A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Tod's Stuff Dragon Warhammer
A hands-on review by Chad Arnow
The Museo Civico Correr in Venice, Italy houses a unique artifact: an imposing warhammer whose head is in the shape of a dragon. Dated to the circa 1380, this weapon is connected to Francesco II da Carrara, also known as Francesco Novello da Carrara, Lord of Padua (1359-1406). Francesco was the final Paduan lord of his line; he and his sons were executed by the Venetians during a war between those two city-states. The Carrara (or Carraresi) family loomed large as rulers of Padua for several centuries; their heraldry shows a red four-wheeled cart on a white background. The somewhat-tenuous connection of the hammer to Francesco II is due to its likely date and to sloppily engraved heraldry on the hammer. One side shows a simple, crude version of the Carrara cart while the other side is less clear (one can see the spokes of the wheels and outline of the cart frame but no wheels themselves).
The warhammer's exact origins are unknown. Though it is usually listed as being of Italian origin in publications, Charles Alexander, the Baron De Casson and Dr. Ricciotti Bratti, a former curator of the museum believed the piece to have a northern European origin due to the light-colored appearance of its alloy. The warhammer came into the museum with the collection of Teodoro Correr
Leo "Tod" Todeschini has established a reputation for creating unique, beautiful, and eminently functional replicas of historic pieces. Tod makes custom pieces and sells "off the peg" unique items from stock under his Tod's Stuff banner; he also runs his own small production venture, known as The English Cutler.
Tod has recreated the Venice warhammer in bronze and steel in a nod to the original's construction. Smaller than the original, it is a handy one-handed weapon. There are a few very minor differences from the original, but Tod has stayed true to the character of the original. The heraldry present on the recreation is the same on both sides and lacks the circular wheel outlines seen on one side of the original. The bronze/steel head is mounted to a haft of ash, stained black and rubbed with beeswax. For visual balance, Tod has created a bronze buttcap which isn't present on the original.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Tod's Stuff of Oxford, United Kingdom.
With its heavier metal head and relatively light haft, this hammer handles with the kind of authority you'd expect. Its weight is similar to period swords, but users shouldn't expect it to handle anything like an edged weapon. It's designed for crushing and piercing blows and this hammer would excel in those circumstances with its mass concentrated at the end of the haft. The octagonal cross-section of the haft makes aligning the hammer's head easy and intuitive.
On a whim, I took several medium-force swings of this hammer against an old US Civil Defense steel helmet. The spike left neat diamond-shaped holes in dents in the helmet while the hammer head made larger dents in the steel. The prongs on the hammer head nearly pierced the steel. Of course, blows against a static target whose steel is relatively thin and of unknown type may not tell a great deal. However, the ease with which the hammer dealt with the helmet gave me confidence that it would hold up well to historical use.
This hammer is as beautiful as it is lethal. Tod has incorporated so much of the original detail, imbuing it with both the slightly whimsical character of the dragon and the look of a deadly weapon. The bronze casting is very cleanly done, but is not perfect, giving it a hand-crafted look in line with period pieces.
The steel parts are cleanly brazed to the bronze and fit perfectly. As I've come to expect from Tod, the piece is solid and attractive with a look that is entirely historic. The hammer head is both epoxied and pinned to the haft while the buttcap appears to be held on solely by friction and epoxy.
It's hard for me not to gush about this hammer (if I've done so already, I hope it can be forgiven). The original warhammer is one I've loved since the first time I saw it. Having a recreated version fills a long-held desire for me.
This piece is a great example of the modern art of recreation. It captures all the flair and function of the original piece, as does every other example of Tod's work that I've seen. I have more items from Tod's Stuff in my collection than any other brand, because I've come to rely on the quality and beauty of his work. This warhammer is no exception.
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.
A War-Hammer in the Museo Correr, Venice. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 42, No. 241 (Apr., 1923), by Baron C. A. de Cosson
The author would like to thank Mr. Andrea Bellieni, curator of Museo Correr and other staff at the museum for additional background information.
Photographer: Chad Arnow