Comparing different makers of swords

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Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 09 Jan 2011 14:18

Hey guys, I'm wondering if you would mind helping me by giving your thoughts on a few different makers of swords? I'm considering getting myself a new sword at some point soon, and I'm interested to see what other people think of the different manufacturers. I have done some quite extensive searching for reviews on the different makers, so I *think* I understand the general position of the community about the different brands, but it would be useful to have all the information in one thread anyway for anyone else who might be pondering the same question.

What are your opinions on the following brands, based on your experience? I'm interested in specifically how they perform in the practice of HEMA, rather than how useful they are for re-enactment battlefields.

- Hanwei
- Tinker Pearce
- Armour Class
- Macdonald Armouries
- Paul Binns
- John Barnett
- Cold Steel
- Del Tin
- Arms and Armour
- Windlass Steelcrafts
- Flagellum Dei
- Albion
- Kovex-Ars

Also, reviews of any other smiths or producers would be very helpful. Thank you very much in advance!
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby nathan » 09 Jan 2011 14:33

heres just reviews of those i know

Hanwei = great budget blades handling could be better on many of their models and some have very weak blades with a tendency to snap but for the cost excellent budget blades.

paul binns = some of the best single handed swords out there but are sadly not what they were and his turn around on blades is not good you will be waiting a long time for one of his blades.

Albion = they are amazing but cost wise you are paying for it. look after them and they will last a very long time.

i will also add a friend of mine to the list bob davies he makes mainly viking swords but the quality of his blades are incredible and equally on par with good binns blades has about a 3 month waiting list at the mo but his costs are reasonable.
http://www.vikingswords.net/
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 09 Jan 2011 14:38

I shall put up some information about the brands I have handled myself.


Hanwei

I don't have any of these swords myself, but I have handled a large number of them. These seem to be really quite good as long as they are used sensibly. When they are smacked off things without due care they tend to get wobbly in the hilt, but that is somewhat understandable give their very modest price tag. Other than that, they handle really quite well, they are fairly light and reasonably balanced, certainly much better than many of the other swords I have handled!


Armour Class

I now have two swords from Armour Class, an old arming sword and a relatively new Rus Viking style sabre. I have handled many of their arming swords, Viking swords and hand-and-a-half swords, along with some of their scramaseaxes. The blades are superb, some of the best I have come across so far. They can take an awful lot of punishment, but they are also reasonably smooth to use; they don't feel like railway sleepers. They have a very reasonable price ( < £200 ) but they often come with an incredibly long waiting period before you finally receive your weapon. I know people who have had to wait for around twelve months before their sword arrived.


John Barnett

I have one sword by John Barnett, and have handled one other. The other sword is quite heavy, nowhere near as balanced as an Armour Class or a Hanwei weapon, but is still lighter and better balanced than my John Barnett sword. This brand can take a kicking, but do not handle very well at all.


Paul Binns

I don't own any of his swords unfortunately, but I have handled a couple before. They are really good, light and well balanced, and they appear to be well worth their slightly higher price tag. I'm afraid I can't give any more information about this brand.


Albion

The only Albion I have had the privilege of using thus far is a friend's Count from their Maestro line. It is a superbly balanced weapon, it feels alive in the hands, but unfortunately it is not even remotely suitable for sparring due to its incredibly sharp edges. I haven't handled any of their practical lines, this is something I would like to remedy at some point in the future.


Krále (an independent Czech swordsmith)
http://www.kralmece.wz.cz/

I don't own any of his weapons, but one of my students bought a falchion from him. It was very well balanced, very light and easy to move around. The blade was of good quality - it burred faster than an Armour Class, but took less damage than a Hanwei. They are priced quite reasonably, but the smith speaks no English, which is a bit of a problem!
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 09 Jan 2011 14:41

nathan wrote:i will also add a friend of mine to the list bob davies he makes mainly viking swords but the quality of his blades are incredible and equally on par with good binns blades has about a 3 month waiting list at the mo but his costs are reasonable.
http://www.vikingswords.net/



Yes, I know this guy! I bought a scramaseax from him at one point, and was very tempted by his swords. He makes fantastic weapons, I just couldn't for the life of me remember his name or website address.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby admin » 10 Jan 2011 12:11

Just replying for the ones I know about:

- Hanwei - okay starting swords for blunts or sharps. They generally handle well and are thus the best mainstream option for beginner weapons.
- Tinker Pearce - slightly better Hanwei's, but depends on the price as to whether worth it.
- Armour Class - Very durable blunts but their standard swords are made for reenactment and are rather clunky. Their custom swords however can be very nice, but you have to tell them precisely what to make (and know yourself).
- John Barnett - Avoid like the plague. Horrible over-weight clumps.
- Cold Steel - Okay sharps if you can get them cheap, no idea as blunts.
- Del Tin - Pretty good blunts, but usually massively overpriced. Rubbish as sharps unless done by a bladesmith who knows what he is doing (they are made as blunts).
- Arms and Armour - Very nice blunts and sharps, but horrifically overpriced for what they are. You can get the same quality for half or two thirds of the price (in the UK).
- Windlass Steelcrafts - They vary massively from model to model, so you need to read the reviews. Their best swords can be quite good, their worst swords are dreadful. Their better swords are good value for money though.
- Flagellum Dei - They can be really good blunts, but their quality control is dreadful - one of our guys received one which was completely un-heat-treated soft steel... One of our other guys has one which has lasted for a couple of years okay, but it does keep getting bent and having to be straightened. Their weight, balance and feel is very nice though.
- Albion - The best mass-production swords you can buy. End of.
- Kovex-Ars - Horrific train tracks cunningly sold as swords!

The maker you really have to add is Mark Vickers/St.George Armoury. He makes top quality blunts and sharps, though like any one-man companies in this business you have to keep chasing him and expect delays.
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Wolfgang Ritter » 10 Jan 2011 14:58

I havn't got a Paul Binns myself, but handled a couple of them - seemed to be very durable with a sensible weight (and weight distribitin). Seem to be a good bargain for a oryctical training blunt. Never hold/tried out a sharp Binns.

I practised with the Hanwei Feder version no.1 and found it horrible. No.2 Feder version seemed to be better, but it's still pretty much a starter on a tight budget, once you make sure that you'll stick to the hobby, you'll get someting better.

I have only touched one TInker sharp until now; it was okay, but didn't match my aim for historical authenticity and 2. seemed rather overprized...

Albion: what Matt wrote.

Kovex: I HATE,HATE,HATE them. Ugly, overweight and feel totally dead in your hands. Cheap - in every sense of the word....

Deltin: nice but rather overprized, try to get one second-hand;

Cold Steel: I handled a machete type and a messer type once for a cutting session. Seemed a bit overweight for me, but that made cutting really easy and seems to suit the idea of simple yet effective weapon like a messer/Bauernwehr. But on a more "emotional" level, both machete and messer felt somehow "dead" in hands - pretty much the opposite to a sharp Albion which talks to you about going berzerk once you lay your hands on them.......

On the high-end mark of the scale I'd like to add Stefan Roth from Seelenschmiede: http://www.seelenschmiede.de/frameset.htm
His sharps are the best I have handled so far.

I'd like to add Péter Regenyei from Szabolcs Waldmanns group Ars Ensis from Hungary. He makes some fine swords, AFAIK blunt and sharps although I have inly tried out his blunts.
He's usually attending Dijon each year woith some of his midels. good swordsmith, fellow HEMAist and a nice guy - good reason to contact him for a new sword....No website AFAIK, here's his mail: regenyeipeter@gmail.com
Maybe Szab can add some more up-to-date contact-info?
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby admin » 10 Jan 2011 17:55

I want to add some further comments on Armour Class.. I really don't like their standard blunts - their idea of making a sword 'well balanced' is to simply stick a heavy pommel on it... Anybody who knows anything about swords will realise that this is not how you make a better handling sword, it's simply how you make a sword rubbish for cutting anything, but hilt-heavy enough to convince the less educated that having a POB near the hand must be a good thing in a sword. Their standard blunts have no distal taper to speak of which leads to a very dead feeling sword (or a very floppy one). Add to this their ludicrous round-section handles, with ferrules at top and bottom of the grip which horribly overlap the guards and pommels.
However, if you tell them *exactly* what to do then they can make very good swords (if they do exactly what you tell them - I waited a year for an order and did not get what I asked them for...). Their grinding is not so good on custom swords and their spot-welding on hilts looks quite crude and unhistorical (because it is..). Expect to wait a very long time and to have to chase them many many times.
I completely understand why reenactors like their swords, because reenactors rarely know what a real sword looks or feels like and are used to using overweight crowbars. However, for HEMA I would generally say no to Armour Class, with a few exceptions and caveats.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Magnus Hagelberg » 10 Jan 2011 18:14

Adding What I've handled then.

Albion -I have handled most of their trainers, and the one I feel best suited for controlled KDF sparring is the Meyer, they vary some, but they are all realy good. The lichtenhauer is a tad more choppy, but still handles nicely. the I:33 is nice, stiff and solid, but with the ballance the way you want it. The messer was nice the short period I handled it, nice.

Seconding on Péters Blades, they are realy nice-and they are reasonably prised! But he will mainly do what you ask him for. So if it gets realy great, is somewhat up to you!

Hanwei - Don't realy like them, the Tinker versions are desent, but too thin edges for my liking, also, the handle is square and feels a tad odd in my hands, still they are decent for what you pay.

Pavel Moc- this is a maker that needs to be added, some versions of his blades are up to par with the albions. Unfortunately, so is the price. Most of the ones out there are nice, but you need to handle beforer you buy, as some are, shall we say, less nice. Ussualy you can get a leather scabbard+ blade for the same price as an Albion, so I guess it's a slice cheaper. price range 3-400 euros

Ensifer - My perssonal favorite at the moment. Price range is from around 2-300 Euros, the maker Jan, is an active fenser, and one of the better ones out of Poland. He is sometimes hard to get hold of, and is starting to get a waiting list. I have handled his heawier version of the economy line, and found it too my liking, it's mass is focused close to the hilt, making for a safish blunt. Still waiting to handle his sharps-with anticipation.

Flagellum Dei - as Matt said, bad heat treatment. Som in the clubb bougth three, none of them retained their shape. But the handling of them was nice.

Marc Vickers - only handled a coupple of his blades. They are good, handles nicely, having only handled two, that is all I can say.

arms and armour - pricetagg is too daunting to even try this one out in a practisebout. swinging them around they seem nice, but need to hit something to know more what I tink about them.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby nathan » 10 Jan 2011 22:35

glad to help i bought a scram off bob about 2 years ago and its still as good as the day i got it his swords have been slowly improving and for weight and durability and handling they are some of the best single handed swords i know of and he is a helpful guy too. though not sure if he is willing to do non viking swords but im sure if you talked to him he might. binns old blades were great but i have not seen any new work of his in a long time.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 10 Jan 2011 23:28

Interesting information, thanks everyone. If anyone else has anything to chip in with then please do, the more information and points of view we can put on the table here the more comprehensive and useful this will be for anyone considering the purchase of a new toy :-)
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby T Gallagher » 11 Jan 2011 14:36

The best swords I have come across are those of Steffan Roth. They are noticably better even than Albions and not much more expensive (I think). There is only one of him so I don't know what sort of waiting list he has. He is a very nice and unassuming man to meet and doesn't do the tortured artist thing at all.
Albions are superb though not cheap. As a training blunt the Albion Meyer is the best readily available longsword out there. The Lichtenauer is a very good simulator of a heavier model longsword and consquently rather dangerous in sparring. I handled their blunt messer simulator at Fightcamp and that was fantastic. Their sharps are as good as everyone says.
I have handled some Paul Binns blunts and they are of a league with Albions. Hammaborg swear by them. I don't know what his availability is like.
The only Mark Vickers weapon I have handled is Simon Thurston's messer. It is glorious.
Reasonably priced Arms and Armour practice blunts can be obtained from The Grange in the UK.

I agree with Matt and Wolfgang as regards the other swordmakers (at least those I have handled).

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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Phil C » 11 Jan 2011 16:06

Darkwood Armory- lovely, but slightly pricey swords, especially after tax and postage. One of the few suppliers of early baskethilts.

Dennis Graves/"No Quarter Arms"- the very best for smallswords.

Martinez Academy- not sure if they are doing these themselves or acting as an agent for someone else but their latest Smallsword Simulator is rather lovely

Benjamin Arms- Foils and Duelling swords that are very reasonably priced and works of art too, he also does some of the rarer variations of these tools. Rumour has it he'll be doing duelling sabres soon

Rockwell Arms- serviceable Italian foils and Epees. One of the few places to get points d'arrette too

Chevalier D'Auvergne- the "old foil" is a solid peice and very nice. Avoid their blades- weighty and weak in the tang. Their cast brass pieces are useful and very nice. Mixed reports on their smallsword.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Wolfgang Ritter » 11 Jan 2011 17:55

T Gallagher wrote:The best swords I have come across are those of Steffan Roth. They are noticably better even than Albions and not much more expensive (I think).
True, but then again Stefan only works by (specified) individual order, not off the peg.

Anyway, here's an update to website: http://www.seelenschmie.de/

About Pavel Moc: I have two of his blunts and I'm satisfied - but then again he seemingly had some problems with using different steels. There obviously were some ups and downs......

Can anyone remember the name (and more contact infos) of the french swordsmith at the HEMAC-Dijon event 2010? GAel Fabre maybe? He had some fine blades, don't know about the price 'though, but I'm afraid rather high end...
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Colin F. » 11 Jan 2011 18:00

Stefan's feders are used by the KdF in Leeds I believe and they were the best feders I have played with, bar the cross guard, which seemed a tad soft. But they handled with authority, whilst still having the flexibility to make them excellent sparring swords.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 11 Feb 2011 00:13

One of our Academy members just recently bought the Cold Steel 1860 US heavy cavalry sabre, and it is wonderful. It is not even remotely heavy or unbalanced, and it handles extremely well. It is perhaps not as "alive" as an Albion, but it is less than half the price of an Albion.

I think Cold Steel has been working hard lately to improve their swords, they are making them slimmer and lighter and better balanced, they are no longer bricks that look like swords. I would like to try some of their other weapons to see if this holds across their range or if it is just this sword that is a cut (if you excuse the pun!) above the rest.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby admin » 11 Feb 2011 11:57

That's interesting as I have played with their sabres in the past and found them in general to be a bit over-weight, but not too much compared to other modern replicas. The biggest flaw, compared to the originals, is that they are too thin at the forte and too thick at the foible - in other words they do not have enough distal taper, which is a common problem with modern machine ground blades compared to hammer forged blades.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 11 Feb 2011 12:06

In the flat we have three swords from Cold Steel: their 1796 light cavalry sabre, their scimitar, and this 1860 US heavy cavalry sabre. The light cavalry sabre and the scimitar are both about a few years old, and are both older versions now. Cold Steel has upgraded the design, weight and balance to a lot of their swords, including both of these. I can barely handle the two older models, they are simply too heavy and unbalanced for me, but the newer models look pretty good and are almost half the weight of the older models.

I'm very grateful that one of our students bought this heavy cavalry sabre, it has shown us that Cold Steel weapons are improving and are nowhere near as clunky as they used to be.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Chiron » 12 Feb 2011 11:12

does anyone have more information on the Czech smith? I like the look of a couple of his swords. The prices look good. Keithfarrel said the Blades tend to bur quickly compared to armour class but by all accounts the armour class are really good blades. I'm mainly interested in the quality.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby KeithFarrell » 12 Feb 2011 15:07

Unfortunately I have only seen and handled one of his blades, one of his falchions. The edges do burr faster than Armour Class, not much faster than Hanwei, but the quality is pretty high. The balance and the feel of the weapon were superb. I believe he is fairly popular in the Czech Republic as a smith.
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Re: Comparing different makers of swords

Postby Hugh » 13 Feb 2011 18:32

Does anyone have experience with the Arms and Armour Fechtbuch and Fechterspiel swords?

I've been considering investing in a couple (the prices at the grange seem pretty good) and I'm wondering about their handling and durability.
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