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David Wilson




Location: In a van down by the river
Joined: 23 Aug 2003

Posts: 802

PostPosted: Sun 21 Nov, 2021 12:35 pm    Post subject: Sultans of Swing: Ottoman Swords and Universal Swords Kilij         Reply with quote

Anyone who knows me and my main interests in swords would think that Iím a big Euro-only guy and that I like double-edge straight swords only. They would be wrong about that, of course; I tend to self-limit for various reasons (many of which involve money), none of which are a lack of interest. Many years ago, I was introduced to Middle Eastern swords by an acquaintance of mine. He owned a beautiful couple-hundred-year-old example of a Turkish sword known as a kilij, kilic, or pala. The sword wasnít especially fancy; it was a fighting sword meant for battlefield use. Still, it was one of the sexiest swords I have ever seen or handled. The sword floated through the air like a deadly butterfly. It weighed under two pounds, maybe under one-and-a-half pounds. I was in lust. Eventually I purchased an antique Indian talwar (not the same thing, I know) which was also a fighting sword; it too was light and fast. Later on, I sold that sword; itís the only sword Iíve sold that I actually regret. Since then Iíve handled a few other middle eastern and Indian swords and some high-end replicas of such swords; a Vince Evans shamshir I handled was indistinguishable from an antique. However, I always come back to that kilij Ė what an incredible sword that was. It left me with a strong desire for such a sword myself Ė however, I donít want to spend the money on an antique (which seem to be in high demand and are climbing in price) or a high-end replica (Iíve got some high-end customs, but none of them are Ė whatís the proper plural? Kilijes? Kiliji? Just kilij? Anyway, you get the point). I want a kilij, but I want it cheap, and I want it now. How do I make this happen?

KILIJ #1: OTTOMAN SWORDS

There seems to be, in Turkey, a sort-of cottage industry of sword makers. One such maker is Ottoman Swords (ottomanswords.com), a maker centered right in the ancient imperial capitol of Istanbul. They produce an extensive line of various Turkish arms, from the kilij to the yataghan to composite bows. Now, some of their swords are made of stainless steel (4116, to be exact), but others are made of carbon steel. The sword I have is made of 5160, a decent cutlery steel. My sword seems to be known by two names; on Etsy (where I bought it) it is known as Selim the Resolute, while on the Ottoman Swords website it is called the Pala Gaddare (which begs the question Ė what is a kilij and what is a pala? The pala seems to be the shorter infantry version of this sword, while the kilij is the longer one, however, this is a longer sword and these Turks call it a pala so who knows?). It came in a very lovely velvet-covered, satin-lined case, complete with a scabbard, a single-sword stand, and two extra tassels (not sure what the significance of the tassel is, if there is one). Sword stats are as follows:

Weight: 2 lbs 6.1 oz.
PoB: 6.5 inches
COP: 18 inches
OA length: 37.5 inches
Blade length: 31.5 inches
Grip length: 3.75 inches
Yelman: 11.5 inches
Blade width (at ricasso): 1.5 inches

You can tell from the stats that the sword isnít particularly heavy Ė indeed, if it were a straight Euro-style sword of similar dimensions from Oakeshott types X through XII, one might say it handles just fine. And it does Ė it handles just fine. In fact, I find it pleasant to wield. However, it is heavier than a historical original would usually be, by as much as a full pound or more (certainly there are exceptions, but the majority of such swords would tend to be much lighter). If they could shave a half-pound off this sword, handling would improve dramatically; if they got it down to historical weights, it would be awesome. The balance is good for a cutting sword. I checked some swords on Kult of Athenaís website and found that the stats of this sword mirror the Del Tin Hussar Saber (DT7167). The blade itself seems to be well made; it displays obvious distal taper and is flexible Ė I flexed it a little (not sure by how much) and it bounced back to true. The blade is edged Ė it has a subtle apple seed grind Ė but I was expecting it to be sharper (it can be touched up by the user to a desired level of sharpness; however, I was hoping it would have come sharper). The blade does display some grind marks (I believe it was made by stock removal Ė not a negative at all, in fact some of the best big-name sword makers use stock removal). The blade has a full-profile tang; Iím not sure how historically accurate this is (I know some such blades had rod tangs, but not sure which is the exception and which is the rule). It has a single fuller; Iíve seen pictures of historical kilijes (the longer ones, anyway) and some of them did have fullers, but not quite like this one; it looks a bit simpler than the ones Iíve seen. Anyway, I thought it looked cool, accurate or not.
And now we come to the hilt, and here is where the disappointment kicks in. The guard itself is rough, with uncomfortable edges and obvious grinding flaws all around. Also, the forward quillon is out of alignment with the rear quillon Ė it looks odd, if you look closely. Due to the grinding marks, Iím pretty sure that the guard is made by grinding and not by casting (not that either way is necessarily preferable, but I canít help but to think that if the guard had been cast, it would have come out better). The wooden grips arenít uncomfortable, but the finishing job looks kind of rough and sloppy. There is some kind of ugly material in the space between the wood grips and the brass guard Ė is it epoxy or just putty? Donít know. Whatever it is, it looks bad. If youíre using this as a display sword, just make sure no one gets a close-up of it.
As mentioned, the sword comes with a scabbard. It is an actual scabbard, with a wood core, not just a leather sheath. However, itís kind of plain. Itís just leather covered wood; thereís no metal furniture (at the mouth or chape). Now, in its defense, I will say that it does have the back edge relief that most historical kilij or shamshir scabbards have in order to allow an easier draw. Also, as mentioned, it comes in a real cute velvet-covered box and comes with a single-sword display stand. If I can be honest, however, Iíd rather have the maker spend less time and money on the box and stand and more on the scabbard and grip.
In conclusion, the Ottoman Swords Selim the Resolute (or Pala Gaddare, depending on where you get it) is a mixed bag. The maker does understand the basics of blade craft, even if the sword is heavier than a historical original; itís still a decent blade. The hilting needs some attention to detail (or, a lot of attention to detail) as does the scabbard. If the maker paid more attention to the hilt details and brought the overall weight down a bit, heíd really have something special. If you are a backyard cutter who is considering this sword for a bit of cutting fun, you could do worse, especially in this price range; just remember you will need to touch up the edge a bit. If youíre looking for total historical accuracy, or if aesthetics are your thing, you may want to avoid this one.

KILIJ #2: UNIVERSAL SWORDS

Universal Swords, out of India, is best known for its line of 19th-century military swords and sabers. They seem to be one of the better-regarded makers of affordable swords. They have recently produced their version of this famous Turkish sword. Their kilij is a shorter version, more suited to infantry than cavalry, often called a pala (although, see the discussion above regarding terminology and how little I actually know). This would be the equivalent to the sword my old acquaintance owned. I am going to say that itís a very attractive sword, more so than the Ottoman Swords kilij mentioned above. However, how close does it come to that historical original? Letís seeÖ

Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz (!).
PoB: 7 inches
CoP: 14 inches
OA Length: 33.5 inches
Blande length: 27 inches
Grip length: 4 inches
Yelman: 11 inches
Blade width (at ricasso): 1.5 inches

The first thing I am going to say is that this sword is heavy. It feels heavy; it is heavier than the Ottoman Swords kilij (and the OS sword is longer!) and it is way heavier than most historical originals, especially my buddyís antique kilij. I mentioned that sword floating through the air like a deadly butterfly; well, the US kilij floats through the air like an overweight butterfly who might be slightly drunk. Thatís not to say it handles horribly; it handles fine, once you adjust to it. However, it could stand to lose some weight (or, a lot of weight, like a full pound). Now, that being said, I am aware of a kilij of similar dimensions that weighs about the same; this sword is, I believe, in the Met Museum in NYC. However, that sword has a hilt that is studded with precious stones, which means that it could be a presentation piece rather than a battlefield weapon, which is what this sword is trying to be. The blade is attractive, however, with the traditional t-back spine that is a trademark of the shorter kilij or pala and a yelman which is more pronounced than the pics on Kult of Athenaís website show (although, I think the yelman could stand for a bit more definition). The blade is made of 1065 carbon steel and unlike the OS kilij is very stiff and not flexible. There is some distal taper (not as much as on the OS sword) but it sure could use more. I had the blade edged by KOA; thereís a subtle secondary bevel and it could be sharper, which seem to be common complaints with KOAís sharpening service. I donít know about the tang; it could be a full tang concealed within the grip, or a rod tang. In any case, itís secured with pins and seems to be stout.
The hilt is nice and comfortable, although, at 4 inches, itís a bit longer than it should be. Still, in comparison to the OS sword hilt, itís far superior in terms of fit and finish. The scabbard, too, is a real scabbard, lined with wood, and is far more attractive than the OS sword scabbard; however, it lacks the back edge relief at the scabbard mouth that historical kilij scabbards usually have, so itís not entirely historically accurate. Still, itís a nice scabbard.
In conclusion, the Universal Swords kilij is an attractive piece that falls short in terms of historically accurate handling characteristics. It could stand to go on a diet (yeah, I know, I donít have room to talk). Just remember the old adage that you get what you pay for and keep your expectations realistic. Of the two swords, Iíd say get the US kilij for show and the OS kilij for go. In fact, Iíd go so far as to say to keep an eye on Ottoman Swords; itís clear that they know how to make a decent sword blade, and if they improve the small details, they could be a best buy in this price range.



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David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe

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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
Joined: 27 Nov 2007

Posts: 613

PostPosted: Sun 21 Nov, 2021 9:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have the Ottoman Swords shamshir. It is the curviest production sword on the market as far as I know. I agree with your evaluation. The fit and finish could be a little improved, and it would be nice if it were a touch lighter, but I can't complain too much given the price and the fact that there are no other swords with such a curve.




I would strongly recommend PesereyHandicrafts on Etsy if you want to try another Kilij. Hamit makes Turkish and Caucasian weapons that are simple in appearance, but handle superbly and have correct distal taper and accurate weights. He's also very helpful and is good with communication.

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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