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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 22 Jul, 2014 8:28 am    Post subject: Albion Steward Review         Reply with quote

Since Bryan recently posted about the Count: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=30499 I thought I would do a review about the Steward that just recently arrived.

Overview

During the 11th and 12th centuries, swords seem to have been nearly exclusively one handed weapons, used paired with a kite shield. By about the 13th century, swords with longer grips start to appear, and these swords represent the first foray by medieval smiths in the art of crafting longer “great swords”. While single handed swords still appear to have dominated throughout the century, by the second half of the 13th century, great swords become more common, reaching their height in the first half of the 14th century. At a time when knights, men-at-arms and other warriors of means wore full suits of mail, with perhaps some minor reinforcements made of plate and the distinctive great helms and early bascinets, these larger swords represented the apogee of cleaving and hewing weapons, eschewing the narrower blades of Type XV swords and their ilk.

One such sword, XIIIa.5 from Records of the Medieval Sword, was discovered only comparatively recently in Linz, Austria, having been hidden in a house for centuries. It was this sword that served as the primary inspiration for Albion's Next Generation Steward, and the two are fairly close. The main differences between them is that the Steward has a peen block whereas the Linz sword does not, and the grip of the Steward is a little bit longer. Additionally, the fuller on the Linz sword seems to extend along just under half of the blade, while the Steward's extends along two thirds of the blade. The Linz blade may also have a somewhat wider point section, but this is difficult to judge from photos alone.

Specifications (from Albion's website)

Total Length: 43.69” (111 cm.)
Blade Length: 34.87” (88.6 cm.)
Blade Width: 1.93” (4.9 cm)
CoB: 4.5” (11.43 cm.)
CoP: 23.25” (59 cm.)
Weight: 2 lbs 14 ounces (1.3 kg)

Fit and Finish

Everything here is on par with Albion's usual good quality. The seam on the leather grip blends quite well with the rest of the leather, and is mostly straight. The cross fits extremely well around the blade with almost no gaps whatsoever. As for the fuller, it is crisp and has the nicely tapered “fade” at the far end that makes Albion swords a cut above many of their competitors. The finish looks pretty consistent across the blade, with no obvious machine marks. This particular sword did not seem to have any pitting that I could see.

After taking this sword out and handling it for a bit and then leaving it for a few days, some rust developed on the pommel; this was entirely my fault for not having oiled the sword soon enough in a high humidity environment. I did my best to remove the rust with sandpaper, but any discolouration or blemishes seen on the pommel in these photos is not indicative of any fault or inadequate preparation to ship the sword on the part of Albion.

Handling

The first thing that I noticed upon picking up this sword was that its hilt area is quite hefty. There's a fair amount of mass, so the static weight of the sword in hand is appreciable. But when you strike with the sword, the balance suddenly makes perfect sense: the blade itself feels like it has very little mass, so that it feels quite light and lively in hand. “Agile” is a word that Albion uses to describe this sword and it's well chosen; the sword floats through the air, like a Brescia Spadona with greater blade presence.

The grip itself has eight planes, making it thicker in size. It does feel a little “blocky” in hand, more so than some of the other Albion swords. For someone with large hands, this will undoubtedly be a plus, and for someone with medium sized hands like me, the grip feels just fine in hand once you've adjusted from handling other grips. However, for someone with smaller hands, this may not be the sword of choice. The size and shape of the grip will probably make it less comfortable than many other Albion swords, particularly when compared with some of the more slender long swords.

The point on the Steward is quite rounded. While all swords are capable of delivering powerful thrusts if used effectively, the Steward's point obviously will have trouble driving through mail the way a Type XVa blade might. Unsurprisingly, this sword is not particularly well suited for harnischefechten, and it's noteworthy that the heyday of XIIIa swords seems to have largely passed by the time full plate makes its appearance, at least when compared with the number of blades of Type XVa, XVII, XVIIIa, XVIIIb, or XVIIIc that appear in period art from the late 14th century and into the 15th century.

Conclusion

The Steward is an absolutely classic great sword that perfectly matches those found in contemporary period art. If you're looking for a great sword, it's hard to go wrong with the Steward. Although it might not have the flash and extra elegance of a sword like the Count, the Steward beautifully captures the working, utilitarian beauty that so characterizes many medieval swords.



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Last edited by Craig Peters on Tue 22 Jul, 2014 9:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bryan Heff




Location: Philadelphia
Joined: 04 Mar 2012
Likes: 8 pages

Posts: 358

PostPosted: Tue 22 Jul, 2014 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great review Craig. I didn't realize the Steward had the same type of 8-sided grip that the Count has. I agree with you its a slightly "blockier" feel to it when first picked up, but I have come to really like it. It is definitely a wider feeling grip than a lot of Albion models seem to have. The ease of movement of the Count was what really jumped out at me. Sounds like you have a similar feel for how the Steward moves. I can easily see how a sword like this could have been used with shield perhaps from astride a horse single-handed or without a shield using two. Its a very quick and dangerous feeling sword. Wicked sharp too.
The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 22 Jul, 2014 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very professional review Craig.

I really like XIIIa.5. So if I were to get an XIIIa, the Steward would be my first choice after a custom reproduction. I prefer the nearly parallel edges and short well-defined fuller of the original.

However, as in most 'next generation swords' this is intended to be representative rather than a replica, based on a number of different swords. (The Oakeshott and Vigil are the only two I can recall based on a single sword, other than the museum line.) IMHO this approach averages out some of the odd quirks that often give individual medieval swords their character.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 22 Jul, 2014 5:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I forgot to mention that Greyson Brown made a scabbard the Steward that I purchased when he put it, and his Steward, up for sale. Since I already had the sword on order from Albion, I bought the scabbard by itself.

Modern scabbard enthusiasts take note: this is a great example of how to do a historical scabbard. The scabbard is not overdecorated with tooling, crosses, Latin or English mottos, and the like. It does not have a two or three point suspension, which is entirely inappropriate for the 13th and first half of the 14th century. The look, like most medieval scabbards, is fairly dressed down. Greyson also did well in creating a horseshoe chape for this scabbard, which is entirely appropriate for the time period. One of the only things he might have done differently is to have a wide white thong-style belt, especially if the scabbard is supposed to be from the Holy Roman Empire. As it stands, the wide belt seen in the photos is perfectly appropriate for a scabbard from England, France, and perhaps also Italy and Spain.





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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 23 Jul, 2014 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doug,

Having owned and handled a fair number of Albions myself, I've found that I'm now more drawn to those which are reasonably close to particular historical swords. I like my Castellan, for instance, because of the fact that it's very similar to swords from the Battle of Castillon. Likewise, I like my Sempach because it's reasonably close to a number of XVII blades that exist in various museums around the world.

In a fair number of instances now, I have found myself wanting to modify or tweak Albion swords to make them closer to historical blades. I used to really like the Count, and I still think it's an elegant sword, but I'd much rather have a sword that's closer to the one carried by Konrad of Thuringia. In particular, the cross on the Count doesn't quite feel right to me. I'd prefer if it could be a Style 7 cross like the one on Konrad's sword.

Thus, I'm gradually reaching the stage where I will want to start ordering custom swords, in order to have all the little picky details to my satisfaction. It's a pity Albion doesn't offer custom work; I know it require a lot more time and effort and doesn't fit with their business model, but I suspect they'd be able to do really great custom swords. As it is, I may eventually contact custom smiths with commissions. I guess I've already taken a step in doing this by ordering my first custom weapon from Tod in the form of a quillon dagger. Next up: swords.
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Nathan G




Location: California
Joined: 12 Aug 2013
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Posts: 10

PostPosted: Wed 23 Jul, 2014 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice review, this one is definitely on my "list". When I ordered my Crecy awhile back I kept waffling between it and the Steward but the deciding factor was that I already had a Duke and Baron so it was time to move forward in time a bit, so to speak.
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