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David Wilson

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

Posts: 785

PostPosted: Thu 31 Aug, 2017 1:29 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Two Xiphoi         Reply with quote

It has been difficult to find accurate reproductions of classical Greek weapons on the commercial market. That, perhaps, is an understatement; truly accurate repros of the Greek swords known to most as the xiphos or the kopis were impossible to find short of going full custom. Oh sure, custom does not necessarily mean "expensive" (then again, custom does not necessarily mean "good", either). That left the "commercial" market to fill the gap. Sadly, the more I learned about ancient Greek swords (and I mean Iron Age, not bronze, swords of the era of the Peloponnesian or Persian wars), the more disappointed I was in what was available. Even the best reproductions I found were actually reproductions of Italian hoplite swords, not Greek ones. And so, the (admittedly rather small) market for accurate replicas of Greek weapons went unanswered. Until now. Now, we have not only one but two sources for reasonably accurate reproductions of the double-edged Hoplite sword, which most folks call a Xiphos (not going to get into the etymology, besides, it's all Greek to me). And, what's really neat, is both are very affordable!

I am talking about the Devil's Edge Xiphos and the new Deepeeka Xiphos. This is a comparison between these two sword, including my subjective opinion; it is not a full review.

The first to appear on the market was the Devil's Edge, available from Kult of Athena:

The stats listed on the KoA site are reasonably close. My measurements are slightly different, but as these are hand-made some variance is to be expected. The weight on mine is 1 lb, 8.5 oz. Point of balance is right about 3 inches (approx), blade length is 19.5 inches (again, approx), and the grip is about 4 inches long. The weight and balance add up to make this sword feel like nothing; to borrow a phrase, it "flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee". The grip is very comfortable; it feels good in the hand. And the edge is SHARP. I mean, really sharp, right out of the box.

The new Deepeeka is also available at KoA:

Again, KoA's stats are pretty close to mine. I measured the weight on a dry food scale at 1 lb, 7.8 oz. Point of balance is at 4.5 inches (approx), blade length is 21.25 inch (approx), and the grip length is 4 inches, just like the Devil's Edge sword. It may be very close to the Devil's Edge in terms of weight, but due to the forward balance, it feels just a bit more substantial -- not blade heavy at all, in fact it feels like it wants to cut things. The grip may be the same length as on the Devil's Edge, but it is not as wide. It also feels good in the hand. The edge is unsharpened, typical for Indian exports, but can be sharpened for a nominal fee.

One difference is in the blade: The Devil's Edge has a flattened diamond cross section, and is wider; the Deepeeka has a lenticular cross section, and is skinnier. I believe both are accurate for Greek xiphoi, historically speaking. I like the fact that they chose different cross-sections; variety is the spice of historical accuracy.

The largest difference is in the scabbards. I have an earlier model of the Devil's Edge sword, back when they were sold with a wooden scabbard-like thing; now, they are sold with a leather sheath. I struggle to call the wooden thing an actual 'scabbard'; in fact, I have referred to it as a 'Hellenistic Shirasaya', as it is more a carrying case for the blade than an actual scabbard; however, it could be converted into a historically accurate scabbard with a little work and a lot of know-how. Sadly, the leather sheath the DE swords now come with is just that, a sheath, and not a historically accurate scabbard.
The Deepeeka xiphos not only comes with a scabbard, but a historically accurate scabbard. And, in fact, not only historically accurate, but one of the nicest scabbards I have ever seen in this price range. It's a work of art unto itself, with clean, unobtrusive stitching on the back. It is not overly thick, as some Deepeeka scabbards have been in the past, but it very reasonable in depth. Needless to say, I am impressed.

There is one more thing I prefer about the Deepeeka -- the pommel is not obnoxiously huge, as it is on the Devil's Edge sword. It's closer to historical specs, I believe. Other than that, the grips are the same length, but the Deepeeka's grip is, as mentioned, a little less wide than the DE sword.

The Deepeeka is just a few more dollars than the Devil's Edge, but again, sharpening is extra, whereas the DE sword comes sharp.

I don't know how well tempered either sword is, but both makers have a reputation for blades that are on the soft side. You can check out some of the cutting tests done with the DE swords on youtube for more information on that. Your mileage may vary.

I guess it comes down to what you prefer -- a sword that comes with a sharp edge, or a sword that comes with a nice, historically accurate scabbard.

I can recommend both -- and that's a surprise to me. I have never recommended a Deepeeka product before, and I have never recommended anything made in Pakistan. Well, now I am. I am as surprised as you.

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David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe

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Joe A

Location: Philadelphia, USA
Joined: 17 Oct 2013

Posts: 70

PostPosted: Thu 31 Aug, 2017 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I too have both and also a very accurate custom example from Matt Lukes. The two off-the-shelf examples are much better historically than anything before as David says if you want a Greek rather than an Italian style xiphos. I also have a Manning Imperial xiphos which is beautiful, but not Greek.

Both swords suffer from the most common complaint regarding swords made in that part of the world, poor basic craftsmanship. They need to implement basic quality control in their workshops and learn that a it's better to throw away a piece of junk than wrap it up with the good ones and hope nobody will notice the serious flaws. It's like they hate to waste any material than might sell. I understand that. Label those as "seconds," identify the flaw and offer a discount.

The good news is Deepeeka worked with Matthew Amt to design their product, sword and scabbard, and even listened to his feedback after he handled the prototype. Good for Deepeeka, now make them all that good.

Devil's Edge is from KoA (please correct me if I am wrong) and again it should be easy to provide feedback that makes each batch of swords better than the last. My biggest issue with DE is the pommel too.

Kudos to David for posting about Greek swords!!!
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Matthew Amt

Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,366

PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, it's AVAILABLE!! Deepeeka had sent me the prototypes MONTHS ago, but never let me know when they were actually starting production. And I wasn't checking frequently, to be honest.

But it's great to know that one is on the market at last! And I'm glad you got one. Note that Deepeeka also sent me a prototype of a short version, c. 12" blade, which is adorable and otherwise identical to the long one. Though I hope they make one correction--it's rather hilt-heavy! So it tends to flip over if you use the suspension rings as they are for a baldric. It's probably not possible to move the suspension without mucking up the scabbard leather, so instead I drilled out the rivets on the grip and drilled a few dozen holes in the tang to lighten it. Ditched the steel washer on the pommel, too. That worked. Tangs on the originals were REALLY thin, and this quarter-inch slab was just too much for that blade length.

Deepeeka also sent me 2 versions of their new kopis, one with a pale wood grip and one with black horn. They were actually slightly *lighter* than the kopis I had made myself! I was awed. There was one good simple and reasonably accurate scabbard, based on photos of my own, but also one of those terrible leather sheath things, which I'm afraid might be what they end up going with. I told them not to do that! We'll see...

The prototype xiphos that I sent to Deepeeka was copied from an original from Vitsa, #425 in Kilian-Dirlmeier's "Die Schwerter in Griechenland". And I was very pleasantly surprised at how well they nailed it! I had gotten some input from Giannis Kadoglou and a few other folks on things like pommel shape (which of course is missing on the original remains). The steel guard is accurate, though it is not the more elaborate type with a "saddle" (lowered section in the middle), nor does it have a "bridge", meaning the gap in the center where the wood or bone grip actually passes under the guard. I plan to do a fancier one with all of that and probably a mid-rib on the blade for their next attempt. Giannis thought I should use a more common simple rectangular chape on the scabbard, but this one is taken from a surviving original and I felt it was more iconic for the Greek xiphos in general. And if you want a plainer narrow type, cut it! A few whacks with a saw and a little sanding, and you can make whatever shape you want without even taking the chape off the scabbard.

I really like the suspension rings! They have a raised central rib, much nicer than plain brass or steel. And Deepeeka did a great job with the leather bands, as well. And they did that all on their own, from the photos and images I sent, since I hadn't put a suspension on my prototype at all. There aren't any physical remains, you see, so I am never happy with the various ways I come up with for that.

One flaw I did notice was that the guards on both the xiphos and the kopis have very square edges, whereas they should be rounded off on the top (towards the grip, that is). The cross-section of the guard should be closer to a half-circle than a square. But again, a few minutes with a file will fix that! And really, if that's the biggest problem for an off-the-shelf Made-in-India sword, I have to call that a win!

Now I have to tell all my hoplites! We've been waiting way too long for decent swords.

Just as a teaser, I have also been working with Deepeeka on a hoplite shield, a spolas (leather tube-and-yoke cuirass), pilos and Chalcidean helmets, spear parts, and sandals. Still some bugs to work out, but much of the progress photos they've sent so far have been very exciting. It won't be like custom work, of course! But my goal has been for a hopeful new hoplite to be able to order all his basic equipment and get REASONABLE kit that he can use right out of the box. Too many people have been buying junk, up to this point, and even some of the things that *look* decent (like the older version of the Daniyal aspis) have been way too heavy, or had other problems.

We're getting there!

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Mark Moore

Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good for you, Matt! Deepeeka needs all the help they can get! While I'm not a huge fan of ancient-age weapons, I do see the need for a good fair-market of products of this era. You go, man! If they can come up with a well constructed Iron-Age Celtic sword...I'm totally in. Wink ......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Matthew Amt

Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,366

PostPosted: Fri 01 Sep, 2017 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark C. Moore wrote:
Good for you, Matt! Deepeeka needs all the help they can get! While I'm not a huge fan of ancient-age weapons, I do see the need for a good fair-market of products of this era. You go, man! If they can come up with a well constructed Iron-Age Celtic sword...I'm totally in. Wink ......McM

Thanks, Mark! Can't help you with the Celtic stuff, I'm afraid, it's just not my area. Someone must be giving them info, though, judging by the number of "Celtic" swords I'm seeing! Though it may not be *good* info...

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