15th Century Falchion by Arms+Armor Manufacture
A hands-on review by Nathan Robinson
The weapons of the thirteenth century soldier necessitated an increased effectiveness against an armoured opponent. This period in the evolution of the sword saw a marked change in martial philosophy towards raw cleaving power. The introduction of fully clad knights in body armour and great helms required swordsmiths to explore new ideas. One such leap lead to greater cutting ability, causing swords to become heavier and longer.
The end of the century saw yet another transition of philosophy and caused for another group of swords to appear that consisted of stiff, sharply pointed blades often of a distinct diamond cross-section intended for the specialized purpose of the thrust.
Further development lead to yet another type of sword, this time of a vastly different philosophy. This weapon, known as the falchion, was a single-edged sword shaped much like the modern machete. The blade widened towards its tip, causing a concentration of mass at its end and leading to great cleaving power packed into a smaller, more manageable tool.
The falchion gained popularity amongst all classes, from the lowly hired soldier to the most regal of nobility. It continued to be used throughout the centuries, mainly due to the brutal cutting blows it could deliver. Falchions have been widely depicted in artwork and literature, but very few surviving pieces exist, save the most ornate examples of nobility. The falchion's design is equally suited for other tasks such as those of a farm implement, cleaver, or even axe. It has been speculated that most examples were simply used up until their working life expired.
In recent years, the modern collector seeking to augment his collection with a quality falchion would need look no further than the Del Tin 5131. This model has always been a very high quality piece created within historical parameters and offered at a reasonable price. Rumor has it that it's been discontinued, and though Del Tin now has another falchion model, today's collector might want further purchasing options.
Wanting something unique, I looked for a reproduction falchion and came across a model offered by TherionArms and created by Arms+Armor Manufacture of the Czech Republic. Testimonials on this maker's wares have been favorable and all indicate tough, well-made, maneuverable swords at a good value. I decided to take a leap of faith and purchase the SW058 falchion.
Replica created by Arms+Armor Manufacture of the Czech Republic.
This model exhibits vertically recurved quillons and a side ring, updating the piece to perhaps a 15th century example. A wide fuller, pushed right up against the spine of the blade, extends nearly its full length.
TherionArms markets the Arms+Armor Manufacture products mainly for "sword and armor contact use in film and stage combat, live steel fighting groups, Renaissance Faire entertainment, SCA dress occasions, all aspects of western martial arts study, and for any serious sword-lover." These pieces are generally sold blunt, intended for re-enactment fighting. I ordered mine sharp, hoping to have more of a collector piece that I could use for cutting practices and other non-sparring purposes.
The ordering process on this piece was a bit of a hit and miss proposition. It was ordered in the beginning of June and required the full amount of $315 USD be paid up-front. The original estimation for delivery was four to six weeks, but took three months to be delivered. During this time, the proprietor of TherionArms, Hal Siegel, did his best to keep me informed along the way. He's a very nice man with good intentions, but seems to have very little control of the situation with his overseas vendor. Oftentimes emails were left unanswered and required a couple tries to get a response.
It would seem to me that the only working relationship with such a vendor is to pre-order inventory and only sell in-stock items. This would likely be cost-prohibitive for a small distributor like TherionArms, but may be the only effective method of servicing customers with these products.
One very nice addition that needs mention is the added edge sharpener and pocketknife that Hal put into the sword package. These gestures go a long way in the world of customer service and certainly are welcome!
At nearly three pounds in weight and only slightly over 28 inches long, this sword is surely not a lightweight finesse weapon! In fact, it's designed to be a cleaving weapon, and for that purpose it excels. The amount of chopping power that this stout sword can produce is astounding. Upon swinging it, one can immediately appreciate the direction that history's design took to combat an ever-increasingly thick amount of armour protecting a warrior.
The falchion is balanced very well, and despite its hefty weight, is easy to deliver effective cuts while being adequately balanced to afford recovery of movement. The small side ring and recurved quillons are sized and shaped in such a way as to not be a hindrance to movement in any sense. The size and shape of the grip are nearly perfect for my hand, offering a secure and comfortable feel.
My cutting on thick-walled cardboard carpet tubes did not produce efficient cuts with a slicing motion. In fact, a chopping motion or two was often needed to make a complete cut. Because this is a falchion and is often regarded as a chopping weapon, this may actually be consistent with historic parameters of this type of sword. Either way, the damage issued by this small weapon was certainly devastating; hinting at the effectiveness the design must have had against plate armour.
Fit and Finish
From an overall perspective, the general design of this piece is fantastic. The piece's proportions, profile, and shaping of the fittings are all quite nice. The profile of the blade is also pleasing; approximating many illustrated examples I've seen.
Very large scratches and pitting are evident on all hilt components. They are so prevalent, in fact, that they can actually be felt with the nail of one's thumb. The pommel, in particular, is extremely poorly done. The shaping lacks any and all grace exhibited by antiques. Its edges are rough and its top has the sword's part number (or serial number?) stamped deep into the metal, making it impossible for this weapon to approximate a historic reproduction. I'm unsure why this was done, as any audiencebe it the collector or western martial arts practitionerwould certainly find this distracting and unattractive. The pommel nut and peened tang end are very nicely executed, as is the leather-wrapped grip.
As mentioned, the general shaping of the hilt components are quite nice. The decorative finials on the ends of the quillons are a nice touch and are well executed. The piece simply lacks the final finishing and polishing that a sword in this price range would normally exhibit.
To say I'm disappointed in this purchase would be an understatement. The fact of the matter is that the sword has a lot of potential, but seems quite unfinished for its price point of $315 USD. If the maker were to spend more time on the finishing aspect of the project, the resulting product would benefit substantially. As it stands, I cannot in any sense recommend this product or its manufacturer.
Keep in mind that I ordered a sharpened version of the sword. By other accounts, the rebated (blunt) versions are suitable for re-enactment use and have received favorable comments for that purpose. Still, I cannot help but suggest Lutel (also of the Czech Republic) or Del Tin Armi Antiche (of Italy) for such products in this same price range. In my experience, these makers produce items of a very durable and usable nature while exhibiting a much, much higher level of finish than that of this reviewed sample.
About the Author
Nathan Robinson has been interested in history and the hobby of reproduction arms and armour collecting for well over a decade. A professional Web developer in San Francisco, he started myArmoury.com as a resource for like-minded people and hopes to help educate and entertain enthusiasts and consumers alike. He strives to push the sword community forward, helping create a healthy market with functional and historically-researched pieces available for us all.
Photographer: Nathan Robinson