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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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Posts: 1,810

PostPosted: Sat 07 Mar, 2009 11:50 am    Post subject: Darksword getting better? A Crecy Review         Reply with quote

This is a follow-up to some information I posted under the thread ‘Darksword Armoury...is good?’ I did not have a good experience with my first Darksword product, bought and returned about 5 years ago. However, since then I have had some pleasant exchanges with Eyal at Darksword and promised to give them another try.

Darksword Armoury’s heavy blade designs cater to re-enactment groups and/or sword enthusiasts who wish to subject their reproductions to a lot of abuse. Over the past 5 years they have gained an increasing reputation for durable swords (e.g., see the ‘Sword Buyer’s Guide’ Site). However they have earned less respect from the segments of the community that value historical accuracy and/or good handling properties for historical fencing. Although I avoided them for 5 years, lately I have taken the view that the sword manufacturing community is small, so it is better to reward any progress and encourage them to make more progress in the historical direction. In that vein, here is a comparison with one of their older models with one I just purchased last week.

My first Darksword Armoury purchase (in 2004) was the Agnicourt Sword. I was not happy with it because:
- it was very heavy and unwieldy (nearly 5 pounds, 6-7” PoB)
- it had a rather unhistorical ricasso (for its style), which happened to be twisted
- about a 2mm blunt edge
- it did not fit properly in to the leather scabbard
- the screw on pommel soon came loose
I returned the sword and, some years later, Eyal agreed that he was never very fond of that model either for aesthetic and handling reasons. He says it was originally designed for a specific reenactment group, but they kept making them.

More recently I have been eyeing the ‘Crecy War Sword’, pictured here. http://www.darksword-armory.com/1333.html They had a demo model on sale, so I bought it. (It looks just like the picture).

Some Stats for the Crecy:

- 27.5 inch blade
- about ¼ inch thick, almost to the tip (little if any distal taper).
- Edge about 1mm (sorry for switching systems)
- No ricasso (good)
- PoB about 4”
- 3 pounds 3 ounces (according to Eyal)
- heavy screw-on pommel

It is basically a short-sword version of Oakeshott’s Records Xa13, which has been replicated more faithfully by others (e.g., the Albion Ritter). It also departs from the original in having a higher more pronounced middle peak to the centre of the cocked-hat pommel, and lower side peaks. (Actually, this is what attracted me – I didn’t have a cocked-hat pommel in my collection before because I don’t like the standard shape). The blade is hard to classify, but might be called a short Xa.

So overall it is not a replica, but is it historically plausible? I am not sure why Darksword chose to call it the ‘Crecy’, since they admit that it dates to an earlier period (they say 1250-1300), which is still later than the original museum piece (1100). My recollection is that cocked-hat pommels were most prominent from 1100-1250, with the higher forms like this one coming later. So we could put the hilt around 1200-50, but the blade form seems earlier, unless one squints and calls it an XII (or a very early XIV). There’s an issue also with the length: looking at the guard, it seems to cry out for a longer blade, perhaps because the original sword blade was a full 10 inches longer and one rarely sees short versions of this type. However if one is open minded, there were short swords around much earlier (see records X12 and X14 for example). In fact in his description of X12, Oakeshott suggests that they were much more common and important than we think, based on period art and literature, and may not have survived often because they were infantry workhorses rather than heirlooms. So in the end: historically plausible, if one keeps an open mind.

Performance

I have only tested the sword in dry handling. The stats tell the story, and I got exactly what I expected. It’s a little tank. Because of its compact size and decent point of balance, its just barely handle-able for standard styles of arming sword fencing (compared to other replicas of swords in this period). It's easy to aim, but rather sluggish for its size (due to the overall weight and mass distribution). In fact if feels heavier than it is supposed to be, although that might be because one expects a small sword to feel light. If it had the full length of the original (with the same lack of distal taper but additional weight toward the end), one can see that it would be completely unwieldy. Perhaps this is why Darksword has been turning out more short swords. It’s very stiff, and I found it had better point control than I expected, so it could be an unexpectedly decent thruster (for this typology). But it’s obviously a cutter, although mine is not sharpened and again I have not done any test cutting. The blade has a 'nice ring to it' when struck (Still not sure if that really means anything beyond tight fitting furniture, but I like it).

Fit and finish:

Blade: I was warned there might be a few tiny scratches from demo use, so I cannot complain about that. The evenness of the blade grinding and fuller is about what you see on a better Windlass, but not as even as e.g., Arms and Armor products. But I add a point for being traditionally hand-forged, and other here for being local (Oh, Canada!).

Hilt: Everything tight. I quite like the looks of the hilt assembly (robust but elegant), and I like the coarse-grained cowhide grip, although the stitching going up the wide side instead of the narrow side makes it more prominent when turned to the eye. Eyal says he like it this way – a matter of taste I guess.

Scabbard:

Seems to be leather with some kind of wood or composite core. A bit loose in the fit, but at least it fits, looks decent and should be good for storage. An improvement since 2004.

Durability.

Whether the pommel, guard and handle remain tight remains to be seen, but since this was a demo model, and apparently made ‘two production runs’ ago, it seems likely that they are not going anywhere. I have every reason to believe, though, that this robust blade could come through World War 3 with barely a scratch – just go to ‘sword buyer’s guide’ for their test-to-destruction reviews.

Conclusion.

An interesting little brute of a sword – historically plausible in general outline, and just barely handle-able for any historically authentic sword-like use, but obviously designed to take much more of a beating than original swords were used for. If you are looking for a tough sword for re-enactment or backyard abuse, this would be a good choice. If you are looking for a sweet handling sword, or one that you can safely say ‘this is a museum replica”, forget it. Nevertheless, overall it’s a definite improvement over the Darksword product I bought several years ago. I cannot say it is a bad sword – I think its attractive and quite functional at what it was designed to do. But it is not exactly what I, and many others who contribute to this site, are generally looking for in an historical replica.

Eyal has told me that Darksword Amoury has started to use ‘butted tangs’ (I think that means peened-on pommels) in their last production run, and plans to start a higher-end line of more strictly historical swords. I would applaud that as a great step if it happens – I see no reason why they could not carry different products to satisfy different sides of the sword-enthusiast community. If so, it will be important for Darksword to be clear about where individual models fit in this spectrum, so that we get what we are looking for when we order from them.

For the time being, I have challenged Eyal to build 1-2 custom designed swords that are closer to the original museum pieces and have blades designed for better handling characteristics. I look forward to reviewing those swords for this community when they are done.

-JD
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