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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Sat 04 Nov, 2017 3:28 pm    Post subject: Review: Marienburg Longsword by Maciej Kopciuch / Swordmaker         Reply with quote

Review: Marienburg Longsword by Maciej Kopciuch / Swordmaker

(Pictures, Maker's measurements, commentary and thought process can be found here: http://artofswordmaking.com/gallery/marienbur...late-14thc )

Introduction:

Earlier this year I decided that I wanted a nice high/late medieval sharp sword. At that time I didn't even know whether I'd rather go with a single handed Oakeshott type XIV, maybe a replica of the beauty from the Klingenmuseum Solingen, or a long sword, seeing as I practice both I.33 and German as well as Italian long sword.

With Albion being somewhat out of reach after the closure of their European branch and their apparently very long wait times, I decided to look on the handcrafted custom market.

Ultimately this post on myArmoury drew me in: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=35230

Contact and Shipping:

Maciej was very pleasant to exchange mail with. A total of 25 e-mails were exchanged in less than three weeks until the purchase was ultimately made, answering many questions about the background of the sword, some of its characteristics (sharpness, hardness, hilt assembly) as I really wanted to know what I was getting into at that price point. At times I was afraid I might come across slightly overbearing. With the exception of a holiday-weekend, response time was between under an hour in the evening or, at its longest, a day until the next evening.

The sword was shipped via Polish post and then DHL once it crossed over to Germany. It spent about ten days in transit, and unfortunately wasn't tracked after it crossed the border, leading to some premature panic on my part.

It arrived in a black plastic gun case, wrapped in cling film, cardboard and packing paper. The crossguard, pommel and scabbard chape also had extra bubble wrap in case it bumped into the case walls. The gun case does not come with all of Maciej's swords, only his most high end and expensive pieces. It is very convenient, as I need to transport it in a locked container under German law when taking it somewhere.

The Sword:

Concept and design:

The sword was inspired by original pieces in Malbork Castle (a.k.a. Marienburg) in Poland, with a few minor alterations, e.g. the broken off tip being added back. The blade is of a rather rarely replicated type: the geometry is basically hexagonal with a decent fuller on either side, going quite far down the blade. None of the surfaces on the blade are flat, however, as they all have a gentle curve to them, which is one of the main reasons I got so enamored with the sword. It also, in my opinion, doesn't quite fit any of Ewart Oakeshott's types. The profile taper seems too pronounced to be a type XIIa and it's not a lenticular sword, but the fuller is too long for a type XVIa. Still, I think the latter would be the best fit if we really had to squeeze it into a category there.

In terms of application it appears to have been suitable as a battlefield implement, probably even allowing some one-handed use, especially from horseback. The wide and, due to the cross-section, quite meaty blade would seem to be able to perform and endure well in such situations, especially combined with the rather acute point. With regards to the opulent 15th C. scabbard, however, there is another hypothetical use for this sword: passed down from a Teutonic Knight returning from the Crusades or some such to his heirs, in more peaceful times adopted for a more representative than strictly utilitarian purpose. Being quite agile it would also have made an excellent defensive and duelling weapon. Its dimensions are also rather small so it wouldn't be quite as awkward to carry as many longer swords.

Fit and Finish:

The sword is assembled very solidly, as should be expected in this price range. The only indication of movement I ever got from it was when the blade is forced to quickly flex (e.g. from quickly sequenced strikes and movements, espl. Zwerchhau and strikes with the flat) there is sometimes a very soft „click“ audible from the hilt. It doesn't sound like metal moving, maybe the handle scales rubbing against the tang, and has gotten rarer and quieter. The sword also sings when I hit my gold ring against any part of it – pommel, handle, crossguard, blade, everything makes it ring like a bell.

The disc pommel is clearly tapered, not perfectly round but rather oval and has a few small forging marks in it. It came with an extremely smooth dark polish and was an absolute joy to use for gripping. The finish has since dulled some more from me handling it a lot, usually gripping the pommel in my left hand. The peen block as a minimal gap on the sides, the peen itself is adequately finished and, due to one obvious irregularity, can also act as a fingerprint for the sword. It's how I know that I have the exact sword depicted in his photos. The handle itself is wrapped in comfortable (cord bound) black leather with two risers in the middle and one on each end of the handle. The seam is not straight and is glued, not sewn, similar to Albion swords. You can feel the seam and there is a small bit of lift off at the edges touching crossguard and pommel. Nothing I'm immediately worried about, and I have done a lot of shadow-fencing with it, not wearing gloves. A small bit of the glue also seems to have bled onto the crossguard, but it is very minor and purely cosmetic. The slightly waisted, straight crossguard is octagonal, with the facets being clearly hand-filed and not all the same and symmetrical. It is finished with a satination perpendicular to the blade.

It provides an excellent contrast to the blade's longitudinal satination. There are also some clear toolmarks from grinding and filing the blade near the hilt. I actually like that, it reinforces its „original“ purpose as a no-frills functional sword. The fuller is not quite centered and does in at least one place waver from being truly straight. Again, I like that, and it seems to have exactly zero impact on the sword's handling. The „ridges“ along the hexagonal outline came very crisp. It sits in a recess in the crossguard, touching the edge of the recess in some places. Some may construe this space as inherently problematic or poor workmanship, but I don't think this is necessarily a valid concern. The fit seems to be about as accurate as this 13th Century sword by Peter Johnsson, and please don't tell me that he doesn't know what he's doing and is a poor craftsman: http://myArmoury.com/review_pj_bj.html

The only real issue I took with the blade as it arrived is that it wasn't really sharp. I had spoken with Maciej about this before it shipped and he had told me that, while it was not extremely sharp, it certainly was sharp. It had been a while since he'd made it (though he did display it at faires and in schools), and standards vary so we may have spoken past each other in this regard. The lower two thirds of the blade as well as the last two inches below point were indeed sufficiently sharp, but the forward third of the blade where the profile taper is most pronounced was unfortunately not dull, but blunt with a visible edge of probably 0.5mm. Maciej offered to compensate me for having it sharpened, but instead I chose to try my own hand on it.

I looked up different methods, considered what Maciej himself suggested, but ended up following the approach used by Mike Edelson and Karl Bolle using a slack-belt grinder.
A 30 minute video by Karl Bolle on this method can be found here, including a link to Mike Edelson's original video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McJc_AXD7v0
I practiced on a few larger medieval and modern knives, axes as well as my Vladimir Cervenka sidesword before getting to work on the Marienburg. It was a lot harder to work with due to the geometry. I did mar the finish a bit more than I had hoped and took about four hours of careful grinding and polishing until it was shaving sharp and capable of „hewing“ through paper while being robust enough to whack a block of wood without becoming any duller. I mostly restored the original finish using different grits of sandpaper and a wooden block so that only the very last millimeter or two are now mirror polished against the satin blade.

Handling and Performance:

The sword is not exactly lightweight for its size, but it is also not heavy, especially for its geometry. It has a very healthy amount of blade presence and doesn't feel whippy or floaty at all. Once you start moving it with correct technique, it doesn't want to stop and leads into a tremendous flow-state. As such it reinforces good technique and makes „doing it wrong“ also feel that way.

It balances about 9cm from the guard, its forward pivot point is about seven centimeters behind the point, the rear pivot being about one third into the blade. Its center of percussion is just shy of two thirds down the blade, well within the fuller. It may not have a lot of distal taper, but with the pronounced profile taper that is probably for the best. According to my (granddad-in-law's old Mauser-made) calipers, it is also only 4mm thick at the cross instead of 5mm as stated on Maciej's website, tapering to about 3,2mm at the end of the fuller, and 2,2mm right below the point.

The handle is comfortable and fits my (size 9) hands (without gauntlets) very well, but I prefer to grasp the pommel, laying my middle finger on the forward slope of the pommel, ring finger on the flat plateau and pinkie on the rear slope. This also works very well for Fiore's guards and techniques, switching to Bicorno by rotating it in the right hand is quite intuitive when held like that. For something like a forceful Zwerchhau with maximum momentum (at the cost of control) you may very well want to grab the handle with both hands. It should be noted that I have medium to rather thin fingers.

I have done a lot of shadow-fencing/solo-drills with it, striking probably well over a thousand cuts and thrusts with it. For a time in the summer I got almost addicted to it and needed my nightly fix of doing some solo-drills in the garden. It is also for this reason that I decided to commission a blunt simulator from Maciej to emulate the handling and behaviour of the sharp in partner training and light sparring, mostly with minimal protective equipment.

Last weekend it also got to cut some tatami after being sharpened, as my HEMA club held a small cutting event at its annual general assembly. I had never cut tatami before, only plastic bottles, tetra paks/milk cartons and a few Pringles cans (they work quite well when filled with water!). I used it myself on four or five mats and lent it to a few select fellow fencers to try. Here's the first roll I ever cut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ8S4JWubio
All cuts were ahead of the CoP (my bad obviously), some only shaved a little off the very top because I wanted to reduce the length as little as possible (the splatter is audible) and one swing I outright missed for that very reason. The last cut was only the tip passing through the greater part of the mat, leaving the rear portion standing.
I may get to upload and link to more once I get all the video from the guy who filmed.

After dozens of cuts it is still shaving sharp and there is no apparent damage from the cutting to either finish or blade. We also had our „Club-Swords“ by Steffan Roth at the event, a type XVIIIb long sword and a Langes Messer, Elmslie type M3e(+), which were considerably duller as they had never been sharpened since leaving his workshop. The messer would certainly cut comparably well were it as sharp, but the Roth longsword felt too light and seemed to lack blade presence to deliver a cut with authority, so I doubt that it would have been as fun to cut with as the Marienburg longsword even if it were just as sharp.

Scabbard:

The sword came with a scabbard, largely in the style of the 15th C. with 13th/14th C. style belting. It is a wood core covered with linen and, over that, embossed leather. The contrast of the brown scabbard with the black belting is simple and elegant, the chape and other metal ornaments are brass and fit the scabbard very well.

The tooling of the leather is nearly impeccable, and what „errors“ a friend of mine who does a lot of embossing may have seen I did not take issue with. The inscription „+ Sub tuum praesidium confugimus + sancta Dei Genitrix +“ is, according to Maciej, part of the Teutonic Order's canon and roughly translates to „Under your [presidency/protection/guidance/leadership] we [assemble/take refuge], holy Mother of God“. The seam on the back of the scabbard is an upstanding ridge, but very taut and cleanly sewn. The throat has doubled leather flaps that have been glued and sewn onto the outside flaps as well as the mouth of the scabbard.

It seems that the belt is intended for people with slightly more girth than me, or at least thicker clothing than I usually wear (may change with my new ca. 1400 noble civilian kit next year!). It has bone/dumbbell shaped brass reinforcements down most of its length that prevent rolling and limit warping, the holes are also reinforced with brass studs. The belting is absolutely solid on the scabbard, but could without a doubt be removed if it were ever really necessary.

The only potential nitpick I have with the scabbard is that, at this price point, it would be nice if it actually retained the sword, but sadly it slips right out if you tilt it downward. Contributing to that is also the fact that it is not lined with felt or fur. Not really wrong or ahistorical, just a nitpick.

I intend to build a scabbard for the blunt simulator of this sword myself, and I will share the results next year.

Conclusion:

What can I say, I really love this sword. It seems quite rare to see a blade with this hexagonal cross-section truthfully replicated, despite there being no shortage of original finds with that feature.

I can fully recommend working with Maciej Kopciuch, he has a deep understanding of medieval swords, is very pleasant to communicate with and writes very good English. Dave Rawlings has also praised his work in the past, and I have joined that choir. Swordmaker creates excellent swords, be they exact replicas or „inspired“ works of the highest authenticity, which may not be as „perfect“ and „clean“ as the CNC machined blades and cast hilts on Albions, but ooze character and have at least as much sentimental value.


P.S.

Well this ended up being way longer than I thought it would be! Some 14400 characters and 2525 words written in four hours!
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
Joined: 03 Feb 2014
Likes: 31 pages

Posts: 677

PostPosted: Sat 04 Nov, 2017 6:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Review: Marienburg Longsword by Maciej Kopciuch / Swordm         Reply with quote

Johannes Zenker wrote:
Review: Marienburg Longsword by Maciej Kopciuch / Swordmaker

P.S.

Well this ended up being way longer than I thought it would be! Some 14400 characters and 2525 words written in four hours!


Hey no worries, a great sword will naturally make someone verbose! Thanks for the review. I really enjoy my works from Maciej as well and your sword caught my eye for the geometry. So we need some in-hand
pics. Congratulations on your new sword!
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Preben B




Location: Norway
Joined: 02 May 2017

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Sun 05 Nov, 2017 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful sword and well written review, I second J, we need in-hand pictures!
I have always admired Maciej's pictures but never gotten to handle one of his swords myself, I definitely want one some day.

And it is so true what you say, some flaws do not ruin a sword, machined perfection was not expected back then and many have gotten spoiled and expect it now, unless it is visually jarring or compromise the functionality it adds character I say.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Sun 05 Nov, 2017 3:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Edelson/Bolle sharpening method produces remarkable edges with very little work (especially now that you've put in the job of grinding it in place for the first time). My current cutting sword is an Albion Crecy, sharpened with the same method, and can slide through a mat without much more than a vague wave. If you can find a source for them in Germany, the 3M Tri-zact belts which Karl recommends are definitely worth investing in.
Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Eric Lu





Joined: 22 Dec 2009

Posts: 27

PostPosted: Mon 06 Nov, 2017 11:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great review! I’m a big fan of Maciej’s work. I own one of his swords and it’s one of my very favorite pieces. I think you’ve hit pretty much all of the high points about his work. Good stuff!
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov, 2017 6:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glad to hear you liked the review.

There will be more pictures and video, but I currently don't have all the files from the cutting event yet and the weather's rather poor so I'd rather wait to take better pictures sword in hand.
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 2,229

PostPosted: Wed 08 Nov, 2017 1:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had the same misunderstanding about sharpness with Maciej. If one wants a sharp sword from him, you have to say you want it extra sharp.
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Sun 19 Nov, 2017 5:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have more pictures and videos, as requested.
Various perspectives of the sword itself.



 Attachment: 109.23 KB
Pommel & Peen [ Download ]

 Attachment: 123.73 KB
Marks on Pommel [ Download ]

 Attachment: 145.01 KB
Grip and Cross [ Download ]

 Attachment: 142.63 KB
Blade and Cross [ Download ]

 Attachment: 172.78 KB
Hilt [ Download ]

 Attachment: 115.8 KB
Marks on Blade [ Download ]

 Attachment: 125.1 KB
More Marks on Blade [ Download ]

 Attachment: 149.28 KB
Polish change at the edge [ Download ]

 Attachment: 142.68 KB
Fuller slightly wandering to the left [ Download ]

 Attachment: 180.67 KB
point [ Download ]
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Sun 19 Nov, 2017 5:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pictures of the scabbard and belting


 Attachment: 226.22 KB
belting [ Download ]

 Attachment: 136.21 KB
mouth [ Download ]

 Attachment: 231.89 KB
decorative pin [ Download ]

 Attachment: 175.02 KB
reinforcing "bone" on belt [ Download ]

 Attachment: 168.71 KB
tool/casting marks on chape [ Download ]

 Attachment: 173.72 KB
toolmarks on back of chape [ Download ]

 Attachment: 252.26 KB
knotwork [ Download ]

 Attachment: 241.89 KB
embossing detail near chape [ Download ]

 Attachment: 261.34 KB
embossing detail in the middle [ Download ]

 Attachment: 219.54 KB
embossing detail top [ Download ]
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Sun 19 Nov, 2017 5:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

pictures of the sword in hand / on person

Videos of some flourishes with it:

https://youtu.be/Xt0VTh5qv_I
https://youtu.be/InSy24iDxmY



 Attachment: 190.19 KB
worn on the belt [ Download ]

 Attachment: 124.71 KB
Bicorno [ Download ]

 Attachment: 146.58 KB
Vom Tag [ Download ]

 Attachment: 207.02 KB
Posta di Donna [ Download ]

 Attachment: 137.41 KB
Schrankhut/Alber mix [ Download ]
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Preben B




Location: Norway
Joined: 02 May 2017

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Sun 19 Nov, 2017 5:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You sure delivered with those pictures and videos, again a beautiful sword and just makes me even more certain that I want a Maciej myself in the future
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