review it.
Photographer: Bill Grandy