Milestone, a sword by Vince Evans
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
We all have favorite sword designs. Those that stir our emotions send visions swirling through our heads and speak to us on an emotional level. In my case many of those favorite designs spring from the early middle ages. Perhaps these preferences are due to my bull-headed personality, or the fact that I spent far too many Saturday afternoons seated in front of the family television watching the likes of Robert Taylor and Charlton Heston swing those man-cleaving blades. Regardless of the reasons I've always had a love for those broad bladed, wide fullered, swords of the 10th through the 13th centuries. In my mind these are the "classic" medieval sword designs.
One of my singular favorites has always been a sword that is housed in The British Museum. This particular sword was found in the River Witham and has been dated to roughly 1100-1150 AD. Ewart Oakeshott categorized this sword as a Type X in his typology of medieval swords and a finer example of the type, I believe, does not exist.
Upon examining the photo of the original sword it will be noted that Milestone differs in several ways. It is not a true replica. Vince makes it perfectly clear that he doesn't make exact replicas but instead uses historic examples as inspiration for his work. Upon observation it can be seen that Milestone's blade does not taper quite as acutely as the original nor are the fullers identical. Vince elected to make the fullers a bit wider and to run them all the way to the point. I happen to like these changes and feel that they add aesthetically to the piece. I've always felt that one of the most important factors in having a custom sword made lies in choosing a capable smith. Once this is done the customer should exercise a "hands-off" approach. Let the smith do his job undisturbed and the results will be outstanding. Milestone is proof of that philosophy.
When I decided to have a sword of my own made, based on this historic original, I knew it would be special. Consequently, I needed a special man to bring it into being. That man is Vince Evans. Vince is widely acknowledged as a modern day master of the craft and, quite frankly, I don't think there's any sword type he can't make. Vince's years of experience and level of commitment are evident in the quality of his work and to say that I am pleased with his end result would be a gross understatement.
I'm not the kind of person who normally names his weapons. I tend to shy away from these practices in an attempt to keep things in their proper perspective. I did, however, feel that this sword was special. This sword marks a turning point, or stepping stone, in my collecting career as well as my personal life. For much of my life as a sword collector I never thought that it would be possible for me to own a sword of this quality. Now, after years of hard work and sacrifice by my wife and myself, we have reached a point where this is financially possible. We've also reached a time of change in our lives where children are growing up and leaving home. On many levels this sword is of symbolic significance. Taking all of this into consideration I decided to give this sword a name. "Milestone" seemed fitting.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Vince Evans of Hawaii
With a weight of just under three pounds Milestone can't be classified as a lightweight; however, this weight is close to that of the original and is in keeping with its intended purpose. This is not a sword designed for casual wear, or what is commonly termed as a "riding" sword. This sword is meant for military use, for shield splitting and hauberk cleaving. Milestone handles with a feeling of real authority and with just the right amount of what I like to call blade "presence". The sword tracks easily through both cutting and thrusting maneuvers. Taken as a whole I have never handled a sword that had such a solid feel of power and capability.
Fit and Finish
Well, what can I say except that the fit and finish of this piece are excellent, exactly what one would expect from a smith of this caliber. Both the blade and the steel furniture are finished not with a high gloss, or satin, finish but instead are finished to a very attractive burnished sheen. All edges are crisp and well defined and all flats are, well, flat. The grip is fashioned from burl walnut and mounted with nickel silver ferrules.
A quick word on the grip is in order here. When I originally placed the order I specified a leather-covered grip. While Vince was in the actual working process I suggested that the silver ferrules might be a nice feature. Vince stated that he doesn't do ferrules with leather grips and, in turn, suggested a grip made from wood. I've never cared for wood grips on my swords. They remind me of those cheap swords that are made in the Philippines. I voiced this concern to Vince and, believe me, he made the most of it. One shouldn't make this kind of statement to a smith of Vince's caliber and not expect to get a good dose of ribbing in return! In the end my fears were groundless. The grip turned out beautifully as did the rest of the sword.
As the photos show this is not an elaborately ornate sword, however, it is a perfect example of the old adage "less is more". One only has to look at the proportion and facets of this piece to realize that it is the work of a master craftsman. There are many subtle details present in this recreation, as in the original, which photos cannot convey. The mechanical details of profile and distal taper, as well as fuller width and taper, all have to work in balance in order to achieve a sound and functional design. Considering this blade's double-fullered design this is not work for an amateur. Vince captured these aspects to perfection.
Not only is Vince a talented bladesmith he is also a pretty country fair scabbard maker as well. The sword's scabbard is fashioned from wood covered with Moroccan leather and finished with a nickel silver chape and locket. The front face of the scabbard is also routed out to match the blade's double-fullered appearance: a nice aesthetic touch.
Milestone and its scabbard make a fine ensemble that any medieval knight would have been proud to own. I know I am.
About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.
Photographer: Patrick Kelly