A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Vince Evans European Hanger
A hands-on review by Steve Grisetti
In the 17th and 18th centuries European and American gentlemen commonly carried a sword as a sidearm. One popular form was a simple cutting sword of a type sometimes called a hunting sword or hunting hanger. These swords were commonly equipped with a plain knuckle-bow, simple grip, and a straight or slightly curved blade. As noted by George C. Neumann, in his book Swords & Blades of the American Revolution, "The hunting sword was a short civilian arm originally used as a supplementary weapon while hunting. By the time of the American Revolution many of them had been slenderized and refined for wear by gentlemen as informal town swords. These were called cuttoes in England (after their French name couteaux de chasse). Such swords (mostly under 26 inches in length) were too light for use in combat, but a great many served as symbols of rank for both land and naval officers..."
The Masters of Fire International Exhibition of Contemporary Bladesmiths took place at the Macao Museum of Art from October 14, 2005 through January 15, 2006. Masters of Fire was a pioneering exhibition of the bladesmith's craft as art, and showcased the work of 18 current bladesmiths from Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States. One of the smiths whose work was exhibited was the well-known and highly regarded blade smith from the United States, Vince Evans, and the piece reviewed here was his submission.
Vince Evans has been a full-time blade smith since 1981. He is well-known for his fine creations of swords that are historically accurate in their details, without being exact reproductions of any particular piece. Vince's wife, Grace, often collaborates with him in the creation of his pieces. In this case, Grace provided the research to support the design. I have admired Vince's work since I first became aware of it several years ago, and eventually hoped to obtain at least one of his pieces. When this piece appeared as "available" on Vince's Web site, I immediately contacted him. Working with Vince was a pleasure. Once we had quickly come to terms on the purchase, he immediately dispatched it to my home, securely packed in a concrete forming tube. The sword arrived in perfect condition. Then and now, Vince has been very easy to deal with and indulgent of my many questions.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Vince Evans of Hawaii
I am no fencer, but Bill Grandy, who has plenty of experience in western martial arts, was kind enough to provide some performance evaluation pointers. Bill says that a sword of this type, and especially one of this size "...should have a very lively feel...in the hand, and feel natural in cutting...", and this sword feels exactly that way. The sword allows easy, quick cuts with the wrist, and more powerful cuts from the elbow. The sword recovers easily after a strike. It feels like it could quickly respond with a cut after making a parry.
Fit and Finish
The quillon turns downward to terminate in a relatively large finial. The knuckle-bow has the form of a lobed "D-guard." Both forms are typical of mid-18th century style. The thickness of the grip tapers slightly from the pommel to the cross. This sort of taper in the grip profile seems to be typical of gentlemen's hangers from the 1st half of the 18th century. The grip has a seven-sided cross-section, rather than circular, and terminates at the guard with an antiqued nickel silver ferrule.
Vince had considered using ivory for the grip, since ivory was very commonly used in period hangers and cuttoes. However, the use of ivory would have carried a risk of confiscation by customs officials, since the sword would have to cross international frontiers at least twice. Instead, Vince made the grip from desert ironwood. Desert ironwood is native to the Sonora Desert, so it is not strictly historical for a piece like this. However, this wood seems an excellent substitute for ebony, which was used historically. The advantage of desert ironwood is that it is extremely stable with changes in humidity, and its grain makes it more resistant to cracking than ebony. Vince says that this was a key reason for his choice of the material, since the sword would be seeing some significant environmental shifts during its travels.
The end of the hilt is finished with a cap-type pommel, a form often seen on hunting style swords. In this case, the cap is blued steel, with a silver inlay. The top of the pommel has fluting that radiates out from the pommel nut, in a manner similar to that on the hilt of George Washington's hunting sword (#108.S in Neumann's Swords and Blades of the American Revolution). The fluting is very cleanly done and symmetrical, lining up perfectly with the corners of the grip. Finally, Vince assembled the hilt with a threaded and peened capstan nut. Vince says that he also secured the entire assembly with epoxy.
Vince provided the sword with a scabbard crafted from basswood and covered with a fine, black bookbinder's leather. He incised lines in the leather that follow the gentle curve of the scabbard and blade. Finally, the scabbard is finished with antiqued nickel silver fittings with typical period forms.
This exquisitely finished sword is a worthy example of the art of one of our finest contemporary blade smiths. I am truly thrilled to have it in my custody. It was a pleasure dealing with Vince Evans, and I hope to be able to acquire more of his work in the future.
About the Author
Steve Grisetti is an engineer and project manager who lives in the Orlando, Florida area. While he has had an interest in history from childhood, his collection of reproduction European arms and armour began only in 2004. His interests are eclectic, and span from the Bronze Age through the eighteenth century.
Swords and Blades of the American Revolution, by George C Neumann
Arms and Armor in Colonial America, 1526-1783, by Harold L. Peterson
I'd like to offer my thanks to: Vince Evans, for indulging my incessant questions; Sean Flynt, for his help with general information on hangers and recommendations on references; Bill Grandy, for his guidance in performance evaluation.
Photographer: Steve Grisetti