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David Cooper




Location: UK
Joined: 27 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2015 7:05 am    Post subject: Armour Class Shiavona Review         Reply with quote

I recently took delivery of a Shiavona from Armour Class based in Scotland.. I would like to share a full review.

The historical Schiavona
Popular in the 16th and 17th centuries these swords were used by the bodyguards of the Doge ofVenice in the early 1500s. The actual origins of the name Shiavona are not clear. These bodyguards were supposedly recruited from the Balkans and the name may be related to them, particularly those from Dalmatia. Shiavoni meaning Slavs in Old Itallian. The schiavona has certain characteristics that define it as such.. The basket hilt is not attached to the pommel but forms from the cross guards or qullions. They have a distinctive 'cat's head' pommel. Sometimes the pommel is actually decorated with feline faces but more often they are not. The blades are usually broadsword type, although backsword blades may also have been used. . Historical examples are often categorised by the style and complexity of the bars making up the basket .

TheArmour Class Shiavona
Modern reproduction of an early shiavona sword, made by Armour Class in Scotland. Blued hilt and sharkskin grip. Lenticular broadsword bladewith two short fullers. Purchased with a scabbard and rapier style baldric. 7- 8 month delivery. Iain at Armour Class always responded quickly and courteously to any of my queries.

Fit and finish
Well put together with a solid feel. The standard blued hilt is rather more matt grey than blue, but is evenly done and gives a pleasing appearance. The oval tapered grip is covered in shagreen (ray skin) bound with silvered wire, The sword is comfortable to hold and seems to suit a grip using the forefinger looped over the crossguard. The cat's head pommel is in brass with a steel peen button. The pommel has nice decorative brass rosettes applied to each face. The blade is a flexible broadsword type with twin short fullers that look to have been hammered in, not milled. Satin finish to the blade which has been sharpened with barely a trace of a secondary bevel. I don;t know if all broadsword blades are created equal but this one has a very Scottish feel to it... not surprising really Big Grin . A fair degree of profile taper for a broadsword with very slight distal taper.

Stats
Weight, sword: 2lb 5oz(1.04kg)
Length overall: 39'' (99cm) Blade:33''(84cm)
Basketlength:7'' (18cm)
Basketwidth:4.75'' (12cm)
Basketdepth:2.75'' (7cm), measured from centre of grip to deepest part of basket.
Griplength:3.5'' (9cm), 5.75'' (14.5cm) including pommel and tang peen button
POB: 3.5'' (9cm) from cross piece1.5'' (4cm) from from front of the complex hilt.
COP: 21''(54cm) from cross piece.
Profile taper: 1.4''(35.5mm) at ricasso, 1.03'' (26.3mm) mid blade, 0.79''(20.2mm) 2 inches from tip.
Distal taper 0.17'' (4.3mm) at ricasso, 0.13'' (3.3mm) at mid blade, 0.11''(2.9mm) 2 inches from tip.

Historial accuracy.
Armour Class does not claim this as a museum quality reproduction of an actual shiavona and it should not be judged as such but there are a few comments I would like to make. The baskethilt on this sword is symetrical but all the shiavona I have seen have an asymmetrical arrangement of bars in the hilt with rather more complexity on the outer side. I have seen one or two poor quality pictures that may indicate a more symmetrical arrangement and would be interested to hear of any examples forum members may know of. The basket is quite large and again most historical examples show a tighter fit to the hand. I know that many modern made swords have larger grips to suit the supposedly larger modern hand. I don't think this hilt is outrageous but certainly on the roomier side and spacious enough for my gauntleted hand, When viewed in profile the back bars of the basket show a concave aspect. Again most historical schiavona seem to have a more convex arrangement, however I have seen a small number of straight or even concave ones so I do not think this constitutes an ahystorical feature.

Conclusions
A good value sword for the money. Well constructed and finished. The sword feels light and agile, slightly more cut than thrust. Some may think the blade a little too thin but I like its feel and will always go for a more flexible blade over some modern made crowbars. There are some concessions to historical accuracy but I am very happy to add this to my collection as a well made example of a more uncommon sword type.

Disclaimer
I have no connection with Armour Class other than as a paying customer. No inducements have been offered or requested in writing this review.

Also posted on Sword Forum International




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Roger Hooper




Location: Northern California
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2015 10:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the review. It's a sword that I've had some interest in over the years. Too bad that it doesn't have a thumb ring - a feature found on most Schiavonas.

One of the knocks on Armour Class blades is that they are too "whippy". You say that it is "Flexible". Would you go as far as saying that it is whippy?
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David Cooper




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Oct, 2015 12:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roger
One man;s flexible is another man;s whippy Big Grin It probably is a bit on the whippy side for some. I have compared it with a Victorian Sottish basket hilt I have (light fleible blade) and the schiavona moves about a little more. I will be looking to do a little light test cutting soon and will let you know how it tracks.

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David Cooper




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Wed 14 Oct, 2015 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cutting video
https://youtu.be/-3_BNv0Nkl0

Pretty naff video but hope it sows the handling and tracking.

I also set up a rather Heath Robinson affair to measure blade flex (see pic). Couldn't mount the blade right at the hilt because of the complex hilt but I had 76m of free blade. I then put 8oz weight at the tip and got 5.5cm deflection. For comparison I set up the Hanwei Gustav rapier with 81cm of free blade and got a 5cm deflection with the 8oz weight.. Hope this helps.



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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 14 Oct, 2015 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like basket-hilted swords a lot. This is a pretty neat example of one. I think Armour Class serves its customer base really well. They know their audience and do right by them from what I have heard. As I understand it, most of their clients are doing European re-enactment of one type or another. A large percentage of them do steel-on-steel sparring and so most of their swords are created as blunts. Their sharpened swords are more often than not sharpened versions of their blunt blades.

As far as this sword goes, I'm not certain that I'd personally call it a schiavona as it does not really follow the typical forms or styles of schiavone. It's not a Type 1, Type 2, or Type 2a style as defined by Ewart Oakeshott in his book, European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. Armour Class lists this as an "early" schiavona, but I don't know what research would justify that comment. Maybe they mean an ancestor or developmental cousin to the schiavona, in which case their addition of the fully formed cat's head pommel is an unusual choice.

I think the review here by David Cooper covers the subject well of of historical swords versus this sword. As mentioned, the construction methodology of connecting the bars of the basket to the cross-guard is similar to a schiavona and so is the cat's head pommel. Other than that, I'm not aware of an antique sword that has the same basket design and features.

If it were me, I'd probably call this a "continental basket-hilt" and put a different pommel design consistent with more Germanic basket-hilted swords. It would work better for me.

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E.B. Erickson
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Location: Thailand
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Oct, 2015 4:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that I'd call it a minimalist Schiavona, because while it captures the overall feel and lines of this type of hilt, there are significant omissions of hilt members, and some of the construction details that you see in originals aren't there. However, I can see why this minimalist approach would be taken: it makes production of the hilt a lot simpler and quicker.

Just my two cents.

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Oct, 2015 2:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

E.B. Erickson wrote:
I think that I'd call it a minimalist Schiavona, because while it captures the overall feel and lines of this type of hilt, there are significant omissions of hilt members, and some of the construction details that you see in originals aren't there. However, I can see why this minimalist approach would be taken: it makes production of the hilt a lot simpler and quicker.


That sounds reasonable to me!

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