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Sam Barris

Location: San Diego, California
Joined: 29 Apr 2004
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Posts: 608

PostPosted: Wed 07 Jan, 2009 2:46 am    Post subject: Reflections on a Steel Christmas         Reply with quote

This past Christmas, I did not receive any new swords. However, I did finally introduce myself to four new swords that I had purchased at various points during the two years since I was last on American soil. They had been living in the closet of my old bedroom for quite some time. Upon my return, I was nearly overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of swordy goodness. I would like to take a moment to share my thoughts on each. I apologize for having no pictures. I have not had occasion to replace my old digital camera, which was a casualty of my last deployment. Photographs will be forthcoming… eventually.

AT/CF Venetian Sidesword: This was something I picked up used on the Marketplace and had sent to Mr. Fletcher for a new hilt and a scabbard. Not that there was anything really wrong with the old hilt, I just didn’t care for the looks. Everything Bill Grandy said in his review of the other AT/CF Sidesword applies just as well to the Venetian. The sword is extremely light in the blade and consequently easy to maneuver. The complex guard is extremely well-made and gorgeous, as are the scabbard and grip. The entire package is perfect. Very nice little sword.

Albion Mark Pirate King: Another Marketplace acquisition, which I bought because, let’s face it, an Officer of the Line absolutely must be armed with a proper cutlass. And now I am! This is much heavier than it looked in the pictures, but due to the length, still easy to move. The hilt is a figure-of-eight with nice cutouts and I especially like the blade, which looks like a beefier version of the Navy’s M1917. Perfect thing to go on the wall next to my dress saber.

Albion Next Gen Munich (Gothic hilt): I posted something about this one when Christian sent me a picture of it in the scabbard, and I can only say it lives up to every expectation and more. The edge is surprisingly sharp for being so narrow and having such a thick spine, and the tip, despite being reinforced by the spine towards the end, is nothing less than needle sharpness. I can’t imagine a rapier being any pointier. The original Bayerisches sword (and others of the type) must have been the stuff of nightmares to any armor-clad foe who went up against it. More on the handling in a bit…

Albion Museum Line Svante: I opened this one last. I cannot say enough good things about this sword. It is absolutely magnificent. The only thing I can think to compare it to is the Master Sword from the Legend of Zelda games. That’s how I felt drawing it from the wooden crate for the first time (and the second time, and the third, and so forth). In fact, every time I touched it I felt that a choir somewhere should be bursting into Ode to Joy, or O Fortuna or something, and a single shaft of sunlight should break through the clouds and shine down on me, illuminating that stunning blade. Patrick’s comments about slaying dragons with it also come to mind. Every element of the sword’s geometry, from the blade to the pommel, is flawlessly executed. Also, the sword is really quite massive. Much larger than it looks in pictures. Yet somehow the proportions work out such that it is not unwieldy in the least.

With regard to both the Munich and Svante, I need to talk about handling. Both of these swords surprised me. In short, I’d handled two kinds of swords before this. There were the obscenely top-heavy weapons that I’d purchased from MRL years ago (mostly purged from my collection now) and then there were things like the Ancient Edge 14th Century Bastard Sword (see Patrick’s review). In short, there were really heavy swords that were too off-balance to be used effectively, and then there were really light swords that were easy to use due entirely to their lack of mass (even the Venetian falls mostly into the second category). I mention this because I hadn’t handled any Albion swords before last month, and bought those two mostly on the strength of their fan base here, as well as the many glowing reviews on this site. In spite of that, I’m something of an eternal skeptic and was still taking terms like “dynamic handling” with a grain of salt, never having experienced it firsthand. In my former worldview, swords that move quickly do so because there isn’t much metal to move in the first place. What I discovered, to my extreme joy, is that the Albions actually have a good deal of mass in them. My first thought when drawing the Munich from its scabbard was that it was much heavier than I was expecting given Albion’s reputation for making swords that handle well. Then I tried a few cuts in the air and that weight just vanished. Every line I’d ever read about swords that “want” to move, or that handle like living things all came back to me and made perfect sense. The only way I can describe the sensation is to say that it felt almost as if there was an invisible network of strings, pulleys and counterweights constructed all around me and attached to the sword, making it effortless to wield. That’s how good it felt in the hand. This effect was amplified in the Svante due to its greater static weight and closer POB. When you just hold it, you can pretty much feel all four pounds of it. Then you slide into a guard and try a cut or two and you might as well be holding a lightsaber. There are many other things to rave about with regard to those two weapons. The absolute lack of a double bevel, for example, which I’d seen only on high-end Japanese swords before now.

A old friend of mine also managed to return this year for Christmas. Incidentally, this friend also introduced me to MRL back when we were children and Del Tin still made their swords. I was able to finally return the favor. He stood there for a moment holding my Munich with a wistful expression on his face and said, “You know, I thought I was pretty much done with the whole obsession with swords thing. Thanks a lot for ruining that for me. Now I’m going to have to get one of these.”

My thanks and compliments to Peter Johnsson, the entire team at Albion, Angus Trim and Christian Fletcher. This was an amazing Christmas being able to come home to such an array of great weaponry.

Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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