A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Tod's Stuff Single-edged Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Russ Ellis
The story of mankind is one of adaptation and change. Likewise, the history of mankind's weapons is also a study in adaptation. This evolution could be caused by changes in the combat environment, changes in technology, or sometimes even changes in fashion.
One weapon that has proven to be particularly susceptible to this sort of change is in fact one of man's oldest weapons: the knife. The first knives were simply sharpened rocks painstakingly chipped from flint or obsidian. Later knives were made of bronze and, later still, iron and then steel were the materials of choice. While these changes in material occurred, so did changes in form.
Some forms were required because of the material(s) used. For example, a flint knife cannot have a slender dagger-like point because the flint is too brittle. Some forms were created by function such as a sturdy broad-bladed knife that is more versatile in everyday work then a needle-like stiletto.
Function and materials were not the only reasons a style of knife changed. Sometimes fashion, and not necessity, affected form. An example of this can be seen in the evolution of the form that we know today as the rondel dagger.
The rondel dagger went though a series of changes during its long history. The earliest examples were often double-edged with robust, almost blocky, rondels (the disc-shaped guards found at one or both ends of the grip). Over time the rondels became more refined in appearance taking on a streamlined form, while at the same time the single-edged blade became the norm. In this review we will be examining a reproduction of a later rondel dagger of a form most popular at near the end of the 15th century.
Tod's Stuff of Oxford, England is the enterprise of Leo "Tod" Todeschini. The Tod's Stuff motto is "made to be used," and Tod does his best to deliver quality products built using materials, tools and techniques that would have been familiar to his medieval counterparts. Each and every one of his items is unique. Tod is not averse to making more than one recreation of the same item but he guarantees that each will be unique.
I had previously purchased an all-steel rondel dagger from Tod and, when my finances allowed it, I inquired if he might have others available for immediate sale. Tod sent me a picture of four daggers that he had at that time and I selected the one that I found the most appealing.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Tod's Stuff of Oxford, United Kingdom.
The rondel dagger is designed to be a close combat weapon capable of taking on an armoured opponent. I believe that this dagger would be completely capable of being used in that capacity.
The extreme thickness of the blade spine, measuring .45" at the base and tapering to .25" two inches from the tip, combined with its heavily reinforced point make a very stiff blade capable of being forced through gaps in plate armour that are covered only by secondary defenses such as mail.
The rondels provide adequate protection for the hands and combine with the turned wooden "risers" of the grip to provide a very steady grip.
Fit and Finish
This Tod's Stuff dagger is a steel and wood version with a bronze or brass rosette where the tang is peened through the upper rondel. The thick blade has a strong spine and what is commonly called an "appleseed" or "Moran" edge grind. This has the dual effect of making the dagger very stiff while heavily reinforcing both the edge and the point.
The blade is very nicely executed. Its grinds are clean with no notable wobbles, unevenness, or tool marks. The distal taper, although clearly evident, is carefully blended along the entire length of the blade.
The rondels are symmetrical, though of course the upper rondel is (by design) somewhat larger than the lower rondel. Both rondels exhibit pierce work along their perimeters giving the dagger an extra aesthetic appeal. The juncture between blade and rondel is extremely tight on this model with no gaps.
The grip appears to be made of oak and has three turned risers in the center. The wood is completely smooth and appears to have been treated with some oil or another form of wood finish.
The entire assembly is peened together with a noticeable but clean peen at the center of the upper rondel. Centered on this peened point is a brass or bronze four-lobed rosette. The rosette is perhaps not completely symmetrical but still rather attractive.
Also included is a heavy leather sheath of 8-9 oz leather that has been tooled in a geometric pattern which undoubtedly took no small amount of effort in its own right. The back of the sheath is hand-stitched. Overall, the sheath is a very nice piece of craftsmanship.
I believe that if this dagger were somehow transported back in time and worn at the hip no one would give it a second glance unless they happened to be admiring the workmanship. Dealing with Tod's Stuff was completely free of hassle. I made the initial inquiries and Tod sent me some nice digital pictures. From there, I sent the money and within a week I had my new dagger in hand.
This dagger was not inexpensive due to the exchange rate between the US dollar and the British pound. However, with the dearth of quality rondel daggers available in the US market, I feel that it is well worthwhile to check with Tod for the "something a little better" dagger to complete a kit or to add to any collection.
About the Author
Russ Ellis is a Systems Engineer working for Northrop Grumman by day and a scabbard maker by night. He has been a student of medieval history for many years and this eventually led him to the world of sword collecting. He currently resides in Alabama with his wife and three children.
Photographer: Russ Ellis