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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2021 6:06 pm    Post subject: My First Basket Hilt! (From Rob Miller / Castle Keep)         Reply with quote

Hi All,

I just want to show off my latest acquisition, and hopefully show it off more when it comes home.

I'm generally a collector of medieval sword replicas, but being half Scottish on my father's side, always intended to get my hands on a classic Basket Hilt. To make it special, I wanted it made in Scotland (by the way, my ancestors hail from the West Coast). So Rob Miller of Castle Keep, based on the Isle of Skye, was the natural choice. So I contacted him a couple of years ago and away we went.

As for the project, I tend to gravitate toward big swords, and found this big beauty on an antique web site, described thus:

"A Wonderful Antique Early 18th Century Large Scottish Basket Hilt Sword, circa. 1720-1740. Massive 34.75" double-edge blade with (3) separate narrow fullers on each face. Iron hilt of the form, circa. 1700-1740 with domed pommel. Original shagreen (ray skin) grip with twisted brass wire and 'Turk's Heads'. 40" overall length."

And here are some pictures of the original below (which of course I hope is authentic).



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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,893

PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2021 6:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And, joyous occasion, I just received pictures of the finished product today!


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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Jan, 2021 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow! Now that's a sword! Eek!

Poor targes... Congratulations!
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Jeremy V. Krause




Location: Buffalo, NY.
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Jan, 2021 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is certainly a departure from your usual collecting. Will be interesting to hear how it handles compared to your medieval swords.

It looks cool.
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Jan, 2021 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful piece, I love the aesthetics of those Scottish basket hilts from whatever reason I can't quite express.

This one looks like an absolute beast too, wonder what's the weight like.
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Sat 30 Jan, 2021 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rob says its a beast. I'll be happy to provide detailed measurements and impressions when it comes. And yes Jeremy, compare it to some similar sized medieval swords. In the mean time, its awaiting a simple scabbard.
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Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 818

PostPosted: Sat 30 Jan, 2021 3:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great looking addition to the collection J.D.! I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it compared to some of you big one handed medieval swords.
Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
Joined: 03 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Sun 31 Jan, 2021 5:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, it looks great JD! I've liked every thing I've seen Rob Miller make, but never have done anything with him. The blade is awesomely big. A lesser maker, I'd be concerned if they could get the handling right, but I think Rob is top shelf and will make it a fine sword. The original you posted looks pretty legit to me, though I'm not an expert.
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 31 Jan, 2021 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Nicolaysen wrote:
Wow, it looks great JD! I've liked every thing I've seen Rob Miller make, but never have done anything with him. The blade is awesomely big. A lesser maker, I'd be concerned if they could get the handling right, but I think Rob is top shelf and will make it a fine sword. The original you posted looks pretty legit to me, though I'm not an expert.


Thanks J. Rob is definitely a basket hilt broadsword expert (see his web site) but I don't know if he's ever made one this big.
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Daniel Sullivan




Location: California
Joined: 02 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Sun 31 Jan, 2021 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. D.

Have a couple of basket hilts, but nothing comparable to this. The hilt work is certainly well done and crisp. However, the blade is enough to give me shortness of breath, don't recall seeing anything quite like this before. It may be a beast, but it certainly is a beauty.

Regards,
Dan
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Ian Hutchison




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

Posts: 618

PostPosted: Sun 31 Jan, 2021 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fantastic looking sword, J.D. Can't wait to hear more about it when it arrives!
'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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Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb, 2021 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Both are fine looking swords. You are a fortunateman!
Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb, 2021 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks guys. I enjoy seeing pictures of your collections and I'm pleased to share mine with you.
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Feb, 2021 5:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And here's the scabbard (looks like its laying on the beach of Skye!). The package should be crossing the Atlantic soon, much like my Scottish ancestors did 190 years ago. (But hopefully the trip will be bit faster and easier).


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Christopher Gregg




Location: Louisville, KY
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Feb, 2021 4:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks fantastic! Congratulations on a fine piece of Scottish history!
Christopher Gregg

'S Rioghal Mo Dhream!
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2021 8:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Arrived yesterday! Looking forward to reviewing it when I have time.


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Joe Maccarrone




Location: Burien, WA USA
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2021 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What a monster!



(And the sword is impressive, too.. Big Grin )
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2021 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joe Maccarrone wrote:
What a monster!

(And the sword is impressive, too.. Big Grin )


Heh, heh. Yeah.
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2021 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And here, at last, is the review I promised Mr. Miller. It’s taken a while, first because things are crazy this year for everyone, and second because I don’t have much expertise on the subject of baskehilt broadswords. My knowledge, such as it is, comes from studying Viking and high medieval swords. As I mentioned above, this was a completist acquisition: as a person proud of my Scottish ancestry, I had to have at least one basket hilt. This one appealed to me because of its ‘medieval’ dimensions.

But here we go:

Introduction

As noted above, this sword is based on an early 18th century antique sword that was for sale some time ago. It is one of the largest of its type I’ve ever seen, as big as some of my larger medieval swords. I’m not sure where it would fit in an Oakshott typology: maybe XX-XXII, but it does not have the typical ricasso of late medieval swords. I don’t know to classify the basket type or origin; maybe some experts out there can chime in on that front.

Some measurements:
Weight: 3.8 Lbs.
Overall length: 38 ¾”
Blade length: 33”
Blade Width at base: 2 3/16”
CoG/PoB: 5 ¾”
Grip: 4” (including ferules).
Cross-section: lenticular, varying non-linearly from ~5mm to < 2mm near tip.
Profile: Convex, non-linear to a slightly rounded tip.
Optimal Striking Point: 10” from tip
Point of minimal vibration on hilt: ~1” from pommel.

Fit and Finish:

Rob Miller does beautiful blades and this is no exception. The fullers are perfect, the lenticular section is super well done, and the profile looks just perfect to the eye. The overall blade finish is very nice: satin, with just one little scratch on the whole thing. (Note that its been sitting in the scabbard for a while and I did not have time to polish it before the pictures below, so a few superficial scuffs and such may be visible.) The basket is very nicely formed and looks very similar to the original sword (to my eye) but has a rougher finish, particularly on the interior. Its very thick and stiff compared to the somewhat flimsy baskets I've seen on entry level broadswords in stores. Rob has some very beautiful and highly ornate baskets on his web site, so I would say this is more of a fighting man’s sword than an prestige weapon in that sense, and he was working on a lower budget here than his higher end pieces. I requested a simple scabbard and that’s what I got: but handsome enough in red with brass chapes.

Handling:

This weapon has a nice mass distribution, but it's ultimately a big heavy sword. Even with the big basket the centre of gravity is fairly far out, like an early medieval sword. In fact it feels a lot like the early medieval swords I’m familiar with, except for that feel of weight and restriction around the hand. Like them, its not built for fencing but might work well from horseback or in that final collision of the ‘highland charge’. Otherwise, it moves well through guard positions, but would tire the arm quickly and the basket does not allow the same freedom of movement (e.g. transitioning between grip styles) that I'm used to. Having said that, the ray skin grip with brass wire provides a very sure grip. BTW, the original sword was even longer, but had a slightly more concave profile which would likely affect handling. Rob noted before delivery that there were some point of contact between the basket and knuckles that he tried to file off. They are still there (although it turns out the weight of the sword twists them away from the hand in forward position). Overall, an insert or a heavy glove would fix that problem.

The edge of this sword was left ‘butter knife’ sharp at my request (my plan was to display it in a fairly public area of the house, so don’t want people cutting themselves). But the edge geometry is excellent and I would say this sword, even as it is, would cut through just about anything if you have the 'swinging' space to get it up to full speed.

Overall Impression:

This is a really cool imposing sword that fulfils exactly what I wanted for display purposes. It's hard to completely capture this on camera but I've done my best below. I really love the blade on this one, even if its not the easiest one to handle. I'm not sure it’s the most practical sword for the average person, especially for fencing, and its not the most refined of its type. If your taste runs to the latter, I recommend you check out Rob Miller’s ‘Castle Keep’ web site to see some really lovely work.

But if you like big, brutish swords, this one’s a beauty.

Now, I’ll let my pictures do the talking:



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Lee O'Hagan




Location: Northamptonshire,England
Joined: 30 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Sat 11 Dec, 2021 5:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thats Alot of sword for only 3.8 pounds,
good job,
lovely blade,
great addition to a collection, Cool
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