This post is an update of an early one we did when we had just started blogging. We figure that many of you who currently follow us were probably not around when this came out, so... here it is.
In this post we compare the characteristics of our Arms and Armor Fechterspiel sword with those of some original feders in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (which part the inspiration for our feders as is described in this blog post). You can also take a look at the swords on the Met's instagram account here.
Today we make a full range of training swords for historical martial artists, from Montantes to rapiers, and of course feders. However, such training swords were not always available and we were pioneers in creating the modern HEMA training sword.
Back in the late 1990's when Craig Johnson and Chris Poor of Arms and Armor were researching how to make safe steel practice swords they came upon these feders at the Met. They drew inspiration from these weapons to produce a modern, simplified training sword that kept true to the overall design of the originals. The result was our Fechterspiel and Fechtbuch trainers, which were, to our knowledge, the first modern feders in commercial production.
As you can see from the below pictures, our swords are quite similar in shape (and weight and balance) to the originals.
Arms and Armor Fechterspiel and original feder from the Metropolitan Museum, NY
However, the similarities go significantly beyond skin deep. A few years ago HEMA researchers Michael Chidester and Tristan Zuckowski visited the Met and took detailed pictures of the edge damage on these historic training swords from the 1570's. Michael has graciously agreed to let us use his pics for this post. Thanks Mike!
We immediately, and with some gratification, realized that the damage on these swords was very similar to the damage we see on the edges of our feders after years of use. We think that this speaks not only to the historical look of our trainers, but also to their historically accurate use characteristics.
In the photos below I have interspersed and labelled pictures of the originals from the Met and similar pictures of an Arms and Armor Fechterspiel that has been in use for roughly six years. Aside from multiple training sessions each week this sword has also been used to fight in many tournaments including Longpoint, Krump Pow!, Icebreaker, and the Madison Fechtschul. The edge damage that it has taken is strikingly similar to that on the originals.
The similarity between the edge wear on these swords suggests at least two things about the swords. First, that the balance between hardness and ductility is quite similar, resulting in a particular damage deformation in which small dents and dings predominate without the presence of the type of saw-tooth damage that often occurs on cheaper swords. Second, it suggests that the geometry of our edges successfully mimics those of the historic swords.
We think that the historical authenticity of our training swords is a useful characteristic for those who are interested in reconstructing the martial arts of Medieval Europe. If you are working hard to utilize historical techniques we would suggest that using historically accurate training tools may be useful. Stay tuned for a future post in which we continue to compare our feders to those beautiful swords from the Metropolitan Museum.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.