Jody Samson "Warlord's Sword"
A hands-on review by Russ Ellis
In recent years, much of the focus of the modern sword industry has been on making historically accurate swords. Sword makers have tried to faithfully recreate swords that are either based on ancient designs, or identical to some specific historical example. Only the constraints of modern sensibilities and cost mitigate this unrelenting pursuit of ancient design. In this pursuit, it is often forgotten what initially drew individuals into the arena of sword design.
Often people are drawn to the world of swords not for love of history or desire to find the past, but rather because of a sword-wielding hero (or villain) of the silver screen, of a luridly drawn book or record cover, or perhaps a pulp novel description. Almost inevitably, it turns out that fictional characters are carrying fantasy blades. For the right price, a fantasy sword can become reality.
One of the premier makers of fantasy-inspired swords is Jody Samson. His most recognized work is the swords from the Conan movies, but his other credits are too numerous to mention. His work has appeared in films like Blade, The Mask of Zorro, and First Knight. Other items have appeared in everything from Colombo to Babylon 5. Jody is living legend but his work is still fairly readily available to the sword buying public. One of his creations is reviewed here.
The sword that Jody Samson sent me is called "the Warlord's Sword." It is a hand-and-a-half or two-handed sword. To my knowledge, no sword like it has appeared on stage or screen and it certainly is not of any historical type. Rather, this sword is purely a work of fantasy, although it is also a functional piece.
Jody Samson uses 1075 steel in most of his blade manufacture. His pieces typically exhibit hollow-ground blades and invariably display impressively sculpted pommels and crosses. Jody does all of his hollow-grinding by hand, as well as sculpting the molds for the pommels and crosses himself. Typically the clean-up work, handle wraps etc. are done by an apprentice.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Jody Samson of Wisconsin.
This is not an agile sword, at least not for one-handed use. However, due to its balance point being brought back close to the cross, it is a lot faster then its 4.1 pound weight would suggest. When swung with two hands, this sword handles well. The long grip makes two-handed use easy. This sword feels solid. I believe it would perform decently as a cutter, but thanks to its acute point would probably be an even better thruster.
Mr. Samson makes his living selling swords that appeal to a certain aesthetic sense. His swords are also functional pieces but it is understood that function is second to form in his work. On this particular piece, he was very true to form.
Visually, the sword is an imposing fantasy weapon that manages to avoid garishness or being "over the top." The blade itself is cleanly ground with no wobbles. The hollow-grinding is especially impressive, especially when remembering that it was all done by hand. The fuller is nicely executed, perfectly symmetrical and does not run off at the end but rather gradually fades out in a straight line. The point is very acute and also nicely symmetrical.
The fittings are relatively simple examples of Mr. Samson's work. Their decoration consists of geometric lines and bumps. They appear to be very cleanly cast with no discernible pitting or lines. These particular fittings were also darkened with what appears to be a cold bluing solution. The wrap on the grip seems to be nice and tight. The wrap is of a peculiar "baseball bat" type wrap which consists of a single long leather strip which is wrapped around and around the grip, overlapping itself. The grip seems to be slightly off-center where it meets the pommel, but this could be due to a minor difference in the leather thickness. The leather has been dyed an oxblood hue that appears to be a custom-mixed variation of the color.
I believe that Jody Samson is a talented sword maker. I personally am more interested in historically-based swords; however, that in no way lessens my admiration of Mr. Samson's obvious talent. This particular sword appears to be a functional work of art. If I had the desire to purchase a fantasy type sword, Mr. Samson would be one of two makers on my short list.
I believe this sword to be a great example of form meeting function. It had one extremely minor cosmetic flaw. Mr. Samson and his apprentice's commitment to a quality product are very obvious upon examining their work.
About the Author
Russ Ellis is a Systems Engineer working for Northrop Grumman by day and a scabbard maker by night. He has been a student of medieval history for many years and this eventually led him to the world of sword collecting. He currently resides in Alabama with his wife and three children.
Photographer: Russ Ellis