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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 11:49 am    Post subject: Custom A&A "Swiss Saber" (Wallace Collection A         Reply with quote

Many years ago, I commissioned Arms & Armor to create a sword based on an antique (A489) located in the Wallace Collection. It's a complex-hilted "Swiss Saber" from circa 1530. The original is attributed to Itelhans Thumysen (died 1566) and is noted to be probably Swiss in origin.


The antique sword (A489) from the Wallace Collection:

Stats: Blade length: 39.96" (101.5 cm); Blade width: 1.5" (3.8 cm); Weight: 3.6 pounds (1.62 kg)



Additional photos of the full sword and of the hilt are in our albums section.

I've always loved this antique sword and have wanted to have a version of it made for quite some time. It's a very difficult design with its complex blade geometry and compound hilt. Not a lot of makers today could create a faithful version of it.

In times past, such a project may have had separate makers for blade and for hilt. A bladesmith would be tasked with one job and a cutler the other. This is often done In today's world as well, but this process is not always as seamless of a method as it once was. Blademakers and cutlers are often scattered far and wide and don't always have the same approach to or vision of a project. It's often difficult to get two makers with the same experience and understanding of the type of sword being created. This sometimes creates a less than ideal end-product.

For this complicated sword, I wanted it created in a single place and so I chose Craig Johnson at Arms & Armor for the job. Man, am I glad I went this route. It's taken him many years to get it into my hands, but the final product shows every bit of his experience and skill and I am extremely pleased with the piece!

The custom sword from Arms & Armor of Minnesota:

Stats: Overall length: 49.25" (125.1 cm); Blade length: 40" (101.6 cm); Blade width: 1.5" (3.8 cm); Weight: 3.7 pounds (1.68 kg); Point of Balance: ~5.5" (13.97 cm); Center of Percussion: ~24.75" (62.87 cm)



All things considered, the sword that Craig created is an example of one of the finest replica swords I've yet to experience. The dynamics and handling, blade geometry, hilt details, fit and finish, and every aspect of the whole are spot-on. Craig Johnson says he believes it may be the finest sword he's ever created. I have no reason to doubt him. Simply put, this is a masterpiece.

The sword may be a "looker", but I can tell you based on both examination of the original (through glass at the Wallace Collection) and from handling the interpretation that this sword is meant for business. Craig noted that he learned many things making it. He learned that each element has a purpose and nothing is superfluous. Every element is geared at creating a weapon of war. His recent trip to the 2009 Western Martial Arts Workshop taught him many things that were not only used in the creating of this sword but also that served to confirm why certain aspects of the original sword were created in the way they were.

The blade geometry is very complex. In the most basic terms, it's a single-edged hollow-ground design with a sharpened false edge and a bit of curve. That doesn't adequately describe the complexity, however. The blade is visually divided into "thirds", with a thickened spine at the first third nearest the hilt and a sharpened false edge at the last third.

The spine is very robust, especially at the first third of the blade and the center area is deeply hollow-ground. This area then blends into a very robust edge geometry. The actual edge is a true "apple-seed" section and is very, very sharp. The sharpness is a bit of a surprise given the robust area that supports the edge: it is not a fragile edge at all and yet is shockingly sharp. I did not expect such a thickened edge section to be able to be as sharp as it is. There' s a lot of meat behind that edge that combines with its finely blended geometry (no secondary bevel) to make for a robust but highly efficient cutting surface.



The blade was created using cross-grinding on a slack belt and was done completely freehand. Craig tells me it was one of the more difficult blades he's ever created and felt that at any given moment he was on the verge of complete disaster with it! The results show his hard work. The photos don't really give a precise representation of the blade's shape. At first glance, one might assume the cutting edge is on the wrong side because the edge-section is so robust and the spine so finely blended with the hollow-grinding. The part behind the edge almost looks like the spine. It's a very unique illusion!

The sword is quite large and fairly heavy, yet is agile and maneuverable. It doesn't feel at all heavy. It handles extremely well. There's many surprises here, too, and I'm only just starting to discover them.


I've rambled enough. I hope Craig takes a moment to share some thoughts about this piece and in particular share with us his views of its use. I've taken some quick photos of the sword. Please have a look:

Click any photo to see the full-sized version


More photos of the piece from Arms & Armor:







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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Included here are some photos of the sword as taken by Craig Johnson of Arms & Armor. They not only show the sword wonderfully but also show off some bad ass photography skills. There's some fantastic composition shown in these photos, Craig. Great job!

Click any photo to see the full-sized version






















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Jason Elrod




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 11:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Absolutely stunning!
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan,
You have exquisite taste and a knack for selecting the right artisan for the job. Craig did an outstanding job on the sword--definitely the finest I've seen from A&A or any larger scale maker. I am sure it will look great grouped with your other fine swords. Happy

Jonathan
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Chris Lampe




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fantastic sword!!

Nathan, I remember you expressing your admiration for this particular sword several times in years past and it's awesome to see it reproduced by A&A. Congratulations to both you and Craig!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, that's just beautiful. Happy It's very complex without looking like it's trying to be complex. It's a great piece. Congrats!
Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't even really know what to say...I am not a fan of this type of sword, but I envy you nonetheless. And
I want that sword. Congratulations to you and also to Craig, this piece would be a triumph for any craftsman, I should think.
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 1:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan, that is a beautiful sword. After waiting years to get it, opening the box, taking it out, and holding it in your hands for the first time must have been an ecstatic moment.

Arms and Armor is showing our community that it is second to none in the creation of custom swords.
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Colin F.




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Having handled an original swiss sabre at RA in Leeds I have now gone green with envy that you have such a jaw dropping modern version of that type of sword.

It seems that complex blade geometry is something that is quite common amongst this sword type and that it was of the endearing features of this sword type.

Right then, I need to get one of these myself!

Melchett - "In short, a German spy is giving away every one of our battle plans."
Cpt. Darling - "You look surprised, Blackadder."
Edmund - "I cerainly am, sir. I didn't realise we had any battle plans."
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Ken Speed





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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 2:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan,


WOW! What a sword and what an achievement for Arms and Armor. I've been kicking around here for a couple of years reading and learning and I truly don't feel I know enough to even comment intelligently.

I'd be very pleased if you could comment more fully on the functionality of the sword and I agree I would be very interested to hear what the maker was willing to share about this sword.

The waiting must have driven you crazy!


Congratulations!
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fantastic sword - and indeed, very fine photography skills are displayed here! Quite obviously you made a right choice when deciding on who to order a replica from.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well words fail ! But that has never stopped me before. Wink

WOW ! Beautiful sword and from your words I guess it took a few more years than originally assumed/expected to get it, but the results sure seem worth the wait.

I liked the look of this type of sword to a minor degree before, but now it's going to nag at me that I NEED a good complex hilted sword eventually like this.

I'm also curious about the handling compared to non-complex hilt longsword ? I'm assuming that it can be used one handed but it sure looks like it would welcome a second hand on the hilt.

I also assume that the complex hilt is thought out carefully to not interfere with good sword technique that might be similar to a longsword or grossmesser ?

The complex grind is both beautiful and very logical in design: The thick edge geometry making the edge robust and the hollow grind minimizing any friction that would slow down a cut. The thick spine giving good rigidity in the thrust and some weight behind a cut..

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 2:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very spiffy. It reminds me of that Elven Saber someone posted not too long ago.

M.

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pictures always seem to fall short of capturing everything but based on what I can see here I Think I can understand why Craig might state that this may be his best work ever.
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. I'm always so happy to see a reproduction piece so well done. Good taste, great maker, and a deep knowledge and understanding of swords seems to have come together to help create such a masterpiece. Congratulations Nathan!
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 5:18 pm    Post subject: Swiss Sword         Reply with quote

Evening all

Glad you like the sword Happy I always want to caveat the statements about me in that we are a shop and all contribute to the pieces at A&A.

This sword was a real life experience! It started well and then had a long time of a bit of work and then some thought and a bit more work. It got out of hand time wise but as Nathan said it would not have been half the sword it is if I had finished even a few months earlier.

It ended up being a coming together of what I knew about the original and what I knew about swords and what I have begun to understand about how such a sword would be used. It is something I am still getting my head around as far as how that all comes together in this sword. I do not call these "Swiss Sabers" any more. I think it brings some baggage with it as a name and the assumptions people might make about the type. I prefer at this point to call it a complex hilted messer or longsword. I think these terms more clearly define the aspects of what this sword is designed for.

It is very much a combat sword for fighting. While I love the style of the hilt and the detail, they are not why it was made, this sword just feels lethal in the hand and it is designed at all its points to enhance its fighting attributes.

The blade while slightly curved works as an effective longsword blade and allows all the attacks and defenses to work smoothly and very effectively. Even the use of the back edge is fully functional and has some interesting side effects with the majority of it being non sharpened.

The hilt was very enlightening when we actually went to build the piece. It is something you think you know when you look at it in a picture but when the hand is on the sword it is different than one might assume. The side ring with the clover leaf shape precludes the ability to place the finger over the guard. This is something most people want to do. But when held in the hands as one holds the longsword, in the German traditions, it becomes obvious the finger loop is not for the fore finger but rather the support to the bar that protects the thumb on the back guard.

I was working on Roger's sword about the same time when I realized this and started to rethink the whole idea of why a thumb ring is on a sword. It is not so much security of grip or point control. I have always liked thumb rings on swords for these reasons. But rather if one uses a sword with a thumb ring like a messer and you use the thumb ring as a rotational point for the back cuts and sweeping actions the swords begin to sing in the hand and it becomes quite obvious what an advantage such a detail would give the user.

The guard on Nathan's sword therefore offers great protection to the thumb and the outer bars make the hands quite safe in the wards of Pflug and Ochs.

In a way I would call this sword a longsword on steroids. It's not bigger or heavier so much as designed to be more effective and provide better protection than other styles. This of course would be an opinion of the maker and user who choose such a piece but I guess I would be falling in there perspective.

While a challenge this sword was a joy to work on and it was difficult to ship off as I wanted it Happy

But as Nathan had demonstrated such great patience and understanding I knew it needed to go home. I hope she keeps him well and is happy there.

One last note: the sword did behave quite well through the whole of being made but when I was taking so many pictures I went to wipe the blade once and the edge went through the rag and into my thumb with no sense of me being cut and I did not notice until I pulled my hand away and the sword tugged against my thumb. We decided I was objectifying her a bit to much Eek! and I best just oil the sword and ship it off.

Let me know if anyone has any specific questions and I will do my best to answer.

Best
Craig
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 6:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Swiss Sword         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:
Evening all

It ended up being a coming together of what I knew about the original and what I knew about swords and what I have begun to understand about how such a sword would be used. It is something I am still getting my head around as far as how that all comes together in this sword. I do not call these "Swiss Sabers" any more. I think it brings some baggage with it as a name and the assumptions people might make about the type. I prefer at this point to call it a complex hilted messer or longsword. I think these terms more clearly define the aspects of what this sword is designed for.


I'm guessing that Swiss saber became the name because some of the originals are Swiss in origin and because the blades are slightly curved someone decided in the 19th century to call it a saber.

Complex hilt longsword or messer seems much more descriptive as far as use is concerned.

Oh, I'm fairly sure that the hilt is designed for right hand use but would it be usable left handed even if the guards are not optimally placed for such a use ?
( Right hand closest to the guard since both hands would be used ) ?

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was on the phone earlier with Chad and we started to discuss how large this sword actually is. The photos don't really fully demonstrate this fact so I wanted to add some info that will add context.

Custom A&A "Swiss Saber"
Overall length: 49.375"
Blade length: 40.125"
Weight: 3.7 pounds

Here are some sizes of popular production swords for comparison:

A&A German Bastard Sword
Overall length: 48.625"
Blade length: 37.5"
Weight: 4.5 pounds

Albion Regent Sword
Overall length: 48"
Blade length: 37.25"
Weight: 3.5 pounds

Albion Earl Sword
Overall length: 48"
Blade length: 37.375"
Weight: 3.25 pounds

Albion Baron Sword
Overall length: 47.5"
Blade length: 37.25"
Weight: 3.7 pounds

Albion Duke Sword
Overall length: 46"
Blade length: 36"
Weight: 3.25 pounds


Note that it's dimensionally larger than all of these other swords.


I snapped a photo alongside some other pieces in my collection for comparison:



Click photo to see the full-sized version

Note that the hand and a half sword in the photo has these stats:
Overall length: 44.75"
Blade length: 36.625"
Weight: 3.3 pounds

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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 6:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Swiss Sword         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Oh, I'm fairly sure that the hilt is designed for right hand use but would it be usable left handed even if the guards are not optimally placed for such a use ?
( Right hand closest to the guard since both hands would be used ) ?


Hi Jean

I think if you kept the right hand forward it might work. But if you went to the left hand forward it would not allow the thumb to slide forward. Here are a couple of pics to show how the hands fit. These are my hands and while not big per-say they are not thin Happy

Craig



 Attachment: 10.83 KB
handins.jpg


 Attachment: 9.23 KB
handsout.jpg

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Oct, 2009 7:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks usable with both hands but might be more comfortable if an inch or two longer in the handle for better leverage but the shorter handles of a bastard sword would be close to this as opposed to the longer types of longsword.

Normal handling would seem to include both one handed and two handed use in my opinion.

Are there any historical mention of the use of these i.e. fencing style etc ....

I assume that the dimensions of the handle are closely based to the original that inspired it so the length can't be wrong but one might imagine a variant with a slightly longer handle !?

Anyway, great work there by you and the other team members of A & A. Big Grin Cool

( EDITED NEW: From a P.M. discussion with Nathan it seems that the handle length works just as it is so any extra length might compromise the handling much more than a little extra hand space would help and would not be a good design change ).

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!


Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Sun 18 Oct, 2009 10:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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