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Jeremy V. Krause




Location: Buffalo, NY.
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PostPosted: Mon 23 May, 2011 9:50 pm    Post subject: Review: Patrick Barta Type XI Sword         Reply with quote

Overview:

This is a sword inspired by XI.5. in "Records of the Medieval Sword" by Ewart Oakeshott. The same pictures of this sword, but of slightly higher quality, can be found in "Sword in Hand" published by Arms & Armor of Minnesota. This sword is truly an "inspired by" piece as neither I nor Patrick Barta have handled or seen this sword in person. Information on weight, some measurements, POB etc. were unavailable as reference for this commission. Regarding handling Oakeshott does state that that the original "handles like a fishing rod." Given this most vague description it is very difficult to get any picture of the handling characteristics of the original. I did feel that Oakeshott was indicating that this sword did have rather sweet handling characteristics and was not on the heavier end of period examples. For this reason, I requested that Mr. Barta produce a reletively "light" sword.
The beast-head terminals of the original are somewhat unclear in the photos so the specifics of their design was left to Mr. Barta. The same is true of the pommel shape, which is hard to guage in a 3 D sense. Only the profile is clear in the pictures.
The original pommel was likely covered in gold and this was not possible to replicate as a thick and sturdy gold coat is only achievable through a very hazzardous process involving murcury. An electroplating could have been used but would not have been sturdy enough, and frankly wasn't to my likeing, being a modern process.

Handling Characteristics:

Firstly, it should be noted that I am a collector more than a practitioner and I have only a passing knowledge of historical swordsmanship and so comments of handling may want to be read in this context.
Subjectively speaking, this sword handles wonderfully, both for it's type, and as a sword in general. It is rather light and, for a type XI, seems to have a reletively shorter blade. This does seem to be the case in the original, at least, when observing it's proportions in the photos. This sword has a light and somewhat compact feel. I would compare it to a slightly lighter, and less point-forward version of the Albion Norman/Senlac, but with a less "out there" feeling, regarding the blades reach. This sword reminds me, somewhat of the Albion Knight as well. The sword moves fluidly and needs just a bit of pressure to stop the momentum. This blade will not stop "on a dime" but is quite fast nevertheless. It has replaced my Norman as the favorite handling sword in my collection.
Likely due to improper form on my part, the pommel does slide along part of my wrist and cause irritation with more extensive use. The same thing occurs with my Reeve so either my hands need some toughening or I need better form.
The "handshake" grip seems most appropriate as expected on a sword of this type.
The leather cord-covered grip provides a nice and secure grip.

Fit and Finish:

This is really a beautiful weapon but it's appeal lies in it's proportion and stark elegance rather than due to elaborate and intricate decorative aspects. The design elements work together to give a harmony of organic form and stern functionality. This type of deceptively simple form does seem to be a departure of Patrick's normal fare, but he executes this work with a masterful eye of organic style and flowing design, combined with crisp detail when appropriate.
The iron used in the hilt is full of character and lends it's aspect to a kind of soft, but not dulled impression in the finish. The lamination of the iron is clearly visible along all surfaces of the hilt components. Small irregularities and pits in the iron add to the aesthetic and vision of the whole.
As mentioned, the beast-head terminals of the guard on the original are difficult to decipher regarding their precise composition and so Patrick chose a design that seemed plausable given both the lack of clarity and the corrosion of the original. I love the design choices that he made in his "version" of these figures- giving a full and striking impression of a beast with a minimum of composition.
The blade itself is lovely, showing Patrick's mastery of the forge and the beauty of his hand-made steel. This was the first blade I have seen so expertly crafted of historical means and the authenticity shows. The blade finishes of my Albions, though fine, seem quite sterile in comparision. When inspected under light, the blade shows striking activity and grain structure. The forging at the point section is especially nice.
I would describe the blade as "sword sharp" not razor or hair popping sharp but appropriate and keen for the intended task of meeting lightly armored opponents.
And now the inlay, which is the weakness of this piece. Patrick had not attempted this especially difficult method of iron inlay before and this was his first attempt so I do feel glad to have added to the base of knowledge in this commission despite the fact that I am not 100% pleased with the inlay. I must say, though, for a first attempt, Patrick did a nice job. In the inlay process some portions of the steel did not "stick" to the blade and therein lies the problem in it's execution.
The type of inlay in question is characteristic of the 8 type XI swords inlayed with +GICELINMEFECIT+ and is neater and smaller than the inlay found in the earlier type X INGELRII and ULFBHERT swords. The GICELIN inlay is thought to be steel inlayed into a background of iron while the others are pattern-welded in a background of iron.
The first side Parick completed +INNOMINEDOMINI+ has more flaws than the other. Some portions of letters, especially the "D" and one of the "O", are missing. In addition the tops of the letters butt against the top of the fuller. Patrick stated that this side was more "scarred" by the fire making the process more tricky on that side.
In order to increase the visibility and clarity of the inlay, Patrick outlined each letter with tiny dots. The other side +GICELINMEFECIT+ is better executed and only a few small spots are missing the steel inlay. If each side were inlayed very completely then the dot outlines would not seem neccessary. I am not aware if such emphasizing methods as dots or inscribed lines were ever used in period but in this case, it could not be helped. Patrick felt that methods to emphasize inlay could have been used in period on some pieces but, due to corrostion of extant pieces, this would be difficult to guage.
Patrick stated that he was not completely satisfied with how the inlay turned out when he sent me the pictures for approval and reduced the price. In addition to this I have another commission with him at a special rate so all things considered, I am happy with how things turned out.
The wooden grip is covered in black lether cord and tied into "turks-head" knots at the top and bottom.
The scabbard and integral belt are quite well done and show a nice level of finish. The sword fits the scabbard quite well, with a snug fit, but which allows for easy drawing. The sword remains in the scabbard when held upside-down. Patrick chose to replicate bronze fittings of the 12th. c. to complete the package. Patrick did provide me with a full integral belt at no extra charge, even though he normally includes only a rather plain sheath with his pieces.

Conclusion:

I have waited years to have this particular sword replicated and I am so happy that I finally have a fine weapon inspired by this historic example. The process was not without it's bumps but I am very pleased with my new sword, even with the less-than-perfect inlay. The more time I spend with it the more I like it. Patrick has shown himself a fine businessman who cares about what he makes and the satisfaction of his customers.
When funds permit I will acquire another one of Mr. Barta's swords and I encourage anyone desireing the very best example of a medieval weapon to get on his waiting list and have the priviledge of owning one of Mr. Barta's masterpieces.















Last edited by Jeremy V. Krause on Tue 24 May, 2011 4:39 pm; edited 2 times in total
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 24 May, 2011 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the review Jeremy, can you post the stats on the sword as well?

The next-to-reeve shot gives a good notion of its proportion. As mentioned elsewhere, I like that this sword seems a bit more substantial than the original - I'm a big fan of one-hand swords that have some size and authority. Also, I agree with you about the beauty of the functional austerity in these early medieval swords and about the organic character of the steel - love when the nature of the materials and hand of the artist can be seen in the work.

I can understand you're disappointed that the inlay is not exactly as you hoped - but it captures the spirit and message of the original. If its of any consolation, remember that those originals were full of odd quirks, and this is part of what makes your piece a one-of-a-kind treasure.

Congratulations on helping to bring this unique and famous piece to life!

-JD
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Tim Lison




Location: Chicago, Illinois
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PostPosted: Tue 24 May, 2011 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the great review! It is good to see this sword done right. Being a huge fan of Brazil nut pommels, I love seeing such faithful and well executed replicas of them. This particular sword has always been a favorite of mine because of the unusual guard. To see the guard done so well is a joy. Congratualtions on a magnificent sword!
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 24 May, 2011 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great looking sword! Especially the steel is fascinating and something that you won't easily find with other makers.

I can imagine that the inlays didn't come out perfectly was a slight disappointment, but on the other hand, from the line drawing of the sword it seems that the original may also have been not so perfect. And perhaps that was more the norm than the exception.

Congratulations on a unique piece!
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Jeremy V. Krause




Location: Buffalo, NY.
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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2011 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are some pictures Patrick sent me of the inlaying process.







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