A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Windlass Steelcrafts 15th Century English Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Mark Mattimore
Daggers were the universal sidearm of the Middle Ages, carried to war and throughout daily life by nobles and commoners alike. The rondel dagger was one of the most popular designs of the late medieval period. Along with the ballock and quillon dagger, it was one of the most produced forms.
The rondel dagger first appeared around 1300-50 but didn't become common until later in the century. It became completely ubiquitous in the 15th century, almost to the exclusion of other styles. It remained popular into the 16th century until it was replaced by a more updated form of the quillon dagger designed for off-hand fighting in combination with a sword or rapier.
The blade of the rondel dagger varied in size and shape with single- and double-edged blades being common. Later, three- and four-sided edgeless blades were used as well. Daggers with these extremely robust cross-sections were designed to damage and penetrate armour. They could squeeze through mail, splitting rings as they went, and punch between openings in plate.
The rondel dagger of the 15th century was primarily used as a backup weapon, when combat became too close for primary weapons or when used to deliver a coup de grāce. Once an opponent was sufficiently subdued with a sword or polearm, the rondel dagger was used to thrust through an opponent's visor or plunged in between gaps in their armour. Daggers of this nature were often referred to as miséricorde, or "mercy" daggers. Many 15th century fight masters, including Talhoffer, highlighted fighting techniques specifically for these weapons.
The 15th Century English Rondel dagger is a relatively new offering from Windlass Steelcrafts and represents some of the more recent design and quality improvements the company seems to have incorporated into its products. I purchased this piece through By The Sword of Ft. Myers, Florida. While the dagger was backordered for several weeks, the communication was prompt and the order fulfilled as soon as the item became available.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
Overall, this dagger's feel is light and fast. It possesses a balance that provides a great deal of tip control and makes it want to thrust. It is easy to wield in either an overhanded or underhanded grip. It is very comfortable to hold in the hand. However, while the grip easily accommodates my rather average-sized hand, it may not be large enough to be effectively wielded in a hand wearing an armoured gauntlet.
The dagger is put together very well. It is of a traditional single-edged design with a small edged section on the first few inches of the back side of the blade, creating a false edge.
The fittings are all quite tight, well designed, and cleanly executed. The rear rondel or pommel cap is thicker in the center, tapering at the edges and possess what appears to be a small round tang nut at the tip. The front rondel is of octagonal form. Neither front nor rear rondels are very large, measuring about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. This provides a solid grip but not a lot of protection to the hand.
The swollen-shaped grip is constructed out of a single piece of dark wood and is nicely smoothed and sanded. The wood is, however, coated in a stain or varnish that has a rather modern look to it. Overall, the smaller guard and elegant design makes this piece equally suitable for civilian wear as well as that of a fully armoured knight.
The scabbard is of a higher quality than other Windlass offerings I have experienced. It even comes with a decorative round finial on the tip of the chape, perfectly reflecting 15th century designs. The dagger fits snuggly into the scabbard but is easily drawn with little effort.
There are many different styles of rondel daggers available on the reproduction market today. They represent a wide range of form, design, quality and price. Windlass Steelcrafts has chosen to replicate a typical 15th century example that would be at home on the battlefield or out on the town. At only $75 US, the English Rondel dagger is an excellent value and would still be a quality purchase at double the price.
As Windlass continues to improve their production standards and quality control I look forward to additional successful designs from them. The dagger reviewed here is clear evidence of that trend.
About the Author
Mark Mattimore is a writer living in Cincinnati. An obsessive reader and true lover of history, he has an abiding interest in medieval arms and armour in addition to being a student of the western mystery tradition. Professionally, he works as a copywriter with specialties in word-of-mouth marketing and brand identity development.
Photographer: Chad Arnow