A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Windlass Steelcrafts Customized War Sword of Albrecht II
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
Throughout the age of the sword, practitioners searched for an all-purpose cut and thrust type of sword design. This search began in the Bronze Age circa 1000 B.C., and continued into the Renaissance. One of the most successful attempts at this evolution was the Type XVIII (Oakeshott's typology). This type is characterized by a relatively short and stiff blade, which is acutely pointed for a good thrust, and yet is broad enough to give good service in a cut. A classic example of the type is included in the funerary achievements of England's King Henry V. A subtype of the class is a hand-and-a-half version known as the Type XVIIIa.
The XVIIIa was itself a very successful design, of which there are many well documented examples. One outstanding example is a sword that is believed to have been that of the Emperor Albrecht II. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the original are unknown, with only one old photograph remaining (Records of the Medieval Sword, p. 186). There are, however, at least two replicas of the sword currently being manufactured.
The War Sword of Albrecht II as manufactured by Windlass Steelcrafts and sold by Museum Replicas Limited (MRL) is one of these, and the subject of this review.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
It has been over fifteen years since have I purchased a sword from Museum Replicas. At the time of my last purchase the quality of their workmanship was so bad that I vowed never again to waste my money on an MRL product. Over the last several years there have been rumors as to improvements in quality at Museum Replicas so I decided to see for myself, and purchased this sword. The sword arrived quickly and in good shape. The only glitch in the process was the fact that the sword was sent to my old address! Fortunately the current tenants are honest folk so the sword was recovered. Obviously any improvements at MRL do not include updating their database.
The Type XVIIIa was intended to be a cut and thrust type of sword. In this respect the Albrecht II falls a bit short. The blade does exhibit a decent level of heat treatment and is, in fact, quite flexible. In reality the blade is too flexible to achieve its fullest potential as a C&T type of longsword. The blade's thin cross-section and wide breadth make for a good cutting blade; however, it needs to be a bit more rigid to be an effective thruster against the armor of the period. This is an aspect that I am sure was present in the original sword. It does have a serviceable point though, and would give good service against lighter targets. The blade's edge geometry is actually quite good and exhibits no secondary bevel.
Given the sword's low price tag I was not expecting much in the handling department. I was honestly surprised in what I found. While the Albrecht II lacks the complex blade geometry of higher-end swords of this type, it does handle well. The point of balance is rather close to the hilt, which gives the sword a lively feel, and it handles nicely with two hands while being just a bit weighty when used with one. The sword does not possess the dynamic feel during handling that one experiences with a high-end production, or custom made, sword. On the other hand its handling is actually superior to similar swords that cost over twice as much--this was a nice surprise.
I used the sword against several different cutting mediums, some of which would be considered abusive. Given the cost of the piece I was more concerned with test and evaluation then I was with preserving the value of a collectable. Consequently, I decided to push the envelope a bit. During the cutting exercises I did not encounter any loosening of the sword's components other than the aforementioned pommel turning. Happily, the blade remained true and did not take a set, even against some of the harder targets, nor did I observe any appreciable dulling of the edge after use.
Fit and Finish
As soon as I removed the sword from its packaging I immediately observed large improvements over my last order. Although a bit too shiny for my taste, the finish of the blade and the steel furniture is much improved.
Both pommel and guard are cleanly cast with no obvious evidence of pitting or mold marks. The pommel is decorated with two crests. A rampant lion is featured on one side of the pommel, with an imperial eagle on the other. Both designs are simplistic and border on the primitive, although the biggest eyesore lies in the fact that the eagle is off center on the pommel face. Frankly, the sword would have looked better without any of this decoration.
The sword's grip originally came covered by leather with a cord binding underneath. The leather covering was a bit shoddy. The stitching, which runs down the side of the grip, was overly large and made the grip appear lopsided. I quickly removed the leather covering as well as the sparse cording underneath. At this time I discovered that the grip's lopsided appearance was compounded by the fact that the core was indeed wider on one side. I debated on what to do with the grip. I considered staining the wood, however, the quality of the wood used seemed somewhat dubious. I also discovered a small crack running for about an inch down the grip from the guard. Some type of covering was in order for aesthetic purposes, as well as support. After reshaping the grip core with a Dremel tool I decided on a binding of 20 gauge steel wire. After completion I darkened the wire using Birchwood Casey brand bluing remover. This dulled the wire, giving it the appearance of iron. The end result is, I believe, aesthetically pleasing as well as structurally sound.
I was actually quite pleased with the blade's finish given my past experience with MRL. The blade is evenly machined and polished. The fuller is cleanly done, more so than on some more expensive swords of this type that I have handled, in fact. The blade came with a decent beginning edge on it. A few strokes with a sharpening steel made the edge very keen and ready for cutting. The blade, as well as the furniture, came covered with a coat of lacquer. When dealing with intercontinental shipments this is a wise policy, as it is an effective way of ensuring protection. The lacquer used by Windlass Steelcrafts is much harder than that used by other companies for similar purposes. The hardest, and most time-consuming task of the clean-up process was the removal of this covering. One positive note is that the rather unsightly "Made in India" marking came off of the blade along with the lacquer.
The sword's scabbard is, at best, adequate. It does provide protection for the blade and does possess metal fittings, which are cleanly done if rather simplistic. The scabbard is, however, a bit oversized. Consequently, the sword rattles loosely in the scabbard. This is understandable though as Windlass obviously uses some kind of generic form for their scabbard making, instead of individually fitting blade with scabbard. The scabbard was apparently removed from the form prior to being completely cured as the last few inches at the tip end were curved. About fifteen minutes of grasping this area of the scabbard in both hands, and applying lateral pressure straightened it.
All in all, I am very satisfied with this purchase from Museum Replicas Ltd. Any criticisms that I have noted are to be expected in swords of this price niche. In reality, this sword surprised me in many ways when one considers the reputations of the companies involved. I'm not about to sell off the rest of my collection and become a devotee of Windlass Steelcrafts. However, when combined with the reports of others I believe that I can safely say that MRL is indeed improving its quality.
The best statement that I can make concerning the War Sword of Albrecht II is that it is worth every penny of the $237.95 US price tag.
About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.
I want to extend my special thanks to Peter Johnsson and Chad Arnow for their comments and observations.
Photographer: Patrick Kelly