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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 9:50 am    Post subject: Review: Arms and Armour Custom Germanic ‘XII’         Reply with quote

Introduction and Overview

This sword replica was built by Arms and Armor (A&A) based in Minneapolis, MN, USA, one of the most established companies in the business. It is a custom replica based on a 13th century sword found in somewhere in Western Germany. The most distinctive feature of this sword is its crescent shaped pommel, which is known to exist on only 3 surviving swords, but is represented more frequently in period Art. The distribution of this and similar sword types corresponds to the extent of the Empire at that time, as well as areas of Eastern Europe that are known to have been occupied by the Teutonic Knights. It is possible that the crescent shape of this pommel symbolizes St. Mary, the patron saint of the Teutonic Order. For more background details, including extensive development photos of the modern sword, see: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=21804

The A&A sword is not an exact replica of the original – for example the guard has been tapered more toward the tips in ‘spikehilt’ fashion (according to my taste and period art) and the blade may not be as long (the original has a broken tip) – see comparison photo below. However, based on the very limited data that we have, it is an accurate representation of an early version of this unusual sword type. The combination of the crescent pommel, extra wide guard, and substantial blade make for a sword with a very dramatic and commanding presence. Although it is an elegant looking sword, every bit of it –-the big tapering blade, long spiky cross, and double-horned pommel-- could be used to maim, and visually proclaim ‘I am a weapon, made for intimidation and distruction’.

Measurements and Specifications

Overall Length: 40.2in/1021mm
Blade Length: 33.9in/862mm
Blade Width at Hilt: 2in/50mm
Grip Length: 4.6in/117mm
Guard Length: 10.3in/261mm
Center of Gravity: 5in/127mm in front of guard
Center of Percussion: ~21in/530mm (+/- 1in)
Weight: 3.1lbs/1425g
Oakeshott Typology: type XII blade, type O pommel, type 1 cross.

Handling Characteristics

Type XII swords are thought to represent an early compromise between the cut and the thrust, and this sword exemplifies these properties in a somewhat large single-handed sword. Its size and handling also puts it in a range suitable for cavalry use while remaining maneuverable enough for close encounters, so this seems to be the ‘all around, all purpose’ high medieval warsword.

As Craig Johnsson of A&A put it, this is a solid feeling sword. The weight of the blade is offset by a massive pommel, and more importantly, the overall weight (although on the high end for a single hand sword) is distributed very well. In addition to the profile taper (linear at first, gentle convex curve toward the tip), this sword possesses the strongest distal taper in blade thickness of any of the 3 A&A products I own so far. Starting from a blade thickness of ~5mm, it tapers down to less than 2mm toward the tip (I don’t have callipers so this is an estimate). Overall its blade geometry is similar to better known swords like the Albion Knight/Laird/Caithness line, but a just lot bigger and somewhat heavier. The sum of all this is a sword that feels very authoritative, but is still reasonably agile to handle dynamically and through guard transitions.

The sword also follows through fairly easily and accurately on the thrust, although one feels its weight on the shoulder when the arm is fully extended in half-speed drills (I use a suspended ring of cord for thrusting practice).

I have not tried cutting with it or thrusting against real targets (other than poking the tip through the box it arrived in) and likely will not subject this sword to harsh treatment, but with its dimensions, handling, and sharp integral edge, one would expect this sword to excel against medium and heavy targets. Moreover, the blade is surprisingly stiff and resistant to vibration, perhaps a combination of the narrow fuller, good harmonics, and the temper. The blade tapers to quite a fierce point that has been left slightly thick at the very tip, so one expects better than average thrusting performance for a sword of this era.

Nice sound effects too - the sword produces a woosh or a whistle, depending how fast it is swung, and rings with a sustained chime at the slightest touch against anything solid.

A final note on handling – in contrast to earlier Brazil nut swords, the length of the grip and the wideness of the pommel orthogonal the blade mitigate against the use of a handshake grip on this sword – it is clearly a ‘hammer grip’ sword. However one can shorten up the grip against the pommel and get a very comfortable, ergonomic support against the hand. It’s possible this would come into play more for a larger mailed fist filling the whole grip – but I don’t currently have the equipment to test this theory.

Fit and Finish

The components of this sword are tightly hitched together with no gaps, as one should expect from a company like A&A. When it comes to finish, I think some people can be disappointed by custom swords – the assumption is that you are paying more so everything should be better. But this does not account that the artist/craftsman is may be doing some aspects of the project for the first time on a made-to-order custom sword, and does not have the same practice they would have on a design they are more used to.

However, this is not the case here. In this sword, everything is executed perfectly and shows the best finish of the few custom-made swords I have handled. The fuller, the cutting surfaces of the blade, the cross, the pommel are all equally impressive, with no scratches, coarse grind marks, or unevenness. The unusual pommel – which was essentially hand sculpted from a block of metal – is actually smoother than it appears in some of Craig’s own photos – the apparent variations in shape arising from subtle changes of hue in the finish that look quite nice in real life. I have searched all over the blade and can only find one unexpected irregularity – a slight serration of the blade edge for 1CM near the tip.

Finally, the grip is something that Craig designed, coming up with the multiple triple-risers and deciding on black, which suits the somewhat sinister appearance of this sword. The grip is very positive – but I have not been practicing lately and need to develop some callouses to be completely comfortable with the ridges on this grip.

Conclusion

Despite being historically documented, and having possible Christian connections with the Teutonic Order, and possible saintly feminine imagery, there is something very ‘dark fantasy’ about this sword, calling up images of sorcerous swords from the Tolkien and Moorcock books that fired our youthful imaginations. Truly it would be a fearsome thing to see a Teutonic Knight with one of these in hand, charging toward you on horseback through the Prussian countryside.

It’s always a privilege to own a custom sword from a top-notch manufacturer, but to have such a unique design, and have it turn out so well in the details of blade geometry and finish, is simply a blessing. I feel very fortunate to own this sword, grateful to Craig Johnson and his colleagues for the obvious TLC put into the sword, and grateful for many pleasant exchanges of information, ideas, and photos with Craig leading up to the fruition of this project.

Finally, I dedicate this project -the making and documenting of this sword- to the memory of my father, who was ill and passed away just as things got rolling. http://yourlifemoments.ca/sitepages/obituary.asp?oid=450596



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comparison.JPG
Comparison with Original.

Drawing courtesy of M Aleksić, Photo by Craig Johnson.


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Sword in Profile

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Blade-on view

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Sword in Hand

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A&A swords.JPG
With some other A&A swords in my collection
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Thom R.




Location: Tucson
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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Really nice.... love that pommel but its the blade that does it for me. I love the type XII blade and that is just one lovely sword in a hilt style not often replicated. given the length/weight/COG I would imagine that would be a sword that once in motion and aligned to the target its going to slice through whatever tatami it hits Cool thanks for sharing! tr
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Seeing the sword in the hand and alongside other hilts is pure candy.

Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts about this piece.

It's really impressive. It makes me want to start collecting that era of weaponry, but I have too much stuff as it is so maybe I should just start all over? Happy

Seeing how graceful--in terms of shape and proportion--the completed sword is now makes me wonder why this is not a more commonly created form in the modern market. I like it quite a bit.

Cheers.

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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Damn. That sword looks like a beast.

Thats a very nice sword you have got there! Happy

The pommel is very nice, too bad we don't see too many of those. Like Nathan's urge to start collecting that era of weaponry, I suddenly feel compelled to put together a Teutonic Knight kit built around a sword like that...

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. that is a beautiful sword. Both you and the people at Arms and Armor should feel proud of your collaboration in resurrecting this configuration that has been neglected for so long
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 4:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is one of the nicest repro pieces I've seen in ages! The "in hand" photos really show the size of this sword. I just love the pommel but seeing it next to the two other A&A offerings you have really show it's size. Simply awesome! Thank you for posting it, and especially for the in progress thread you did about it. It has to be very exciting to finally have this one in your hands after such a great built up! Enjoy it JD!
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Apr, 2011 10:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
This is one of the nicest repro pieces I've seen in ages! The "in hand" photos really show the size of this sword. I just love the pommel but seeing it next to the two other A&A offerings you have really show it's size. Simply awesome! Thank you for posting it, and especially for the in progress thread you did about it. It has to be very exciting to finally have this one in your hands after such a great built up! Enjoy it JD!


Yes I would second all the above it does look even more impressive and scary next to the other swords.

The handle seems to me just long enough that it leaves enough room for the off hand to grip the pommel for occasional use with two hands: If I remember correctly we do see iconography of one handed sword occasionally used two handed for an especially heavy blow or maybe when really exhausted by a long day on the battlefield.

Very handsome blade and the very wide guard gives this sword a unique look and proportions.

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




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Apr, 2011 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks guys, it means a lot coming from you.

Much of the fun of this one was in the research and learning along the way. If you're in t he market for a custom job, I highly reccomend looking up something off the beaten path. Those of us in North America tend to know what is published in English, which tends to focus on certain regions and time periods. There are still lots of important and beautiful swords out there waiting to be replicated. For someone with a period interest it could just be a question of shifting to a different region.

In my first decade of collecting I tended to gravitate toward items that touch on my cultural roots (Scottish, Scandinavian) and the Crusades. I was not really aware of the Northern Crusades and Teutonic knights until I accompanied my Polish wife on a business trip to Gdansk (Danzig) and had a chance to see some of the Order's suriviving works, including the awesome Marienburg Castle. I can't wait to go back for a museum tour some day. There's a wealth of history in Eastern Europe.

That the sword turned out so well is, of course, completely Craig's doing. But I like the idea of calling it a collaboration, not just in the sense that one side provides the commission and the other provides the talent, but also because both people's visions end up influencing the sword. I think that's key to enjoying the final product.

Regards, JD

PS - A thought for anyone interested: early Medieval Spain had some pretty unusual swords, at least in the period art I've seen (see Nicole's book on Arms and Armor in the Crusdaing Era). There's also plenty of fertile ground there.
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sun 03 Apr, 2011 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

The handle seems to me just long enough that it leaves enough room for the off hand to grip the pommel for occasional use with two hands: If I remember correctly we do see iconography of one handed sword occasionally used two handed for an especially heavy blow or maybe when really exhausted by a long day on the battlefield.


Jean, I just tried it and you are right - by placing the other thumb and index finger around the grip, the palm then comfortably goes over the wide rounded pommel and provides immense leverage for the swing. One could also shift the other hand behind the pommel to give extra power to the thrust.

Still perplexed whey there weren't more of these!
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Apr, 2011 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
Those of us in North America tend to know what is published in English, which tends to focus on certain regions and time periods. There are still lots of important and beautiful swords out there waiting to be replicated. For someone with a period interest it could just be a question of shifting to a different region.

There's a wealth of history in Eastern Europe.



Great point JD. I love to see some branching out from some of the stuff we see all the time. Swords (threads?) like this help to bring these seldom seen varieties a bit of celebrity! Eastern Europe has been my focus for a little while now. It's amazing to see the differences that a "few" miles make! Even with some common elements there are wide divergences in how swords were finished. Your sword is a great example. Type XII blades were pretty common but the pommel you chose is uncommon. Eastern Europe in particular seemed to finish some common blades with pretty wacky hilt elements. Good to see someone "moving east" with their tastes. You know you are forcing me to have some Rus viking swords made, don't you Moriarty?
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
You know you are forcing me to have some Rus viking swords made, don't you Moriarty?


Trying to throw me off with a new avatar Holmes? You always were the master of disguise. But go where you will - from Vinland to Kiev, Lapland to Constantinople, my evil shadow will ever haunt you....hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha.
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