A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Lutel 10006 Two-Handed Saber
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The two-handed saber is an often overlooked weapon of the Renaissance. This style was popular in Switzerland and Southern Germany as late as the 18th century. These swords have similar proportions to typical longswords, though they are obviously single-edged. While many would think having two edges is inherently more useful, a single-edged sword allows some advantages that double-edged swords do not have. For one, the entire width of the blade can be focused on one edge so that the spine can be thick and rigid, while at the same time retaining a fine edge. A double-edged sword must be thinner on both halves, and therefore the spine can only be so thick and still retain a keen edge. In generalized terms, this results in the single-edged sword having the potential to be more rigid than a typical double-edged sword. There are also many fencing treatises for single-edged swords that make use of the thick spine for deflections of an oncoming blade so as to avoid edge damage.
These swords can be seen in period artwork being carried by soldiers such as the famous Landsknechts. Thousands of these soldiers were recruited in the late 15th century from Central and Northern Europe by the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, with the aim of creating a reliable source of men for his armies. Many woodcuts exist depicting these soldiers, some showing them fighting with two-handed sabers. Some woodcuts show how this weapon was worn; it would seem that a common way to carry one was for the saber to be hung from a belt without a scabbard. Apparently taking its queue from history, Lutel does not provide a scabbard for this sword, but does include a hanger and a choice of suspension system.
Lutel, located in Opava in the Czech Republic, is a company that makes medieval and Renaissance replica weaponry geared for stage combat and reenactment. Their weapons are usually made blunt with wide reenactment edges, but they can be requested to be made with a sharp edge geometry instead, as is the case with this two-handed saber. It is listed on their Web site in the knives section: this may be a mistake or perhaps an indication of this saber's similarity to the form of a grosse messer or kriegsmesser. (The term messer means "knife".) Lutel dates this style of saber from 1490-1530.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Lutel of the Czech Republic
The two-handed saber is an interesting sword in that it shares characteristics of both the longsword and the saber. The sword can be handled well enough with either one or two hands, though it feels the most comfortable with two. Being a practitioner of Liechtenauer styled longsword, my first impression upon handling it was, "Where's the other edge?" Many of the techniques of the Liechtenauer style involve using strikes with both sides of the blade, which obviously a single-edged sword cannot do. However some of the reversed edge techniques would be quite feasible if the short false edge were sharpened. (While this review sample's false edge is left unsharpened, another sample form Lutel arrived with it sharpened.) Another interesting aspect is that some of the techniques involve cutting downwards with the false edge, and the curve of the saber would actually reach around to thrust behind the opponent's sword in a way that a standard longsword could not. The thick spine could also be used to set aside oncoming blades with no fear of edge damage.
The shell on the side of the guard, or nagel, does well to protect against a blade sliding down onto the hand. It is very large, and extends much farther out from the guard than is necessary, but otherwise serves its purpose well.
Nathan Robinson (the saber's owner) cut double mats with it and said it did very well. He went on to say, "I'd say it cuts as well as any sword. Frankly, I found the slight curve and even single-edged geometry really made it extremely forgiving and easy to align the edge. The sword isn't the most swift thing in the world for recovery, but it sure delivers devastating cuts."
Fit and Finish
Overall, the appearance of the hilt is pleasing, but it lacks the small details of period originals. It captures the overall look, and there is a degree of subtlety to it, such as the filed down corners of the guard, but overall it still looks very modern. I want to say that it looks too machine-perfect, but that isn't quite right. It is more that it appears to have a basic machined look that was not further refined. This is quite acceptable, because the further refinement would also mean a greater increase in cost.
It is hard to find a two-handed saber in the modern market without having to pay a lot of money for a custom one. Lutel fills a nice gap here by offering a good working sword that isn't too expensive. It would not be for the collector who demands the highest level of attention to detail, but it certainly would serve for stage combatants and reenactors whom will be viewed from a distance. It will also serve well for a person who wants a good saber that captures the overall feel of a period original, but isn't too worried about getting all of the fine details perfect.
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.
Photographer: Nathan Robinson