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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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Posts: 385

PostPosted: Sun 18 May, 2014 4:38 pm    Post subject: Showing off a new 16th century Irish/Scottish 2hander         Reply with quote

I have just taken possession of my first “real” sword, and wanted to give a review of the sword itself, and of dealing with Melbourne based sword maker Tim Harris (who is a member of this forum)

I will start with the inspiration for the sword itself. From the outset I must point out that while this is not a “fantasy” sword, neither is it a true historical piece. All of the elements are from swords from the 2nd half of the 16th century, and mostly Irish or Scottish. Due to the tyranny of distance (everywhere with swords is a long way from Melbourne, Australia) all research was done with the help of Professor Google. I found some examples of 16th century 2 handers with the ricassos that consist of a length of exposed tang (or at least, that seems to be what is going on in the examples I found), in particular a really nice example documented by the guys at Zornhau. Other than the ricasso, I approached the conceptual design of this sword as an amalgam of elements from Scottish Border Reiver and Irish Gallowglaich weapons. I envisioned it as the sort of thing a moderately successful, well travelled mercenary might have had commissioned from a local swordsmith using an import blade and putting together a bunch of things he had seen on swords in his travels and thought “looked cool”.

When trying to design the look of the sword I ran up against some significant issues, the biggest of which is that I have no experience or talent in either mechanical or graphic design, and no eye or hand for art. Playing around with a 3-d surface renderer gave some idea how different combinations would look, but it was very slow going. When Peter Johnsson shared his geometric module design ideas on this forum I read them with great interest, and attempted to use the idea to see if it would help.

The major challenge I had in applying Peter’s theory was that I did not have clear in my mind where, exactly, the blade began and the hilt ended, and I just could not get everything to work together, no matter what blade/hilt ratio I tried. I was listening to a Peter Gabriel CD one day while playing around with circles when I thought “Wait, what if I set the blade shoulder/hilt/fuller/forward siderings layout on a 7 circle scale, and the handle/cross/pommel on a 8 circle scale”. Tried it out, and was really happy with the result. The reason I mentioned that I was listening to Peter Gabriel is that the particular song was “Solsbury Hill”, I didn’t think much of this until a few months later when it was pointed out to me that this song is unusual in being in 7/8 time. Make of this what you will.

I did some of the initial construction myself. I bought some 5160 steel (surprisingly hard to reliably obtain here) and cut the blank from the stock using an angle grinder. Although I have made a few blades in the past, I found out that the laws had changed in Victoria since I had last done so, and there were now restrictions on making swords as well as those restricting selling them. This suited me fine as I realised that my very crude smithing skills were not really up to the level I wanted for this project.

I found Tim Harris through this forum, and after contacting him and talking through my expectations and his background decided he was an excellent person to hand over to. His prices were very, VERY, reasonable (for a normal longsword he charges less than what a Hanwei Bastard will cost you if you take into account the insane shipping prices one pays to get things here).

Dealing with Tim was a real pleasure. He practices HEMA as well as being a smith, so describing some of the
application stuff was easy. He was clear from the outset that he doesn’t do fantasy pieces, but was happy to work from my specifications. He was great in the communication department, providing suggestions where appropriate, asking for clarification, but letting the customer set the direction for the project. Pretty much everything one can hope for for a good working relationship with a craftsman. A not insignificant issue for those that live in Australia is that Tim also has the relevant legal exemptions to make and sell swords. The only thing in the “cons” column was that the actual production time was slightly longer than initially indicated. There were some mitigating issues here though. The first is that Tim prefers to forge, but due to having a pre-cut blank went the stock removal route for this project, and the “sure and steady” approach added to the time it took, and I am happy that he did. The other is that during the Christmas break, when he expected to get the bulk of the construction done, Melbourne had 2 weeks of days over 40 degrees. That is 104 for those of you that use Fahrenheit. Expecting work to progress under those sorts of conditions is simply unrealistic. Through this, Tim was excellent in keeping me updated, so even this “negative” did not detract in any way from the experience.


The Sword
All measurements are in metric
Total length 138 cm
Blade Length (to shoulders) 98cm (to cross) 103cm
Hilt (from front side-ring to base of pommel) 40cm
Grip 27.5cm
Blade width (at shoulder) 5.8cm (at start of point) 2.9cm
Triple fuller runs 58cm down blade, central terminates at 58cm
Blade is 5.2mm thick at ricasso , slimming down to 2.5mm near the tip
Flattened hexagonal at base, softening to lenticular towards the tip, stays true when held horizontal.
Weight is 2.48kg
Balance point is 10cm past the front rings, and the CoP seems to run for about 7-8 cm starting just past the end of the fullers.
Blade is 5160, cross is mild steel, and the pommel is reclaimed and re-purposed 100+ year old wrought iron. I didn’t know about this feature till I picked the blade up, and it was a nice touch that I feel really added something.
Tim normally does a mirror finish on his blades, but I asked him to pull back to a bright satin. No machining marks, but some polishing marks still visible.

Impressions
I was a little giddy when I first held this sword in my hand, it was something that had been taking up a lot of mental real-estate for a long time, so to see it fully realised in steel, and exactly as I had pictured, was quite thrilling. The overall finish was good. True, there are little things that are not “perfect”, but they are in the realm of “character building” rather than flaws. For the price point I felt the finish was very good. Truth be told I would have thought the finish acceptable on a custom sword twice the price. The added touch of the reclaimed wrought iron for the pommel is a nice touch, and I think one that forms a nice link with the past.
I won’t lie, at two and a half kilo, this sword is no lightweight. However, the balance is good, to the point that my better half, who has little experience with swords, expressed surprise at how light it was. The balance is such that the blade can be held one handed in a high hanging guard, like those from Morotzo, without feeling like your arm is going to break. That said, it is a dedicated two-hander. In movement it is very lively, moving from guard to guard is as easy as with my hanwei bastard sword trainer. This surprised me, but after a few minutes swapping back and forth I was satisfied it was not just a first impression. I was more tired after using the new sword, but the responsiveness was very similar.
I will preface this next bit but stating that I am whatever is before novice when it comes to cutting. I have done a little bit of light cutting with Katana like objects, and nothing with western style blades (this was part of the drive for this purchase). I have only done a small amount of cutting with this sword thus far, using two litre milk bottles filled with water, but the experience was illuminating. The sword was very easy to get moving, I was quite conscious of not over committing etc, but the velocity the blade seemed to reach with no real effort was a little frightening. Stopping the cut was a different matter, once this baby got going she did not want to stop. My first ‘non-practice’ swing left me a little shocked, the difficulty arresting the movement was scary, and it was only after I recovered from that that I realised that I had felt literally zero resistance from the bottle. I know milk jugs are not a difficult cutting medium, but the ease with which these ones were polished off was a somewhat frightening.

Conclusion
I can heartily recommend Tim Harris to anyone thinking of having a sword made in Melbourne, or elsewhere in Australia. Easy to deal with, great quality work for his price point, what else could one want. As for the sword, I love it, and I am a little afraid of it at this point. There are a few things I am thinking of tinkering with, such as etching something historically accurate onto the blade, evening out the finish, or making an Irish fringed scabbard, but even as is I really couldn’t be happier. I am sure that as I develop more of a working relationship with this blade that I will come to appreciate more aspects of its handling, but I am already a fan.

Will upload some more pics as lighting conditions/improved camera handling permit



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Standing image of entire sword [ Download ]

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Horizontal view of entire sword [ Download ]

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Close up of hilt [ Download ]

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3/4 view of hilt [ Download ]


Last edited by Nat Lamb on Tue 20 May, 2014 3:54 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 385

PostPosted: Sun 18 May, 2014 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A comparison with a Hanwei Bastard, and one in the hand of a very chuffed owner


 Attachment: 49.11 KB
Side by side comparison [ Download ]

 Attachment: 90.16 KB
In hand [ Download ]
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 18 May, 2014 10:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congratulations that's a nice looking sword: Good design and good execution.
You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 488

PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 2:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very cool sword, Nat. I really like designs with multiple fullers, and this looks just the right size as well. At the risk of going off-topic, I do find it odd that the law permits you to buy/possess a sword but not make one, that seems kind of pointless.
'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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Posts: 385

PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 3:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not really off topic since I did talk about it in OP. In Victoria, any sword (and a few other objects) is considered a prohibited weapon, and in order to own one you need to have an exemption. The grounds for exemptions are pretty reasonable, and they are not hard to get (membership in a relevent club is all that is required). I believe the restriction on sellers/makers was to try and clamp down on the army surplus stores that were selling $50 katana-esque objects that were used in a few "gang related" incidents a few years back.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 5:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is absolutely freaking beautiful. Wield her proud, Laddie! Now ye need ta get yerself a fine kilt! Big Grin .......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
Joined: 17 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 9:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Nat. Well done on your new custom piece. I've been eagerly waiting to see this come together since our PMs, and it doesn't disappoint. I've long toyed with the idea of a side sword (like Christian Fletcher's in the review section), with an Irish ring pommel. I hope you don't take this next piece of nit-picking in a negative way, but to my untrained eyes the pommel looks a bit small in proportion to the rest of the sword. Still that one minor thing does not detract from a beast of weapon like this.
Éirinn go Brách
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

that's a broad bladed beauty I also like the triple fullers. I'm still playing around with the idea of picking up a two hander myself this year.

the cutting you describe is spot on from what I know of how originals handle. I haven't gotten my hands on one nor have I got a good reproduction but from talking with others who have, once you get two handers moving, it takes some effort to get them to stop.
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have always liked these ring pommel swords! This one is great! Congratulations! Solsbury Hill is a good song too...
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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Posts: 385

PostPosted: Mon 19 May, 2014 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
I hope you don't take this next piece of nit-picking in a negative way, but to my untrained eyes the pommel looks a bit small in proportion to the rest of the sword..


Not nit-picky at all, you make a good observation. It is partly an artifact of the exact shape of the pommel not showing up well in photos. The flat surface of the pommel is inly about 6-7mm wide, so in the photos, esp because of reflections, it looks quite delicate. "in the flesh" though, there is actually a sort of "bevel" before it reaches its actual thickness, which is more like 10mm or so. It is also quite thick top to bottom, so the actual ammount of material is greater than the photos show. The long handle also means that what weight *is* there has a longer lever to act as a counter-weight.

As an aside, I notice that your signature is in gaelic. Do you speak one of the dialects?
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
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PostPosted: Tue 20 May, 2014 2:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@ Nat. Well being born and raised in a village in North Cork, I learned Gaeilge (Irish) in school. The Irish language taught in schools now is a standardized version, but there are still some hints of the regional dialects, so I guess I learned Munster Irish. Unfortunately I haven't kept up the use of the language, and have forgotten most of what I learned. Also, due to a visual disability, I was never good with the written language, though I was ok with speaking it.
Éirinn go Brách
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Bryan Heff




Location: Philadelphia
Joined: 04 Mar 2012
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PostPosted: Tue 20 May, 2014 3:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is a great looking sword! Congratulations on that one.
The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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Posts: 385

PostPosted: Wed 21 May, 2014 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Did a bit more cutting today, and while my initial impressions were borne out (it is a monster), I am stating to get a better feel for how a large sword like this one handles, and how to avoid it wanting to "carry through " on a cut.
A nice plus is that it rings with a really pure, clear note whenever it cuts something.
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