Phoenix Metal Creations Pappenheimer Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

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The duel is a fascinating topic. To think that men put their very lives above all else for the sake of honor, an intangible sacredness that supposedly ran as deep as the soul, says something strong about human nature. The European Renaissance saw a strong rise in the commonness of honorable quarrels: quarrels that often left men dead on the dueling plains.

Central to this form of combat was the sword. Chief among weapons chosen by the Renaissance duelist, and above all other swords, the rapier was the most commonly seen. Due to the fact that armor was not a practical thing for a civilian to wear in day to day life, the long thrusting blade of a rapier was considered by many to be more efficient than other types of swords for this setting. Due to the predominately thrusting nature of these blades, hilts became more and more elaborate to protect the otherwise exposed hand.

It the book The Rapier and Small-Sword: 1460-1820, author A.V.B. Norman developed a classification that traces the evolution of the rapier hilt. The sword being reviewed here falls into the category of hilt classified as 67, which is most notable for having one of its loop guards filled with a pierced convex plate to protect the hand. It is often referred to as a Pappenheimer by modern collectors because the type is thought to have been used by the cavalry of Gottfried Heinrich, Graf Pappenheim, the Imperial general of the Thirty Years War.

Erik Stevenson of Phoenix Metal Creations patterned this hilt after an original believed to be from Germany. It is built on a blade made by Angus "Gus" Trim.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 11 ounces
Overall length:46 1/4 inches
Blade length:37 3/4 inches
Ricasso length:2 inches
Blade width:1 inch at base
Grip length:3 inches
Guard width:7 inches
Point of Balance:3 1/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~26 inches from guard

Replica created by Erik Stevenson, Phoenix Metal Creations of Colorado.

Handling Characteristics
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Scabbard Detail

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Grip Close-up

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Pierced Plate
This rapier is quite nimble and quick. The tip control is excellent, and the sword also feels great when performing cuts, as is sometimes advised in many 17th century rapier manuals. While not all rapiers are ideal for cutting, many will do quite sufficiently when put up to the task. In fact, this sword even feels good performing the cutting actions of earlier sidesword styles, seen in manuscripts by masters such as Achille Marozzo, despite being a narrow-bladed rapier intended primarily for the thrust.

The edge is sharp, and while the geometry would not allow for severing cuts, a strong slice to the forearm could cut deep enough to disallow an opponent the use of his weapon. A good cut to the head may end the fight. This theory was tested out on cantaloupe, which have hard husks with soft centers. Using realistic attacks, I found that large cuts, several inches deep, would be made against the targets. While these cuts would most likely be non-fatal, it would be difficult to continuing fighting when the tendons of the arm were severed.

Fit and Finish
If I had to choose one word to describe the execution of this hilt, it would quite simply be, "Astounding!" The detailing done on this hilt is amazing, showing an incredible sense of aesthetics and function blending together. The cross sweeps beautifully into an s-shape, with a diamond cross-section, and the piercing of the plates is very clean. Many Pappenheimer-styled hilts are a bit heavy because of the extra metal on the guard, but this is not so in this case, as the plate is reasonably thin (though not so much as to weaken the guard). The perforations also aid in keeping the weight down.

The wire wrap alternates between twisted and straight wire, and is very tight and simply gorgeous. The pommel as well is elegantly formed. Erik's work is even more impressive in hand than his photos show, and that is certainly saying a lot.

Erik Stevenson from Phoenix Metal Creations produces true works of art in steel. Combined with Angus Trim's understanding of blade design and construction, this rapier is an amazing work of graceful lines with deadly intentions. The rapier was a common choice for a gentleman in the 17th century to defend not only his life, but his very honor. This sword is not only a fantastically functioning weapon, but is also an art piece that captures the spirit of honorable quarrels.

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.

Rapier & Small-Sword: 1460-1820, The, by A. V. Norman

Photographer: Nathan Robinson

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