Custom Lutel Proto Schiavona
A hands-on review by Gene George

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This piece is intended as a theoretical ancestor to the schiavona and exhibits characteristics similar to swords made between 1530 and 1580. Though not taken from any specific historical pieces it is rather a composite of Venetian, Northern Italian, and Southern Germanic design elements common in the 16th century.

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Design Concept

I chose Lutel, a craft workshop based in the city of Opava in the eastern Czech Republic, to create this piece. They produce a number of moderately priced historical replicas. All of the replicas I have purchased from them show very good attention to detail and are a great value. Lutel uses, to my knowledge, wholly modern techniques of manufacture and preparation of weapons. They aren't the most historically accurate of craft shops, but their techniques certainly make them efficient and affordable.

The design that I sketched was submitted to Lutel in early August 2002 along with some questions regarding various historical sword blade options. I received a response from them within two days and within a week and a half had submitted designs and hashed out the price and options via email with the courteous Lutel staff. Payment was handled via bank wire transfer. My custom sword arrived October 29th 2002; a scant 2 and a half months after the initial concept drawing was sent.

This sword is based on an original design by the author. See similar sword hilts referenced in Oakeshott, R. Ewart's European Weapons and Armor figure A, plate 8 "German Bastard sword c. 1520", figure 82 item H, "Venetian Hilt", figure 83 "A Venetian Hilt c.1540", as well as pp.131-132, 156,182-191.

Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:3 pounds 11 ounces
Overall length:40.5 inches
Blade length:33.25 inches
Blade Width:2 inches
Grip and pommel length:7.25 inches
Point of Balance:4.5 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~22 inches from guard

Replica created by Lutel of the Czech Republic.

Handling Characteristics
This sword was ordered unsharpened and arrived with a .5mm edge. Make no mistake; this is a true battle sword, heavy and solid. It's a medieval broadsword blade wedded to the latest in 16th century high tech hand guards. It has considerable weight and authority. Finesse fencers need not apply. For all of its 3 pounds 11 ounces it carries well and swings accurately. Lesser swords would be beaten aside with ease in the face of this monster. The only gripe I have is that the basket is slightly small in profile and could get in the way of aggressive wrist cuts and might preclude the use of a metal gauntlet.

Fit and Finish
The sword is designed with a double-edged, single fullered broadsword blade. The hilt has S-quillons (compare to the earlier schiavonesca), is a semi-basket like south German and Swiss bastard swords and sabers of similar age. The traditional brass "cat's head" pommel design (also found on Venetian swords and schiavonesca) is present as well. Additionally, the sword is furnished with false finger rings similar to Venetian and Spanish espada roperas of the same era. Grips are leather and brass wire over a cord and hardwood core. The purchase price included a German style hanger and scabbard. The little details on this piece and its scabbard and belt are what truly make this sword a special acquisition. The leather florets on the scabbard and the tiny curls of steel on the basket and finger rings astounded me with their detail.

Lutel was great to work with and took my crude sketches and brought them into vivid life, adding detail and taking the time to turn my ideas into functional reality. They appear to honestly care about their work and give great value for what some companies charge for a no frills budget weapon.

The sword itself is a joy to behold and looks better than I dreamed. It handles well, and is a piece in which I am proud. While it isn't strictly an historical replica, it bears design elements that could have theoretically existed, and they work together in this package, thanks to the Lutel artisans in Opava.

About the Author
Gene George has been fascinated with weapons and armor as long as he can recall. A former archaeologist and historian, he lives with his wife 14 miles west of where they filmed The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and 60 miles North-Northwest of where they filmed Captain Blood (1935). He has a big pile of swords and wants more.

Photographer: Gene George

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