Windlass Steelcrafts Schiavona
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
Discussed here is a Renaissance styled sword known as a schiavonaa popular Italian basket-hilted broadsword. This sword was created for Museum Replicas Limited of Atlanta, Georgia by Windlass Steelcrafts, a manufacturing company located in India. There are many styles of schiavona with many different blade types, but characteristic to the style is the brass "cat's head" shaped pommel and the basket-hilt comprised of angular steel bars. This example has a wide blade suitable for shearing and chopping. The schiavona is most famous as being used by the Slavic mercenaries hired by the Doge of Venice, though the style was seen in use all throughout Europe.
Considering the work that goes into making a basket-hilt, this sword is very inexpensive. Museum Replicas has created a sword that certainly gives the impression of a schiavona, yet when seen in person, somehow misses the mark of a good reproduction. It is a very photogenic sword, as the pictures really do look nice, but in hand this is not quite the case. It should be noted that the size of this particular schiavona matches the size given by MRL, yet is over a quarter pound heavier than the listed weight of 2 lbs 12 oz.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
This isn't a bad sword, but it isn't one that sings in the hand, either. It has a fair amount of heft to it, and while it isn't unwieldy, it would be much more lively in the hand if one could either finger the ricasso, or if it had a thumb ringfeatures that were common (though by no means always present) on authentic originals. There is noticeable blade presence, but nothing abnormally so, and this sword would make very powerful blows, albeit slightly slow on the recovery or in stopping the cut. Museum Replicas advertises that this schiavona would be utilized for styles that rely on the cut as the main form of attack, and it is certainly true. While it has no problems thrusting, upon handling it one immediately knows that it is best handled with the cut. I do find it laughable, however, that the Museum Replicas description says, "The swordsman, armed with a schiavona and buckler, would be hard to stand against, and woe be to an opponent armed with a rapier." Apparently they spend more time on writing their advertising copy than they do on learning how swords were used.
The sword arrived unsharpened, as all Windlass-made pieces do unless otherwise requested. Cutting was not a primary concern with me, as I was looking for a blunt practice piece for sidesword drills with a partner. Going through the guards of Marozzo are not effortless, but aren't hard on the arm, either. All in all, in terms of handling, this is an adequate sword.
The heat-treatment of the blade seems adequate, as it was flexed several inches out of line in multiple places and always returned true.
Fit and Finish
The blade by itself is surprisingly well executed for a sword at this price range. The lines are clean, and the three narrow fullers are well finished, defined, and even. The blade has a high polish, coming close to a mirror polish. I was quite impressed with the blade by itself. Of course, like all Windlass swords, it has the infamous "Windlass, India" mark on it, though at least they put it on the ricasso where it is hard to see amidst the basket.
The sword is also very tightly assembled. The brass pommel isn't too bad looking, with only some minor bumps and dents near the end. The tang is peened through that. The peening is a bit uneven, and this is even more obvious on the contrasting brass pommel.
The rest of the sword is quite sub-par. Upon taking it out of the packaging, the guard screamed out at me as being far too large. I can easily fit both hands inside, and I have fairly large hands. It is not so large as to inhibit movement very much, as many oversized guards on cheap basket-hilts do, though in certain maneuvers my wrist will lightly touch it. The basket has many sharp corners that sometime brush against the hand (despite its oversized proportions), and this is irritating, though nothing a leather gauntlet didn't fix. The basket also looks plain cheap. This is to be expected with any basket-hilt of its price point, but this still came to me as a surprise considering that it actually somehow looked good in the catalog photo. It is easy to see that the basket is not of welded construction, but of sheet metal that had cutouts removed (though I'm willing to accept that particular corner-cut for the price).
The grip is a glossy black leather that has some sort of material underneath it to create the spiral cording effect. It doesn't feel like cord underneath, though. It actually feels like Styrofoam, though I do not know this for a fact. The grip is sewn with some very large noticeable stitches on the inside of the cage, though the stitching at least is very straight.
The scabbard is leather, and stitched up well, but the nickel (or perhaps stainless steel?) chape looks very cheap. The leather is also very glossy, which makes the whole scabbard look cheap as well.
It's an okay sword for a good price. Considering that there are few choices in the production world for this style of sword, and considering how inexpensive it is, I can't be too hard on it. Functionality-wise, it really isn't too bad. But I have seen a number of originals of this style of sword, including having handled two in person, and this sword doesn't compare favorably to those. If you are a new collector and really want a sword that more or less looks like a schiavona but are on a major budget, this one may satisfy you for a time. Personally, though, I think Museum Replicas Limited offers swords that are more true to their original inspirations than this one.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Gene George