Windlass Steelcrafts Classic Cinquedea
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The early Renaissance was an interesting period for the design of arms and armour. There was a great deal of experimentation with various styles due to a number of factors. For instance, the development of highly articulated full armour reached its zenith, and yet the technology for firearms was reaching the point so that such armour was simultaneously becoming obsolete. That alone caused a great variety of weapons to deal with both highly armoured combatants as well as those who would wear very little armour. The rise of a middle class also effected the development of arms in the period. During the Renaissance there was suddenly a section of society that was not nobility and yet very wealthy, making civilian self-defense weapons increasingly commonplace.
An interesting type of weapon sometimes carried during this time had a broad blade and was somewhere between a large dagger and a short sword. This weapon was known by several names but in Italy it was called a cinquedea in reference to the five-finger width of its blade. Some of these weapons were small while others were quite large. Surviving specimens can be found with blades that range anywhere between one to two feet in length. Like many weapons during this time period, it was very common for the cinquedea to be ornate, with decorative grips, engraved blades, and even precious metals used in the hilt construction.
The reviewed cinquedea is sold through Museum Replicas Limited. Based in Georgia, MRL is a distributor for Windlass Steelcrafts of India and is known for publishing a seasonal, full-color catalog of historically-inspired arms and armour as well as clothing, historical paraphernalia, and fantasy offerings. Most items in MRL's lineup are considered budget offerings and the quality should be judged based on this.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
This cinquedea has a fair amount of weight for something so small, yet this is a positive remark in this case. Because it is not too long, the weapon feels very "handy", and combined with the weight it feels like it wants to hit hard while still remaining very maneuverable. It can deliver quick but strong cuts, and is big enough to make parries if necessary, unlike a smaller dagger. It also is easier to carry, draw, and maneuver than a larger sword. While it lacks the reach of a larger weapon, I find myself comparing it to a large bowie knife: a weapon that could be generically used for most self-defense situations that it would have encountered during its time period.
The style of usage of such a weapon is not explicitly laid out in any period fencing treatises, but it could easily fall into any of the early Renaissance fencing systems. There were many masters, such as Achilles Marozzo, who taught the use of the spada da filo (edge sword) as well as the pugnale (a large dagger). One could easily apply those techniques to this middle-ground type of weapon. Performing many of the Bolognese single sword techniques was easy to do for the most part, even if it did not have the same reach that a typical sword would, which does limit certain actions.
The blade is very stiff, and the broad base of the blade combined with the narrow point would make a thrust with this weapon devastating. The sword comes unsharpened, so no test cutting was performed, but when performing drills against another sword, the steel is hard enough to hold its own against other weapons for western martial arts practice. At the same time, the sword is a little softer than many other, more expensive swords. If the buyer intends to use it for this purpose, or for other purposes such as stage combat, then the nicks and burrs that will develop on the edge will need to be filed out more often than with other trainers. Considering that this sword is sold for $150 US, and considering that the hardness is really not bad, I don't have any real complaints about this.
The pommel is a little wide compared to the grip, and for some it will take getting used to this. The user will need to shift between a "hammer grip", where the grip is held firmly, and a "handshake grip", where the grip is held loosely so that the pommel will slide against the inside of the wrist when performing cuts. This will depend on whether short, sharp strikes are being made, or larger, more fluid cuts are being utilized. I had no issues with using this sword, but if the user is not used to changing between these two types of grips then it may take time to get accustomed to this.
Fit and Finish
This is a surprisingly good-looking sword considering the price. The fittings are antiqued nickel, which give it a bronze appearance. While I would have preferred they use actual bronze, it is not a bad look at all, and obviously the metal choice was a compromise to keep down the price. The general form and proportions are quite nice. The decorations are tasteful. There are decorative notches on the guard that do not look quite as organic as an antique, but they still capture the general look well enough.
My only major complaint with the aesthetics would be that the fullers of the blade do not look like typical antiques. The reason for this is that the fullers on most originals that I have observed are very close together, and this reproduction has them spaced further apart, making them appear odd to my eye. While such a look is not at all out of the realm of possibility, it does depart from the design of the typical cinquedea. That aside, it is good to see that Windlass Steelcrafts did attempt to follow a characteristic look common with this type of weapon, which is to use multiple fullers in a row along the blade.
A leather scabbard is included and it has both its pluses and minuses. The fittings are of the same antiqued nickel to match the hilt, and are much more attractive than the standard nickel fittings typically seen on the scabbards by Windlass. The leather used is thick and stiff, with two decorative incised lines following the edges. The only drawback to the appearance is the glossy black dye used, when a more matte appearance would have been more appropriate. Some time spent with a Scotch-Brite pad would likely fix this issue, but it would be nice if the maker used a different finish. It likely would not affect the pricing much if at all.
Surprisingly, the scabbard fits snugly enough that the sword can be held upside-down without sliding out onto the ground. Most Windlass swords I've observed had very loose-fitting scabbards. Sadly, the mouth of the scabbard does not line up correctly with the guard. When sheathed, part of the blade can be seen because of this. It would seem that the scabbards are stamped out, and not made to fit the individual swords, which will vary from piece to piece.
While this piece has its flaws, I still would call it a winner for its price. For $150 US, one gets a decent looking sword that captures the overall proportions of originals in this style. It handles nicely and it has an acceptable heat-treatment. The flaws that come with it are not terrible, and are justifiable for the price. Seeing as there are not that many swords of this type reproduced on the production market, I'm pretty happy with this Windlass Steelcrafts offering for what it is.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Bill Grandy