Jody Samson Fantasy "Carolingian Broadsword"
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The Carolingian Dynasty fell during a dramatic era. In the wake of the demise of the Roman Empire, western civilization needed to rebuild itself. This time period saw the development of a new form of Germanic government ruled by the Franks, who expanded their territory from Germany into what is now modern France, and left their impression and culture onto the parts of the world that they touched. The birth of feudalism arose from this, and with the conversion of King Clovis to Christianity in the late fifth century, Roman Christianity was embraced by his subjects, which eventually led to a Christianized Europe. Clovis waged holy wars, and after his death came several drastic civil wars, and eventually the rise of King Charles the Great, or more commonly known as Charlemagne, which marked the complete transition between the classical and medieval era.
The cultural turmoil of the Carolingian period created distinctive sword forms. Carolingian swords were longer than those of earlier times and therefore needed larger, sometimes box-shaped pommels to counterbalance their blades. Their crosses often reflected the design of the pommel. With the combination of an exciting history and significant change in sword design, it is not surprising that many fantasy authors and artists base their fictional swords on those of this chaotic and historically significant period.
The sword reviewed here was made by Jody Samson. It is intended to capture certain elements of historical weapons, but ultimately still maintain the fantasy appearance for which Jody has become famous.
Jody Samson has been around the sword-making world for a long time now. Best known for having created and/or assembled weapons for the Conan the Barbarian movies, Jody has long been a maker of fantasy bladed weapons, as well as fantasy art.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Jody Samson of Wisconsin. Scabbard and belt created by Tritonworks.
I was pleasantly surprised when picking up this sword. This sword has a direct feel to it, for lack of a better word; when in motion, it feels as though it just wants to go forward with a strike or thrust. It has substantial mass combined with a point of balance close to the hilt, which leads to a sword that is easy to maneuver but still hits hard. This combination doesn't work for all swords, but works quite nicely for this one. The sword is good for both the cut and thrust, optimized for neither but still performing well with both types of attacks regardless.
The cord-wrapped grip provides a very rough surface which keeps the sword from sliding in the hand. The large pommel made me want to use a loose "handshake grip" at first to ensure that it wouldn't hit my wrist, and in this grip I had no problems in handling. I eventually tried a tighter "hammer grip", and I found that the sword's grip was just long enough that I had no problems with the pommel interfering with my movement after all. In fact, I tended to like holding the sword in this grip more, as I felt I could make harder strikes without sacrificing any mobility or speed.
The sword also has a good amount of reach. It would feel very good with a shield in the other hand, attempting to counter-cut against another sword and shield man's exposed forearm, or reaching for an exposed foreword leg.
Fit and Finish
The antiqued bronze fittings are very elegant in their detail, but the overall shape is purely functional. While the decorations are fantasy, they capture elements of pre-medieval and Viking weapons, particularly the lobed pommel. The cord-wrapped grip is not only functional, but it is part of what gives this sword that appearance of a rough-and-tumble user's weapon.
The blade is very cleanly executed. The diamond cross-section is straight, and the hollow-grinding pulls the balance back while looking classy, too. The sword was made blunt, but was sharpened by Albion Armorers with a secondary bevel.
The scabbard was made by Russ Ellis of Tritonworks Custom Scabbards. It not only looks great, but it fits the sword perfectly. The inside is lined in wool, and the sword fits just snugly enough into place, but still comes out smoothly. It is wood wrapped with leather, and the bronze fittings compliment the sword quite nicely. The scabbard could have been made slimmer, but I imagine this would have dramatically increased the cost of the scabbard, as this would have been a great deal more handwork. Also, if the metal pieces were bought from a mass supplier, the scabbard may have been made this thickness in order to fit them. Either way, it still is an attractive piece of work.
It would be safe to say that Jody Samson, as an artist, has first and foremost created a work that stirs the imagination, as any fantasy work of art should. In that regard he is already successful. But this sword also is a good example of a fighting man's sword that functions nicely and is quite solidly built. This would be a sword that would function for both the character of a Howard novel as well as a Germanic warrior chieftain. It is an example of a functional weapon meeting modern art.
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.
Special thanks to Andy Bain for loaning out his brand new sword for review before he even got to play with it.
Photographer: Bill Grandy