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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2016 4:16 pm    Post subject: Albion / A&A Scottish Medieval 'Collaboration'         Reply with quote

Warning, the following may offend Albion purists:

For various reasons related to my ancestry and taste in swords, I'm a big fan of the many swords depicted in the graveslabs of the Western Highlands, Hebrides, and Eastern Ireland (see picture from Kilmory below). These slabs and related sculptures dating form 13-15th century tend to depict single hand swords with broad cutting blades, downswept straight quillons enlarged toward the end, ecusson protruding over the blade, and 'transitional' viking-like pommels ranging from a fishtail type to an Oakeshott type M with a prominent center lobe (the excerpt from the McMillan Cross below is a perfect example of the latter). Unfortunately, I don't think any complete examples survive, but many sculptures survive, often associated with early 'Gallowglass' culture, and examples are easily found in an internet image search.

So of course one my first aquisitions in the higher-end sword market was the Albion Caithness. To my knowledge, this is the best and one of the only production pieces of this type. However, over time I found myself not entirely satisfied with the Caithness, for two related reasons. First, the blade (borrowed from Albion Knight) is a bit light for my taste, and (to my taste) feels insubstantial compared to the heavy pommel of the sword. Second, from what I can divine from the internet, most of the original swords had more parallel blades (like XIIIb) rather than the XII on Caithness. This is a bit hard to tell, because some or all of these slabs might be depicting swords in their scabbard, I don't know. Nevertheless, they often look XIII-ish to me, heavy cutters, which seems to fit with the residual Celtic/Scandanavian warrior ethos of that region and time.

I had thought to sell my Caithness and order a custom version, but on the other hand I really love the hilt furniture on the Caithness...I know that pommel is very hard to execute by forging, and it really couldn't get any nicer. So I hit on the idea of keeping this part and replacing the blade. This took a lot of existential grappling, since one does not go about tearing up a thousand dollar Albion lightly, but the idea stuck for years. I played around with various designs, finally deciding on a blade inspired by Oakeshott Records XIII.1, which has a very parallel blade and three half-length fullers (see my original graphic mock-up below). This would spice things up a bit and still be in keeping with the notion of the kind of Continental blade that a 14th century Scottish cutler would get his hands on, and specialize to local taste.

Ultimately, I contacted A&A about this project (the response was 'sure, no problem') and sent them my Caithness last year. Since then I've been missing my Caithness, and biting my nails a bit about how it would turn it out. But finally, this past weekend Craig sent me a first picture. Looks like a slightly distorted phone shot, but enough to set my mind somewhat at ease. Still lots to worry about...do the stats work out as I hoped, does it feel right, and especially how does the new blade mated to the old hilt affect the harmonics?

I hope to provide some more details, pictures, and impressions in the coming weeks. Hopefully it's worth the risk!



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Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
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PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2016 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That looks really good J.D. That was a very brave thing to do with an Albion. As a lover of substantial one hand cutters I agree with your reasoning. Looking forward to details on the sword as well as your thoughts on it.
Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2016 6:42 pm    Post subject: Re: Albion / A&A Scottish Medieval 'Collaboration'         Reply with quote

The new blade profile makes it look like it look like you shrank the Albion chieftain down. Also, how would this be reflective of Norse Warrior culture? From what I've seen, Viking and Viking era blade have a little bit more profile taper than this.
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Brian K.
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PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2016 6:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very nice. I really like it. I can't wait to see more pictures of the finished product and your thoughts!
Brian Kunz
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2016 8:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott, Brian, thanks for your positive comments.

Phil, I wouldn't claim that most Viking swords had the near-parallel profile of the true XIII, especially in the later 'Ulfbehrt' era.

My intent with that comment was rather to contrast the 'backward' highland slashing weapons in the later medieval period to the ascendance of types XV, XVI, XVII, and XVIII in much of Western Europe during the same period (or likewise broadsword vs. rapier in later times). One can well imagine some enterprising and perhaps disdainful exporters shipping obsolete blades to Scotland where there was still a market for them. (These, of course, are all generalizations that have exceptions on both sides of the comparison.) Presumably the highland preference for broad-bladed weapons through the ages was not simply due to backward thinking, but was quite appropriate for their fighting style and the type of armor they normally encountered.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Sep, 2016 11:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As Scott said a very brave thing to do but I think it worked out great. Also your point about continental merchants selling old fashioned blade to place like the Highlands or Ireland wouldn't surprise me in the least. Good man J.D. looking forward to seeing more pics.
Éirinn go Brách
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Sep, 2016 7:19 am    Post subject: Re: Albion / A&A Scottish Medieval 'Collaboration'         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
The new blade profile makes it look like it look like you shrank the Albion chieftain down.


That's an apt comparison if those later two-handers were derived from these earlier designs via the intermediate 'halflangs'.

However, the lobated pommel seems to have disappeared in the later two-hand swords, maybe because of a politically incorrect association with the non-centralist island clans. On that note, the current sword is very much representative of a maritime culture (note the galleys that show up in the same grave slabs). I wonder if there is some functional association between this type of sword and fighting at sea, like the cutlas or hanger of later times. Or at least a cultural tradition dating back to the Viking occupation of this region. The distinct style clearly seems to be part of their cultural identity, although it is also reminiscent of earlier anglo-saxon swords, perhaps via the so-called 'transitional viking swords' of 12th century northern Britain.
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Sep, 2016 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The XIIIb blade goes very well with that hilt. I wonder what kind of blade geometry A&A put on it?
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Sep, 2016 12:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roger Hooper wrote:
The XIIIb blade goes very well with that hilt. I wonder what kind of blade geometry A&A put on it?


Hard to say from the photo, but originally I asked for flattened lenticular. At one point I discussed hexagonal with Craig, but I think he said it might be too heavy with a wide, long blade. Their recent 'Moonbrand' was quite a heavy sword for its size.
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2016 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very brave AND very cool. I think it looks good. Maybe it's just the picture angle...but the blade looks to be a bit on the shorter end of the spectrum. Do you know what the blade length is going to be?
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




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2016 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bryan Heff wrote:
Very brave AND very cool. I think it looks good. Maybe it's just the picture angle...but the blade looks to be a bit on the shorter end of the spectrum. Do you know what the blade length is going to be?


I think you're right Bryan, its probably longer than it looks. From what I recall, the original plan was I think 32.5" or 33" blade, but its possible that A&A fiddled with this to make the balance work out. I don't yet have any actual stats.
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2016 5:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. D., that looks great. This is an area and time period I'd like to see more product availability in as well. Like you, my interest may be driven by my own ancestry and background. I've been thinking about the Caithness, but the last few years my discretionary spending has been going into another area of interest I have - acoustic guitars. I believe I could have bought several Albions and sheathed them rather enviably, but that's another story..... but I sure like your cutter. Its truly a different sword than the Caithness, but a great one hand sword with the right hilt furniture for the period. Really nice outcome.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 4:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
J. D., that looks great. This is an area and time period I'd like to see more product availability in as well. Like you, my interest may be driven by my own ancestry and background. I've been thinking about the Caithness, but the last few years my discretionary spending has been going into another area of interest I have - acoustic guitars. I believe I could have bought several Albions and sheathed them rather enviably, but that's another story..... but I sure like your cutter. Its truly a different sword than the Caithness, but a great one hand sword with the right hilt furniture for the period. Really nice outcome.



Thanks Greg. I understand the guitar thing - I have a few kicking around here from yesteryears.

To be clear, the Caithness is a terrific sword that I would recommend to anyone seeking a Scottish-flavored weapon of arming sword proportions. I just like a sword with more blade.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
J. D., that looks great. This is an area and time period I'd like to see more product availability in as well. Like you, my interest may be driven by my own ancestry and background. I've been thinking about the Caithness, but the last few years my discretionary spending has been going into another area of interest I have - acoustic guitars. I believe I could have bought several Albions and sheathed them rather enviably, but that's another story..... but I sure like your cutter. Its truly a different sword than the Caithness, but a great one hand sword with the right hilt furniture for the period. Really nice outcome.



Thanks Greg. I understand the guitar thing - I have a few kicking around here from yesteryears.

To be clear, the Caithness is a terrific sword that I would recommend to anyone seeking a Scottish-flavored weapon of arming sword proportions. I just like a sword with more blade.
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice project JD. As an aside, had you considered contacting Albion to see if they'd sell you the furniture? You could have then sold the Caithness and put the money towards the new sword.
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Nice project JD. As an aside, had you considered contacting Albion to see if they'd sell you the furniture? You could have then sold the Caithness and put the money towards the new sword.


Years ago they were unwilling to do this. I'd sure like to buy the longsword-sized Type XIX blade they make.

In fact, I really, really want one or two of them right now.

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Spenser T.




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That new blade is so beautiful, I think you made the right choice in taking this risk. Can't wait to see the final pictures of this.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 4:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Patrick Kelly wrote:
Nice project JD. As an aside, had you considered contacting Albion to see if they'd sell you the furniture? You could have then sold the Caithness and put the money towards the new sword.


Years ago they were unwilling to do this.


That was also my assumption, but I never looked into it. Might have been more efficient to do it that way.

But I will have an Albion XII blade and custom Valiant scabbard for sale at the end of this.

I'm also looking forward to seeing more pictures!!! I'm not even sure if the sword in that picture is quite the final product, and A&A have gone quiet since sending that pic. So it goes with custom orders - they are done when they are done.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 8:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Really nice looking blade and a good project, I just wonder if you have a planned use for the now naked Caithness blade ?

Maybe A&A can use a compatible period style of pommel and guard to remount the Caithness blade on ?

Or sell the blade to someone wanting to use it for a DIY project ? A shame to waste a good blade and it could be mounted with a hilt and pommel similar to the Albion Knight the blade style that is was was borrowed from ?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2016 8:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Patrick Kelly wrote:
Nice project JD. As an aside, had you considered contacting Albion to see if they'd sell you the furniture? You could have then sold the Caithness and put the money towards the new sword.


Years ago they were unwilling to do this. I'd sure like to buy the longsword-sized Type XIX blade they make.

In fact, I really, really want one or two of them right now.


Years ago was years ago and things change, including the economy and profit margins.. It's funny how those things tend to change company attitudes. It was just a thought and all they can do is say no, which doesn't cost a thing.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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