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Michael B.
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Location: Chugiak, AK
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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 12:23 pm    Post subject: Darksword Armory: Dark Knight Sword Review (picture heavy)         Reply with quote

ETHICS STATEMENT: Darksword Armory supplied me with this sword for testing and evaluation purposes. I have not been paid for this and will never be paid by a manufacturer to review a product so that it remains an entirely independent, unbiased review. This was all done in my own time and for the readers of this site. Any views or opinions expressed within the review are mine entirely.
Never base a purchase, especially a substantial one like this, on one person’s opinions. Read many, watch many and try before you buy if you can.


Intro:
Darksword Armory, a few months back, asked for people to help review some swords due to controversy in some circles with their products and business practices. I try to stay removed from drama as much as possible, so I contacted them and said I was interested with the caveat that I could not keep the sword and I would be sending the sword back in pieces, if they were all right with that, than I would love to take part in a review. They sent me their “Dark Knight Sword” (reviewed elsewhere on this site). The starting price point for this sword which they call their “Black Knight Sword” is $360.00 (US).

A brief telling of who I am before I being: I have been involved in WMA/HEMA for ten years, over the years I have handled A LOT of swords, both high end custom pieces, as well as low end cheap pieces all the way to originals (composites and 100% original). My passion in this study and collecting is history and…well...I’m a geek. My career is film and television, (you have probably watched entertainment I’ve produced) and I dedicate at least an hour every day to the study of arms and armor no matter how busy I am. I also like to dismantle and do improvements on swords as many on this site do, and have dived into doing my own forging recently.

Initial Impression



Communication with Darksword was prompt and speedy. The sword did take a while to ship as they said they were busy with client orders, I can forgive this. The sword was well packaged in bubble wrap and plastic with a rubber tip protecting the point. It took forever getting the sword out of the packaging but when I did I found these stats: (please note the difference to other reviews)

Total Length: 36”
Blade Length: 28”
Blade Width at Base: 1.85”
Weight: 2.5 pounds
POB: about 3” from guard

Here's a shot of the sword next to the Windlass Type XIV:


I was disappointed to see that the sword had a very obvious fantasy cross guard, but was pleased with how light and balanced the sword was. The whole sword seemed to be really tightly put together and had a nice ring to it when hit, indicting a supposedly tight assembly. The sword is well balanced and lively in the hand, the tip tracks well, is accurate in the thrust and has immense cutting power. We’ll see how far my initial impressions actually last as we break down each component:

Blade:



My first impression of the blade was that it was very shiny, but that I really liked the profile and geometry. Thankfully there was no heavy oil on the blade like the grease I find on a company of a similar price range. The blade has a slight hollow grind and has a noticeable distal taper.
Whoever is heat treating their blades is doing a wonderful job, for the life of me I could not break it. I nearly bent it in half a couple times, and after doing the normal cutting tests moved on to 2x4’s, stumps and concrete board and it wouldn’t scratch, dent, chip or bend. They get very high marks on making a very strong blade. The steel that is used is high quality with an excellent temper.




Initially I was very impressed by the blade; however, in the daylight some harsh flaws began to present themselves.
First off the sharpened edge was very inconsistent (before cutting), it appears they did a single pass over the wheel and left it at that, with no double check. The tip is just slightly off kilter from center, one side is ground more than the other.
The hollow grind is very uneven when viewed down the spin, the spine itself is also very wavy, these things are very subtle and wouldn’t be noticed by the average user I think. The tang is part of the blade and not welded on, so that’s a plus, the tang was CUT from the blade with a saw, it is easy to see where the saw teeth hit to make the shoulders because of an overcut.



The spine was ground down to make the guard fit, (more on that later). The tang is also slightly crooked, but was very subtle and something that likely occurred during heat treat.

If their other sword blades are similar in quality, they would make phenomenal project blades. All in all for the price point a great blade with a few flaws that could be remedied easily.

Let’s talk about the hilt.



As I’ve mentioned a few times I was disappointed that the guard was fantasy style. With a proper guard it would be a very fine looking sword. I don’t understand why they would take this route when the blade and the pommel are so well shaped. The guard also has a very high level of polish that some may find attractive, though I prefer a more matte finish. The peen block is part of the pommel and not separate, but I really wasn’t expecting that for the price point, the pommel has very crisp lines and is very striking and well thought out.




I decided to really examine the hilt when the pommel came slightly loose after my extreme blade and cutting tests.
Before tearing in, I will say, the handle was by far the best part of the hilt. It was appropriately sized and had nice even risers under the chrome tanned brown leather.



The stitching was great, and the best I’ve seen at the price point, it was done correctly and tight in nice even rows, I only wish I could make a grip wrap like this.



Even then, it wasn’t without flaws, the opening for the tang in the handle was over cut and too large, they back filled the extra space with epoxy before sticking it on.



As I mentioned before, the pommel came loose, so naturally, I took it off to investigate. The pommel was screwed on, I’m not exactly ok with that and what made it worse is that it appears that they made an insert for the pommel for the threads, so the pommel itself isn’t threaded, but the insert, I don’t understand shortcuts like this at this price point.



The guard exhibits indications of casting, the opening was overcut and filled with epoxy to secure, leaking out a little. To be very fair, they point out that the guard is fantasy based on the sword description on their website, so if you ordered from their site, and are surprised or put off by it, you ordered the wrong sword, or didn’t read the description carefully.



The spine of the blade was ground down to make the guard fit, this makes the blade (almost) unusable for remounting purposes.

The guard and pommel show machine marks, but they are easily dealt with if they really bother you.



Conclusion:
If this sword is an indication of their more historical models, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend buying from them, over some other popular brands, for a sword enthusiast that’s just starting out. However, for high end collectors after flawless pieces I would look elsewhere. I would also say that for DIY’ers, if you come across a sword that strikes your fancy for a good price, to go for it, the blades are stellar. Previous reviews I’ve seen have talked about the indestructible nature of Darksword’s blades, and I can now attest to that claim.

Pros:
• Good steel and temper in the blade
• Amazing grip and stitch job
• Good distal taper and geometry
• Nice proportions
• Handling is nice

Cons:
• Sharpening
• Fittings (with the caveat I wouldn’t have ordered a fantasy piece)
• Blade finish (most people would overlook what I found)
• Epoxy in hilt
• Machine marks on fittings
• Balance is a little off, but isn’t bad.

Bottom line is that I feel the sword is a little overpriced, and they still need to work on their marketing strategy, but the blade is a strong step in the right direction. I understand the need for some shortcuts in a sword at this price bracket, so a lot of things I’m able to overlook knowing how much I would pay for it if I did in fact I buy it. I would buy this over a certain US based company that is roughly in the same price bracket…
I hope I don’t come across as too harsh, I ty to pick out the positive in life, but I am also a realist. As mentioned at the beginning of this review: these reviews are MY observations and opinions. Please read more than one review and if you can, try before you buy, everyone is different in their opinions. I can’t thank Darksword enough for allowing me to be brutally honest in this review, and that alone should speak loads for their company and how much they stand behind their product, which to me, is worth a lot.

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Michael Bergstrom


Last edited by Michael B. on Mon 16 Jun, 2014 11:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You say that the blade has good distal taper and geometry. Could you please let us know those specs on blade thickness?
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have never owned nor handled a DSA sword, but have been a close follower of them along with all the major European sword production companies. You did a great job with your review. I personally do not like what I am seeing here...too many, way too many adjustments to make all the parts fit together. Seems like there was a lot of epoxy to fill ill fitted gaps, grinding of the tang and blade to make the parts fit, screw on pommels etc. Again, I have never touched a DSA...but your very excellent photographs of the sword and more importantly the break down....has me a bit concerned about how the sword is put together. Seems almost like mismatched puzzle pieces forced together. Strange. Thanks for the honest impressions of the sword.
The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This sword model was also reviewed by Mercer L. Blaire. One might want to read his comments, too.

Since it's just as relevant here, this is what I added as a response:

Nathan Robinson wrote:
This is a great review. Thank you for posting it. I responded to your review topic on SBG and thought I'd share it here, too.

I like the design. It must be said, however, that this sword is complete fantasy. It isn't historically plausible. This isn't a bad thing, except that the maker's own description of it indicates that it's a historical sword with a few fantasy twists:

Quote:
The Black Knight" Medieval Sword is Inspired by E.A. Christensen's sketch work, found on p. 121 of Oakeshott's "Record of the Medieval Sword". While preserving the historical essence of the blade and pommel, our rendition of the battle ready sword was given a fantasy flare with it's morbid crossguard.

Inspiring an essence of strength and heroism, the blade and pommel on this 14th C. medieval sword remained faithful to historical models while the guard took a more inspirational twist. The richly decorated pommel crowns an equally embellished leather wrapped handle. The black knight gothic battle ready sword is fitted with a type XIV blade.


The blade is not an Oakeshot Type XIV. Type XIV blades have a lenticular cross-section. The geometry is completely different on this one. This has a hollow-ground section. The E.A. Christensen sketch shows a double-fullered Type XIV blade that not only has a different cross-section, but also a different profile than the "Black Knight" model.

The only thing in common between the two swords is a vague two-dimensional visual similarity to the pommels and the fact that there is a blade and hilt. The rest is completely different. Even the pommels themselves are going to be very different when compared at other angles. The "Black Knight" sword's pommel is significantly dissimilar in three-dimensions from antiques.

Why can't makers just indicate what the sword is, let it stand on its merits, and not try to propagate things that are factually incorrect? It's frustrating. I worry that those new to the hobby, or those inexperienced, are going to read the description and believe that they are buying a sword that is close to an extant original sword published in a book. This would be far from the truth.

This is a nice sword design and I'm going to assume that there will be a good size market for it. I applaud the efforts of putting out a good hollow-ground blade. I also really appreciate the fantasy design that isn't over the top and still has a nod to historical aesthetic sensibilities. This is the type of fantasy design that I personally like quite a bit.

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Michael B.
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Location: Chugiak, AK
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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 4:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The blade is 0.25" thick at the base, thinning to 0.08" at the tip.

The sword had been reviewed elsewhere, and honestly was surprised they sent me the same sword.

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Michael Bergstrom
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Edward Lee




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 5:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For the price range DSA swords do come in a nice box. Great review.
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jun, 2014 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In both these reviews I've ended up initially wondering if Darksword has made a massive leap on quality and craftsmanship to the point of being a contender amongst the budget bracket of historical weapons, but then being left with the feeling that not enough has changed.

I like that the current models have lost a few (in some cases literally) pounds, have passible balance points, stitched instead of glued grip leather, amongst other pluses, but then other things sour my taste yet again and remind me of my one purchase from them. In the last review it was the general proportion of a long, relatively circular grip and a overly bulky guard. In this review it is the blade tips cant (something the first one I returned had), the sloppy hollow grind, and the peculiarities with construction; It leaves me thinking about what the normal run of the mill DSA looks like if this is what goes into a product they sent out to be tested in a review. I've disassembled a large number of swords from most low to high end companies (that could be put back together again or were projects) and the only one that has resorted to the kind of thing illustrated in this review is deepeeka, and "old" deepeeka at that.
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Michael B.
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Location: Chugiak, AK
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom King wrote:

...I like that the current models have lost a few (in some cases literally) pounds, have passible balance points, stitched instead of glued grip leather, amongst other pluses...


They are close in my opinion, it wouldn't take much more to get there. They might be operating as a small operation, so they are stuck in a limbo of trying to mass produce off the shelf swords of a higher quality, well being held back by costs and man power. It's a hard market to nail and some makers like Windlass have taken many years, and many bumps along the road to improve their offerings. It's a big deal in my eyes for a company to have enough confidence in their product to have someone go over it with a fine tooth comb.

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Michael Bergstrom
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 6:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At the moment, if I were buying a DSA sword, I would buy it as a project sword. I don't like the hilt construction, sharpening would be obligatory it seems, depending on the model new fittings might be needed to fit the blade well both visually and technically... And for the project sword, they are not cheap enough. For the sword of this quality, I would give about $200... For more, I can get a good quality sword that doesn't need any improving by Eastern European smiths... Or a bare blade by Albion and good fittings for $60 by a local Croatian smith...
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William M




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice review with decent photos that let us make our own judgements. Thank you!
I am impressed with the amount of flex the sword is able to take, but like with Cold Steel swords, the sheer durability isn't the be and end-all when it comes to what makes a good sword.

What I would be most concerned with is the massive amount of glue holding everything together! This is very sloppy work and from a users perspective I would be worried that over time this glue will become loose and threaten the structural integrity of the sword. If I had this sword I would get rid of the epoxy and use solid wooden shims for the inside of the grip.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It strikes me that with a carefully applied grinder you could make the guard much more superior. Simply carefully grind away that ridiculous 'barb' or 'recurved' portion, and you would have a curved diamond-sectioned guard. Somewhat Lord of the Rings film style.

Apart from this, I do agree that the physical characteristics of DSA swords have improved in the past few years since I got into the swording thing. The big problem with the company remains their integrity regarding the manufacturing of their product. Apart from that, the product is fine, if perhaps over-priced for what you get.
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael B. wrote:
The blade is 0.25" thick at the base, thinning to 0.08" at the tip.



Could you please take one or two more thickness measurements, 25%, 50%, 75% down the blade? That would tell us a lot more about the blade geometry.

Thanks Happy
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Dean F. Marino




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 1:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Small note on this photo - I believe it led you to the wrong conclusion:



If you work on that pommel end just a bit? I suspect that a 1/4x20 washer, and nut, will fall out of a cavity in it's base. You will then discover 1/4x20 inch threads inside the pommel itself.

Having re-worked a number of DSA blades... a common construction method that they seem to use is the inclusion of a "safety nut" - a 1/4x20 nut and washer used to exert tension on the grip, followed by a threaded pommel, now often followed by an end peen.

I actually like the safety nut concept... should the POMMEL shear off, the potential for a "helicopter of death" is minimized.

Not a totally historical construction method Happy. But I do believe it adds an element of safety Happy.

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Mike Capanelli




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dean F. Marino wrote:
Small note on this photo - I believe it led you to the wrong conclusion:



If you work on that pommel end just a bit? I suspect that a 1/4x20 washer, and nut, will fall out of a cavity in it's base. You will then discover 1/4x20 inch threads inside the pommel itself.

Having re-worked a number of DSA blades... a common construction method that they seem to use is the inclusion of a "safety nut" - a 1/4x20 nut and washer used to exert tension on the grip, followed by a threaded pommel, now often followed by an end peen.

I actually like the safety nut concept... should the POMMEL shear off, the potential for a "helicopter of death" is minimized.

Not a totally historical construction method Happy. But I do believe it adds an element of safety Happy.


So I guess that makes DSA a pioneer of sorts as I've never heard of another manufacture that make their swords in house putting an insert in the pommel for safety. Have you come across this on any other blades that are made in North America?

Winter is coming
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice review, fairly thorough. It is quite apparent that DSA has greatly improved their grip making ability since I bought one three years ago. The blade however sounds like the same quality that I received. I would suggest trying to put an edge on it prior to judging the temper, and the blade/tang transition area looks like it could be difficult to make right. There are better blades out there for projects in my opinion.
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Dean F. Marino




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Capanelli wrote:
[So I guess that makes DSA a pioneer of sorts as I've never heard of another manufacture that make their swords in house putting an insert in the pommel for safety. Have you come across this on any other blades that are made in North America?


Mike? No - the DSA line is the only one I've found that does this. It could be argued as to weather it is good, bad, or indifferent....I mentioned it for others that might be doing a tear-down. Removing the pommel on these can be a bit of an experience, if one doesn't know that nut is THERE Happy. At least half the time, it stays stuck in the pommel void as one unscrews the pommel Happy.

What I HAVE seen - Gen2, Windlass, older CAS swords... MOST of them use Epoxy in the grip. My favorite was the Gen 2, that used auto body filler in the pommel Happy. Pink, ugly as hell, and a real pain to get out Happy.

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Mike Capanelli




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 6:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dean F. Marino wrote:


What I HAVE seen - Gen2, Windlass, older CAS swords... MOST of them use Epoxy in the grip. My favorite was the Gen 2, that used auto body filler in the pommel Happy. Pink, ugly as hell, and a real pain to get out Happy.


Auto body filler? Ugg. Epoxy is pretty standard stuff. I've used it to quiet a Baron grip. I've never seen that nut thing before though. Would have been good to have that on a few windlass pieces I've owned in the past.

Winter is coming
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Michael B.
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2014 8:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alrighty, confirmed. It was a washer over a nut, I couldn't get the nut out though, it does appear to be deeper than a standard nut though.



I will get some additional thickness measurements probably tomorrow.

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Michael Bergstrom
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2014 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I see now and am instantly reminded that Dean you have mentioned this construction method on DSAs before. So the nut and washer are screwed onto a threaded (or partially threaded) tang and sit against the grip...then the pommel is placed on over the nut. My question how is the pommel then fixed? Is it also threaded or is it slid on the remaining tang and peened in a traditional way?
The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2014 5:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bryan Heff wrote:
I see now and am instantly reminded that Dean you have mentioned this construction method on DSAs before. So the nut and washer are screwed onto a threaded (or partially threaded) tang and sit against the grip...then the pommel is placed on over the nut. My question how is the pommel then fixed? Is it also threaded or is it slid on the remaining tang and peened in a traditional way?


I think it is screwed on AND peened, more for visual effect than function...
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