Windlass Steelcrafts High Middle Ages Dagger
A hands-on review by Mark Mattimore
Daggers were the ubiquitous, do-everything sidearm of the Middle Ages, carried by everyone from the noblest lord to the lowliest peasant. There are countless existing examples of everything from rough peasant knives to stately ceremonial weapons worn with full regalia suitable for the high functions of court. Despite their use as a dress accessory, daggers are ultimately meant for personal self defense, primarily as a stabbing weapon.
The High Middle Ages Dagger from Windlass Steelcrafts is representative of a classic 14th century style, a kind that would be worn by a knight. This style, known as the quillon dagger, first became popular with the knightly class in the mid 13th century. By the 14th century it could be worn en suite with a matching sword, a trend that would go out of style but would be revived later in the mid-16th century with matching rapier and dagger sets.
This piece represents the classic quillon form, one of several traditional types of daggers ubiquitous throughout the Middle Ages, the other forms being ballock, rondel, ear, and baselard. Quillon daggers are also known as "sword-hilted" daggers, a term that clearly describes their resemblance to the traditional cruciform style of a medieval sword. Daggers of this style are one of the most instantly recognizable symbols of knightly status.
This dagger represents a basic medieval side arm but with a bit of flare. Its aesthetics definitely suggest the weapon of a noble as opposed to the crude poker carried by a commoner. This item has been in the Museum Replicas Limited catalog for a few years and is, in this reviewer's opinion, one of the nicer daggers offered by the company. This dagger was purchased from By The Sword, a retailer that I've used several times before with great success. It was unavailable at the time of order but arrived after a short backorder wait of only a few weeks.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Windlass Steelcrafts of India.
This dagger is a joy to hold. The grip possesses a flattened profile that is very comfortable in the hand but does feel a bit small and thus reinforces my opinion that this piece is better suited to civilian use than military. Wearing a full plate gauntlet could be trouble as the hilt components do not allow for a lot of wiggle room.
The dagger is very quick and light and moves through a variety of movements with ease. Unlike some medieval daggers, this piece is equally adept at both cutting and thrusting moves and actually feels lively in the hand.
Fit and Finish
Overall, this is a very handsome piece. It possesses clean, symmetrical lines that are well-tooled and precisely executed. The wheel pommel is nicely done and has a raised central hub as on many medieval swords. The cross-guard resembles that of a curved Oakeshott Style 5 guard, further lending to the overall impression of a miniature sword. The dagger does not, however, perfectly reflect its 14th century forbearers. This is clearly a modern interpretation of the knightly quillon dagger, representing a variety of examples of this style and not an exact replica of a specific historic piece.
The grip is wrapped with small gauge silver wire that is tightly wound and securely finished. Contrary to the feel of some wire-wraps that I've examined, this makes for a surprisingly comfortable grip. The feel is smooth yet secure, with the wire providing just enough traction to keep it firmly in hand with or without a glove. The swollen style of the grip's design additionally lends itself to a secure, comfortable hold.
Like almost all Windlass offerings, this dagger came with a free scabbard that is typical of their other items that I've experienced. It is not an overly attractive scabbard yet is not unappealing. It is a bit bulky, especially the over-built chape, and does not reflect the elegance of the dagger within. It is quite functional, however, with a tight fit that snuggly grips the blade and stays nicely secure. A quick pull removes the blade with little effort.
The overall quality and design of the merchandise from Windlass Steelcrafts can vary widely; however, more recent models seem to be improving. I have experienced first-hand several of their more recent releases and can unequivocally state that they offer one of the best value equations on the market today.
While lacking in the more subtle details, finish and handling characteristics, Windlass still continues to provide the collector/medieval/reenactment community with durable weapons at reasonable prices. While far from perfect or on par with high-end production shops, Windlass represents a valuable and necessary market niche.
The High Middle Ages Dagger is a quality piece that accurately represents a noble, knightly dagger. It is a very stylish option for anyone looking for a classic medieval sidearm. This dagger would complement the 14th century kit of a knightly nobleman and nicely balance a sword that has a similar wheel pommel. It makes an excellent addition to any collection.
About the Author
Mark Mattimore is a writer living in Cincinnati. An obsessive reader and true lover of history, he has an abiding interest in medieval arms and armour in addition to being a student of the western mystery tradition. Professionally, he works as a copywriter with specialties in word-of-mouth marketing and brand identity development.
Photographer: Chad Arnow