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Alexander Hinman

Location: washington, dc
Joined: 08 Oct 2005
Reading list: 50 books

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Sat 08 Apr, 2006 6:09 pm    Post subject: First Custom Sword         Reply with quote

I'm fairly new to the hobby of arms and armour collecting, but am already interested in getting a custom sword.

I realise this is a fairly big step. I know custom swords are expensive, and do not have the comparatively short waiting period of more heavily-produced sword models. But I still think that it will be worth it, not only for the uniqueness of the product, but for a niche I want it to fill in my collection, for a very special 'buckler-sword' which none of the other makers really seem to meet.

Now, onto the main reason for this thread. I was wondering if anyone could help me, in any way, choose a custom maker, perhaps by suggesting where to look (I've already taken a peak at myArmoury's links page, but I know there's more out there), or perhaps how to look. I'm virtually in the dark in terms of swordsmith research, though I am considering visiting the Atlanta Blade Show, but scheduling issues may get in the way.

I would also be grateful if you could suggest what sort of information I should give a smith for a custom job. The 'base sword' I have in mind for the job is the one on the left here, with the square pommel.

However, since my goal is a weapon meant for sword-and-buckler, the slightly long blade may have to be 'cut down'. I want to give the smith free rein, but don't want to give the sword ahistorical (or downright weird) handling. Should I give the dimensions of a blade from another sword, or trust the smith's intuition?

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Bill Grandy
myArmoury Team

myArmoury Team

Location: Alexandria, VA USA
Joined: 25 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Apr, 2006 8:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Alexander,
What I'd recommend for the proportions of the sword is to tell the smith what you have in mind, but let them know they should make whatever changes they feel necessary. Since you say you want to make sure it isn't ahistorical, you need to make sure you work with a maker who understands the historical properties. There are several out there who could do an outstanding job. One suggestion is Arm and Armor, who are the only ones I have personal experience with (all my other custom swords have been bought second hand). Craig is super knowledgable, and they really do a fantastic job. They're also very reliable, something that's worth quite a lot in its own right.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--

"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Angus Trim

Location: Seattle area
Joined: 26 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Sun 09 Apr, 2006 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Alex

I'd have to second Bill Grandy's suggestion for A&A, for the reasons given. Craig Johnson is a heck of a guy, and he's also real easy to work with.......

That's also well within Michael "Tinker" Pearce' experience also. He also understands the principles of a sword, and how a sword should work.......

Another possibility would be John Lundemo. He's more well known for his fantasy stuff, but over the last 18 mos or so has gotten into the historically accurate stuff too.......

I could mention other smiths, but the ones I would mention would have a wait of 3 or more years, and likely aren't taking orders right now.

Of the three I do mention, I'd check with all three. Get a feel for them, because if you order once, and like the experience as well as the final product, you're very likely to buy again. If it was me, price wouldn't be the deciding factor, all three could make you a sword that would work well for you....One of the keys though, in custom work, is the communication between you and the maker. When dealing with a good maker, when disappointment happens, most of the time its a communication problem. So making sure that you and who you eventually choose to make your sword is someone that you feel comfortable "gets" what is most important for you......

Then, on "dimensions". The more actual leeway you give a smith, the happier you will be with the final product. I'd give rough dimensions, and maybe tell them what the sword would be used for, and what you expect.

Of course, before doing this, it might be a good idea to go to Atlanta, and handle as many decent swords as you can, so that you will have a better idea of what to expect. Tinker will be there, Albion will be there, and I just got my Atlanta Blade Show paperwork in, so I should be there too.....Between us, there's possibly going to be 50 or more swords to handle, some of them single handed swords that would work with a buckler....... The reason I mention handling, is that other disappointments happen when a customer really has no experience, and no idea of what to expect.......

On time for completion......... this is always tricky. If given a time period for completion, for your own thoughts add at least 70% to the time. Sh** happens, and most makers and smiths tend to be optimistic. But when things break down, or sh** happens to your blade, and it has to be remade, or injuries happen, illness happens......any of a number of things happen, things fall behind......

swords are fun
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Alexander Hinman

Location: washington, dc
Joined: 08 Oct 2005
Reading list: 50 books

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Sun 09 Apr, 2006 2:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for your help, Bill and Gus, but I forgot to put one thing in that I should have mentioned, stupid me.

It is highly likely that I will prefer a waiting period of over a year. The reason for this is simple. I will be attending university next year, and as such, for the first year, at least, I will be living in a dormitory. Rather than deal with the issues of moving house, all-the-while worrying about the weapon's transportation, I would be much happier receiving the weapon in a more permanent residence, waiting period be damned.

I am also not so worried about price, but I don't want it to be too... elegant, I suppose. None of this Bulgarian Three-Horned Goat kid leather wrapped around wood from a Brazilian Elm Tree in the middle of winter, sculpted by a man using only his teeth.

Well, a bit less silly than that, but you get the idea.
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Alexander Hinman

Location: washington, dc
Joined: 08 Oct 2005
Reading list: 50 books

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Tue 11 Apr, 2006 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I didn't mean to make my last post sound terminatory, by the way. Any more advice would still be a great help.
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Joe Fults

Location: Midwest
Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 3,500

PostPosted: Tue 11 Apr, 2006 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd also recommend another option, not a smith per say, but a darn good cutler and scabbard maker.

Christian Fletcher can take a base Atrim or Albion blade and and do surprising things with it.

If you want really custom...

Kevin Cashen makes amazing stuff and is very down to earth and easy to communicate with as well.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Russ Ellis
Industry Professional

Joined: 20 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Posts: 2,607

PostPosted: Tue 11 Apr, 2006 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmm custom European stuff is surprisingly hard to come by these days. Was just sitting here thinking about it. Aside from those already mentioned... Mr. Evans and Mr. Johnsson two of the absolute top European custom sword smiths are both in a position where they build what they want and then put it up for sale these days. Mr. Barta another top tier custom smith is so backlogged that unless you are wanting a three year wait... Mr. Powning who is better known for his Viking and Celtic stuff but could also do this one is in the same postion. Mr. Jesse Frank might be interested but I know he's busy with a lot of other stuff right at the moment and he seems to be more focused on earlier period stuff as well. I think were I you I might be interested in contacting Mr. Rob Miller of Castle Keep. I have no idea what is backlog looks like these days though. Another alternative would be the guys at OlliN sword design. They mostly focus on fantasy stuff but they've been known to do at least one historical sword. Another thought might be the guys at Manning Imperial. I'm sure I'm missing someone...
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