Tod's Stuff All-Steel Rondel Dagger
A hands-on review by Russ Ellis
The knife is an ancient tool of man and was probably initially invented soon after the club and spear. As with many other tools, the knife was turned into a weapon not long after its inception and has been used as an instrument of close combat ever since.
Of particular interest to the student of medieval military history is the great variety of daggers used from the period spanning from roughly 450-1450. There are a multitude of general types including the early period seax, the baselard, the ballock dagger, the quillon dagger, and a practically infinite number of local and regional variations on each of these general themes. Added to these other types is the rondel dagger, a form that began appearing in effigial and pictorial sources in roughly the mid-14th century and continued in use through the 15th century and beyond.
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 noticed this particular rondel dagger on his Web site and initially made the inquiry to ask how much a dagger with an all-steel construction and similar pattern would cost. Tod noted that the particular dagger I had expressed interest in was still available and a deal was struck soon thereafter.
Dealing with Tod and his wife Lou was easy and completely hassle-free. I asked a fairly extensive series of questions before making my order since I had no previous experience with this maker. They were very communicative and informative. I was able to send payment via PayPal, an on-line payment system. They shipped the next day and I had the well-packaged dagger within a week, making it one of the most painless overseas transactions I have ever conducted.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Tod's Stuff of Oxford, United Kingdom.
It is often rather difficult to characterize the handling dynamics of a dagger. The typically short length of a dagger makes the discussion of descriptors like point of balance and center of percussion almost meaningless and the contrast in how a dagger is used when compared to a sword makes such metrics largely irrelevant in any event.
The rondel dagger is usually designed as a stabbing weapon to be used in close combat against both armoured and unarmoured opponents. This rondel dagger would fit admirably into this role. It is a double-edged specimen with a pronounced midrib, giving it the stiffness it needs for combat against opponents with varying degrees of armour.
The blade tapers to a strongly reinforced point, a desired trait if engaging opponents clad in plate or mail. The large rondels provide protection for the hand as well as locking the hand into the grip, affording a strong hold despite the relative smoothness of the steel grip.
Fit and Finish
This dagger is made entirely of steel. The thick blade has a strong midrib and is also deeply hollow-ground. It is very nicely executed and cleanly ground and polished, with no notable wobbles, unevenness, or tool marks.
The rondels are symmetrical and feature antiqued incised lines, forming a geometric pattern. On this particular model there is one place on the inside of the lower rondel that appears to have been hit with a punch or some other scoring tool and the upper rondel exhibits two small "dings" on its edge.
The grip is steel with an incised pattern, cleanly executed and tapering slightly towards the blade. The entire assembly is peened together with a noticeable but clean peen at the center of the upper rondel. There is some slight roughness to the juncture between blade and guard where the tang goes through the lower rondel.
Also included with this dagger is a heavy leather sheath of 8-9 oz. leather that has been tooled in a geometric pattern that complements the pattern on the rondels and grip. The tip of the sheath has a very nicely made chape again decorated to complement the rest of the package. The sheath's back is hand-stitched. Overall, it is a very nice piece of craftsmanship in its own right, conforming to the historical norms associated with this style of dagger sheath based on effigial sources.
Tod does an excellent job of building his creations to fulfill his motto: "made to be used." This dagger gives the impression of being sturdily functional while still possessing a bit of style. Although this particular example is not completely flawless in execution, one nevertheless gets the impression that it would not at all look out of place sitting at the hip of a late-14th century knight or man-at-arms.
The Tod's Stuff dagger was certainly not inexpensive; however, considering the lack of high-end custom rondel daggers available on the market, the price was more than fair. In short, I am quite pleased with this effort and would not hesitate to purchase from this maker again.
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