Michael Pikula Riding Sword
A hands-on review by Chad Arnow
When creating a modern replica, the maker has to decide what the source (or sources) of inspiration will be. Many sources are available from which to draw that inspiration, from surviving weapons to period art and literature. Some makers choose to follow historical patterns exactly, creating a replica that follows a historical piece as exactly as their information and skills allow. Others begin with historical pieces but then inject as much color and style as is comfortable. Others choose to make amalgams of period weapons to combine features deemed attractive.
Michael Pikula followed the latter course in creating the sword under review here. He drew his inspiration from two different historical swords from very different eras. The hilt is inspired by a Type XIV sword in the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, dated to circa 1300. Its blade was inspired by the Type XXI blade on the sword of Cesare Borgia, which is dated to 1493-1498. The Copenhagen sword sports dual fullers on its blade, as does the Borgia sword, but the cross-sections, size and shape of the fullers are somewhat different. The combination of parts separated by nearly 200 years yields a look that, while perhaps not entirely historic, is attractive and unique.
One of the joys of being part of a vibrant arms and armour community is watching it grow and change. In the past decade we've seen an explosion in the marketplace with an ever-increasing breadth of offerings with higher standards of quality. This evolution is fueled by refinements and additions to the products offered by established makers as well as by the injection of works by new craftspeople into the market.
Michael Pikula is part of the new wave of makers emerging as the first decade of the 21st century has come to a close. Michael began working with metal in college, taking courses at an art gallery and metal working studio. His journey as a blacksmith took him from Michigan to California and then to Europe. He returned to Michigan and began working with blacksmith Scott Lankton, who was commissioned by The British Museum in the 1980s to recreate the pattern welded sword found at Sutton Hoo. Using Lankton's studio after-hours, Michael began to hone skills in forging edged weapons and pattern-welded steel.
Michael then left Michigan to concentrate on historical edged weapons, using his many metalworking skills to help create historic blades. He settled in Wisconsin, where he briefly worked for Albion Armorers, and works on historical edged weapons while still doing architectural metal work.
In a short time, Michael has turned out a variety of works, from pattern-welded seaxes with inlaid blades, to spearheads and swords. The sword that is the subject of this review was loaned to myArmoury.com by Michael.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Michael Pikula of Michael's Smithy in Wisconsin.
This sword was pleasant to handle and when used for cutting. The grip is comfortable for gloved or bare hands and neither the pommel nor guard irritated the hand or got in the way during a swing.
It's a light sword and was easy to get up to speed in cutting. It is also quite sharp, easily cutting through foam pool noodles. The flexibility of the blade takes away some of its thrusting potential, even though it is easy to get the point to go where it needs to go. The point itself is reinforced (slightly thickened) so it should be durable.
It handles more like a riding sword than a serious battlefield weapon. Were it a weapon of war, I'd expect more stiffness and a little more heft. As a riding sword, the flexibility and lighter weight are no impediment whatsoever.
This sword is an attractive, well-put together package. The blade, pommel, and guard are finished to an attractive satin finish, similar to what we see on higher-end production swords these days. This finish should be durable as well. As a hand-forged piece, slight asymmetries can be seen but there are not a bunch of wobbles and dips all over the sword. It has obviously been painstakingly ground and polished after the forging, resulting in a sword with a very clean appearance.
The pommel's ten facets are nicely done. The raised boss on one side of the pommel is slightly smaller than the boss on the other side, but it's barely noticeable and the kind of thing I'd expect to see on a period original or modern hand-forged piece. The peen has been ground flush.
The guard is as well-done as the pommel with just a slight asymmetry from one quillon to the other. The only evidence of hammer-marks can be found on the guard. It appears that the guard was hammered to close more around the blade to ensure a tight fit. Indeed, the fit between blade and guard is very tight.
The blade is nicely finished as well. The long dual fullers are nicely done. Michael used three different radiuses when grinding them in and blended those three together very well.
Michael sent a basic scabbard along with the sword. As the sword was not made for a commission, he chose to leave the scabbard unfinished with no belt or chape so a buyer could have him finish it (or not). The core is thin and light and the leather covering is simple but nice. The scabbard seems to be a good start to a nice finished product.
While mentioning the shipping box is strange for many reviews it is worth noting in this case. Michael makes custom wooden boxes for his swords. The boxes are durable and attractive and can double as a display.
This sword was enjoyable to handle and exhibits a high level of fit and finish. For my personal tastes, the blade could be stiffer but as a light riding sword it's a nice piece. Michael Pikula has impressed this reviewer with the piece and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
About the Author
Chad Arnow is a classical musician from the greater Cincinnati area and has had an interest in military history for many years. Though his collecting tends to focus on European weapons and armour of the High Middle Ages, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.
Photographer: Chad Arnow