Reproducing a French Medieval Sword From the Wallace Collection
Today we take a look at our reproduction of a famous sword from the Wallace Collection, a French arming sword from the last quarter of the 14th century. We had the opportunity to handle and make molds from the pommel and cross of this sword over twenty years ago. Lost wax casts from these molds form the foundation of our reproduction, and include details, textures, and asymmetries from the original piece.
Like all of our swords, this piece is as true to the original as we can make it. The weight, balance, and distal taper are all per the original. The blade is hand ground in 6150 carbon steel and tempered to 50-52 Rockwell through a molten salt process. The grip is hand shaped ash wood covered in thin leather coated in bees wax. It is, of course, full-tang, sharp, and peened at the block.
An example of the design decisions we make while reproducing an existing historical sword can be seen below. The pommel of the original sword is twisted substantially counterclockwise. After considering the original piece we decided to make the pommel in line with the guard on our reproduction because the angle on the original was likely damage that occurred to the sword either in its use lifetime, or at some point in the intervening centuries when it was lost in a river. It is possible that the twisted pommel was desirable to the person who wielded this sword, but it is equally possible that it was not and this kind of asymmetry is often unacceptable to modern sword buyers. On the other hand, we have reproduced the slightly out-of-round curves of the pommel as they are central to its appearance as a hand made sword rather than on object that was precisely designed and machined by modern makers.
Image of original sword showing pommel orientation, image courtesy of the Trustees of The Wallace Collection.
Check out the video below for more details and discussion.
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.
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