Location: In a van down by the river
Joined: 23 Aug 2003
|Posted: Thu 12 Jul, 2018 12:57 pm Post subject: Slash from the Past: The DT/MRL Battle Sword
When I was just getting into this whole sword thing, back in the dark ages, one of the few sources for ‘functional’ swords was Museum Replicas Limited, which at that time was headed by none other than Hank Reinhardt himself. This was, of course, back in the ‘early days’ of the whole HEMA/WMA revival movement, back during the infancy of the online sword community, back when Arms & Armor was just getting started, Albion hadn’t even been thought of yet, ‘Tinker’ Pearce was laboring in relative obscurity, and Angus Trim was an aerospace contractor who played around with, but did not make, swords. During this ‘dark age’, MRL was a shining beacon in a world populated either by non-functional ‘sword-like objects’ or marginally functional Indian, Pakistani, or Filipino imports. Their primary product line consisted of swords made in Maniago, Italy by the Del Tin brothers. Del Tin swords were possibly the best swords available on the production market at this time, being made of a carbon steel designated CK55. They tended to be better balanced and weighted than their nearest competitors (which there weren’t too many of, in those days). My first experience with a sword of decent quality was with a sword made by Del Tin and purchased through MRL.
In those days, there were several swords produced by Del Tin that were pretty interesting, at least by my standards. However, back then, my income level did not allow me to spend much money on swords, so I ended up just saving up the bucks and waiting (which is never a bad idea, by the way). One of the swords I lusted after was something MRL called the “Battle Sword”. No, it wasn’t the most creative name for a sword, but there it was. It was a single-hand sword with a type XII blade, type C “Cocked Hat” pommel, and curved type 6 guard. The grip was wood with black leather and had a ribbed appearance (for your pleasure? I know, someone was gonna say it). The catalog number was 1-783 and MRL dated it to between 1050 and 1250 AD, which seems reasonable to me. According to the catalog, this sword is based on an original in the National Museum of Copenhagen (anyone see this one? If so, I’d like to see pics, if you can direct me to any). Anyway, I thought it was gorgeous. And I had to have it.
The problem is, before I could come up with enough dough (ah, the halcyon days of my youth), MRL and Del Tin (by this time a one-man operation) parted ways, MRL having been taken over by Windlass Steelcrafts, who had previously supplied a few items in the MRL product line. The Battle Sword lived on for a brief period as a Windlass product. At the time, I didn’t have a high opinion of Windlass swords, especially not those that were similar to Del Tin swords. Unfortunately, when Fulvio Del Tin started selling his swords through other vendors in the USA, his version of the Battle Sword didn’t make the production line cut. Some of the other swords Del Tin formerly made for MRL did return, but not this one. I tried contenting myself with the DT2130 Sword of St. Maurice of Turin, but it wasn’t the same thing, and I never really bonded with it, so I ended up selling it. I cruised the classified sections on the various sword and knife fora online, but nothing turned up. And then I turned to eBay. And nothing turned up, not for a long time. Recently, though, my luck changed, and now I have not one, but two vintage MRL/DT Battle Swords! Why two, you ask? Well, why not! Actually, I am glad I have two of these swords, because for two swords that are supposed to be identical, they could not be more different…
The first sword is a retired stage combat sword, and it shows it – the blade looks like a dog’s chew toy, with some pretty extensive edge damage. So why did I get it? Well, I thought I’d own the sword for a while, maybe use it as a beater, or hang it on a wall (hey, the sword has seen action and has a history – maybe not a very old history, but a history nonetheless. This makes it interesting), with the possibility of trading it off when I found a more pristine example. After repeening the tang, however (which it sorely needed, as it was pretty loose), I was rewarded with a sword that felt lighter than my dry food scale said it was – don’t get me wrong, it’s no lightweight by any means, but despite the weight, it feels good in my hand and practically begs me to dance – for old time’s sake, I suppose. The blade feels well-balanced and exhibits a moderate amount of distal taper. Despite the fact that she (yes, I called it a ‘she’) is old, ragged, and has a few miles on her, she still feels nimble and ready for action (please don’t read too much into that). She may be out to pasture, but I’m glad it’s my pasture.
The second sword is that ‘more pristine’ example I mentioned earlier. And, although this one looks prettier, with edges that are completely intact, she is a pig. This one is heavier, thicker, and clumsier. Had I purchased this one first, I’d have been pretty disappointed, to tell you the truth. Everything on this sword is thicker: the guard, the pommel, even the blade, which shows almost no distal taper at all. She is roughly four ounces heavier than sword #1 and the point of balance is only about a quarter inch further down the blade, but you feel those extras. For a minute there, I was thinking that this was actually one of the Windlass versions; but no, the guard is marked “Made in Italy”, and the blade has that tell-tale Del Tin sheen (more of a gray than a shiny silvery appearance, as you’d find on most Windlass swords). The guard has an overly-long slot in which the blade shoulders sit; this just looks kind of sloppy. The other sword does not have this long a slot. The guard also has a more extreme curve than on the first sword, plus, it is off-set and does not line up symmetrically with the grip, which is another sign of sloppiness. The pommel shows a pretty glaring casting flaw; I tried to get a picture of this but it did not turn out well. It may be up near where the tang is peened, but it’s definitely a flaw and not caused by hammering the tang.
Weight: Sword #1: 2 lbs, 15 oz; Sword #2: 3 lbs, 3 oz.
PoB: Sword #1: 5.75 inch; Sword #2: 6 inch
All other measurements are identical:
Overall length: 39.5 inch
Blade length: 32.75 inch
Grip length: 4.75 inch
CoP: 24 inch (approx)
So, why are these two swords so different, even though they are both the same model and made by the same person? Well, of course, there’s the fact that all DT swords are made entirely by hand, so the fact that two otherwise identical swords may be slightly different should be a given. However, I’m not entirely sure that’s the case here; the differences are so many and so obvious that I think there’s a little more at play here. Do I have a theory? Glad you asked. I do have a theory (and let us be honest, it’s a pretty wild guess, and not based on any other facts in evidence): I think sword #1, the nice-handling beater, is an older sword, made when Del Tin was MRL’s go-to guy for swords, and was made with more care and attention to detail. Sword #2, on the other hand, is much later in production, and may have been made at the tail end of DT’s relationship with MRL. It shows that, at this point, Del Tin had one care to give, and that care was now gone, so he kind of phoned this one in. Sure, it’s a wild guess, but it’s probably as good as anything, at least until someone comes forth with some inside info.
In any event, I am glad I had this chance to revisit a bit of modern sword history, and I’m glad I have these swords in my possession, despite their flaws. You youngsters don’t know how good you’ve got it these days. Story time is over; now, get off my lawn.
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off-set guard on sword #2 [ Download ]
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Sword #2 guard [ Download ]
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Sword #1 guard [ Download ]
David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe
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