Custom Jason Dingledine Oakeshott Type XVI Sword
A hands-on review by Gordon Clark
The early to middle 14th century saw rapid developments in armor, and when in battle, it would have been possible to face opponents with a wide variety of armor: textile defenses, mail, mail augmented with plate, or full plate armor. Perhaps in response to these developments, a type of sword that was good at a variety of tasks came into use. The Oakeshott Type XVI is distinguished by a fuller extending a little over half the length of the blade which then tapers to an acute diamond-sectioned point. The blade thus combines a flat, relatively wide cutting area, with a stiff point suitable for wicked thrusts. The 14th century was a time of great change, strife, and war. This period includes the beginning of the 100 Years War, and such a sword would almost certainly have been used in the early years of that conflict (perhaps as late as the Battle of Crécy in 1346, for instance).
This particular sword is based on a sword found in Denmark and presented in Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword as XVI.3 on page 150. Oakeshott dates this sword between 1300 and 1350. This replica is "based on" the original, rather than "a reproduction of" it, since the smith did not have full documentation, but only limited information, on the actual antique sword.
Jason Dingledine is the swordsmith and head blademaker for Albion Armorers. Albion has partnered with noted European swordsmith and researcher Peter Johnsson to bring out several lines of historically inspired and authentically constructed swords. Jason's job with Albion takes most of his time, but he also takes a limited number of custom commissions. When I contacted him about a hand-forged reproduction of the sword from Records, he said that he had been thinking of doing a version of exactly that sword. Peter Johnsson had seen the original sword, and while he had not done a full documentation, he was able to provide Jason with a basis for the project.
This was only my second foray into the world of custom swords, so I had many questions which Jason patiently answered. He gave me a ballpark guess of around two months from beginning the sword to delivery and would probably have made his own deadline had it not been for some bad luck. While cleaning up the sword after forging and grinding, he found a small crack near the tip of the blade. He contacted me and told me that, unfortunately, he would need to start over. The second blade came out "fine", but it was not what Jason thought of as good enoughso he started over yet again. The third attempt produced a sword that satisfied him and certainly one that made me happy. Even with the extra work of forging three blades, the entire process took between 4 and 5 monthsnot bad for a custom-forged sword.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Jason Dingledine of Wisconsin.
The sword handles beautifully, with enough blade presence to feel powerful, yet quick and light at the same time. In some light cutting, the blade is easy to control, changes direction well, and tracks wonderfully. The blade is quite stiff, but flat, and relatively wide in the part of the blade most used for cutting (about 1.5 inches at the Center of Percussion). This combination of traits ensures it to cut as well as any sword I have ever used.
The short banded and leather covered grip provides for a comfortable and secure hold on the sword. This is a very nice weapon for sword and buckler work or for Fiore style single-handed sword work. Fiore del Liberi was a fencing master born in the mid 14th century who wrote one of the few remaining instructional works on medieval western martial arts. Surviving copies of his work show exercises where the "free" hand is used in close quarters to grab, maneuver, and hinder the opponent. To be used in such a way, a sword must be short enough to employ the point against your opponent while being quite close to them. This sword is easily used in that manner. At the same time, the heft and power of the sword suggests that it might be meant for more military type use than for civilian unarmored combat. The combination of powerful cutting ability, maneuverability and point control make the Type XVI, and this sword in particular, a fine "all-around" weapon.
Fit and Finish
Jason did a very nice job of producing a unique sword while staying faithful to its historical basis. The blade is forged from 1.25 inch round W1 steel bar, and the pommel and guard are forged from mild steel and blackened. The hilt assembly is similar to that of the Albion Next Generation swords, as the guard and pommel are wedged into place and the grip assembled last. Jason countersunk the peening and ground it smooth before blackening the pommel. The blackened finish is very attractiveblack from a distance, but showing blue and reddish tints in sunlight from up close. The finish on the blade is a fine satinvery attractive and well done. The fuller is beautifully executed, merging so smoothly into the forward portion of the blade that there is almost no transition boundary. The grip is fashioned (by Albion's Eric McHugh) of two pieces of wood ("sandwich" style) then wrapped tightly with fine cord, then again with 5 bands of larger cord, and finally covered with a "worn looking" but very rich brown leather that complements the blackened fittings beautifully.
I choose the XVI.3 sword as a basis for a custom project because I thought it embodied a kind of "workmanlike elegance" and I think Jason's version captures the spirit of the original. The clean lines of the guard and blade, combined with the lovely hilt wrapping, produce a harmonious whole with that understated and deadly elegance of the original.
About the Author
Gordon Clark spent seven years as a wandering college mathematics professor before settling down to a real job. He is now an analyst for a scientific consulting firm in the Washington DC area. A few years ago he realized a childhood dream of owning a real sword. His wife says that he has re-realized that dream too many times since then.
Photographer: Gordon Clark<