Jody Samson "Regency Broadsword"
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
There are many different things that draw enthusiasts to collect arms and armour. Some are drawn by history; others come from martial arts backgrounds. It certainly cannot be ignored, though, that many are pulled in by the realm of fantasy, perhaps from the rich literature of Tolkein, the adventurous exploits of Conan, or by the stunning renditions of artists such as Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta.
The fantasy genre of sword collecting is sometimes hard to define. Technically anything that is not a historical weapon is a fantasy one, and indeed the very idea of owning a reproduction sword is generally fueled by some sort of fantasy. But when the term "fantasy sword" is used, it generally evokes the images of elves and wizards doing battle in worlds that never existed anywhere outside of the imagination. Creativity and imagination are very compelling aspects of human nature, and it is no wonder then that so many would be drawn to the collecting of fantastic weapons that could have possibly existed in a world long forgotten by the race of men, even if we know that such a world did not really exist.
Jody Samson has been making custom bladed weaponry since 1974. He is most famous for having made the Conan swords, and is well known for his fantasy designs. He has been known to consider himself an artist first and foremost, and this shows in his various creative designs.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Jody Samson of Wisconsin. Scabbard and belt created by Christian Fletcher of Idaho.
Fantasy swords can be hard to review, as it is difficult to compare them to something that they are not. In this case that would mean that it is a bit of an apples to oranges scenario if trying to see how this sword compares to historical examples. That said, I am a practitioner of medieval martial arts, and my comments here relate how I feel this sword handles in that context.
This is a strange sword, though, because it has a long grip for such a short blade. While I would categorize this sword as a "hand and a half" styled weapon, it only feels natural to me in a single-handed grip. This partially has to do with the fact that I am tall at 6' 2", but mostly has to do with the combination of blade length and the very close point of balance.
The sword was probably created with such a close point of balance because of its weight: it is quite heavy for its size. The blade is 1/4 inch thick at the base, and does not have a much distal taper. When picking the sword up for the first time I was very surprised by this, but when I gripped it by the hilt, all of a sudden it felt very light. The combination of a long grip and large pommel almost seem to negate the overall weight.
Unfortunately the very close point of balance is not entirely a blessing. Because there is so much mass in the hilt the sword is a bit sluggish in the cut. When transitioning to a high guard before striking, the pommel wants to swing forward, causing a brief moment where one must struggle to stop the sword before making the cut. This is only for a fraction of a moment, but one should not have to fight against one's own sword that is designed for cutting in order to get it to do so. The handling reminds me of many stage combat swords that I have handled where the balance was so far back to help slow down a cut on purpose.
The tip is very sharp, tapering rapidly in the last few inches from the otherwise robust blade. Unfortunately, due to the balance, tip control is not as good as it could be. It is a common misconception that a closer point of balance means better tip control, but here is a perfect case against that. The pommel wants to do all of the work when performing small disengages and winds, levering the blade and causing the tip to want to move more than necessary. It isn't out of control, but it does require more attention from the user than it should, making the sword less user-friendly over all.
The sword is very sharp, and the sword was sharpened with a secondary bevel that will allow for a sturdy edge. Testing the sword against soaked newspaper rolls, I found it to cut quite nicely. The blade is very stiff, which has a nice feel during cutting. While this sword did not appeal to me in terms of handling, the blade geometry does allow for a very strong cutter.
Fit and Finish
The blade of this sword is very clean. The fuller is straight and the hollow ground edges flow gracefully with the rest of the blade. The edges come to a secondary bevel, though the ricasso is left unsharpened at the base. The steel has not quite received a mirror polish, but it is close. Jody Samson's lion head stamp is at the base on one side, and on the other is his engraved signature.
The metal fittings have been darkened to a nice finish. The plum coloring of the fittings is not a uniform color, being a near black for the most part, but lightening in areas to show some purple and brown. I normally am not a fan of this sort of "splotchy" darkening, but on this piece it works quite nicely, fitting in with the "barbarian-esque" aesthetic.
Following suite with such an aesthetic is the spiral-wrapped pigskin over the grip. The wrap gives the appearance of a rugged warrior's tool, but it is still very tight and providing a good gripping surface, and looks very good.
The pommel is an interesting shape. It isn't fancy or highly decorative, yet it has a certain grace to its lines. It feels natural to grip should the user want to bring the second hand into use, and the grooves comfortably give a nice feeling of security by providing traction.
The scabbard and belt were created by Christian Fletcher, who delivered an excellent compliment to the sword. The scabbard is wood covered in molded leather. The scabbard is tight fighting and gorgeous, mirroring the graceful bevels and fuller of the blade in the tooling of the leather. The rich mahogany color matches the grip nicely, as do the darkened metal fittings.
The belt is what Christian Fletcher calls his "man-at-arms" belt. It is made of a thick leather and has a hanger for the scabbard to slide through. I would have preferred a thinner leather myself, and I have noticed most belt makers do tend to use heavy duty leather, but this is not a big issue.
As a martial arts weapon, I must say that I am not terribly crazy about this sword. It lacks some of the subtleties of handling I've come to expect. Some of this is personal preference, but much of it seems to be that the sword was not created with the criteria of a martial artist in mind. This does not make this a poor sword, though.
One of the highest things I can say about this piece was that nearly every non-sword enthusiast that I know who saw this blade commented on how it was one of the nicest swords they'd seen from me, especially when they held it. The fact that it speaks so clearly to those who otherwise do not have an interest in edged weaponry shows that Jody Samson, as an artist, understands how to evoke a certain spirit from within the human consciousness, and that, after all, is what fantasy is all about. In that respect, I think Jody Samson's creativity manages to capture a certain immaterial something that many other makers manage to miss.
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.
I'd like to thank Andy Bain for loaning his sword to us for this review.
Photographer: Bill Grandy