|Posted: Sat 17 Jun, 2017 10:38 am Post subject: J.L. Eichelberger Longsword Review
Though I’ve been a sword collector and occasional HEMA guy for years, this is my first sword review. I hope you like it. My points of comparison are both original pieces and modern forgings (I hate the term “replica" -- it seems like we're saying that modern swords are copies or simulations of a real sword. Some are SLOs, but many are as legitimate as anything made 500 years ago.)
My primary interests for years now have been original Napoleonic swords and sabers and modern forgings of medieval pieces. I use the term “forgings” in a conversational sense, acknowledging that terrific work was done historically and is being done today both by traditional forging and stock removal.
I had read several generally positive reviews of Jeremy Eichelberger’s work on various sites. He is not as well known as some smiths, and he works from his forge in Pennsylvania. Based on the reviews there appears to have been a considerable elevation in his skill as a sword maker over the past 6-7 years. To my mind, this means he is serious about his craft.
When Jeremy offered this long sword for sale, I snagged it at a good price. He shipped it about a week later, and it arrived several days ago, just as I returned from a long period of business travel.
First, Jeremy provided the following description and specs, the latter of which I have found to be quite accurate:
Type XVIIIb Longsword
- Hand-forged by swordmaker Jeremy Eichelberger
- Blade was made from a billet of 1075 high-carbon steel sourced from Aldo Bruno, tempered for optimal edge-holding and shock resistance.
- Fittings were forged of mild steel. Both guard and pommel were individually peened in place.
- Grip is made of maple, covered in linen cord and vegetable tanned leather, dyed dark green.
- Blade is fully sharpened with a period-accurate, convex edge bevel.
- The blade exhibits greater than 50% distal tapering from guard to tip, making the blade very responsive in the hand.
Based on original swords of the period in respect to geometry, form, weight, balance, blade harmonics, and function, this longsword is an extremely light and agile weapon for its size, with excellent blade presence through the cut and nimble point control in the thrust.
Overall Length- 52.25 Inches
Blade Length- 38.5 Inches
Blade Width- 1.75 Inches at guard, tapering to 1 inch, 7 inches from point.
Center of Balance- 2 Inches from guard.
Center of Percussion- 14 inches from point.
Guard Width- 9.75 inches
Weight- 3.4 pounds
Blade Thickness- 7mm at guard, tapering to 3mm just behind the point.
That's the end of his comments. Here's mine.
Fit and Finish
I’m very impressed with the sword – as far as these qualities are concerned, the sword is easily the equal of Albion. I am fully aware of what that statement means, and I thought long and hard about it before making it. That said, the sword’s fit and finish is not as good as my Atrims or the original Tinker I used to own. That should help you place the quality of Eichelberger’s work, in my opinion at least – on par with “Big A,” still working hard to be as good as Angus Trim, Michael Tinker Pearce and others. The custom pommel and guard are simple and beautifully rendered, and the peen is uniform and in the shape of a flattened dome.
Construction and Related Performance Qualities
Very very tight. As Jeremy notes, both the guard and the pommel were individually peened. My only criticism in this area is that the inletting in the guard for the blade has too much space for my taste. Not terrible at all, but I think it should be a tighter fit. See pic and tell me if you think I’m wrong or being unfair.
The peen is very well done, but the pommel is still a bit discolored by the torch. I was a little surprised to see that, but I expect to clean that up pretty easily.
The grip is exceptional. No other way to put it. Allows you to really get some distance between your hands to maximize leverage for cutting. The grip length qualifies it to be a “dreihander” (if such a thing existed) as there is easily enough room on the grip for three hands. It moves in my hands with amazing grace and agility, truly a joy to wield in this respect.
The blade is a slightly flattened diamond cross section, and what Eichelberger says about his distal taper is spot on, both dimensionally and how it translates into the feel of the sword. Point control is very fine, particularly for such a long blade – it’s better, even quite a bit better, than some Albion long swords I’ve cut with.
So, now we come to the key criticism in my review. Eichelberger made a beautiful sword in almost every respect, and then he failed to execute the key feature that makes a sword a sword. While the edge geometry is wonderfully executed, the edge arrived -- inexplicably – quite a bit less than sharp. Straight out of the box, it failed the paper cutting test, and it failed to cleanly cut both water bottles and tatami cleanly, even when I did my part re edge alignment etc.
I know I’m not the only sword guy who gets irked by sword makers who ship swords that are less sharp than they should be, particularly on a custom piece priced well above the entry and mid-tier offerings. I’m going to send it to Wes Beem for his sharpening service, and I really look forward to posting a short follow-up once that’s done.
That’s it for now. Based on my experience with this sword so far, I would buy from Jeremy Eichelberger again without a second thought, but I would ask him to remember to sharpen the crap out of the blade before shipping it! :-)
Let me know what you think of the review -- likes, dislikes, etc. Happy to answer questions! Comparisons between the work by Jeremy and other smiths is meant to help you place where Eichelberger is in his journey as a sword maker, not to denigrate or elevate anyone's quality or commitment.
UPDATE -- I got a note from Jeremy that I felt deserved to be shared, as it sheds light on his approach and perspective.
"The edge is historically inspired, and designed for impact cutting of flesh, bone, leather, and cloth. A few passes with a fine stone will produce a keener edge through the foible should you desire it, but please note that a sharper edge is less resilient and more prone to taking damage when encountering harder targets."
"Please note that the heat treatment is also historically inspired by period weapons. A very bad cut through a thick or extremely hard target may produce a slight set in the blade, as was the case with originals of the period. I do not create sharpened springs designed purely for test cutting. I strive for a degree of plasticity and toughness in my pieces, and make every attempt to mimic the performance of period originals. This particular piece was created with a particular focus on forward and aft pivot points."
Thanks again for your comments on this post. Wide open to input on what is missing from the review and how it might be more helpful.