A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Phoenix Metal Creations Bastard Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
Starting from the 13th century there was a trend towards swords that had more room on the grip for use with both hands. Some were single-hand swords that had enough room for both hands. Some were made as two-handed swords that could still be agile enough in one hand. Others were somewhere in between. Known as "bastard swords", because they weren't quite within either of the single- or two-hander families, these swords attempted to balance the best of both groups.
Horsemen oftentimes used bastard swords, allowing the use of the reins to control the horse while using the blade. Should the horseman be dismounted, a two-handed grip could be utilized. Alternatively, a footman may choose a bastard sword for the ability to quickly switch between two-handed and single-handed techniques. The Italian medieval master, Fiore di Liberi, depicted in his Flower of Battles techniques of both styles, and it is of importance to notice that the illustrations of single-handed combat show a sword with a grip long enough for two hands.
Erik Stevenson of Phoenix Metal Creations is a cutler who takes pre-made blades and creates historically inspired hilts for them. This particular bastard sword is built onto a blade by Angus "Gus" Trim based on an interpretation of an Oakeshott Type XIIIa. This type of blade, according to Ewart Oakeshott, generally has edges that run near parallel along most of its length which are broad, designed primarily for the cut. Oakeshott also mentions that this family of blade type is primarily German in origin, which may explain Erik's inspiration for marrying it to a Gothic hilt.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Erik Stevenson, Phoenix Metal Creations of Colorado, using a blade by Angus Trim Swords.
The stats of this sword may make it sound like a hefty piece, but feeling the sword in hand gives a completely different impression. "Flowing" is the word that first springs to mind, as this sword moves effortlessly in the swing, almost on its own. This is a sword that really wants to cut, and at the same time is easily controlled for changes in direction for feints and quick recoveries.
By definition, a bastard sword is supposed to handle well in either one or two hands, and this sword fulfills that role nicely. As a single-hander it is easily wielded despite its weight, which is barely noticed. It is even surprising just how maneuverable such a large sword can be in one hand thanks to proper balance. The long grip does slightly get in the way of some techniques, forcing the user to avoid the pommel hitting the forearm during some strikes. The sword's versatility, however, far outweighs this problem. Two-handed the sword is incredibly fast, and the grip is long enough to give good leverage in cuts.
The blade is broad, giving very powerful blows, but has a fairly thin cross-section that allows for precise slices. Test cutting on various media from tatami to fruit proved this sword to be excellent against soft targets.
Fit and Finish
The rings of the guard are the big seller for this hilt. While on first glance the sword looks plain, the rings are made with a triangular cross-section so that from the outside of the guard they appear diamond shaped. This is a very attractive way of turning a basic functional design into a very attractive one while not becoming ostentatious. It is a very handsome sword.
The combination of Angus Trim's hard-working blade married to Erik Stevenson's gorgeous hilt work certainly compliment each other beautifully and create a sword that is powerful in looks as well as it is in function. Phoenix Metal Creations is no longer taking custom commissions for work, so I feel very lucky to be able to own this piece.
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: Nathan Robinson