Windlass Steelcrafts Dutch Cutlass
A hands-on review by Gene George
The single-edged, curved blade sword is a workhorse design that has been used in Europe since ancient times. Whether falcata, falchion or hanger these handy, powerful, and easy to use weapons were never far away from common foot soldiers, sailors, and even the nobility. While the Renaissance saw an explosion of social and technological changes sweep across Europe, one of the few things to remain largely untouched was the inherent utility of the short curved "hanger".
Museum Replicas Limited of Atlanta, GA markets this weapon, produced by parent company Windlass Steelcrafts of India. This is another item that seems to be available on perennial overstock. Ordering was easy and uncomplicated, with the Museum Replicas staff courteously and efficiently processing my order.
Although Windlass calls this a "Dutch" cutlass, they provide no real provenance for the piece replicated. This is par for the course for Windlass, unless they are recreating a very specific historical piece. However, if any weapon could be considered a good candidate for creating a "generic" replica, the simple shell-hilted cutlass is a great choice. Numerous historical examples abound of similar weapons from all over Europe. Wherever swords were used, a good bet is that some would be robust little hangers like this. Swords like these hacked through South American jungles and sailed through the icy North Sea. North African Pirates fought with weapons like these against men armed similarly. Close matches to this piece are known from Germany dating around 1600-1650. However, this weapon would not look out of place a century earlier or two centuries later.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
Weighing in at 2lb 2ozmuch lighter than the quoted 2 and 10 from the catalogthe weapon is front-heavy but this is acceptable to me in a piece that is primarily a chopper. This blade is a real skull-splitter. While the point is nicely shaped for thrusting, the balance is much more suited for the cleaving and hacking press of a crowded deck or the rugby-scrum confusion at push of pike.
Fit and Finish
Overall the piece is finished to a high polish and has a lacquered wooden handle. The knuckle bow is simple and attractive with flattened acorn finials. The clamshell guard covers most of my hand adequately. From a design standpoint the clamshell is nicely made with graceful lines. Overall fit is tight with no loose components. The fullers are even and well defined. The threaded tang is solid, and the tang weld looks good. The shell is made of fairly heavy gauge steel. Some minor glitches were present, as I expect for swords in this price range. None were serious flaws in workmanship or materials. First, the cutlass' clamshell guard was too tight. I had to bend it out slightly to fit my hand. Next, the clamshell was lined with some really poorly mounted cheap suede. That's gone and will be replaced by some velvet or better quality leather. Third, the scabbard is cheap, as usual, but not noticeably so, until in your hands. There seems to be some "pleather" in use. Finally, the lacquered wooden handle is a bit slick, though attractive. It would need a wrap or sanding before I would want to do any serious sword swinging with sweaty palms.
Overall the Windlass Steelcrafts Dutch Cutlass is a decent sword, it feels tough enough to stand up to serious use. This piece had minor cosmetic and functional flaws that were easily rectified at home without any specialized knowledge, tools, or skills. This is another example of a bargain from Windlass that turned out to be a decent, simple, entry-level piece. Additionally, it represents a widely used family of weapons that seems to be fairly underrepresented in the replica market.
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