Windlass Steelcrafts German Falchion
A hands-on review by Sean A. Flynt

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Having been very satisfied with recent purchases of Windlass Steelcrafts items, I took a chance on their inexpensive Falchion (pronounced FALL-shun), and found it to be surprisingly well done. As usual, ordering from Windlass Steelcrafts vendor Museum Replicas Limited (MRL) was quick and pleasant.

Anglo-Europeans were not the first people to recognize the merits of a broad, short, single-edged and relatively heavy cutting blade, but they seem to have taken up such weapons with enthusiasm. Their culturally distinctive, but functionally consistent, falchions, stortas and messer are often depicted in the hands of both infantry and cavalry in medieval and renaissance artwork. Unfortunately, vital statistics for, and accurate replicas of, these weapons are almost as scarce as surviving examples.

In The Archaeology of Weapons, Ewart Oakeshott described one these weapons, the Thorpe Falchion, as one of a group of four East Anglian swords which share almost identical pierced quillons of Oakeshott Type 6. He noted that the relatively narrow blade of this weapon, the only falchion in the group, was unlike earlier English falchions (of which the Conyers Falchion is best known) and might have been influenced by saber-like Eastern European blade forms. Whatever the blade's stylistic origins, Oakeshott identified the Thorpe Falchion as an English weapon of the late 13th or early 14th century.
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Alan E. West, Curator of Archaeology for Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, has generously provided the following additional information about the Thorpe Falchion. I've added inch and pound conversions in parentheses.

Measurements and Specifications of Original:
Weight:904g (1.98 pounds)
Overall length:956mm (37.6")
Blade length:803mm Blade (31.6")
Blade width:48mm (1.8") at hilt
Max blade width:56mm (2.2") at 225mm (8.8") from tip
Blade thickness:2.5mm (.09") max thickness
Guard width:196mm (7.7")
Guard thickness:9mm (.35") at blade
Grip length:100mm (3.9")
Pommel Width:148mm (1.8")
Pommel Length:44mm (1.7")
Point of Balance:243mm (9.6") from end of pommel

Blade notes: Single fuller of 1.5-2mm (.05"-.07") width runs 5mm (.19") parallel to back of blade on one side of the blade only. False edge appears to have same bevel as true edge.

Mr. West noted that the grip is missing and the blade edge shows "numerous notches," while the back of the blade is in better condition. He said the pommel is brass with engraved images of animals and monsters. As for provenance, West said the falchion was dredged from the River Yare at Thorpe St. Andrew in 1833 and has been in the collection of the Norwich Museum (now Norwich Castle Museum) since that time.
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Now compare the original's vital statistics to those of the Windlass Steelcrafts Falchion.

Measurements and Specifications of Reproduction:
Weight:1,133g (2.5 lbs)
Overall length:865mm (34")
Blade length:707mm (27.8")
Blade width:42mm (1.7") at hilt
Max blade width:49mm (1.9")
Blade thickness:3.5mm (0.14") at quillons to 3mm (0.11") at max width to 1mm (0.03")
Guard width:208mm (8.1")
Guard thickness:11mm (0.4")
Grip length:100mm (3.9")
Pommel Width:48mm (1.8")
Pommel Length:45mm (1.7")
Point of Balance:280mm (11") from end of pommel
Center of Percussion:~435mm (~17.1") from quillons

Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.

Blade notes: Single fuller of 2.5mm (0.09") width and 475mm (18.7") length runs 8mm (0.31") parallel to back on both sides of blade. False edge is flat/unbeveled.

Although this replica is marketed as a "German Falchion", it clearly is at the very least inspired by the Thorpe Falchion. The superficial resemblance between original and replica-the narrow blade with clipped point, distinctive pierced quillons and Oakeshott Type J wheel pommel is unmistakable, but the similarities go much deeper.

Highlights of the Comparison:
    Click to enlarge
    The Death of Wat Tyler
    Ashley, et al. Milestones in History: Dawn of a New Era. (Verona, Italy, George Weidenfeld and Nicolson, ltd., 1974), 135.

  • The most obvious (and literal) shortcoming of the Windlass falchion is that it is approximately three-and-a-half inches shorter than the original. If you compare Oakeshott's sketch of the original with the photograph of the replica, you'll see that the missing inches belong between the lower end of the replica's fuller and the swelling of its blade near the center of percussion.
  • Although the unsharpened replica weighs approximately eight ounces more than the Thorpe Falchion, keep in mind that the original apparently has suffered some loss of blade mass in addition to losing its grip and grip covering. Compared new and sharp, the weapons likely would be closer in weight.
  • The quillons of the Windlass replica are slightly more curved than the original's appear to be, but aren't too far off, dimensionally.
  • The balance of the replica is within an inch-and-a-half of the original's balance, but, again, we have to consider the condition and length of the original blade.
  • The replica's pommel is unadorned steel rather than engraved brass, but its length and width closely match the original.
  • The Thorpe Falchion's blade features a single fuller on one side only, while the replica is fullered on both sides.
  • The false edge of the original is sharpened while the replica's is flat (another factor to consider in comparing balance and weight). The replica's blade is wedge shaped in cross section throughout its length, while the sketch of the original and description of its false edge suggest a more lenticular cross section from the swelling of its blade to its tip. This difference might have significant implications for the way the weapons could be used.
Handling Characteristics

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Histoire de Roland
Koch, H.W. Illustrierte Geschichte der Kriegszüge im Mittelalter. (Augsburg, Germany, Weltbild
Verlag GmBH, 1998), 176.

The short, heavily build and needle-sharp clipped point of the replica falchion give it a decidedly carnivorous look. It is intimidating in the hand, but a replica weapon's feel is subjective and, for most of us, uninformed by extensive handling of antique arms. Suffice it to say that the weapon's mass and balance suggest that it would do well what the Thorpe Falchion and its kind were designed to do—namely, deliver a shattering blow that likely could sever unarmored extremities and cause debilitating blunt trauma to some armored parts. As with all replicas, test cutting on a variety of relevant targets is required to determine how well the weapon would serve in the field.

Although I was surprised by the weapon's agility in a hammer grip, I found that slipping my thumb over the quillons and keeping pressure on the inside of the blade further aided my control of the weapon. That grip did not feel especially secure in strong cutting motions, however. The handling of the weapon makes me eager to investigate the bloodline that links it with the messer illustrated in Germanic renaissance martial texts.

Fit and Finish
The hilt furniture of this replica is very tight and well finished. I was surprised to discover that the softwood grip is of the sandwich variety, and is securely glued to the tang. The Pommel (presumably of the screw-on type) and guard also seem to be glued in place. The simple leather scabbard, with steel furniture, is sturdy but unremarkable. Blade and all hilt furniture are of brightly polished, heavily lacquered steel, but sanding and the application of vinegar and salt solution quickly gave the steel a deep gray color. Longer exposure to the solution produced the effects you see in the photos, shown here.

The Windlass Steelcrafts Falchion is a thoughtful replica of an historic weapon, and I consider it a great bargain at the Museum Replicas Limited discount price of around $155 USD (including shipping), or even at the full MRL price of approximately $185. Windlass should take credit for its achievement by citing the Thorpe Falchion as its inspiration.

For further reading, Visit Björn Hellqvist's excellent discussion of the Conyers Falchion and scroll down on that page to view another illustration of the Thorpe Falchion. Also keep an eye on the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA) Web site for a new page dedicated to this fearsome family of weapons.

About the Author
Sean Flynt is a public relations professional in Birmingham, Alabama. He is interested in the martial culture of all periods and people but focuses on 1450-1650, with special interest in German and Austrian arms and armour.

Photographer: Sean A. Flynt

Click photos to enlarge:

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