Michael "Tinker" Pearce Seax
A hands-on review by Mike Arledge
There are many edged weapons that are virtually synonymous with the culture that created them. The Roman Gladius and Japanese Katana are weapons easily identifiable to many throughout the world. Not only are these weapons sometimes phenomenally crafted works, but something of their design and character offers insight into the minds of those who crafted them. They are a blend of art, legend and mystique. The seax offers a similar gateway to the mind of the Anglo Saxon and Viking warrior of the 7th to 11th Centuries. It is often thought of as a weapon of the Franks, but was well known throughout much of Europe during the Viking era. It is iconic to the collector of weapons of that era, although there are many styles that fit the generic description. The term seax is often used for a whole milieu of single-edged weapons of the era from short work knives to the sword-sized single-edged offerings often given the name langseax.
When discussing the commission of a seax with a custom maker, there is a broad range of types from which to choose. Similarly, there is another important decision to be made: how historical does the interpretation need to be? As iconic as the seax is, it seems to be one of those weapons that gets very close scrutiny. Unfortunately though, a surplus of poorly thought-out offerings in the production market hint at the idea of the seax but fail to satisfy any historically-minded collector. When I commissioned this piece, I was looking for an interpretation that can best be described as a spear-point fighting knife. I knew also exactly who I wanted to make my piece, Michael "Tinker" Pearce.
Tinker Pearce has been a full-time professional maker since 1991. His particular interest has been the engineering of swords and their use. In 1998 he joined the world of online sword forums and introduced such concepts as the importance of the location of Rotational Nodes on antique swords (so-called harmonic balance). He has also written many articles on these and other subjects, such as the basis of cutting power when dealing with swords, what constitutes a "good" sword and even what dirty tricks some sword makers/manufacturers use to mislead customers about their products. He was an early advocate of testing European-style swords with actual cutting trials and is a trained theatrical fighter, fight choreographer and a student of historical European martial arts. He is at present designing a line of high-quality medieval swords to be produced under license by CAS Iberia / Hanwei.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Michael "Tinker" Pearce.
The blade is Marquenched 5160 spring steel at an edge-hardness of approx HRc58-60. The tang, spine, and base have been selectively drawn to HRc45-48. The furniture is mild steel and the pommel is secured by a riveted tang. The tang is 3/4 of an inch wide at the shoulder and tapers to approximately 1/2 an inch wide where it enters the pommel. The handle is one-piece construction and is made of Cocobolo wood. An explanation on marqueching can be found on Tinker's Web site.
One can tell its craftsman has a keen understanding not only of utility, but handling and elegance. It is a total package in this respect. This style of seax is perhaps more of a true weapon than other seax styles that strike me as utilitarian. Many other seax styles could be a camp tool first and weapon later, and do both modestly well. This design is simply a weapon, and it handles accordingly.
Fit and Finish
I am very pleased with the appearance of this piece. The hardware is very well done, and the engraving on the blade gives it a decorative touch in contrast to its otherwise austere appearance. The geometry of the blade, from its thick spine to its almost seamlessly beveled edge, is well done. Unless examined closely, it is not evident that it is not a single bevel. The guard and pommel are reminiscent of Viking Age swords in shape, and the pommel has a two-piece construction that is quite nice.
The wood used for the grip has an earthy warmth in color and a fine-grained texture. I like seeing the rivet block exposed. It adds a feeling of completeness to its appearance. Overall, all of the elements fit together well in both design and finish. A complaint from hardcore seax enthusiasts could be that it is not traditionally assembled. I must state that I gave Tinker that allowance to give me the best of both worlds: the appearance of traditional construction without the added cost. I am quite pleased with the balance he achieved.
The sheath is thick, sturdy leather, dyed a rich mahogany color, accented by brass metalwork acting as both decoration and mounting hardware. It is a period design made to be hung horizontally from a belt. Its fit and finish is on par with the rest of the piece, slightly on the austere side. Sheathed, the seax fits well and I would have no worries about the weapon falling out onto the ground. Again, the overall design is excellent, and matches the seax well.
I am extremely pleased with this purchase. I needed a piece that was close in terms of historical construction and appearance to keep the cost at my price range but also wanted it to be something that meant dirty work. I didn't want a piece too pretty for work. I got everything I could have wanted, from the design process with Michael "Tinker" Pearce to the finished product. The process from discussion of design to the delivery of the finished product to my door was seamless and pleasant. I really can't wait to do it all again. The seax is to me so emblematic to the Viking Age, and I would have to think this would be a weapon prized for its utility, and not wholly out of place in its appearance.
About the Author
Mike Arledge is an IT Recruiter from Indianapolis and has had an interest in ancient history and weaponry since his college studies of Philosophy and Classical Studies. Though his collecting tends to focus on weapons and armour of the Roman, Migration and Viking Eras, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.
Photographer: Mike Arledge