A second-hand Windlass Hoplite
I acquired one of these swords second-hand at an online auction site some time ago, and have been mulling it over ever since it arrived. I purchased it as a project blade to refit and customize, something to cut my teeth on, in fact, and when it arrived it turned out to be an excellent choice for the purpose.

To begin with, let's see just what we're talking about, here.

First of all, no matter what Windlass or MRL may say, this is not a historically accurate sword, let alone a "classic" Hoplite sword. The overall design is sort of in the right ballpark, but that's as far as it goes. While the leaf blade is quite attractive, as such, it resembles an early gladius or a Celtic bronze sword more than a Greek xiphos. The hilt construction with its threaded tang and screw-on pommel is all wrong, of course, and the individual components bear little to no resemblance to their alleged historical counterparts.

That said... I kinda like it.

The blade is 555mm long, and 57mm broad at its widest point about 20cm from the tip, right around the COP. From there it tapers slowly to 49mm at its waspy waist to flare back to 55mm at the shoulder. The only distal taper is near the point, as usual for Windlass, but at least the blade is short enough that whippiness is not an issue. The COB is 85mm from the guard. The central ridge is straight, though not very well defined. There is a slight wavy effect typical of Windlass all over the blade, but it's not too bad, only barely noticeable except when looking down the blade. All in all, it's a curvy little beast.

The guard, on the other hand, is an unadorned rectangular piece of steel, a dramatic contrast to the fluid blade shape. It's 115mm long and 19mm wide. The outer faces are slightly convex, tapering from 14mm in the middle to 8mm at the ends, creating a sort of truncated oval shape when seen at an angle, which serves nicely to keep the thing from looking downright boring. There's Windlass's trademark rounded cutout for the blade shoulder, with a larger round hole in the middle for the threaded tang to fit through; ugly, but no surprise.

The grip is 105mm long and has a simple wooden core, oval at the guard and round at the pommel with a slight belly in the middle, spiral-wrapped with a piece of brown leather. Nothing fancy, but not particularly ugly, either. It fits very loosely on the tang, and has a habit of rotating and/or slipping out of alignment while the pommel is tightened, but hasn't moved in handling since I screwed the pommel on as tight as it would go. Other than that, it's nicely shaped and comfortable in the hand (even if I would prefer it just a bit beefier). The leather isn't at all slippery, either.

The pommel is a sort of round scent-stopper design, shaped like a truncated cone, 46mm tall and 42mm wide at the top; the raised ridges at its top and bottom are the only decorations on the entire sword. The pommel on my sword is slightly malformed, with a shallow dent on one side. This is only noticeable on close inspection, however, and doesn't affect handling at all. (One could even argue these imperfections actually serve to make the thing look less modern and machine-perfect, and I'm not so sure I'd disagree.) In any case, it serves its purpose and doesn't get in the way.

The scabbard is, again, typical Windlass fare in most respects: a thick wooden core covered in glossy leather. There are some scratches on the leather at the mouth where the brass band that holds the suspension rings apparently didn't quite fit and was pushed into place by force. The round studs that presumably hold this band in place are also brass, but the decorative ones running down the front of the scabbard in three alternating rows are not - they seem to be steel painted to look like brass, and the paint has chipped off of some on mine. The brass chape doesn't quite fit the shape of the scabbard, and the decorative shape on its front side is just plain sloppy, annoyingly asymmetrical and vague. And, of course, the sheathed sword rattles around quite freely. On the bright side, curiously enough, the stitched seam on the back is one of the neatest I've ever seen.

(To be honest, I have no idea why they spent so much half-assed effort on decorating the scabbard when the sword it houses is so wonderfully plain. I'd much rather they ditched the tacky bling-bling and either lowered the price or fixed some of the glaring issues with the basic fit and finish.)

Overall, it's a compact but brutal chopper with a wicked point and a severe no-nonsense aesthetic. It's not a light, nimble thing despite its relatively small size; it moves like a hammer and hits like an axe, and the point does terrible things to whatever you jab it at... and I haven't even sharpened it yet. It could perhaps be called "historically inspired" if one were feeling generous, but I find the overall design really quite attractive in its own right. The blade shape is beautiful, and the almost complete absence of decorative features sets it off very nicely.


So! That aside, now I'm gonna have to get down to it and do something to this little brute. I won't be aiming at historical accuracy, here, just something that looks good and feels good in the hand. Armed with some experience with knives and some online tutorials (including several excellent threads and articles right here), here's what I'm planning:

1) New grip. Wood core in two halves epoxied together, probably just cord-wrapped for a more secure grip, but the biggest improvement will be fitting it snugly on the tang. I know pretty well what I want here, I just need to find a suitable piece of wood to start working.

2) New scabbard. Using plywood for the core sounds interesting, and should work well with such a thin blade. I have some ideas for the design, the one I currently like best being simply rectangular on the outside, to echo the shape of the guard, and wrapped with cord like the grip. One question, though: how do I properly fit a scabbard for a blade that's slightly broader at the COP than at the base?

3) Sharpen the blade. It currently has the butterknife edge Windlass pieces come with, and I'd like to turn that to a nice appleseed bevel sharp enough to cut pool noodles but still robust enough to stay true to the spirit of the thing - almost an axe edge, if you know what I mean. Doesn't seem too hard, just takes a lot of patient work.

4) Re-finish the whole thing. The blade is currently mirror-polished but slightly stained at spots. I'll clean these out, and then try the salt and vinegar treatment to weather it a bit for a dull grey used-but-well-maintained look. I'll do the same to the hilt components, probably darkening them a bit more than the blade.

5) Suspension. Haven't given this much thought yet. The two foremost ideas I have at the moment are a simple baldric for wearing it vertical at the right hip, like a Roman gladius, or a horizontal belt suspension like on some katzbalgers... but we'll see.
Can you post photos of the sword? I've seen the Windlass photo that every site has but it would be interesting to see the sword from different angles and maybe in-hand.

I've always liked this sword and in fact, I've been working on a custom design that is similarly inspired by the Xiphos and would be somewhat similar to the Windlass version. I've got one custom coming in the next few weeks and unfortunately, it might be next year before I'm able to commission a new one.
Chris Lampe wrote:
Can you post photos of the sword? I've seen the Windlass photo that every site has but it would be interesting to see the sword from different angles and maybe in-hand.

Sorry, took my sweet time replying. I'll see what I can do when I get back home tomorrow. Just don't expect anything very glamorous, I have no studio or lighting equipment at the moment. :)

I've always liked this sword and in fact, I've been working on a custom design that is similarly inspired by the Xiphos and would be somewhat similar to the Windlass version. I've got one custom coming in the next few weeks and unfortunately, it might be next year before I'm able to commission a new one.

I really feel it'd be a very nice, functional fantasy sword - not unlike a simplified movie-Sting, really - if only it had just a bit of distal taper and a proper grip, along with corrections to some other minor but obvious design flaws.

PS. I continue to be baffled by many of Windlass's design choices that seriously hurt their quality without lowering the production costs in any readily apparent way...
So I got back home to find I had no internet connection. Oh well, here we are, finally:

The whole sword

The hilt, showing the varying stages of darkening on the blade, guard and pommel.

The blade; the slight discoloration is made more noticeable by the strip of bright steel along the central ridge where it rubs against the scabbard.

A perspective shot of the hilt, showing the heavier patina on the pommel where the hand touches it when in use.

A perspective shot of the blade - aren't those lines just beautiful? Also note how the grip is clearly not aligned with the blade.

The scabbard; the little chain is just something I use to hang it on the wall.

The sword in the scabbard

The sword in my hand, showing clearly how pudgy my hands have become after almost a year without regular exercise...

Sorry about the crappy lighting. :)
Thanks for the great photos!

I really like this sword more and more as I see more pictures of it.

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